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:

13 Great Horror Toy Commercials

Stretch Monster
Stretch Monster

Having been born in the 60’s I mourn quite a few things that have been lost to time and technological advancements. Drive-In theaters, video stores and record shops are places that I don’t think my six year-old son will ever be able to fully appreciate or understand.

But the one thing that I think makes me sadder than all of that; Saturday morning cartoons. Now, when I was a kid, there was a two hour block of kid’s TV on a weekday and there were only three major networks and a handful of local UHF stations. After school, cartoons  ran between the soaps and evening news. I pounded out my homework to watch Ultraman or Speed Racer before dinnertime.

But Saturday mornings… they belonged to me. I sat in front of the television from the moment I woke and I watched until lunchtime and my folks were glad to have their morning coffee in silence.

Saturday morning cartoon programming has been dying a slow death since 1992. It pretty much ended completely last October.  I understand it.  I mean, my kid watches cartoons on his tablet when he feels like it. On Demand, streaming and DVR services have made a few weekend hours committed to entertaining kids irrelevant.

Barnabas Collins game graphic
Barnabas Collins game graphic

 

But you know what my kid will also miss and it makes me just as sad? Those great toy commercials that used to air with the cartoons. Oh, my son may get an ad he can skip after five seconds on YouTube, but he will never know the joy of the retro commercials that really got you excited and made you hound your parents to get you to a Toys R Us before everyone but you had the newest Six Million Dollar Man play set. They just don’t make them like they used to!

And of course, my favorite commercials were those that advertised horror themed toys and games. So here are 13 of my favorite horror toy commercials. They run from the 50’s to the 90’s and if you are 25 or older, you have probably seen at least one of those assembled on this post. Enjoy and if you have a favorite that you don’t see here, share it in the comments!

 

GODZILLA 1977 Toy Commercial

Toxie Toys

Mego Planet of the Apes

Kenner Stretch Monster Commercial

Creepy Crawlers

Dark Shadows Groovy Horror Head Toy Commercial

Great Garloo

Monster Cereal Toy Commercial

Mad Scientist Monster Lab Toy Commercial

Barnabas Collins Dark Shadows Game

Stay Alive Vincent Price commercial 

Toys R Us Halloween (1980)

Baby Laugh A Lot (not intentionally horrific, but sheesh… I would burn the damned thing…)

The Top 5 Required Horror Christmas Viewing List

November 1st is always the worst day of the year for horror fans. Fall is quickly hardening into winter, and the creepy goodness of Halloween becomes just a memory as the more feel good holidays turn those grand creepy store displays into ones of green and red jolliness.

I am not saying that horror fans don’t enjoy Christmas, because I know a good portion do. But for many horror fans, it is easy to see the macabre blueprint for terror in December 25th. Saint Nick himself can go from benevolent toy bringer to horrifying entity of evil with just a change of light.

So, if you are like me, you enjoy a little dark undercurrent to the cheery festivities. I have compiled a list of the top five dark Christmas films for the horror fan to enjoy and counter that syrupy goodness of December 25th.

And I am going to start with an Honorable Mention that is not a movie, but an episode of a television series:

Honorable Mention: The Aquabats! Super Show! Holiday Special 

The Aquabats vs Krampus
The Aquabats vs Krampus

The Aquabats is a BRILLIANT kid’s show on the HUB network that centers around a rock band/superhero team and if you were a fan of the cool, off the wall freakiness of the late 60’s/early 70’s kid’s TV, you have to check this show out. I enjoy it as much as my six year-old, and he loves it. This episode makes the grade because of the smack down battle between Santa and his evil counterpart, Krampus!

How the Grinch Stole Christmas
How the Grinch Stole Christmas

 

 

5. How The Grinch Stole Christmas

 

No, not the Jim Carrey film. I am going back to the original 1966 animated special. Voiced by horror legend, Boris Karloff, the Grinch is a black-hearted monster out to destroy what he feels is the central fabric of Christmas. Of course, realizing that the holiday goes much deeper that the rampant consumerism associated with it, the Grinch’s tiny heart grows and he finally understands the true meaning of Christmas. For many children who grew up with this holiday classic, this is the first holiday special with a sinister air.

Gremlins
Gremlins

4. Gremlins

 Joe Dante and Steven Spielberg’s outrageous creature feature that was the first film to earn the PG-13 rating for its cartoon-ish violence. Filmed in 1984, Gremlins is a black comedy set near Christmas that concerns a young man receiving a strange pet from his never around father. Gizmo, the adorable Gremlin, is given to Billy Peltzer (Zach Galligan) with a specific set of rules. Of course, all are broken and in no time several evil reproductions of Gizmo run amok.

