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First Times: Horror by Ralph Greco, Jr.

Horror fiction and horror films are inextricably linked for me. My first true exposure to both came from a book that I used to pour over in the children’s section of The Allwood Public Library in my early teens, Terrors of the Screen by Frank Manchel. It was a thin hardcover study, featuring copious screen shots, from the wacky-angled scenery of silent greats like The Cabinet Of Dr. Caligari, the Universal Horror monster scenes of the 30’s, some 50’s sci-fi, up to Rosemary’s Baby and even a shot of a buff Charlton Heston taken from Planet of The Apes.

I had not seen most of these films when I first read the book, but later that same library showed the classic Nosferatu in its back room. It was during one of the autumns of my early teen years, a wonderful weekday afternoon of early darkness and the smell of burning leaves. I had never seen a silent film before, let alone this terrifying classic. I remember my buddy Arty and I being so unnerved after watching it we literally ran the seven blocks home from the library that night — and for a perennially chubby Italian boy to run anywhere was a big deal, let me tell you!


Veronica Carlson and Christopher Lee (Image © Hammer Films)

Veronica Carlson and Christopher Lee (Image © Hammer Films)


Thus began my fascination with the genre and how I came to it…with a little twist of sex added in, of course. Those busty Hammer ladies made an impression on me when I caught Veronica Carlson and her sisters on my local 4:30 movie. I was as affected by the deformities in Freaks as I was the idea of cuckoldry and the consequences when a big blonde woman tries it. By sixteen I was hitting Rocky Horror every weekend, a late 70’s suburban rite-of-passage. This mix of sinister night realms and undulating sexy night creatures followed me well into The Outer Limits reruns. Those freaking scratchingly sinister Zanti misfits crawling up Bruce Dern left me pondering what King Kong was really going to do with Fay Wray, and had me wishing that I had been caught-up in that Iron Maiden with Barbara Steele at the end of The Pit And The Pendulum.

Really, with all that grunting, lunging, fainting dead away, how could one not think of sex and horror together?

So here’s to you Mr. Manchel (wherever you are), the all-knowing Allwood Library staff, whose “shh”-ing” librarians had no idea what they were unleashing that crisp October night. And, of course, to my buddy Arty, who shared something with me in that backroom I have — gladly — never recovered from.

Ralph Greco, Jr. is the editor-in-chief for the international lifestyle latex magazine Von Gutenberg, as well as its online blog writer/editor, a sex columnist and reviewer for, east-coast correspondent and internationally published author of short stories, essays, SEO copy, children’s songs and one-acts.