December 16, 2010


UPDATE: This post was made in regards to my book Mail-Order Mysteries. The book is finished but I'd still love to know if you dig up any of these items. Email me at kirkd (at)

My unending fascination with stuff that was sold in old comic book ads has lead me into yet another project based on the topic. I'll be able to go into more detail later but right now there are a handful of mail order novelties that would be nice to include, but I can't seem to track them down. I can offer a gift (and credit) to any fun spotters who can provide high res photos of, or point me to, or lend me any of the following items....

UPDATE: How to Draw Monsters, Pocket Gym, and the original Bag Full O' Laughs have been found! Alas there's more on my wish list...

Frontier Cabin- This "playhouse" is a plastic tablecloth that's big enough to cover a card table. I've heard from folks who had it but nobody kept it. (Which is no surprise.)

Grow 7 Monsters- These are little cardboard things that grow "hair" when you water them. Please tell me you have a box of them in your warehouse.

Like the Johnson Smith horror record this one is a 7-inch that plays at 33rpm. I don't know who the hypnotist is (though it's possibly Melvin Powers) or if it had cover art.

UPDATE: FOUND! Electrostatic Generator- This silly thing was offered for decades and yet I can't even find a single photo of it online. Did they all break? Do they go by another name? Is this a government cover up?

Motorized Submarine- I've found about a half dozen motorized submarines that look extremely close to this (though many are 12 inches) but I can't locate one that matches this illustration exactly. It was sold in the late 70s, early 80s.

Height Increase Pads- There's a vast supply of shoe lifts old and new, but I'd love to find some from this place, The Liftee Company (Though Liftee may just be the name of the distributor.) These seem like a tough find.

Missile Firing Tank- This is in the same vein as the Polaris Sub and the Jet Rocket which is to say it's a lot of cardboard. Never seen the real thing.

This is not to be confused with the more common Haunted House Mystery Bank that features a little plastic ghost in the doorway. This one is nearly identical except that it has a hand that grabs your money.

I've got the bat but I'd love to assemble the "Horror Outfit" which consists of...
-Flying Creepie [sic] Monster with popping eyes
-Wierd [sic] Skeleton Head
-Dangling Black Widow Spider
-Shrunken Head (I have this)
-Surprise Slimy Creature
Did you ever order one of these? Do you remember what these looked like? I've got lots of goodies that would fit those descriptions, but I want the exact ones that came with the bat.

This is a poster that I can't find.

There are plenty of modern smoke bombs out there but I'd love to find a vintage package of these in particular, though I have no clue what they look like.

Certainly you have this very pair of Weighted Wristlets laying around that I could photograph.

These are monster balloons that I doubt I'll ever find. As I understand it the lower one came with a crude device that makes sound when you run your finger across it, almost like the grooves of a record.

If you have any leads for me on any of these please leave a comment or email me at kirkd at Like I said, if it works out that I use an image of your item (or find one based on your lead) then I'll give you full credit and reward you less-than-handsomely, with a product inspired by this theme (and I would be extremely thankful.)

You can also contact me if you have access to anything similar, or just tell me if there are any old mail order novelties that you were particularly fond of or curious about.

None of these are essential to the project, but I just thought I'd ask. In the future I'll serve up a more satisfying post in which I'll share some of the stuff that I actually have tracked down.


Devlin Thompson said...

My electrostatic generator was purchased in the gift shop of the Charleston (SC) Museum circa 1977. I couldn't get it to work, and I quickly broke the fragile bulb. I should have gotten the radiometer instead (which I've surprisingly never yet owned.) Glad to see that this project back on track!

David R said...

I hope you are doing what I think you are doing...

Kirk D. said...

Devlin- I should have known you'd be a former owner. It was a long shot but I checked the web site for the Charleston Museum, but the only toys they have are stuffed animals.
Yes the project is back on track. The fast track in fact, I have to be done by March! (gulp)

David- Ha ha, it's a safe bet that I am. Unrelated: I'm planning on my first visit to Secret Headquarters in January when I'm coming out for an art show. Hopefully I'll see you there!

Jon said...

The poster of Frankenstein with the furry coat is awesome. You'd think there would be someone or some company reproducing a lot of this stuff for collectors.

Scott said...

I have all of these items, but, alas, my personal policy on these matters does not allow me to share them.

cliffclaven said...

Circa 1960: We had the log cabin (and its playhouse counterpart) briefly. They were thin white plastic with one-color outline art printed on. Dotted lines indicated cut-your-own door and window flaps. You fit each one over a square card table (not included), remembering to prop up the center of the roof with two little cardboard things (included). Mom was understandably ticked; she gathered them up and announced she was sending them all back for a refund. Don't recall if she actually did; I don't think anybody mentioned them or comic book offers again.

Kirk D. said...

Jon- There is indeed a fella on a message board I frequent who has offered repros of that Frank. I may need to see if he still does.

Scott- I could not respect your stance any more than I do. I just wish all the rare novelty collectors didn't have such strict personal policies.

cliffclaven- Thanks for sharing your Frontier Cabin story! Wow, one color too, I should have known. I can't believe they splurged on cardboard thingies for the roof. This had to be one of the biggest disappointment-causers in comics and I sure wish I could get my hands on one, but my time is fleeting.

Spanking Paddles said...

The log cabin clubhouse that says it is large enough for one child.....was that really a legit offer back in the day or was it just a made up place mat?

SWTOR said...

Thanks a heap for this, it really enlightened me as to some secret fun I can have around the house!

Anonymous said...

i have one of the electrostatic trinkets, i should pull it out and see if it still works. i forget where i got it, but i ordered several items from comic books, so that could have been the source. i thought it was pretty cool, and it worked. i also ordered the pellets that make "snow" appear from a cigarette (lame), snapping gum (a cardboard "wrigley's" like wrapper with a protruding piece of gum that actually housed a painful mouse trap device), and my brother ordered sea monkeys (died when a cockroach fell in the jar) and a "life size" frankenstein--a 7ft tall plastic sheet with a glow in the dark frankenstein--pretty cool and we still have it.
--lewis stoole

Kirk D. said...

Lewis- Cool! If you find your Electrostatic Generator please let me know because I'd love to get a photo of it, or borrow it to take one myself.

I was hoping to include it in my upcoming book, Mail-Order Mysteries (see side bar or latest post). It's finished now but IF there were a second printing maybe I could wedge it in. Either way I'd love to finally see one. Please email me at kirkd (at) if you track it down.

All of those other items you mentioned are in the book by the way. Ha, I never knew that a cockroach was the sea monkeys' natural enemy.

Major Pepperidge said...

Hi Kirk,

I know I still have an electrostatic generator somewhere (probably in a box at my mom and dad's). It worked too! If I can find it I will definitely send a photo to you.

Major Pepperidge said...

Found it! Check your email, I sent a photo.

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