 

Black Christmas
Black Christmas

3. Black Christmas

 

Bob Clark’s extremely effective and moody 1974 chiller hits number three on my list. A sorority house is targeted by a psychopath who makes threatening phone calls and then begins murdering the sorority sisters. This film features an early performance by Margot Kidder and genre favorite John Saxon stars as well. Black Christmas is considered one of the earliest works to feature two horror film conventions: one, the slasher, and two, the killer calling from inside the house.

 

Silent Night, Deadly Night
Silent Night, Deadly Night

2. Silent Night, Deadly Night

 

If you notice, this is the only psycho Santa film featured on this list, and that is because I consider it to be the most memorable of Christmas/Santa slasher films. I am not saying it is a masterpiece, but for holiday horror fans, it is as necessary as mistletoe.  Charles E. Sellier Jr.’s cheap B-movie tells the story of Billy, a troubled teenager who witnessed the brutal murder of his parents at the hands of a psycho in a Santa suit (played by one of my favorite character actors, Charles Dierkop). Billy of course eventually dons the red and white suit and begins creating his own naughty list. Linnea Quigley appears in a very memorable death scene involving antlers.

 

The Nightmare Before Christmas
The Nightmare Before Christmas

1. The Nightmare Before Christmas

 

Okay, it is not a horror film, but nothing speaks to the horror fan around Christmas time like this classic Tim Burton animated film. It is a love letter to those of us who die a little inside every time we hear a Christmas song before Thanksgiving. You can take me to task over declaring Jack Skellington’s attempt to reshape Christmas for the lovers of the macabre as my number one pick, but I will insist that nothing warms my black heart as much as this classic.

Classic Horror Movie Reviews from an Almost 13 Year-Old Part 2

Carnival of Souls poster
Carnival of Souls poster

[Editor’s Note: Arianna, an almost 13 year-old horror fan, was asked to give her opinion on classic horror films. Her first review, Night of the Living Dead, can be found here. For this installment, Arianna reviews the 1962 cult classic, Carnival of Souls. Before you grab your torches and pitchforks, please remember that there is a vast difference in the horror of today as opposed to the films we more mature fans consider “classics”. The Walking Dead has gore comparable to Romero’s Dawn of the Dead (which was Rated X when it was first released). We are all products of our time. Nightmare Castle was in theaters when I was born. The hot horror movie when Arianna was born? Jeepers Creepers.-TMW]

Carnival of Souls was suggested to me as a classic, though I’d never heard of it. Personally, this was creepy of all things, not the kind of horror where I feel the need to cover myself in a blanket because something is bound to grab my foot. I was confused a lot; about the whole duration of the film.

Candace Hilligoss gives a haunting performance
Candace Hilligoss gives a haunting performance

I’ve noticed interaction with sound in horror movies, and usually in most the sound adds to the  story-line right off the bat. But in this, it did not. They have you try and figure it out I suppose. I found myself restless and pretty bored ,waiting for to just snap into it and understand what was happening, but I never did. When the guy just stares at you through the screen , or there were multiple people , dark circles surrounding the eyes; that was the scariest it really got. This lady is running around, I literally have no idea what her objective is;what she’s trying to do, where shes going. Trying to escape? Most likely, yes. But then why was she there in the first place?

Welcome to the carnival!
Welcome to the carnival!

 

My dad suggested that perhaps this indicates that the film is too advanced for me. NO, that is not why I could not contemplate much less fathom what was happening. This could be someone’s favorite movie, and that’s respectable; everyone views things differently. I, on the other hand, was not impressed. Maybe adults will understand the story better, but I would not recommend this for the younger audience or my age group simply because of the confusion.

 

Check out this trailer for CARNIVAL OF SOULS:

Book Review: Vintage Young Adult Halloween Scares

The Halloween lifestyle stems from what we all experienced as wee goblins. Remember searching for the best decorated house in the neighborhood? This house had full size chocolate bars last year! Who put this apple in my bag? I find myself constantly trying to recreate these memories with my own kids. Sometimes, to no avail.

