Fans of "Baleful Beasts and Eerie Creatures" would do well to seek out another early 1970's children's horror anthology, "Monster Tales: Vampires, Werewolves, and Things" (1973, edited by Roger Elwood, illustrated by Franz Altschuler).
The two books are so similar in design, binding and size they could almost be mistaken for belonging in series. "Monster Tales" sets the tone with a short introduction by genre author Robert Bloch (probably best known for penning the novel "Psycho", but with a huge resume in books, television and film). We then get six stories by six different authors, all illustrated in wonderful black and white.
The complete contents are:
WENDIGO'S CHILD by Thomas F. Monteleone
TORCHBEARER by Arthur Tofte
THE CALL OF THE GRAVE by Brian Ball
WEREWOLF BOY by Nic Andersson
PRECIOUS BODILY FLUIDS by Mario Martin, Jr.
THE VRKOLAK by Brian T. LoMedico
Like "Baleful...", the first story of "Monster Tales" is also the stand-out: "Wendigo's Child" by Thomas F. Montelone.
Set in Corona, Arizona, we follow young Marty Alvarez as he sets out to explore an Indian burial ground recently uncovered just a short bike ride's distance from home. Hoping to discover arrowheads or other artifacts, Marty instead finds buried a small mummy that appears to be part human, part bird.
His stomach churned as he uncovered the thing, and he pulled his trembling hand away--he had almost touched it. It looked vaguely like a little baby, with its curled-up legs and thin, sticklike arms. It was about two feet long and covered with dark brown skin that looked like cracked, dry leather. The head was like a human skull, but instead of teeth, it bore a sharp, curved beak like a bigConvinced he's made an important archeological find, he wraps the thing in his shirt and takes it home in the basket of his bike. Along the way, Marty stops by an Indian friend, Charlie Longhand, in hopes of learning more about his find.
bird... The eye sockets were empty--big and dark and round, but the face seemed
to be almost grinning.
After asking Charlie a vague question about Indian mummies, we learn of an old Indian legend of the "Wendigo", a fearful god that was part man, part reptile and part bird. It was said that when a child died, its buried body would sometimes transform into a child of Wendigo to protect the graves from harm.
Once home, Marty stashes the mummy in his cellar overnight. But the creature's presence has disturbed his dog, Digger, who is now howling endlessly in the backyard. Hoping to assure Digger there is nothing to be afraid of, Marty leads the dog into the dark cellar, armed only with a flashlight. But the Wendigo is missing! Or is it?
He heard a sound. And then another. Several loud, snapping, cracking sounds cut through the darkness and burned his eardrums. They were followed by an oozing, soft, gurgling, slurping noise.
Marty and Digger never do get out of that cellar, by the way. Scary stuff.
Below are the illustrations from the other stories. I'll detail these stories in a later post.
Call of the Grave:
Precious Bodily Fluids: