Strange Stories, Amazing Facts: The Faces of Belmez

When I was a kid my parents kept our house fully stocked with all sorts of reading material. One book I read over and over was a Reader’s Digest book titled “Strange Stores, Amazing Facts,” published in 1981.

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The book is filled with all kinds of stories, covering everything from Jack the Ripper and Bigfoot to the Oak Island Money Pit and UFO sightings. One of the sections that used to cause me to lose sleep as a kid was the collection of stories about hauntings. One that sticks with me to this day was the story about the Faces of Belmez.

According to legend, a small boy in Belmez, Spain discovered a face that appeared on/in their kitchen tile. The face moved and reacted when touched or spoken to. When the boy showed the face to his mother, she attempted to clean it off. This apparently caused the face much pain. When a second face appeared, the family had the entire floor dug up and replaced. The faces returned on the new floor.

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When the floor was dug up, an ancient cemetery was discovered beneath the home. In an attempt to detect fraud, sensitive microphones were set up in the kitchen to try and catch family members putting the faces back on the floor. But instead of catching family members, the microphones recorded voices in an unknown language speaking in voices inaudible to human ears. The microphones also recorded faint sobbing and wailing. Soon, faces appeared both on the floors and on the walls of the home.

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Depending on who you ask, the haunting Faces of Belmez are either “100% authentic” or “100% fake”. Regardless of what you believe, the pictures of these faces scared me so bad as a kid that I would close my eyes at night when walking across my own kitchen floor just in case faces had appeared there too.

This October I’ve been reading some Halloween stories to and with my kids. Maybe it’s time to pull out my own copy of Strange Stories, Amazing Facts and tell them the story about the haunted Faces of Belmez …

Eerie Series Ghosts

After rediscovering Seymour Simon’s Space Monsters book, I wanted to track down the rest of the Eerie Series. That lead me to this one:

The simply named Ghosts is a very different book from Space Monsters. While Space Monsters focused on creatures from movies and TV shows, Ghosts focuses on specters from folklore. Simon records a lot of standard tales about haunted houses and ships and graveyards. One of the best stories is about the Nameless Horror of Berkeley Square, a Lovecraftian ghost that crawled out of the sewers in London to literally scare people to death. There are also poltergeists, ghost dogs, and various other apparitions in the book. There is even a photo of one such apparition, the Brown Lady of Rayhnam Hall.

And there are more pictures in the book than that. In addition to a few other photos and wood carvings, there are also several pieces of original artwork by Stephen Gammell, such as this one:

If the style looks familiar, it should. Gammell was also the artist of the Scary Stories series.

I honestly don’t remember if I read this book as a kid. There is nothing specific about it that I can remember as there was with Space Monsters. But it is a possibility. It is certainly the kind of thing I liked to read back then. And though it’s a little below my current reading level, it’s still the kind of thing I like to read today.

Cart Art Halloween Special: Ghosts!

I have a guilty pleasure. It’s Ghosts. I love stories about ghosts. I love legends about ghost. I love night vision green television shows about people trying to hunt ghosts. Be they vengeful spirits, pesky poltergeists, scary specters, awesome apparitions, Ghosts are just great. My first ever Halloween costume was a ghost and every few years I buy a fresh white sheet, cut out some eye holes and I am ready to go to candy town. With this in mind, I left the best for last when it comes to Cart Art as we delve deep into the world of Ghostly game covers.

Bubble Ghost

I normally stick to the US covers of game but I could not pass this beauty. I dare you to look at this cover and not fall in love with that little rosy cheeked rapscallious rascal of a ghost. He is so cute. At first the background seem liked some sort of mountain range in space but after careful study, I found that they are all melting candles. This means the ghost is not only adorable, but tiny as well. If you can’t love a tiny bubble blowing ghost who blows so hard that his checks turn red, then you sir or mad’am, have no soul.

Laser Ghost

This cover has has that same sort of bulbous, cartoony art that the Alex Kidd games have, only even more confusing. Flames, flying skulls, scary painting, I understand all of that but why is there a car inside a building? I can live with an evil, possessed mid size sedan with teeth and a tongue but I fail to understand why it is inside a building. Taking a closer look at this cover, it would be terrifying if the art style was not so goofy. There is a fat guy being hung who is spitting out a drunken fly. The girl on the cover (who has one giant left hand) is forced to flee from not only the undead but also from a flaming floor and airborne shards of glass. You draw this cover with more realism, I might poo my pants, but as it is, it’s just a little oddity.

Haunting

And now, a simple list of things to enjoy on this cover:

– While fleeing in terror, the Dad manages to not only to fail to scream in terror like the rest of his family, but he managed to keep his cigar in his mouth.

– Is the Mom’s hair that pulled back or is it being scared off her?

– I am unable to look at the lips on the couch without thinking of Rocky Horror Picture Show. I think this is a more of a judgment of me then this cover.

– Is Polterguy the ghost of Guile from Street Fighter 2?

– More games need to have red backgrounds that look like old wall treatments and couches found in my grandmother’s house. I’m just saying.

Scapeghost

What a great title. The picture is nothing to write home about, just the see through gumshoe in a spooky grave yard (but look at his feet, like a pair of gray, overstuffed sausages). It is the Level 9 Adventure logo pattern behind the artwork that is interesting. It is so rare to find a logo so good that is displayed in such an eyeball melting way. The L and 9 locked together is great, especialy when they come together and the 9 part also looks kind of like an A so you get all three characters that make up the abbreviation for the publishing company. However, the black and white checkerboard Heck that is repeated destroys just how great the logo it. I want my eyes to go slack and see if I can find the hidden 3D image like it is one of magic eye posters. The background should not distract from the real artwork.

Pac-Man

I knew once I decided on ghosts, I would have to include a Pac-Man cover, but which one? Oh wait, there is only one great and wacky Pac-Man cover and it is this fantastic piece of work. What a great and different way of imaging the Pac-Man world. Just look at Blinky (the red ghost). He has got that evil grin, licking his lips in anticipation in ending Pac-Man’s life. I love that the artist gave the ghost legs and that outstretched arm. Though not a ghost, the Pac-Man is great, dressed like a marathon runner, thin and nervous looking, reaching out to consume the pellets and looking back at the ghost nipping at his heels. That is a great way of representing the game. Eating and looking back to avoid the ghosts is exactly what you do in the game. If only Pac-Man wore tube socks and had a single giant tooth in the game, I would never stop playing it.

Special Bonus Cover: Monster Party

I would be remiss if I spent the entire month of October without including his cover. I will not say anything more as the cover speaks for it’s self. Just enjoy.

With all Hallows Eve upon us, we bring to a close to our month long Halloween Special Cart Arts. Fret not my dear Retro fans, we will be back in November with an all new, month long theme! If you have any comments or suggestions for Cart Art, please feel free to leave them in the comments section or send me an email at OffisaPups@retroist.com. Now if you excuse me, I have an unlicensed nuclear accelerator on my back someone saw a cockroach up on twelve. Bustin’ makes me feel good!