Man has had a happily horrifying time assembling his monstrous collection Movie memorabilia crowd Calif. house

December 29, 1992|By Beverly Beyette | Beverly Beyette,Los Angeles Times

LOS ANGELES -- In the hills above Los Angeles stands th Acker mansion, wherein reside Forrest J. Ackerman, dozens of Draculas and Frankenstein monsters, and a ghoulish army of mummies and monsters.

Mr. Ackerman -- his friends call him "Forry" -- isn't a bit scary. A jovial man of 75 with a trim mustache and horn-rimmed glasses, he has methodically amassed the world's largest private collection of treasures from horror and science fiction films.

At his gate, a large black spider has spun a web. "Don't step on it," Mr. Ackerman warns. "It might be Lon Chaney."

(Actually, Mr. Ackerman says that while he believes in extraterrestrials, he thinks reincarnation is bunk.)

In a labyrinth of basement rooms are such treasures as the cape worn by Bela Lugosi and the teeth from "Man of a Thousand Faces," Chaney's film biography.

Poking around, Mr. Ackerman points to a ghastly green Frankenstein monster's head wearing horn-rims and says, "Here am in the morning, before my first cup of coffee."

His obsession began with doting grandparents who indulged little Forrest with back-to-back matinees. Grandpa drew pictures men from Mars, and Grandma read him ghost stories.

He was 9 when his favorite film, Fritz Lang's "Metropolis," came out. Mr. Ackerman has seen it 80 times and intends to see it 20 more.

Horror movies are big at the box office now, and Mr. Ackerman admires some of them but thinks most of today's fantasy films drown in their own special effects. "It's sort of the tail wagging the werewolf," he says.

He knew Lugosi, Boris Karloff, Peter Lorre and Vincent Price, and he has done cameos in 42 films. In "Amazon Women on the Moon" he was president, a role he will reprise in "Turkeys From Outer Space."

In his other life, Mr. Ackerman is a literary agent whose early clients included science fiction writers Ray Bradbury and Isaac Asimov.

A widower, he lives alone in an 18-room Spanish-style house once owned by movie muscle man Jon Hall, the star of "Cobra Woman."

Mr. Ackerman is slowly dismantling his collection for shipment to a museum scheduled to open in Berlin in 1995.

He delights in mentioning that he is getting $2 million for his collection, which for years he tried to give to the city of Los Angeles.

He says he might hold on to the leaf he plucked from the tomb of Mary Shelley, who gave the world "Frankenstein."

With a sweep of his hands -- hands that wear Lugosi's "Dracula" ring and Karloff's from "The Mummy" -- he says: "With $2 million, I can start filling the place up again."

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