Hey there, horror hounds. Welcome to another installment of Fridays in the Crypt! Today we’ll be looking at a frightfully fine yarn from Tales From The Crypt #25, published way back in August 1951. It was an EC classic, rich in gore and atmosphere, the kind of stuff your parents warned you about. This tale of horror is simply called “The Trophy,” and is brought to you by the brilliance of artist George Evans and the twisted mind of writer Al Feldstein. It concerns a topic that I feel quite strongly about – Big Game Hunting, particularly the subset “Trophy Hunting.” That’s right, I despise this type of so-called ‘sport’ and all who participate in it.
Kill-crazed Animal Murderers
Hailing from South Africa, I often found myself forced along on hunting trips with relatives and friends. I very quickly learned that I did not have a taste for it. Then, a while back on Facebook, I saw an old friend of mine proudly post a number of pictures where she was posing with all the African wildlife that she had recently shot. I was appalled, to say the least. Hunting animals for sustenance or population control is one thing, but hunting for the sport of it? Reprehensible. What you’re basically telling the world (by posting the pics online and saying “Wow, look what a talented animal executioner I am”) is that you enjoy killing; you enjoy the taking of life. C’mon, people, in this day and age, we’re supposed to be better than that.
That’s why I decided to talk about this juicy little tale on this fright-filled Friday, a tale where a Big Game Trophy Hunter gets his comeuppance, but not in the way you might think (for instance, at the claws, paws, or hooves of the animals he was hunting). The story has one of those classic EC twist endings that we so love, and it adds a bit of extra lore to the life of my favorite EC Horror Host The Crypt Keeper in the bargain.
A Short Bio
Now, before we venture deep into the unnerving corners of “The Trophy,” allow me to cast a spotlight on George Evans, the artist behind this macabre masterpiece. Born in 1920 in Harwood, Pennsylvania, Evans was a self-taught artist with a knack for detail. His early days were filled with sketching aircraft, a fascination that would seep into his later works. He began his artistic journey at Fiction House, but it was at EC Comics where his undeniable talent truly flourished.
His time at EC was something of a roller coaster, filled with striking highs and challenging lows. Hired in 1950, he worked alongside titans of the industry, handling stories across genres from war to crime. His works were celebrated, yet they seemed to exist in the shadows of giants like Wally Wood and Harvey Kurtzman. But it wasn’t until he started on the horror line that Evans found his true calling.
Despite being a late addition to the EC family, Evans quickly found his footing in the blood-soaked pages of their horror comics. His penchant for detail, coupled with an uncanny ability to portray fear and dread, turned his stories into something truly special. Whether it was drawing a terrified face or a dark, haunting landscape, Evans made the horrors jump right off the page, forever seared into the reader’s memory. His time at EC might have been short-lived, thanks to the Comics Code Authority’s stringent rules in the mid-50s, but the impact he left was indelible.
With a flair for the eerie and a talent for the terrifying, Evans carved out a niche for himself in the realm of horror comics. And the tale of “The Trophy,” well, that’s a testament to his unique style, one that continues to chill the bones and quicken the heartbeats of horror enthusiasts to this day. But, more on that in the next segment, where we unpack the events of this disturbing story…
“Heads Up, Clyde!”
The tale unfurls as the Crypt-Keeper gives voice to our trigger-happy protagonist, Clyde Franklin, a once-renowned big game hunter who had mysteriously vanished from the public eye a number of years back. The Crypt-Keeper commences to share the chilling events that led to Clyde’s dramatic disappearance, mentioning that the tale he is about to tell comes straight from Clyde’s own mouth.
In his glory days, Clyde Franklin was a celebrated hunter, his home a macabre gallery of his conquests – heads of all sorts of animals, mounted with a certain eerie pride. It was a sight that could curdle the blood in your veins, and it did just that when a reporter visited Clyde before his final, ill-fated hunt. The reporter’s horror was palpable as he asked how Clyde can kill these innocent creatures only to parade them like lifeless trophies on his wall. With a chilling nonchalance, Clyde responded, “Why, I hunt for the pure sport of it. Surely you wouldn’t deny a man his sport?”
With that, Clyde embarked on his next hunting expedition into the desolate wilderness of Canada, seeking moose and caribou. The hunt was thrilling and fraught with close-calls. Clyde came face to face with a magnificent moose that nearly skewered him before meeting its own untimely end at the hands of our heartless but undeniably expert killer. In his usual crude and cruel style, Clyde severed the beast’s head with his hunting knife, planning to add it to his grotesque wall-mounted collection.
The journey back to civilization proved difficult, though. A sinister trap lay in wait on the mountainous road Clyde was navigating – a strip of spikes that sent his rented truck careening off the path at high speed.
Clyde awoke hours later in a secluded cabin somewhere in the Canadian woods, tormented and rendered immobile by a broken leg. He soon realized, to his horror, that he was the prisoner of a leering oddball…
Hearing sounds of agony from an adjacent room, Clyde investigates when his host ventures out, and makes a gruesome discovery. Apparently his captor, by profession a scientist, was a hunter and a collector himself – a collector of human heads! LIVING human heads that he attaches to machines that keep them alive perpetually!
Terrified, Clyde goes into panic-mode but is intercepted and chloroformed while trying to escape!
After an indeterminate time, Clyde wakes up and experiences the ultimate terror. He is now merely a head, mounted on a strange whirring, buzzing and beeping apparatus! Our story ends with the sadistic scientist and trophy collector showing another soon-to-be victim his collection of severed but living heads…
So, what do you think, dear readers? That was a doozy, wasn’t it? What I particularly liked is that the Crypt-Keeper reveals that he has a number of strange and sinister acquaintances around the world that he frequently visits, and that this scientist is one of them! And that is why we heard Clyde’s story straight from his own mouth – because the Crypt-Keeper interviewed Clyde’s mounted head! CK also hints at the fact that his friend’s collection has gotten quite large since the last time he visited…
So, horror fans, it’s a safe bet to say that none of us would prefer to be captured and killed merely for sport, then transformed into bodiless trophies mounted on a wall. But what could be worse than this? Well, knowing what had happened to you would be worse, right? And experiencing the terror of knowing for an eternity? That would be the worst. I guess Clyde knows how that feels.
Thanks for reading! Remember to leave a comment down below if you have any thoughts about this yarn that you would like to share. And please subscribe to the blog to be notified of future posts.
If you would like to read this story and others like it, why not check out the excellent hardcover published by Dark Horse comics: CHOKE! GASP! The Best of 75 Years of EC Comics. It’s a tome and a half!
Until we meet again, fright fans, I’ll see you in your nightmares.
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