I lecture my kids with the whole, “I watched this when I was only seven!” routine. Try as I might my 15 year-old says I am too obsessed with the holiday. “Who goes to Halloween events in February, Mom?” My 11 year-old says he is still not ready for Knott’s Scary Farm. My 8 year-old wants to be Sharknado this year. The only hope I have for a protégé is my five year-old daughter. She loves Nightmare Before Christmas, says her face hurts in the sun because she’s a vampire, and she wanted to be Nightmare Moon for Halloween. I can work with this! To keep her looking forward to Halloween all year, I find myself reading my favorite childhood Halloween stories to her.

Vintage is the whats in for the genre now. I cannot say I am complaining. Pop on your Monster Hop LP, grab a lantern, turn off the lights and check out whats on my children’s Halloween book list!

 

Dennison's Bogie Book cover
Dennison’s Bogie Book cover

Dennison’s Bogie Book by Dennison’s manufacturing company, 1920.
Pinterest in the 20’s! I found that this “guide” was written for us future Halloween lovers,  who think about the season all year long. Perfect for little ones to create their own Halloween Party. Your littles do that right?!

 

Georgie's Halloween
Georgie’s Halloween

Georgie’s Halloween by Robert Bright, 1958.

Perfect story for grade school children! A shy ghost returns home from his village’s Halloween party to be awarded a “Best Costume Prize” by the mice in the attic of his home. See boys and girls, ghost have passive personalities too! Theres a series of these vintage treasures published as early as 1944.

 

A Woggle of Witches
A Woggle of Witches

A Woggle of Witches by Adrienne Adams, 1971.

Witches are essential to Halloween Night, but even they get frightened! This story will be followed up with its sequel, “A Halloween Happening”. Being published in 1981, the witches realize there’s nothing to fear and commence the Halloween celebration.!

 

Scary Stories series book covers
Scary Stories series book covers

Scary Stories To Tell in The Dark, More Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark,  More Tales To Chill Your Bones  by Alvin Schwartz, 1980, 1984, 1991.
The ultimate must read for every child in the universe. The songs and sillier stories, like “The Big Toe”, are funny bone ticklers for little monsters. Alvin Schwartz’s version of “The Hearse Song” is tons of fun for the little ones to sing. Most of these books can be found at your local library or Etsy, Ebay and Amazon. I recommend that you grab them when you can as they are treasures that can be passed on to countless generations of Halloween lovers.

Article: The Séance Experience

A séance generally requires sitters and a medium
Dr. John Dee, noted occultist
Dr. John Dee, noted occultist

A séance might be the perfect way to round out your Halloween party, but it’s no modern parlor game.

References to séance communications date back to the 3rd century Greeks. The earliest known recorded séance is attributed to England’s Dr. John Dee, in the 16th century. Three centuries later, séances had gained such popularity that in 1854, Illinois senator James Shields presented a petition signed by 15,000 people asking the U.S. Congress for a scientific commission to investigate the paranormal phenomena many of them had witnessed. Unsurprisingly, Congress declined, but that didn’t stop President Abraham Lincoln himself from hosting a séance in the Crimson Room of the White House in 1863!

The traditional séance is held in a darkened or candlelit room. Ideally, no more than eight participants, often called sitters, sit around a table or in a circle on the floor in a quiet room where they will not be disturbed.  They place their hands flat on the table, fingers touching, sometimes holding hands, and are encouraged to relax by closing their eyes and taking long, deep breaths.

A séance requires sitters and a medium
A séance requires sitters and a medium

The medium (the person who contacts the other side) may pray or ask spirit guides for protection before calling on any spirits present to make themselves known. The medium will direct the other sitters, and each should get a chance to speak to at least one spirit if they so desire.

The spirits may acknowledge their presence in any number of ways:

-Table rapping: sitters hear loud knocks; the medium may ask spirits to communicate by knocking once for “yes” and twice for “no” or something to that effect.

-Table tilting: the séance table moves of its own accord, despite being held by the sitters.

-Levitation: the table or other objects in the room levitate.

-Changes in temperature: sitters feel cold breezes or drops in temperature.

-Odors: sitters smell perfume, cigars or home cooking.

-Ghostly sounds: sitters hear disembodied voices or music.

-Luminous phenomena: stars, balls of fire, strange lights or other luminous objects appear in the room.

-Apports: small portable objects, sometimes coming from miles away, appear in the room.

-Ectoplasm: this grayish, viscous psychic substance emanates from the medium’s body, occasionally forming into the shape of human limbs or even complete spirit entities.

Not all spirits can or will come when called. On the other hand, some who do may not be a sitter’s dearly departed, but an animal (generally someone’s pet), a spirit guide or even a wandering spirit who speaks a foreign language!

