Spooky Stamps

28 October 2016

No escaping it – it’s the time of year for horror! Assistant Curator Georgina picks the stamps that give her goose pimples…

To celebrate Halloween, I thought I’d delve into our amazing collection of stamps to see what spooky and scary characters I could find. Here are just a few examples from TV, film and stories that have scared us over the years. Some of which may still…

Stamp depicting a statue of Tutankhamun against a background of Hieroglyphics.

Statue of Tutankhamun, 3p, General Anniversaries, 26th April 1972

Tutankhamun was an Egyptian Pharaoh from the 18th dynasty, whose tomb was discovered and opened by Howard Carter and George Herbert in 1922.

After his tomb was opened there was a series of mysterious deaths, which would become known as ‘The Curse of the Pharaohs’. Lord Carnarvon, who funded the excavation, died 5 months after the tomb was opened – an event that made the papers. It was also rumoured that back in England on the same day, Carnarvon’s dog also passed away. In reality, Carnarvon died of blood poisoning.

There would later be eight deaths in total in the next twelve years, which only served to encourage the notion of a curse on all involved.

Two stamps depicting Dracula, one as a portrait and the other a Hammer Film production poster.

Dracula, 26p, Tales and Legends, 13th May 1997 & Dracula, 48p, Carry on Hammer, 10th June 2008

Dracula is an 19th century novel written by Bram Stoker, about the blood-sucking vampire Count Dracula.

It has been suggested that the character Dracula is based on the infamous Vlad III, better known as ‘Vlad the Impaler’ after his horrific crimes. The Count intends to spread his undead curse amongst the people of London, whilst Professor Abraham Van Helsing tries to stop him.

One of the most recognizable reproductions of Dracula starred Christopher Lee in the Hammer Film production, as you can see in the poster above.

Two stamps depicting Frankenstein, one of the Hammer Film poster and the other a portrait of the creature.

The Curse of Frankenstein, 56p, Carry on Hammer, 10th June 2008 & Frankenstein, 31p, Tales and Legends, 13th May 1997

Frankenstein was written by a young Mary Shelley, who initially published the book anonymously.

The idea for the story came from a competition Shelley had held with Lord Byron and others to write a ghost story. The novel looks into the work of a mad scientist Victor Frankenstein and his experiments with bringing people back from the dead. Many people confuse the name of the doctor with that of the monster, who in fact is never given a name, but simply called “monster” or “it”.

Frankenstein is often considered the first science fiction novel, with its gruesome portrayal of a man cobbled together from separate body parts.

A miniature sheet consisting of four stamps each depicting a villain from Dr Who.

Dr Who Miniature Sheet, 2nd NVI, 26th March 2013

Dr Who was produced by the BBC in 1963 and documents the adventures of the Time Lord ‘The Doctor’ as he travels through time and space.

Many actors have played the doctor, including Tom Baker, Peter Davison and David Tennant. The Doctor has many enemies, but one that continues to return are the Daleks. The Daleks have scared children for years – and now they can even fly.

They are an emotionless mutant race armoured with a metal shell, who scream ‘EXTERMINATE’ at those they intend to destroy. They are not the only scary villains the Doctor has faced in his time, as you can see in the miniature sheet above.

Two stamps; one depicts Lord Voldemort and the other the book cover for the first Harry Potter book, The Philosophers Stone.

Lord Voldemort, 1st NVI, Magical Realms, 8th March 2011 & Harry Potter and the Philosophers Stone, 1st NVI, Harry Potter, 17th July 2007

As a child of the 90s, I have grown up with the Harry Potter series, which follows the youth and adventures of a boy wizard.

Throughout J.K. Rowling’s books Harry is continuously fighting the Dark Lord, Voldemort. Many are so afraid of him that they refuse to use his name, and instead refer to him as ‘You Know Who’ or ‘He Who Must Not Be Named’.

Voldemort, though scary, doesn’t compare (in my opinion) to his army of Dementors: monstrous flying creatures in black cloaks that suck the soul out of people with their ‘kiss’.

Three stamps depicting Alfred Hitchcock, Darth Vader and Captain Hook.

Alfred Hitchcock, 34p, 1985 & Darth Vader, 1st NVI, 2015 & Captain Hook, 47p, 2002

Here I have only touched on a few scary examples of stamps through the ages. We mustn’t forget some of the other great villains to have graced our postage stamps – Darth Vader and Captain Hook for a start – and the figures behind them, such as king of horror Alfred Hitchcock.

Why not have a think this Halloween about which spooky characters you’d like portrayed on future stamps? But remember, nothing too scary – they do come through your letter box…

– Georgina Tomlinson, Assistant Curator (Philately)