In gladder, pre-pandemic times, I would be writing now about Halloween-type books. This was not as easy as it might sound, because Halloween, unlike Christmas, does not have a lot of traditional stories: the headless horseman being about the only literary character tro be found only at Halloween. Our propensity for scary movies year-round, as well as that of our ancestors for ghost stories at Christmas, may be to blame for this.
On the other hand, there are LOTS of Halloween postcards. But I’m not going to write about those just now. Other people have done a good job on them and, anyway, they tend to revolve around the same cliches: Jack o’ Lanterns, witches, black cats: you can find lots of those elsewhere online, too. At very high prices, because they are wildly popular, which is the reason I don’t have any, and another reason I thought I’d write about something else.
I thought we could consider scary critters on other, non-Halloween postcards. I thought we could leave out normal, everyday things people might be afraid of, of which there are many on postcards: dentists, cars out of control, mothers-in-law, large round ladies dropping out of the sky on you (It’s alarming how many of these there are: was that really such an everyday problem?) We can consider the monsters and supernatural threats which might go bump in the night the other 364 days of the year.
TOTAL; waste of time: there weren’t that many. See, in the golden age of the postcard, before World War I, some of our favorites were missing. The books Frankenstein and Dracula existed, but Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi had not yet made the respective movies which made them part of our culture. And although some newspapers were trying to convince people that opium fiends might stab you byu night or Asian masterminds might pipe poison into your bedroom, it just hadn’t caught on with the general public.
Black cats were actually considered signs of good luck (unless they crossed your path) and were generally drawn as funny critters. This chap and his brethren did a whole line of postcards performing interpretations of pop songs.
And black kittens were just plain cute.
You’d think giant chickens would be a source of fear, but these chaps just regard them as a chance for a hearty meal.
And monster fish were so common on fishing postcards because they were good for a laugh
Especially if you could toss in a bad pun.
Your most common place for monsters on postcards was in the realm of a drunken man’s visions, or delirium tremens (the D.T.s) and this was always a source of great good humor, the quality of the liquor our ancestors consumed meaning many drinkers had experienced the effects. (The Newberry Library has a very nice collection of these, which includes dragons the size of skyscrapers coming down to greet the souse on his way home.)
But the viewer was not expected to tremble in fear, just laugh. This giant baby makes MY heart palpitate. But Mom seems pleased
Postcards even anticipated our slasher movies, but when they did, they did it with a grin.
Maybe it’s my fault. Maybe I just don’t HAVE any postcards with really dark, sinister, Halloween type characters on them.