The Vault of Horror and The Haunt of Fear

“Gutter of Horror” is a Brazilian column from Dinamo Studio website about horror comics. This is a translated version of the articles.

Although “Tales from the Crypt” became the most popular name among the E.C Comics horror publications, the titles were actually a trifecta that included The Vault of Horror and The Haunt of Fear. Both titles had each its own horror host, but they weren’t exclusive to his publication, popping up across all three titles. Each had an “official” banner: The Crypt-keeper bring stories under “The Crypt of Terror”; The Vault-Keeper had “The Vault of Horror” and the Old Witch “The Witch’s Cauldron”.

Just like “Tales...” , The Vault of Horror and The Haunt of Fear were also born out of other titles, with a complex history of numbering that messes with any collector. For issues regarding shipping permissions, to reset a title and restarting the numbering would cost more money, so Al Feldstein creating the titles by simply altering the names of other publications, keeping the old numbering. Some of the titles ended up being renumbered later, which cause all kinds of trouble for collectors and comics historians like me.

The Vault of Horror

Like Tales from the Crypt, that inherited the numbering from Crime Patrol, The Vault of Horror was crime publication War Against Crime (1948). In its last numbers, Feldstein and William Gaines started experimenting with horror and decided to change it. The Vault of Horror began with issue #12 (1950), although there was the intention of restarting the numbering later (which didn’t happen). The brainstorming was the same as “Tales…”: Feldstein and Gaines read a bunch of horror stories and created base plots that were the starting point of the stories, so the scripts were inspired by authors such as H.P. Lovecraft, Oscar Wilde, Carl Theodor Dreyer and Ray Bradbury among others.

Although it wasn’t easy to tell the titles apart from each other, there was sorta of an identity in each one of them, artistically speaking. While Tales from the Crypt had Wally Wood as main artist (especially the covers), The Vault of Horror had Johnny Craig, who did covers and the main story of practically every issue. Craig was the writer and the artists of his stories, a rarity in the company. And, after issue #35 he became the editor as well. Besides Johnny Craig, Feldstein and Gaines, the stories were also written by Carl Wessler and Jack Oleck, with art by Reed Crandall, George Evans, Jack Kamen, Wally Wood, Graham Ingels, Harvey Kurtzman, Jack Davis, Sid Check, Al Williamson, Joe Orlando, Bernard Krigstein, Harry Harrison and Howard Larsen.

The GhouLunatics, as the three horror hosts were called, frequently appeared in each other’s title, showing some rivalry for comic effect. In The Vault of Horror, the main host was The Vault-Keeper, which had appeared in War Against Crime #10 and kept appearing after the title change. The character were not so dissimilar from the Crypt-Keeper, at least visually. The Vault-Keeper was an Ancient Inquisitor that wore a cloak and tell his stories from his empty dungeon. The host began as a dark character, but soon gained comedic tones, delivering comic comments full of puns to contrast with the seriousness of the stories.  The Vault-Keeper was created by Al Feldstein, but it was Johnny Craig that became more associated with the character.

In the last 4 issues, The Vault-Keeper had the company of another host: Drusilla. Introduced by the Vault-Keeper in “Vault..” #37, Drusilla was a beautiful brunette, pretty similar to Vampira (the horror host from TV). The chartacter, however, didn’t have any lines, which was weird because she just…stood there.

The Vault of Horror had the same end as the other E.C. titles, due to the backlash against crime and horror comics, followed by the creation of the Comics Code Authority. The title ended with issue #40, lasting 29 issues.

The Haunt of Fear

The story of The Haunt of Fear begins with a humor comic called Fat and Slat (1948). The title lasted only 4 issues and was retitled as Gunfighter (1948), now a Western comic book. Gunfighter lasted a little more than Fat and Slat (9 issues) and ended with #14. With issue #15, it was retitled The Haunt of Fear (1950), completing the trifecta of horror publications from E.C.

Just like Tales from the Crypt and The Vault of Horror, the stories in The Haunt of Fear came from the plots Feldstein and Gaines did inspired by the horror books they read. Among the inspirations were authors like Bram Stocker, Edgar Alan Poe, Mark Twain, Ray Bradbury and H.P. Lovecraft. The first issues of “Haunt…”were 15, 16, and 17. But the post office demanded issue 18 to be shipped as #4. So, the first three issues are 15, 16 and 17, followed by 4, 5, 6 and so on. Because of that, the title ended up having duplicated issues 15, 16 and 17. The war title Two-Fisted Tales inherited Haunt’s old numbering, starting with issue 18.

Graham Ingles was chosen to give the title some identity. He started drawing some stories and by issue #4 he was already the title’s mains artist. After issue #11 he started to do the covers. The Haunt of Fear also had writers and artists such as Al Feldstein, Johnny Craig, Wally Wood, Harvey Kurtzman, Jack Davis, George Roussos, Harry Harrison, Joe Orlando, Sid Check, George Evans, Reed Crandall, Jack Kamen and Bernard Krigstein.

The host of the title was The Old Witch and and she was visually very different from the other two GhoulLunatics. She was also the host with most appearances in general, present not only in the three horror titles but also in Crime Suspenstories (1950). She started in the second issue of Haunt (the first had no host), introducing herself in a story made by Jack Kamen. The character was inspired by “Old Nancy”, a Salem witch from Alonzo Deen’s “The Witch’s Tales" radio series, which ran from 1931 to 1938.  The Haunt of Fear lasted 28 issues and ended for the same reason as the others. 

The most controversial E.C. Comics story was “Foul Play”, published in The Haunt of Fear #19 (1953). With script by Al Feldstein and art by Jack Davis, the story shows a dishonest baseball player being dismembered and used by his killers to play baseball. That was one of the main examples used by Fredric Wertham in his book “Seduction of the Innocent” to justify his beliefs that comics led to juvenile delinquency.

When adapted to other media the stories from Tales from The Crypt, The Vault of Horror and The Haunt of Fear was rarely discernible. The Tales from the Crypt TV Show, for example, adapted several stories from all three titles. The same happened with the British film “Tales from the Crypt” from Amics productions.

One of the stories of the Amicus' movie, “Horror We? How’s Bayou?”, from issue #17 of Haunt, is considered by many as the best horror story from E.C. The homicidal maniac of the story was visually inspired by the silent film Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1920);

Amicus also released a sequel to Tales from the Crypt entitled “The Vault of Horror” (1973). Funny enough, none of the stories adapted for the movie were from The Vault of Horror comics, but from Tales from the Crypt – with the exception of one story adapted from Shock Suspenstories (1952).


The Vault-Keeper and the Old Witch also followed the Crypt-Keeper in the Tales from the Cryptkeeper animated series (1993).

Rafael Algures is a Bachelor of Philosophy specialized in Neurosciences of Language. He is also a copywriter, content and science writer, and a comic book creator. His latest work, “Gutter of Horror: Transition”, a short horror comic about Philosophy and Artificial Intelligence are available at Amazon – digital and paperback.

Further reading: The Rise of E.C. Comics
                           The Peak of E.C. Comics
                           The Fall of E.C. Comics