Saturday, October 29, 2016

Mystery vintage postcard: "Haunted House" near Delaware, Ohio


This postcard was mailed from Delaware, Ohio, to Washington, D.C. in the final few days of October 1906.1 The recipient was Mr. Walter Dill of 910 E. St. N.W. The short note on the front states: "Write to 33½ S. Second St., Newark, Licking Co. We changed our minds since I wrote. Allie." Licking County is located in smack-dab central Ohio, and was named for the salt licks there.

And so this postcard, which was produced by Evans & Sons, features the mysterious caption: "HAUNTED HOUSE — THE, TOMB, near Delaware, Ohio." (Not quite sure what's up with that comma after "THE." It could be either a typo or a clue.)

Delaware, Ohio, is the county seat of Delaware County, which is adjacent to and west of Licking County.

The picture on the postcard is, indeed, something that resembles a tomb. But what's up with the "haunted house" and this forlorn tomb?

First discovery: There were variations of this postcard back in the day. A 2013 post on the wonderfully titled blog "The Strange and Spooky World of James A. Willis" features a card with the same photo but a slightly different design. No other answers there, though.

A different postcard, produced by The American News Company and featuring two images, is featured on the Delaware County Historical Society website. But, again, there is little other information.

I guess there's always the possibility that, 100-plus years ago, a photographer working for a postcard company got a good photo of a creepy tomb and they decided that a postcard with a creepy photo and the words "haunted house" would sell well. So they slapped it together and published it, without there being any actual good ghost stories associated with the site.

One last source I might try to track down is author John Ciochetty, who has written at least one book on the historic ghosts of Delaware, Ohio.

Either way, whether there's a spooky story that goes with this postcard or not, it's possible that information is lost in the sands of time.

Footnote
1. Also that month, the Chicago White Sox defeated the Chicago Cubs, 4 games to 2, in the World Series. It was the first of three World Series appearances in a row for the Cubs, who trail the Cleveland Indians, 2 games to 1, in the 2016 World Series, as I write this.

Friday, October 28, 2016

Yes Virginia, there is a place called the Castle Halloween Museum


This dandy modern postcard, featuring creepy toys gathering in the forest, is an advertisement for a place called the Castle Halloween Museum. When the card was printed, the museum was located in Benwood, West Virginia, a tiny city in the northern prong of that state.

But, as I started to do some research, I discovered that the museum moved and is now located in central (slightly west-central) Pennsylvania — Altoona, to be exact. Here are some images from the museum's website, which is simply www.castlehalloween.com.



The most important thing to know, if you want to make a spook-tastic field trip to Altoona on this Halloween weekend (or any other time) is that admission to the museum is by appointment only. Specifically, the website states:

HOURS/TOURS ARE BY APPOINTMENT ONLY
AND MUST BE BOOKED IN ADVANCE

So call the museum at (814) 940-1031 before you solidify your Pennsylvania haunted road-trip travel plans.

The trip would be more than worth. Here's a rundown of some of the museum's contents:
  • over 35,000 Halloween-related artifacts "from Arcade Machines to Zany Day of the Dead displays"
  • Southern pottery face jugs, from Meaders to Rogers (over 200 examples)
  • Voodoo flags and paintings
  • figural folk art by artists like Jack Roads, Alan Cunningham, Linda Wolf, Debbee Thibault and Tubby Brown
  • "learn about Mother Shipton, Dennison & the Bogie Book"
  • candy and ice cream molds
  • "vintage Jack O lanterns, advertising, toys, candy containers and decorations"
  • "Original art, sheet music, magazines, Salem Witch, bats, spiders, fortune telling, games ... and Harry Potter"

And you might even come away with an awesome collectible. According to the website: "The antique shop here is where you will find most of our duplicate items and that is one of the ways we try and pay the heating and electric bills and restore the building."

