Saturday, October 23, 2021

1977 children's book about actual (maybe) haunted house

Raintree Publishers had a little run in the 1970s with books for children about the paranormal, cryptids and UFOs. And who can blame them for trying to make a buck? Those topics were all the rage, with Leonard Nimoy's In Search Of... one of the leaders of the pack. 

A couple of years ago, I wrote about Raintree's The Case of the Ancient Astronauts. You can check out some of the other Raintree book covers at The Trash Collector and this 2012 post on The Haunted Closet blog.

Today, as part of Mild Fear 2021, here's another Raintree offering...
  • Title: This House is Haunted!
  • Author: Elizabeth P. Hoffman (1921-2003). More on her in a bit.
  • Illustrator of awesome cover: Lynn Sweat
  • Publisher: A Contemporary Perspectives Inc. (CPI) book distributed by Raintree Children's Books, Milwaukee
  • Year: 1977
  • Pages: 48
  • Format: Hardcover
  • Original price: Unknown
  • Interior illustrator: Wayne Atkinson
  • Interior photographs: Courtesy Elizabeth P. Hoffman
  • Chapter titles: The Dream, We Find Our House, Knives and Scissors, The Lady in the Hall, Clara!, Arthur Ford Pays a Visit, Eileen Garrett Helps Us.
  • First sentence: The author of this story claims that it is a true one.
  • Last paragraph: Our house is now haunted by happy memories. And who knows, in the next hundred years more ghosts may turn up! Maybe they'll be our own ghosts!
  • Random sentence from the middle #1: We went through a lot of housekeepers during the next few years.
  • Random sentence from the middle #2: When the rocking chair moved, we shouted at her to go away.
  • Amazon rating: 4.8 stars (out of 5)
  • Amazon review: In 2018, "rg7722" wrote: "Lived right next to this house as a child. Early 60's through early 70's. The book is more of a documentary than a children's nighttime story. True to the talk about town at the time. It is said a girl drowned on the property as well. Not true. She was pulled from the concrete pond by a woman 7mths pregnant who couldn't swim. My mother." 
  • So, where is this house? In the book, Hoffman describes it as being in "Beechwood, Pennsylvania." A 1992 article by Melanie Novak in The (Allentown) Morning Call is much more precise: "A professional librarian and amateur ghost hunter, Hoffman speaks of her paranormal experiences in a disarmingly matter-of-fact manner. Perhaps it comes from sharing a house with the ghost of an irascible widow named Clara. Clara plagued Hoffman's family for several years of their residence at Beechwood, a former inn in Havertown built in 1757." (Havertown is an unincorporated community in Haverford Township, Delaware County, Pennsylvania. Beechwood is one of its neighborhoods. Pennsylvania names and places are very complicated.)
  • More about Hoffman: That Morning Call article is the most in-depth piece I found on Hoffman, and it includes information about the other paranormal books she authored. According to this obituary notice, she got her undergraduate degree from Dickinson College in 1942, was an elementary school teacher in Pennsylvania in the 1950s and early 1960s, and received a library-science degree at Drexel University in 1961. It continues: "She was then hired as coordinator of the division of school libraries for the Pennsylvania Department of Education in 1966. In 1975 she joined the faculty at Villanova University as an associate professor of library science and chair of the department until 1978, and the next year she became director of the [Haverford] Township Free Library in Pennsylvania until her retirement in 1991."
  • Quote from Hoffman: According to this 2003 post by Jade Walker on The Blog of Death, Hoffman once said, "I write books to encourage children to read. No one wants to read about broccoli. I want to write about what kids read."
  • Memories of Hoffman: A 2017 post on the Facebook group "Growin' up in Havertown, PA" asked the question "Who remembers the librarian, Mrs. Hoffman? They did a story on her haunted house!!" The post drew more than 100 comments. Here are some of them:
  • "She was my neighbor! I was at the house all the time, it was old but not haunted."
  • "She was the best, we were neighbors for many years and yes the house is still there."
  • "I used to hang out with Wes and spent quite a few nights at their house. Spooky it was."
  • "I remember her well! Attended a fall party at their home when I was in high school. Mrs. Hoffman sat by the fire in the basement room of their amazing home and told us wonderful stories of their resident ghost."
  • "I was in that house several times. There was a cold spot."
  • "Glad there weren't any flying scissors in the house when we were there."
  • "Worked on her house back in the 80's. Nice lady, but that place thoroughly creeped me out. ... Told her the chimes of her grandfather clock were off time. She then told me she didn't have one."
  • "She was the best librarian and fostered my love of reading which continues to this day!"
Photos from inside This House is Haunted!

