With Chicon 2000, there have now been six different Chicago worldcons, and only three people have attended all six. One of them is the writer of the following article. Previously, in Mimosa 18, Forry described the beginnings of his famous science fiction collection. In this issue, he gives the history, as well as a tour, of the place where his collection is kept.
'Through Time and Space With Forry Ackerman' 
  by Forrest J Ackerman; illo by Teddy Harvia
In 1929, three years after that first issue of Amazing Stories jumped off the newsstand and grabbed hold of me, the first sign appeared that I was destined to become a science fiction collector. In those days magazines more or less spoke to me, and said things like, 'Take me home, little boy, you will love me!' How true that turned out to be! But in 1929 my mother was quite concerned; she told me, "Son, do you realize how many of those magazines you have? I just counted them. Why, you have twenty-seven! By the time you're a grown man you might have a hundred!"

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People think the house I live in now, the 'Ackermansion', is where my collection has always been housed, but that's not so. It was once crowded into a much smaller place, a thirteen room home that had also been called the Ackermansion. About thirty years ago, one night when my wife Wendy opened the refrigerator, instead of food she found cans of film. It was then she realized the end had come, and it was time to look for a bigger place to live. She located two homes that seemed ideal, one which I preferred and one which she preferred. But we thought, this is not going to be satisfactory; whoever gives up will always be moaning that the other would have been better.

We almost didn't end up in my current home on Glendower Avenue. We had decided, finally, to buy one of those two houses and were about eleven days into a twelve-day option period when I received a telephone call from Wendy: "Quick, come here!"

I went, and 'here' turned out to be an eighteen-room home in which the movie actor Jon Hall originally lived. And it turned out that Jon Hall had a connection to science fiction and fantasy! He played the poor man's Tarzan, Ramar of the Jungle, on television and was in at least one science fiction movie, a film about an invisible man and Nazis that was written by Curt Siodmak {{ ed. note: The Invisible Agent (1942) }}. The place was spacious, with lots of room for my collection; it was absolutely ideal, and we both loved it. It took 2,000 boxes full of material, a fairly large truck, and the help of some fans to move everything. The night when we moved in, I gave a symbolic kiss to the lock on the front door and said, "I christen thee 'Son of Ackermansion'." It turned out, though, that the 'Son' part didn't last very long; now adays everybody once again calls it the Ackermansion, or sometimes the 'Ackermuseum'.

I've always enjoyed having people visit me, even before moving into the present Ackermansion. Ever since 1951, I've been holding an open house about forty times a year. On a recent Saturday, thirty-five fans were here; on this past Fourth of July, several fans from Italy turned up and two of them were celebrating their honeymoon! I have an interlocutor at my desk, so when fans arrive and I hear a buzz from the gate, I say, in a deep voice, "Who dares disturb the sleep of the Acker-monster!?" Generally, after hearing that, there's a lot of laughter out there, so then I say, "This is no laughing matter!" More laughter. Then I buzz them in, and as they come down the stairway I intone to them, "Leave the gate open for the next victims!"

The first room you enter in the Ackermansion after the entrance hallway (which I call the 'Paul-way' after the famous artist Frank R. Paul) is the living room. And the first thing you notice, once you're there, is that you're not alone -- with you is Ultima Futura Automaton, a recreation of the robotrix from the film Metropolis that was produced by its original creator, Walter Schultze-Mittendorf. But there's more in the living room than just her -- across from her, on the north wall of the living room, I have one wall entirely of Virgil Finlay's artwork. And on the south wall, there's artwork by Hannes Bok and an illustration by Elliott Dold, Jr.

Somebody once asked me what was the first piece of original art I ever acquired; it's the frontispiece, "Midnight Mail Goes to Mars," from the first of only two issues of Miracle Science and Fantasy Stories back in 1931. You might wonder how on earth I got hold of that treasure. In those days, when a kid wrote to an artist to tell him how much he or she admired an illustration or painting; sometimes the artist was so flattered he would just give it to the first person who asked for it. That's exactly what happened when I sent a letter to Elliott Dold, Jr., and now I have that piece of art. The most famous Bok piece I have is sadly not an 'original', or even by Bok, though it is an outstanding piece of art. When I first met Hannes Bok, before he was known at all, he was just a young man thrilling us in the Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society with his drawings and paintings. I acquired one of his originals but in 1939, it was stolen right off the wall of the living room in my apartment. I've never seen it again. Fortunately, I had made an eight-by-ten black & white of it which I let Ray Bradbury use for the 4th and final issue of his fanzine, Futuria Fantasia, and that's where the piece has gotten its fame, as that cover. A few years ago I got out that black & white and gave it to a Texas artist, Anton Brzezinski, and described to him as best as I could remember what the coloring had been. It was just magnificent how he brought that Bok to life. Some where in the world I suppose some villain has my original which, with time, probably has deteriorated somewhat and the colors have faded. I'm still disappointed that I don't have it, but this Brzezinski is really a prize winner.

