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Shark attack in Salem? It’s all staged for a calendar

Model Elizabeth Verrill has her makeup touched up by Phil Adams during a shark attack calendar photography shoot on Winter Island in Salem last week. Verrill’s arm was buried to create a missing-limb effect.John Blanding/Globe Staff/Globe Staff

The recent shark sightings off the shores of Massachusetts were very real. The chewed-up swimmers on Salem’s shores? Not so much.

Those “remains’’ were left by Phil “Skippy” Adams, a special-effects makeup artist currently working on a calendar to showcase his talents.

Adams spent last weekend on the beach at Winter Island Park in Salem dressing up several bikini-clad models to make them appear to be victims of shark attacks. Their broken flesh was latex, silicone, and used dryer sheets, bloodied with a blend of corn syrup, food coloring, and chocolate powder.

“The harbormaster is OK with it as long as I don’t put any girls in the water,” said Adams, 42, of Wallingford, Conn. “Salem, Winter Island, they were all very helpful in this.”


This is not Adams’s first time turning perfect limbs into bloody stumps. “I’ve been doing special effects for 17 years,” he said. “As a child, I had always wanted to make the movie monsters.”

Most of those years he was an amateur artist, working full time and spending his off-hours practicing how to trick the human eye into seeing wounds that were not really there.

“I like being the magician,” said Adams, “telling people to look here instead of here.”

He eventually left his job in the trucking industry, and in January 2011 started his special-effects business, Damage Inc. SFX. He has done such effects for print, music videos, and lesser-known movies, most notably last year’s “Self Storage” with Eric Roberts.

Adams has a great affection for Salem, and not just because of the effects on display at many of its witch-themed attractions. He said he loves the coastline, too, and has taken it in often since he first visited at age 20. In recent years, he has camped with his eldest son at Winter Island.


“Waikiki Beach is absolutely perfect,” said Adams of Winter Island’s largest beach, site of the photo shoot. “It’s a prime location, really, for what we need for this particular concept.”

Fabian has a second fake shark wound, on her leg, added for the calendar photograph.JOHN BLANDING/GLOBE STAFF

The calendar was an idea Adams had been chewing on for two years, and earlier this year he began planning in earnest for the Salem shoot.

That was before recent shark sightings south of Boston.

“I was a little hesitant when the third sighting came up,” he said, feeling that his shark-attack makeup might be seen as in bad taste. When no one was hurt in a real attack, he decided to continue with his plan.

Adams said he hopes to get the 2016 calendar on the market a year from now to take advantage of Halloween sales. It will be a grab-bag of horror staples: vampires, werewolves, an evil scientist’s lab.

The calendar’s title?

Said Adams: “A Little Death Never Hurt Anyone.”

Nicholas Kapteyn can be reached at nicholas.kapteyn