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Friday, 4 November 2011

They're tiny..they're silly...they're friendly all right...They're fun in the day, they glow in the night!

Here's a website I came across recently. It's about a set of ghostly glow-in-the-dark figures, from the 1960s. The owner of the site is appealing for pictures and information. It may sound familiar, but , no it's not retromat enthusing about the Luminous Spooks.

The Kooky Spookys (sic) were a family of luminous plastic finger puppets with names such as Baby Spook'Em and Daddy Booregard. They even had their own cardboard house that they could be displayed in.

They're fun, 'cute' even, not scary. What is slightly chilling, though, is the hard-nosed sales campaign behind them:  Morning, Noon and Nite - Kids are going to be sold by Hasbro's multi-million dollar 1st quarter advertising campaign !

Oddly, they too seem to be very rare these days.

The TV ad has survived, but you have to buy it through the website. I promise that if ever I come across the Luminous Spooks TV ad, I will never resort to that!

Thursday, 6 October 2011

Spooky 'Cereal Box' Record

What a terrific idea - a record (the old-fashioned sort played on a turntable) printed on a cereal box. These seem to have been quite common in the US, but although here in the UK it was possible to get novelty records printed on postcards, for example, I don't recall ever seeing these as cereal give-aways.

This one is surprisingly good. The Legend of Sleepy Hollow given away with a cereal in the 1970s.  Just over 3 minutes of spooky thrills best enjoyed while eating a bowl of cereal just before bedtime on a dark stormy night!

As marvelous as the Luminous Spook promotion was, if only Quaker had somehow managed to fit a recording (perhaps the soundtrack from the TV ad) onto the cereal packet (along with the 3D Haunted Manor), it would have been perfect.

Friday, 19 August 2011

Frankie and Rhona at the Fair

It was Spring or Summer 1967, I think. I would have been 9 years old and was visiting a travelling funfair with a friend in my home town of Taunton in England. There were two attractions that have pretty much eclipsed any other memories* I may have had of the fair. The first depicted Frankenstein's monster. To anyone observing from outside, every 5 minutes or so, there was a roar from within the tent, followed by the sight and sound of screaming kids as they ran out as fast as they could. My friend and I paid our money and went in, determined to resist the urge to run. The 'monster' was sitting in an electric chair (was this scene in any of the Frankenstein films, I wonder?) staring impassively ahead. Then after some time, when the tent had filled up and we had relaxed a little, he suddenly stood up, possibly to the accompaniment of flashing lights and a buzzing electric sound, and emitted a loud roar as he advanced toward the audience. He must have stopped after a few paces, but we didn't stay to find out as we turned and fled. What fun!

As with the first attraction, we also knew what to expect from the second, through word of mouth. This was in spite of the painted 'pulp' style artwork outside. It showed 'Rhona the Rat Girl', in a bathing costume, in a dungeon setting, IIRC, being terrorized by giant rats. She had her head turned away from them as far as possible while just being able to watch them in fearful fascination from the corner of her eyes. What was the story, I wonder? Was this picture lifted from some comic or pulp magazine? Inside, the reality was somewhat different. 'Rhona' was seated inside a pen and with her inside another cage were a few very tame-looking rats. She had a bamboo cane in her hand and tapped the cage lightly now and again (the artwork had her holding a whip, for some reason). She clearly wasn't in any danger or state of fear, but just looked bored. However, the big difference was in what she was wearing, or rather wasn't wearing. She was 'topless', to use that rather contradictory term. This being (hippy-ish) 1967, or possibly to meet legal requirements, or perhaps just to (lightly) preserve her modesty, her boobs had been painted with concentric circles. Other than that, she had on a large pair of slightly moth-eaten regulation navy knickers and possibly a pair of boots. We walked around her pen towards the exit, not too quickly, trying not to stare too much. This was a novel experience and I think we got our money's worth even if we were there for only a couple of minutes!

