Article: To Own a Monster-The Aurora Monster Models

Aurora Monster Kits
Aurora Monster Kits

Almost anyone who was a child in the 1960’s and 70’s in the US would have at one time owned an Aurora brand model kit. It was a special time in history. Universal Pictures had just licensed their most famous films for Television broadcast. Famous Monsters of Filmland Magazine was bringing the excitement of these films into the hearts of boys not so interested in sports and waning on the ideas of the war hero. And 1960 saw a small plastics company secure a deal with Universal to manufacture monster model figure kits.

 

Dracula & The Mummy
Dracula & The Mummy

After some moderate success in the early 1950s with WW II Aircraft models, Aurora Plastics Company began looking beyond competing with manufacturers Revell and Monogram. They had success with a Knights of Armor series and the Guys and Gals of Nations series in that decade, establishing a market for figure kits, but it was the tie-in with Hollywood film and TV shows that put Aurora on the model kit maker map. Shortly after the deal with Universal, they released their first ‘tie-in’ kit on the market. They introduced Frankenstein in 1961 and it was a huge success. They followed up in 1962 with Dracula and The Wolfman. Monster mania was hitting big and kids wanted to own a piece of monster history for themselves. Imagine being a young kid and having the monster likeness of Boris Karloff, Lon Chaney Jr. and Bela Lugosi in your own possession.

The Forgotten Prisoner
The Forgotten Prisoner

Adding to the excitement, Aurora had commissioned a young talented artist by the name of James Bama to paint box covers for their kits. He brought the b&w film monsters into stunning vivid colors for the first time. James Bama would go on to be regarded as a fine artist in western subject matter. But his early art lived on in the hearts of monster fans for many years. Even to this day his original Universal Monster Kits box art paintings are sold at high prices at auctions.

Following the original kit releases, Aurora continued with; The Creature From the Black Lagoon, The Mummy, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Dr. Jekyll as Mr. Hyde, The Phantom of the Opera, and King Kong and Godzilla in 1964. By that year they had sold over 7 million kits to monster hungry fans. They introduced The Witch in 1965 which was the first kit not associated with a film and in 1966, they released The Forgotten Prisoner in conjunction with Famous Monsters of Filmland Magazine.

In 1970, they re-released the kits with glow in the dark parts, usually hands, heads and accessories. Marketed as ‘Frightening Lightning’ kits, the modifications ignited a new wave of sales for the aging kits. This was when I first discovered model building and the exciting Aurora Monster Kits. I will admit that my mom had to cover my models with a small sheet at night, or I’d awaken, frightened to seeing a half dozen glowing, floating heads on the opposite side of my room.

King Kong
King Kong

 

In subsequent years, Aurora would produce additional series, Monster Scenes, and Monsters of the Movies. They had released successful lines of superhero kits, Superman, Batman, Spider-man, Wonder Woman, The Hulk, The Lone Ranger and more, representing both DC and Marvel worlds. Through the 1960s, they had sci-fi TV Show kits for Lost in Space, Land of the Giants, Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, and more. They had monster/vehicle crossover kits, pirates, secret agents, and Presidents. In the 1970s they introduced the Prehistoric Scenes Kits, depicting Dinosaurs, Cavemen, and early mammals. Aurora was purchased in the early 1970s by Nabisco, but by the late 70s the scene had slowed and Nabisco broke up the company in 1977.

 

Montage of kits
Montage of kits

When I was a kid, my bedroom resembled a miniature horror museum. Getting these kits was like owning a piece of the Horror films I loved so much. Building and painting the kits to match the boxes and film made me a monster creator myself, much like Dr. Frankenstein. I had won awards for a model building contest at a local neighborhood hobby store. These kits became a huge part of my life.

 

Wolfman
Wolfman

 

As I grew older, it was sad to see those kits disappear from the store shelves. However, all was not lost. Nabisco had sold the original monster kit molds to rivals, Revell and Monogram, who re-released the famous kits at various intervals throughout the years. Smaller companies like Polar Lights and Moebius would later produce some of the kits and keep monster kit making alive for the older fans that grew up in that special time in history.
Original Aurora Monster kits with the name and date stamp in the bottom can sell for over $200 on eBay, depending upon the model. If you are in it just for nostalgia or new to kit building, you can get most of the reissues for fair market prices, from $25 to $50. There are also a whole slew of new kits with even more detail, often made from Resin or Vinyl for the more discerning kit builder. Today, if you can name a horror movie, some small company has probably built a kit for it. It is a great way to relax; it’s a fun pastime, and a way to own your own monster.

