Category Archives: Halloween 2007

Don’t disturb the Restless Dead…

Today I thought I’d take a moment to share one of the oldest books in my collection, not by publishing date, but a book that I’ve had for what seems like forever (it’s really only 20 years.) It’s a short book of ghost stories called The Restless Dead which I ordered from one of those awesome Troll book club fliers in the fifth grade. I’m not sure if elementary and middle schools are still pimping books through these types of book club fliers (I think there was also a Scholastic club and a third that I can’t remember the name of), but when I was a kid it was an exciting moment to get one of these order forms handed to me. They usually consisted of one sheet of colored newsprint folded in half (or maybe quarters) with sections on fiction, activity books, comic strip collections, and even stickers and posters as well. It was probably around Halloween in 1987 when I saw this book by Daniel Cohen listed…

The cover art totally sold me on the book and I’m know I rushed home and begged my mother to order it for me. Like the Halloween Horrors record I posted about earlier in the week, the artwork mesmerized me, and I’m sure I worked up a story that connected the ethereal figure of the lady on the cover of the book to the unfortunate ghost in the main story on the record.  I also live the skull worked into the clouds (and outlined by the spindly trees) behind the ghostly lady, as well as the super creepy shrouded figure in the background (who I can only assume is the reaper.)

There are a few generally scary or gruesome tales, my favorite of which revolves around a very demanding husband and his wife. He asks her to cook him a nice liver dinner, so she runs out to the market and fetches the best liver the meat monger has for sale. She then spends the afternoon slowly cooking it, taking little nibbles here and there to check on it. A little bit before her husband is due home she caves and devours the whole thing, feeling guilty and scared immediately afterward. Her solution is to go next door to the mortuary where an elderly lady who had just passed had been laid out by the mortician. She snatches the old lady’s liver and quickly cook sit for her husband. He loves the dinner, but then soon after the household is plagued by the ghost of the lady whose liver has been eaten. The husband finds out what happened and does the only thing that makes sense to him, which is to carve out his wife’s liver so that he can replace the one eaten.  It works like a charm.

How crazy of a tale is that?!? It reminds me of some of the more gruesome Grimm brother’s tales actually. I re-read the entire book (I say that like it was a challenge at it’s hefty 100 pages) and though some of the stories didn’t connect quite the same as they did when I was a kid, I still really enjoyed what Mr. Cohen had put together. Now, if I can find the time to break out Bunnicula and Samantha Slade: Monster Sitter…

On Target for a good Halloween shopping experience…



So last year was sort of fun for me because it was the first year where I really took the time to seek out Halloween past the odd grocery store where I’d be doing my weekly shopping. I hit everything from Wal-Mart and Target to Dollar Tree and the many gas stations near my abode. I hit drug stores, discount chains, toy stores, department stores, specialty stores, convenience stores, party stores, you name it, in search of the best (or at least the most fun) schwag I could find. There were some awesome moments (like all of the Universal/Hammer monster stuff at Dollar Tree and finding all of the Friday the 13th flicks at Wal-Mart for $4.88), as well as a lot of misses (you’d think art and craft stores would be overloaded with awesome stuff, but not really, at least not in my area.)

This year I was hoping for the same experience, if not better. Though there’s been some great stuff around, I haven’t really had that jaw dropping moment yet (well unless you count the Frog Dissection kit.) Most of the stuff I’m finding on the shelves this year is more or less the same stuff that was out last year. There have been some interesting finds (particularly in the candy department), but overall it has been kind of "eh." That’s all right though, I’m really not complaining (and hopefully I don’t sound too whiney), I guess I’m just lamenting. Actually, I think the problem I’m having is that I really hoped there would be a second set of the Universal/Hammer monster figures. I love my disconcerted little Frankenstein’s monster, my Dracula that looks like a little kid, my spot on mummy, my unfortunate if not poster-accurate King Kong, my fearsome Hammer-influenced werewolf, and my not-quite Godzilla. I so could have done with a goofy creature from the Black Lagoon, a snide un-masked Phantom, a lackadaisical mad scientist, a swanky Invisible Man, a bulbous little hunchback, and maybe even a crazed little London After Midnight vampire in a top hat. A guy can hope right? Maybe next year (you hear me X One Archive Inc.?)

