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Professor Griffin is the host of The Midnight Shadow Show in Austin, Texas. He is currently the only horror host in Texas and has hosted local TV horror programs as well as a variety of Halloween events in the Austin area. He is also a life-long horror fan and collector. In this piece written especially for Monster Kid, Professor Griffin (a.k.a. Joseph Fotinos) shares some personal memories of Christmas and the special toys that brought spooky delight to him and thousands of other Monster Kids of the '70s.

I can recall it exactly, the feeling that washed over me like a flood as I turned the corner into my living room. The year was 1976, I was 7 years old, and it was Christmas morning. The air was filled with magic, and my blurry eyes fought to focus on the treasure that my beloved Santa Claus had brought me.

Against the large window, blinking in a multicolored, golden garland glow was our family Christmas tree, and just off to one side, MY SIDE I was sure, was a haunted purple castle. The castle that I wanted for Christmas! The castle for my action figures! The Mad Monsters Castle! It had been taken out of the box, opened, and displayed! (No doubt by Santa himself in a great presentation). It was beautiful! The Castle had vinyl stone walls, printed a vibrant Basil Gogos purple, detailed with bricks, vines, roots and cracks, and the drawbridge worked! On top of the wicked structure, positioned on each of the four corners, blood red turrets perched majestically, tailor made for angry monsters to hurl large heavy objects down on frightened villagers, or to just hurl the frightened villagers off of! Inside the castle, more gruesome joy! The walls depicted shelves of books and skulls, potions and torch sconces, all in garish, wicked color! Finally in the center of the castle interior, was a large lab table (fit for a giant).

Christmas had come! The moment was filled with joy and happiness. My parents smiled and beamed at the sheer unequaled bliss in which my brother and I flung ourselves toward the incredible amount (it seemed) of gifts that Santa had somehow gotten into out house without anyone noticing. My brother was tearing open cool Aurora Dinosaur models and giant eagle gliders, but I had my Mad Monster Castle! I immediately had to run back to my room and bring out the two Mad Monsters that I owned, The Human Wolfman and The Horrible Mummy.


The Mad Monster Castle from the 1975 Mego retailers' catalogue.

The Human Wolfman was quite different from Lon Chaney's Larry Talbot (my favorite Monster as a child). Just comparing him to the images in my magazines and to the Aurora Wolfman Model clearly illustrated this. The Mego version featured a realistic wolf's head, snout, ears, grinning teeth, and of course, the molded claws and the goop in his eyes that glowed in the dark. His clothes consisted of a tunic made of a passable leather material; fur at the neck and at the cuffs of his purple sleeves. He wore no pants, but rather purple tights and black boots. He looked mythic and story-bookish, and that's what he was to me. I had always thought the Mego Human Wolfman doll was what the Wolfman REALLY looked like. I felt that it was a realistic depiction of a werewolf and that the movies couldn't really show us the real Wolfman... we'd drop dead from fright for sure!!

It was also true of my only other Mad Monster, The Horrible Mummy. He was horrible indeed! The face was ultra wrinkled and dry with centuries, and his facial expression always reminded me of someone who just ate a very sour pickle. The scowl of a living dead man was a very frightening thing for me, and Universal's Mummy (Kharis) was the only monster that actually gave me nightmares as a child. The Horrible Mummy was a little too generic to make me think of Prince Kharis, and furthermore, he had both of his eyes! The goop in his eyes glowed as well as his molded human hands, and his head was sculpted with his baleful beige bandages framing his hideous face. His wrappings continued as a printed body suit, but with loose bandages wrapped around his body. I can't remember how often I removed his loose bandages and rewrapped him in various ways. I even transformed the box that he came in, into a passable sarcophagus (painted gold and with the detail drawn in with a marker).

Both were fully posable and both were mine! I quickly grabbed them and rushed back to the living room to let my monsters roam about in their new home. The Wolfman fit nicely in one of the turrets and the living dead Egyptian leaned in a dark corner of the castle interior.

More presents were opened and my living room started to disappear under the mounds of brightly colored Christmas paper. As my brother James was opening yet another Aurora Prehistoric scenes model kit (the Cave), I tore open a large box that contained two smaller boxes. The boxes were brightly colored and garishly depicted The Monster Frankenstein! And The Dreadful Dracula!! Oh man oh man! I had them all! My monster collection was complete and now my Wolfman had a Frankenstein monster to battle with!

I recall with the utmost clarity, more than anything else about them, the smell of a new Mego action figure. The Mad Monsters came in various packaging, (blister cards, solid boxes, and window boxes) and the smell when you cracked one of these open is one of the vivid memories of growing up when I did. Here I had two of the most famous monsters of all time, the living dead, immortalized in plastic and rubber. The Monster Frankenstein and the Dreadful Dracula were also very different from their motion picture counterparts. I knew nothing about licensing and Universal's copyright on the Jack Pierce designed monsters yet, so to me once again, these figures were real and frightening variations on the way these two famous monsters must really look.