 

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Here’s some links to help discover some of the old kits, new kits, add-on accessories and customizing parts for the horror/sci-fi model kit market. A world that started with a company called Aurora and their original Monster figure Kits. You can also check out the video, Aurora Monsters, The Model Craze the Gripped the World, on dvd with your ghoulish host, Zacherley

http://www.samstoybox.com/toys/MonsterModels.html

www.tylisaari.com

http://www.culttvmanshop.com/

www.monstersinmotion.com

Check out this neat trailer for an Aurora Monster Kit documentary:

Article: The Ouija Board (and other fortune telling games)

Ouija Board
Ouija Board

Ouija Board usage will naturally rise in the month of October when daring Halloween celebrators look for some spooky fun. From the 1850’s to the 1950’s it was considered quite normal for the average person to communicate with the dead. It was the height of the spiritualist movement in the US and these practices were common. That’s why you can see older ads for the Ouija Board with whole families sitting around the living room, playing with the boards. It wasn’t until The Exorcist (1973) that the attitude toward Ouija Boards had changed. Nevertheless sales continue as curiosity sparks a need for answers to life’s mysteries.

Boards range from the basic Parker Brothers game sold at toy stores to elaborate wooden boards with fine wood-carved planchettes. However, anything can be used as a makeshift Ouija Board. A piece of cardboard box with the words ‘Yes’ and ‘No’ scribbled upon it, and another piece of cardboard cut into planchette shape can be used with the same effectiveness.

Using a Ouija Board

The players place their fingers upon the movable piece and ask questions. The belief is, in a successful reading the spirits will work through the energy of the ‘players’ and point the planchette to words or letters, in order to answer questions.

The Ouija board itself has no power. If it did toy stores across the nation would resemble Halloween haunted house attractions as ghosts and spirits spread from the confines of their little boxes and out into the aisles. The success of an Ouija Board reading is dependent upon the spirituality and openness of the individuals using it. Even a skeptic with a strong intuitive nature may get a good reading.

In using the Ouija Board, you are giving permission for spirits to use your physical body and to move your hands and fingers (partial possession). It is important to get information about not attracting negative entities through the board. Some advocate performing cleansing rituals before and after using a board, to clear the board of unwanted energies.

A brief history.

The use of planchette style writing dates back to the ancient Chinese, Song Dynasty, around 1100 AD. There is evidence that indicates items of this nature may have also been used in Ancient Egypt. The need for automatic writing involved not having to use a medium or oracle to divine messages from the spirit world. A sitting King who had little trust in others wanted to cut out the middle man, so to speak. Early modern versions of a planchette consisted of a small overturned wicker basket with a writing implement attached to the “front’ of it.

OuijaThe modern American Ouija board.

As early as the 1860’s, mediums and spiritualists were using a planchette for spirit contact to perform automatic writing. Soon mediums were using a large card (or board) with letters on it so the planchette could point to specific symbols on the card.  By 1886 the modern talking board was born. Letters, numbers, yes/no and hello/goodbye printed or hand written upon them gave the boards a standard format that could be easily duplicated. Elijah J. Bond of Maryland was the first to patent and promote the talking board / planchette combination as a novelty. His business partner would come to name it the Ouija Board. But it was William Fuld that made the Ouija Board company an even bigger name and would later be known as the father of the modern Ouija board. He took over the company in the late 1890’s and successfully maneuvered it through the later half of the American spiritualist movement. In 1966 the company was sold to Parker Brothers (later taken over by Hasbro).

A scientific look.

Physiologist William Benjamin Carpenter published a report on automatic movements of muscle groups called the ideometer effect in 1852. This would become the best explanation for why an Ouija Board Planchette moves. Skeptics explain the movement of the planchette as automatism or collective automatism, which is to say that the hands moving the planchette are being instructed directly by the subconscious, leaving the conscious mind unaware of the intentions or mechanics of the movement. The way they explain it is like when a person cries when watching a sad movie. They have no intention to cry, it just happens.

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Other fortune telling games and boards existed but never reached the popularity of the Ouija Board.

Black Cat Fortune Game
Black Cat Fortune Game

The Black Cat Fortune Telling Game

The Black Cat Fortune Telling Game consists of 24 cards separated into 6 groups. Past, Present, Future, Love Matters, General Advice, and Danger. Each card has 24 short phrases on them. 4 cards are chosen and laid out before the player. The phrases on the back will align to make a sentence across the 4 cards by choosing the segments in a numbered order, 1, 2, 3, and 4. There are thousands of combinations that can be drawn making it seem like a personalized reading.

