The Exorcist: Obsession with Possession

By Anthony Record

Very few things in this world scare me. Oh, there are certain things that make me feel uncomfortable. Snakes creep me out a little bit, and I would cross the street to avoid crossing paths with a clown, but whenever someone asks me about the most frightening thing I have ever experienced, one thing immediately pops in my mind: The Exorcist.

Now, in the interest of clarity, let me state for the record, that (at least to my knowledge) I have never been possessed by a demon, nor have I been sprinkled with holy water by a zealous priest. No, I’m talking about the film. And if I said that few things scare me, that goes double for scary movies. From a young age, I fully realized the dramatic nature of film: it was all staged, or fake, if you will. The only exception is if a movie proclaimed to be “Based on a true story.”  I guess then, even though I realized the movie wasn’t real, in the back of my mind I knew that the events I was watching actually happened to real people. So war movies, Titanic, The Elephant Man…these things really happened. Knowing that, I am automatically more emotionally involved from the get go. As you probably know, The Exorcist was purported to be based on actual events…uh-oh.

Released around Christmas 1973, I first saw The Exorcist a few weeks later at the soon-to-be-discovered-impressionable age of fourteen. In the interest of full disclosure, I was raised Catholic and attended Catholic school for 12 years, making me, I suppose, all that more impressionable. News stories told of moviegoers throwing up, screaming, and leaving theaters in tears. Hell, I was a little scared before the coming attractions were over. I closed my eyes a few times, and the film frightened me like no other film before or since. I am no longer embarrassed to say that I slept with the lights on for about three months after I first saw the movie. Despite all that, I made it through and came to respect it as one of my top favorite films, along with The Wizard of Oz, It’s a Wonderful Life, and The Silence of the Lambs. How’s that for a variety?

The Exorcist earned two Academy Awards, one for Best Sound and one for Best Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium for the novel’s author, William Peter Blatty. It also earned Oscar nominations for the late Jason Miller (Father Karras), Ellen Burstyn (Chris McNeil), Linda Blair (the possessed girl, Regan McNeil), William Friedkin (director), and five others, including Best Picture. The movie spawned two sequels,  Exorcist II: The Heretic (1977) and The Exorcist III (1990), as well as a prequel, Exorcist: The Beginning (2004). The film’s enduring popularity and mystique even 37 years later presents many opportunities for autograph collectors, some of which I am happy to share with you here.

Author William Peter Blatty

Without the novel, the movie would have never existed. Since it was rejected by dozens of publishers, horror fans should forevermore be grateful for the persistence of its author, William Peter Blatty. He once appeared and won $10,000 on the Groucho Marx show You Bet Your Life. When Marx asked him what he planned to do with his winnings, Blatty said he planned “…to take some time off and work on a novel.”

The Jesuit-educated author of many other novels, including the real sequel to The ExorcistLegion – has always responded to my through-the-mail autograph requests positively and promptly. The first couple of requests yielded standard 8×10 black and white publicity stills, but later on I was pleasantly and belatedly surprised by a handwritten note. Shortly after the release of the film on which it was based, I sent Blatty the hardcover novel, Legion, to sign. Not only did he boldly sign the dust jacket, but a few years later when I was thumbing through it, I discovered a note he had written in response to my letter. In brief he thanked me for my kind comments about his writing in general, also agreeing with me that Legion was the work of which he “liked best.” He recently released a new religious suspense thriller entitled Dimiter, which is residing safely on my Kindle — the next in line to be read after Sarah Silverman’s Bedwetter. But alas, I digress.

Max Von Sydow

Though he played the elderly priest, Father Lancaster Merrin, Swedish-born actor, Max Von Sydow was only 44 years old in 1973. I never realized he was so young, and through the years thought it amazing how he seemed not to age much. Oh the wonders of Hollywood and makeup! The interesting thing about Max Von Sydow is that, at least to my knowledge, he is the only actor to play both God (The Greatest Story Ever Told, 1965) and the Devil (Needful Things, 1993) in separate movies. This is interesting in that in arguably his most famous role – as Father Merrin – he plays an agent of God doing battle with the Devil.

Much like Blatty, Von Sydow has always sent me a photo (all the way from Sweden), but never a still from the movie, and he has never answered any of my questions regarding the film either. Luckily for me and other fans of the movie, authentic autographed items surrounding The Exorcist abound, and photos of Von Sydow from this film are among the few autographs I am willing to purchase. Still going strong at the age of 82, he was most recently seen in Shutter Island and Robin Hood.

Ellen Burstyn

One of the most talented and gifted actresses of our time, Ellen Burstyn was born in 1932 in Detroit, Michigan. Well respected among her peers, Burstyn was nominated for Best Actress in a Leading Role for her work as Chris McNeil in The Exorcist. Although she lost out to Glenda Jackson in A Touch of Class¸ Burstyn won for Best Actress the next year for her work in Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore, and was nominated for best actress at least four more times.

Burstyn will surely never forget her work on The Exorcist considering she suffered a permanent spinal injury while filming. In the scene where the demon throws her away from her possessed daughter, the harness jerked her away too quickly and with such force that she landed on her coccyx. The injury was so painful that the scream it elicited was actually used in the film! Ms. Burstyn has always been a gracious signer, and if you make a request through the mail you will not be disappointed.

Jason Miller, Lee Cobb, and Director William Friedkin

Two of the main characters in the film are no longer with us. Jason Miller passed away in 2001, and Lee J. Cobb died in 1976, just a few years after appearing in The Exorcist. Miller, whose son Jason Patric is also an actor, was a talented character actor and gifted playwright. In fact, he won a Pulitzer Prize for his play, That Championship Season. Although I sent him several Exorcist movie stills to sign, he never responded with anything other than simply a signature on a 3×5 index card. Jason Miller was nominated for an Oscar for his portrayal of Father Karras, a priest struggling not only to help the possessed girl, but also struggling with his own faith. Unfortunately for my Exorcist collection, Cobb (who performed brilliantly in the role of Lt. Kinderman) passed away before I even began collecting. He was probably best known for his role in 12 Angry Men, and won two Oscar nominations in the 1950s for his work in On the Waterfront and The Brothers Karamazov.

I was privileged to obtain a signed 3×5 index card of Mercedes McCambridge, who provided the guttural voice of the demon possessing the little girl. McCambridge, who started her career on radio, passed away in LaJolla, California in 2004.

A few other “minor” autograph opportunities from the film exist with William Friedkin (director), Kitty Winn (Sharon), and William O’Malley, an actual Catholic priest who played the role of Father Karras’s friend, Father Dyer. O’Malley teaches at Fordham University and to this day claims that 80% of what is depicted in the film actually happened.

Linda Blair

Without question, the one actor whose name almost immediately conjures up images of The Exorcist is the possessed girl herself, Linda Blair. Barely 13 when she began filming her role as Regan McNeil, she was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress in a Supporting Role, and actually won a Golden Globe. It is believed she did not win the Oscar because days before the awards show it was revealed that the voice work was done by McCambridge, and that a dummy was used in many scenes. Like many child performers, Blair struggled with relationships and substance abuse. She never enjoyed the same level of fame as she did with The Exorcist. Her film credits include such forgettable works as Repossessed, Fatal Bond, and Bedroom Eyes II.

Considering her early childhood and having an untold number of experiences where fans would approach her on the street and ask her to spin her head around, it’s a wonder she survived at all. Having met her in person several times I can tell you that Linda now seems truly happy and extremely well adjusted. Either that or she is indeed a very talented actress. Maybe both! She routinely appears at film and collector conventions and is also a very willing signer through the mail. She has also done admirable work as an advocate for pets and pet adoption. Her hardcore fans are truly that – hardcore.

