Saturday, October 17, 2020

Fred Murnau's iconic film hits U.S.

Here's an interesting find from the newspaper archives. It's how F.W. Murnau's 1922 German film Nosferatu: A Symphony of Horror was described and reviewed when it was finally released in the United States in June 1929, seven years after its German premiere. (But still two years before Bela Lugosi played Dracula on the silver screen for Universal, changing the course of U.S. horror movie history.)

The article is from the June 3, 1929, edition of the Daily News of New York City.

Amusingly, it refers to Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau as "Fred Murnau." And the film for this American release was called Nosferatu, the Vampire. 

The article makes clear that the movie, which (barely) survived an attempt by Bram Stoker's estate to have all copies destroyed, was presented to the audience in a less than perfect state. It "has been preyed upon by the cutters. It is unreeled at the 8th st. movie house in choppy, ever-shifting scenes."

Nosferatu also gets backhanded praise in the newspaper review for its "extreme weirdness and unusual photography." Those are reasons, of course, it's still much-discussed and revered today.

Related posts
And finally...

Polish poster for 1965's "Kwaidan"

Ashar and I watched Kwaidan, Masaki Kobayashi's 1965 anthology film of ghostly Japanese folk tales, this week. The film is a feast of colorful set design, cinematography, lighting (especially the use of theatrical stage lighting) and atmosphere. It comes highly recommended, though you might want to stretch out the three-hour film over two nights, as we did. The breaks between the four tales make for perfect pausing points. 

Shown above is the movie poster that was created for the film's theatrical release in Poland. It's a piece of art unto itself. According to the internet, the poster was designed by Wiktor Gorka, and more of his work can be seen here.

My favorite segment from Kwaidan (though they are all great) is "The Woman of the Snow," which tells a less-violent, but no-less-heartbreaking, version of the Lafcadio Hearn folk tale that I first saw adapted for the screen in 1990's Tales from the Darkside: The Movie. (I am aghast, by the way, that when Kwaidan was first released in the United States, it was cut from 3 hours to 2 hours, and "The Woman of the Snow" segment was removed entirely!)

After watching Kwaidan, Ashar asked about other Japanese horror films, especially folk horror, from that period of filmmaking. We'll definitely watch Ugetsu, might check out Onibaba or Kuroneko, and will be skipping Jigoku, which just seems entirely too grim for 2020. We are also intrigued by the craziness on display in the Hausu trailer, but that's an entirely different genre than the standard ghost tale.

Kwaidan is part of the Halloween Month Film Festival that Ashar and I scheduled for ourselves. We have some classics and chillers ahead in the next two weeks!

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

A fun "Merry Hallowe'en" postcard

Sure, Halloween should be about about chills and thrills. But it should also be about the joy of the season. The spooks and spectres, the ghosts and goblins, should be on our side. That would be nice, anyway. And so I love this illustration of a Pumpkin King and his Vegetable Children. It's kind of wonderful in its insanity, as the anthropomorphic trio from the garden wish us a Merry Hallowe'en.

No publisher is listed for the card. This one was mailed on October 29 in either 1908 or 1909. (The postmark is slightly obscured when it comes to the last digit of the year.) The postmark is from Waterford, Pennsylvania.1 

The postcard stayed in town. It was mailed to a Mr. and Mrs. E.J. Osborn. The cursive note states:
"Better late than never, but it is better to be a little earlier about sending Halloween cards don't you think so. From your sister Maude"
1. Waterford is a tiny borough in Erie County. One of its famous residents is former Penn State and NFL football player Brian Milne. I overlapped with him for about a year at Penn State and thus covered his athletic exploits a bit. I wrote this for The Daily Collegian on April 24, 1992: "Possibly fitting into the equation at fullback is redshirt freshman Brian Milne -- unless he's in Barcelona. Milne is competing with Penn State's track team this spring and is attempting to qualify for the Summer Olympics in the discus."

Tuesday, October 13, 2020

Postcrossing roundup, Part 1
(Late Summer/Autumn 2020)

I'm in the middle of sending Happy Halloween postcards, most featuring the artwork of Ryan Conners, to Postcrossing participants around the world. It's a great way to celebrate autumn and take some of the edge off the anxiety of this October. (You know it's a rough moment in history when you watch Annabelle movies and think about how comparatively stress-free it would be to only have to worry about being haunted by demon dolls while living amid 1970s decor.)

So it's a good time for a Postcrossing roundup, and I'm going to break this one into two parts. Today, I'm going to share some of the thank-you emails I've gotten from Postcrossers who received cards from me and wanted to share thoughts from their corner of Earth. Their short notes and insights are worth saving for posterity. These are from oldest to newest.

