Thursday, October 28, 2010

Harry Potter Land

Last week, we went on vacation, and our destination was the brand-new Harry Potter land at Universal Studios Florida. My family had to literally pull me out of there at the end of our visit as I cried, "Noooooooo....I don't wanna leeeeeeave!" Small children were looking at me askance, clearly shocked by my bad behavior. I didn't care: it was a spectacular place, quite literally looking and feeling as if we were in the Harry Potter movie world. (Just much hotter and more humid than I imagine Hogwarts' rumored Scottish location to be...)

We've got hundreds of photos to sort through still, but here's a few quick shots to start with:

Hogwarts Castle, with a signpost pointing the way to Hogsmeade. The castle was enormous, and the ride inside (not to mention the queue area for the ride, which winds through the Defense Against the Dark Arts classroom, Gryffindor Tower, and Dumbledore's office) was breathtaking.

Inside the castle, this was the main portrait gallery. It stretched for several floors overhead, and the paintings talked, moved, and conversed with each other just like in the films. It was amazing.

Outside the cauldron shop in the adjoining village of Hogsmeade.

The sign for Olivander's wand shop, with Hogsmeade buildings in the background. We waited an hour to get in the wand shop, where I gleefully bought a ridiculously overpriced souvenir wand (more on my souvenir haul in a bit), but it was still a fabulous experience.

Inside Olivander's wand shop: towering shelves jam-packed with teetering boxes.

Behind the bar at the Boar's Head, with Butterbeer on tap.  The boar periodically came to "life." Note the shrunken heads in the top left corner!

Naturally, I had to buy a lot of souvenirs at Harry Potter land. I need them for my job, of course. We throw huge HP parties at my library. Hmmm...maybe I can write off my purchases on my taxes???

What I Bought on My Vacation at Harry Potter Land:

a Monster Book of Monsters (it really works: snaps and bites and rolls around and growls!)
a wand (it doesn't really work, unfortunately...)
a Sneakoscope (lights up!)
Extendable Ears (they really work! they have a tiny microphone inside!)
a Fanged Flyer (came with a "handler's glove")
an edition of the Quibbler, complete with SpectreSpecs
a deluxe Chocolate Frog
a box of Bertie Botts' Every Flavor Beans (unopened)
a tiny bottle of Skelegro (empty)
two bars of Honeydukes chocolate
5 postcards
a sheet of actual Owl Post postage stamps
a stuffed Pygmy Puff (doesn't do anything; it's just cute)
a bottle of Pumpkin Juice
a box of Honeydukes salt water taffy (for everyone back at work)

We had to use an extra suitcase to get it all home.

More pictures to come: Honeydukes shop windows and interiors, more inside-the-castle views, and the Hogwarts Express train!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

1950s Halloween Photograph

Here's hoping you have a Halloween as happily exhausting 
as this little boy's!

Original b&w photo, 1958: found at an antique yard sale.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Vintage Jack O' Lantern Decoration

One of my favorite vintage Halloween die-cut decorations is this jack o' lantern, made of embossed cardboard circa the 1940s by H. E. Luhrs. 12 inches wide, it sports a fantastic, toothy grin.

Hi! I'm Jack!

Monday, October 18, 2010

Vintage Halloween Cupcake Picks

Circa the 1940s-50s, these pulp paper cupcake picks, 2 3/4 inches tall, include two jack 'o lanterns, a black cat, and a grinning skull. It always amazes me to find such fragile, tiny pieces of ephemera have survived for so long...

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Oddfellow the Teddy Bear

Presenting one of the quirkiest antique teddy bears in my collection: Oddfellow, a circa 1915 British bruin measuring 20 inches tall. At some point during his long life, Oddfellow had eye replacements, but apparently his surgeon was all out of matching shoe buttons:

I thought about calling him "popeye", but that seemed sort of mean.

Oddfellow came dressed in an antique child's coat festooned with vintage buttons, including a Prefect's badge and a sporting medal. I added an 1890s Independent Order of Oddfellows badge, which just seemed to suit him.

I love old Oddfellows, Shriners, and other quasi-secret society paraphenalia, and have a small collection of badges, fezzes, and whatnot, but that's a topic for another day...

Teddy Bears' Halloween

My miniature Schuco and Steiff teddy bears have agreed to pose for a Halloween photo, carving their pumpkin. The large scale antique dollhouse table and chairs are just the right size, and featured in last summer's birthday photo, too. The bears date from 1910-1950s; the furniture is early 1900s American; and the backdrop is by Edward Gorey, from his Dracula Toy Theatre.