Saturday's postcard: Trio of kids, possibly dressed for Halloween

This very worn real photo postcard has a CYKO stamp box that dates it to between 1904 and 1908, according to Additionally, printed on the side of the card is:


I think we can presume that Tanaqua is a misspelling of Tamaqua.

Shamokin ("place of eels") and Tamaqua1 are towns in central Pennsylvania that are about 40 miles apart, so it's certainly possible Thomas had photography businesses in both places.

Alas, this postcard was never mailed, and there is no other information printed on the card about who these children are. Are they dressed up for Halloween? That seems like a good guess. But it's also possible it was for some other kind of costume party. Or perhaps even a school play.

Here's a closer look at the trio. If you're interested in more vintage RPPCs that I've shared over the years, this is a good place to start.
1. "Tamaqua, once Tamaque, is a corruption of Tankamochk, 'Little Beaver,'" according to this Schuykill County history webpage. Tamaqua is also referenced in this 2012 Papergreat post.

Thursday, October 21, 2021

Do you want to hear something REALLY scary?

Last month I bookmarked this tweet by Theo Paijmans (who has an amazeballs book collection he often discusses) because I thought it would be a good Mild Fear 2021 post. It was a simple question. These were some of the responses. (With a trigger warning that some of these are legitimately unexplained and disturbing. I've mostly just provided Wikipedia links for background information. But many of the recordings referred to can be found via online searches. If you intend to track them down and listen, maybe do it during daylight hours.)

My response, meanwhile, went in a much more literal and innocent direction. Reading Theo's question, I though immediately of those vinyl albums we listened to as kids in the 1970s. You know the type...
Those albums were great. Thunderstorms. Doors creaking open. Rattling chains. Glass breaking. Plodding footsteps. Ominous wind. Rats (or something else) scurrying across a floor. A screeching cat. And, of course, creepy laughter. 

Before these record albums existed, these were the kind of sound effects that made old-time radio shows so effective. These recordings play right into the great rule of horror: What you can only hear is so much scarier than what you actually see. The mind imagines terrors far greater than any visual that can be created through special effects or CGI.

Who else remembers listening to these spine-tingling albums as a kid?

Wednesday, October 20, 2021

Halloween & autumn Postcrossing arrivals

One of the best things about October is getting seasonally appropriate Postcrossing cards in the mailbox. That's especially true this year, because we don't have proper autumn here in Arizona, so it's nice to see pictures of colorful foliage from around the world. Here are a handful of the arrivals.

From Maria, a retired teacher in the Netherlands...
From Annu, who lives with his mother by a lake in Finland and loves birdwatching. "Sometimes we can see mooses swimming across the lake," Annu writes.
A postcard illustrated by Katya Dudnik and sent by Mariia in Ukraine, who calls this #pumpkinspice season...
From Sveta in Russia, who writes, "Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, but today is a gift. That's why it is called the present."
From Simone, a wedding photographer in the Netherlands...
Bonus photograph

During some walks around the neighborhood with my smartphone, I've been trying to put together a new photo gallery along the lines of American Autumn 2020. This snapshot turned out so well, I think it can stand alone. Happy Halloween!

Monday, October 18, 2021

Book cover: "Terror by Night"

The subject of this book has much in common with Supermonsters, though it's written from much more of an academic perspective.

