Early 1960s vogue for spooky stuff

Was there a general fad for spooky imagery and themes beginning around 1964? Because you had The Addams Family and The Munsters on TV, there was Batman, and I recall a boardgame that a cousin had around 1966 that was called “Why” and was full of spooky imagery. And beyond that I notice little things here and there. On a Rhino collection of The Standells, I noticed that one of the band members had a little bat sticker on his guitar. There was even a German rock group called The Bats.

Was there something that spawned all these things or did they just happen coincidentally around the same time?

I was around then, and I don’t particularly think so. First off, Charles Addams had cartoons in the New Yorker magazine for decades. TV was just mining a franchise, as it did with Dennis the Menace, Blondie and many other cartoon characters. The Munsters was just another comedic treatment of scary things, and a good deal less spooky than the Abbott and Costello Meet. . . series years earlier.

Batman wasn’t spooky and was never meant to be. It was camp. The only genre it hearkened back to was the old movie serials where the hero got caught in an explosion, runaway train, quicksand pit or something else at the end of every episode.

The only really sppoky thing I recall from that era was the supernatural soap opera, Dark shadows.

From about that same time was a series of bubble gum cards called “Mars Invades” which had spectacularly gory (for the times) illustrations. There was also another series of cards based on the “Outer Limits” TV series. A number of plastic model kits based on the classic Universal monsters–Dracula, Frankenstein, the Wolf Man, the Mummy–were out around the same time. There were also some horror comics, such as Gold Key’s “Boris Karloff’s Tales of Mystery,” and "The Twilight Zone,’ DC’s “House of Mystery,” and any number of Marvel titles. All of this stuff was obviously aimed at kids (like me!). There was the occasional horror film released, but I don’t recall them being particularly numerous.

There was certainly some interest in horror and the macabre, but I don’t think the period was particularly notable for it.

I disagree with kunilou; I remember monsters and horror being quite a craze in the early to mid '60s. Monster magazines proliferated–Famous Monsters of Filmland had been around since the late '50s, but in the mid '60s it was joined by sister publication Monster World, rival Castle of Frankenstein, Creepy, Eerie, Stan Lee’s magazine with funny word balloons added to scenes from monster movies (can’t remember the name of this one offhand), and others. Many if not all of the major TV markets had regular horror movie slots, often with locals hosts–in San Diego we had sexy space gal Moona Lisa. Monster toys were big then, too. Even the current Pez dispensers featured Frankenstein and the Creature from the Black Lagoon.

There was a craze for monster stuff in the early 1960s. I was there. It was the result of several things:
1.) the rising population of Baby Boom kids. as i have ranted before, the peak of the Baby Boom was the mid 1950s, even though in media presentations they act as if the boomers from the start of the book dominated. In reality, some Boomers weren’t born until the early 1960s. In any event, you had a vast new population of kids that were mostly about 5 in 1960, with others down to zero and going up into the early teens. Prime population for viewing the 1940s and 1950s vintage horror films – not too intense, effectivelt G-rated, but interesting and unusual enough to capture their interest in a way that romances and war dramas wouldn’t.

2.) The release to television syndication of the “Shoch Theater” package in the late 1950s that put a lot of old Universal monster flicks on TV. All those Boomers could watch monsters on TV for free

3.) At the same trime, the cheapo 1950s horror and sci-fi flicks made for drive-ins and the like were available for local TV broadcasts. There were cheap Japanese films like Rodan and Godzilla, too.

4.) The rise of specialty magazines like Forrest J. Ackerman’s Famous Monsters of Filmland, that excited interest in these films and helped produce an audience.

5.) The still-burgeononing TV market, especially local channels in need of cheap and plentiful programming. You can only fill so much with reuns of Love that Bob, The Gale Storm Show, and I Love Lucy. The stations were too poor to finance their own soaps or talk shows, or to buy more recent films. So you got a lot of Three Stooges, You Bet Your Life, Cartoon shows with Kiddy hostas, and “Creature Feature” or “Chiller Theater” or “Supernatural Theater” or whatever.

Once this gets going, other elements feed on it. With a market for monster flicks, you get licensing of Universal monsters to Aurora Plastics, and model kits appear. With Frankenstein and Dracula popular, you get The Munsters. In response, you get Ther Addams Family, and so on.

See David J. Skal’s books, especially The Monster Show. He calls this 1950s-1960s boom “Monster Culture”

With all due respect, I don’t think interest in monsters and horror in the early to mid '60’s was really all that much greater than in the '50’s. The '50’s had so many horror comics of such a gruesome nature that they literally provoked a congressional investigation, and the '50’s gave us a lot of classic “B” horror flicks. That was also the period when all the old horror flicks from the '30’s and '40’s started showing up on late night TV. The late '60’s gave us* Rosemary’s Baby * and Night of the Living Dead, while the '70’s gave us *Dawn of the Dead * and The Exorcist. So I don’t think there was really anything all that exceptional about the early to mid '60’s when it comes to interest in horror in popular culture.

