Terrifying Tales from The House of Secrets and The Witching Hour!

When I was in Vancouver for Eureka last year, I got to know downtown pretty well. I had a couple of pubs I loved, two grocery stores that took care of all my food needs, and more great restaurants than I could shake a hockey stick at. I also found a comic shop that was just a few blocks from my apartment, that became a frequent recipient of my per diem.

One day I wandered into the comic shop, and after pulling a few current books and some TPBs, I came across a display near the back where they were selling bags of older comics for a couple of bucks each. I absolutely love these old books, because they remind me of the comics I bought at the drugstore when I was a kid and read until their pages were falling apart. I grabbed a bag of DC Mystery comics, and raced back to my apartment as excitedly as I raced home from Sunland Discount Variety when I was in elementary school.

If I could legally scan the entirety of each issue, just so I could share how wonderful it is with the world, I would, but since that's pretty much frowned upon by, well, everyone, I pulled a few scans to give you a sense of what I loved reading when I was 8 years-old.

You can click all of these images to embiggen them at Flickr.

To 8 year-old me, stories like this were creepy and cool without being too gruesome or corny. To 38 year-old me, they were simply delightful.

Unexpected #205Johnny Peril 1 Johnny Peril 2

Johnny Peril 3 The Witching Hour Bruce the Barbarian

I think the absolute best part of these old comics, though, are the adverts. For many of us in Generation X, these things are as much a part of the comic book experience as the actual stories themselves.

One Page of Adverts Superman Sells Twinkees

This is on the back cover of the magazine. I present it without comment, even though I desperately want to say … things.

Before he killed people, OJ Simpson sold boots

I'd like to thank the people who created these comics for entertaining me 30 years ago as much as they do today. I'd also like to thank DC in advance for not suing me.

40 thoughts on “Terrifying Tales from The House of Secrets and The Witching Hour!”

  1. I never did. I wish that I had, though, just because I bet I would remember with photographic clarity the day my order arrived.

  2. I gave a bunch of my friends Seamonkey kits a few years ago. I was able to watch several of them grow to full maturity and have a family with their little Seamonkey house and tvs.
    If you’re ever in Seattle you should check out:
    And the tried and true:
    As a boy I ordered the bible on micro card from them. It was a 2″sq plastic card with the entire King James bible on it. I’d have to use my microscope at 150x to read it!
    Pity things don’t stay the same… well at least some things.

  3. You want some fun reading for CHEAP, I recently bought a DVD with pretty much every Trek comic book printed up to the early 2000’s. Over 500 issues in un-DRM’d PDF form for… $7.
    I copied them down to my iMac, renamed them, and copied them all to my iPad, and I can read them in Goodreader. Right now I’m working my way through the old Gold Key stuff from the late 60’s. It’s hilarious. Let’s just say the writing back then was a few steps down from the TV show. The ads, of course, are fantastic.

  4. My dad collected every Conan the Barbarian comic book he could find. Even though that wasn’t my thing, I still read them, after promising my dad I would put them back into the plastic sleeves he stored them in. I secretly wanted to buy the x-ray glasses, but didn’t have the nerve to hit my parents up for the dough (or embarassment) for a money order (kids, MO were like the “pay online” option, only slower).

  5. Heh, seeing those ads just reminded me of the movie “Better Off Dead” with John Cusack. His character’s (Lane’s) little brother, Badger, saves up a bunch of cereal proof of purchases to send away for a kit to build a rocket using household appliances.
    Let’s just say the kit ends up working pretty well.

  6. I think I remember these pretty well.
    Between DC/Harvey/Marvel they included:
    1) Build your own ghost kit.
    2) X-Ray Glasses
    3) Selling seeds door to door (come on I don’t live in Kansas)
    4) And selling a newspaper called GRIT?
    The last two were really popular and usually occupied the back cover.
    I think the seeds had testimonials from kids all over America.
    The only one I ordered was the ghost which was like a trash bag with a scary looking face.
    I think we were more into cereal box prizes.

  7. Some great nostalgia there. I remember going down to the local market around 1980 when you could get a comic for 35 cents (Marvel I think), a coke for 30 cents, a candy bar for 25…plus 2 blo-pops and several handfuls of gum all for one dollar. They’d put it all in a little paper bag and we’d be in heaven. :)
    I used to love those horror comics too…Tales from the Crypt or something (which led me later to enjoy watching the late night TV shows of similar variety in high school)…and I do seem to recall seeing a familiar TNG actor on one episode back then. 😉

  8. There is the superhero stuff, and then there is the horror tales stuff. I remember in that era story and substance took precedence over the art, though the art was not so bad either. These days the Marvel/DC stuff tend to be fairly generic. With the exception of Fantagraphics and Drawn & Quarterly comics which always had high standards. The Secret Wars 1 and 2 were a big thing for me. Back then comics were pretty cheap, but now…it’s almost like buying a piece of art in a lot of ways. Though graphic novel prices have dropped.
    Those ads were something else too, I would dream about sending away for that stuff but never did. As a Canadian, like Cookie Crisp cereal, those things were not available to us. I guess I did not get ripped off.

