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Sedlec Ossuary, human Skulls & Bones Church near Prague! Watch my Goth TED talk, Nov 15 TEDx conference livestream.

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Balloons out, as it’s getting closer… to the date of my 2020 TED talk!

You’re invited to watch my TEDx speech, which will be livestreamed (there won’t be a live audience event this year). Tune in on Nov 14 and 15 from 1-5pm Pacific, to see me and other speakers deliver “ideas worth spreading.” The TEDxSFU conference is free to watch — just register here (my Ted talk is airing Nov 15 around 3:30pm PT).

(Read on for more about TED, as well as exclusive photos from the spooky Sedlec Ossuary — a Czech Republic church made from real human skeletons!)

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I’m delighted to be part of this year’s TEDxSFU 10th anniversary conference. The theme this year is “Unravel,” and there’s a lineup of 12 speakers from a variety of backgrounds and disciplines.

Register here to watch my TED talk on Nov 15, 3:30 pm Pacific — tickets are free or by donation!

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By registering for this event, you’ll get access to both livestreams on Saturday November 14 and Sunday November 15, from 1:00PM to 5:00PM PST. You’ll get to see six TEDx talks each day (including mine on the second day), as well as performances.

Find out more on the TED x SFU website and Facebook invite page, and pick up free tickets here.

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I’m thrilled to be giving the first TED talk ever about Goths. As my TEDx Vancouver video caption will read, “What does it really mean to be a Goth? Why do many of us have biases towards Goths, as well as other groups who seem “strange”?

La Carmina shares her personal journey into the dark subculture, and unravels six of the biggest stereotypes about Goths. Through eye-opening photos and stories, she demonstrates how people of color worldwide participate in Gothic culture, in surprising yet beautiful ways.”

satw lowell thomas award travel journalism prize, society american travel writers awards

Also, some unexpected news… I received a travel journalism award from the Society of American Travel Writers!

“La Carmina was awarded Bronze in the 2020 SATW Lowell Thomas Travel Journalism Competition. This prestigious annual award ceremony has been “recognizing excellence in travel journalism” since the early 1980s. Journalist La Carmina won in the Best Personal Comment category, for her travelogue about visiting Brazil with her friend Elizabeth Wurtzel.”

I’m speechless and honored! You can read my award-winning piece on Fodor’s. Thank you everyone who believed in me.

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Celebrating with a Goth-Punk sweater in red and black, the colors of the TED conference.

I did my gel nails by myself, using the Gelish at-home gel nails system (it works so well — recommended!). My silver creature ring is by Alex Streeter, and devil necklace by Sofia Zakia 

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Close-up on my Witch Tarot 14k gold necklace by Sofia Zakia Jewelry of Montreal. You may recognize the goat, pentagram and fire imagery from the horror movie “The Witch.” The horned one taunts: “Wouldst thou like to live deliciously?”

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Here is my Satanic Gothic necklace layered with a Stephen Einhorn gold bee pendant. I’m all about fine jewelry with bite.

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As a travel blogger, it’s quite the change to be stuck at home in 2020. Fortunately, I’m able to take this time to pursue new avenues (like freelance journalism, and TED talks).

And I have trusted friends worldwide who can still bring us international travel stories… Like this exclusive peek inside Sedlec Ossuary near Prague, Czech Republic! Time to turn over the blog to photographer/writer Joey, for his tale of the church made from real human skulls and bones.

sedlec ossuary cemetery skulls prague weird church

Hello again! It’s Joey, trusted traveller and photographer friend of La Carmina. I’m back to tell you about my spooky day trip to the Sedlec Ossuary, the chapel adorned with bones from over 40,000 human skeletons.

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Also aptly known as the Bone Church, the Sedlec Ossuary is located just an hour east of Prague in Kutna Hora making it an easy, must-do day trip from Prague. Due to its close proximity to Prague and it’s extraordinary, otherworldly atmosphere, it’s no surprise it is one of the most visited attractions in the Czech Republic with over 200,000 visitors a year.

