Thursday, August 27, 2009

The art that scared me just right, the fourth part.

Ah, a few more guests! Please come in, make yourselves comfortable.
What can we get for you?

There you are, please sit, sit.

We've been lounging around the fire, discussing the art and artists from some of the scary fantasy books that we loved when we were kids.
YES Edward Gorey, I know, I know. We dealt with that already.

We're mostly dealing with the lesser-known (or at least less-celebrated) artists from those spooky books. Right, like the Hitchcock books, good call...

During the latter half of his life and career, Alfred Hitchcock invented, endorsed, loaned his name to (and wrote a lot of forwards for) many series of wonderful books for young readers. I imagine most of us had at least a few in our childhood libraries.

In my childhood home, there were two Hitchcock books that we read and reread, and whose images were the stuff of perfect nightmares... Ghostly Gallery (1962) and Haunted Houseful (1963)!

The ridiculously creepy and atmospheric images that graced these tomes was the work of the great Fred Banbery (1913 - 1999).

Inside cover leaf pages for Ghostly Gallery.

With Ghostly Gallery in particular, I'd just stare at the shadows for what felt like hours, wondering what was hiding there. The long, skinny, rubbery figure running to the right in the above picture creeped me out like you wouldn't believe! So did the quasi-human form in the doorway on the cover. Pure ghostly evil. Inhuman. And therefore I had to stare for days!

Let's Haunt A House.

The Red-headed League.

The Wastwych Secret.

The Mystery of Rabbit Run.

Inside cover leaf pages for Haunted Houseful.
That 'Water Ghost' woman and the white ghost in front of the old house were the killers for me. Wonderful!

The Water Ghost of Harrowby Hall.

The Mystery in Four-and-a-Half Street.

You can understand why they'd have an impact. Hiding as much as they show, filled with Charles Addams-esque humor, shivery and simply delightful.

When I was a little guy, anytime I heard a ghost story being told, or read a story which had no illustrations, the images in my mind were drawn by this fellow. The first time I heard 'Thump-Thump-Drag!' or 'Give Me Back My Liver!' or 'The Golden Arm', all those classic campfire tales, I saw it in monochromatic horror inked by Banbery. Oh the nightmares!

You wouldn't guess it looking at these images, but Fred Banbery also illustrated six of the world famous series of Paddington Bear books for children.

Banbery's work is known by many, but his name by few. Now, hopefully, a few more.

We'll get to the next artist soon. Perhaps later tonight; his work has its best bite after midnight.
But not right away. We have a few more visitors now, and everyone should stretch, mingle and have a bite, refresh your drinks.

Also, we all need to raise a glass and give a cheer to a fellow soldier in the Universal Monster Army, who goes by the name of Tom Smith Monsternut, for providing all the scans for this Banbery tribute. Thanks and Cheers, Tom!

Okay, mingle time. I'll put another log on the fire.


  1. Fred Banber was my uncle.During WW11 served RAF as Spitfire pilot; illustrator on The Times of India; lived in the US and worked for Simon & Schuster the Publishers;won NY Art Directors gold medal; Illustrated special edition of Pickwick Papers illustrated in Atlantic and Forbes magazines; illustrated the six books of Paddington Bear for Michael Bond; etc.,etc.

  2. Fred Banbery was my uncle. In WWii he served in the RAF flying Spitfires. He worked as illustrator on The Times of India; after war he went to New York and worked for Simon & Schuster, publishers; won NY Art Directors gold medal; iIlustrated special edition of Pickwick Papers; made front-covers of both Atlantic & Forbes magazines; illustrated six books of Paddington Bear for Michael Bond etc., etc. A very talented gentleman with a great sense of humour. Still sadly missed . . .

  3. The TWO scariest books of my childhood -- Alfred Hitchcock's Ghostly Gallery and Haunted Houseful! My older brother had both, and when I was young I found them terrifying! That my brother and older sister KNEW these books spooked me made it even worse -- cause to torment me they'd open them up to a scary picture (the end-pieces were quite enough!) and I'd run out of the room in terror. The pictures of the hand coming out of the grandfather clock and the hand coming out of the trapdoor reminded me of "The Beast with Five Fingers" (1949) which was definitely THE scariest movie of my childhood. The ghost in the closet ("Ghostly Gallery") insured I never went to bed with a closet door open. The white ghost in front of the haunted house on the cover and end-piece of "Haunted Houseful" were very scary, too. And the labyrinth end-piece of "Ghostly Gallery" was creepy, to be sure! Definitely claustrophobic, and that "moose-man" thing was un-nerving. I remember thinking at least poor Pyecroft was safely above it, now that he "lost weight"! But the most mind-bendingly terrifying image of either book was the Water Ghost of Harrowby Hall! I couldn't even bare to view that eyeless creature (which, of course, made it a favorite of my brother and sister to tease me with!). Terrific artwork -- even better than many of the stories.
    On the other hand, my brother's "Monster Museum" book didn't deliver the scares of the other two, but the artwork was definitely weird and disturbing, Very much like the early 1960's "Rod Serling's Twilight Zone" and "Twilight Zone Revisited" (that my brother also had). Wouldn't surprise me if the same artist did them all.
    --Mike Douglas