Be prepared to be scared this October

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Halloween is all about being scared -- but pleasantly so. So publishers have scared up some new books about frightening films, spooky sites and terrifying tales that could make you feel uneasy even while you read them in your easy chair.


Not much is scarier than seeing Boris Karloff as Frankenstein's monster. His image, complete with neck bolts, graces the cover of "Monsters: A Celebration of the Classics From Universal Studios" (Ballantine-Del Rey).

This photo album recalls the horror films made by Universal, the studio that brought Frankenstein's monster to life and wouldn't let Dracula die. Among its other prominent films in the genre are "The Phantom of the Opera," "The Wolf Man" and "Creature From the Black Lagoon."

Readers can see "The Invisible Man" and get wrapped up in "The Mummy" through the book's black-and-white images of movie scenes, publicity stills and off-screen doings taken from the studio's photo archives. There are also color reproductions of movie posters.

Roy Milano's text is accompanied by essays by horror film fans Jennifer Beals, John Landis. Gloria Stuart, and Karloff and Lugosi -- that's Sara Karloff (Boris' daughter) and Bela G. Lugosi (Bela's son).

There's also a chronology of the studio's 31 monster movies, including sequels, from the 1920s to the 1950s, and a "fearword" by Hollywood horror honcho Forrest J. Ackerman.

"Alfred Hitchcock: The Master of Suspense"

Alfred Hitchcock knew a thing or two about scaring moviegoers. A lucky seven of his thrillers are celebrated in an unusual way -- in colorful, 2-foot-wide pop-up displays in "Alfred Hitchcock: The Master of Suspense" (Little Simon) by Kees Moerbeek.

Turn the page and up springs the long, winding, dizzying staircase so central to the plot of "Vertigo." Open to "The Birds" and see a flock of ominous black birds take flight. And greet a long-dead but grinning skeleton when she "sits up" for visitors to the Bates Motel in the display for "Psycho," probably Hitchcock's best-known film.

Explaining the action are brief plot summaries and behind-the-camera production information. What's more, Hitchcock himself pops up on every page -- as he did in each of his films.

Browsers will witness 3-D depictions of a strangling, a knifing, and an animated, hollow-eyed skeleton, but it's only cardboard.

'The Art & Making of Monster House"

There are houses that house monsters. And there's a house that is a monster.

That house was featured this past summer in the movie "Monster House," and that movie is featured in a book, "The Art & Making of 'Monster House"' (Insight Editions) by J.W. Rinzler.

This slipcased and generously illustrated "scrapbook" takes readers behind the scenes to show how the animated film was made and its special effects created.

The title character is the spookiest house in the neighborhood, the house where grouchy Old Man Nebbercraker lives. When anyone or anything dares come close, the house comes to life, quaking with anger as its porch beams splinter, giving the appearance of a fierce, gaping mouth. Now, three neighborhood children are in danger after having managed to irk the house big-time.

Besides its 400 illustrations, the book features gatefolds, stick-on notes and bound-in booklets about monsters. Removable artifacts include a poster, bookmark, skeleton key and 25 trading cards, whose backs can be arranged to form a drawing of the house.

"Ghost Hunter: A Journey Through Haunted France"

Simon Marsden has spent 40 years roaming the world in search of ghosts to shoot -- with his camera.

Some of his discoveries are in "Ghosthunter: A Journey Through Haunted France" (Flammarion).

This large-format volume contains descriptive text and black-and-white images of 50 haunted sights, including chateaux and churches, forests and fortresses, castles and cemeteries and ruins that have long been sources of ghost stories.

OK, so it's funnier than it is frightening and more hilarious than horrifying: But "It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown: The Making of a Television Classic" (Harper) is still about Halloween.

This paperback album by executive producer Lee Mendelson celebrates the 40th anniversary of the classic animated show, which premiered on Oct. 27, 1966.

The story takes place on Halloween night. All the "Peanuts" gang are out trick-or-treating and having their sacks filled with candy -- except Charlie Brown, who keeps getting rocks. Linus, though, is patiently and faithfully sitting in the pumpkin patch, waiting for the benevolent Great Pumpkin to arrive.