Don’t forget The Monster Mash

Fumetti is generally the term applied to comic books using photographs rather than drawings.

I meant I couldn’t remember the name of the magazine. It was Monsters to Laugh With. It wasn’t really fumetti because it wasn’t sequential–just a magazine full of full-page stills with funny word balloons added.

Tell them Boris sent you.

I always though fumetti was the term used for “word balloons”, regardless of whether they were drawn panels or photographs, and regardless of the magazine they’re in. That’s how the term is used in my books on comics, including Mort Walker’s Backstage at the Strips.

While I agree that there were many classic horror flicks in the '50’s, it wasn’t until the 60’s that they started proliferating on TV. More and more TV stations were starting up, and the existing ones started having longer programming hours. CalMeacham hit the nail on the head; the films were cheap and easily obtainable and provided much needed inexpensive filler for the broadcast day. Combine that with the magazines, models and other toys, and you will see that the '60’s was truly the decade where “Monster Culture” really began to thrive.There has been a mention of horror movie hosts. In NY, the only ones I remember were Zacherle and “The Creep” from “Creature Features” (who I think was Ed Ladd, but I’m not sure. Any info on this, Cal?). I regret never having seen the hosts from other cities, such as Svengoolie, Seymour, Vampira, etc. We had one here in Vegas until about 5 years ago–a vampire dressed as Elvis who called himself Count Cool Rider. Are there any horror hosts left?

According to this site, there was indeed a “monster fad” in the late 50s and into the 60s, sparked by Universal Studios’ packaging of its old horror movies to local TV stations across the country.

Hmm. That’s what the word literally refers to, but I’ve only ever heard it used as the name of the genre of sequential storytelling that uses photos with words added. According to the Wiki article, the Italians themselves use the word for regular drawing-type comics, which I did not know.

The number one impetus for what’s known as the Monster Kid era was Screen Gems’ relesase in 1957 of its Shock! syndication package of 52 horror movies, most of them old Universal Pictures classics like Frankenstein, Dracula, The Wolf Man, and The Mummy. This was the first time any of these movies had been shown on television, introducing them to a whole new generation of young people. Shock! earned big ratings in virtually every television market it played, and spawned a *Son of Shock * package of 20 additional horror movies in 1958.

The success of the Shock horror movie packages inspired the publication of *Famous Monsters of Filmland * magazine in 1958, which remains dear to the hearts of innumerable monster kids who bought it every month.

The Monster Kid era included horror comedy TV shows like The Addams Family and The Munsters, straight horror TV shows like the Gothic daytime drama Dark Shadows, Rod Serling’s Night Gallery, and Kolchak: The Night Stalker, which has recently been revived.

Bobby Pickett’s The Monster Mash was a graveyard smash, going to #1 on the pop charts in 1962. Disney got into the spirit by constructing Haunted Mansions at Disneyland and Walt Disney World. Monster Kids could eat Frankenberry and Count Chocula breakfast cereals.

Sadly, the Monster Kid era came to an end when the pop culture zeitgeist shifted to science fiction with the huge success of Star Wars in 1977.

No one seems to remember the 1940-or-so era gay rights protestors.

In the same vein, I feel like pointing out the existance of “Spook shows”, stage preformances purpoting to be demonstrations of the supernatural. They were from way before the 60s.

Geez, nobody’s saying that monster movies, comics, and so on weren’t around before and after the '60s. But there certainly was a fad for monster-themed entertainments and products at that time. It’s like the aforementioned Batman–he’s been a significant part of popular culture from the '30s right up to the present, but no one could deny that there was a Batman craze in the '60s.

We’re not saying that there weren’t any monster shows or interest in this stuff before 1960, but there certainly was an increase in it after that point, for reasons given above.

Into the 1970s they still had “Creature Double Features” on local TV and the like, but it was the availability of cheap syndicated TV shows, the “fourth network” phenomenon, and other inexpensive alternatives for programming fodder (and not, I think, interest in Star Wars) that killed off the interest in old Monster flicks. Later on there was a boomlet in Cable TV, when it needed to fill in the empty hours with cheap fodder, just as the local stations had had to, so we had old monster flicks on AMC and Turner Claasics and Billy-Bob’s show, and TNT Monstervision, which also all pandered to the now-aging Baby Boomers. But now cheap alternatives are available for those venues, too, and most of these shows are gone, too. More and more, the only place you can see them are on DVDs and the occasional AMC or whatever special.

(SIGH) I concede. I was relying on sometimes shaky 40-year-old memories, and you guys have pulled out some pretty impressive references on the subject. You kids done wore yore pore ol’ grandpa down.

Oh, I am not saying you are. I was just pointing out an interesting fact that some here might not know about.