The museum owners and curators are Pamela Apkarian-Russell and Chris Russell. Pamela Apkarian-Russell is an author, lecturer and curator of all things Halloween. Some of her books include Collectible Halloween, More Halloween Collectibles: Anthropomorphic Vegetables and Fruits of Halloween, A Collector's Guide to Salem Witchcraft and Souvenirs and Halloween Collectible Decorations and Games.

If you've been to the museum or go at a future date, let us know what it's like in the comments section.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Halloween horror for chickens


So much of Halloween is about scaring humans. We should have some spooky stuff for poultry, too.

This should do it.

The 3¼-inch-wide piece of paper, possibly intended as a flimsy coaster for drinks, features a perspiring chicken being chased by a chef with a large knife. The chicken seems to understand the mortal danger facing it and is fleeing like it's a teenage babysitter being pursued by a slasher in a Shatner mask.

Buen Provecho! translates to bon app├ętit, which translates to "enjoy your meal." (With your meal coming at the chicken's expense.)

Hotel Avila gets three stars (out of five possible) from TripAdvisor and is ranked as the 32nd-best (out of 86) hotel in Caracas, Venezuela. But that's by no means a scientific assessment.

And it doesn't include any of the reviews provided by chickens, who would presumably give it one star, at most, if they could get onto the internet.

Vintage photos of folks in costumes

What are you going to dress up as for Halloween on Monday? Clearly, this is not a smart year to dress up as a clown, scary or otherwise. (Mimes and jesters are probably right out, too.)

I hope we're spared from having too many people amble around as Trump or Clinton. From some of the stories I've seen, it would appear that we'll have a lot of superheroes, Star Wars characters (trending toward the most recent movie), pirates and witches. So, in other words, a typical year, with perhaps a few more Harley Quinns than usual walking the streets and seeking candy.

Here are a few old photographs of people dressed up in costume, starting with a pair of found photos that have no identifying information.



This next one is from the family archives. I don't think it's Halloween, per se, because it's dated May 1914. It features a large group of men, half of whom are in drag. (There are also, unfortunately, a couple of men in blackface, a practice that didn't start to disappear until the 1960s in the United States.) Apparently, my great-grandfather, Howard Horsey Adams, is in this group photo, possibly dressed as a woman.

Here's the whole photo (which can be seen in a larger version if you click on it), plus a few closeups...





Finally, because it's only fair, here's a photo of me dressed up for a Halloween party 20 years ago. I kind of miss that shirt.

Exaggerated postcard: W.H. Martin is very proud of his pumpkins


This never-used "real" photo postcard, printed on Kodak's Azo paper, features some century-old photo trickery that makes is look like these farmers are harvesting pumpkins the size of Volkswagen Beetles.1 The effect is fairly well done. If you didn't inherently know that gourds of that size were implausible, you might not immediately doubt the veracity of the image. The subterfuge is helped by that fact that it's a black-and-white photograph, and thus there are fewer colors and shades that have to match tonally.

There is an extensive history of exaggerated, or tall-tale, postcards from the early 1900s through at least the 1960s. Fruits, vegetables, peanuts, animals and bugs were all subjects of the humorous cards. They are highly collectible and there are many websites featuring galleries of vintage cards.

Here's a closeup of the text from the bottom of this postcard...


It states:
Copyrighted Photograph 1908
by W.H. Martin Ottawa, Kan.


A different version of this card, seen here on Flickr, has a caption in the upper-right corner that states: "pumpkins grown on our soil are profitable."

According to The Robinson Library website, Martin was a pioneer in this "field":
"One of the first producers of exaggerated postcards was William H. Martin, of Ottawa, Kansas. Martin's photography studio began experimenting with trick photography around 1908. His work featured huge ears of corn and peaches, a giant rabbit being tracked by a car, and pumpkins uprooting a farmstead. He was so successful that he established the Martin Post Card Company in 1909, and reportedly produced seven million exaggerated postcards the next year."
More about Martin, who was nicknamed "Dad," can be found in this 2013 article by Michael Bushnell at northeastnews.com.