One such example is Blair fan and Autograph subscriber, Kenton Berry, of Largo, Florida. I wrote about spending some time with Linda at Spooky Fest in Orlando, and Berry wrote to me about his extensive Linda Blair collection. I was intrigued. So I called him up to find out what he meant. I would say that Kenton truly is possessed…or obsessed with Linda Blair. Not really. He seems like a nice guy who is simply impressed with Blair as a person and as an actress. He says he was first hooked when he saw her work in Airport ’75, in which she played Janice Abbott.

Kenton explained that he had 400-500 pictures in his collection. When I asked him what his collection consisted of, he quickly clarified for me that his collection was not your run-of-the-mill autograph collections. Oh no, it is a Linda Blair collection. He has over 400 different 8×10 photographs of Ms. Blair, 50 of which are autographed. He also has newspaper clippings, posters, magazines, and other collectibles that feature her. Perhaps one of his most interesting possessions (pun intended) is a bronze-painted, plaster face mask of Blair that was made during the filming of The Exorcist. He also has a personal goal related to Blair: He hopes to raise the funds ($25,000) and interest necessary for adding a Linda Blair star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. If his earnestness for his collection is any indication, I’m sure we will see a Blair star in the not-too-distant future. Good luck, Kenton.

Few films or books stand the test of time. Many works that are read and viewed years after their release seem to simply lose their effect; they seem dated and irrelevant. The Exorcist does not belong on that category. It still holds up today as well as it did nearly 40 years ago. Its legend endures. That fact was reinforced the last time I attended an event where Linda Blair was signing autographs for her fans. I struck up a conversation with a woman who was ahead of me in line, patiently waiting her turn to meet Blair. I discovered she had driven nearly 200 miles to attend the convention. It had been over 30 minutes, so I said, “You must be a really big fan, to have driven all that way and be waiting in line this long.” She explained to me that indeed she was a fan of the film and of Blair, but that she was standing in line for the true fan of the film. She pointed to her daughter, sitting a few feet away. She was twelve years old! That to me is a true indication of how the popularity of The Exorcist will long endure. In fact, it’s been a few years…now that I’m done with this article…I think I’ll pop it in the DVD player myself…

The Ultimate Horror Weekend

By ANTHONY D. RECORD
Autograph June 2010 [Read more…]

Carla Laemmle Turns 100

Circa 2006, Laemmle signed a Dracula postcard

By MICHAEL IWINSKI

Featured in Autograph January 2010

Carla Laemmle publicity photo from the 1920s

Carla Laemmle, the last living link to The Phantom of the Opera and Dracula, celebrated her 100th birthday last October 26. A celebration was held on Soundstage 28 at Universal Studios, and Ms. Laemmle returned to the set where she played the prima ballerina in Phantom of the Opera in 1925.

I interviewed her on the eve of her centennial celebration, and Carla Laemmle’s voice was clear and her mind sharp. Earlier this year she even penned a book with Daniel Kinske, Growing Up With Monsters. Her roots in Hollywood date back to 1921, when she arrived from Chicago at the age of 11. Her uncle, Carl Laemmle, founded Universal Studios, and she describes growing up on the studio lot as a magical time, a kind of perpetual fantasy world. It was while working for the studio that Laemmle played roles in two of the greatest horror films ever produced.

Laemmle became a cult figure in horror fandom. “I’ve been getting mail nearly every day from all over the world,” she says. Always an accommodating signer, Laemmle is flattered by the attention she still receives, but keeps it in perspective: “They praise me and flatter me so much that you can’t take it too seriously.” After all, she was only 16 years old when she performed in Phantom. Fans continue to request autographs and sometimes send gifts in the mail. “I just received a wonderful letter from an artist in Canada. The portrait he did of Lon Chaney is really excellent!”

Unsigned window card for the 1925 Phantom of the Opera sold in 2009 for $7,768, courtesy of Heritage Auctions

Of Chaney’s role as the phantom, Laemmle says, “It was a closed set. I was only in the ballet sequence at the beginning, and they didn’t allow anyone in the room when the unmasking scene was being made.”

