Monday, September 2, 2013

A Ghost Named Fred - An I Can Read Mystery (Nathanial Benchley, Ben Shecter, 1968)

Here's A Ghost Named Fred (1968, written by Nathanial Benchley, illustrated by Ben Shecter), a slightly spooky but mostly cute story about a lonely boy, George, who, while playing astronaut by himself (hence the space helmet) wanders into an old mansion haunted by friendly ghost Fred and a bat named Charlie. Selected scans below.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

National Geographic, Vol. 133, No.2, February 1968 (the Jaws issue)

Even if you were not one of those families like mine who received the National Geographic magazine in the mail every month, you might still get a twinge of deja vu should you happen to flip through the February 1968 issue.

That's because pages of this issue were prominently featured in a little film you may have heard of.... Jaws. In the scene where Chief Brody is flipping through the pages of a book about sharks to educate himself (and the audience) on the history and biology of the 25-foot menace that has invaded his beach-front home...

...we are actually seeing the pages of several different books cleverly edited together to appear as if belonging to a single volume. Many of the pages viewed are from the National Geographic article Sharks: Wolves of the Sea (Nathanial T. Kenney).

Pgs.230-231, diagram by William H. Bond, Geographic Art Division. This graphic efficiently informs the audience that sharks are attracted to splashing sounds.

Pg.251, photo of a shark biting down on an aluminum rod used to measure bite strength in tons. The picture establishes the fact that sharks will bite down on large, heavy, metalic objects (making the climax, which requires our villianous great white to bite onto a scuba tank, a little more...uh, palatable and believable for the audience than it might otherwise have been.)

Pgs.242-243, a diver swims along a 9-foot grey nurse shark in an Australian aquarium.

Pgs.228-229, a 12-foot Australian great white. The audience hasn't seen much of the actual shark yet at this point in the film, and this is a very cost-effective way of planting in our mind what is supposed to be lurking out there in the murky depths.

Pgs.246-247, a shark chomps "ham-sized" chunks of flesh out of a dead porpoise.

Pg.249, an Australian shark tower. This photo reminds the audience that the problem of shark attacks is neither unique or rare. This threat is real.

Pgs.238-239, this painting by Paule Calle recreates an actual incident of a 12-foot shark attacking a lobstermen's boat off Canada's Cape Breton Island in 1953. It also let's the audience know that a boat is no safe-haven from a hungry shark.

Other pages from this scene, among them graphic shark-attack injuries and the fossilized jaws of prehistoric megalodon, come from various other books: Sharks and Rays (Spencer Wilkie Tinker, 1973); The Shark: Splendid Savage of the Sea (Jacques-Yves Cousteau, 1970); Sportfishing for Sharks (Frank Mundus, 1971); About Sharks and Shark Attacks (David H. Davies, 1964); and Dangerous Marine Animals (Bruce W. Haulstead, 1959).

This bibliography comes from the excellent and highly recommended 2013 documentary Inside Jaws (created by Jamie Benning, one of a series of informative and entertaining "filmumentaries").

Friday, August 2, 2013

Science Fiction Tales (Roger Elwood, Rod Ruth, 1973)

And finally here's Science Fiction Tales, the remaining entry in a series of hardcover science fiction/horror anthology books for children published by Rand McNally in the 70s (I previously posted on Monster Tales, Horror Tales, Tales of Terror, Baleful Beasts and Eerie Creatures, and this book's direct follow-up, More Science Fiction Tales).

Edited by Roger Elwood and illustrated by Rod Ruth, here are seven stories by seven authors, with an introduction by Theodore Sturgeon.


In the first story, Keevan, a young boy on an alien world, participates in a coming-of-age ritual that revolves around the hatching of baby dragons. The alien world is Pern, and this tale turns out to be an early entry in McCaffrey's successfull Dragonriders of Pern franchise.

ALONE IN SPACE (Arthur Tofte)

A young boy left alone in a spaceship after the death of his father must outsmart space pirates looking for rare interplanetary gems. The boy cleverly uses a display case of geological samples to disguise his valuable payload.