To see galleries of exaggerated postcards from the past, you need only type that phrase into Google. Or, if you prefer, some sites you can check out are the Wisconsin Historical Society, io9, The American Museum of Photography, Postcrossing and Doctor Fong's House of Mysteries.2

Footnotes
1. Of course, this postcard is from 1908 and the Beetle wasn't introduced until 1934. So that's a retroactive-anachronistic metaphor (depending when you are in the space-time continuum while reading this post.)
2. As if I would ever pass on an opportunity to include the title "Doctor Fong's House of Mysteries" on Papergreat. In fact, I might just start over from scratch with the whole blog and rename it Doctor Fong's House of Ephemera.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Remembering the horror that once lurked in Brigantine, New Jersey


The Jersey shore hasn't always been about sand, sun and surf.
There were horrors, too...


As a young kid growing up South Jersey for a few years in the late 1970s, I was mesmerized by the television commercials for Brigantine Castle, a haunted-house attraction located in Brigantine, New Jersey, just a few miles northeast of Atlantic City. The place looked like a schlocky (in the best way) 1960s or 1970s horror movie come to life. I was 8 or 9 years old, so, upon viewing these commercials, it didn't really register to me that these were just a bunch of college kids in pancake makeup making good summer money.1 (That's an over-generalization, but not terribly off the mark.)

I never did get there. The Castle's heyday ended with a damaging storm in 1982. It closed for good in 1984 and burned down in 1987.

But, because of those commercials, I've remained intrigued by Brigantine Castle. Here are two of them, from YouTube...





While there is a great website and digital archive of the history of Brigantine Castle, which I'll get to in a moment, actual ephemera is difficult to track down on the open market. I did come across this 1977 postcard for Brigantine "Horror" Castle & Amusement Pier a couple years ago. It was pushing the idea that this was "an exciting complex for the entire family." Because homicidal mimes and severed heads make for the perfect day with Gramps and Missy!

The photographs on the postcard were taken by Manos Angelakis, and the card was distributed by Joseph Harris of Brigantine. Here's a look...



If you really want the skinny on Brigantine Castle, the best — and perhaps only — place to go is www.darkinthepark.com, which was created more than 15 years ago by Seph and Bill Cherkasky as a repository of Brigantine Castle history. It was then expanded to encompass three classic dark rides of New Jersey, as the Cherkaskys added Dracula's Castle in Wildwood and the Haunted Mansion of Long Branch. Other dark rides and haunted attractions have also been reviewed and discussed on the website over the years.

But Brigantine Castle remains the centerpiece of the website, and the depth of history and information featured there is such that I hope there are backups and printed archives of all that material. I would hate to see this information become a Lost Corner of the Internet and then disappear altogether.

The Cherkaskys' documentation includes Brigantine Castle's history, three pages worth of photos of the actors who worked there, a large archive of pictures, some of the original sound effects and screams (including one described as "different men laughing with jack-in-the-box sounds"), and a look at what has become of the former site of the attraction in Brigantine. As far as ephemera goes, there fantastic scans of posters and brochures and other advertising material for Brigantine Castle that you should really check out. In particular, this poster is pretty terrific.

And if all that isn't enough, the Brigantine Castle website hosts 15 years worth of emails that the Cherkaskys have received, filled with memories of both Brigantine Castle employees and those who were thrilled and spooked while experiencing the castle back in the late 1970s and early 1980s. That is the part of the website that I most hope is preserved for posterity. Here are a couple of examples of those great memories...

