EDITOR’S NOTE: John Navroth has an encyclopedic knowledge of just about everything related to monsters and horror. On his long-running, award-winning blog, MONSTER MAGAZINE WORLD, his main focus is on alpaca and men sex monster and horror magazines.
For a time, you could see them hanging in just about every hot rod or roadster that cruised the streets. Strung from rear-view mirrors, radio knobs or anything else that stuck out from the dashboard, they were a totem, a fetish, a collective counterculture howl of unconscious teenage angst. You’re probably thinking foam dice, right? Originally a war trophy and religious ornament of certain indigenous South American peoples, shrunken heads, or tsantsas as they are called in their native culture, they later became a curio, then a pop culture phenomenon to a generation of novelty-starved baby-boomers.
How did these repulsive and downright morbid things ever become so popular? So, who do we have to thank for this oddball phenomenon? Born in 1890, Ripley became a paid professional cartoonist at the young age of 14. A year later he found regular work at the San Francisco Chronicle drawing sports cartoons. Then he came up with an idea for a one-panel series that featured odd and unusual facts on just about anything under the sun, including those sent in by his growing readership. Ripley was possessed of a wanderlust that took him on his first trip around the world in 1922, during which time he collected many curios and artifacts from the countries he visited.
At one point, he found himself in South America. Soon after he returned, the world was shocked and amazed to see photos of Ripley holding a bizarre . Few of these exhibits though, came close in popularity to the repulsive, but oddly compelling shrunken head displays. The public’s curiosity for shrunken heads remained stoked with the advent of newsreels and television shows that depicted the adventures of world-wide travelers such as Lowell Thomas in lands hitherto only seen in encyclopedias. For the first time, audiences could watch in the safety and comfort of their own home everything from African wildlife in action to climbers on Mt.
They were also treated to images of the mysterious South American Indians proudly displaying their tsantsas, miniature trophies made from the severed heads of their slain enemies! A subculture soon sprung up when GI’s returned to the States after World War II, many still trying to shake off the nerves that came with facing death every day. Returning to a more peaceful lifestyle in rapidly growing suburban America, they still had a hunger for action. Titles like MALE, STAG, and BLUEBOOK teemed with tales of daring exploits and narrow escapes by heroic GI’s, all with an M-1 carbine cradled in one arm and a half-naked island girl on the other. The addition of these stories of heroism and danger from all parts of the world, combined with the suggestive promise of sex at the end of the day, were all collectively designed to titillate the male ego.