Hannes from Germany wrote: “Thank you so much Chris for the nice card with Romanian words! Thanks also for the information and the nice stamps! Yes, Romania has a beautiful Nature! If you'll visit Schwarzwald, do also come to Bavarian Forest National Park in Lower Bavaria! You're everytime welcome! Wish you all the best for 2020!"

Anita from Austria wrote (in early July): “Hello Chris, thank you very much for your lovely card with nice stamps on too. It made me smile, cos this picture is soo me and my gingerboys. Especially when being on homeoffice too the past months, Lexi loved to sleep on my keyboard or on my scripts for work. Well the 'convid times' weren't so bad at the countryside. You could even be out in the nature and I enjoyed time in my garden too. These days we are back to the office again. I hope things will be 'normal' again or what we call the new normal. Stay safe."

Harri from Finland wrote (in early July): “Hello. Thanks to you very nice postcard and stamps, I like that. There is also a corona virus, 329 people have died. One is too much. The government immediately took a tight line and it seemed to work, good so. But we don't have your president, thankfully. Now restrictions have begun to be lifted. Florida seems to have come under restrictions, bad very bad. I have been watching the TV news now how there's cops shoot people on the street. Before I liked U.S.A. civilized country, I do not anymore, but all the best to you and your family."

Georg from Germany wrote: "Hello Chris! Thank you very much for the beautiful stamps on and in the envelope and your words - and especially for the card with the extraordinary cat! I´m a great fan of Banjo! All the best from Germany, take care and stay healthy."

[Note: If you're a longtime Papergreat reader who is keeping score at home, I have unofficially renamed Mr. Angelino to give him the name Banjo.]

Raisa-Hannele from Finland wrote: “My mail box smiled today there was a very interesting and nice card from you. I liked it a lot! We have the same hobby with books. I also fill the free libraries with books I can give away (not always many). My husband thinks I've a private library at home, but as he loves me he builds more bookshelves in every corner of our old house. Stay safe during these pandemic times."

Alena from Russia wrote: "Dear Chris, thank you for the marvellous card! I love it! And the stamps are very beautiful too! And that you for the long letter. Charlie Chaplin is a great film director, actor and composer! I watched Sunrise by Murnau and its really very good movie. Actually I love silent films very much. And I never ever see that poster for that movie so thank you! Safety Last is funny and I love it too, and also it is very dangerous adventure, amazing show."

Claudia from Germany wrote (in late July): “Hello Chis, thank you for your postcard. You are right - this year is Covid-19 year! Here in Germany the numbers of sick and death people are 'o.k.' - but now the holidays started and many people visit other countries and come back with? Hope, next year will be better!"

Astrid from Germany wrote: “Hello Chris, today was a great postcrossing-day. I received 4 postcards and everybody wrote in small letters an interesting story, as you did. Thank you very much. Also the motifs are well chosen! Your Postcard is a little bit creepy with the skeleton marionets beside the reading girl, but I like it. Stay healthy."

Gilles from France wrote: "Hello Chris, Many thanks for your card and the lovely stamps. I share with you the passion for animals, we absolutely must preserve biodiversity even if it is already severely damaged. I even think there is animal wisdom that humans should learn from."

Curt from Canada wrote (in mid-August): “Thank you, Chris, for your card. ... I hope that Americans get out and vote out the clown you have in power right now. He is certainly doing his best to suppress voters. The attack on the USPS is something I find unfathomable and can't believe so many Republican politicians are supporting him, either by publicly stating so, or not saying anything at all. Good luck. I know I will be watching in November!"

Antje from Germany wrote: "Hallo. Thank you very much for your wonderful Postcard! Oh yeah - years ago I thought that it is a scary thought *Mr Trump - President of the USA* - then he becomes Mr President and I was scared! I hope he wouldn't be re-elected. Sad but true - he keeps his election promise *America first* - most infected, most dead by covid. I hope you all will get the problem under control soon. Happy Postcrossing and Carpe Diem. Stay Healthy."

Moritz from Sweden wrote: “Hello Chris, thanks for your nice postcard and stamps! I googled scrapple and it sounds good to me. I've never heard of this before."

Judith from the United Kingdom wrote: "Hi Chris. Thank you for your card. I really don't envy you being a journalist at this time. Our government couldn't organise a booze up in a brewery. I like the sound of your four assistants. Molly assist me in cuddles, tummy tickles, and we have snoring competitions! Stay safe."

