Monday, July 20, 2009

A scare from the deep mists of time: Monster Tales

Were you ever seized by the intoxicating memory of reading a much-loved book as a child, only to despair that you'd never remember the title? This happened to me today. From some subterranean depths in my brain came the tale of a boy who exacts revenge on his family's killers by voluntarily taking on the form of a werewolf. I remembered it being a short story contained in a red hardcover book, filled with startling black-and-white illustrations. I remember reading it over and over again in my elementary school library in the 1970s. But that was the extent of my recollection.

I plugged in "werewolf stories for children" and "horror anthologies for children and 1970s" into Google to see what would come up... and eventually came across this marvelous link, courtesy of The Haunted Closet: http://the-haunted-closet.blogspot.com/2008/10/monster-tales-vampires-werewolves.html.

Did anyone else ever read Monster Tales: Vampires, Werewolves & Things? Along with The Hobbit, this is one of those seminal books from my childhood that was responsible for developing my lifelong love of fantasy and horror. Click through the above link and tell me those illustrations aren't darned creepy. I recall the stories as being genuinely scary and containing some surprising scenes of bloodshed--and not much in the way of happy endings. I didn't realize until now that Robert Bloch penned the introduction, and longtime horror writer/reviewer Thomas Monteleone wrote the first (and arguably best) story, Wendigo's Child.

I can't imagine a book like this being released upon unsuspecting children and young adult readers nowadays, but I'm glad I read it. I must own a copy...

5 comments:

James Maliszewski said...

Talk about a blast from the past! That book simultaneously fascinated and terrified me at the same time as a child. I must have checked it out of the library dozens of times.

Atom Kid said...

I haven't read this one, but I've read a werewolf anthology with very similar artwork on the cover. I wish I could remember it. It was something like "Monsters Walk Among Us" or something like that.

K. Forest said...

Looks like a great book, and I may have to track down a copy. I had a similar experience (as an elementary kid in the '80s) with Julek Heller's 'GIANTS' -- for years the images would come back to me, but I had no idea what book I'd seen them in until I did some Google research like you.

Alvin Schwartz's 'Scary Stories' trilogy fills the same niche for my generation that 'Monster Tales' must have filled for yours. As adults my friends are still creeped out by Stephen Gammell's eerie and gruesome illustrations.

Brian Murphy said...

James: You and me both. Terrifying and appealing all at once.

Atom Kid: Apparently the editor, Roger Elwood, put out a couple other books with very simliar covers and names... I believe there were four in all. Perhaps this is what you remember.

K. Forest: I'm not familiar with "Scary Stories" but it sounds pretty cool. I've always believed that good books are good books, regardless of the audience for whom they're written.

Eric D. Lehman said...

I think you just triggered some sort of primal childhood memory, Brian...