The scene Laemmle is referring to is one of the most iconic in movie history. The phantom’s mask is removed, revealing his hideously deformed face. “Only the people who were involved with the scenes were able to be on the set. It added shock value by keeping it a secret.”

In 1931 Laemmle delivered the first lines in another Universal classic, Dracula. “I was in the carriage and just read the lines that were right in front of me.” Seventy-eight years later, she recites them from memory: “Among the rugged peaks that frown down upon the Borgo Pass, are found crumbling castles of a bygone age.”

Even while it was being filmed, Laemmle felt Dracula was unique. “It was the first talking picture—the first sound horror movie being made. We knew there would be quite a bit of special interest in it. It was no longer just silent movies. That’s what set it apart at the time and made it special.”

Laemmle, who was trained in ballet, would go on to use her dance skills in musicals throughout Hollywood in the 1920s and 1930s. “I worked at every studio—MGM, Universal, Warner Brothers, RKO.” Thinking back to what the town was like during the early days, Laemmle feels the actors were much more approachable and visibly appreciative: “They were very gracious in those days. They knew how valuable being accessible was and were very nice.”

Carla Laemmle exudes these qualities today, something autograph collectors and horror film aficionados appreciate. Surprisingly, she is not a huge horror fan. She never even auditioned for the part in Dracula but was called in by Universal at the last minute. No director was present when the scene was filmed on a back lot, with men rocking the carriage to and fro to create the illusion of motion. “I’m not interested in horror movies at all!” Laemmle says. “But I like to watch Dracula and Phantom of the Opera when they are on.”

Forrest J Ackerman Estate Auction

By KIMBERLY COLE
Featured in Autograph April 2009

Forrest J Ackerman

Forrest J Ackerman

“If I can’t take it with me, I’m not going to go,” Forrest J Ackerman would tell guests touring his collection. But when the man known as Uncle Forry to legions of horror and science fiction fans died in December at 92, he left an amazing collection behind. Thousands of sci-fi and horror related items will be auctioned from April 30 to May 1 by Profiles in History. “This will be the most important sale of horror-related items ever assembled for auction,” said Joe Maddalena, the firm’s CEO.

Jerry Weist, an author, collector and science fiction consultant for Sotheby’s described Ackerman’s collection in 2003: “There was nothing like it anywhere in the world, and there never will be again. The heritage of modern collectors is based in the Ackerman collection. It’s as if one guy in Europe had most of Braque, Picasso, Matisse and Chagalle, as if one person had an overwhelming collection.”

No. 1 Fan

Photo signed and inscriber by Forry Ackerman and Vincent Price

Photo signed and inscriber by Forry Ackerman and Vincent Price

Ackerman won a special Hugo Award in 1953 for No. 1 Fan Personality. He published 50-plus stories, was literary agent to the likes of Ray Bradbury, L. Ron Hubbard and Marion Zimmer Bradley, appeared in more than 200 films, and served as editor and writer of the magazine Famous Monsters of Filmland for 25 years. But the word most often used to describe him? Fan.

The key to Ackerman’s tremendous influence on the genres of horror and science fiction films and literature was his life-long enthusiasm for the art form and its artists. As a fan, he amassed a collection that, at its peak in the mid-’60s would have been worth about $10 million in today’s market, Weist once speculated.

Unlike many collectors, Ackerman always shared his collection with the public, offering free tours of it at his home every Saturday. The “Ackermansion,” as his 18-room Los Feliz estate was called, became a mecca for science fiction fans and visitors from around the world. Even after the cost of legal troubles and illness forced him to downsize his collection and home, Ackerman continued to greet visitors and give personal tours of the house he dubbed the “Mini-Ackermansion.”

Born in Los Angeles in 1916, Ackerman often recounted the birth of his fascination with science fiction when, in 1926, he bought a copy of Amazing Stories. “Among all the magazines, that one said, ‘Take me home, little boy. You will love me.’”

