The Books Made Me: "Alfred Hitchcock's Haunted Houseful"

by Dan Stout in


Man, Hitchcock used to be everywhere. His films, of course, but also the television (Alfred Hitchcock Presents) on the radio, on vinyl and cassette tape (tales of mystery and murder) and in all kinds of books. My favorite were the Three Investigators, but that's a tale for another "These Books Made Me" entry.

Today I'm reminiscing about the big, gorgeous Hitchcock anthologies. Just look at that subtitle: Nine "Cool" Stories about Haunted Houses and Ghosts for Boys and Girls" 
What's not to love?

Haunted Houseful was a favorite of mine growing up. We had an old library edition (notice the library binding-- good times!) and it's full of stories by the likes of Arthur Conan Doyle, Manley Wade Wellman, Elizabeth Coatsworth, and Mark Twain. The stories are great fodder for a young imagination, but it's the illustrations by Fred Banbery that really up the creepy quotient.

The illustrations below are great examples. The first is end paper illustration, just inside the front and back cover. Catching elements of most of the stories, along with the ever-watchful Hitch, it was an endlessly fascinating window into a world of haints and hauntings. 

Next is an illustration for Constance Savery's "The Wastwych Secret." This just simply brings the creepy.

Alfred Hitchcock's Ghostly Gallery is structured similarly. A number of classic ghost stories, each accompanied by one or more Banbery illustrations. Banbery's work is still solid in this volume, but these stories are a bit more intense, and they're the ones that stuck with me over the years. Some of these tales are humorous, but others have an almost gleeful viciousness, especially considering the target readers' age. 

The Solve Them Yourself Mysteries was a different critter entirely. A collection of mysteries rather than supernatural tales, they're a sort of longer form "Encyclopedia Brown". Each of the five stories is full of the clues needed to solve the case, and Hitchcock injects himself as a commentator, challenging the reader to see through the lies and deceptions, and suss out the culprit before the end of the story. All these novellas were written by Robert A. Arthur, a mainstay of YA anthologies in the 60s. 

Individually, these are all fun books full of smart literature. Taken together, they helped shape my reading tastes, and challenged me to push my thought process, reading closely to catch clues, and using my internal visualizations to explore the rich worlds contained within.

 

by Dan Stout