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A selfie with skulls is sure to get the Likes, but it is important to note that there is a strict ban on photography inside the chapel. This is due to excessive, inappropriate behaviour from visitors who all too often forget the significance and beauty of the church and touch the bone displays or take inappropriate selfies.

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As press, I received unrestricted access to photograph the ossuary. I spent over two hours inside the chapel photographing the striking displays in order to capture the true essence and beauty of this seemingly gloomy place. Somber yet fascinatingly beautiful, I am privileged to share my experience and exclusive photos with you.

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The Sedlec Ossuary comes with an enchanting history that matches its striking interiors. It is said that in 1278, an abbot returned to Sedlec with some holy soil from Jerusalem. He spread this holy soil across the cemetery which in turn, made it a very popular place to be buried. Due to the Black Plague and the Hussite Wars of the 14-15th century, the Sedlec Ossuary became the final resting place of an estimated 40,000+ people.

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After being commissioned by the Schwarzenberg family in 1870, a Czech woodcarver named František Rint crafted the bone arrangements that we see today. You can even see his name signed in bone on the entry into the chapel!

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Today, the ossuary is going through a significant reconstruction, which is completely funded by ticket sales. Although the church is a popular site, most visitors come in groups that are aligned to the train timetable or wider Kutna Hour organised tours. I was very pleased to have many moments where I had the whole chapel to myself so I could enjoy the peace and serenity.

sedlec ossuary chandelier made from bones

During my visit, I saw so many remarkable creations in the chapel with the most notable being an extravagant chandelier made with every bone of the human body that hangs in the centre of the chapel.

goth bones chandelier ribs gothic home decor

It’s easy to get lost in the captivating sites and mounds and mounds of skulls, but when you visit, be sure to absorb the atmosphere and pay close attention to the finer details of the bone creations. In addition to garlands of skulls and a bone coat of arms, I also saw cherubs sitting atop towers of skulls and even a raven poking a human eye out!

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Travelling is my favorite form of escapism, and the Sedlec Ossuary truly brought me to another world.

sedlec ossuary skulls prague skeleton church

Thanks for following me along on my Prague and Sedlec Ossuary adventures. Until next time!

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How to get to Sedlec Ossuary and Church: From Prague, take the train from Prague main station to Kutná Hora hl.n. From there, it’s a 15 minute walk to Sedlec.

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Joey’s photos make me keener than ever to visit Sedlec. Did you know there are other structures worldwide constructed from human remains?

There’s a Chapel of Bones in Evora, Portugal. In Italy, you can see desiccated mummies and skeletons in crypts, such as Appia Antica, and Cappucuni Catacombes. Niš, Serbia has a Tower of Skulls. The list goes on…

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At least I got to creep through the Catacombs of Paris, France last year. If you missed my story about the Paris Catacombes, check it out here.

sedlec skeletons european church made from human bones skulls

For tickets, opening hours, and more info about Sedlec Ossuary, visit their site.Note that Joey received advance media permission to take photos of the interiors; otherwise, photography at Sedlec is prohibited.

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Thank you, Joey, for this spooktacular tour of Sedlec Ossuary! At least I got a chance to travel to Prague in 2012. I am dreaming of returning to the Czech Republic for a glass of wormwood-infused absinthe.

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I’ve been on so many memorable travel adventures with photographer Joey. Before we fly away, let’s take a photographic stroll through memory lane.

Joey and I met in Tokyo 2010, and above is the first photoshoot we ever did together (in the alleys of Golden Gai, Shinjuku!) I got my hair done gyaru-style in a Japanese salon for the occasion. (Enjoy more of my Japan travel stories.)

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Our first international trip together was to Iceland — and it remains one of our favorite destinations. Joey took this photo of me in the Blue Lagoon… right before his glasses fell in the water! See all our photos from Iceland (Reykjavik).

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We went to Whitby UK for the annual Gothic Weekend, and shot these dramatic images in front of Whitby Castle (the architectural inspiration for Bram Stoker’s Dracula). See more of our United Kingdom adventures.