(* not quite 'eclipsed': at one of the stalls, I won a terrific skull ring with eyes made from coloured plastic or glass. For some reason, my father did not share my good taste and I was sadly forced to throw it away.)

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Alfred Hithcock's Ghostly Gallery

Following on from my earlier post about Alfred Hithcock's Haunted Houseful anthology, here is the front cover of another anthology of his published in paperback by Puffin Books in the late 60s. The picture is courtesy of Amazon UK.

I first saw this book advertised in the Puffin Post magazine and was reminded of 'Alf' of the Luminous Spooks. I had to have it! There was one terrific story - 'The Upper Berth' by F. Marion Crawford, written in 1885. This was no story of an intangible spectre, but rather of something un-dead and murderous, having the strength of 'ten men living'. It was a gripping and chilling tale. Unfortunately, I found the other stories quite tame, not in the least bit scary; some just had a supernatural theme and were ghost-free.

The American hardback edition has some entertaining illustrations, which can be seen here.

Thursday, 19 May 2011

Spooky Tesla Spirit Radio

Here are some terrific spooky noises pulled from the air, using  a mix of old and new technology. The 'voices' from around 1 minute and 14 seconds make my hair stand on end. Enjoy!

Here's some information about how to re-create these sounds.

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Another Vollmer Ghost Train video - with new sound effects!

Just as I was thinking how great it would be to hear new sound effects for the Vollmer ghost train, I came across this video of one with creepy sounds taken from a ghost train made by another manufacturer (Faller):

Monday, 9 May 2011

HO Scale Ghost Train

Here's a terrific item for sale on eBay from seller erniepz (

It's an HO scale model with electronic sound and LED light effects, as it turns out, that show it's relatively recent. The octopus seems to be an odd choice for a ghostly figure, don't you think?  I dug around and found this page about it:

The figures glow in the dark - perfect!

Here's a video...

Sunday, 1 May 2011

Vintage glow-in-the-dark Halloween shapes

Trying to find any luminous shapes of similar vintage to, or older than the Luminous Spooks (UK, 1965), I came across these splendid examples on flickr. They include an apparition, a spooked cat, an owl and a witch on a broomstick.

Other pictures in this set are well worth a look, too; there is some excellent vintage artwork there.

Glow-in-the-dark vampire figures

This picture comes from an eBay auction that ran last year. I would credit the seller, but didn't record their details.

The figures were incorrectly described as being from the Monster in My Pocket range. 6 are of interest: top row: a vampire emerging from a coffin, a male vampire with arms raised, a possible wolf-man and then a female vampire. On the second row, we see the figure in the coffin again, but this time in red plastic. These 5 figures would seem to be from the same manufacturer. The other one of interest is a vampire with bat wings, looking fantastically sinister in a whitish plastic. Perhaps this belongs with the other 5, perhaps it comes from a different range. Some of these figures were luminous - presumably the ones on the top row.

There's a clearer picture of one of the figures on flickr here.

If you can provide further information about these figures, such as who made them and when, please let me know!

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Custom GID Aurora pieces

eBay seller blueskyhelper has a nice line in glow-in-the-dark pieces for Aurora/Polar Lights kits. I particularly like his Lily Munster. It's a conversion piece, i.e. a new design, for the Munsters Living Room kit and very good it looks too. It is shown on the left below. On the right is a non-glowing version.

Shown below at left is his glow version of the Forgotten Prisoner kit. As excellent as it looks, I just know I would never get around to building it. However, next to it is a smaller version, which I take to be all in one piece. Now, that one, I would like to buy.

However, the quoted shipping costs from the US are prohibitively expensive, so I won't be buying anything just yet. An alternative source for the Lily figure could be CultTVman, who has stocked it in the past and whose shipping charges I have found reasonable before now.

Monday, 25 April 2011

Horrorscope: 1960s arcade machine

(The first of direct posts to this blog)

I came across this eBay auction, from seller kenyatabks, for an old ad. for a 1960s toy showing scenes from old horror films. (The ad refers to 'full edition films'. Anyone expecting full length films would, I suspect, have been disappointed.)

