It’s the first of October, which for many means this is the month of horror. I never celebrate Halloween, or any other yearly celebration either - not even Christmas or Easter. But this time of the years I’m always getting reminded of when I met the Ackermonster himself, Forrest J. Ackerman. To be honest, I can’t even remember what year it was, but I guess it was during very early 2000. I was dating a guy from Stockholm (I lived in the small boring town of Östersund at the time) and together we went to San Diego for a week, at least as a base - but we also drove up to Los Angeles for a couple of days.
My goal with vacations is always to experience something out of the ordinary, and I don’t mean risking my life or anything. But doing something I always will remember. This time I visited Ackerman’s homepage and sent him an email. We would be in in LA on a Sunday, which was the day Ackerman’s house was closed for visitors - but when he, or the guy handling the communication, heard we were coming all the way from Sweden he glady opened the doors to let us visit.
It took us sometime to find the house, and when we finally found the Son of Ackermansion, overgrown by vegetation and - to be honest - looking like a mess from the outside. But it was a big house, hard to take care of for an elderly man. We walked to the backside and was greeted by a friend of his, a man I can’t remember the name of - but he had worked with stop-motion animator Dave Allen, a detail I never forgot. Ackerman met us in his library on the bottom floor and showed us his enormous collection of books, but everywhere - and I mean EVERYWHERE - was rare, cool and amazing sci-fi and horror memorabilia. In a corner was the stop-motion skeleton to one of the dinosaurs in the original King Kong and on his finger was Bela Lugosi’s finger ring from Dracula. Wow. I touched it.
He continued up to the upper floors, filled with amazing artwork on the walls, props and a bizarre, green carpet covering every inch of the floor. In one room was a replica of the robot from Metropolis, built by director William Malone. Ackerman himself was a pleasure, a genuinely smart and charming man (I later learned he was an atheist, which only gave him more points in my eyes). While I was too nervous to remember what he actually told me - except his classic tale how he discovered science fiction once upon a time, a book jumped out at him - one thing stuck with me, how he loved Starship Troopers, which according to him was an intelligent sci-fi movie, a great satire. He was old and frail, but enthusiastic as hell, but when we were suppose to visit the basement he stayed up in the house, and let this other man guide us.
Deep down there it was filled with old masks, monsters, props - most of it decaying in the darkness. His assistant, told us to be careful of the snakes - and continued to tell us about his friend, a snake handler, who got bitten and ended up totally paralyzed! We got out of there quickly.
Up in the house Ackerman greeted us with a friendly smile and asked if we wanted to join him for lunch! How could we say no! But before that he gave me a lithography who had some of Lon Chaney’s make-up mixed into the color! I also got a book about him, and he refused to take any money for it! This elderly monster joined us in our car and showed us the way to his favorite restaurant, House of Pies, where he also demanded to pay for the lunch himself! I think we ate a very delicious mushroom soup and maybe some pie for dessert. His assistant, the special effects man, was also with us - and a man who also was at the Son of the Ackermansion -. resting in a nearby room upstairs, and I always wondered who he was. I still wonder. My gaydar noticed something in this older man, probably the same age as Ackerman, who wore a striped shirt and a nice-looking jacket. He told us about his travels in Europe during the forties and the cool thing is that he actually visited the legendary horror theatre Le Théâtre du Grand-Guignol, more known as simply Grand Guignol.
After this wonderful lunch we took farewell to Ackerman and his friends.
I never took any photos (but I know somewhere is material on an old H8-tape) and never asked Ackerman to signed any of the stuff, even if I think the lithograph is signed in person by him. I recently checked the value and it was way more than I ever could imagine!
Even if my memories is getting more weak for each year, details disappear into the mist and the fact that I was a totally different person then (oh, there’s so much I would have done different if this was today - I wish I could have asked him some intelligent questions for example, and not behaving like the typical fanboy), I will never forget this day in Ackerman’s Karloffornia.