Three years later, he published his first story in Science Wonder Quarterly and founded The Boys Scientification Club. His dream of bringing together a community of science fiction writers and readers began. In 1938 he published a young Ray Bradbury’s first story and introduced him to science fiction greats Robert Heinlein, Leigh Brackett and others. They were members of his chapter of the Science Fiction Society, which met in L.A.’s Clifton Cafeteria. Years later he bankrolled Bradbury’s fanzine Future Fantasia with $90.

In 1939, Ackerman attended the first World Science Fiction Convention in Manhattan with his friend Myrtle R. Douglas. Both of them dressed in space costumes, setting the stage for the thousands of Trekkies who would follow suit.

ibute Vincent Price wrote to Ackerman, which reads in part, “Eventually he and his collection will become monuments to a (but for him) much neglected cinema art form. We all owe him a great debt for keeping alive his favorite genre of movies and preserving its mementoes. His fans are legion.”

ibute Vincent Price wrote to Ackerman, which reads in part, “Eventually he and his collection will become monuments to a (but for him) much neglected cinema art form. We all owe him a great debt for keeping alive his favorite genre of movies and preserving its mementoes. His fans are legion.”

Ackerman is credited with coining the term “sci-fi.” In a story told to the Los Angeles Times, he explained that he was driving with his wife in 1954, when the radio mentioned the term “hi-fi.” “I looked in the rear-view mirror, stuck out my tongue and there, tattooed on the end was ‘sci-fi.’ To her immortal embarrassment, my dear wife said, ‘Forget it, Forry—it’ll never catch on.’”

His connection to the film world grew naturally out of his career as a literary agent, and Ackerman became friends with horror stars such as Boris Karloff, Bela Lugosi and Vincent Price. But Ackerman also promoted the works of the behind-the-scenes artists who created the magic of the movies, inspiring film director Peter Jackson, Steven Spielberg, Tim Burton, Stephen King, Penn & Teller, and many others.

1982 TLS by Steven Spielberg to Ackerman’s assistant.

1982 TLS by Steven Spielberg to Ackerman’s assistant.

A life-long fan of science fiction B-movies, Ackerman had cameos in more than 200 films, including The Howling, Return of the Living Dead Part II and the campy Attack of the 60 Foot Centerfold. More important than his work onscreen was his role in shaping the industry’s understanding of the genre. It was Ackerman who brought attention in the United States to the 1927 German film Metropolis. He called himself Ed Wood’s ‘ill-literary’ agent, and provided feedback to Wood as he wrote and directed Plan 9 from Outer Space.

In 1958, Ackerman launched his magazine Famous Monsters of Filmland, each issue full of interviews with film monsters Lugosi and Karloff, articles on past and current genre films, comic strip adaptations of classic movies and a letter to the editor’s page called “Fang Mail.” In the Mimosa fanzine, Ackerman explained the Famous Monsters tone: “The publisher sent a sign saying ‘I am 11-and-a-half years old and I am your reader, Forrest Ackerman. Make me laugh.” Ackerman obliged until 1983 when the magazine stopped publication after a run of 191 issues.

1982 TLS by Stephen King to Ackerman’s assistant.

1982 TLS by Stephen King to Ackerman’s assistant.

Horror and science fiction may have lost their No. 1 fan, but Ackerman’s legend lives on. In the words of Stephen King, “Forry was the first; he was best and he is the best. He stood up for a generation of kids who realized that if it was junk, it was magic junk.”

Inside the Ackerman Estate Auction

After the Ackerman estate trustees decided to use Profiles in History to handle the auction, we spoke to Joe Maddalena, who was in the thick of preparing for the sale. In explaining the trustees’ decision, Maddalena said that his company had sold items from Ackerman’s collection over the years to help sustain him financially. “We specialize in the higher end of this field of collecting—science fiction and horror memorabilia. And we have the right market—not only have we got the memorabilia clients, but we have the autograph clients.”