Anyway, continuing my look at the various places pimping Halloween this year (see my Wal-Mart entry), I’m going to take a look at what you can expect to find at your local Target (Tar-jay if you’re so inclined.) Now I don’t typically cover costumes all that much, especially at places like Target, because honestly they’re hard to photograph. Suffice it to say there is a whole new movement in children and adult’s costumes that is both very similar to the whole Ben Cooper thing, and amazingly different. You can pretty much find a pre-made, and pretty darn accurate looking costume of any big pop culture character these days, from full on Spiderman suits (with muscles included) to Ghostbusters jumpsuits (including inflatable proton pack.) What really gets me jazzed though, are the awesome selection of inexpensive props that are turning up in stores these past few years, offering kids and adults a chance to have some really nice accessories…



The selection of plastic weapons available at your local Target is crazy. I remember when you’d be lucky to find anything other than a meat cleaver and a scythe, and now you can have anything you could dream of up to and including a pretty realistic chainsaw with working chain and sounds. I don’t know, I just find this fascinating.

One of the things I enjoyed last year was Target’s dollar bins as they were full of all kinds of cheap fun. This year’s selection was sort of dull (though there is a pretty fun three pack of little gargoyles that would darken up any cubical for the season.) In stead there was a display of blister packs that where a little more expensive but not too much. It was mostly little party gifts pens, pencils, plastic spider rings and the like…



…but there was also a couple of fun packs of gore balls, as well as a nice little eyeballs in a plate of worms deal. You can also see that Target is indeed going for the whole Edgar and Ellen Halloween theme this year, ditching their cute and more original spider/ghost/witch/vampire characters from years past.

There was a nice selection of Styrofoam tombstones and gargoyles, though noting really new.



Another trend I’ve been noticing is the influx of cheap statuary for the front yard. I’m a pretty big fan of this type of thing, especially considering the price, and the stuff is decent quality and should last a number of years (unlike the almost totally Styrofoam/balsa wood fare at WalMart.)



There were a few new items in the little knick-knack section including some really nice (and quite hefty) metallic skulls. For some reason or another I’ve managed to amass a pretty large collection of skulls and these were a nice addition.



There was another larger (and I assume outdoor) item that caught my eye and seemed to be new for 2007, these oversized metal spiders…



…but I wasn’t what in the heck I’d do with one. We live in an apartment and I know they’d get stolen if we left them outside. They are pretty cool though.



There was also a nice selection of party items, including a very awesome skull candy dish (2nd from the right on the second shelf) that I also have no idea what I’d do with (I actually have two other skull candy dishes already.) I really do like the designs on some of this stuff. It’s a little cute, but still interesting and pretty easy on the eye…



Coming back for a second year are the seriously awesome mariachi skeletons. I bought one last year and it’s worked its loveable way into our year-round decoration scheme. For $10, it really is a steal. When I was down in Florida this past summer we went to Epcot and there were some amazing wooden hand carved Mexican skeletons, but all of them, even the small 3 inch ones started at $50.



Though I’m not all that fond of the Edgar and Ellen theme, I was impressed by the huge mechanical cardboard house in the in the center of Target’s Halloween section…



Now when exactly did pirate and Halloween themes start converging? Sure, I realize that pirates are all the rage right now, but there was a ton of if pervading the merchandise I was seeing. I mean, I guess I get it, skeletons and Halloween go hand in hand, but really, enough already.



