By day, one can find Kris Carroll working at a hospital, helping produce images that guide doctors and patients through diagnoses and treatments. By night, she might be in a cabin in the woods, with fake blood and guts flying in all directions. Or maybe hovering around a mannequin, putting together a whimsical, magical costume. Wherever she is, there will also be evidence of this creative’s life of diverse interests and experiences.

Carroll was born in Grants Pass, Oregon. Her father was a career Navy man, so her family moved every three years. Though they saw some far-flung locales like Hawaii, they lived mainly in the Northwest.

When she was in the sixth grade, Carroll’s father took her to a screening of the classic 1931 film Dracula, starring Bela Lugosi. She never truly recovered from the experience. “Then came Godzilla, and I loved the size of these big kaijus,” she says. “I loved all the monsters and the scary stuff, and I loved Jules Verne’s 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.”

Turns out her taste for the unusual also had a medical aspect. Fascinated by anatomy books, Carroll begged her parents to get her a Visible Woman, a model of a woman with transparent skin, which featured a skeleton and complete set of removable internal organs. It’s possible she knew then that her life might vary a little from the common. “My sister was getting Barry Manilow records, and I’m getting the Visible woman, you know? I was never really a doll person…unless the doll came apart.”

Carroll created a full set of internal organs to fill this skeletal torso so an Anacortes hospital could test out its newest imaging technology. Photo credit: Steven Arbuckle

At 18 years old, Carroll followed her interests to Lake Washington Voc. Tech. in Kirkland, Washington, where she studied to become a medical assistant. Over the next few years, she learned she had a talent in X-ray technology and at the age of 28 returned to school to specialize in X-rays and CAT scans. She continues to work in that field today.

Her Mother’s Influence

Carroll’s mother sewed a lot, as the family was on a fixed income. “She sewed all of our Halloween costumes, and I always thought it was great that she could make us anything we wanted,” Carroll says. “She never taught me to sew, but I think it was always in my DNA, because after she passed, I bought a machine and kind of picked up what she had done.” Carroll learned to customize her clothing, and to make pieces from scratch. She also learned she could stretch her budget by disassembling products and finding alternative sources for material.

She recalls entering a costume competition with a boyfriend and looking into clown costumes. She found the jumpers she wanted for $250 apiece, but recognized they could be made from $40 worth of fabric. She began to learn a whole new set of skills and added them to her repertoire. Notably, she learned to make “appliances” — sculpted fake body parts, like ears and noses — that could truly transform a person’s appearance.

A rogues’ gallery of characters from Carroll’s imagination line up with her take on Freddy Krueger (far left). Photo credit: Steven Arbuckle

Armed with an airbrush, Carroll painted these appliances to look extremely realistic, and soon was sweeping the awards at any costume contest she entered.

“You have your normal costumes that people recognize, or they think are funny,” she says. “And then, if you bring in something that’s outlandish and huge, like with stilts and all that, people kind of lose their minds.”

Bringing It All Together

A similar venue where people enjoy losing their minds is Bleedingham, the long-running annual festival that celebrates short horror films made mostly in the local area. It wasn’t long before Carroll’s talents were noticed by the folks who manage the competition and the crews that produce the films. She has enjoyed being a part of that world for several years now, and her house is full of bloody and irreverent creations crafted for those movies, as well as a collection of awards she’s won for her contributions.

Carroll has won multiple awards at the annual Bleedingham film festival. Photo credit: Steven Arbuckle

Outside of Bleedingham, Carroll has worked with a number of other independent filmmakers, both in Bellingham and regionally. The zombies, demons, and horrific wounds she’s created are joined by masks, suits of centurion armor, and whimsical creatures from every corner of the imagination.

Not one to miss out on an opportunity, Carroll has also been involved with projects that combine her artistic talents, her love of gross and gory effects, and her medical background — all at the same time. She’s made appliances that allow healthcare workers to practice stitching up wounds on silicon, with layers that represent skin, fat, and muscle to make the training realistic. One particular project found her filling a simulated torso with realistic internal organs — heart, lungs, stomach, spleen, and more — that allowed technicians to hide items among and inside of the organs, so they could test a scanner to be sure it could identify those foreign objects.

Putting on a Show

In addition to sculpting what’s inside the body, Carroll has put together an impressive array of costumes to adorn people’s outsides. A love for Carnival celebrations around the world and a visit to Mardi Gras in New Orleans inspired a series of gowns, capes, and headpieces in brilliant colors, dripping with beads, jewels, and feathers. She also dreams up relatively straight forward period costumes, like a Victorian lady’s suit, and plenty one-of-a-kind characters, like the 1950s-inspired Bee Lady, who not only has a beehive hairdo but the face of a bee, as well.

Victorian clothing, a “glam” Jason Vorhees, Batman’s Joker and, well, whatever that may be on the right, ha! Photo credit: Steven Arbuckle

Lucky audiences have caught pop-up fashion shows at local bars Rumors and the Grand Avenue Ale House, and Carroll is more than happy to show off her wares anywhere she’s invited. She also sells some of her creations, since there’s only so much room in her home to store them. Interested parties can message her through her “Gemini Sfx” Facebook page.

A Love for Travel

Alongside the glamour and gore on display at Carroll’s house are artifacts she’s gathered while indulging in another passion: travel and adventure. A mammoth’s rib bone hangs on a wall near the tibia of a buffalo that lived in the Pleistocene era. There’s a friend’s photograph of her in diving gear on the ocean floor, taking her own picture of a bull shark that is frighteningly close to her, and another photo of a Komodo dragon, ambling towards Carroll across the sands of its native Indonesia.

Another photo shows her in India, playing a flute to set a dancing cobra, as well as a pair of cheetahs in Africa that engaged in a hunt while she watched. And she’s not finished yet — Carroll’s list of future travels include a few things she wants to see before it’s too late. She’d love to visit Churchill, Manitoba, to see a polar bear before their habitat vanishes, and Borneo to see for herself the last of the orangutans.

In between excursions, it’s worth keeping an eye out for Carroll’s latest creations, whether at a local pop-up “fashion show,” on the silver screen, or through whatever type of event she cooks up next.

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