Saturday, October 31, 2015

Happy Halloween! And don't forget to hug your cat.


I saved my favorite postcard from this year's dandy batch for the final day of Fortnight of Mild Fear. It's an undated Raphael Tuck & Son's Hallowe'en postcard. A non-scary witch in a red cape is sitting atop of ginormous pumpkin and giving a great big hug to a black cat. Which is really what All Saints' Eve is all about, if you think about it.

The card was never stamped or postmarked, but it was addressed and a short note was written. Its intended recipient was Miss Hattie Harding of Talmage Hill, New York. (I think that should be Talmadge Hill.)

Here's what the note states:


At first I thought the note was a bit dyslexic. But if you add a little punctuation, you get:

Remember me when this you see.
That big Halloween Freak,
J.A.C.

According to the Gerould/Jerauld Families Register Page, Hattie Harding lived from 1878 to 1968. She married Daniel Stewart Burwell in October 1900. They had three children and the middle child, Helen, lived to be 96, dying in 2002.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Spooks & Spells: Enjoy the artistry of Robin Jacques for Halloween


To celebrate Halloween Eve, here are a pair of full-color, dust-jacket illustrations by Robin Jacques, the longtime fairy-tale co-conspirator of Ruth Manning-Sanders.

Up first is 1980's A Book of Spooks and Spectres, featuring a grinning skeleton, bats, a green-haired phantom and the fantastically awesome Owl Head from the the Swiss tale "The Owl." (In that short tale, the spook eats everything a poor farmer has in house and barn. His constant cry: "I AM HUNGRY! GIVE ME TO EAT!")

The back of this dust jacket showcases a spook who has been turned to stone by the Christmas Day sunrise in the Icelandic tale "Dilly-dilly-doh!"


Second up is 1974's A Book of Sorcerers and Spells. This delightfully detailed illustration features containers with bats' tongues and snake venom, a frog (who is probably not actually a frog), an exotic bird, and a trio of wizardly men smiling while cooking something up in a cauldron.


More Robin Jacques posts

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Smiles and shivers, courtesy of
Pack-o-Fun in 1970

Pack-o-Fun, a scrap-craft magazine that has been featured here before1, got things backwards in 1970.

The "Halloween Witchery" cover of the October issue that year was fairly cheerful and all in good fun. There's a stack of doughnuts, for goodness sakes! Things can never be too spooky when doughnuts are involved.

The issue explains how to create witch-themed decorations, cardboard-container costumes, a string of lights from plastic limes and lemons, pine-cone owls, and cat-themed, pipe-cleaner Halloween favors.

Everything is very festive. Nothing even rises to the level of Vincent Price spookiness.

Of course, I doubt it was ever Pack-o-Fun's intention to be anything other than a jolly and good-natured family magazine.

Or was it?

Perhaps you could say that, in 1970, Halloween came early for Pack-o-Fun. Witness the April cover...


Sweet dreams!

Footnote
1. See these previous posts:


And if you're a glutton for a little more punishment, click here.

Vintage postcard: Pumpkin thief chased by a "ghost"


This "MAY YOU HAVE THE TIME OF YOUR THIS HALLOW-E'EN!" postcard features a young boy, who we may assume is a pumpkin thief, being chased through a field by a person dressed as a ghost. Obviously, it's not a real ghost, because we can see the pants and shoes sticking out from under the white sheet.

I suppose that dressing up as a spook isn't the worst idea for protecting one's pumpkin patch. But it doesn't appear to have worked in this instance. That kid has a tight grip on his gourd.

All we know about this card is that the artist's initials are HBG and it's "L. & E. Serie 2272."

It was never stamped or mailed, but written on the reverse side are:
  • "Lester from Mama"
  • "1911"
  • "Signed Griggs"

And that probably won't be enough for any genealogist to work from. Perhaps we need a psychic or medium!

Movie and TV moments lodged in The Twilight Zone of your mind


Everyone has one or two, right?

I'm referring to those hazy, uncertain movie and TV moments from your younger days. Moments that now drive you crazy, because you cannot confirm their titles ... or even if these things truly existed. Maybe you dreamed them.1

I had three such mysteries. I'm down to two.

