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Sixty Years Later: Bruce Markusen Revisits Alfred Hitchcock’s Ghostly Gallery



Sixty Years Later: Bruce Markusen Revisits Alfred Hitchcock's Ghostly Gallery

A few weeks back, I wrote about the wonderful artwork that appeared in the 1961 book, Alfred Hitchcock’s Haunted Houseful. That hardcover volume was a gift from my parents—and my first foray into the written genre of horror.

Let’s now turn to the second horror book I ever read. Appropriately enough, it was the follow-up to Haunted Houseful, a book carrying the title of Alfred Hitchcock’s Ghostly Gallery.

Published in 1962, Ghostly Gallery proved to be every bit as riveting as Haunted Houseful. Like its predecessor, it’s a compilation of short stories about ghosts, ghoulish figures, and the world of the macabre. The stories are geared mostly toward children, but they also serve an adult audience.

While the authors are different from Haunted Houseful, the images are once again drawn by the brilliant British artist, Fred Banbery. In Haunted Houseful, Banbery used a blue tinge for all of his drawings. In Ghostly Gallery, Banbery switched to a green coloring as a way of accenting his illustrations. The lone exception to this is the cover art, where Banbery used multiple colors, along with fantastic imagery to pique the interest of readers. On the cover, we see a young boy tucked into small bed in a barebones room featuring drab walls and old wooden floors. Absolutely petrified, the boy cannot sleep, causing him to sit up in bed, while holding the blanket over the lower half of his face. Wide-eyed with fear, he is obviously frightened by some sight or some sound within the room, but he also seems unaware of a bizarre headboard that has transformed itself into a demonic version of Alfred Hitchcock himself, along with a lingering shadow created by some unseen figure of large and grotesque proportions. The cover image, so stunning and creative, is an example of Banbery at his genius best.

Ghostly Gallery Book Cover

The inside cover of Ghostly Gallery is similarly creative and unusual. It can best be described as a dark series of catacombs, which have been infiltrated by a gathering of unusual characters. The array of oddballs includes a fat man seen floating near the ceiling, two different disembodied hands, a pair of detached legs, a large eye, and most disturbingly, a moose-like figure that is walking on two long legs instead of the standard four. As if the cover image isn’t powerful enough, the wild but well-executed imagery on the inside cover is dead solid perfect for pushing a young reader to turn the pages.

Ghostly Gallery Inside Image

While the stories contained within Ghostly Gallery don’t quite live up to the expectation of the cover and inside cover drawings, they are still entertaining and worthwhile. One of the stories from the book that has most intrigued me is “The Haunted Trailer.” It was written by an excellent author and radio contributor named Robert Arthur, who edited the entire volume and later wrote The Three Investigators series of books that also carried Hitchcock’s name. The story of “The Haunted Trailer” is not frightening at all; it’s really a blend of ghost story and comedy. As laid out by Arthur, a newly married man buys a used trailer, only to realize that it is haunted by a troublemaking ghost. The ghost claims that he, and not the man, is the rightful owner of the trailer. This creates a comical conflict that persists throughout the pages.

Although the story is a good one, at least from a child’s perspective, the drawing from Banbery is just as effective. We see the image of the trailer on a country road, but seen traveling in mid-air, and without an actual car pulling it along the roadway. It reminds me of those classic car chase scenes in films, when a car is traveling so fast as it hits an incline that it leaps off the ground.

Ghostly Gallery Haunted Trailer

Of course, in this case, the trailer appears to be a good 10 to 12 feet off the ground. Just looking at it reminds me of an amusement park ride that jars you so suddenly by lifting you into mid-air, creating a rush of excitement—and possibly a queasy fluttering in the stomach. All of those feelings come back for me when I take in the iconic image of Banbery’s flying trailer.

An even stronger story can be found in “The Upper Berth,” a classic tale written by Francis Marion Crawford. It tells the story of a man named Brisbane, who likes to take cross-Atlantic trips on luxury liners. In his latest venture, Brisbane occupies the lower berth of state room No. 105, where strange occurrences have been taking place. To his disappointment, Brisbane must share the room with a passenger in the upper berth, a man whom he hears but never sees. Brisbane is later informed by the ship’s captain that the mysterious passenger has disappeared.

The image contained within the story give us a hint as to what might be occupying the upper berth. This person has crooked, gangly fingers. But who is he, or what is he? We will not find out until the final pages.

Ghostly Gallery Upper Berth

While most of the 11 stories chosen for Ghostly Gallery are worthwhile, the best story in the book is “The Waxwork,” written by A.M. Burrage, a very fine British author who often used the name of Frank Lelland. “The Waxwork” is about a young journalist who comes up with a splendid idea for a story: spending the night in a wax museum exhibit called the “Murderers Den.” But are these figures actually made of wax, or something else? One of the wax figures, depicting a hypnotist-turned-murderer named Dr. Bourdette, appears to be moving ever so slightly, thereby intriguing the journalist. As the night proceeds, the journalist continues to notice small movements, but also wonders whether he might be imagining things.

It’s an excellent short story, one of the best I’ve read from the genre and one that is suitable for both an adult audience and younger readers. The story is also accompanied by one of the book’s best Banbery images. It shows the journalist slumped in a chair, seemingly asleep, with Dr. Bourdette’s thin, foreboding figure standing over him. I can’t tell you what happens next, for fear of giving away too much of the storyline, but the entire scene (and story) is sufficient to make your skin crawl.

Ghostly Gallery Waxworks

“The Waxwork,” “The Upper Berth,” and “The Haunted Trailer” are just a few of the highlights of Alfred Hitchcock’s Ghostly Gallery. For those of you who have youngsters interested in the worlds of ghosts and monsters, this vintage volume comes highly recommended, even 60 years after its publication. And even if you’re an older, more established fan of horror, you’ll find at least a few of the stories (and most of the images) to be worthwhile and fun. Good horror literature has a way of preserving very well, and the stories of Ghostly Gallery are no exception to that unwritten rule.

If you enjoyed reading this article, you can let Bruce know via his Twitter account here.



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