THE MYSTERIOUS GEM (Claire Edwin Street)

Two kids cross paths with blue-skinned aliens after happening upon a teleportation device.


In this werewolf story transplanted to an alien world with three moons, the livestock of interplanetary colonists are being killed and eaten by some mysterious animal whenever the moon and the moon and the moon is full....

THE LAUGHING LION (Raymond F. Jones)

A boy accidentally time-travels back in time to a medieval castle on the eve of its mysterious destruction. A knight wearing the crest of a laughing lion helps protect him and his egg-shaped craft from superstitious villagers.


The last young survivor of a spaceship in which the rest of the crew has been killed off one by one after succumbing to madness, encounters friendly plant-like aliens.

SOME ARE BORN CATS (Terry & Carol Carr)

This humorous story suggests your pet cat just might be an alien in disguise.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

More Science Fiction Tales (Roger Elwood, Rod Ruth, 1974)

Here's More Science Fiction Tales (1974, edited by Roger Elwood, illustrations by Rod Ruth), a follow up to 1971's Science Fiction Tales (also edited by Elwood and illustrated by Ruth) and belonging to a series of hardcover children's horror/sci-fi anthology books published by Rand McNally in the 70s (I've previously posted on the Elwood-edited Monster Tales and Horror Tales, Ida Chittum's Tales of Terror, and perhaps the most sought after entry, Baleful Beasts and Eerie Creatures, also illustrated by Ruth).

The full title is More Science Fiction Tales, Crystal Creatures, Bird-Things, & Other Weirdies, seven tales of science fiction by seven authors, with an introduction by Barry N. Malzberg (full table of contents posted below).

Several of the stories here could rightfully be considered belonging to the horror genre, including my favorite, A Hole In Jennifer's Room by Brian T. LoMedico.

Fourth-grader Jennifer is awakened one evening by a glowing orb that materializes out of her bedroom wall. A creature that she describes as resembling a large chicken embryo emerges from the lit portal and begins stalking around her bedroom.

Frightened, Jennifer is about to attack the alien thing with a baseball bat when the creature suddenly introduces itself, speaking perfect English. Its name is Xander, and it is an inter-dimensional traveler that took a wrong turn and ended up in Jennifer's room in Dimension Three. At first it seems like the beginnings of a friendship between the unlikely pair is starting to emerge, until Xander decides to explore the rest of the house on his own and is never seen again.

Jennifer's parents don't believe her story and she is forced to see a doctor who prescribes pills to alleviate what they presume is a hallucinatory episode.

But the pills don't help, as Jennifer is continually tormented by the sounds of Xander's clicking beak, and glimpses of movement caught in her peripheral vision. Xander, as it turns out, never really did leave Jennifer, as the final chilling paragraph reveals:

And sometimes, in the deep darkened corners of her mind, Jennifer heard a whispering voice, answering her as if from a great distance. It always said the same thing. "I'm right here, Jennifer. And remember, you did it all to yourself.... You should have hit me with that baseball bat."


In The Bend of Time (William Danton), a boy returning to a recolonized Earth in the year 4010 is able to communicate across time with another boy his age from a prior millenium, when the world was ruled by robots called Ogolots.

In Hide and Seek (Mario Martin Jr.), a boy looking for a fallen meteor encounters a friendly crashed alien who helps him defend the Earth from some not-so-friendly crab-like invaders.

The Music of Minox (Howard Goldsmith) finds an interplanetary mining camp attacked by aliens monsters resembling crystalline porcupines that emit harp-like sounds.

In The Thing From Ennis Rock (Thomas F. Monteleone), a boy brings home a large egg found in the rubble following an earthquake and soon hatches a baby pteranodon. But mama pteranodon isn't giving up on her baby that easily. This story has a surprisingly dark ending.

A Thirst For Blood (Arthur Tofte), a story of vampires and interplanetary adventure set in the year 2040, opens with a boy being forced to carry out the grim ritual of decapitating the corpse of his father to cancel a vampiric curse.

Finally, a girl is temporarily transformed into a wolf by a mad scientist in Werewolf Girl (Nic Andersson).