Retrospective: “The Upturned Stone” Graphic Novel by Scott Hampton (Kitchen Sink Press, Festival of Dread Special)
There’s nothing like a good ghost story. I think they work any time of year, but they are especially spooky in October. As good as ghost stories are, they are tough to pull off in comic books. Yes, there’s an entire genre of horror comics to choose from, with so many great horror titles… but how many of them are ghost stories? In honor of our Festival of Dread, we are looking back at one of my all-time favorite ghost stories, The Upturned Stone by Scott Hampton, originally published by Heavy Metal & Kitchen Sink back in 1993.
The story takes place in 1969, and involves four school-age friends on Halloween (think Stand by Me meets Stranger Things). One of the boys is given $2.00 from his mother to purchase a large pumpkin. Being that $2.00 is a small fortune to a boy in 1969, the four friends decide to find a large pumpkin they’ve seen in town as opposed to buying one, allowing themselves to use that money on something important… like comic books.
When they find the pumpkin that suits their needs, they realize it’s growing out of a grave. This isn’t just any grave either. This is the grave of a boy their age who was murdered. The grave is marked “Unknown” because no one in town knew who he was, but everyone in town knows the story of the murdered boy. After careful discussion, the boys harvest the pumpkin and bring it home.
When a pie is baked from the pumpkin they brought home, each of the boys eat a slice. That night, they each start having vivid dreams that at first don’t make much sense to any of them. It’s only when they boys meet up again and discuss their recurring dreams that they realize that they are each experiencing this phenomenon. To their shock, as they discuss further, they realize that all of their dreams are connected and they are each dreaming a portion of a story…the story of the murdered boy, lying in the unknown grave. A plan is hatched to provide some closure for the victim, and more shocking events do indeed occur, but those details won’t be provided here. That would spoil the story.
The Upturned Stone was originally published as a 64-page, full color hardcover graphic novella. It was then reprinted in Spookhouse volume1 by IDW in 2004, a trade paperback collected edition of works from Scott Hampton. If you enjoy a good ghost story, and if you love beautiful sequential art, then The Upturned Stone is for you. I believe Scott Hampton said it best in this story “Ghosts aren’t frightening, really. What’s frightening is the thought of them.”
Thanks for reading!
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