I love this time of year (which, if you read my posts regularly, you’ll know)! So I’m taking a break from the wonders of the Prelinger Archives to hand out some Halloween goodies. Namely, This Magazine is Haunted!
Publishing only 14 issues between 1951 and 1953, This Magazine is Haunted was put out by Fawcett Comics. I’m not a big comics person, but even I am familiar with a number of their most popular characters, like Hopalong Cassidy, Captain Marvel, and Golden Arrow. When Fawcett dropped its entire Comics division in 1953, Charlton Comics picked up the title and continued to publish the tales of chills and thrills, blood and guts, and creepy crawlies.
For an excellent history and inside info, I highly recommend this entry on Horrorpedia by Mondozilla.
Now, to the magazines. They featured stories with titles such as Menace of the Invisibles (Volume 2, Issue 13), Tunnel of Terror (Volume 21), and Touch of Death (Volume 11). The copies uploaded to the Internet archive were rather pristine when scanned; the colors are rich and vibrant, the text easy to read. Also preserved in these digital copies are the ads which ran in the comics, for things like miniature spy cameras, Charles Atlas programs, toys which would no longer be considered safe, X-ray Specs, and various other comics and magazines produced by the same publishing house.
The stories can be heavy-handed with the plot devices. By that I mean they whack you with the clue-by-four so hard you’re sure to know what’s coming in the first 6 panels. As an example, let’s take The Witch of Tarlo (Volume 2, No. 9). By the third panel we’ve learned that Craig (a painter) and his wife, Hilda, are looking for a place to stay the summer, and that the local real estate guy has only one place in their price range…but it’s reeeeeally old. In panel four, the agent and Craig have this exchange:
You know where this is headed.
Soon enough Craig and Hilda are at the cottage exploring the property, and Hilda trips on a stick, making her leg burn, even after they get the splinter out. That night, she dreams an exposition:She wakes in a fright, Craig tells her to stop being a baby about a bad dream, and in the morning boy does she feel silly. So off Craig goes to paint, and he ties his easel off to a stick to steady it. Guess which stick? (Get it? Which stick/witch stick? Ha ha ha, I kill me.)
Right. So Craig paints furiously, despite a huge storm gathering, and you can practically hear the Scary-Uh-Oh music swell in the background. Hilda arrives wondering why he doesn’t have enough sense to come in from the rain, and sees his painting is of – The Witch! AAAAAAAAAAGH!
Now snapped out of his reverie, Craig closes up shop and, while untying his easel tether, gets a splinter himself. From the witch stick. IT BURNS! He’ll show that stick who’s boss, you bet! He rips it out of the ground and –
Oh hey, disembodied multi-directional laughter! That’s bad, in case you didn’t know.
So they run back to the cottage while the storm intensifies, and then comes a knock on the door. I’m sure you can hear the high screechy sustained violin note as Craig approaches the door and Hilda admonishes him for answering (maybe she hears the music too). A cowled figure stands in the doorway, and asks in arcane fashion “Would ye be kind enough to grant an old woman refuge from the rain?” Apparently Craig’s Creep-O-Meter is broken because he takes the Clueless Nice Guy route and tells her to come on in.
The Witch freezes them in their tracks and tells them at midnight she’ll give their souls to Satan. You know, as a gift. She’s thoughtful that way. Craig thinks if only he could reach the fire…and when she finally frees them (for reasons unclear) he leaps for a burning log and torches her like a scarecrow in Oz.
Craig and Hilda run outside, and he picks up a handy stick (say it with me now, which stick?) with which to fend off the Witch. But no! Every time he tries to mightly smite her, the stick passes through her body. He runs, she taunts; he gasps, she cackles; he trips and falls and plants the stick by lucky chance in just the right spot and she –
Dissolves? Melts? Whatever you want to call it, she goes bye-bye. But we can’t have an entirely happy ending, gotta have the heebie-jeebie factor; so the last panel is, inevitably,
If you want to view the collection of This Magazine is Haunted yourself, the Internet Archive has is for FREE download or online reading here.
We’ve covered some great comics and pulp magazines here on the blog:
And for other Halloween goodies, including movies, ghost stories, and desktop wallpapers, check out any of these posts.