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Here’s one from Manchester Cathedral (site of the Joy Division album cover photo.)

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We hung out multiple times in Vancouver. Joey photographed me for the cover of Giuseppina Magazine, and for a spread in Leveled. We also did a Killstar shoot in front of the Museum of Anthropology.

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Hola Barcelona, where we stayed in an Art Nouveau palace while working with Spain Tourism and Eurail. Here are our Spain travel guides, which include Granada.

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Istanbul, Constantinople! What a city. I was invited there, as a top travel blogger, to attend World Tourism Forum. More of Joey’s epic pics from Turkey.

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We got ghoulish with Yukiro in NYC, at the Morbid Anatomy Museum (which is now as dead as these wax heads). Can’t believe I’ve been blogging about New York City, NY for over a decade now!

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Off to Scandinavia. where we stayed in a haunted theater-hotel in Stockholm, Sweden.

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Joey and I also spent time exploring Copenhagen, and got inspired by Superkilen Park.

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V-fingers for beautiful Athens and Santorini, Greece. I miss eating sardines, dolmades and orange cake.

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A Goth dream come true to visit Romania, as a speaker at Experience Bucharest Conference. The graveyards and Dracula’s Castle in Transylvania were to die for.

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It was also a dream (or nightmare) to shoot with Joey at the HR Giger Museum and Bar in Gruyeres, Switzerland. We ate so much cheese that we fell into a coma on the train back, and nearly missed our stop in Zurich!

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Don’t cry for me, Argentina A little drizzle in Buenos Aires added emo drama to these photos.

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Joey and I reached the zenith of travel photography… Standing with the Tongariki moai of Easter Island! I just wrote about the strange mysteries of Rapa Nui and its stone-faced statues, for this article on Fodor’s Travel.

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Our LATAM Airlines project took us to various South America destinations, like Santiago and Valparaiso in Chile. (So glad we made the most of these opportunities before the world came to a halt.)

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Joey and I had one final trip together in January 2020, before life took a strange turn for us all. Palm Springs, California A destination as warm and dreamy as the bokeh.

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We said goodbye in Los Angeles (after taking snaps at the Blade Runner Bradbury building). What will the future hold for us — space travel, perhaps?

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Until the borders re-open, I’ll think back at our adventures around the world. (Such as meeting the elves of Iceland). Nothing lasts forever, so take plenty of photos in special places… you won’t regret it.

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For now, I’m making the most of local adventures in Vancouver, Canada. At the end of summer, I got to experience the Sea to Sky Gondola about a hour north of the city (in Squamish, BC).

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It was a joy to rise up into the mountains. (Sadly, a week later, a vandal cut the cable lines for the second time… sending the gondolas crashing to the ground. But the Sea to Sky is re-building, and I’m confident they’ll be back and running soon.)

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When the Sea to Sky Gondola is back in operation, I hope you’ll get a chance to experience the epic views and nature activities up top. I went across the suspension bridge, did scenic hikes, and had a drink at the patio bar.

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I’m not usually an “outdoors” person, but that’s all we have these days, due to 2020’s surprises… so I’m pushing my boundaries. I did a hike at Whyte Lake in West Vancouver — wearing my platform boots, of course!

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And that’s why they call it “Beautiful British Columbia.” I’ll be showing you more local getaways in the next articles.

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Until then, I’ll be counting down the days to my TEDx talk! Register here to watch me on Nov 15 (it’s a free livestream, and you’ll get to see talks from the other speakers too).

And I’m sooo happy it is Halloween. Wearing my funny egg ghosts shirt from Mexico City, which I got last fall. Gold chunky crystal choker / glasses holder by Frame Chain.

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A few final life updates. I’m continuing to write for a variety of travel publications. Read my latest dispatch — “I’m a Goth. Here’s How I Stay True to My Style When I Travel the World” — on Fodor’s Travel. 