When asked to give a peek into what’s involved in auctioning Ackerman’s collection, Maddalena described the effort of inventorying the contents of the house and storage. “Forry’s house is just full—I mean, thousands and thousands of items. There’s autographs, magazines, newspapers, costumes, toys, art work. We’re inventorying, and then we box it up and bring it to our offices.”

First U.S. edition of Dracula, signed by Bram Stroker, Bela Lugosi, Christopher Lee, John Carradine and others associated with the franchise

First U.S. edition of Dracula, signed by Bram Stroker, Bela Lugosi, Christopher Lee, John Carradine and others associated with the franchise

Maddalena will go through the entire collection, looking for the items that will stand alone in the auction. The rest will be sorted by genre, personality, or film and sold in lots. “We turn the collection into thematic lots that can be sold in a sensible way. There are a couple of people who were alive at the time Forry was building his collection and they’ve been helping us identify the history and who he got each item from.”

In addition to local resources, Maddalena said that he’s been receiving countless emails from fans who toured the Ackerman estate—more than 50,000 people visited during the many years that Forry opened his house to the public and people are eager to share stories about items in the collection. “It’s a tremendous help in assembling the catalog,” Maddalena said.

The catalog, available for download from the Profiles in History website in early April, should be a major resource for fans of horror and sci-fi who want one last chance to ogle Ackerman’s collection.

Bela Lugosi gave his Dracula ring to Ackerman, who often wore it as he led visitors through his collection.

Bela Lugosi gave his Dracula ring to Ackerman, who often wore it as he led visitors through his collection.

Maddalena provided interesting insights into the challenge of pricing the items. “I like to set starting bids based on what’s reasonable. I believe that these collectibles will find their value at market. For example, we have the Dracula ring listed at $20,000-$30,000. But it’s a unique item. It came from Lugosi to Forry. It’s uninterrupted provenance. Who knows what that’s worth? It could go as high as $100,000, but it’s hard to guess because there’s never been another. Or the costumes—there has never been any Lugosi wardrobe for sale before.”

While popular culturally, horror films were not considered historically significant years ago. “Horror material from the 1930s and ’40s just doesn’t exist,” Maddalena said. “People thought there was no reason to save a Dracula poster. No one thought about saving a costume from Dracula, so this type of material just doesn’t exist. No one has unearthed any Universal horror costumes or costume pieces of significance ever.”

Bela Lugosi’s robe from The Raven (1935)

Bela Lugosi’s robe from The Raven (1935)

No one except Forry Ackerman. Through his friendships with actors, directors, writers, costume and set designers, Ackerman saved what might have been lost.

“Also impacting value is that the items were given to Forry, and his association has an added value,” Maddalena explained. “You not only have an 11×14 beautiful photograph of Marlene Dietrich, but it’s inscribed to Forry Ackerman. Is there a premium associated with that? Is that premium 10 percent? 20 percent? Is someone willing to pay a premium of 100 percent because it’s associated with Forry’s life?”

Here are a few of the items that Maddalena has identified for single sale.

A cape Lugosi wore in stage adaptations of Dracula

A cape Lugosi wore in stage adaptations of Dracula

Dracula ring worn by Bela Lugosi as Count Dracula in the 1948 film Abbott and Costello Meet Dracula. In the original 1931 Dracula, Lugosi’s Count is wearing a ring with what appears to be a simple black onyx stone. Because there are no references to the ring, it is assumed to have been a personal possession of Lugosi’s, as was the medallion he wore in that film. Lugosi gave the Abbott and Costello ring with the crest on a carnelian stone to Forry Ackerman. Ackerman later loaned it to Christopher Lee for use in his portrayals of Count Dracula. It’s the single most important Lugosi / Dracula screen-worn piece to ever come to auction.

Bela Lugosi’s robe from The Raven (1935) is reportedly the most important 1930s horror costume to ever come to auction. There’s a classic photo of Lugosi, as the Poe-obsessed Dr. Vollin, wearing the velvet collared robe as he strokes the head of a stuffed raven.

