David’s Haunted Library: Meddling Kids

 

Imagine what a story would be like if you had 4 kids and their dog who went around solving mysteries.  Each time they solved a mystery they discovered that the culprit was someone in a fake monster suit. Does this sound familiar? This book isn’t about that group of detectives, this story is about the Blyton Summer Detective Club. Back in 1977 they solved their last case throwing a man in jail for pretending to be a lake monster and life hasn’t been the same since.

Kerri went on to become a biologist but can’t seem to hold onto a job and she still lives with a dog who is the descendent of the club’s original dog. Andy is a tomboy wanted in two states who can’t get over the fact that they sent the wrong man to prison. Peter has died of a drug overdose and Nate has been in and out of mental asylums and still talks to Peter’s ghost. All of them are broken adults and the only way to put the past behind them is to return to the scene of their last case and confront the real life monsters at the bottom of the lake.

Meddling Kids by Edgar Cantero is what you get when you combine Scooby Doo with H.P. Lovecraft. Hearing the description of this book, I considered it a must read and despite some flaws, it doesn’t disappoint. What makes it stand out is how the story unfolds. In the beginning you hear about how the detective’s last adventure was an open and shut case. Then you see how all of them are damaged in their own way and you realize that there is more to it then meets the eye. You could say that the main idea of this book is about facing your fears. Each of the main characters tried to deny the truth about what happened and acted like they were fine but the truth ruined them and 13 years later they had to face their fears to be able to move on.

The thing I didn’t like about Meddling Kids was that it felt like it needed a good editor. Some parts felt dragged out. For instance, there was a scene in a mine shaft that was long and unnecessary, I couldn’t figure out why they had to go down there in the first place. Then there was a scene where Nate reads a passage from an ancient text to bring the lake creatures to life where I was wondering “why is he doing that and why aren’t the others stopping him.”  Also, Andy’s obsession with Kerri’s hair really got on my nerves after a while.

That being said, this book is worth your time if you like a good mix of horror and humor. The detail that goes into the characters lives shows that Edgar Cantero has a real passion for his creations. It’s like he sat down and said “I wonder what the Scooby gang would be like in real life” and came out with a very detailed description of all of them. What I liked most about this book is that the author gives a mythological explanation for what is going on and he also gets into a scientific explanation as well. There is one scene where Nate and Kerri are arguing about the reason for what’s happening with one talking science and one blaming everything on old gods and ancient texts that make this a must read.

 

Guest Blog: Horror Inspired Kids’ Shows – Steven Rose “From the Grave” Jr.

Horror Inspired Kids’ Shows and Tomb ‘Toons

Steven Rose “From the Grave” Jr.

 

Some of you may be wondering what place do kids’ shows have here on a Website that specializes in the genre of horror, traditionally a teen/adult genre.  Actually, horror films have inspired children’s television for decades.

Are some of you old enough to remember those cartoons and live action kids’ shows that were inspired by horror movies?  Do you remember the Real Ghostbusters cartoon from the 1980s?  If you’re old enough to remember back even further, the middle ‘70s, you may know that those weren’t really the real Ghostbusters as the cartoon series’ title indicates.  In 1975 the real, and therefore original, Ghostbusters was a live action kids’ show that, instead of involving four men and a slime pouring ghost, actually involved only two vaudeville-like men and a gorilla that assisted them on their paranormal missions.  Some of you may be saying, that was a cartoon in the 1980s.  Well you’re right, because when the “Real” Ghostbusters (my quotation marks) tried taking the Saturday morning spotlight (and they succeeded, sadly for the original Ghostbusters) the original series was revived as a cartoon in competition only it was bumped to after school-hours syndicated television.

