Friday, October 31, 2014

German Antique Die Cut Skeleton

Found in a local antique shop just in time for Halloween, this heavily embossed, die cut skeleton was made in Germany circa 1920, and measures 19 inches tall.

It had long been on my Halloween wish list; I'd only ever seen it in books before. Known as the "waving skeleton," it's much more unusual, and uncommon, than the typical jointed model with posable limbs.

Have a happy Halloween!

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Hugo, Man of a Thousand Faces

Presenting one of the creepiest and most unsettling toys ever made: Hugo, Man of a Thousand Faces, released by Kenner in 1975.

Hugo was a 12 inch vinyl puppet/mannequin head who came wearing an artist's smock and with a set of facial disguise accessories. A tube of special glue allowed kids to attach the disguise pieces in a seemingly endless array of combinations, creating a huge variety of characters. A thousand, allegedly.

Children were encouraged to use the disguise pieces on themselves as well as on Hugo, and Kenner suggested Hugo could even serve as a special "friend."

These are not the sort of puppet friends you'd find in Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood. 

I'm sure Kenner's intentions were good. After all, Mattel's Barbie styling heads had been best-sellers for several years by this point, and little girls across the country were thrilled with the opportunity offered by these playsets to do hair and makeup.

It must have seemed reasonable to Kenner toy company executives to make a similar product for boys, a mannequin head with accessories boys could use to change the character's appearance. And a spy character with disguises made perfect sense, as it also tied into the popularity of espionage related toys and TV shows of the time. The result, however, was incredibly off-putting, and the finished product now holds a place in toy history as one of the most creepy and disturbing playthings of all time. Take a look:

There's just something unsettling about Hugo: his dead stare; the way he appears to be sizing the viewer up, waiting for just the right moment to begin creeping across the floor towards you; his stare; and again, his stare. Oh, the stare is so unnerving. Just look at it! I can't bear to. As I type this, I have to make sure I can't see that part of the above picture. Let's move on. 

Adding the accessories (which include hairpieces, false chins and teeth, fake noses, glasses, scars, warts, an eyepatch, a bandage, and more) doesn't really help. In most cases, it only makes him even creepier.

"I can still see you," says Hugo.

Suggestions from the box. Shudder.

The least unnerving version of Hugo I've come up with is this one, which I call Disco Hugo. His crazy 70's sideburns make him somewhat more comical and easier to bear, as long as he's not looking at you directly.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

1960s Addams Family Puppets

It's nearly Halloween, and so time for a visit with the Addams Family.

These hand puppets were made in 1964 by the Ideal Toy Corporation, and feature molded vinyl heads in the likenesses of the television actors, attached to printed cloth puppet sleeves.

These three characters, Gomez, Morticia, and Uncle Fester, were apparently the only ones produced for this line. Similar puppets were made of characters from the Munsters (but everyone knows the Munsters weren't as cool as the Addamses.)

Everyone's favorite Uncle. 

Sunday, October 12, 2014

1960s Monster Colorforms

Classic movie monsters were all the rage in the 1960s, thanks in large part to the showing of Universal's 1930s-40s horror films on television.

At the height of the monster craze, the Colorforms line of playsets, which feature removable vinyl pieces and cardboard backdrop scenes, came out with this fabulous item, the "Glow in the Dark Create a Monster Cartoon Kit."

Inside the colorful box are a playboard, two sheets of vinyl character pieces, and an instruction booklet.

The playboard is a cartoony scene of a mad scientist's laboratory, complete with electrical equipment, beakers and vials, and a slab for the Monster:

The instruction booklet offers suggestions on setting the scene, and advice for parents on the wholesomeness of the activity set. Colorforms can teach children such skills as finger dexterity, sense of spatial relationships, and size matching, according to the booklet. I expect children could have cared less about those things, and were largely interested in the glow in the dark features.

My set, purchased last year from the collection of a comic book artist, had never been opened, but that is no longer the case. How could anyone resist playing with this fabulous toy?!

Click here to see another vintage Colorforms monster-themed set, the Castle Dracula Fun House, and here for an Addams Family set.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Halloween Witch Candy Container

Every fall I hope to add a piece or two, if I'm lucky on the hunt, to my collection of antique Halloween stuff. This year, I found a wonderful old candy container.

Measuring just under 6 inches tall, this container dates circa the 1930-40s, and features a black robed witch atop a pumpkin. It's made of a pulpy composition type material, like so many of the jack o' lanterns from this time period. 

Originally it would have been filled with candy or nuts, and the young owner would have retrieved them by removing this wooden plug on the underside.

Click here and here to see my other Halloween candy containers. 

Monday, October 6, 2014

Antique Postcard: Halloween Pranks

Happy October! My favorite holiday will be here soon, so it's time to start posting Halloween stuff.

I'll begin with an antique postcard I found recently. Even though the card is in rough shape, the illustration was an unusual one I hadn't seen before, so it was still worth snapping up, especially as it was only a couple of bucks.

In this little scene, three mischievous boys are engaged in a classic Halloween prank: switching store signs. Here they are replacing a dressmaker's sign with that of a sausage and sauerkraut shop. Imagine the confusion the next morning.

This card also features a wonderful, cartoony witch, and a bizarre, vivid green cat.

Watch out for pranksters this month! More Halloween and spooky stuff to come.