  9. I like how the ad page has no less than THREE Kung-Fu ads, and TWO bodybuilding ads. What were they saying about their target market? That we got beat up a lot and either needed to get bigger and stronger or more deadly?

  10. I miss my old comics when I see stuff like this. The ads were classic and I always wondered what it would be like to buy some of those things. I think I even had a couple of comics with that OJ ad as well.
    For some reason two of my favorites that I had were an A-Team comic where the gang goes to some Japanese sanctuary and Mr. T fights a sumo wrestler, and a Transformers comic where the Autobots and Decepticons meet a computer programmer and do battle inside a video game. If you know that comic you know the outcome. The image still haunts me to this day.

  11. I worked for a tech company that was based in downtown Vancouver for several years. They were bought by a bigger company that was then bought by a huge company. The former Vancouver HQ continued to be one of their largest north American sites. I got to go Vancouver, usually for 5-7 days at a time on several different occasions over the years. It’s such a wonderful city. I’d love to find a way to have someone else pay for me to visit it frequently again. :)

  12. interesting, but for an outsider,( that is I did not grow up with this stuff) it all lookes alien, because 30 years ago I was growing up in Saint-Petersburg, Russia, it was very different realm from yours, no such comics and especially no advertising, but books were my world, science fiction mostly, imagine how great it was to encounter Star Trek TNG when I came across the ocean in 1991. Well, I hang around in Holland before that, but there I did not see it ……oh, boy, I got excited sharing my memories (when nobody cares anyway) and burned the food on the stove

  13. Awesome. We went to a friends house on Lake Huron in Canada for New Year’s and found a pile of these and went through them. We wondered what would happen if we sent in our order now for x-ray glasses or any of the dozens of crazy items you could get from those old comics. Fun.

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    This is most certainly NOT spam, and I'm so glad you shared your blog with us. Thanks!

  15. Yeah, for me the ads are even more evocative of that time than the comics themselves. While they were all wonderful in their own way, my all time favorite was the hand-drawn ad for “CONAN – HULK – SKUL” posters. I now regret that I never bought one.


    I think there are still a couple of boxes of ’80s comics in my mother’s basement…now I’ve got to check…

  16. My question is – did anyone ever order the X-Ray Glasses? I used to think they were real and always wanted to use them on the girls at school…yikes I guess I started being a pervert at a young age. 😉
    I remember the crappy “Smoke from your Finger Tips” (looked like rubber cement and the “smoke” was barely visible)…I think we also got the onion flavored gum…and the watch that was supposed to shoot bullets (worthless)…my brother and our friends ordered so much of that junk…lol…and don’t get me started on those )!()@(#)@(#@)(# Sea Monkeys…!!!!

  17. When I was eleven or twelve years old, I was given what can only be described as “a shitload of Archie books” in this post-Kevin Smith’s films world. This box of comics was my gateway drug into the comic book world, and I’ve always been grateful to my brother’s girlfriend for giving it to me instead of just throwing it out when she found it in her attic.
    Recently (on last year’s Free Comic Book day in fact, so I guess it wasn’t that recent, but whatever) I had reason to dig out my old G.I. Joe books. In flipping through one of them, I found this, which I just had to share with some friends. It’s an ad that I think you might find relevant to your interests.
    Silly 800-lb gorilla! Anyway. I’m off to sell some GRIT to make money to buy some sea monkeys!

  18. Wil,
    It is amazing to see how comics have impacted the entertainment industry. I love going to a comic film and seeing adults having more fun then the kids they blame for their attendance.

  19. Reading old comics and smelling that typical (but gorgeous to me) smell, reminds me of being like 8 or 9 years old and having a pile of old comic books between my dad and me, each reading and being very absorbed in the story. When there was a funny quote or whatever, we would read it out loud, or we would quiz each other :) sheer bliss! Funny thing is, we still do that from time to time, on a quiet sunday afternoon.

  20. I wonder if any of the people or businesses that have the P.O. boxes listed in those ads still receive mail about those old advertisements? If they do it would be interesting to see how they handle the situation.
    More than likely they simply throw them away, but it wouldn’t cost much to try; just an envelope and a stamp (or maybe two as they might be more motivated to respond if you included a self-addressed stamped envelope.)

  21. When I was a kid, my dad gave me a few of his old comics from Marvel’s “assistant editors month.” Basically, a month long opportunity for some of the folks at Marvel to muck around with their comics. One issue of Spider-Man was drawn entirely by Fred Hembeck, and Marvel Team Up featured Franklin Richards and Aunt May, the Herald of Galactus. (No, really.) The issue turned into a parody of the old Hostess ads. It was kinda awesome.

  22. OMG I haven't thought about that ad in over 25 years, but without even seeing it, I know exactly the one you're talking about.

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