Sunday, October 25, 2020

Remembering "Alfred Hitchcock's Haunted Houseful"

Earlier this year, at the York Emporium, I stumbled upon another nearly forgotten book from my childhood. It's the anthology book Alfred Hitchcock's Haunted Houseful. It was first published in hardcover in 1961 (shown above), and I think that's the edition that I received as a gift, probably around 1980 and possibly, if memory serves, from my Uncle George and Aunt Susie

It's a hefty-sized book, 7¼ inches by 10¼ inches. Published by Random House, it contains stories by Manly Wade Wellman, Constance Savery, Walter R. Books, Jack Bechdolt, Elizabeth Coatsworth, John Kendrick Bangs, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Mark Twain and Donald & Louise Peattie.

And of course there's an introduction (ghostwritten?) by Alfred Hitchcock, in which he writes:
"Why am I publishing a book when I can haunt millions of houses simultaneously each Tuesday night? Certain types of stories make perfect television fare. In the realm of the ghost story, however, I think the printed page has some advantages and I want you to discover them. When you read, you can be alone. — Absolutely alone. Television gives you the comfortable illusion of associating with all those actors. Worst of all, it bathes the entire room in light. Under such circumstances it is amazing that commercials can be as frightening as they are."

Also making the book memorable are the creepy illustrations by Fred Banbery (1913-1999). All of the interior work is done in blue and black, as shown in these fantastic endpapers...

I think I'm of the same mind about the nostaglia and reality of Alfred Hitchcock's Haunted Houseful as Amy, a Goodreads reviewer who wrote this in January:
"This book was a huge part of my childhood. It was on a shelf at my grandparents house when I was growing up and I'd read from it every time we visited. The inside cover illustration is especially inspiring and I used to make up crazy and complex stories just from looking at the picture. When I finally read it all the way through as an older reader, I found that the stories were only mildly spooky and not nearly and scary as the stories I had made up from the pictures. But it's still so charming and fun. My grandmother's copy lives at my house now and my kids have loved to read it, too."

And there's this. By sheer coincidence, Seth Smolinske, who runs The Three Investigators Mystery Series Facebook page and website (oft-mentioned on Papergreat), wrote about these Hitchcock anthology books earlier this month. Here's an excerpt:

"If you grew up reading Three Investigators books, there's a good chance you also read some of the Alfred Hitchcock juvenile anthologies published by Random House.  And this is the perfect time of year to pull one of these off the shelves and dive into some of the dozens of spooky, shuddery, chilling tales that they offered.  No doubt you have a fondly-remembered favorite or two or more! ... Like the original T3I hardbacks, a hallmark of these Hitchcock anthologies are the beautiful internal illustrations — especially the first three volumes which were illustrated by the incomparable Fred Banbery. As with The Three Investigators series, Alfred Hitchcock had virtually nothing to do with the production of these books, his name and likeness were used to help sales and the Hitchcock introductions were all written by the editor of each volume."

Smolinske goes on to note that, starting with the second anthology, the editor was Robert Arthur Jr., who would go on to start The Three Investigators series (also Hitchcock-themed) in 1964. Everything ties together!

Bonus photograph with Banjo

1 comment:

  1. I know I have "Alfred Hitchcock's Solve-Them-Yourselves Mysteries" and a few of The Three Investigators books, but I can't remember if I have this one or one of the other children's anthologies with that cover you think I'd remember)! Either way, you've spurred me into pulling out some of Hitchcock anthologies and magazines this week!