Has been another two months already? So be it! The fifties throw up their dead once again in HAUNTED HORROR #4!
First up is “Goodbye…World!” (Voodoo #7, 1953), where a plague of locusts ravage the world’s agricultural base. In a desperate bid to destroy the menace that threatens to starve them, humanity releases pesticides en masse. But these locusts were only the prelude to a far worse threat to the world: an alien race of harpies bent on, you guessed it, world domination!
When I say harpies, I mean classic style flying hag women with talons and fangs. This is literally the force that attacks the world and tries to kill all humans. And it works. They don’t have space ships or advanced weapons. They don’t even seem to have all that great offensive ability. They just fly around murdering people. They aren’t even stated to be immune to bullets either, so I can only assume the armies of man seriously dropped the ball when it came to fighting them.
Also, the final plan humans manage to pull off is a half-hearted attempt to exile some humans in a plane and hope they repopulate the planet. Not even a group of humans, no. They grab just one couple and send them on a plane, even though you need several couples just to have a viable gene pool and avoid crippling inbreeding.
Although I guess the lame plot twist at the end wouldn’t have worked if there were dozens of people. This one wasn’t too bad, although a lot of assumptions need to be made before it can earn its downer ending.
“The Devil Puppet” (Worlds of Fear #5, 1952) is your standard evil puppet story. An aging puppeteer is at the end of his rope, unable to obtain work and out of swag to hock. But all of this changes when he finds the supple wood from an old tree…that just happens to have been used for hanging executions. Fashioning a creepy ass wooden boy, his luck begins to turn around as people flock from all around to see his shows.
This one is pretty good so far as creepy stories go. In fact, this one is especially chilling because of my own…let’s call it casual fear of creepy puppets/dummies/dolls. Let’s just say there’s a certain animate slasher that gave me nightmares as a kid, and I still can’t stand to see images of it.
The story deals with one old man driven by obsession to create an object that ultimately turns around and abuses him. Forces him to do its bidding, powerless to stop the creature he made commit acts of evil. Because when you really think about it, the only way evil dummies can actually be a threat is via coerson, given that they are made of wood and cloth and are about two feet high. If the guy wasn’t old and fat, he probably could have just kicked the puppet’s ass and be done with it.
“Love From A Plant” (Tales of Horror #2, 1952) tells the tale of a botanist trapped in a loveless marriage, who cares only for his plants. His wife, understandably, doesn’t take kindly to having her man stolen by vegetables, and tries to kill them. But the situation changes when, by accident, the man discovers a chemical that seemingly allows a plant to feel love.
Once that is derived, he finds it a simple matter of concocting a similar but opposite chemical; one that can make a plant feel hate.
If you’re to gain any enjoyment from this particular fable, you must ignore how absurd the science is. Potassitate Carbonite is stated as the sole chemical to induce love in plants, and I don’t even need to be a scientist to know that isn’t true. Nor do I need to be a scientist to know the idea of a chemical formula “the exact opposite” of it is also misrepresenting chemistry, as are the total lack of scientific method that leads to this man’s conclusions. No, we will ignore the bad science on the grounds that he uses his new-found insane knowledge to create a “hate spray” in his own words. Which is simply awesome.
I’m just going to say this man had a breakthrough and move on.
“The Man Who Beat The Devil” (Mysterious Adventures #23, 1954) is your standard “guy makes deal with devil and then tries to wiggle out of his end of the bargain” story. Literally, that’s practically the entire plot. Some guy loses all his money and his wife for reasons wholly to do with his own poor decision making skills. A guy in a suit and cape, calling himself Beel Z. Bubb, offers to give him wealth beyond measure for twenty years, after which Mr. Bubb claims the man’s soul. Somehow this guy seems to think it’s possible to get out of his Faustian pact, leading to the conflict/climax.
Although I will give him credit. He managed to trick the demon into including his terms for how he will ultimately die (by drowning) into their contract, something I doubt any fallen angel worth his salt would agree to.
I would give the comic credit by saying the whole story would be new at the time, and hadn’t had time to really become cliché within the horror comics genre. Except I can see my own copy of the aforementioned Faust sitting on my bookshelf as I type. From a certain point of view, the moral lesson of note making deals with the devil was old hat long before now, so it would take a certain kind of idiot to even consider the deal. Then again, half the fun of these horror comics is watching idiots get themselves into dangerous situations and dying because of their greed, envy, or pride. And I admit I have a certain fondness for tales that prove no, you cannot beat the devil at his own game.
No, not even if you try that. Or that. Or that. Where would you even get that much lard?
Speaking of characters dying by their own greed, our next tale is “The Groping Ghost” (Adventure Into Darkness #6, 1952). In addition to being the greatest title for a supernatural-themed pornography, this one uses the framing device of a paranormal investigator trying to prove the existence of ghosts through a personal anecdote to a gathering of skeptical club goers. He proceeds to weave a history of his friendship with an old college buddy, his death, and the ghost that arises to seek revenge on the ones responsible.
In telling this tale, said investigator provides no concrete evidence proving the existence of ghosts. Which was the entire reason behind relating said story in the first place. Despite it being entirely likely the guy is making it up or is crazy, the guys who all agreed supernatural phenomenon was hogwash completely believe him. As I recall, the Dilbert cartoon had an entire episode revolving around how stupid studies were that only had anecdotal evidence to back them up. And none of those actually tried to make people believe in ghosts.
“Rider In The Storm” (Adventures Into Darkness #11, 1953) is a one-page short story. A truck driver finds a smart-dressed woman walking in the rain at night. He offers her a ride to her home, and to pay him back she gives him her bracelet. When he comes back to return it (being it was very valuable), he discovers the woman in question was dead a week. Ooh!
Last on the list is “Terror On TV!” (Weird Chills #3, 1954). The family of a television director sit down with friends to watch their son’s new program. Only to find it progressively more alarming and horrific as the “program” goes on, with monsters attacking the station staff. Once killed, the innocent victims rise and mutate into horrible abominations themselves, taking their orgy of violence to the outside world. The family turns off their set, disgusted at the spectacle, and resolved to give their son a piece of their mind.
It’s just too bad it wasn’t part of the act.
This one reminds me of the infamous Orson Welles radio production of War Of The Worlds, with a faked invasion by aliens sounding so real that a panic arose. Except this might be the logical opposite, with a very real televised monster apocalypse being played off as just part of the show. Combined with the panels of the TV footage becoming progressively tighter around the “screen”, to the point where line between the television and the shots at home begin to blur, and we’re looking at a pretty chilling story.
So remember kids, don’t watch television. It will turn out to have monsters that come to life and destroy the entire world with a monster plague. Stick to safe, reliable horror comics instead!