What a fantastic toy! It was gloriously retro even then - showing scenes from old films on a device of even greater vintage that had been popular on seaside piers and in amusement arcades in the early years of the last century.

Typically the entertainment on offer would have been mildly risque, with one title, What the Butler Saw, being synonomous with these machines. The last time I saw one was at the Science Museum in London, before those in charge decided in their widsom to close down its film and photography section and ship it all to Bradford. Possibly MOMI (the Museum of the Moving Image) in London had one too, but that coincidentally was closed down at about the same time supposedly as a temporary measure, pending redevelopment of the South Bank site. (The BFI never reopened it and the decision remains controversial. Describing it as an act of cultural vandalism, may sound like a cliche, but it seems a fair assessment given the unique nature of the museum).

There is more information about the Horrorscope and a rather nice picture here. I wonder if any more 'films' were available?

Spooky Puffs

A special pack of Sugar Puffs has been produced for Halloween for 2010 and is called appropriately, Spooky Puffs. It was brought to my attention by Stewart, who says:

I studied the pack with high hopes to see if there was any mention of free gifts enclosed - little luminous figures maybe ? - but of course there was no such thing. Disappointed but not surprised. Still, it's a nice connection to the original issue even if hardly anyone who buys Spooky Puffs will be aware of it, and no-one would thank us for saying how much better things were 45 years ago.

Great name and good to see the Alf-type spooks. I'm not so sure about the lettering, though - it's gory rather than spooky. However, as Stewart says, it's a nice connection to the past and I do wonder if the presence of this website helped with the name in any way?! Read more about Spooky Puffs by clicking on the picture.

Alfred Hitchcock's Haunted Houseful

Alfred Hitchcock put his name to several collections of ghost/horror stories which were aimed at children and first published in the US from the early 1960s. The one shown here is the UK edition of his Haunted Houseful, dating from around the mid-60s, and judging from the marvelously lurid cover, the target audience was somewhat older on this side of the pond. Click on the image to go to an external page for more information.

The artist was Josh Kirby who later on produced artwork for the Terry Pratchett Discworld novels. One story that I remember from this collection is a fairly light-hearted one called The Water Ghost of Harrowby Hall. You can read it here, just as it appeared in the US edition of the book.

There is some rather splendid artwork inside the cover of the US edition. For larger pictures and more artwork from the book, click on the thumbnail below.

Halloween treats for 2009

Here are some glow-in-the-dark fridge magnets from eBay seller 'cool_frenchie'. There are 5 equivalents to the LS, including a rare spooked cat, though these seem to be of the 'fun' variety. There's also a nice haunted house and a rather incongruous 'Scream' mask. I'm assuming this set comes from a previous year, as I've only come across the one listing.

I've learnt from C.D. that the Wilco brand shapes I mentioned earlier are available again this year. These are the closest I've seen to the LS and deserve a second mention. Here is a picture of some of them (the LS equivalents), courtesy of C.D.

Halloween has become more commercial in the UK in the past few years (not a bad thing in itself, as it takes away some store space from unseasonal Christmas promotions). An example: Stewart tells me about an unlikely-sounding 'Scary Spuds' promotion by Walkers crisps, with a prize of a night for two in a haunted inn. No doubt this is an attempt to take some of the increased seasonal spending away from the confectionery industry. Anyway, it has a nice piece of artwork associated with it, as shown below (though I'd like to lose the logo).

Oddly, you can't navigate to the promotion from their website, which still refers to it being Summer time. Someone should point this oversight out to Walkers and perhaps earn themselves a year's supply of crisps.