The Monster Frankenstein came open first. I pulled him out of the box enclosed in his plastic bag, ripped the bag apart and held the firm, tight jointed monster in my hands. His face was the first thing that leapt out at me; it was a face of madness, a face of nightmares. This was not the flat topped, familiar sleepy eyed monster of my Aurora Frankenstein. This Monster's face was ghastly pale, not stark white but a very pale yellow. His skin was covered in wrinkles and creases, making him appear quite dead. He had dark eyebrows, green pinpoints for eyes, and a thin red mouth turned upside down in sorrow. The bolts were located on either side of his head, which was covered in molded black hair. Running across his face was a red gash, showing the results of the crude surgery that gave this abomination life. He wore a gray turtleneck and a gold shiny belt (!) Under his black coat with frayed and torn sleeves and his black pants and boots. He was incredible! I remember the first thing I did with him. The first thing I did with my "action" figure. I laid him down on the table inside the castle. I flattened him and turned his glow in the dark hands palms down on the table. His feet were together and he gazed straight up. I knew from my magazines and "Boo Theater" (my local horror hosted program on Saturday nights) that the monster needed to be brought to life first, and I was a child of a meticulous nature (at least when it came to my monsters).
The Dreadful Dracula was next. I remember thinking firstly that his cape was too short, and that he looked like he was wearing pajamas. But he was just as important as the others. His face was elongated into an exaggerated wide mouthed gape, with fangs gleaming. Dracula's face was dead white, and his hair was black as night. His eyes were mismatched with one being larger than the other, but I realized that it was because of the scowl he was making. His eyes and hands glowed in the dark like the rest, and his cape was black and outlined in red. His pajamas had a blue tuxedo design with a red sash (Hey this was the 1970's after all) and his shoes were black and pointy and soft rubber, not hard plastic like The Human Wolfman and Monster Frankenstein, almost like slippers.
I placed my Dracula on the other battlement and examined his box. With a little paint and some scissors, this would make a great coffin! I knew that Dracula needed a coffin to sleep in and that without it he was doomed. It was going to be great!
That Christmas, in addition to getting my Mego Mad Monster Collection, I also received some great monster canister puzzles (Frankenstein, Dracula, The Wolfman) and a couple of monster paint by numbers sets. The action figures, however, were my pride and joy. I would play indoors and out all day with my monster figures, and at night they would dimly glow on my dresser to let me know they were still there. My castle I displayed open and proud on my desk, (until my father made me fold it up and put it away when I wasn't playing with it). There was an unnamable joy that came with being the kid with the plastic dead men. These creatures, these MONSTERS, comforted me and gave me hours of joy. My imagination soared as each day they went through many adventures. Said adventures usually always ended with Frankenstein's Monster battling the Wolfman and Count Dracula falling in a pit with wooded spikes or getting impaled on something. I knew that the Dreadful Dracula was a villain. Just looking at his face confirmed that fact. He was evil, and I was the only one with the power to stop himŠwell, The Human Wolfman and me that is. But sure enough, some villager (usually one of the Mego superheroes) would pull the stake out and the Dreadful Dracula would rise again.

For most kids, monsters were usually reserved for Halloween, but at my house, each Christmas, under the tree, the living dead often lurked. My parents (my mom especially) understood my love for the spooky and were never afraid to let my love and my fascination for the macabre flourish. I had models, puzzles, t-shirts, stickers, cards, bubble bath containers, games and of course, action figures. I guess they knew that it was all harmless make-believe, or perhaps they thought I'd grow out of it eventually (sorry, Mom and Dad).


Today I'm 33 years old, and a professional actor. My favorite gig is my horror hosting. Each Friday night at 11:00 pm, I host a horror movie on local television as Professor Griffin. My favorite holiday is Halloween and one room in the house that I share with my wife and son is filled with shelves of Monster toys and collectibles. On those shelves, standing proudly and with all the frightening fierceness they can still muster, are The Mad Monsters. Their home, my Mad Monster Castle, is long gone (destroyed by angry villagers no doubt) and they have no more grand adventures except in my memories. The Human Wolfman, The Horrible Mummy, The Dreadful Dracula, and The Monster Frankenstein stand as sentimental reminders of my happy childhood, my joyous past.

They are still, and silent. But... every now and then, when I'm alone in my "Monster room" and my wife and son are not there, I take one of them in my 33-year-old hand, and hold him close to my face... and take a deep breath. The smell of a Mego is still there... very faint but still there.

It almost always brings a tear to my eye


©2002 Joseph Fotinos

Professor Anton Griffin


Visit Professor Griffin's website

The Midnight Shadow Show

Close-up photos of Mad Monster figures by Jim McCaslin.
Special thanks to the following web sites for additional images.

Mego Museum

Mego Central

Gallery of Monster Toys

Halloween Thing