Monocle worn by Metropolis director Fritz Lang during the filming of the 1927 silent movie.

Monocle worn by Metropolis director Fritz Lang during the filming of the 1927 silent movie.

Also available in the auction is the cape made for Bela Lugosi in 1932 and used by him in stage adaptations of Dracula. Lugosi also wore the costume in Plan 9 from Outer Space. Lugosi was buried in one of his three Dracula capes, and his son owns the second. This is the third and final cape worn by Lugosi.

The 1899 first American edition of Dracula signed by Bram Stoker and inscribed by Bela Lugosi to Ackerman (also signed by Christopher Lee, John Carradine and a host of other Dracula-related personalities). The book was originally published in the U.K. in 1897. When Douglas & McClure published the American edition in 1899, they used the original copyright year of 1897. There have been numerous publications of Dracula, but this is the first U.S. edition and should not be confused with the 1927 Grosset & Dunlap edition which was published to coincide with the theatrical opening of Dracula on Broadway.

Autograph asked Maddalena whether the book was of greater interest to autograph or book collectors. “Any real book collector is going to think the Dracula book has been defaced. First American edition signed by Bram Stoker, that in itself is worth $10,000. A book collector is going to get sick when he sees all those other signatures. But an autograph collector is going to be euphoric.”

Fritz Lang’s monocle, which he wore when he directed Metropolis. Ackerman was an ardent fan of the 1927 silent film, and Lang gave his monocle to Forry. Along with Kubrick’s 2001: Space Odyssey, Metropolis is considered one of the most important science fiction films ever made.

Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein: The Modern Man Demon signed by the author

Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein: The Modern Man Demon signed by the author

A copy of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein: The Modern Man Demon signed by the author.

Also available are hundreds of signed 11×14 photographs of stars like Marlene Deitrich, Vincent Price, Boris Karloff, Fritz Lang and John Carradine. “These are the most personal autographs,” Maddalena said. “The ones he didn’t want to sell.”

Over the years, a number of individuals suggested that Ackerman’s collection belonged in a museum—that it should become a museum. The failure to do so has enraged some fans. In a 2003 Los Angeles Times article, Ray Bradbury was quoted, “We live in a stupid world.” He had over the years begged executives at a number of companies to help preserve the collection. “I said, ‘A special room with all of that [Ackerman’s collection] will be more fascinating than all that junk you have.’ They didn’t believe in the future. I believe in the future. Forrest Ackerman believed in the future. No one else cared.”

But within hours after news of the auction hit the Internet, horror and sci-fi sites began buzzing with the idea that from the sale of Forry Ackerman’s collection, thousands of fans will find the core of their own collection; a basis from which to build their own celebration of horror and sci-fi films and writing.

And, as Maddalena explained: “Forry’s will divides the proceeds from the sale among his beneficiaries. It’s a chance to help Forry give something to the people who meant the most to him.

“This is a great time to celebrate this man’s career. If collectors have ever wanted something from this genre, Ackerman is probably the single most important person who influenced collecting.”

Autograph asked Maddalena for tips for auction novices. “Decide how much you want to spend,” he said. “And try to understand what you’ll be getting for that money. For example, Forry had the last Vincent Price index card—Price signed the date on it. That card will be in a lot with other Vincent Price-related things. But it’s not just Price, it’s the connection to Forry Ackerman that you’ll be buying, so you’re really getting a lot for your money.”

The auction is a treasure trove for Vincent Price fans. In addition to the last Vincent Price autograph, there’s a handwritten tribute Price wrote to Ackerman, which reads, “Eventually he and his collection will become monuments to a (but for him) much neglected cinema art form. We all owe him a great debt for keeping alive his favorite genre of movies and preserving its mementoes. His fans are legion.”

To download the Ackerman Estate auction catalog, go to www.ProfilesInHistory.com. The auction will be held April 30-May 1 at Profiles in History’s offices in Calabasas Hills, Calif.