Let’s backtrack a few years from the original Ghostbusters Saturday morning series.  There was The Funky Phantom in 1971, a Scooby Doo-like mystery cartoon series involving a group of detective like-teens and their 18th century ghost friend.  Then around the same time there was The Groovy Ghoulies, a cartoon series based on the three most famous monsters of film, Frankenstein’s Monster (Franky), Count Dracula (Drac) and the Wolf-Man (Wolfie) and their many like friends and relatives who all dwelled in a haunted castle called “Horrible Hall”.  This series was actually a spin-off from another dark supernatural lore inspired cartoon series—Sabrina the Teenage Witch (1969) (itself a spin-off from The Archies).  Another kids’ show inspired by the three famous movie monsters was actually a live action series called The Monster Squad (1976).  In this series a computer geek-law student who works in a wax museum brings the sculptures of Frankenstein’s Monster, Dracula and the Wolfman to life and they fight crime together.  The Addams Family cartoon was also aired in the early ‘70s.  The same year that Monster Squad premiered, the producers of live action kids’ shows, Sid and Marty Kroft, came out with a series called Dr. Shrinker, which was about a mad scientist and his dwarvish assistant who shrink a group of island marooned young adventurers and is always after them to perform dangerous experiments on them.

Moving forward to 1978, the same producers of Dr. Shrinker came out with another live action series called Horror Hotel, which involved many of the strange characters from the Kroft brothers’ 1969 Puff ‘N Stuff (an Oz-/Wonderland-like fantasy series): a witch named Witchy Poo, a stupid bat named just that–Stupid Bat, a mad scientist owl by the name of Dr. Blinkey, a yellow spider-like monster, a vulture and a green faced magician (from another earlier Kroft series called Lidville).  They were the staff of a haunted hotel who had a different strange guest each week (“guest” as in both guest star and hotel guest).

The following year, 1979, the New Flinstones show came out with some characters who were neighbors to the neanderthal comic family, the Frankenstones.  The patriarchal head of this ghoulish family was a neanderthal Frankenstein’s monster.  That same year premiered a cartoon based on the Dracula character, Count Quackula, about a vampire duck who, unlike most of the cartoon monsters we’ve been talking about, was not a very nice guy—or, rather, ghoul.

As we moved into the ‘80s two more horror inspired cartoon series came out on Saturday mornings: Drac Pack and Ding Bat and FriendsDrac Pack involved three teenage descendents of the Frankenstein’s monster, Dracula and the Wolf-Man who, like the characters in Monster Squad, also fought crime, only in their case up against the same group of villains each week—Dr. Dread and his evil crew of monsters.  Ding Bat was a more slapstick kind of cartoon involving a vampire dog (Dingbat), a cranky jack-o-lantern and a skeleton who wore a toilet plunger for a hat.

I already mentioned some of the cartoon series of the latter half of the 1980s such as the two Ghostbusters cartoon series.  But also, in 1988, the comedian Martin Short came out with his own Saturday morning kids’ show that was partly live action and partly animated.  In one of the live action weekly skits a Dracula-like vampire told horror stories to his child audience, the stories themselves being animated.  As the decade came to a close, the Beatlejuice movie franchise produced a Saturday morning cartoon series based on the movie’s characters.

In the 1990s, when the cable television-based Tales from the Crypt became popular on syndicated television, a cartoon version came out on Saturday mornings.  A new Addams Family cartoon series also aired.  Then R.L. Stine’s kids’ horror novel series, Goosebumps, was adapted for a live action syndicated series.

In the 2001s Cartoon Network aired The Grim Adventures of Billy and Mandy, a series about two kids who are friends with the Grim Reaper.  Will there be more horror genre inspired cartoons and kids’ shows?  The horror genre has become more popular than ever with young people’s series of novels such as Twilight and TV series such as True Blood, Ghost Whisperer and Supernatural, not to mention the many horror movies made for the big screen such as Paranormal Activity.  How can there not be any horror inspired cartoons and live action kids shows?  Let’s hope some will premiere soon enough.  Any animators out there in the blog audience?

The cartoons and kids’ shows throughout television history have been numerous, regardless of their genre.  If I missed any titles you think should have been mentioned, then, please, leave me a comment!  I’d like to know of more myself!

Take scare, every body!

Bio
Steven Rose, Jr. is a journalist and writer of fiction.  His non-fiction includes book, television and movie reviews.  His fiction consists of horror and science fiction short stories, although he plans to write novels in the near future.

Besides writing, Steven serves as a public relations rep for the Sacramento based network, Sylvanopolis Writers’ Society.  His most recent story will be published in the Society’s short fiction anthology, Leafkin, due for release in December 2010.