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Great Gift Ideas for Your Horror Fan: Non-Fiction Books

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No, no, no,
No, no, no,
Hell no all the way,
Oh what horror it is to get a tacky gift today, hey!

Are the ghosts of bad Christmas presents past haunting you? Is the dread of finding a delightfully thoughtful gift, instead of another frightfully awful one, dancing madly in your head instead of sugar plums? Why chance disappointing someone again with more of those darn Fandango movie gift tickets that say, "I gave up! Didn't have a clue!" Any one of these stocking-stuffers will electrify any horror fan more than the Frankenstein monster, and show them you really care.

Sundays01In his book, Sundays with Vlad: From Pennsylvania to Transylvania, One Man's Quest to Live in the World of the Undead, journalist Paul Bibeau packs his lifelong fascination with vampires into his Gladstone bag and heads for the hills of Transylvania to find the true Dracula. What he finds along the way is hilarious, delirious, and never disingenuous. From the foothills of the Carpathians, to the wild woods of New Jersey and the wide aisles of Wal-Mart, his search for the real Dracula will leave you wishing you were along for the ride. Along the way you will meet Bela Lugosi Jr., fighting to protect his famous father's rights of publicity, enter the Goth world of eternal night, with or without fangs, and trip the light fantasy with LARPers, those cheeky-geeky live-action, role-playing savants we all publicly deride, but secretly yearn to be.

CreepycrawlsHave a horror fiend who loves to travel? Or hates to travel and needs a really good reason to go? Then give him or her Creepy Crawls: A Horror Fiend's Travel Guide by Leon Marcelo. Shiver in terror as you walk through the fog of Highgate Cemetery in the North of London, or nervously look over your shoulder as you trod the same steps that ill-fated Barbara took in Night of the Living Dead as you walk among the graves of the Evans City Cemetery in Pennsylvania. No matter where you may go, you can find terror-filled delight waiting for you in places as diverse as New Jersey's Blairstown Diner (Friday the 13th), Dario Argento's Museum of Horror in Rome (for giallo enthusiasts), and my favorite, Danvers State Insane Asylum in Massachusetts (H.P. Lovecraft's inspiration for Arkham Sanitarium). In his "butchermobile," author Marcello visits the literary, cinematic, and cultural creepy crawls that will bring a gasp to your throat and a chill to your soul. In a punny style that hearkens back to Famous Monsters of Filmland magazine, he will take you to all those places your mommy warned you about. Just make sure to hide Creepy Crawls from her or she'll throw it out, too.

WeirdnySpeaking of traveling, Chris Gethard (lord, I hope that's a pseudonym) takes us on tour of the weird in Weird New York: Your Travel Guide to New York's Local Legends and Best Kept Secrets. Visit the roads less traveled by, the roadside oddities, and the fabled, fabulous, and beastly, all from the comfort of your armchair. Visit the Pintchik Oracle in Brooklyn and ask your questions, or shudder at the lurking fear of the legendary Jackson Whites, a group of mutated social outcasts living in the Ramapo Mountains. In these pages you will meet the ghostly White Lady, see the world's largest living sign, and find out why murderer Albert Fish was the most deranged criminal in the world. Learn amazing trivia like how five employees of Lake George's wax museum, The House of Frankenstein, committed suicide, and where Manhattan's mysterious mole people live. You're guaranteed to get a shiver reading the strange but documented cases of apparent time travel in Times Square, and the "missingest man in New York," Judge Crater, last seen on August 6, 1930. And I bet you thought New York couldn't get any weirder.

UncannybodiesFor the horror film buff, there's a mummy's tomb's worth of engrossing reading. In Uncanny Bodies: The Coming of Sound Film and the Origins of the Horror Genre, Robert Spadoni explores the goose-bumps audiences must have felt when Bela Lugosi's Dracula spoke and they listened, and electricity crackled and sizzled amidst the monster's growls in Frankenstein. In his analysis of Dracula, Spadoni places Lugosi's peculiarity of speech and the film's sparse use of ambient sounds within its original context: a film made within the sound transition period, when audiences first began to experience speaking characters whose actions could be heard as well as seen. During this period, studios were also experimenting, learning ways in which to integrate both the visual and audible together. To those early audiences, Dracula was a truly frightening experience with Lugosi creating a ghostly, otherworldly vampiric persona in his slowly-delivered speech and precisely measured movements. Using scene by scene analysis and critical reviews of the day, Spadoni argues that horror was a natural genre to capture the unreality of early cinematic sound and exploit it.

MasterofmonstersEiji Tsuburaya: Master of Monsters: Defending the Earth with Ultraman and Godzilla takes us into the world of Japanese monster mayhem courtesy of special effects maestro, Eiji Tsuburaya. This slick, thick, book is filled to the brim with photographs of Godzilla, Ultraman, and miniature cities just waiting to be stomped on. Tracing Tsubaraya's early call to action by watching 1933's King Kong frame by frame to learn how its visual effects were achieved, through his work on propaganda films for the Japanese war effort, and the creation of Godzilla, his Ultra-Q series and Ultraman, author August Ragone provides a concise introduction to the work of one of Japanese science fiction's most influential craftsman. A selective filmography of Tsubaraya's work is included.

ConanRobert E. Howard's most famous sword and sorcery hero is paid tribute in Conan: The Phenomenon: The Legacy of Robert E. Howard's Fantasy Icon by Paul M. Sammon. A fairly hefty coffee table-styled book, it's lavishly illustrated with the Gnome Press book covers from the fifties, Frank Frazetta's sumptuous Lancer book covers, Marvel comics artwork (with a listing of Marvel's Conan comics), and photographs from the films. Beginning with the appearance of Conan the Barbarian in the pulp magazine, Weird Tales, in the 1930s, Sammon examines the growth of Conan's enduring popularity, decade by decade, capping it off with a listing of websites devoted to the serious study of Robert E. Howard's work. Although Howard committed suicide with a .38 Colt automatic before he could enjoy his character's popularity, through the efforts of his admirers, his Conan stories were republished, bringing to an ever-growing audience Howard's fantastic world of monsters, madmen, and scantily-clad women. While others came before him, and others have imitated his style of fiction, Howard is rightfully called the Father of sword and sorcery. Better have a big stocking to put this baby in.

DoctorwhoThe Doctor Who Encyclopedia: A Definitive Guide to Time and Space may seem like an odd fit here, but any horror fan can appreciate the numerous creepazoids and horrific confrontations the good doctor  squares-off against time and again. With its focus on the current television series, Gary Russell provides an essential reference for Who Watchers. With plenty of photographs and informative entries, keeping this book at arm's reach is better than having a sonic screwdriver.

So there you have it. Great gifts for any lover of horror, including you. And just in case you decide to keep them for yourself after you get them, remember, you can always give those Fandango tickets.

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