"We love pumpkin carving!"

"Ewww...I don't think I want to stick my paw in you?"

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

King Kong Board Game

From my collection of vintage monster-themed board games comes "King Kong," made by Ideal in 1976. This was a tie-in product released in collaboration with the King Kong film remake that came out the same year. The film was not well-received; critic Leonard Maltin didn't mince his words when he said: "it dispels all the mythic, larger-than-life qualities of the original with idiotic characters and campy approach." Ouch. Still, the game is cool!

The box features fantastic promotional art from the movie poster, of Kong standing atop the World Trade Center towers (a change from the original film's climatic setting at the Empire State Building).

The game board is huge (appropriate for a story about a gigantic ape climbing gigantic buildings), measuring 32 inches long when fully opened.

The board represents the World Trade Center, and your mission as a player is to successfully attack Kong before he reaches the top. He, however, can spin about and knock you off the building, which is not a good thing.

Cards pulled can help ("take a helicopter ride!") or hinder you on your mission.

The spinner is totally cool, a tiny King Kong:

Vintage monster games generally command high prices, but Ideal's "King Kong" is still rather readily available and pretty reasonably priced, perhaps because of the remake film's unpopularity. See if you can find one, and play it this Halloween!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

King Kong Carnival Chalkware Figure

If you visited the gaming tents of a traveling carnival in the 1930s, and fortune favored you that evening, you could have won this glorious chalkware prize: a 14 inch tall statue of King Kong.

If I'd been at a carnival back then, you can bet I would have been begging my date for one of these. It always amazes me to find such old chalkware pieces in such great condition today, as they are notoriously fragile.


Monday, October 11, 2010

Siamese Twin Sock Monkeys

I love sock monkeys, especially quirky vintage ones. These aren't vintage, but they are nonetheless some of my favorites. Made by a crafter on the U.S. west coast, these siamese twin sock monkeys are one of her specialities.

Just in time for Halloween, may I present Julius and Edsel, in all their cuddly freakishness:

Hello hello!

Friday, October 8, 2010

A Haunted Portrait

Well, I don't know if it's really haunted, but it seems a distinct possibility...

My favorite antique dealer decided this year that she was ready to part with this portrait of her family ancestor. (I know what you're thinking: how could she bear to give up such an heirloom?! I wondered too.)

The tinted photograph is in its original, 21 inch tall domed-glass frame, and dates from the early 1900s. The green miasma in the background really heightens the spooky mood, I think. I'm not sure what effect the photo tinters were going for there, but I can't imagine they intended the "ghoulish vapour" look they unwittingly achieved.

Isn't he a delightfully creepy looking kid?

Several observers have said he looks rather like a young Uncle Fester, of Addams Family fame. I haven't mentioned this to the antique dealer, as I believe the little boy was actually a relative of her husband's, and I'm not sure how flattered she'd be by that comparison....

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Souvenir Spirit Photograph from the Johnstown Flood

I discovered this photograph in an old album we rescued from an abandoned house a few years ago. (That's a long story in itself, for another day...) I was thrilled to realize I had found my first "spirit photo." These images of "ghosts" created through various tricky means were all the rage during the heyday of Spiritualism in the Victorian period, and again in the 1920s.

In the photo, the young woman with the upraised arm and the old man on the left are real, while the two large, transparent figures are the "ghosts." One of the most remarkable things about this photo is that it accidentally reveals the process of making the "spirit" effect. The old man on the left simply stepped to the side before the lengthy exposure process was complete, which left his ghostly imprint in the center. The "real" old man shouldn't be in the finished photograph at all, but the photographer didn't crop the picture properly. This was a pretty sloppy spirit photo, clearly churned out at a fast clip for the tourist trade.

Original, antique spirit photos are highly collectible, and several books have been written about them.  This one is extra-special, in that it is also a souvenir photo. The back of the picture bears a stamp which reads:

"Steven Studio 318 Broad St. Johnstown PA." Pencilled on the back is the caption, "Anna and Spirit pechirt (picture?) April 1924".

This photo proves there is no event too terrible for a shameless huckster to profit from. Johnstown, Pennsylvania is famous as the site of a horrific flood that killed 2, 209 of its citizens on May 31, 1889. A dam broke during a tremendous storm, and the resulting torrent all but swept Johnstown away. The disaster was so heart-wrenching, it was commemorated country-wide in lithographs, poetry, sheet music, books, and stereograph cards all the way into the 1920s, when Hollywood released a major motion picture based on the event.

