Watching TV as a little kid in the early 1960s, I yearned very deeply— an insatiable craving sucking at my guts — for a Hootin' Hollow Haunted House, a tin toy produced by Louis Marx. I saw this commercial on our small black and white TV (I was between four and six years old at the time) and immediately began pestering my parents:
It was probably too expensive, but Robot Commando from Remco cost just as much and that showed up under the Christmas tree although I didn't ask for it. I think my father really wanted to play with it and that's why I got it. But he didn't care about ghosts, witches, and haunted houses, and so my desire was doomed.
What is so special about the Hootin' Hollow Haunted House? To a six-year old boy it was probably the coolest thing on earth. There are eight typewriter style buttons on the right side of the house, each neatly labeled with the effect that is produced when you push it down. And it was like they took every neat spooky thing a kid could wish for and stuffed it into this beautifully lithographed tin house—an example of great toy design. The sides of the house are not straight verticals, but splay outward from the bottom up, as if viewed in a foreshortened image; the roof and windows are a-kilter, all influenced by German Expressionism in the art design of films like The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari.
Of course, I didn't know crap from Caligari as a little kid, but damn I wanted a Hootin' Hollow Haunted House so badly it seemed like my life could not continue without it.
But continue it did, and as a gift to myself upon hitting the half century mark (when my wife enrolled me in AARP as a joke — NOT, just saying, NOT FUNNY), I finally found a house at a good price and scratched that long-standing itch. Not a real house, a Hootin' Hollow Haunted House.
Beware if you want one of these; a fully-functional Hootin' Hollow Haunted House sells for about $1k without the box, and $2k with the box in excellent condition. The 6-year-old inside me is glad I got mine cheap.