Another thing I like about Target over say Wal-Mart as far as discount places go, is their attention to detail in design. Wal-Mart hit a nice note this year with their awesome Frankenstein packaging, but Target has been pretty steadily producing nice eye catching design work for years. There are a whole series of pumpkins that are gracing the candy shelves this year that have some really fun artwork to them…



In the candy section was where the real new and fun stuff was. Take these molded white chocolate confections for instance…



That is probably hands down the coolest looking skull and jack-o-lantern candy I’ve ever seen. Unfortunately I really don’t like white chocolate, but still…

There was also an expanded section of ‘gourmet’ candy including Halloween themed gummi candy as well as wacky flavors of candy corn. I tried the candy corn last year and hated it, and though the gummi candy looked fun, it was nothing more than interesting than you’d find in a candy shop any other time of year, just in spiffier packaging.



There is also a nice section of drink mixers. I particularly liked the ones in the beakers…



My favorite candy of the year has to be the Edgar and Ellen themed stuff. There’s an end cap dedicated to it with stuff ranging from the Gummi frog dissection kit, to test tubes and beakers full of candy powder, and even a 13 day Halloween advent calendar.





There was also a nice selection of more Target specific candy including various gummi and hard candy…





My favorite of which had to be the gummi vampire tongue…



I thought it was an ingenious way to repackage and sell your tried and true plastic vampire teeth, both as a novelty and as part of the packaging design.  (You can actually find these elsewhere, so apparently there was a ‘how to repackage vampire teeth’ conference that I wasn’t invited to…

I also liked these hard candy snakes (which I mistook for gummi snakes when I bought them.)



They’re nothing more than glorified granny candy, but they were still fun.

Next week I’ll make sure to talk about the Spirit store as well as the secret (if it really is one) to the store’s origins…

I mostly dance to the ghostly music…



Also, if you liked the Halloween Horrors album below and you are in the mood for some awesome ghoulish tunes and fun, head over to Dave’s Mostly Ghostly Music Sharing Blaaahhhggg!!! for a bunch of great stuff. He does this year round, but he’s also cranking out the music every day this month as well.

You hear that? More Plop!



I thought I’d share some more monster strips from the DC Plop comic. Enjoy…





























By the way, you can find more Plop fun as well as a load of other great Halloween posts at Harris Smith’s blog Negative Pleasure. Harris is also doing a great blog-a-thon this month with a lot of horror film reviews and more.

Halloween Horrors!

The most exciting aspect to nostalgia for me is that moment where you experience something mundane that for some reason sparks a memory of days gone by.  Now, I am a reveler when it comes to nostalgia, this site is a testament to that, and I’m also a collector by nature, so finding a cherished childhood item that I can add to my collection in one form or another is great.  Still, the one thing that really gets to me is stumbling onto a long forgotten memory out of the blue.  This is when I sort of stop whatever it is that I’m doing and get that glazed over look to my face (you know the one, think of the boy from The Man Without a Face, but taken down a notch or two.)  At the same time I sort of get chills down my spine, as cliché as that sounds.  It’s pretty rare and fleeting though, which is probably what makes the sensation so appealing to me.

The last time I had one of these discoveries was about a year and a half ago when something or other put me onto the memory of a spooky record that I listened to about a gazillion times as a kid, the 1977 A&M Records release Halloween Horrors

I’m not positive, but I’d be willing to bet that my parents picked it up the year I was born (back in ’77) as they had just moved into their first house together and I’m sure they were preparing for their first real onslaught of neighborhood kids trolling for candy and treats.  When I turned four I received an old hand me down record player from my sister after she upgraded her set-up, and I immediately usurped all of the ‘fun’ records in the house (basically the Halloween Horrors album, a couple Christmas records, and the soundtrack to American Graffiti, which I loved for the picture of the carhop on the gatefold cover) to add to my growing collection of read-along book and record sets. It stayed in a more or less regular rotation all year round, though when I’d put it on the turntable I always made sure to drag the player into my closet where I could listen to it in the almost dark.

