Anthologies – HAUNTED HORROR #6


It’s back, and just in time for October! HAUNTED HORROR #6 continues the stream of spine-tingling terror dredged up from the bowels of the Golden Age. We’ve even got a new horror host presenting: the vile mistress, Madam Clizia! Prepare yourself my children!

It’s been longer than usual since the last issue of Yoe Books’ HAUNTED HORROR, a collection of Golden Age horror comics. So long in fact I worried the series had concluded unexpectedly. It’s difficult to not make such an assumption given that Yoe Books has very minimalist ideas about how to structure a website. Being partnered with (or possibly owned by, I’m not sure) IDW probably doesn’t help on that score.

Yes, I’m still complaining about IDW’s poorly designed website. But whatever, onto the horror!

HAUNTED HORROR #6 introduces us to a new horror host this time, one Madam Clizia. Not that this affects the actual stories collected therein. Funnily enough, the cover still advertises good old Forelock the Warlock, even though he’s not present.

First story is “The Improved Kiss” (Weird Terror #8, 1953), introducing readers to (very arguably) history’s greatest monster: Baluk Khan, the right arm of Genghis Khan! His hordes of stereotypical Mongolian warriors rides through Asia, mercilessly cutting down everything in its path. Since peaceful discourse cannot be achieved, and their army not takable in a fight, what’s a weak nation to do against the savagery of Baluk? Why, besting him with a kiss.

A kiss of death!

I don’t get paid enough (read: at all) to actually do a five second google search and verify this comic’s claims, but I’m going to take a guess and say it’s just a bit offensively inaccurate. Maybe. The most I know of the Mongols is that they are always the exception. In spite of the questionable accuracy, it’s a rare occurrence to have a period horror story, at least one set before the 19th century.

“Deadly Pickup” (Voodoo #16, 1954) would have made for a decent tale of terror…if the plot twist weren’t spoiled on the very first page. This happens a lot in 50s horror titles, and it’s hard enough as it is to act surprised at twists that are telegraphed early on. There’s no accounting for readers being jaded and genre savvy, but it’s another thing entirely to reveal the twist at the beginning!

So in this story, a doctor and his nurse/girlfriend find a woman near dead on the road while there’s an escaped mental patient loose. But the mental patient isn’t the one the two should worry about!

Yeah, it still doesn’t work, since the title of the tale alone gives away too much.

“String ‘Em Up” (Mysterious Adventures #18, 1954) is yet another killer puppet story like in the previous HAUNTED HORROR. Although this at least focuses on the humans and less on the puppets. A beloved but unmarried puppet master saves a woman from her suicide attempt. Allowing her to stay with him because her life sucked, he eventually marries her. But being married to an old man is restricting for a woman of taste, and her eyes begin to venture to…younger pastures. It’s a tale of infidelity, selfishness, murder, and supernatural vengeance!

It’s pretty good, although it tends to drag a bit. And once again, the first page spoils the ending a bit. Still, the story firmly sides with the “horrible characters meet a just end” side of horror stories, and it’s pretty obvious their unusual demise was the only way they were getting theirs.

“Who Shall Inherit The Earth?” (Tales of Horror #4, 1953) is a story about rats. Intelligent rats with a bone to pick with humanity! When a mad scientists intelligence-enhancing formula gets snubbed by the local military, he vows revenge. He’ll raise an army of rats with brains and loyalty to him, and together they’ll take over the world!

Of course!

Although the motivation for world domination starts to fall apart when one realizes the mad scientist only failed to receive support in the first place because he told them what his formula could do…without showing any proof. Apparently he devised the miracle concoction without actually testing on living things to prove it could work. He only started testing it after he vowed revenge. How does he even know the formula works? And if he had tested it before, why couldn’t he present the test subjects to the military to support his assertion? This entire plot hinges on a guy being really brilliant, but also pants-on-head idiotic. The only possible explanation I can think of is that the guy is a Genius in the Transgression sense, and his development only works by the reality-bending powers of his own insanity.

On the other hand, this comic includes the rats learning how to use machine gun turrets. That is automatically awesome, I don’t care what anyone says.

“Die Laughing” (The Thing #13, 1954) is easily my least favorite of this issue’s fare. It’s about a sadistic fraternity head and his unending desire to haze the living crap out of his pledges. The final ritual is a convoluted haunted house gag, which he insists will leave people dead from laughter. Surprisingly, death by laughter never transpires, so I’ll give the comic credit on that score. Of course things go horribly wrong, but in a way that I certainly didn’t see coming.

It’s too bad the story runs on way too long, has an ending that completely comes out of nowhere, and leaves too many unanswered questions. And not in a good way. I think the length is the worst part. The plot point about people going into the house only to seemingly disappear is tortured to death before readers get any kind of payoff. And the payoff they get isn’t substantive enough to justify the time it took to play out.

“A Honeymoon of Horror” (Eerie #16, 1954) begins, funnily enough, with a man and wife embarking on their honeymoon. Only for it to end in the death of the wife within minutes of driving off. That has to be a record. In his grief, the man makes horror movie mistake #25: saying he would sell his soul to resolve his conflict. From there it’s a standard deal with the devil story, complete with Beel Z. Bubb himself. I like how he got his red cape back from the last time we saw him on HAUNTED HORROR, though he’s also changed his face.

In truth, it’s not completely standard a deal with the devil tale. It goes psychological halfway through, as the tortured main character somehow escapes the clutches of his deal for a time, and seeks therapy for his apparent hallucinations. It doesn’t work of course, but as I read it, all I can think of is that episode of The Simpsons where Homer supposedly creates an imaginary friend who is clearly the guy from Everybody Loves Raymond. Except it turns out “Ray” was a real guy all along, and Homer received electroshock therapy for absolutely nothing.

What was I talking about? Oh right, the comic. Yeah, it was okay.

And lastly we have “The Cavern of the Damned” (Web Of Evil #10, 1954). A diver travels through an underwater cave, only to find a race of three-eyed humanoid aliens. And they want to take over the world of course! Their only weakness: their third eye, which can be concealed with The Question’s face masking spray, but which doesn’t work on reflections. For some reason.

I don’t know, maybe it’s just me. But how does a spray that covers an eye not show up in a reflection? And why wouldn’t they try to remove that limitation since they have so much time to infiltrate human society?

Whatever, the guy escapes with his life, intent on exposing the aliens. So does he do the rational thing, seeking out and gathering evidence and supporters against the aliens over time before he attempts to expose them? Why of course not! He goes around telling the unbelievable story to everyone he meets and acting like a crazy person whenever people exercise healthy skepticism! Because that’s how you get people to believe you.

I was going to say this issue came out so late that it meant the next one wouldn’t be released until after Halloween, the most appropriate time for this comic to come out again. But then I stopped caring and decided to be thankful we got one in time for October in general. This issue also marks the one year anniversary of the first issue, given the bi-monthly release schedule. If you haven’t already begun reading the series, there’s still some time left. It’s not like you’re missing anything by skipping the first few.

And have a Happy Halloween, boys and ghouls.

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