The one I finally figured out — thanks, of course, to the Internet — is 1975's The Man From Nowhere, a spooky, hour-long drama produced by the UK's Children's Film Foundation.

I had been fairly sure about the title. I had recollections of watching it in the early 1980s, possibly on Spotlight. I remembered a creepy man, dressed in black and wearing a top hat, who terrorized a young girl as she made her way through the forest. That was it.

The Man From Nowhere was one of dozens of films produced by the Children's Film Foundation, which was founded in 1951.2 My memories were pretty accurate. The plot involves a young girl named Alice (played by Sarah Hollis Andrews) who is sent to stay with her sick uncle. She is terrorized by The Man in Black, who always seems to know where she will be and pops up for several mild jump scares.

A 2013 DVD release3 gave the film some renewed attention. It has been reviewed and discussed on PopMatters and Nothing But the Night!

At least two clips from the film can be seen on YouTube. There is a five-minute excerpt from the beginning and another three-minute scene. Both feature Alice and The Man in Black. While his voice, which is electronically modified, remains unsettling, my 44-year-old self doesn't find him very scary any more. This was, after all, intended for children.

Finally, you can check out a collection of 200+ stills from The Man From Nowhere on a Picasa Web Album by "jonny 8 books." Those stills are the source of all the images that appear in this post.

* * *

While The Man From Nowhere is no longer a mysterious thorn in my mind, two other horror-themed fragments still bother me from time to time. Maybe something in these descriptions will ring a bell with someone:

  • 1. A man arrives at an inn that is (of course) in the middle of nowhere. He checks in alongside another new guest, a middle-aged woman. During the evening, the man meets a beautiful young woman, who is also staying at the inn. They eventually go back to his room for a romantic engagement and are in the midst of said engagement when the clock strikes midnight and the woman turns evil and attacks him. (I think maybe her eyes change somehow.) It turns out that everyone in the inn, except for the man and the middle-aged woman who checked in at the same time, are malevolent beings intent on killing the guests. In the mayhem, a fire erupts. The man tries to save the middle-aged woman but cannot, so he flees the burning building. The next morning, the man and a police officer he told his story to arrive at the site of the inn. But there's nothing there. No inn. No sign of fire. Just an empty field. But not entirely empty. The corpse of the middle-aged woman is there, among the tall grass. The end. ... I'm pretty sure this was an episode of a horror anthology series, like Tales from the Darkside or Hammer House of Horror. And I think it was a British production. I saw it circa 1984.
  • 2. There's very little to go by on this one. It's the ending of a horror movie from, I'm guessing, the late 1960s or early 1970s (based on my hazy memories of the production values and costumes). The "bad" guy, who is either a Frankenstein's monster type or a hunchback/Igor type, is trying to escape the police via a rooftop. But he is shot and falls to his death. Here's the part that stuck with me, though. He was carrying something bundled up in his clothes. As he lay dead on the ground, a few kittens emerge from his grasp and mew pitifully while walking around on his chest. That's it. That's all I have. I've long hoped that the moment involving the cats is specific enough to help lead me to answer. But, thus far, I've had no luck.

Footnotes
1. Or maybe they exist, and they dreamed you. Ponder that.
2. One of CFF's films was 1967's Calamity the Cow, which is most notable for starring a teenaged Phil Collins, a few years before he joined Genesis. YouTube has a generous clip from the film. Collins, coincidentally, is "no longer retired," according to a Rolling Stone article that was posted yesterday.
3. It was only, however, released as a Region 2 DVD in the UK, meaning it cannot be played on Region 1 players in the United States. Pfffft!


Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Vintage Halloween postcard:
The Witch (Julius Bien)


This colorful vintage postcard is titled simply "The Witch."

It's a fairly elaborate witch costume that involves a carved pumpkin, a pointy hat, a broom, a stick, a white sheet and oversized shoes. I'm thinking this witch has a 50-50 chance of tipping over at some point. Maybe the kid can just be a ghost if he loses his "head."

The real witch sitting on the crescent moon is a nice touch on this undated card, which is labeled "'HALLOWEEN' SERIES NUMBER 980" on the back.