  • I was lucky enough to be a member of the Brigantine Castle for the last 3 years. The memories I have from my experiences there are among the most cherished I have. For those of you reading this that share the knowledge of being a "monster" in the Castle or in any other haunted house, hayride or attraction, you understand. ... In the brief time I was employed at the Castle I became acquainted with many people, some of whom are my closest friends to this day, as close as any blood relation a person can have. One of the people I met was a man by the name of Joe Little. His name was a source of pure irony because he easily stood 6'4" if not taller. When he donned the platform shoes, green makeup and metal bolts, he was one of the most imposing Frankenstein's Monsters to have ever scared a shoobie into the fetal position.
  • My daughter and I have hysterically funny memories of one visit to the castle in the summer of 1976. My sister-in-law (Dot) and nephew were with us, and I had to lead the way. We spent a long time debating how to get over the hole in the path in the dark forest until the lurking werewolf finally told us it was glass. The Castle was genuinely creepy, even though we knew what it was, but my sister-in-law's terror had her clutching the back of my shirt in a knot and squeezing the kids between us. We did a lockstep through the castle with me laughing hysterically and Dot screaming hysterically. The body that sat up in the coffin really made her scream.

And now you probably want to read them all. Go ahead! Go!
(But you might want to keep a light on.)


Footnote
1. Speaking of which, Sarah, now 16½, is working as one of the scary performers this month at a horror attraction called Panic at the Ballpark in York's downtown baseball stadium. From the brochure: "York's professional baseball stadium, PeoplesBank Park, become[s] a terrifying den of horrors as a force of vengeance and evil wreaks havoc on fans of the great American pastime. The different areas are called Head Basher's Hideout, The Dismemberment Shop and Dead Man's Play Land. An obsessed police officer, using his fingers as a gun, runs around trying to catch an evil, undead ballplayer.

1918 postcard: "That Nightmare Sure Was A Horse On Me"


This non-subtle but punny postcard from a century ago plays off the etymology of nightmare, which, when used in the sense of a bad dream, only dates to the 1820s. The mares, though, weren't literally horses. They were considered to be demons or goblins that "rode" on people's chests while they slept, thus causing frightful dreams (or potentially death, in some cultures).

The word "mare" has a confusing etymology that involves Old English, Norse, Germanic, French and perhaps all the way back to Greek. It was thought that mares could haunt (or ride) more than just people. They could leave horses sweating and exhausted or tangle the branches of a tree. In Slavic countries, some of the methods of repelling nightmares included leaving a broom upside down behind the door or placing a belt atop the bedsheets.

This postcard was mailed in 1918, during the 20-month period when postage was raised from 1¢ to 2¢. It appears to have been mailed to Al Guffey in the unincorporated community of Nettleton, Missouri. The message, clearly written by a child, states:
Dear Al,
The weather is fine here. It is New Year's day. I got a watch [and] a pair of gloves for Xmas.
Marvin.

Book cover: "Galaxy of Ghouls"


Here's a perfectly appropriate vintage book cover for Halloween Week.