Some spirits are funny, and some are sad. If, however, a negative, angry, or malevolent spirit manifests, it should be told to leave, and the séance should immediately be stopped. Otherwise, the séance can be closed by kindly bidding the spirits farewell, thanking them for coming, and asking them to return to the other side.

 

Classic Horror Movie Reviews from an Almost 13 Year-Old

Marilyn Eastman

NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD review

[NOTE FROM THE EDITOR: Arianna is the daughter of some friends of mine. She is almost 13 and a huge horror fan. She is also an aspiring author. I thought it might be interesting to get some input from the younger crowd, so I proposed a review series to Arianna. I asked her to watch a list of classic horror films, because I was really curious how older films would play to a younger crowd. Her first assignment was the 1968 zombie opus, Night of the Living Dead. I have said countless times that NOTLD is my very favorite horror film. I present to you her thoughts. This review has been edited only for spelling and grammar. Any hilarious factual errors regarding the film belong to Arianna. -TMW]

Night of the Living Dead movie posterI’ve recently watched an older film, by the name of  Night of the Living Dead. Now, this film was produced in the thirties, at the dawn of all entertainment in the form of television. When all of the zombie apocalypse things started, this movie was introduced to the public, and was considered terrifying.

However,  present day, if I must say so myself, we’ve seen worse. Much, much worse. They say that the AMC series, The Walking Dead, was inspired by this particular picture, but clearly The Walking Dead was most definitely updated.  Some prefer the black and white, silent, pick your poison, all relevant and ancient. I am very much so into various types of horror, including paranormal, possession, witches, psychopaths with knives, but deep in my obsession lies a special place for apocalyptic pleasures.

On a scale of 1-10, I enjoyed Night of the Living Dead at about a 2, if even. What gets me scared, grossed out, dizzy etc… is the cherry red color of fresh blood , or the rotting aging shade of old. Also guts, but the only way you could tell someone was a zombie in this movie was by the tears in their clothes.

Marilyn Eastman
Marilyn Eastman pulls double duty in Night of the Living Dead

Going deeper, there was a single woman who looked slightly gory, yet not enough to duel against more updated favorite films of mine. This amused me, but did not scare me in any way, shape, or form. I’m sure if I had never seen something like this before, I would have better things to say about it.  But I have, and this was a huge letdown. I found this on a top 25 scariest movies list at number 7. And I was like what?  But others have different opinions, and I am sure I disliked this highly due to my youth.

 

 

 

 

 

Check out the Night of the Living Dead trailer:

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.

My Fantasy Horror Anthology

Cover to Shock
Shock Magazine featured Sturgeon's BRIGHT SEGMENT
Theodore Sturgeon’s BRIGHT SEGMENT was published in this 1960 issue of Shock Magazine!

You have heard of fantasy football; picking players from NFL teams to forge a strong team of your own to compete on paper. Well, I want to do the same type of thing but in a way horror fiction fans would appreciate. I don’t know if this has ever been attempted, but if it has, it was surely by a horror nerd with too much weed and time on his/her hands.

Compose your own table of contents for what would be your ultimate horror anthology. There are no limits. Choose from any author you want, at any time you want. So here is my fantasy horror anthology, and though the names may be as familiar to you as your own family, you will notice a mix of obscure tales, that I think should be reexamined (I am an admitted B-side lover), and you will also notice selections that are considered staples of the genre by many fans. For time and space constraints, I will pick ten here as my choices. Just remember, it’s my party…

The very first story would be one by a man better known for his science fiction, but a home run hitter in whichever genre he chose to flex his creative muscles. BRIGHT SEGMENT by Theodore Sturgeon would by the first title affixed to this ultimate anthology of mine. Written in 1953, BRIGHT SEGMENT concerns a lonely old man who finds a near-dead prostitute on the streets. He brings her in and nurses her back to health. As she strengthens and threatens to leave his care and this bright segment of his draws to a close, the old man takes measures to extend his newfound happiness. This is an absolutely brilliant tale that inspires revulsion and sympathy with the same tug.

A Stephen King photo from the '70s
Terry’s favorite Stephen King short stories are the early ones.

So next we look at the work of Stephen King for inclusion. I am a child of King, in so many ways. But my favorite works of his go back to his older tales. And my first King tale for inclusion would have to be NONA. First published in an anthology in 1978 called Shadows, Nona is either a figment of the narrator’s imagination or a seductive and evil siren of murder who asks repeatedly at the end, “Do you love?”, before she turns into a hideous creature and leaves the narrator alone in a graveyard for the police to find. NONA is Lovecraft-inspired gem and it elicits creepiness from any of us who have ever loved, and maybe found a little madness in our devotion.

