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Fantasy Collection Is Goblin Up All His Space

February 23, 1986|FRED SHUSTER | Associated Press

Count Dracula has taken a bite out of Forrest J. Ackerman's bank account, and he's having trouble keeping the werewolf from the door.

Ackerman's world-famous accumulation of pulp magazines, props, theater lobby cards, stills and books is, according to historians, priceless.

And for lovers of the supernatural, it is a nightmare come true.

"I've spent over 60 years, and every penny I've ever made, trying to collect every scrap on Earth of everything with a science-fiction and fantasy nature," he said at the "Ackermansion" below the Griffith Observatory in the Hollywood Hills.

By the looks of it, he hasn't missed anything.

The main body of the 300,000-piece collection fills an entire floor of his home. Cupboards, hallways, closets, drawers and ledges. Wall to wall bookshelves.

It is clear that this national treasure must be preserved, but so far no offers are forthcoming.

"When I was a youngster I thought, 'Send science fiction a millionaire.' Now we have dozens of them," Ackerman, 69, said.

"If I could wave a magic wand, Steven Spielberg or George Lucas or some of these independently wealthy young people would step forward and say, 'Here's a blank check. Go build a museum to your specifications,' " he said.

Meanwhile, as the still-growing collection consumes everything in its path, "I've come to feel that I can't just give it away," he said.

Life masks of Peter Lorre, Boris Karloff and Lon Chaney Jr., an exact replica of the female Robotrix from Fritz Lang's 1926 classic, "Metropolis," pieces of the Krell lab from "Forbidden Planet" (1956) and rare animation dinosaur models from "King Kong" (1933) mingle in the disarray.

Several pieces, such as the Martian war machine from "War of the Worlds" (1952), are currently on loan to the Smithsonian Institution as part of its "Yesterday's Tomorrows" exhibit. The Hollywood Museum, now closed, had an Ackerman exhibit which included the "Creature From the Black Lagoon," 1952's Man-Fish of the Year.

Ackerman said the Creature, one of his rarest pieces, was originally swept up by a studio janitor after shooting was completed.

"It was casually thrown away and a janitor sweeping up the hands, legs and feet thought, 'I bet my kid would like this,' so he takes the $35,000 suit home to his little 10-year-old boy.

"So this kid is running around the neighborhood scaring everybody," he said.

Later, the boy sold it to a friend down the street who eventually gave it to Ackerman.

He also developed, and edited for 25 years, Famous Monsters of Filmland, a magazine designed for the adolescent who wants to grow up to be the Wolf-Man.

He resigned three years ago and the magazine promptly folded.

Also part of the collection are one of the late Bela Lugosi's three original capes from "Dracula" (1930), and Lon Chaney Jr.'s make-up kit and hair from King Kong.

There are first editions, second editions, stamps, more than 200 versions of Mary Shelley's 1818 novel, "Frankenstein," and as many of Bram Stoker's "Dracula" (1897).

The wonderful mess prompted one visitor to write in the guest book, "Can't I live here?" But there is order in Ackerman's court.

"I put together all the books about dinosaurs, about cavemen, about Atlantis, Lemuria and Mu--the three main lost continents--all books that have women in the title, all books about devils, ghosts, werewolves, zombies. Anthologies of science fiction, fantasy and horror. Then I have major authors together," Ackerman said.

The congenial Ackerman has also appeared in films, including "The Time Travelers" (1964) as a technician in an android factory, and in a rock video.

"John Landis placed me right behind Michael Jackson in the movie theater scene in 'Thriller.' As Jackson gets up, I can be seen sitting behind him eating popcorn. Next month, I'll become President of the United States in Landis' upcoming sequel to 'Kentucky Fried Movie,' " he said.

Ackerman, born and raised in Los Angeles, became hooked on the fantastic at age 9 when he bought the October, 1926, issue of "Amazing Tales." He still has that magazine.

"This has permitted me to live a great deal in the future. I may not be around in 2001 but I've already been there. The authors have opened doors and windows for me," Ackerman said.

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