Pedro, a Brazilian living in Germany, wrote (in early September): “Hello Chris! How are you doing? I hope great. I am doing pretty good too. I just wanted to thank your for your beautiful postcard. It's really very nice. I am glad you sent it to me and not to someone else. Hehehe. I see everywhere (TV, Newspapers, Internet) how tough the things in the USA are. I am so sorry for what is happening to many journalists. All the police brutality is unexplainable. I just hope you're having a good time with your son and you alongside your family are just staying away from 'troubles' (from Crowded places). You guys are pretty much tough and you'll get through all of it. Here in Germany things are getting worse again. We're having daily increasingly cases of Coronavirus. Thank God by now we know a little better how to deal with bad cases, but we certainly do not want to exhaust our Healthcare like thousand of cases all at once. Well, Chris, let's do our best to not get infected. Please be safe."

Valentino from Italy wrote: “Thanks for the nice postcard. I really like it. I love all animals, especially cats. (This bad period of COVID-19 will surely pass, I wish you and your family to stay healthy.)"

Martin from Germany, who has 9,000 Postcrossing cards, wrote: “Dear Chris, thank you very much for your gorgeous postcard with the beautiful stamps on it. I really like it. At the moment I do store the postcards in boxes in the cellar because I don't have enough time. Waiting for retirement! Best wishes to you. Hope your mailbox is always filled up with cards you like. ... Please stay healthy during this crazy times of Covid-19 pandemic!!!”

Elizabeth from Australia wrote (in mid-September): “Hello Chris, and many thanks for your great card which arrived today. It's the third I have received from PA this week! Great to hear you are being sensible re: COVID. I, too, have been WFH since March but Tas [Tasmania] is in good shape - no cases in over a month as our Premier is being very sensible by keeping the borders closed - so my workplace is now encouraging a return back to the office (1 or 2 days a week) if staff feel comfortable."

Gisela from Germany wrote: “Hello Chris, thank you for the wonderful postcard. I haven't seen 'Tokyo Story,' but it seems very interesting to me. Asian films I appreciate mostly. I can recommend you: Kim Ki-duk's 'Samaria' and Lee Chang-dong's 'Secret Sunshine.' I can imagine that your profession is challenging these days, but an independent press is essential for the truth to prevail. So go ahead! Maybe in November times get better. Hopefully! All the best from Munich."

Lisa from Russia wrote: “Hi Chris! Thank you for the postcard. I was very interested to know about you and your cats, say hello to them and pet them. You have very beautiful handwriting and beautiful design of the postcard. You really made me very happy with your message. Best wishes."

Marina from France wrote: "Hi Chris! Thanks you very much for this beautiful Postcard. It was a pleasure to read you! So much informations! When I was a kid, my cat's name was Banjo too! It's so cooooooool to have many chipmunks in your country. Here, see a squirel is very rare. We have much pigeons. It's very cuteless. ... And once again, I'm agree with you: inspiring kid is important! Kids are the future. Thanks so much for this very interresting exchange. Stay safe."

[Note: "It's very cuteless" is definitely a phrase I'm going to use moving forward.]

Naoko from Japan wrote: "Hello, Chris! I got your envelope today. Thank you so much for the nice Flatwoods Monster cards!!! I've liked Stories of Cryptids, Monsters, Strange Creatures and alien since I was a child. I love these creatures so much that I have these LINE stamps (LINE is a messaging app, very popular in Japan.). Flatwoods monster stamps are so cute. I'm happy to add this cards to my collection. Thank you! But the most important part of this postcard is your long nice message, I truly enjoyed reading them! I'm so jealous! You have 4 cats! I like cats too, but because I have an allergy to cats, I can't have any. Wow, this is so nostalgic, I'm a huge fan of Resident Evil, I bought and played Code Veronica on the release date. ( I bought DC, Wii and GC just because I wanted to play the Resident Evil series.) I'm a fan of Norman Reedus too. Recently, I ordered online 'Death Stranding' of PS4. I think Ashar might know this, Norman Reedus plays the main character of Death Stranding. I can't wait to play! He is so lucky! I haven't seen famous persons once. I live in a very rural area, we rarely see famous persons here. Oh, but my father has seen former President Carter. When he came to Japan during his administration, he visited my village and fished in the river. I hope everything is fine with you. Have a nice postcrossing!”

Miyuki from Japan wrote: "I received great unique card from you. Thank you so much. I like this card. I’m glad that you paste cool stamps. Kyoto is a wonderful city, there is a World Heritage Site in Uji City where I live. Happy postcrossing."