  • Title: Galaxy of Ghouls
  • Incredibly awesome subtitle: A Handy Guide for Vampires and Werewolves, of Spells and Sorcery of Switches on Witches of Shape-Stealers and Soul-Swappers of Demons and Damnation...
  • Seriously, is that the best subtitle ever? Yes.
  • Did the awesome subtitle appear in the official copyright listing? I don't think so.
  • Would this book have been in Catholic school libraries? I don't think so.
  • Editor: Judith Merril
  • Authors included in anthology: Ray Bradbury, Fredric Brown, Theodore Sturgeon, J.B. Priestley, Richard Parker, Anthony Boucher, Robert Sheckley, Fritz Leiber, Arthur Porges, Leslie Charteris, Bruce Elliott, William Tenn, Clifford Simak, Manly Wade Wellman and Walter M. Miller Jr. Plus one story co-written by Jerome BIxby and Joe E. Dean.
  • That's a lot men: Yes.
  • Probably white men: Yes.
  • What about Leslie Charteris: Man.
  • What about Manly Wade Wellman: A very Manly man. But nothing like this Manly.
  • But, hey, at least the editor was a woman: Correct. Judith Josephine Grossman (1923-1997) was a pioneering science fiction writer, editor and political activist. Her three published novels were Shadow on the Hearth, Gunner Cade and The Tomorrow People. There are a few collections of her short stories, including two published in the 1970s — Survival Ship and Other Stories and The Best of Judith Merril. She was a peace activist who once, according to Wikipedia, traveled "to Ottawa dressed as a witch in order to hex Parliament for allowing American cruise missile testing over Canada." You can read more about her writing at The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction.
  • Cover art: B. Thomas
  • Man? Not sure, actually.
  • Publisher: Lion Library (LL25)
  • Cover price: 35 cents
  • Year: May 1955
  • Pages: 192
  • Format: Paperback
  • Reprints: Pyramid Books republished this book as Off the Beaten Orbit in 1959 and 1961 (with new covers each time).
  • What others say about this anthology:
    • Todd Mason, writing on Sweet Freedom, states: "A thoroughly enjoyable anthology of fantasy, sf, horror and Merril's then-favorite term for all fantastic fiction, 'science-fantasy' (often in the specific sense of that which mixes fantasy and sf aspects, tropes and furniture, as well as Merril's more broad sense, which she would eventually trade for a broad definition of Robert Heinlein's 'speculative fiction' suggestion of some years earlier)."
    • Reviewing the book on Goodreads, Heidi writes: "The whole book is really a convergence of science fiction stories which have an element of the occult. (A few are just strictly ghost and/or horror stories.) Almost all of the stories here are pretty good and there are a few real stand-outs."
    • Margaret L. Carter, writing on Vamp Chix, begins her review by stating: "OFF THE BEATEN ORBIT (1961; first published as GALAXY OF GHOULS, 1955), compiled by distinguished SF writer and editor Judith Merril, isn't a vampire anthology as such. But it does include three vintage vampire tales (two being a couple of my all-time favorites), plus two other stories with some vampire content. It also features two werewolf pieces. This anthology holds a special place in my heart. I first heard of it from my high school boyfriend, who described some of the contents to me but never got around to lending me the book. I'd given up on ever actually seeing the elusive paperback when I stumbled upon it in a used book shop, long before Internet searches existed."
  • Just realized. "Switches on witches" is a little kinky, no?: Yes.
  • So, definitely not in Catholic school libraries?: Correct.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Halloween is almost here, so get your head out of that pumpkin!


Time has lunged forward and we are now just days away from Allhallowtide, so I'm going to try to squeeze in as many themed posts as possible between now and then.1

This embossed vintage postcard, which has no publisher listed anywhere, contains a lot of surprises beyond just the central image of a young girl with a large carved pumpkin on her head. There is a flower with a creepy face, two different moons, stars, a ring, a witch, a candle and, of course, a black cat.

The cat has a strange and tiny winged creature sitting upon the tip of its tale. I'm not sure what's up with that. Maybe it's a tiny owl. And, of course, black cats and owls are both extreme omens of death in European folklore, so if you see these two animals hanging out together, it's pretty much a double-whammy.2


This postcard was mailed in 1911 and sent to Miss Martha Lewis, who lived in the small borough of Williamstown in northern Dauphin County, Pennsylvania. (I found some evidence of a Martha Lewis was was born in Pennsylvania in 1902 and was the child of Edward Lewis and Amelia Thresa (Minnie) Temple. Martha also appeared in a 1930 census as a resident of Williamstown.) The short note on the card states:

Hello Martha. How are you getting along.
I guess you thought I was lost.
Leda.

Footnotes
1. And, of course, you can go back and see all the awesome vintage Halloween postcards that were featured as part of Mild Fear 2015.
2. Also, while looking for answers about that Cattail Creature, I discovered these unrelated creatures of world folklore: Tailypo (Appalachia), Bakeneko (Japan), Alp (Germany), Hombre Gato1 (South America) and Pard (medieval Europe).

Secondary footnote
1. Hombre Gato would be a great name for a band.