We are not done with King, yet. NIGHT SURF was printed in Ubris magazine in 1969. It was the seed from which THE STAND would sprout. It is a post-apocalyptic tale about a group of teens gathered one night at Anson Beach in New Hampshire. They glow and warm near a bonfire, but the fire that lights their night burns with depraved, solemn and desperate purpose. The group burns a man at a pyre to appease the Gods and protect themselves from a disease called A6 (or Captain Trips).

Clive Barker
Clive Barker around the time BOOKS OF BLOOD exploded onto the horror scene.

We come now to the works of Clive Barker and his inclusions will not be the expected standouts. There will be two tales selected, half-filling my collection.

IN THE HILLS, IN THE CITIES is my first of the Barker tales. Two gay men try to rekindle their love on a vacation to Yugoslavia. Mick and Judd bear witness to the macabre war between two villages, Popolac and Podujevo. Each town is represented by a mass of thousands joined in uniform and violent purpose. A battle between two giants occurs, and this is one of the most inspired Barker tales you could ever endure. It is breathtaking.

My second Barker contribution would be HELL’S EVENT. It concerns a contest where Hell is given the opportunity to take and rule the Earth. There is a race in London, and a shape-shifting representative of Hell participates. Joel, a human competitor in the race, realizes the stakes he is running for. This is a bloody and humorous piece of Barker fiction.
My next selection would be the classic YOURS TRULY, JACK THE RIPPER from the great Robert Bloch. It was printed in Weird Tales in 1943. It is a very famous tale, and many horror fans have heard the title in relation to highly regarded pieces of horror literature. But let me ask you a question… have you ever actually read it? It is an intense and well-researched imaging of the infamous serial killer as an immortal who must make human sacrifices to continue his bloody existence. It is masterfully crafted by Bloch, whose creative intensity never dulled. The man was a talented craftsman, indeed. He is largely considered a writer’s writer. And he was a member of Lovecraft’s circle.

Poised to terrify at the seventh spot would be I SCREAM MAN by Robert McCammon. In this tale, McCammon takes something as innocuous as a family game of Scrabble and turns it into a triumph of absolute dread. McCammon is a master at taking familiar and safe boundaries and wrapping them around your throat. He is a powerhouse.

SHATTERDAY is the eighth selection, and it is a story by one of the most enduring voices of speculative fiction, Harlan Ellison. Peter Jay Novins calls his own phone by mistake, and he answers it. Soon, it is revealed that an alter ego is planning to take Peter’s miserable life away and replace him. Peter sickens and slowly fades as his former shadow gains substance and lives a more happy and successful version of Peter’s life. Yes, this was an episode of the revival Twilight Zone series, but the story from Ellison’s collection (itself called Shatterday) is an absolutely chilling tale of losing your identity and purpose. It straddles the genre fence, but inspires enough dread to land here on my list.

The next to last of this fun little excursion would find Charles Beaumont’s THE HOWLING MAN. Beaumont would adapt his 1960 short story into a famous episode of Twilight Zone. The Howling Man concerned David Ellington, a man on a walking trip through Europe who shows up, lost and ill, on the doorstep of a hidden castle. There, he discovers that a man is held prisoner by a group of monks. The monks claim their prisoner is the devil himself, and he can only be released by removing the staff of truth from his prison door. Beaumont was one of the most influential authors of the strange and dark, and his work has inspired several in the genre. And he is a name I would proudly include in this make-believe collection.

My tenth spot would feature THE YELLOW WALLPAPER, by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, first published in January 1892 in The New England Magazine. It chronicles a woman’s journey into madness, as she is locked away by her physician husband. The woman is stored away quietly to recuperate from a slight hysterical tendency. The woman slowly begins to have visions in the patterns of the wallpaper in the room that imprisons her. An important and classic tale, which you should seek out if you have not read it, that is also an incredible piece of feminist literature.

So, there would be my top ten. And were this list to continue, you would see tales from Poe, Lovecraft, Shirley Jackson, Richard Matheson, Hugh B. Cave, Peter Straub, Ramsey Campbell, Rex Miller, Joyce Carol Oates, Rod Serling… trust me, the list could easily run into triple digits. The ten I have listed are stories that I hold a particular fondness for. They are stories that have touched me, and left a mark.

If you are inspired to seek any of these tales out, then I have served a purpose here today.