I also did a round-up of destinations with creative skull art for Fodor’s. From Malta marble tombstones to Bangalore pirate restaurants and Japan’s skull museum, these places are thrilling to the bones.

La Carmina Blog - Goth Alternative Fashion, Travel, Style - Part 102

I’ve started writing for Brides Magazine as well. Enjoy my guides to having a Gothic wedding, and planning a Buddhist marriage ceremony.

My funny article about animal-shaped architecture also got picked up by MSN

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I hope you had a happy Halloween! My guide to the Satanic Temple and Salem Art Gallery came out in time for the darkest day of the year; see it on Tripsavvy, where I’m a regular travel contributor.

I also celebrated Halloween with an Instagram takeover on Tripsavvy’s page (@tripsavvy). Check out their story highlights and grid, to see my memories of spooky travels worldwide. You can see more of my travel articles here on Tripsavvy.

And please take a moment to reserve your free ticket for my TEDx talk about Goth culture, airing Nov 15, 330pm PT!.

Watch me on The Purge, Season 2 finale! Recap of TV show by Blumhouse & USA Network: horror series cast, God masks.

purge tv show season 2 finale 7:01 am rally

When I mentioned I had a cameo on The Purge television series, everyone assumed I’d be one of the baddies. I think you pictured me donning a mask, and slashing victims with homemade weapons.

Surprise: I’m one of the people protesting Purge Night, at a Resist rally!

Did you spot me next to the main cast, in the finale of Season 2? The Purge TV show just finished airing on USA Network and Amazon Video – meaning I can finally share my experience with you.

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For the second season of this horror series, The Purge took everything up a notch. Instead of focusing on a single night, we follow four interconnecting storylines over the course of a year.

This time around, each episode is filled with thrills, action, satire and blood — which is what the Purge universe does best.

Read on for my behind-the-scenes report from the set of the Purge, including the scoop on my appearance (I’m at the end of episode 10, titled “7:01 AM” — which also features Ethan Hawke!).

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As a horror fan, I had the time of my life meeting the cast and watching the crew film wild stunts — like escaping from a bus lit on fire. (Head’s up: some of this post may reveal slight spoilers, but I did my best to keep the main twists hidden.)

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I also got to try on The Purge masks from the TV shoot, including the infamous blood-stained God mask!

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As you may recall from this post, Blumhouse Productions and USA Network flew me to New Orleans for a set visit. I’m a mega-fan of Blumhouse’s horror films (such as Purge 1-4, Sinister, Halloween, Insidious, Get Out) — so this was a Goth dream come true.

For those unfamiliar with the Purge concept: The USA was taken over by the New Founding Fathers of America (NFFA). This totalitarian government created an annual Purge Night, where citizens can commit pretty much any crime without penalty — even bloody murder.

Paola Nuñez actress the purge tv star, esme carmona

Inspired by the Purge: Election Year character Kimmy, I made a Kiss Me mask to accompany my return to NOLA. I got to chat with several cast members; they all found my mask rather amusing / terrifying! 

I sat down with actress Paola Nuñez, who plays Esme Carmona — a NFFA agent who uncovers a conspiracy by her bosses, and sets out to make things right.

Paola revealed that when she was a child, she felt scared to watch horror movies. Today, she finds it exhilarating to be a principal actor in a series where “The greatest fear is what you don’t know.”

Paola had never been to New Orleans until this role, and she’s enjoyed shooting in historic homes and iconic city sites. “There’s a ghostly, voodoo energy here” that makes NOLA the perfect setting for The Purge.

(The lovely Paola hails from Mexico, and she also gave me fantastic travel tips for my Day of the Dead trip!)

Joel Allen actor, the purge television god mask killer

I also had a conversation with Joel Allen, the main actor of another narrative in The Purge season two.

He plays innocent college student Ben Gardner, who narrowly escapes death on his first Purge Night out. The violent incident instills an “urge to purge…” Before long, Ben is putting on the creepy God mask and causing bloody havoc at his school.