  • Title: Terror by Night
  • Additional cover text: "The gruesome, unspeakable truth behind the legends of the monstrous undead"
  • Author: Bernhardt J. Hurwood (1926-1987)
  • Cover illustrator: V. Ross (per the signature)
  • Publisher: Lancer Books, New York (72-656)
  • Year: 1963
  • Pages: 127
  • Format: Paperback
  • Cover price: 50 cents
  • Marketing text from first page: "You are holding in your hands one of the most profoundly EVIL books ever assembled."
  • Dedication: "To Laura — My favorite witch, without whose sorcery this book would never have been written."
  • Some chapter titles: "The Universality of Vampire Beliefs," "Premature Burial," "Foxes, Cats, and Human Beasts," "The European Tradition of Lycanthropy," and "Vampires and Werwolves Today." (Yes, it's spelled "werwolves.")
  • First sentence: "In ancient Assyria there was a widespread belief in demons, ghosts, and evil spirits with malignant personalities who preyed upon human victims."
  • Relevant passage from the middle: "For such beliefs to have become so widespread and to grip entire nations for centuries there had to be deep roots. In order to understand what sort of climate nurtured and supported superstition we must try to place ourselves temporarily in the kind of emotional environment that once existed and that penetrated deep into the hearts of the people."
  • Goodreads rating: 3.67 stars (out of 5)
  • Goodreads review excerpt: In 2016, Steven wrote: "I do like these studies from the 1950s and 1960s that combine research on mythology and folklore, with the then rage to psychoanalyze everything."
  • More about Bernhardt Hurwood: His short obituary in The New York Times described him as "the author of 64 books on a wide variety of subjects," including Edgar Allan Poe, the supernatural and erotica. The Free Dictionary agrees, summing it up this way: "While his literary career covered many subjects, two topics dominated his writing — sex and the supernatural." In the 1960s and 1970s, Hurwood published a number of colections of supernatural stories, mostly aimed at younger audiences. He also wrote horror novels and the novelization of the 1977 William Shatner film Kingdom of the Spiders. 
  • Final note: The blog Uncle Doug’s Bunker of Vintage Horror Paperbacks featured a long, nostalgic post about Hurwood in 2012. The website warns me against quoting from it without authorization, so I'll just summarize that the writer believes Hurwood should be remembered more widely for his spooky works, especially the collections aimed at kids through the Scholastic Book Club back in the day. Read the whole post here.

Sunday, October 17, 2021

Exhibitor's showmanship manual for 1972's "Horror Express"

"A NON-STOP RIDE TO HELL!!" screams the advertising copy in this exhibitor's showmanship manual for the underrated 1972 Spanish/British movie Horror Express. The front of this (in the first image) measures 10½ inches by 16¼ inches. It then opens up to twice that size inside for the two interior pages, which can be seen in the final photograph of the post.

The guide, from Scotia International Films, provides a full page of information about the movie's plot, cast and production. And then there are two pages of advertisements suitable for placement in newspapers and other media outlets. (Remember when newspapers ran movie ads?) The production notes include this interesting tidbit: "The entire action of the tension-filled suspense-drama takes place on the Trans-Siberian Express, and the private cars, dining cars and baggage cars were built, suspended on springs, on the stages of the studio, by Spain's noted art director, Ramiro Gomez."

I first watched Horror Express with Joan on Oct. 29, 2008, according to our Movie Book. That was the same night the Phillies won the World Series. (It seems odd that we also fit a movie in!) I wrote that the movie had too much plot for its own good, but lots of good ideas. Joan liked the interesting plot twists, even if some of them didn't make much sense. One thing I failed to connect at that time was that some of the "good ideas" in Horror Express, were clearly inspired by John W. Campbell Jr.'s 1938 novella Who Goes There?, upon which the 1982 movie The Thing is based. Campbell's work is not credited in Horror Express.

I find it interesting, too, that the movie's two stars are horror icons Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing. Yet their images are nowhere to be seen on these advertisements provided by Scotia International Films. (I've seen other posters that do show Lee and/or Cushing, and at least one that puts Telly Savalas front and center.)

It might be simply that they wanted to emphasize the horror (the monsters) in Horror Express for the advertisements, rather than the heroes (which is what Lee and Cushing are this time around). It might also be that, by 1972, Lee and Cushing were losing their status as marketable horror icons. A July 2021 essay by Andy Roberts on the website Horrified reinforces that idea:
"...horror was changing and changing rapidly at that. The reliable motifs and formulae of the hugely successful Hammer and Amicus paragons that dominated the worldwide film scene were no longer as lucrative as their previous content. Even the presence of the recognisable stalwart duo of Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing did little to win over a more selective audience, who were coveting more and more graphic elements as time wore on. Horror Express was conceived originally in 1971, at the same time as these cultural changes began to have notable effects on the box office, and rather interestingly for a film featuring the acting chops of both Lee and Cushing, it begins to show a glint of the calibre of material that was about to utterly flood the market in the daring arena of the ‘70s grindhouse."
It's a great essay with some other thoughtful and compelling points by Roberts, and I recommend it if you have further interest in this movie or the genre. (Horrified really has a lot of great essays about movies from the my wheelhouse of the 1970s, including one on Night Gallery and its best segment.)

There's also an entire book about this movie, Horror Express by John Connolly, which I felt to be insightful but also, even at just 160 pages, a bit padded out. 

Here are the rest of the images from the exhibitor's guide...