Terror Tales & Fright Flicks!
By Kurt Kuersteiner © 2018 Monsterwax Trading Cards

One of the most popular (yet difficult to complete) monster sets of the 60’s is Terror Tales. Produced in 1967 by Topps, this series has a lot going for it. The photos are dramatic scenes from AIP monster movies, with a green tint adding an eerie color to otherwise drab black & white images. There were 88 cards in the set (22 more than usual). The box and wrapper call the series Movie Monsters, and both look good. A rather unique aspect of the series are the word balloons added for the punch lines. (Another monster set of that era to incorporate a similar design was the Donruss King Kong series.)

But what really made Terror Tales stand out from all the other monster sets were the backs… Each featured a ghost story or weird “terror tale” in a creative attempt to make the hair on the back of your neck rise. A graphic of a two-headed monster chained to a dungeon wall reading these tales accompanies each story. The Terror Tales title is splashed across the top, while a disclaimer of sorts, “Did it ever happen?” shouts across the bottom.

Here’s a sample of one such narrative:
“One morning in June 1953, Margaret Moyat, an artist, had a vivid dream about an elderly man she had never seen before. She decided to paint his picture. Neighbors commented that he looked like a former local minister… a minister dead for 25 years.”

Okay, it may not be as clever as the backs to Mars Attacks, but it comes close. And that’s saying a lot for a company that usually got by with mind-numbing puzzle backs or groan-worthy gags robbed from any number of cheap joke books. Someone put a lot of creativity in these backs, not once, but 88 times! Every single card contains a unique story, independent of all the others. This is what “story cards” were meant to be: eye grabbing images on the fronts with fun, original stories on the backs.

Fast forward twenty years later and someone at Topps is digging through the molding archives searching for inspiration for a new series. “Eureka! This is it!” The same formula is recycled to create Fright Flicks. (It’s a new generation of kids, so they’ll never guess it’s really sloppy seconds.) Sure, there’s a few tiny adjustments: The word balloons are replaced with gag lines under a full color photograph… the movie title is printed on the back… 11 stickers are added to the series… and a knife wielding maniac replaces the two headed monster graphic on the back. Otherwise, it’s the same 88 stories, down to the very last ellipsis…

Fright Flicks Fronts

Not only did the kids fail to notice the redundancy, neither did most adults. I’ve had both series for decades, and up until last week, the different graphic fooled me into thinking that the newer series wrote different stories. (Being Topps, I should have known better, huh?) But I take some comfort in seeing that brains much bigger than mine apparently made the same mistake, as none of the catalogs point out that they are the same recycled tales from 1967. Once I noticed they were identical stories, I did the math and quickly realized there were at least two more stories in the 90 card Fright Flicks series… but which ones? I had to take out both sets and cross-reference them to find out. I discovered there was more to it than just two stories.

For starters, the card order is different. Only the first two match their counter parts, and then the order jumps around and never matches up again. Then I saw that five of the original Terror Tales are missing in Fright Flicks. (Cards #5, 9, 14, 20, and 47.) This means there are actually seven new stories in Fright Flicks. (Cards #72, 84, 86, 87, 88, 89, and 90.)

Fright Flicks Back

Here’s a sample of one of the new ones:
“The piles of junk on Len Brown’s office grew year after year. Co-workers joked that someday, Brown would disappear in all the clutter. It was no laughing matter, however, for in April of 1984, Brown shut his door to make a phone call—and was never heard from again.”

Wait a sec… did someone say Len Brown? Long time Topps employee, writer and Co-creator of Mars Attacks? Len wrote backs for Topps for over 40 years, becoming Director of New Product Development, and yes, he had a desk stacked a mile high with paper piles that his co-workers would kid him about. He was so overworked, he eventually hired another writer named Gary Gerani in 1972.

Gary also cranked out countless card backs for kids, but he also created and spearheaded his masterpiece series, Dinosaurs Attack!, released the same year as Fright Flicks (1988). Gary had been super busy that year. He also co-wrote the cult horror movie classic, Pumpkinhead, which was also released in 1988!  And if that weren’t enough, he also was appearing on the 6 o’clock news every night. Don’t believe it? Check out Fright Flicks #84:

“In the Bensonhurst section of Brooklyn on July 12, 1980, Gary Gerani settled in to watch his favorite TV program. A strange noise came from the receiver, followed by a voice ordering Gerani to step forward. He was never seen again… yet relatives claim you can glimpse his image on the 6 o’clock news each night, crying for help.”
Are you beginning to see a trend here? Those seven new cards include names of various Topps employees. And it wasn’t the first time either. Cameos of employees appeared in the original series as well. Take a look at Terror Tales #3:

“On June 1, 1946 Jack Davis checked into City Hospital. At first, doctors could find nothing wrong, but within a week, it was apparent Davis was shrinking three inches a day. By the end of the June, Davis was too small to be found.”

