Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Time-Life The Enchanted World: Ghosts

I am a legitimate, to the bone product of the 1980's. I watched Transformers and G.I Joe, He-Man, and even She-Ra though I hated her and possibly thought her twin brother was hawt. But some of the staples of my childhood in that most neon-colored of decades have been forgotten, and I am here to remind you of them, starting with a book series that my mom got: Time-Life Books "The Enchanted World" series. Anyone else remember these? Here's the commercial, to stir the blood into remembrance, as it were:

We had a ton of these; my mother is the progenitor of my morbid streak, though she's much less open about it than yours truly. I LOVED these books when I was a kid; I was about five years old or thereabouts when Mom started getting them. If I begged enough she might read pieces of it aloud to me as I played in the backyard and she worked on her tan. I started out just looking at the pictures, then eventually reading the captions and little stories told in the margins; by the time I was in high school I knew my favorites cover to cover.

For years I tried to talk Mom into letting me have them-- I doubt seriously they've been read all that much since I left home, but she would never give them to me. It's like that damn Monster Mash record, all over again.

Until I finally just found my own on eBay, my sister and I would slap the SHIT out of each other over who got this album when Mom died. We're a delightful bunch.

Most of my friends didn't remember these books at all, probably because it was a mail-away deal, not something you could just impulse buy at the local book store. Those who did usually only had Witches and Wizards, the first volume in the series. Mom has at least ten of these volumes, which was apparently unusual.

I wanted to read these books again so badly, but didn't want to pay God knows how much on eBay. Compounding the problem, I didn't know the name of the series (The Enchanted World). Doing a search online for a book called Ghosts usually ends up about how you'd imagine it would. But one day Bevin, my frequent (and often unwilling) partner in crime (as opposed to Cins, who is ALWAYS willing to shit stir) and I lucked out one day whilst shopping in Seattle. We went to Half Price Books, a store whose very existence makes me ridiculously happy, when a familiar brown cover (Magical Beasts) caught my eye as I was heading upstairs to look for more glorious girl-smut to add to my forever expanding library. The book was on the very top of a tall shelf, unnoticed for who knows how long; only reason I saw it was because it just happened to be at eye level with my head at the right angle when I was on one specific step. Between myself and Bevin (she bought Water Spirits, I bought almost all of the rest) we decimated that shelf. I got almost all of my favorites (still need Gods and Goddesses and Water Spirits) and a few other my mom doesn't have. Several of them are of a decidedly spooky bent, and perfect for this blog and the upcoming season!

My favorite as a kid was Ghosts. Simple, elegant, freaky as Hell's own gate. I would haul this out every time I had a sleep-over; great fodder for scaring the piss out of myself as well as my poor victim, usually one of my best friends, D.J. Heh. I'll have to remind her of that.

Skeleton or not, I'd still kiss him. With tongue, all lickory like! Painted by Horace Vernet.

This book is so very cool and creepy; the cover alone was enough to give myself the chills, and more than once, even as a teen, I had to put the book away when home alone because I'd unnerved myself. I self-medicated with My Little Ponies. (True fact: Cins was a My Little Pony in a former life! I was a witch.)

The book utilized a wide variety of artistic talent-- in researching this, I made some surprising discoveries. I also discovered that other than cover pictures, you can't find SHIT for these books. So I took photos; I could have scanned but eh, I'm lazy.

Click any of the pictures below for size GIGANTIC, so you can read the text on some of 'em!

This is just the flyleaf. There are three or four of them like this; how effing scary is that?! Painted by John Jude Palincar.

There's a lot of tricks like these in this book, and freaking LOVE it. Book credits this to Yvonne Gilbert.

This is one of the pictures I "hid" from; didn't like to actually look at it, as it were. Called the Ankou, a representative of Death in Bretagne (Brittany). Credited to Mark Langeneckert.

This is from the story titled as The Hooded Congregation, a story from Sweden. Scariest Christmas eeeeever. This and several other contributions in this book was done by Chris Van Allsburg, the artist who wrote and drew The Polar Express, Jumangi, and Zathura! I find it hilarious that I knew this guy's work from this; we never owned any of his children's books.

"Clattering on the staircase and howling in the hall, ghosts known as screaming skulls terrorized anyone who sought to displace them from the houses that once had been theirs." (pgs 58-9) Painted by John Jude Palencar.

This snippet is the reason my younger brother and I don't like to go near random wooden stakes in the ground. Seriously. Painted by Marshall Arisman.