Side A of the record was reserved for The Story of Halloween, a short story (14 minutes) about a young man who has inherited an old antebellum mansion called Elm Hall from his Grandmother.  He drives out on a rainy night to take a look at it and ends up with an experience he’ll never forget.  Now that I think about it, the story has nothing to do with Halloween besides taking place on All Hallows Eve; it’s really just a ghost story.  The flipside of the album is dedicated to a series of Sounds of Halloween, a good portion of which were employed in producing the story on side A.  I remember laying on the floor of my darkened closet with a flashlight listening intently to the ghost story, an as soon as it would finish, I’d flick the light on, turn the album over, and make my way through all of the sound effects as well.  There’s also a creepy little introduction that implores the listener to utilize the library of sounds to create a new story. I’m not sure if this is common on these sound effect albums, but it certainly makes sense for this one because as you make your way through the collection it really does end up feeling pretty darn random (which was totally lost on me as a kid, in fact I think I had a subconscious story running through my head as I listened to the tracks, something about a man walking through a maze of craziness, encountering various theme rooms as the tracks on the album are sort of grouped by theme.)

In addition to the album itself, the artwork on the covers was just as mesmerizing to me.  The above painting of the abandoned mansion, with the single shaft of light bursting through the one window, the multiple lightning strikes, the Spanish moss fluttering on the gnarled tree branches, the stone gargoyle post with the green eyed black cat lounging on top, and the oddly skeleton shaped puddle at the foot of the muddy driveway totally set the mood for the story on side A, while the trio of insanely evil looking witches with their bubbling cauldron, and fiendish cat companions on the back was a perfect illustration for the sound effects…

The painting was done by Gary Meyer (who I believe might be teaching illustration at the Art Center College of Design in California), and Joe Spencer created the album font.  The back cover artwork above is a cleaned up version of the original (with the track listing and credits removed by Keith Milford over at Old Haunts.)

Though my young mind never made the connection, two thirds of the cast of the side A story was actually very familiar to me.  Michael Bell provided the voice talents of the ‘Young Man’ and Peter Cullen voiced the grizzled old gas station attendant.  As I’m sure most of you already know, Bell voiced Duke on G.I. Joe (as well as a plethora of other characters in many 80s cartoons), and Cullen is probably best known for voicing Optimus Prime in the Transformers cartoon (as well as Venger in the D&D cartoon among other voices in 80s shows.)  Rounding out the cast is Nadine Arlyn as the lonely ghost, who according to IMDB hasn’t done much else to speak of except for an episode of Combat! and a B-movie or two.  Rounding out the credits are J. Robert Elliot (who wrote and produced the album), Dave Iveland (who engineered it), and Stuart Kusher (who handled the art direction.)

For anyone interested in giving the story portion of the album a listen, it can be found here…

Here are the individual sound tracks from side B…

Screams, Falling Scream, Cackle/Witches Laughter, Howling, Ghost, Groans, Mob Scene, Creaking Door, Shutters Banging, Creaking Iron Gate, Breaking Window, Chains, Bubbling, Earthquake, Pipe Organ, Violin, Church bells, Chimes, Gong, Foghorn, Ship Creaking, Storm at Sea, Thunder and Lightning, Rain, Wind, Fire, Dripping Water, Bats, Cats, Owls, Crickets, Baying Dogs, Snarling Dogs, Snake Hiss, Panther Howl, Lion Roar, Monsters Breathing, Monsters Roar, Horse and Wagon, Train, Automobile, Auto Crash, Police Siren, Helicopter, Explosion, Gunshots, Machine Gun, Swords Clashing, Flying Saucer, Giant Space Ship, Laser Ray Gun, Galaxy Sounds, Space Station Computer, and an Interstellar Communication.

If you’d like to grab all of the above files in one handy .zip file, right click here and save as…

Peel Here #48, Water plus sunlight make for one disgusting pile of gremlin pudding…



Day nine of the Halloween countdown has arrived and I figured it would be a good day to dig back into my sticker collection with another installment of the more gruesome Peel Here column. Well actually it’s not all that gruesome, but there are monsters, Gremlins to be exact. Sure I realize that the film actually takes place during Christmas, and it was released in the summer of 1984 instead of say the fall, but it still has monsters in it and it freaked me out as a kid so I say it counts.

I thought I’d start out a bit small with this one single individually wrapped Hallmark Stick-R-Treats Halloween sticker…



I’m not sure exactly how many of these there are though I know of at least one more that features Gizmo. I missed out on the whole idea of non-candy Halloween treats growing up, except for the occasional house with a bowl full of pennies and the one time I received an apple (which my father quickly yanked away from me and threw down into a nearby sewer.) Though as a kid I probably would have sung a different tune, now that I think about it, I really like the idea of stuff like stickers and cheap plastic toys intermixed with a bowl of candy as Halloween treats. I don’t think it really caught on though, as I only really remember seeing a couple other similar ideas over the years (like the fun but overpriced Matchbox cars two packs that come incased in little skulls and jack-o-lanterns.)

This next sheet of Hallmark stickers is a little odd because they’re all dated 1983 when the movie didn’t come out until ’84. Now granted, I realize that the merchandising machine is crazy, but even today you only really start seeing stuff a few months before a movie hits, so I’m wondering if the date on these is a misprint or something. If not, then maybe Spielberg and Dante were really hyping this thing like crazy during the winter before the movie came out…



Next up we have some very suspicious looking puffy stickers. I say suspicious looking because even though Gizmo is prone to amazing acts of cuteness, I don’t think I’ve ever seen him jam out on a ukulele or fly in cute, multi-colored saucers. There’s also a variation on this set where the top left Gizmo is carrying a torch, so I’d have to say that these are bootlegs. Yet, at the same time, the top left Gizmo is on all of the official merchandising, including the rest of the sticker sets I’m sharing today, so who knows…



A column on Gremlins stickers wouldn’t be complete with out the 1984 set of Lazer Blazers hologram stickers from Colorforms…



Again, you can see the goofy picture of Gizmo (from the puffy stickers) just bopping along…

Like all fun science fiction/fantasy/horror movies of the day there was also a set of Topps trading cards, which of course had a subset of 11 sticker cards…



I’m not all that fond of the repeated Gremlins logo in the background of the stickers, but I do like the various poses the designers chose, in particular the pre-gremlin version of Stripe which seems to get overlooked a lot in merchandising…



There’s also the card back puzzle, which features a really fun close-up of a freaked out Gizmo…



I’ve also decided to include the following Rub n’ Play Transfers set from Colorforms. I haven’t really broached the subject of these transfer activity sets yet. There were a few brands out during the 70s and 80s, but the two I was most familiar with were Presto Magix and these Colorforms Rub n’ Play sets…



Basically these acted like stickers except instead of just sticking willy nilly or in albums you transferred them with a pencil or some other blunt instrument from a thin sheet of cloudy plastic to a board or a mini fold out poster which had a background printed on it so that you could set up little elaborate scenes. Basically these were printed up with the picture portion stuck to the back of the plastic and you drew on top of it to transfer the image onto another surface. The transfers are very similar to temporary tattoos actually and could easily be ripped or develop a horrible case of wrinkles.

I remember mixing and matching the transfers between sets so that the Dukes of Hazzard could meet up with Knight Rider, or so Skeletor could fight against Thundarr and stuff.



