Thursday, August 2, 2012

The Stuff As [Bad] Dreams Are Made On

This post was inspired by the splendid WIP Black Dog currently on AnEvilGiraffe's modelling blog. Check it out!

Here's something I once had, lost, and then bought again as soon as I saw it.

All About Ghosts (1977) is one of a series of three books on the supernatural by Usborne/Maynard. Usborne really seemed to be the go-to chaps for guidebooks on anything a youngster of the Seventies might want - Spies, Pirates, Explorers, War, the Future, awesome vehicles, and of course these guys.

There are some great scans of some of the internal pages here, as well as a pretty fine write-up and comments. In fact, click around the Web and you'll find a lot of nostalgia, love and yearning for this tidy wee series, a good many young readers, it seems, scared themselves silly with these books, which wasn't surprising as the interior artwork was of a very high standard and oh so evocative. To illustrate, here's a two-page spread of the terror of Blythburgh, Black Shuck:

I'm not sure whether that centre fold spoils the picture or enhances it, making it appear as though the monster is actually LEAPING at you from inside the book.

The style is typical of the World of the Unknown series, as it was later called and bound into one enviable volume (yes, a friend had it, and yes, if I couldn't borrow his then I was continually loaning it from the school library - another popular story, apparently.) In those three books I encountered for the first time in lurid detail Shuck, Beowulf and Grendel, Efrit, Reverend Dodge the whipcracking ghosthunter, Gef the Mongoose, the Hopkinsville Goblins, the Lambton Worm, and dozens of other truly creepy stories, enhanced by some of the most mundane pictures of wooded lanes and silent quarries that would attest to having been visited by the supernatural. Like the after-image trick presented in the bound edition, it left an indelible mark on my childhood, and so when I saw the Ghosts volume nearly ten years ago at a recent school fair, I snapped it up before somebody else's nostalgia beat me to it. Who knows, perhaps I saved a young child some nightmares that night, eh?

And so now it just leaves me to invite The Darkness to play us out on an appropriate song, Black Shuck. Take it away, boys...


  1. Followed this link from anevilgiraffe and was momentarily stunned to see this picture, for it terrified me too when I was little! My mother tried numerous (failed) ploys to get me to look, but I think this is the first time I've actually seen it since then...

    Off to the internet to try and get these as I'm not sure what happened to that copy...

  2. Awesome, Climperoonie!

    Speaking also as someone who only on Friday watched the entirety of the original 'The Omen' having first seen it on TV in the Seventies and for some strange superstitious (not really!) reason closing my eyes through David Warner's iconic scene... bravo! Shuck was the picture that really gave me the colliewobbles too :)