The publisher was Julius Bien & Company, which was in operation from about 1850 to 1915. Some fun trivia: According to MetroPostcard.com: "By the 1880s the firm expanded into printing a wide range of chromolithographic material including advertising, posters, and trade cards. This would latter further expand into sets of comic, holiday, patriotic, religious, and sentimental postcards, typified by a highly graphic style."

This postcard was postmarked in the tiny village of Kempton, Illinois, but the year is illegible. According to Wikipedia, "A post office was established at the site of Kempton in 1869 and called Sugar Loaf. The name of the post office was changed to Kempton in 1878, when the village was founded and named after its founder, Wright Kemp." (I wonder how many Sugar Loaf postmarks are floating around out there?)

The card was mailed to the small city of Fairbury, Illinois, which is about 28 miles southwest of Kempton. (By roads, not crows.)

The note, written in tough-to-decipher cursive, states:
"Dear Kid: Am sending the papers, so you can see what is going on here. Dance in Cabery Wed. night. Halloween social here Sat. Night. Every body here all OK. When are you coming home? All of you come if you can. Would like to come out there but can't get away just yet. Love from all."

Cabery is about six miles north of Kempton, if you're keeping track of all this geography at home.

Two more ghostly vintage titles from Scholastic

On the heels of last week's post about A Ghost a Witch and a Goblin, here are two more vintage titles filled with ghost stories from Scholastic Book Services.

First up is Arrow Book of Ghost Stories, edited by Nora Kramer and illustrated by George Wilde.

It was first published by Scholastic in 1960, and this is the seventh printing, from 1965. It's a wonderful cover — it would have easily landed in the Top 5 of last year's Scholastic Countdown — that's only slightly lessened by the blue-pen scribblings of some little devil long ago.

Karswell wrote about this volume in 2011 on the And Everything Else Too blog and included scans of much of Wilde's wonderful interior artwork, which you can check out there.

This is yet another Scholastic title that, not surprisingly, brings out nostalgic feelings in many. A few examples:

  • "It's been years since I read this book but it was one of my absolute favorites as a child. ... I'm buying this book now for my daughter and look forward to sharing these wonderful stories with her." (Reviewer on Amazon.com)
  • "I too loved this book as a child and sought it for over twenty years. Eventually I found one and it's a keeper. I can read this over and over. Sadly, the more modern ghost stories don't grab me like those from this era." (Commenter on And Everything Else Too)
  • "I think this must have been one of the first books I ordered thru the Scholastic Book Club when I was in grade school. ... I wish the local library had a copy, because I'd love to revisit it after all these years." (Reviewer on GoodReads)
  • "My mother would read to me from this book when I was a child back in the early 70's. I'm sure it was purchased by one of my older siblings at our elementary school's book fair long before I came along, as the book was well used by the time it entered into my memory. My mother would read aloud, 'The Wonderful Cat of Cobbie Bean' each October. Even as I aged I never tired of listening to my mother read this story aloud. I also crept to my bottom bunk bed and read the book cover to cover many times. ... Every October came and went with readings from this fabulous book. Halloween simply was not Halloween without this book. And with each year the book showed more and more wear and tear from all the affection and use." (Reviewer on Amazon.com)

The most-mentioned of the book's nine tales by reviewers and commenters is "The Wonderful Cat of Cobbie Bean," by Barbee Oliver Carleton, who is also fondly remembered for Mystery of the Witches' Bridge.1

"Cobbie Bean" is the longest tale in the book, taking up 37 of its 116 pages.

Other tales include Joseph Jacobs' amusing short version of the old folk tale "The King o' the Cats," featuring Tom Tildrum and Tim Toldrum; "The Water Ghost" by John Kendrick Bangs; and "The Woodman and the Goblins," a funny and spooky little story by J.B. Esenwein and Marietta Stockard.2

Today's second title is Ghosts and Witches Aplenty: More Tales Our Settlers Told. This is the followup to The Witch House and Other Tales Our Settlers Told, which was featured on Papergreat last October.

This well-creased copy was again written by Joseph and Edith Raskin, a husband-and-wife team, and was published by Scholastic in 1973. The illustrator was again William Sauts Bock, a Pennsylvania artist who now goes by William Sauts Netamuxwe Bock and has the website Heart and Soul Artworks.