Monday, October 12, 2020

Imagine getting 100 vintage Halloween postcards for $1

Old Halloween postcards are some of the most collectible postcards out there, with their bright colors and oft-amazing illustrations: sometimes spooky, sometimes funny, sometimes sweet, sometimes totally bizarre. The best ones are highly sought by collectors and can sell for extremely high prices. So I thought it would be amusing to revisit how cheap they were they were brand new, more than a century ago. Picking up a few bundles of these would be an excellent use of a time machine.

From the October 7, 1907, edition of the The Huntington Herald of Huntington, Indiana.
From the October 26, 1908, edition of The Marion Star of Marion, Ohio
From the October 8, 1909, edition of The Times-Tribune of Scranton, Pennsylvania (advertisement for Ladwig's)
From the October 22, 1909, edition of the Chillicothe Gazette of Chillicothe, Ohio

Book cover: "Ghosts of Derbyshire"

  • Title: Ghosts of Derbyshire
  • Author: Clarence Daniel 
  • Also by this author: Derbyshire Customs, Derbyshire Traditions, Haunted Derbyshire
  • Cover illustrator: E. Jeffrey (it's a depiction of Chesterfield's ghostly monk)
  • Publisher: Dalesman Books (The Dalesman Publishing Company Ltd., Clapham (via Lancaster), North Yorkshire)
  • Printer: Galava Printing Co. Ltd., Hallam Road, Nelson, Lancashire
  • Price: 85 pence
  • Year: 1977 (First published, 1973. Second edition, 1974. Reprinted, 1977.)
  • Pages: 79
  • Format: Paperback
  • From the acknowledgements: "I am particularly grateful to Mr. E. Hector Kyme, a fastidious photographer whose viewfinder is a crystal ball of magic, marvel and mystery."
  • A few chapter titles: "Twelve Headless Men," "The Ghosts of Castleton," "Gabriel's Ghost Hounds," and "Dickey o'Tunstead"
  • First sentence: Although I have never seen a ghost, nor had any experience of the occult or supernatural, it would be foolish of me wildly to disclaim or denounce belief in the possible existence of other dimensions in time."
  • Last sentence: The speaker, and some friends present at the meeting, all testified to having seen the monk with the golden cross.
  • Random sentence from the middle: I was first attracted to Heage because it is one of the few villages in Derbyshire that has either had sufficient foresight to preserve its tower windmill, or lacked the energy to pull it down when the creak of its sails finally lapsed into silence.
  • Is the Heage windmill still there? Apparently so. It dates to 1791.
  • Reviews: There are no customer reviews to be found on any of the standard bookseller websites. Nor are there any reviews on Goodreads. I did, however, come across an October 2018 post about this book by "Ben" on the blog Found Objects. It's mostly a collection of the book's interior images (which is certainly valuable for posterity). It also contains these thoughts: "In addition to the usual round of spectral hounds and ladies in white, this particular area of the midlands seems notable for a lot of funny business involving skulls, and, if Clarence Daniel is to be believed, a frankly suspicious abundance of bad local poets, all dedicated to commemorating supernatural events using a fairly similar meter. You can draw your own conclusions."
  • Inspiring a descendant: In 2012, the "National Paranormal Association" curated a Nottingham Post article about Ruddington's Faye Stenson. She noted this at the time about her fascination with ghosts and her interest in collecting local ghost stories: "My interest in the subject stems from my maternal grandfather, Clarence Daniel, who published several books such as Ghosts of Derbyshire and was a well-known historian in and around Derbyshire until he passed away in 1987." 

Sunday, October 11, 2020

Pepsi-Cola Halloween postcard

This undated, unused Halloween postcard served as an advertisement for both Pepsi-Cola and Crowe's Market in tiny Dunkirk, Ohio. Crowe's was touting its fresh fruit and vegetables, frozen foods, free delivery and "service with a smile." The only search results I get for Crowe's on Google or are related to this postcard, so I don't know anything about it history.

Based upon the Pepsi-Cola logo and the bottle label that are shown, I think this postcard can be dated to sometime between the early 1930s and the early 1940s. It theoretically could be as late as 1951, but Pepsi-Cola introduced the color blue into its existing logo during World War II to be more patriotic, and I'm not seeing any blue here. The very best guess for this postcard and bottle might be 1939. That's per the bottle and year shown on this 2015 History of Pepsi Bottles article on

Other good sites to learn about the history of Pepsi bottles/logos are here and here.

Even without the advertising, this is a fun vintage Halloween postcard, with the bear cubs chasing another cub with a pumpkinhead ghost. It reminds me of several similar ones, including this post and this post.