Thrift Store Hallo-weekends: Universal Studios Monsters Magic Pictures Activity Book


This week, we’re looking at Universal Studios Monsters Magic Pictures, a coloring/activity book published by Golden Books/Western Publishing in 1992. I have no idea what the retail price of this was, but I got it for a dollar in a Goodwill store in Hocking Hills, Ohio.


As I mentioned a few weeks ago, the Universal Studios Monsters brand is the Cadillac of Halloween-related products in my eyes. Anyone can sell a generic flat-topped Frankenstein’s Monster costume for Halloween… or a kinda/sorta Creature from the Black Lagoon decoration to hang on your door, but Universal has the market cornered on the look of these classic ghouls.

This activity book covers five of those monsters within its’ pages: Dracula, The Wolfman, The Mummy, Frankenstein and his famous Bride. The “Magic Pictures” concept is rather unique for an activity book like this. Pages being with major areas blanked out from the view of young children.


You can then “magically” reveal images of the monsters by rubbing the pages with a graphite pencil.


A coin also does the same job.


The hidden images are printed on the page in such a way that the graphite will not stick, allowing for a fun mysterious reveal.


Eh… that didn’t work out so great. The other pages do seem to produce better results and I found using a quarter got a much clearer response.

One of the interesting things about the Universal Studios Monsters is that the copyrights are a little weird. Universal holds the rights to the actual makeup/look of the monsters (i.e. Dracula’s specific outfit, the exact look of the scars/bolts on Frankenstein’s Monster) but they do not hold the rights to the actor likenesses. To wit, the Dracula in this activity book is not a likeness of Bela Lugosi, so far as I can tell.


Ditto Boris Karloff and Frankenstein’s Monster, although it’s always a little hard to tell with these kinds of things. The monster make-up covers up for quite a bit in mass media items.


I found that one to be especially funny after the magic pictures were scratched in, as the artist used all sorts of weird visual clues (the upside-down picture, the inside-out shirt with “XL” tag) to try communicating the old man’s blindness. Remember, he treats the monster with kindness because he cannot see the monster.

It does appear Universal has the rights to use the likeness of Lon Cheney, Jr as the Wolfman pages contain a passable caricature of his distinct features.


There’s also a lot of tongue-in-cheek humor to these activity pages, as in this section of books supposedly from Dracula’s library.

Beyond the “magic picture” gimmick, I don’t know there was much value in this book. I had thought this might be a fun coloring book for my kids to use but the paper Golden used is this super-slick variety that doesn’t hold crayons or colored pencils very well.


Markers seem to work alright but because the paper is so glossy, they take FOREVER to dry.

I don’t remember having a Magic Pictures book when I was a kid but as a monster nut, I would have jumped at the chance to have this one. I’m willing to wager I would have disappointed by it about ten minutes after I had made all those hidden pictures magically appear, but I suppose that has to count for something.

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