The Retro Machine (Vol. 21)

Crestwood Monster Books, Devil Dogs, and More!
October 25, 2010

Welcome to the 21st edition of The Retro Machine! Most of this was written a year ago and intended to be released then, but I was truthfully not happy with it so I sat on it. A year later, here we are, and oddly enough the 3rd Halloween-themed edition has an interesting number-related anamoly. Look at this, the Halloween versions have been Vol. 8 and Vol. 13 and when you add the two together you get Vol. 21...ooooooh spooooooky.

Anyway, pictured above is a shot of my Halloween village that I like to put up each year. I usually add something new every Halloween, and this year it was the Peanuts gang comparing tricks or treats in my pumpkin patch. I love it! Speaking of pumpkin patches, come on over to our little pumpkin patch on Facebook at Stop in and say hi please!

Crestwood House Monster Books

If you were in an elementary school anytime between the late 70's and early 90's, you may remember a certain line of books that resided in your school library. No, I'm not talking about Choose Your Own Adventure. What I am talking about are those familiar orange and black books that seemed to always be tucked away in the corner. The Crestwood House Monster Books!

These books told the stories of some of the greatest movie monsters of all time. King Kong, The Mummy, Dracula, The Wolf Man, they were all here. Now today you would probably find these books to be fairly tame in comparison to what society has become accustomed to, but rest assured, these books were scary to us as kids and were always good for making your teacher wretch back in horror.

There was something so cool about the Crestwood House Monster Books, they were always so coveted by kids at school. My personal favorite was King Kong, or any other "monster" type character. I was never too amused by "The Invisible Man" or "The Phantom of the Opera".

Did the back of your school library books always look like this?


Halloween just isn't Halloween without Elvira showing up and trying to sell me alcoholic beverages. Frankly, I don't know much about Elvira. I only remember seeing her cardboard cutouts around every Halloween at our local liqour stores, or seeing her vamp it up on TV commercials.

She sort of always reminded me of Dracula's trashy wife, which is a fair conclusion anytime a woman in suggestive black lingerie with a beehive hairdo is so anxious to get a beer in my hand. I haven't been to a liquor store in forever, does Elvira's cardboard cutout still haunt your local liquor store?

Beetlejuice Vanishing Vault

This was a really fun toy from the interesting line of Beetlejuice toys that followed the movie of the same name. It came with the vault itself and a "mini beetlejuice" of sorts. You'd put your full-sized Beetlejuice figure into the vault, close it, move the sign over (it doubled as a lever), and when you opened the vault again you found that your full-sized figure was now transformed into a mini figure! The other one was nowhere to be found!

Of course, for those of us who were old enough, we knew the other one was in there. We always opened it up just to see how it worked. It could be used for other things to, like hiding tiny things from people who were not savvy as to how it worked. In other words, you could say "no, dear brother, I have no idea where your $5 went".

Devil Dogs

Whenever Autumn came and school started up again, we'd get used to carrying our lunches with us to school. For some reason, Devil Dogs have always reminded me of the Fall season, perhaps because I happened to eat them more often during that time of year. A Devil Dog was basically a whoopie pie shaped like a hot dog and boy, was it ever a good snack for the lunch box. The only problem was that they'd be easily smooshed if your drink or other heavy items fell on top of it during the course of the day.


My first memory of Michael was the Thriller video. I remember seeing it for the first time and just being scared out of my wits, yet, yearning to see it again and again. You knew it was gonna be awesome when there was a disclaimer in the beginning from the man himself that said "Due to my strong personal convictions, I wish to stress that this film in no way endorses a belief in the occult."

I count the appearance of the zombies, coupled with Vincent Price's chilling voiceover, as probably the birth of my fascination with zombie films. It became a little less scary though when the zombies started dancing in unison.

It wasn't too long after that though before the zombies, now led by zombie Michael, got serious again (and way less coordinated) and chased the girl into an abandoned house. It was all over from there on. Since the idea of a "music video" is basically dead (have you seen the crap that's out there today?), this is easily the greatest one ever.
But by far the best part for me has always been the beginning. As we know, Michael and this girl run out of gas in the middle of the woods and are forced to walk. Michael decides to use this moment to ask her to "be his girl" and gives her a cute little ring. Not 5 seconds later, he gets very serious. Every guy who secretly knows he's a werewolf knows that once you get a girl to be "your girl", that's the perfect time to come clean about the whole werewolf thing. In what has to be some of the worst timing ever, Michael has decided to spill the secret about being a werewolf just as the full moon comes into view.