The game is said to originate in Salem MA, in 1897 and owned from it‘s beginnings by Parker Brothers. It is classified in the subgenre of Fortune Telling as Cartomancy, which is divination through playing cards, tarot cards, or oracle cards.

Gypsy Witch
Gypsy Witch

Gypsy Witch Fortune Telling Playing Cards

The Gypsy Witch Cards are a regular card deck with additional symbols and meanings printed in the middle or corner of the deck. It is a variation of a Lenormand deck, named for Mademoiselle Lenormand, who used regular playing cards to tell fortunes. She had some famous clients such as Napoleon Bonaparte’s wife, Empress Josephine. The Gypsy Witch cards would eventually become the most popular fortune telling deck in America. Naturally the deck is also classified as Cartomancy.

Ka Bala
Ka Bala

Ka-Bala – the Mysterious Game that Foretells the Future

 

This Transogram fortune telling game from 1967 can provide three different readings. It can answer questions, read your fortune via Tarot cards (included with set) or it can read your Horoscope. What’s more, it glows in the dark and Eye of Zohar, watches from the center of the board. You roll a black marble around the board in its track and where it lands determines your fortune.

You can play a simple online version of Ka-Bala here: http://witchbeam.com/flash/mysterious.html

Article: WHY DO GROWN MEN WATCH GODZILLA FILMS?

Godzilla 1954
Godzilla 1954
The original Godzilla was a serious movie with a message. The sequels? Not so much…

Why Godzilla films?

Many people may ask “Why do grown men watch Godzilla films?” My wife and daughters don’t understand. When a Godzilla film is on, they roll their eyes and make quick passage through the living room, lest I stop them to explain the ridiculous plot, for no apparent reason.

 

Aside from the original 1954 Gojira, with its serious tone, sociopolitical statement, and allegory sentiments, the entire franchise is not exactly aimed at adults. The films are a myriad of pseudo-science, hokey plots, simplistic storylines, and fantasy elements. They often contain plot-holes big enough to drive a monster truck through.

 

Godzilla vs The Sea Monster
Mr. G picks out a big one for his surf and turf dinner!

So, why the infatuation?  I will attempt to answer that burning question.

 

Give a young boy (age’s two to ten) a set of blocks and what will they do? They will stack them as high as they can, stand back to study their accomplishment, then run up and kick them down. If you have two boys in the room they will race to be the one who will kick down the blocks first.

 

It’s the conqueror ego. It’s the desire to level the playing field. It’s a release of frustrations in a somewhat controlled environment.

 

Godzilla vs Mothra (aka The Thing!)
What’s in the egg?

Man is born with an inherent penchant for aggression and destruction. It’s part of the survival instinct that keeps him fighting even when the odds are against him. Throughout man’s existence, natural violence was a part of his struggle. In the most recent 100 years, man has taken much of that natural violence out of his life. We have secure homes that shield us from predators and violent weather (most of the time). We don’t have to hunt for food or compete for hunting grounds against other men/tribes/clans. We only have to walk into a supermarket where meat is laid out in trays and packaged in plastic, under bright lights and light FM, elevator music.

 

Some men will turn to sports, throwing their hands in the air and roaring when their team beats the opposing team into submission. Young men will turn to loud music, banging their heads, waving their fists and even mosh-ing to release pent-up aggression. And an even smaller percentage of men will turn to giant monster movies. They see Godzilla kick down a building and relate that to themselves as young boys, kicking down that stack of blocks.

 

Naturally, we don’t want to see this kind of destruction in real life. We love to see tornados on film from a safe distance, ripping a roof off a barn. But we are saddened and empathetic when we see the devastation up-close and see the hardships they cause real people and families. We like to see buildings topple, explosions burst into giant fireballs and laser-beams or heat-rays cut through city streets, but are taken aback when we see the real devastation of an earthquake or the loss of innocent lives in a terrorist attack.

 

Battle Royale
Kaiju battle royale!

What we see in these films is fantasy. Sometimes we cheer for mankind, up against what seems to be an unstoppable force. Sometimes we cheer for the giant monster that can destroy the arrogant man’s world and re-teach him to have respect for mother earth and her adept system of balance.

 

We are happy to be out of the constant violent struggle of nature but we still have that adrenaline induced instinct that needs to be called upon during emergencies. And that muscle needs to be flexed. So stand back from the Blu-Ray/DVD remote and let us kick our blocks down…metaphorically speaking.