IN THE WORLD OF MONSTER MAGAZINES Jim Warren was as competitve a publisher one could go up against. Fiercely protective, he knew he had a loyal readership with FAMOUS MONSTERS OF FILMLAND and a winner with CREEPY. When a competing publisher had the notion to release a magazine called EERIE, Warren responded by -- overnight no less -- assembling a magazine with the same title, securing the copyright, and putting it "on sale" before you could say "ashcan".
So, when he caught wind that Top Sellers, Ltd. -- publishers across the pond -- had designs to market an American version of their HOUSE OF HAMMER magazine, he didn't waste any time. In March, 1978, Top Sellers released a #1 issue of HOUSE OF HORROR, and with issue #19 (v2 n7, April 1978) changed the regular title of HOUSE OF HAMMER to HAMMER'S HOUSE OF HORROR. Warren in the meantime, threw together his own HOUSE OF HORROR title and miraculously was able to once again legally beat the competition to the punch. Top Sellers was only able to publish a second issue of HAMMER'S HOUSE OF HORRORS (v2 n9, whole number 20, May 1978) before being forced to change the name. They finally settled on HAMMER'S HALLS OF HORROR, with issue #21.
Warren's HOUSE OF HORROR, like a few of his other, more obscure titles, is steeped in the lore and legend of recent antiquity. No exact publishing date is attributed to the issue other than the year (1978), but it is suggested by the events described above that it was most likely in March and certainly no later than April.
The common assertiion is that there were a scant 400 copies printed. Offered only by exclusive mail order as a "beautiful" 32-page magazine through Captain Company, it was sold for a dollar a copy, even though the printed cover price was 50 cents (figure in another half dollar for mailing costs?).
While it has attained collector's cult status and fetches prices in the thousands of dollars, compared to EERIE #1 and even AN ILLUSTRATED HISTORY OF HEIDI SAHA, as a magazine HOUSE OF HORROR is really no great shakes. Outside of the 5 pages of ads (never pass up the chance to sell more product!), HoH consists entirely of reprints, including the cover:
> The Outer Limits (FAMOUS MONSTERS #134)
> Close Encounters Special Effects (CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND SPECIAL)
> The Amazing Star Wars Robots (STAR WARS SPECTACULAR)
> Creatures of the Watery Deep (FAMOUS MONSTERS #131)
> Rare Treats (FAMOUS MONSTERS #126)
As one can see, even the reprints were from then recently-printed material. It's not difficult to imagine that these articles were chosen not so much because the galleys might have been close at hand, but because of what was hot in the movie market at the time.
The masthead includes a mini Who's Who of already familiar names in the Warren 'zines:
James Warren: Founder & Publisher
Editor-in-Chief: Forrest J Ackerman
Managing Editor: Bill Mohalley
Production: Kim McQuaite
Circulation Director: Michael Schneider
Traffic Department: Donato Velez, Jacinto Soto
Special Photography: Walter Daugherty
The cover art is not credited, by if I had to guess, I'd say it was a rendering by Enrich, who was doing cover art for VAMPIRELLA at the same time that HoH was published. It is also interesting to note that the March 1978 issue of VAMPIRELLA had a photo cover between months (February and April) of Enrich cover art. The same image was used with a different layout as the cover for FAMOUS MONSTERS #180 (January 1982).
Collector's prices have varied over the years, but HoH has remained a "scarce" item and has sold at a premium price. It has not been listed in Overstreet, but it was in Pierce & Ballantine's MONSTER MAGAZINE & FANZINE COLLECTOR'S GUIDE #2, where a Fine/Near Mint copy was valued at $425. A recent eBay vendor was selling a copy for $400, but various market reports have shown auction sales to be in the thousands. For example, Heritage Auctions sold a CGC 9.5 Near Mint copy for $1,434 in May 2006. An earlier auction yielded a sale of a CGC 9.2 copy for $2,136 in September 2005.
As mentioned, HOUSE OF HORRORS is, in essence, a reprint magazine. The following is reproduced from an authentic original copy and has not been assembled from the reprint source material as I hear some digital bootlegs have. However, in respect for the poor souls who have shelled out big bucks for originals of this 'zine, and with not so much respect for the market speculators who usually drive collector's prices up out of site (until, once in a glorious while, a "warehouse find" is discovered), I have omitted one page to avert undue impact on its value.
Warren successfully blocked the sale of a magazine from another publisher with a title that he wanted for his own. Ironically, HOUSE OF HORRORS never got past this first ashcan edition. One wonders would it could have eventually become -- another short-run series like MONSTER WORLD? We'll never know.
NOTE: This post contains historical information from David Horne's GATHERING HORROR: A COMPLETIST COLLECTOR'S CATALOGUE AND INDEX FOR WARREN PUBLISHING, a most valuable reference for any serious Monsterologist.