Thursday, July 24, 2008

A Book of Ghosts

A Book of Ghosts (1974; Pam Adams and Cerl Jones) is a cute little picture book for young children. Every other page is die-cut in a ghost shape, partially revealing the image on the page that follows.
But when you turn the die-cut page and the entire underlying image is revealed, we discover that the "ghost" was merely an illusion.

For example, this pair of twin ghosts... revealed to be shirts drying on a line.

A dark ghost with inhuman eyes... the smoke from a chimney.

This wheepy blue spirit... just a leaky faucet.

This pink and white twosome...?

Can be seen swirling in the washing machine...

Finally, these two mysterious pink shapes...

...are just your own two feet.

I didn't reveal ALL the ghosts here. You'll have to find a used copy to see them all. Happy hunting.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Things You've Always Wanted To Know About Monsters But Were Afraid To Ask!

Things You've Always Wanted To Know About Monsters But Were Afraid To Ask! (1977, Tony Tallarico) is a primer for the monster kid looking to get up to speed in the horror film genre. The book is set up like a giant FAQ, with the history and lore of the horror genre communicated in a question and answer format, supplemented with full-page black and white stills throughout.

Of course the classic Universal cadre is covered in full, including Dracula, Frankenstein, the Wolfman and the Mummy. Other well-known horror icons like King Kong, the Phantom of the Opera, the Invisible Man, the Creature From the Black Lagoon, and Godzilla are here as well.

But you'll also learn about Tod Browning's "Freaks", lesser known films like "The Monolith Monsters" and Toho Company's "The Mysterians", the AIP "Poe" pictures, Ray Harryhausen's stop-motion creations, George Pal's morlocks from "The Time Machine", and Peter Lorre's child murderer in Fritz Lang's "M".

This still from AIP's "The Black Cat" seems comical as I look at it today. But as a kid, it kind of freaked me out.
He's taking off the guy's head---and laughing!!!!

That's fairly deep coverage for a book intended for children. There are even brief asides into the mythology and history behind some of our more popular monsters. We'll learn how Mary Shelley came to write Frankenstein, how Dracula may have been based on the real-life Vlad the Impaler, and delve into cryptozoology with the Yeti, Loch Ness Monster and Big Foot.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Ed Emberley's Drawing Book of Weirdos

Ed Emberley is an artist and illustrator (official website here) who has authored several books that teach children how to draw all kinds of people, places and things using the basic shapes of the line, square, triangle, circle, scribble and dot.

Not only are they great books for young budding artists still learning to conceptualize, they are also a lot of fun to browse just to enjoy the charmingly simple designs of Mr. Emberley.

His books have been in print in various incarnations for over 30 years. Currently on store shelves is the latest repackaging of his "Drawing Book of Weirdos", which is all about classic monsters and scary characters.





"VAMPIRE" (various poses and states of being)


(Hey--he looks kind of like Godzilla, but he isn't. He's an original
creation who only happens to resemble Godzilla.)

If you'd like to learn how to draw these monsters and more using only a few simple shapes, please do pick up a copy Ed Emberley's Drawing Book of Weirdos here. Check out his Drawing Book of Halloween, Big Green Drawing Book, and Big Orange Drawing Book for more monsters, aliens, and creatures.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

The Rest of Baleful Beasts and Eerie Creatures

After previously posting about my individual favorite stories from Baleful Beasts and Eerie Creatures (The Patchwork Monkey and Nightmare In A Box), I thought it was time to share the rest of the artwork and contents of this scary kids book. (All illustations by Rod Ruth.)

THE YAMADAN by Lynne Gessner

Two boys camping with their father must contend with The Yamadan, a native American legend with the power to transform anyone who sees it into a monster just like it.

The Yamadan, and the boy in its grip, who is slowly tranforming into one himself.

MONSTER BLOOD by Charles Land

A 12-year old boy who is obsessed with monsters volunteers to be assistant to a scientist whose speciality is an extinct monster called a Basilisk. The Basilisk, as described here, is a large beast that is part chicken, part snake, with an evil-eye that kills any living thing that looks upon it, including itself.

