Friday, January 31, 2014

The Haunted Stamp House

Canada Post issued a bilingual commemorative stamp package on October 1, 1997, inspired by the 100th anniversary of Bram Stoker's Dracula. Four scary stamps were produced, depicting supernatural creatures (a werewolf, a goblin, a ghost, and a vampire) as seen through the imaginations of four Canadian illustrators. The thematic collection, depicting a dilapidated haunted house, included a stamp pane of sixteen stamps--which, when placed inside the cardboard sleeve, allowed for the monsters to peer out of the windows. The package was designed by Louis Fishauf.

Information included with the release notes that "legends of these imaginary creatures are known the world over, and can be found at the root of much Canadian folklore. Although tales of vampires appear only in isolated pockets of Canadian culture, every region of the country has its own ghost stories. Legends of werewolves abound in French Canada, with its myths of the tormented loup-garou. Goblins come in a variety of forms, from Quebec's mischievous lutin to the elusive Maritime will-o'-the-wisp."

The "inside" of the house includes information about all four creatures, which is reproduced in part below (content © Canada Post Corporation).

Illustration by Jamie Bennett
Howling Beasts: Werewolves. On nights when the moon is full, you might hear the lonesome cries of a wolf echoing through the darkness. But, wait. Are you sure it is a wolf and not a werewolf that is growling?

People from many different countries, including Canada, have been said to sprout fur, grow fangs and become half-wolf, half-human beasts. They attack human victims who are then transformed into werewolves themselves. The only "cure" for the werewolf's curse is a silver bullet through the heart.

Illustration by Simon Ng
Goblins Everywhere. From Newfoundland's Celtic little people and the Maritimes' Brownies and Will o' the Wisps, to Quebec's Lutins and Feux follets, and the Mohawks' Yagodenoyoyas, goblins can be found everywhere. They live in large groups and are always popping up when you least expect them.

Some are friendly and mischievously playful. Others are dangerous and will commit evil acts such as throwing sharp objects. Although goblins are small and may not seem as frightening as vampires, ghosts and werewolves, people still keep special charms to ward off these mysterious little creatures.

Illustration by Tom Hunt
Mysterious Apparitions: Ghosts. What was that? Did you hear something? Late at night, ghosts and spirits and things that go bump in the night come out to haunt.

Ghostly sightings, unexplained events and beings from beyond the grave are frequently found in creaky corners and haunted houses, but they can happen anywhere!

Illustration by Blair Drawson
Bloodsucking Fiends: Vampires. At the stroke of midnight one hundred years ago, a frightening figure with jet black hair and sharp white fangs climbed out of his coffin for the first time. With a swish of his long, black cloak, Count Dracula disappeared into the night to hunt for human prey. Bram Stoker's Dracula, written one hundred years ago, is a famous vampire story. But it isn't the only one. There are legends from around the world about vampires who suck the blood from human throats and turn their victims into vampires too. Nothing but a crucifix, a clove of garlic or sunlight will protect you from these thirsty bloodsuckers. Nothing but a stake driven through the heart will stop them.

Interesting descriptions all around, although it's apparent that the copywriter had never read Dracula; Stoker describes the vampire as having "bushy hair that seemed to curl in its own profusion. The mouth, so far as I could see it under the heavy moustache, was fixed and rather cruel-looking, with peculiarly sharp white teeth." The writer was perhaps thinking of Bela Lugosi, no? He was the one with jet-black hair, but no fangs; those came later, with Christopher Lee. But, I digress...

The supernatural collection also included the release of a "first day cover," which are specially-designed envelopes that bear the new stamp (which is cancelled on the day it is initially placed on sale). I've collected three different versions of this first day cover, each of which feature glow-in-the-dark illustrations (of a cat, skeleton, bat, and pumpkin) by Jamie Bennett, printed on the back of the envelope.

First day cover for the 1997 supernatural stamp collection

This stamp collection is still available for purchase online through ebay, and other collecting sites, and makes for an interesting addition for those of us who are interested in the pervasiveness of these pop culture horrors.

Pane of 16 stamps included with the haunted house collection


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