I think I need to gather the rest of my transfers sets together for a future Peel Here column. Next week on the column I’m going to break out a whole mess of creepy weird wheels…

One, Two Freddy’s Coming for you, Three, Four, better buy this set of schwag or Freddy will kill you…



Since Kirk from the Secret Fun Spot put up an awesome recollection about his esteemed membership in good standing in the Freddy Fan Club, I thought it would be fun to share this comic ad from around 1987 which features a bevy of Nightmare on Elm Street schwag. The quality of the printing and the slight deterioration of the paper don’t do the ad any justice, but I think it comes off well enough. For only $98 (4 easy payments of $26.50) you too could have your own rubber Freddy mask, soft Styrofoam fedora, thin canvas and plastic glove, framed mini poster, VHS cassette of the first flick, companion book to the series, and last but not least the official board game…



The ad is kind of ominous as it threatens that if you don’t buy the package, Freddy will "…get you all…", which I assume means he’ll kill everyone everywhere.

Though I wasn’t allowed to see the first two movies when they came out, I was still a huge Freddy fan and I did in fact have my very own costume set featured in this ad.  I didn’t even wear it for Halloween, I think I just wanted it for everyday use. I remember that the hat I had looked more like a sombrero because there was a split up the back of it and it never really retained it’s fedora-like shape. I also remember having many elaborate daydreams about constructing my own glove out of kitchen knives and stuff, but I wasn’t that industrious and I’m glad to read that Kirk was, and then some.

I’m not sure how many licensed games were made off of the Nightmare series, but there’s a good chance that this is the same board game that Matt over at X-Entertainment reviewed a while ago (just with a different cover perhaps.)

I haz Borgo pass?




I found this book a few months ago in a used book store and I found myself immediately drawn to it. First of all, I don’t tend to find any of Stoker’s non-Dracula works in used shops all that often, and second, they never have covers this cool. For some odd reason I think I own at least four separate copies of Dracula and all of them have very boring covers (with like blurry impressionist paintings or some generic graveyard.)


What’s funny is that book (published in 1968 by Tower Publications) is obviously being marketed by the Dracula’s Curse story which is only twelve pages long, while the bulk of the book is actually The Jewel of Seven Stars novel. Heck, Dracula’s Curse isn’t even really about the titular character for that matter. Either way, it’s an awesome piece of work, so I felt it was well worth sharing here for the Halloween countdown.
Unfortunately the artist isn’t given credit so I have no idea who painted this or if it was even originally for this book or some other bit of merchandising.



I guess the werewolf was too brutal…




Even though I’m not a big fan of cereal in general, I love monster themed cereals, and the crème de la crème of which has to be the General Mills collection including Franken berry, Count Chocula, Boo Berry, and Fruit Brute. In 1988 or so a new monster was added to the breakfast table…





In this MAD magazine-esque comic book ad, you had to fold over the page to see the new monster (though most kids probably didn’t fold their comics and honestly it was pretty darn obvious if I do say so myself)…





Yummy Mummy!


Though I’ve had my (more recent) fare share of Franken Berry, Count Chocula and Boo Berry, I never had the chance to try either Fruit Brute or Yummy Mummy (which I believe was a replacement for the Wolfman themed cereal, the main difference being the flavor of the marshmallows, a change from lime to vanilla.) My parents never bought me cereal with marshmallows, though they’d let me eat Capt’n Crunch till I burst. Maybe one day General Mills will re-issue these lost fruity monster treasures, and I’ll finally get my chance to taste them.

"Aww Nuts"



I came across a weird comic called Plop! while looking up Sergio Aragones this past year. When I was actively collecting comics I pretty much stuck to the stuff that was coming out at the time (late 80s through the 90s), so I completely missed out on these types of books (except for the odd issue of MAD or Cracked I’d pick up.) I think marvel had a similar book around the same time, and I’m glad that I stumbled across these because I really like the silly humor, especially the monster themed strips (which there were a ton of.) Here’s a short two-page gag called The Message from Plop! #1 (the DC magazine of weird humor) published September/October 1973 and featuring a concept by Sheldon Mayer and art by Alfredo P. Alcala





There’s a large part of me that hopes my after life will be similar (though I’m sure I’d be stalking into houses to watch cartoons and repeats of old monster movies. Hey, a guy can hope can’t he…