Monday, February 8, 2010

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

Once again, it's time to get a gander at some spooky sketches!

Do you all recall the popular series of posts about creepy artwork we loved as kids (and still do)?

Well, I was going through some old books (moving them from one shelf to another, actually) and noticed a title I'd entirely neglected which unquestionably deserves a place of honor on the list of spooky illustrations that shaped my little mind.

Originally published by Random House in 1963, Ghosts and More Ghosts is a superb collection of Robert Arthur's creepy, funny short stories. It seems to have been geared toward the juvenile market, but there are some real gems in here. The above is my own copy from many, many years ago, the first paperback Windward Books edition from 1972.

The cover and the illustrations that grace the title page of each story were the work of one of the 20th Century's most prolific and unique artists -- Irv Docktor (1918-2008).

Docktor created numerous album covers, playbills and advertising images for theatrical productions, and thousands of illo's for hundreds of books... and I happen to find particular delight in the little vignettes he created for Ghosts and More Ghosts.

Just take a look:
Footsteps Invisible

Mr. Milton's Gift

The Rose Crystal Bell

The Marvelous Stamps From El Dorado

The Wonderful Day

Don't Be A Goose

Do You Believe In Ghosts?

Obstinate Uncle Otis

Mr. Dexter's Dragon

Hank Garvey's Daytime Ghost

I think Do You Believe In Ghosts? is the truly scary story in this collection. The others have their own levels of creepiness, and some are very funny fantasies, but Do You Believe...? is just as effective to me today as it was 30-odd years ago.

So much to see in Docktor's work here. So many things loaded into each scene, yet there's never a feeling of clutter or chaos... just right.

By the way, I apologize for any blurriness -- most of these books are old enough that I really don't want to smash them into a flatbed scanner, so I just open them and snap the pictures. Most of the time it works pretty darn well, but even when it doesn't quite work, at least the book is still in good shape. There's nothing worse than having a brittle yellowed paperback cover snap off in your hands!

Irv Docktor was a really fascinating fellow, and clicking his name back at the beginning of this post will take you to the tribute website his daughter created for him when he passed away in 2008. It's very worth gawking at (there's some good English for you!). You'll recognize many of his works, trust me.

I'm glad I saw this book and remembered to add its imagery to the walls of our humble public house.


  1. OMG! Mikey I clicked on this page and when I saw that book I was immediately 5!!I haven't thought of that picture since then! I think I can still smell "the boy's room"....XO love you!

  2. Scholastic Books did more to help create and support Monster kids in the last half ot the century. We all must have read and reread and worn out the same books--almost all of them from Scholastic.

  3. Just noticed this was a Random House Publication--oops. The Irv Docktor pictures just reminded me of the great illustrated books we used to get in the school book sales.

  4. No doubt, Fester. I wonder how many of us noticed any difference in publishing houses when we were reading these amazing books way back when. But surely Scholastic, Random House, Dell Yearling, and Time-Life were the Big Four... yet I agree wholeheartedly -- Scholastic was THE big one for Monster Kids. Shaped generations of twisted minds, haha!