This boy is wearing specially crafted glasses that protect him from the Basilisk's deadly gaze.

The professor brings a Basilisk to life using a potion made partially from the boy's blood, hence the title "Monster Blood".

TIGGER by A.M. Lightner

Tigger is the name of the sentient cat that serves as scout and guard, of sorts, for a team of astronauts exploring an alien world somewhere in the future.

Tigger's the one on the left, a super-evolved descendent of the modern housecat. The story is told first-person, from his perspective.

Tigger and his human partner Ellie encounter a fearsome alien while searching for plantlife.


In this surreal story, Nancy, a woman living at an American research camp in Guyana, accompanies an Akawai Indian shaman into the forest to visit her tribe. She encounters several monsters, including the large bird pictured, which carries her off and drops her into a forest of tree-like ghouls.

Later Nancy is attacked by a huge anaconda. Her shaman friend transforms into a jaguar to do battle.

This picture is assembled from the inside front and back covers.

THE NIGHT CREATURE by Richard R. Smith

In the second science-fiction story in this collection, a scientist lets his 12-year old nephew in on a secret device he's developed that enables levitation. They both take it for a test ride in the night sky, only to be attacked by a mysterious octopus-like flying "night creature."

Luckily the scientist also developed a laser-like weapon to defend themselves.

TO FACE A MONSTER by Carl Henry Rathjen

A boy with with an inferiority complex due to his small build proves his mettle and saves his uncle's life by standing up to a fearsome forest creature that resembles a large dog.

YOU ARE WHAT YOU EAT by Wilma Bednarz

Between the title and the giant wasp pictured, you might think this is some new version of H.G. Wells "Food of the Gods". But its really just a basic alien invasion story. A U.F.O. lands and the giant wasp is actually the shape assumed by its alien pilot. The alien doesn't like noise and so the boy in the background is making as much clamor as he can.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

You Are Count Dracula!

You are, that is, when playing Dracula (1983), a game developed by Imagic for the Intellivision game console.

While not the first videogame to have a scary premise, nor even the first game to feature the character of Dracula, this was (according to Electronic Games magazine) the first game in which the player was able to step into Dracula's shoes.

All Intellivision games came with printed controller overlays, such as this one.

As the game starts, dusk turns to night, and in what passed for an animated cut-scene back in the 8-bit days, Dracula rises from his grave, transforms into a bat, and flies to the graveyard entrance before switching back to vampire form.

Dracula is now free to roam the dark street, occassionally illuminated by flashes of lightning. Victims can be found jogging down the street, or hiding in their homes (you'll see a pair of tell-tale eyes in the upstairs window.)

Dracula coming up on an unsuspecting jogger.

Dracula takes a bite and misses (notice his open mouth). Lucky jogger.

Approach the front door and Dracula knocks. Sometimes a frightened person darts out into the street to become the next victim. But if you've already killed within sight of the house, the frightened resident won't answer the door and you'll have to move on.

This concept art that went out to media hints at a more elaborate experience. You never enter anyone's house in the actual game.

A policeman is on the beat, lobbing stakes at you. A hit freezes Dracula temporarily, causing you to lose precious seconds.

[insert lame pun about stakes giving Dracula heartburn here]

Dracula can turn into a bat to avoid the policeman's stakes and move more rapidly, but you can't attack while in bat form, and a pesky vulture sometimes swoops down and drags you off the screen, ending the game.

That pink blob is a vulture. You try to draw a vulture with only 4K of RAM!

After biting enough victims, a white wolf comes charging at you on your way back to the graveyard. You must be back in your coffin before the sun rises or the game is over.

Dracula transforms into a bat in a race to the graveyard as night turns to dawn.

With games like Silent Hill, Resident Evil and Fatal Frame delivering atmosphere and scares besting those in a Hollywood movie, its hard to appreciate the magic that Dracula had back in 1983.
But if you'd like, you can recreate that magic today on your PC. It's available on a legal and licensed emulation collection called Intellivision Rocks, sold at the Intellivision Lives website.