Jack Davis, of course, was the talented horror artist/cartoonist who worked at Topps (and previously at EC comics). He painted the very first monster set at Topps, Funny Monsters (aka You’ll Die Laughing, 1959).

So it appears that Gerani was continuing the cameo tradition by adding a few new stories with Topps employees playing starring roles. Fright Flicks #72 mentions Brad Kahihamer, who was a graphic artist and art director at Topps (he now creates modern art, sculpture, and music). Card #86 has Abe Morgenstern (who was a packaging and marketing guru at Topps). Card #88 features A. Spiegelman. (Art Spiegelman co-created Wacky Packages and Garbage Pail Kids, and is now a famous cartoonist.) #89 includes Mark Newgarden, a successful underground artist who worked as a creative consultant at Topps and helped create Garbage Pail Kids. #90 starred Stanley Hart, who not only worked in Product Development, but also was a comedy writer for The Carol Burnett Show, and Mad Magazine. He was literally married into the card business, in that his wife was one of the Shorins (the family that owned Topps).

I was able to confirm these Topps staff cameos with help from the internet and Gary Gerani himself (who was kind enough to remember details over the phone). I suspect there may be more “Easter Egg” names (besides Jack Davis) in the earlier Terror Tales cards… but 50 years and failing memories would make tracking them all down nearly impossible.

Suffice it to say, if you can’t afford the original Terror Tales, you should check out Fright Flicks. Not only are the backs some of the best in the business, but the fronts are a Who’s Who of the best 1980s monster movies: Alien, Aliens, Predator, Fright Night, Ghostbusters, Day of the Dead, Nightmare on Elm Street 1, 2 & 3, Poltergeist 1 & II, An American Werewolf In London, The Fly (1986), and Vengeance: The Demon (the original title for Pumpkinhead). This series used to be dirt cheap (around $5 a set in 2000), but now they cost $20 - $40 on eBay.

For those who enjoy collecting variations, you may be interested in the O-Pee-Chee version from Canada. It has the same 90 cards as the US version, but with blue backs instead of light green, and it changed the 11 stickers into regular cards as well, making the set 101 cards. (The backs of the stickers have the same “puzzle pieces” that the US stickers had.)

I hope these arcane details help you enjoy both series even more. If you’re a super monster card nerd (yeah, I'm talking to you, Todd) you may also have interest in the numeric cross-reference index (below the original sell sheet photo):

Fright Flicks Sell Sheet

Terror Tales story = Fright Flicks card equivalent

1 = 1

2 = 2

3 = 71

4 = 13

5 = (no matching Fright Flicks card)

6 = 5

7 = 6

8 = 7

9 = (no matching Fright Flicks card)

10 = 9

11 = 10

12 = 11

13 = 85

14 = (no matching Fright Flicks card)

15 = 14

16 = 21

17 = 15

18 = 16

19 = 17

20 = (no matching Fright Flicks card)

21 = 18

22 = 20

23 = 4

24 = 22

25 = 23

26 = 24

27 = 25

28 = 26

29 = 27

30 = 28

31 = 29

32 = 30

33 = 31

34 = 68

35 = 32

36 = 33

37 = 34

38 = 35

39 = 36

40 = 37

41 = 38

42 = 39

43 = 40

44 = 41

45 = 79

46 = 43

47 = (no matching Fright Flicks card)

48 = 45

49 = 46

50 = 47

51 = 8

52 = 49

53 = 50

54 = 51

55 = 52

56 = 53

57 = 54

58 = 70

59 = 55

60 = 56

61 = 12

62 = 57

63 = 58

64 = 59

65 = 60

66 = 61

67 = 62

68 = 63

69 = 64

70 = 65

71 = 66

72 = 67

73 = 19

74 = 69

75 = 3

76 = 44

77 = 42

78 = 73

79 = 74

80 = 75

81 = 76

82 = 77

83 = 78

84 = 48

85 = 80

86 = 81

87 = 82

88 = 83



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