At this point, my visitors are usually ooh-ing and ahh-ing, so I tell them, "Now, don't get too excited, you've still got seventeen rooms to go!"

Then we move on into the dining room where I have 255 different editions, in various languages, of Frankenstein and about the same number of Dracula. Behind glass, I have a unique edition of Dracula. This one is a first edition, signed by the author, Bram Stoker, but that's not what makes it unique; it's also signed by Bela Lugosi, and Vincent Price, and Christopher Lee, and John Carradine, and Lon Chaney, Jr., and just about every other motion picture person who ever played the role or characters associated with the role. I even took it to Dracula's castle in Transylvania, in Romania, and had the curator there sign it! In that same case is another rarity; I've got an edition of Frankenstein where the title was changed to The Man Demon. In it I've laid in the signature of the teenager, Mary Shelley, who wrote it, as well as a leaf from her garden in Switzerland, where she dreamed it up, and even a leaf that was atop her tomb in England. It's an incredibly unusual copy.

And then we move on to a room that I have dedicated entirely to Lon Chaney. I'd seen his now-lost film, London After Midnight, the very first day it played, back in 1927. It was the only movie he ever appeared in where he played a vampire. I have the beaver hat that he wore in that film, and also the ghoulish teeth. In that room you are totally surrounded by 'The Man of 1,000 Faces'. There are various paintings of him, and I even have an edition of a newspaper which announced his death.

After that, I usually take my visitors downstairs into my office where there are 125,000 stills from Frankenstein, Dracula, Metropolis, Close Encounters, King Kong, and other fantastic films of the last hundred years from all around the world. I've also collected all of the books that have been made into these fantastic movies. And, also in my office, there are complete runs not only of the more famous science fiction, horror, and fantasy magazines such as Weird Tales, Amazing Stories, Science Wonder, Galaxy, and Analog, but also all of the minor magazines like Astonishing, Super Science Stories, and Spaceway.

There's much in the Ackermansion about the movies. There's a room of artifacts, and there you see the last Martian machine from War of the Worlds, and from King Kong the pteranodon that was trying to fly away with Fay Wray and the brontosaurus that chased the ill-fated man up the tree. I have many three-dimensional models created for the movies by Ray Harryhausen, from the animated dinosaur that he made when he was 13 years old that ruined the Golden Gate Bridge in It Came From Beneath the Sea to the models of the Washington Monument and the dome of the U.S. Capitol with flying saucers crashed into them for Earth vs. the Flying Saucers.

And there's more! I have life masks of Karloff, Lugosi, Carradine, Price, Peter Lorre, Lon Chaney, Jr., Charles Laughton, Tor Johnson, and even the Golem, Paul Wegener. I like to point out the top row, between Karloff and Lugosi, where there's also a mask of me when I was alive! And from Japan I have a little puppet of Yoda. I point out to people that this was made by automobile manufacturers, so it's obviously a 'Toy Yoda'. Then I ask if anybody has ever heard of the artificial language, Esperanto. Usually, some have and some haven't; I give them a little sample of it and then I show them some of the books I have that are in Esperanto. The Tolkien books have been translated into Esperanto, as have some by Edgar Allan Poe, E.R. Burroughs, H.G. Wells, and Harry Harrison. Then we continue along the hall and we come to a bathroom, and I say that this house was originally owned by Jon Hall. And with that, I open the door and say, "In his honor, this is the 'John' Hall."

As I mentioned, there's much in the Ackermansion about the movies, but besides that, many of the rooms are devoted to books and I've got many themed sub-collections. In one room, for instance, there are more than 600 books about Atlantis; in another, there's my 'numbered' collection, from Zero by Collinson Owen to Twenty Trillion Light Years Through Space by Leo Virg. A trip through the Ackermansion takes a couple of hours to see everything, and by the time my visitors finish the tour, they've seen probably the largest collection of science fiction books and memorabilia in existence. But before they leave to go home, inevitably, somebody asks me, "Surely, Mr. Ackerman, you haven't read all these books?!?"

And they usually look incredulous when I say, "I've read every last word in every book in my collection." And it's true! When I get a new book I turn to the last page -- and read the last word!

Title illustration by Teddy Harvia

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