Joel told me he enjoyed the challenge of portraying Ben’s coming of age. This role required him to convey a range of emotions, from “pure fear” to killer instincts. Some of the scenes were difficult to shoot — particularly Ben’s violent assault by “God,” and complex choreography for the camera — which made the character evolution all the more gratifying.

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The other journalists and I climbed into a van, and arrived on set (in a NOLA warehouse). We received hair, makeup and costumes… as we were “Resist the Purge” protesters in the final episode! 

It was thrilling to go behind-the-scenes at a major network TV show. I’m accustomed to run-and-gun travel TV hosting / production, which is very different from shooting a scripted series with massive sets, special effects, and hundreds of extras.

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We joined the crew in a giant tent with craft service. The costume department was working hard, outfitting the background actors with dark garments typical of a resistance rally.

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I wore my own faux-leather legging and stomper boots, and slipped on the Resist logo t-shirt that the Purge costumers gave me.

The hair artist gave me a semi-pulled back style. I sat in the makeup chair, and emerged with a dark lip and fierce smoky eye. I also got me badass fake tattoos… I made sure the crucifix was pointing upside down.

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This ramshackle warehouse was set up with a platform and big red Resist banner.

Without revealing too much of the storyline — the sign shows Esme’s face because of her fight to expose the NFFA’s wrongdoings. She learned that Purge Night doesn’t decrease violence as the government claims. It makes people like Ben hungry for more.

Denzel Whitaker purge tv actor

In season 2, the television show follows different groups of NOLA residents in the period between Purges. All the storylines cross in clever ways, leading to plenty of frights and a satisfying finish.

The Anti-Purge protesters cheered as Denzel Whitaker (playing university student Darren Moore) walks on stage. He delivers a rousing speech about how the destructive Purge needs to end, “right here, right now.”

Derek Luke, Rochelle Aytes, the purge tv actors marcus

The director placed me next to two of the principal actors, Derek Luke and Rochelle Aytes. They play Marcus and Michelle Moore, a wealthy couple whose lives are turned upside-down when someone breaks into their home and tries to Purge him. 

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I added my own handmade mask to the pile of props. In this end scene, I held one of these posters that urge citizens to “Join the Resistance” and “Stop the Purge – End the NFFA.”

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In the rally scenes, you can see me standing next to the main actors while we listen to Darren’s impassioned words. The camera shows me in close-up as I clap and cheer him on.

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It was fun to see how a single scene came together. The actors were pros, giving perfect performances with each take. At one point, the crew removed the banner so that they could get shots from an alternate angle.

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Resist Authority! End the Purge!

Can you tell I had fun getting into character and rocking a darker look? 

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Everyone I met was kind and welcoming, and it was an honor to be a tiny part of the show.

I can’t post the full scene featuring me, but you can see a little clip with my fist-pumping closeup here!

the purge Jaren Mitchell, Jonathan Medina, Chelle Ramos cast

Later that day, we got to watch another scene from Episode 10 while it was being shot. We drove to a covered hangar on the outskirts of New Orleans, where Jaren Mitchell, Jonathan Medina, and Chelle Ramos were geared up and ready for a fight.

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Check out the guns and ammo on the table… Some of these are dummies, while others emit a loud noise with a realistic flash of light!

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Chelle gets a touch-up between takes. In the resulting scene, you can’t tell that they are in a sheltered space, and that it was quite humid even at night.

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Very cool to meet Max Martini, and see him get intensely into character as leader of the team. (Perhaps you recognize the talented actor from Pacific Rim, Saving Private Ryan, Captain Phillips and Fifty Shades.)

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Max Martini plays Ryan Grant, a former police officer who tried to execute a daring bank heist during Purge Night. Things go south when the rival Jackals arrive and one of his friends ends up jailed.

In the scene we witnessed, Ryan and his loyal team are preparing to make things right.

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Take note of the cinematography when you watch The Purge, Season 2 — it’s beautifully shot and paced. Acclaimed horror director Gigi Saul Guerrero helmed several of the episodes as well. 

