Title: Monster Mash
Author: Mark Voger
Publisher: TwoMorrows Publising
Most people feel a sense of wide-eyed nostalgia about their youth. But if you were a “monster kid” you indeed grew up in an era unlike any other. Monster kids are those special Baby Boomers who grew up in the late 1950s to the mid-1970s. They grew up watching Shock Theater with crazy hosts like Zacherley, Ghoulardi, “Chilly Billy” Cardille, Morgus, and Sir Graves Ghastly. They read monster magazines like Famous Monster of Filmland; built monster model kits made by Aurora; plastered their bedrooms with Rat Fink stickers; and laughed at the televised monster hilarity of the Munsters and The Addams Family. The monster craze in all its glory is captured in a truly enthralling new book “Monster Mash” by Mark Voger. Monster Mash is published by TwoMorrows, who is always at the forefront of pop culture goodness.
Paging through this book is like taking a trip back in time. Suddenly, I was 8 years old and trying to get more glue on my King Kong model kit than on my hands. Finished…painted with Testor’s model paints, however poorly, and placed on my dresser next to Dracula, Godzilla, and The Creature for all to admire my model-making brilliance. Saturdays were all about monsters…In the Detroit area we had Sir Graves Ghastly hosting classic horror films in the afternoon and then the wacky Ghoul hosting some of the most god-awful “B” movies late Saturday nights.
Voger covers all of the above and much, much more in the 200-page, hardcover book. He explores how TV, and the release of the original Shock Theater package of 52 classic horror films and thrillers ignited the era of the monster craze in 1957. Horror hosts began springing up all over the country in nearly every major city. None were more famous than John Zacherle who took on the guise of the undertaker named “Roland” on Philadelphia’s WCAU TV in 1957. Dubbed the “Cool Ghoul” by Dick Clark, Zacherle would later move to New York. Voger presents a lengthy interview with Zacherle gleaned from various chats from 1991 to 2014.
One of the other major events to help kickoff the Monster Kid Generation was the release of the first issue of Famous Monsters of Filmland magazine also in 1957, edited by Forrest Ackerman. Originally planned as a one-shot, Famous Monsters is still going strong today, 58 years later and spawned dozens of imitators over the decades. A 1990 interview with Ackerman is included as he discusses about how the magazine was first created.
I mentioned those wonderful Aurora monster model kits that kids loved and parents hated! Voger includes an interview with illustrator James Bama who was responsible for the ghoulish box art for most of those kits. Another seminal event in the monster mania was Topps Trading Cards release of their 1962 Mars Attack series. Voger interviews Len Brown, a longtime Topps employee, who discusses the trading card series’ short shelf life yet enduring influence.
Other notable highlights include interviews with Lisa Loring who played Wednesday on the Addams Family; Al Lewis, Pat Priest, and Butch Patrick from The Munsters; and Big Daddy Ed Roth, the creator of the Rat Fink hotrod model kits. There are also sections devoted to toys and games that had a monster theme; monster magazines and comic books; Ben Cooper Halloween costumes; and films and TV shows that kept the monster movement going into the 1970s including The Planet of the Apes and Dark Shadows.
The books is packed with hundreds of color and black and white photos that will have you salivating, often times with regret if you are like me. Regret because your mom threw away all your cool monster stuff long ago. Even if you did not have the pleasure of growing up as a monster kid you will still enjoy this nostalgic look back at the era of the Monster Craze in America.