On to other Halloween goodies: I've bought some lenticular pictures this year, including a 'Mona Lisa' and, appropriately, an 'American Gothic'. Depending on the angle they are viewed at, you see either a normal version or a spooky version of the picture, so for example, Mona Lisa sticks out a reptilian tongue when viewed at the 'right' angle. I suppose they are a bit like those Noddy ones from Kellogg's back in the early 60s, but bigger and scarier! I would include pictures of them, but I know they are going to be almost impossible to photograph well.

I've also bought a rather splendid werewolf outfit - well head and hands actually - that I'm looking forward to wearing. Think 'American Werewolf in London' rather than the Universal and Hammer films; picture to follow. I've resisted fog machines and animatronic props so far, mainly because of expense. Perhaps I should take the DIY approach, as shown at this wonderful American site. The 'flying crank ghosts' look great fun - now where did I put my old Meccano set?

Finger Monsters

Here are some "Glow in the Dark Finger Monsters" from Tesco, sold as party 'favours'. Thanks to Kim for the pictures. I'm sure I remember this type of thing, albeit non-glowing, from the 60s. Great fun!

Staircase 'Ghost' Picture

This picture is one of the most famous 'ghost' pictures of all. Given the staircase setting and the slightly luminous figure, I had to give it a mention.
It was taken on 19 June 1966 on the Tulip Staircase in the Queen's House in the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich, supposedly when there was no-one in the field of view of the camera and shows a hooded figure apparently holding onto the balustrade with both hands. The overall impression is quite eerie - the figure appears to be on the outside of the staircase emerging from the shadows ready to catch unsuspecting visitors on the stairs. The long reach of the right arm, the apparent distortion of the stairs and the contrast between the over-exposed wall-light and under-exposed shadows, make for an unsettling picture.

The picture isn't quite what it seems, though. First, the staircase is a spiral one and the figure is actually standing on the staircase, while the viewer is looking upwards at the underneath of the steps.
Second, that long reach is more readily explained by there being another figure just ahead of the hooded figure. Rather than this being the right arm of the hooded figure, it is the left arm of the second figure, I think. I can just make out part of the profile of this figure, as indicated in the picture below. The hand we see further up could be the right hand of figure number two, or even the left hand of a third figure further ahead still.

So far, this is all consistent with information in the National Maritime Museum's website, which refers to two or three figures being present.

However, look at the hooded garment: the nature of the folds on the sleeve indicate to me a thin material, less pliable than cloth or wool; the hem at the end of the sleeve is quite prominent and the whole garment stands out from the dark background. All this is consistent, I think, with a shiny and semi-transparent plastic, most likely a lightweight raincoat with hood. June 1966 in Greenwich was the second wettest June during the years 1961 to 1970, according to information (since removed) on the Met Office historic station data web pages. So, what do we see here? Ghosts, or two or three visitors, one of whom came prepared for the weather, captured in a photograph taken under challenging lighting conditions?

Well, let me know what you think!

MPC 54mm Glow Figures

Here are some spooky luminous figures made by MPC in the 1970s, that Stewart has brought to my attention. They also come in non-glowing plastic. These pictures are taken from eBay seller 'toyranch' in the US. More information about the range is available here:

Model Kits

Following on from the item about Aurora kits earlier, the Polar Lights brand has recently been resurrected and they have re-issued the Aurora glow-in-the-dark witch kit.

Off-topic, but I see that they are also re-issuing the Robby the Robot kit from Forbidden Planet (as well as an all-new kit of the Space Crusier from the film, with Aurora-style box). And if that doesn't grab you, they also plan to remake the 1960s TV Batmobile Aurora kit!

Revell are re-issuing 4 of the Aurora Universal Monsters kits: Dracula, Frankenstein's Monster, The Mummy and The Wolfman. However, the Aurora box artwork is not being used this time, which diminishes their value greatly in my view. Prices are high and you can probably find the same kits on eBay, for example those released under the Luminators range in the early 90s, for much less.
Finally, Moebius Models have a fantastic all-new (Boris Karloff) Mummy kit in Aurora-style box and have re-issued the Aurora Gigantic Frankenstein, also available in a glow version.