The book includes reminiscences by animator Bill Melendez, commentary from the child actors who provided the characters' voices, and 150 illustrations, including photos, story boards, sheet music and, of course, Charles M. Schulz's "Peanuts" gang.

Also, the original script, illustrated with scenes from the show.

"Creepy Crawls: A Horror Fiend's Travel Guide" (Santa Monica Press) will make armchair travelers happy to be in the safety of their own homes.

In his paperback, Leon Marcelo provides a tour of some of the spookiest spots in the world -- haunted sites, horror movie locales, and the final (we trust) resting places of horror icons Bela Lugosi, Lon Chaney and Peter Lorre.

Destinations include London and Paris; Poe's Baltimore, Stephen King's Maine and H.P. Lovecraft's New England; and the locales of scary films including "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre," "The Amityville Horror," "The Blair Witch Project" and, fittingly, "Halloween."

Readers visit the Tower of London and the Poe Museum; Sleepy Hollow, N.Y., and Les Catacombes in Montparnasse, France; New Jersey's Blairstown Diner, from "Friday the 13th" fame, and "The Shunned House" in Providence, R.I.

More than 300 black-and-white photos accompany the text, as well as site addresses, horror trivia, travel tips and curiosities.

For some sites, there's also a phone number. Just hope the line doesn't go dead.

In "Ghostly Ruins" (Princeton Architectural Press), Harry Skrdla visits 30 examples of "America's Forgotten Architecture" in text and 250 black-and-white photos.

There are mansions, hotels, factories, a prison, an amusement park and even an entire town -- all abandoned and left to fend for themselves.

Text and photos describe the structures as they were when fresh and vibrant and new and useful, and compare them to their present neglected state.

Among the examples is the Packard Motors plant in Detroit, which went the way of the Packards that were built there and whose proposed demolition has been blocked by the property owners' lawsuit.

Little is left of Windsor, a Civil War-era plantation house in Mississippi, besides 23 of its original 28 columns. They now rise high into the sky and abruptly end, no longer having any structure to support.

And visitors to the 1964-65 New York World's Fair might remember the futuristic New York State Pavilion, designed by Philip Johnson. The fair is long gone, but the pavilion still stands, waiting for someone to find a use for it.

In "Haunted Homeland" (Forge), Michael Norman takes readers on a tour of about 90 locales in the U.S. and Canada that have been the source of strange phenomena, some dating back to the 17th century.

Norman investigates reports of banshees and poltergeists, and of spirits, spooks and specters. He visits haunted crime scenes, and relates reports of apparitions of famous people including Mary Todd Lincoln and Mary Surratt.

A separate section describes some eerie doings at U.S. colleges, including, appropriately, Transylvania University in Lexington, Ky.

Terrifying tales:

Readers who like a good scare will want to sink their teeth into "Vampires: Encounters With the Undead" (Black Dog & Leventhal), edited and with commentary by David J. Skal.

In its 600 pages, this trade paperback edition of a 2001 hardcover offers a 200-year survey of vampire literature, lore and history. Contributors include Edith Wharton, Robert Bloch, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and, of course, Dracula's daddy, Bram Stoker.

Accompanying the text are 200 illustrations and Skal's commentary.

"The Big Book of Horror" (Sterling) offers 21 stories that promise to "make you tremble."

Its abridged versions of classic tales don't dawdle -- they get to the horror in a hurry. So several can be read in one sitting, preferably around a fire as it blazes and crackles in the quiet chill of night.

Authors represented in the anthology include Edgar Allan Poe, Robert Louis Stevenson, Charles Dickens, Guy de Maupassant and H.P. Lovecraft.

Among the characters readers will be glad they are meeting only on paper are a stranded traveler who must spend the night in a haunted house; a hunter who is the victim of revenge wrought by the detached hand of a man he killed; and a man who escapes from lifelong imprisonment only to encounter a hideous monster whose identity shocks him.

Classic and modern-day writers are represented in "Scary Stories" (Chronicle Books).

Among its 20 tales are Poe's "The Tell-Tale Heart," Ray Bradbury's "The Man Upstairs," Ambrose Bierce's "The Boarded Window" and Shirley Jackson's "The Lottery."

And what sort of havoc could be wreaked by six innocent "Kittens"? Find out in the story by Dean Koontz.

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