When Michael begins transforming into that werewolf, it just freaks the crap out of me, especially when he looks up at the girl and says "GET AWAY", revealing those eerie pupils. His screams of pain as he changes into the werewolf are blood-curdling to this day.

Hugo's House of Horrors

Your girlfriend Penelope has gone missing and you need to rescue her in this house of horrors! Hugo's House of Horrors was one of those fun DOS games from the early 90's that really just struck me. It was the first text adventure that I played, using the arrow keys and keyboard to type commands. You have to get in the house first by opening up the pumpkin and finding the key to the house. What follows is a trip through the house where you use trial and error to figure out how to not get eaten by the dog (seen below) or killed by the monsters attending the party (or killed by any of the things that lurk in the house).

At some point, you figure out that by wearing a mask and giving some meat to the dog, you can distract him long enough to find your way to an under ground area where you can eventually find and marry Penelope. In the dark days before the Internet, when walkthroughs did not exist, this was a pretty challenging game!

Hardees Halloween Toys

If you got a kid's meal at Hardees around Halloween 1989, you might have received one of these great little trinkets. I was never much of a Hardees guy, but I had a soft spot for these because I just enjoyed stuffing them down into their little plastic shells. The bat in the stump was the one I had, but I do remember the ghost in the bag as well (someone I knew had that one). The cat with the pumpkin is just classic. This was one of those things I stumbled upon that I had totally forgotten about, so it was neat to see it again.

Jack in the Box

This is the jack-in-the-box I owned when I was a kid. It's one of the earliest toys I can remember having, and also one of the creepiest. I believe that "Pop Goes The Weasal" was the song that played whenever you'd turn the crank on this model, but other models used different songs. I'm pretty sure that this clown scared me to death every time he popped up, which meant that Jack spent most of his time "in the box". I liked putting light things on the lid so that they would go flying off whenever Jack popped up. I would also turn the crank while holding my hand down on the lid, that way I controlled when he'd pop up. I recently noticed that Target is selling this exact model as a "retro toy"!

Gummi Spiders

One of my favorite treats to get from the local convenience store around Halloween was any one of the "gummi" animals they would have in stock. The "Pet Tarantula" was perhaps my favorite, but any creepy crawly in gummi form would do. Now these weren't the "hard" gummi candies, this was the "good kind" of gummi, the kind that was soft, stretchy, and juicy. This was also back when gummi "creatures" were about as shocktastic as you could get in the "gummi" line. Nowadays, you have gummi body parts, gummi eye balls, and other gummi things that probably wouldn't have been allowed in stores when we were kids.

Trimpers Haunted House

The Haunted House Ride in Ocean City, Maryland has been one of my favorite rides for as long as I can remember. As a kid, whenever I was on the boardwalk, I was always judging where I was based on my proximity to the Haunted House. The front facade with it's craggy, crooked orange letters and giant (almost paper mache') vampire bat is a striking contrast against most of the rest of the boardwalk. The entire attraction, inside and out, is really a work of art in its design and execution.

A close-up of the bat on the front facade

Mullet me in the early 90s

As a kid, this was very much a place of mystery. It seemed too big for me, yet I was fascinated with the idea that I could experience all the house had to offer while sitting in a little car, all of which were shaped like coffins. It would be night time on the boardwalk in the 80's, the ocean barely visible, the boards lit up with storefront lights, and the music from Thriller would play as shaggy-headed teenagers nervously giggled about what awaited them inside.

Sometime in the 80's and early 90's, i remember them adding "The Count", a vampire character standing outside the attraction. He would be holding his head, and the head would be talking about you meeting certain doom inside, or something to that effect.

Heading inside...

The inside is dark, creepy organ music plays, and a bevy of horrific things occur. Someone's decapitated head flies at you, a guy takes his last shock from an electric chair, and someone seems to be torturing another person. There used to be a room where a huge stack of barrels appeared to be tipping over to fall on you, then PFFFFAAAHHT, you'd hear that hydraulic kick in and they'd be yanked back. The place is full of hydraulic sounds to the point that hydraulic sounds creep me out still to this day. The most memorable one for me as a kid though was the last thing you see...a toilet bowl with two hands coming out of it. As a kid I worried that perhaps there was a way for a person to be flushed down a toilet!!

Here are some pics of what you'll find inside...

My wife and I heading inside in 2006

At any rate, you owe it to yourself to check out this classic ride. They are a.........dying........breed........

That wraps it up, have a Happy Halloween everyone!

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