I was also impressed by the efficiency of the Purge production. The director yelled the final “cut,” and within 10 minutes, all the equipment had been packed and moved to the next location.

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Onward to one of the most thrilling scenes in the show… A daring escape from a burning bus.

This stunt was carefully executed with the highest safety precautions. I learned that you can turn the blazing jets on or off, and that a fire-proof screen separates the back of the bus from the front driver’s area. Still, these are real flames, and you can feel the heat even from a distance. 

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Jonathan Medina must have nerves of steel… As soon as he stepped out of the hot bus, the “string” of fire behind him rose to human height!

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I took advantage of these special effects to have a Sadako moment. Doesn’t this look straight out of a Japanese horror movie?

The Purge Costume Mask tv show

I also got to go inside the costume truck, and try on the many terrifying masks from the Purge TV show. Costume designer Eulyn Hufkie (known for her work on The Walking Dead) and her team drew from their darkest imaginations to create the various disguises that Purgers wear. 

Eulyn says this Baby Doll mask ” was inspired by a true story that I heard at the NOLA cultural museum. The baby dolls were a group of women who attacked Mardi Gras goers with sticks and knives. I had these made out of plastic and they all wear a different color lipstick.”

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The “God” mask made its first appearance in “The Purge: Anarchy” movie. Considered one of the eeriest masks in the series, it makes its return in The Purge TV show. 

There ended up being multiple people playing God, as events unfolded… so the costume department had to create multiple versions, and store them in bags. Doesn’t this look like something you’d find in a serial killer’s lair? 

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The Purge costume designer Eulyn Hufkie reflects, “I always felt part of the grotesque allure of the Purge was that it allowed sick, demented psychopaths to play GOD – deciding who would live or who would die on this nihilistic day.” 

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At one point, a God mask gets broken. Sometimes, you only get a quick glimpse of a Purge mask, so it was sweet to see the bloody detail up-close. 

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The Purge TV’s masks are expertly made, from a variety of materials. If you see this one… RUN.

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The flapper Baby Doll is among the freakiest looks this season. 

I’m standing next to racks of clothing for the various characters. The costume team drew upon brands and colors that best represented each personality. For example, they outfitted Dr. Marcus in Theory and Lululemon, while Max Martini’s Ryan had a scruffier look. 

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The Purge TV series got very creative for season 2. I always laughed out loud at the standalone opening vignettes, which gave glimpses into the twisted “Purge economy.”

For instance, a marketing group discussed launching a scary rainbow mask, to appeal to LGBT+ Purgers! In my favorite, a Brazil bride-to-be asks a travel agent about booking a Purge bachelorette party in the USA. She whispers, “What if not everyone makes it back on the return flight?”

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Here’s a peek at the fake blood — you’ll see a lot of it this season. 

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I don’t think you would want to run into me, in a dark alley… So much fun to get my hands on the Purge masks and costumes.

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A last look at my temporary skull tattoo.  

The Purge TV show rocks — fans agree that the second season is better than the first, and stays true to the dystopian concept. I invite you to screen The Purge TV show (a Blumhouse production) on USA Network and Amazon Video.

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There’s also bonus website, Morning Time America: Post-Purge Edition, which is a spoof on the morning talk show. In the Off-Purge months, the peppy hosts chat about how to make yourself un-Purgeable, or put together a freaky look! 

(The team sent me this cheery mug, which I use daily. And I got to keep my Resist t-shirt from the filming.) 

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In an alternate universe where “Blessed be our New Founding Fathers and America, a nation reborn… ” it makes sense that my friends and I would be anti-Purgers, fighting with the Resistance.

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Hail Blumhouse and USA Network for making this set visit possible. You can take glimpse at my Purge TV appearance in this clip here.

For Goth travel tips about New Orleans, see all my stories here.

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Do you think I could be the next Scream Queen? Did these photos give you the urge to watch The Purge?

(PS: additional photos of me at the rally, Max Martini with his crew, Jonathan escaping the bus, and Denzel pumping up the crowd were shot by Alfonso Bresciani.)

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