Tales in the 124-page book include "The Riddle of the Room Upstairs," "The Ghosts of Gibbet Island," and "The Witch Who Spoke in Many Tongues."

Finally, the copyright page includes this amusing note:
"All the stories in this special Arrow edition of Ghosts and Witches Aplenty are complete and unabridged. However, the second and fifth stories of the original hard cover edition were omitted, since they were not about ghosts or witches."

Footnotes
1. Mystery of the Witches' Bridge has been written about by BellaOnBooks's Blog, Bill Cameron, the bookwyrm's lair, and The Kid Books Review, among others.
2. "They did not wink, they did not blink."

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Run, little boys, run!
Run from the Pumpkin Man!


This is probably the creepiest one in the batch of Mild Fear 2015 vintage Halloween postcards.

But what, truly, is the creepiest part? The Pumpkin Creature chasing boys through an autumn field? Or the boys themselves, who look like the horrific result of Tweedledum crossed with a pig. Are those their actual everyday clothes? Or were they dressed up and ready to attend a Halloween party when they were waylaid by Pumpkin Man?

So many questions.

There is no date on the postcard or the postmark. It was mailed to Marvin Rowlands of tiny Argonia, Kansas — home of the first woman elected mayor in the United States.

The message on the back of the postcard, which is written diagonally, states:
"Dear Marvin
Would you run away from a Jack O Lantern like these 3 little Boys. My but aren't they frighten [sic]. I often think of you and your little sister. Love to your Mama. I am your friend. Miss Lille [sp?]"

Vaguely related folklore links

Monday, October 26, 2015

The Three Investigators #1:
The Secret of Terror Castle

I've mentioned a few times over the years, in passing1, that my favorite "mystery/adventure" series as a kid was The Three Investigators, the fictional team that was led by Jupiter Jones, had its office in a junkyard and hung out with the non-fictional Alfred Hitchcock.

I remember reading at least a dozen of the books, which had such great titles as The Mystery of the Stuttering Parrot, The Secret of Phantom Lake, The Mystery of the Coughing Dragon and The Mystery of the Screaming Clock.2 In retrospect, some books in the series were a lot like high-brow Scooby-Doo, with criminals attempting to cover their tracks by deploying paranormal diversions. Jupiter Jones, with his sharp and skeptical mind, rarely fell for it. I enjoyed the heck out of these books. And I wanted my own secret base in a junkyard.

The series kicked off with The Secret of Terror Castle, written by Robert Arthur Jr. and published in 1964. Earlier this year, I bought a cheap, beat-up copy of the 1964 Random House hardcover edition. The nifty cover artwork is by Edward Vebell.

This book is not, however, part of the first printing. According to the amazingly comprehensive website, www.threeinvestigatorsbooks.com, which was created and is maintained by Seth T. Smolinske, the first printing of The Secret of Terror Castle has the following identifiers:

  • No list of other volumes in the series on the back cover.
  • Text error on page 47 (two lines flip-flopped).
  • A stitched textblock consisting of 6 signatures.
  • Uncut blue graveyard endpapers (not slit down the center at the hinges).

My copy has a list of six titles in The Three Investigators series on the back cover and and there is no text error page 47. But I didn't buy it because it's a first printing and I rarely collect books for their first-edition or first-printing status. I acquire book because I want to read them and/or they are cool. This book is just cool. And different from Random House's Hitchcock Cover paperbacks from the late 1970s and early 1980s that I grew up reading.

One of the cool things is the aforementioned "blue graveyard endpapers."3 Here's a look at a portion of them, by artist Harry Kane.


Also, this book has a cool bookplate indicating that it was once owned by Carol Downs. Given my fondness for vintage bookplates, it's what pretty much clinched this purchase.


Did you read The Three Investigators series when you were younger? If so, share your memories in the comments section. And be sure to check out Smolinske's amazing website.

Footnotes
1. Specifically and for the record, I have mentioned The Three Investigators in these posts:
2. In fact, all of the titles began with the "The Mystery..." or "The Secret..."
3. Here are some other Papergreat posts that feature the artistry of endpapers: