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  • Writer's pictureedwardianjackal

Alfred Hitchcock's "Haunted Houseful"

Books weren't exactly plentiful back in 'the day' - it was fairly rare to own more than a few books and an entire library of worthwhile hard-cover books was rare in my world. The only persons with shelves were typically a string of paperbacks.

Anthology books were a boon, because we could get a few different stories in a single volume. Some of these anthologies were curated well, and, if lucky, had an illustrator that tied the stories together with a visual cohesion.

I was lucky one Sunday afternoon with my mom where we came across a bookstore that was having a bit of a fire sale. And, from the bins, I came across an anthology of horror and mystery stories. As I could only buy a single book, I stacked several, scrutinized their spines, ultimately choosing this one because I was getting nine stories together.

The venerable "Haunted Houseful", branded with Alfred Hitchcock's recognizable name, brought with it dose of horror, albeit with a friendlier bent.

The tag line of the book boasted, "Nine "cool" stories about haunted houses and ghosts for boys and girls." The book first published in May of 1961 by Random House, edited by Robert Arthur and illustrated by Fred Banbery.

Of the stories, two would be foundational for me and lead me further down the rabbit hole of two giants - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and a Sherlock tale, The Red-Headed League, and, Mark Twain's The Treasure of the Cave.

The Sherlock tale did challenge me to read and re-read until I understood a fairly standard detective tale - Sherlock thwarting an attempted robbery by resolving the clues given to him by a pawnbroker by the name of Wilson. What I had learned to appreciate from it, was forcing myself to think like Sherlock does as well as appreciate the format in which Conan Doyle writes.

The Mark Twain tale was a direct life from Tom Sawyer - which also led me to read the entire book, which led me further into Huckleberry Finn. The latter is a book I read at least once a year. It's an amazing piece of Americana.

I recently swept ebay for a solid copy of Haunted Houseful and they do go for quite a bit. I opted for a less auspicious copy, along with several others. I was glad I could get my hands on one and we'll pass it off to my boys to read a few.

As for the visual, Fred Banbery - famous for his artwork for Paddington Bear - had a stark, contemporary style to the books. I have to say a few did freak me out at the time and I wouldn't read them, if not for daylight. Here are a few photos from the book.

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