Does this really need words? Painted also by Marshall Arisman.

One of my favorite ghost stories of all time, painted by Judy King Rieniets.

The Wife's Revenge; if my husband poisoned me and drove me to suicide he'd be lucky if the least he got was a haunting. Created by Kuniyoshi, a famous Japanese artist who was born in the 18th century. Old school horror!

She sees you. Everywhere. I mean EVERYWHERE. Go check under the table cloth. G'wan. Have a peek. Painted by Gary Kelley.

Remember the story of the bride who wanted to play hide and seek at her wedding reception? Yeah, they found her. Eventually. I'm gonna play trick-or-treat at my wedding reception just to see the uneasy looks on everyone's faces. Painted by Rick McCollum.

These books are pretty prevalent online for those interested in checking a few out. I love them and recommend them to everyone; you can get the whole set (all TWENTY ONE volumes) for about 150$, which breaks down to pretty minimal per book. Not bad for something that originally retailed in 1985 for 15$. A lot of people are selling the books individually, too, and your local library might have some to flip through; I know ours does.

Go forth! Read and better yourselves! Now please excuse me, this took me hours to write, I'm sure you have eye strain, and I need a shower.


Nojh said...

Wow! You wrote a novel about a novel.

That looks like a really fun book. I don't suppose there is anything in there about skeletons? Ghost are my next favorite horror thing!

Sadly I already have enough unread books to suffocate myself with, AND I want to read Nocturnals (which I got out bid on! Seriously! But now I'm just buying it from Amazon).

Cins said...

I remember years and years ago seeing the entire set sold at a new and used Fantansy/SciFi book store up in No Call called Dark Carnival. Unfortunately I was a poor student at the time and i couldn't buy them. I really love those books. I remember the comercial vividly and always wanted those books!
And I was SO not a my little pony in a past life!!...I was a friggin' Care Bear Cousin! Do your research, woman!

Stac said...

Wow, for real?? I'm surprised! Did they have Black Planet for cheap on Amazon?

Skeletons are covered a lot in this book; there's the bit on the screaming skulls that I posted, and then there is I think a whole section on the grim reaper.

There's also a story of a guy who finds himself, disoriented, standing on his own front stoop. He's not sure how he got there, and he can't get in because the doors have all been latched. He goes around to his bedroom window and sees that his wife has fallen asleep reading, leaving the candle lit. He taps on the window and when she wakes, she looks at him and screams. He taps again, trying to calm her that it's just him, not some perv, and when he looks at his hand, it's all bone. He blacks out, end of story.

I know, I talk too much whether it's in person or in writing. :)

Stac said...

Cins: No way. You were SO a My Little Pony-- that's the only excuse for that hair! ;D

Next time I come I'll bring a few so you can flip through them-- the Faeries and Elves one is AWESOME.

Nojh said...

Maybe you were some weird Care Pony Cousin thing!

zombiestomper said...

I loved those books I used to get them at the libary. They almost got me kicked out of school because the ultra religious dumb as shit inbred rednecks thought they were satanic.

Stac said...

ZS: You're fucking with me, right? Right? Please say yes. >.<

Tower Farm said...

That commercial is so classic. I LOVE that is starts with a "lucky rabbit's foot" -- I think I had like 6 of those in the 80s.

Stac said...

Billy: I did too; remember when you could get 'em out of the 25 cent machines?

If you look on youtube there's a great version with Vincent Price narrating. I wanted to use that, but embedding was disabled.

zombiestomper said...

I wish I could tell you I'm fucking with you but I'm not.

emily said...

my all time favorite series of books as kid. we had many of the time life sets. im hoping to come up on a used set this christmas. did you ever see two books with illustrations by Allan Aldridge called "The Peacock Party" and "The Butterfly Ball". I would spend hours holed up in my room getting lost in the fantastical pictures... im a mom now, and just re-purchases them for myself and my daughter. check them out!

Bonhomme said...

As a kid I've read those for the local public library. I'm French-Canadian so I read the French translation (otherwise identical). They were called "Les mondes enchant├ęs" in French, which is a direct translation.

I kind of forgotten about those but just like you stumpled accross 5 or 6 or a Montreal used bookstore (now closed-down). On my book-hunting night I managed to have a pretty complete collection by now.

As of note, the great Vincent Price also did some delighfully creepy commercial for those; go check on Youtube!

The Malum said...

First, thanks for the kick in the nostalgia!

Second, you might like this interview that was done with Marshall Ainsman: