This first book I don't actually have, but a friend tipped me off to its existence. When I told him I'd done a blog post on stupid horror book covers, he said "Did you get Keeper of the Children in there?" It was the first thing that came to his mind, and when I looked it up I could see why...
A headless teddy bear (with the head making a mean face, hanging its tongue out, and missing an eye) is chopping a rat in half with a hatchet. Exactly the kind of thing that makes me hate "theme night" at the local country buffet.
Looking at this makes me have to re-think the whole concept of marketing. Usually when you're inspired to buy a book by a picture on its cover, you're thinking, "I hope this scene appears in the book!" But in this case, I just don't know... do you really want to read a novel in which a headless teddy bear takes a hatchet to a rat? Wouldn't that make the novel, I dunno, really really really goddamn fucking stupid? Kinda? I can picture someone avidly turning pages, going "Any page now, Teddy Axpin's gonna snuff Mr. Squeakums! That's gone be some scary shit, boyyyyy!" I just don't know what audience they're chasing with that one. Do people read horror novels while they're on shrooms?
And believe it or not, we'll see Mr. Bear's cousin in a while...
But now... bukkake gets out of hand!
I don't know exactly what's going on there, but it looks kinda like someone drowning in an ocean of semen. Kingdom Cum! I thought maybe it was just snow, but look at it - it looks slimy. And it's kind splashing back in jizzy droplets off that one hand there. Actually, this may be an effective book cover after all, because being drowned in spunk would be a pretty horrifying fate.
Or a Thursday for Jenna Jameson.
(I was gonna double-down on the hatefulness and use Kim Kardashian for that terrible joke, but I changed my mind... but, I do have to wonder how Kim feels about her Wikipedia page's claim that "Kim has launched multiple fragrances." Yeah, well, so have I, and you don't see me botherin' people with appearances on Dancing With The Stars!)
God, this post is going downhill fast... I haven't even gotten to the third book and I'm already making celebrity enemies and resorting to fart jokes. This will not end well.
Anyway, how 'bout this one for sheer unmitigated terror?
A girl is holding some rocks.
Aaaaaaaaaaaand... that's all that's happening.
Here we have a little girl, holding some balloons, and on one of the balloons is a SKULL! Like you have in your head but can't see 'til you're dead, or at least really determined! So it's scary, oh yes, scary indeed. She also may be floating off the ground. You can't really tell because they have her in a negative space there, but I guess it'd be creepier if she was floating around, like Mary Poppins, although poppin' better not happen in this case, or wheeeeeeeee down she goes, and kersplat, and then there'll be two skulls.
Anyway, she has balloons, and she's coming to get you. Booooooooga booga. Run. Run as fast as you care to.
Now, let's get topical:
I believe this book is about a cult of ill-informed goons who want to replace the government with theocratic dullards so they'll be helpless against the rich who want to enslave them. I think I caught part of a book review on FOX News.
Y'know, scary faces of crumpled linen can be scary as hell, but you can't really tell it by this cover. And are those crumpets? Crumpets just are not scary! Scones, okay, I'll grant you that scones come with a wee bit of frisson. And I have an absolute horror of teabisquits.
I haven't read it yet, but I'm doubting this book will deliver, because it's written by Charles L. Grant, the most over-rated horror writer in the biz. He likes "quiet horror." Sometimes the volume's so low you never hear it at all. But, I suppose if people are supposed to be scared by a girl holding rocks, or a skull balloon, then there's a place for Charles L. Grant at the table.
Let's get a little louder...
This is why you should let your cheese toast cool down before you eat it!
A bit excessive, ain't it? Looks like somebody tried to use a woodchipper as a pillow. You don't usually see that much gore on these book covers, especially when the victim of the torn-off-face is a little kid. That's harsh. I kinda like it, though. At least it fits the "I hope there's a scene like this in the book" test. I mean, at least it knows it's a horror novel. And it's not nearly as silly as...
THIS! That's the head of a kid (who looks a lot like Ricky Schroeder, star of Silver Spoons) stuck onto the stunted body of a dwarf scarecrow. Must be a shrunken head, too, unless those are some big-ass candles and pins.
Sometimes I like to picture the boardrooms of these book companies, approving these covers. I'd pay money to get a look at the stuff they rejected, because those must really be some seriously hilarious stuff.
"Okay, guys, I think our artists came up with a real winner this time. It's a baby wielding a porkchop! And he's wearing a golf cap! Look at his eyes... that infant means business! That will surely scare the ass off the public! And, look here, we've got a cover with a chicken in pants, waving a flag! And on the flag is a picture of a skull with a candy cane in its mouth! Dare we unleash this nightmare on an unsuspecting public? If we get away with those, we'll move on to our ultimate weapon... DEVIL-FACE BEACH BALL!"
Sometimes they would used actual models instead of paintings, and I would've liked to see this photo shoot...
They're a bit cheesy, but I don't particularly have a problem with the witch and the warlock... but, ummmm, we gotta talk about this "werewolf" thing, or Dee Snider, or whatever it is.
I only know that's supposed to be a werewolf because it's in the title there. But it honestly looks like the book should be titled Rod Serling's Triple W: Witches, Warlocks, and WickedChickenmen. 'Cuz that's much more like were-poultry. Definitely gonna cluck you up. It's like they draped a bathroom rug over him, had a blind man slap some makeup on him in the back of a truck being driven by a drunk on an icy road, and said "Good enough!"
That's a real guy, y'know. Somewhere out there there is a guy who, buried deeeeeeep on his resume, has a claim-to-fame of being the werewolf-whatsis on the cover of this book. It's a story I don't believe he tells his grandchildren. I bet the "Did I ever tell you kids about the time I sucked my cousin's dick?" story comes up more often than the posing-for-the-werewolf-cover one.
I actually like the next cover, but it is silly...
What's great about this picture is... it actually is the creature in the book! Yep, it's a book about a skeleton that goes around killing people. Its goofy but there is a certain spookiness to it. You have to admire the audacity of putting such a thing on a book cover.
Now, the book itself is a masterpiece. It's freakin' Lovecraft, son! You can't go wrong with HPL, and "At The Mountains of Madness" is some of his highlight-reel material. But this cover... a guy with a big ol' fakey googly eye and an eyepatch over the other. I have no idea what the thought behind this was, but I have a feeling it might have been the result of brain-damage from a tricycle accident.
Now, dare you confront the horror of... Mommy Rubberface?
Ha ha, mommy funny!
I really don't know what to say about this, but the author apparently had some kind of John Saul thing going with the baby-horror, since he had a previous book called Crib. Cheap horror always seemed to be preoccupied with kids and toys for some reason. Here's a couple more examples of that:
This looks like our old friend from Wait and See, but without the eyeballs and holding a couple of twins who have Village of the Damned eyes. I'm certain this will cause at least as much terror as, say, a boy with a purple skull-cat.
Y'know, like that one. I think this painting touches mankind's primal fears of purple stuffed cats with extremely long tails, and half-skull faces. The kid sure looks spooked enough by it, even as he hugs the horror-cat, Mr. Spookums.
Then there's Toy Cemetery by the World's Worst Writer® William W. Johnstone.
Only in the case of a Johnstone book could this cover be better than the book itself. There's a stuffed-animal clown guy with spinach coming out of the cracks in his face, a lap full of dead roses which are held by a skeleton's hand, and there, on his chest, I believe that's a Cheeto, which is the most eldritch of snack foods. In your colon they dwell... forever!
I'm not sure what they mean by a "toy cemetery." Is it like a doll house, a little cemetery you play with? Or is it a cemetery where they bury dead toys? Were they just so desperate to make readers think of Pet Sematary that they trusted Johnstone's notoriously-laughable "judgement" to come up with a concept? That's probably what happened, and lo, half a bottle of Seagram's later, Johnstone was busy at work hammering out this messterpiece.
(In my defense, notice the clipped corner: that means I only paid a quarter for this thing. I'll buy just about anything for a quarter, even stuff I know will suck.)
And I saved the best for last. This first one I actually just bought specifically for this post, guys and gals. When I saw it in the bookstore I knew you just had to see it. Yes, I love ya'll that much!
Up the irons!
That's gotta be the first draft of those old Metallica "Metal Up Your Ass" tee-shirts, don'tcha think? It's yet another mean Teddy bear, this time with a butcher knife.
"Teddy is tired of sleeping with you, Jimmy. He's sick of your hugs and your neediness. You get on Teddy's nerves, Jimmy, and tonight, he's going to do something about it!"
I actually do hope there's a scene like this in the book. If not, I'm going to complain... probably to random strangers on the street who have no idea what I'm going on and on about, until they lock me away and give me the thorazine that makes the ghosts go away for a time.
Okay, got one more... and it's not quite as great as the skeleton with a banjo, but it's purty goddamn close there, buddy, so you better grab aholt of your urethra just in case before you look at...
...A MAN IN A NURSE'S OUTFIT AND RUBBER GLOVES HOLDING A BABYDOLL!
This is even scarier to me because this guy looks almost exactly like the guy who lives next door to me. 'Cept without the nurse gear and all, I mean. Or at least I've never seen him in such gear, but what he does on his own time, that's his business.
And yes, this does figure in the book. From the back cover:
Mr. Macready was such a nice old man. He liked to watch the children walking home from school, especially the little girls. In fact, Mr. Macready knew all about the children of Granite Heights -- their names, their houses, even the nights their parents were away.
And when he put on his white nurse's uniform and smeared his lips with blood-red lipstick, any child would be happy to let him through the door. Oh, they always stared a bit at his clear plastic gloves. But that was nothing compared to how they stared when he got his hands around their fragile little necks and crooned... ROCKABYE BABY.
So, maybe that's actually a scary cover after all...