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Creepy Jigsaws

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Creepy Creatures Jigsaw Puzzles

Extracts from the Headpress book
Disposible Horror Fare of the 1960s & 1970s Vol 1

by Scott A. Stine

ALTHOUGH MOVIES, comics and magazines take up a large part of any young horror fan’s life, we all had our share of toys and games, novelties and accoutrements with which to indulge our many macabre interests. On the pages that follow is a modest potpourri of nifty monster related memorabilia from the sixties and seventies, some of which you may have had, or coveted having seen advertisements. If this proves to be your introduction, even better.

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Boxes for the Mummy, the Frankenstein Monster and Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde puzzles.

Creepy Creatures: The Frankenstein Monster jigsaw puzzle (1975)

H-G Toys, Inc. #455-01 [Long Beach, CA, USA]
Box dimensions: 5¾” x 11½” x 2”
Puzzle dimensions: 9½” x 20” (100 pieces)

Creepy Creatures: Count Dracula jigsaw puzzle (1975)

H-G Toys, Inc. #455-02 [Long Beach, CA, USA]
Box dimensions: 5¾” x 11½” x 2”
Puzzle dimensions: 9½” x 20” (100 pieces)

Creepy Creatures: Egyptian Mummy jigsaw puzzle (1975)

H-G Toys, Inc. #455-03 [Long Beach, CA, USA]
Box dimensions: 5¾” x 11½” x 2”
Puzzle dimensions: 9½” x 20” (100 pieces)

Creepy Creatures: Dr Jekyll & Mr Hyde jigsaw puzzle (1975)

H-G Toys, Inc. #458 [Long Beach, CA, USA]
Box dimensions: 8½” x 17” x 2½”
Puzzle dimensions: 14½” x 36” (100 pieces)

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The Frankenstein Monster puzzle assembled

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The Mummy puzzle assembled

I still remember when, at about the age of six, I caught sight of my first two (and for several decades, my only two) Creepy Creatures jigsaw puzzles at local variety store Wigwam. (The store went under some time in the early eighties, although a Seattle Costume & Display now resides in the same location, which I religiously peruse every October to check out the latest supply of Halloween goodies. Somehow fitting, that.) On one of Wigwam’s clearance shelves, scattered with remaindered toys, were two puzzles that came in coffin shaped boxes, one for the Mummy and one for Frankenstein’s monster. I begged, I pleaded, and eventually I persuaded my mother to buy them for me, probably with the promise of performing extra chores for the following week. She probably thought that she was getting the better end of the deal, because the clearance puzzles amounted to less than a dollar, but I knew who had really come out on top.

I had numerous monster related jigsaw puzzles as a child, but these were ultimately my favorites. Cool packaging aside—they were coffins… how groovy was that!—the monsters displayed a distinctly seventies flavor, for they steered clear of Universal’s copyrighted depictions of the classic monsters. Frankenstein’s monster eschewed the flattop look for long flowing hair, and resembled a Haitian zombie more than Boris Karloff. The Mummy boasted a single, buggy, bloodshot eye, and didn’t bear much resemblance to Karloff either. Alas, in a fit of temporary insanity during my tumultuous teens, when I had tired of collecting monster fare and dumped most of what I had acquired over the years at the local flea market, the puzzles and I parted ways, the pieces worn and their boxes a little worse for wear.

About twenty years later I found myself trying to get back all the crap I had as a kid without putting myself forever in debt, and stumbled across an advert in a toy collector’s journal for three Creepy Creatures jigsaw puzzles. Three? Lo and behold, there also existed one of Count Dracula. Although unimpressed by H-G Toys’ interpretation—being a rather sad cross between Lugosi and Lee’s portrayals—I was ecstatic at the opportunity to own not only the two puzzles I had as a child but also one in the series on which I had never laid eyes. Long story short, I ordered them for an exorbitant amount, and discovered that the dealer was either a shyster or a complete idiot, as the “Near Mint” puzzles were not only missing pieces, it appeared that the boxes had once been used as chew toys by the family pet. I immediately mailed them back and insisted on a full refund, and soon found myself dodging epithets from the seller for the audacity of calling him out. And that was the last I saw of these puzzles until I discovered eBay a few years later.

Awaiting me on the world’s online marketplace was yet another surprise: a fourth Creepy Creatures jigsaw puzzle. This time out, Jekyll & Hyde got the honors. Even more surprising, it was a double sided puzzle that was twice as large as the other three. Within a few months, I had secured all four puzzles between three different sellers. (Although in one case, I managed to get scammed on the Frankenstein puzzle a second time, without the consolation of a refund.) Since then, I have kept my eyes peeled for any others in the series that might exist, but I have only come up with multiples of the four I own. Curiously, the Werewolf—whom I thought would have taken precedent over King Tut and RL Stevenson’s poster child for bipolar disorder—is absent from the lineup.

The art on the front and back of each box differ, with the back depicting the completed puzzle itself, sans cut lines. Unfortunately, the artists for the puzzles are not credited, but from the dissimilar styles one can assume that at least two different artists were responsible, if not more. (If this was a job given to house artists, each piece of art could also be a collaborative effort to varying degrees.)

Although the Creepy Creatures puzzles have become increasingly hard to find, H-G Toys was not a small toy manufacturer by any means. During the seventies, they produced a great many jigsaw puzzles, including ones for such popular television shows as Godzilla, Planet of the Apes, Shogun Warriors, Space: 1999, Star Trek, and a slew of other, non genre programs. So, the chances that there are any more in this set is infinitesimally small, although I would love to be proven wrong.

I have yet to see anything written about these puzzles, or even inclusions in any toy or monster collector’s guides. I don’t recall seeing any adverts for them in magazines, so they probably had a fairly limited release that didn’t warrant a big push outside of modest floor displays in retail outlets. Curious though is the date they were issued. All the puzzles are marked 1974 on the lower edge of the back of the box, but 1975 on the lower flap, with the exception of Dr Jekyll & Mr Hyde, which is only marked 1975. Copies of these puzzles in mid to high grade condition routinely sell for ten to twenty dollars on eBay, although I’ve seen some online dealers try to get as much as fifty for lesser copies, so buyer beware. Although the smaller size puzzles are a little easier to find, there doesn’t seem to be any more of a demand for the larger one, which may have something to do with the popularity of the subjects. Because of the boxes’ unique but flimsy construction, they are easily crushed and the flaps often creased and torn, but ultimately they are worth owning in whatever shape one can find them in.

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Trashfiend: Disposable Horror Culture of the 1960s and 1970s by Scott Stine. Over two glorious decades the horror film waged war on good taste, exploiting every taboo and bursting every envelope along the way. Buy the book»

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