You can learn more about the Johnstown flood at the Johnstown Flood Museum, and see more spirit photographs at the American Museum of Photography.

Dexterity Puzzles from Outer Space

I love vintage hand-held dexterity puzzles. These three space themed versions are some of my favorites. Made in 1957 by Comon Tatar of New York, they feature some fantastic mid-century space-age illustrations.

"Stop the Martians!" has a classic 1950s flying saucer 
menacing a cityscape.

"Trip to the Moon" sports a sleek rocket 
and a smiling man-in-the-moon.

And "Space Gallery" offers you the chance to unapologetically 
blast away at alien invaders.
Dig the Flash Gordon style space helmet and ray gun!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Men Into Space Game

I love vintage board games and space toys, so this 1960 Milton Bradley "Men Into Space" game was an exciting find.

Based on a contemporary CBS television program, it features fantastic illlustrations and a captivating storyline:

"Colonel McCauley, an expert in moon rocketry in outer space, must send supplies in a hurry to a station on the moon. The countdown has progressed to 'X minus 10' seconds. The player astronauts man their ships and, with rockets ready to be fired, await Zero hour at the launching pads. Which fleet of Space Vehicles will be the first to conquer the perils of outer space and accomplish the mission? The excitement of this adventure, the dangers faced in clashes with meteors and comets, makes Men Into Space a thrilling game."

Check out the dashing Colonel McCauley on the cover:

Inside, the board is dazzling, featuring Sputnik-era satellites and rockets, along with atom-age design elements:

And there's Colonel McCauley again,
gazing up into space
in a confident posture,
helmet at the ready:
The spinner determines your fate at liftoff. Will your ship blast into orbit or suffer a malfunction? The tension is unbearable as you await your destiny...

Many more bad things can happen to you once you're in space, courtesy of these cards you must choose:

The playing pieces are
itty bitty plastic rockets:

 I've played this several times since I found it, and it is actually quite fun: the perfect pastime for the armchair astronaut. Just watch out for those Space Particles, and be sure to check your Oxidizer fuel line before liftoff...

Vintage Space Man Robot

One of my favorite vintage robots is this, the "Space Man" made in Japan by Horikawa in the 1960s.

The 11 1/2 inch metal robot is unusual for its lithographed face, apparently representing an astronaut inside a mechanized robot suit.

I think he looks kind of like Robert Mitchum....

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

The Amazing Magic Robot Game

One of the coolest robot-related items in my toy collection is this, "The Amazing Magic Robot" game, made in England by Merit in 1953.

Look how excited those kids are! That's because it's AMAZING!

The game contains several sheets colorfully printed with trivia questions and their answers. The Amazing Magic Robot, 2 1/2 inches tall, is placed in a circle on the question side of the board, and turned to the position of the query you would like to have answered. When picked up and placed on the answer side, he Amazingly! and Magically! spins and points to the correct answer. (It's done with magnets, somehow.)

The Magic Robot himself appears to be made from a smaller version of the Archer Space Men's robot mold. He's a cutie.

The Amazing Magic Robot is not only amazing, he's also 
Ingenious, Mystical, and Infallible!

And judging from this illustration, he's intent on world domination...

Vintage Russian Key-Wind Robot

Mechanical robot toys have been made for a long time, and the best examples are the fantastically lithographed tin varieties from Japan, circa the 1950s and '60s.
This much simpler robot, made of red plastic with a key-wind mechanism, hails from 1970s-'80s Russia. Standing about 7 1/2 inches tall, he sports a metal chest plate with cut-out circles. As he walks, a multi hued panel behind the chest plate spins, causing the colors within the circles to change.
I guess that's his super robot power: color-changing circles. His designers must have been all out of laser beam eyes and ray guns.

"Beware my color-changing circles! Flee before me, puny human!"

Monday, October 4, 2010

Vintage Invisible Man Weeble

Back in the 1970s, Scotch brand tape released a series of very creative television commercials featuring the Invisible Man, who promoted their product's high-quality "invisibility" when used for repairs.
Scotch also worked with the Hasbro toy company to create a promotional Weeble of the Invisible Man: a solid black Weeble with glow-in-the-dark hands, feet, and hat.
I didn't know anyone who had one of these back when we were kids: they were scarce back then, and are consequently even rarer today. Thank goodness for eBay...

Coming Up in October...

Just a teaser: coming up in October are lots of spooky things, including vintage Halloween decorations, a 1920s "spirit photo," monster toys and games, robots and space toys, and some other odd stuff. Stay 'tooned...