Forrest J. Ackerman’s scary treasures part of Hollywood auction

April 29, 2009 | 1:36 a.m.


The late Forrest J. Ackerman dedicated his life to amassing what many consider to have been the world’s largest personal collection of science fiction, fantasy and horror memorabilia. On Thursday, about 500 remnants of his prized cache will go on the block as part of a larger auction of Hollywood collectibles. (The auction has plenty of other historic Hollywood totems, among them this mask from classic 1954 monster tale “The Creature from the Black Lagoon.”)

Among the Ackerman-owned items for sale are the ring worn by actor Bela Lugosi in the 1931 film “Dracula,” Lugosi’s vampire cape from “Plan 9 From Outer Space” and other movies and his robe from “The Raven.”

“Forry died a pretty broke guy,” said Joe Maddalena, president of the auction house Profiles in History, who’s staging the event at its Calabasas Hills headquarters and online at “He didn’t do this for money. He did it for love.”

During his lifetime, Ackerman put the items on display at his house, and he was approached by a litany of people, including former Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley, with hopes of transforming his collection of 300,000 items into a museum. But the plans always fell through, and Ackerman eventually had to sell his trove piecemeal amid mounting bills for health problems and a legal fight surrounding the magazine he edited and wrote for, Famous Monsters of Filmland.

Dracularing4 When Ackerman died in December  at age 92, he left behind thousands of pieces in his modest Los Feliz home. The house was dubbed the Acker Mini-Mansion, an allusion to his original 18-room home, the Ackermansion, which was sold in 2002 along with the majority of his collection.

“What he had left were the most sentimental, intimate things that he treasured,” Maddalena said. He estimates that Ackerman’s portion of the auction is expected to bring in $500,000, to be distributed among the 17 beneficiaries stipulated in his will.

Though his inner circle included sci-fi royalty — he was Ray Bradbury’s first agent, and Famous Monsters influenced Stephen King, Steven Spielberg and George Lucas — the beneficiaries aren’t famous. Among them is a waitress from his favorite restaurant, House of Pies in Los Feliz, said friend and estate trustee Kevin Burns.

“It’s because they weren’t expecting to be in his will that they are in his will,” he said. “We’re expecting that everyone will get something.”

Auction items include a signed first edition  of Mary Shelley’s novel “Frankenstein,” priced at $2,000 to $3,000; a first edition  of Bram Stoker’s “Dracula,” signed by the author, Lugosi and Boris Karloff, at $6,000 to $8,000; and a copy of “Triton,” signed by Ackerman and bearing the property label of L. Ron Hubbard, at $600 to $800.

Forrest_ackerman_photo_by_jack_ca_3 The most expensive items are those Ackerman cherished above all others. Lugosi’s black cape is priced at $15,000 to $20,000; his ring, at $20,000 to $30,000, and it is expected to go for much higher, Maddalena said. Lugosi kept the ring until he died; a friend of his gave it to Ackerman because of his admiration for Lugosi.

“Having the ‘Dracula’ ring was something he could wear on his hand, and once he started wearing it, he became known as the man who had Lugosi’s ring,” Burns said. “It has a certain mystery and magic having been worn by Lugosi and then by Ackerman. He would never take it off.”

Another favorite possession is a copy of the robot from Fritz Lang’s “Metropolis.” Ackerman reportedly watched the 1927 movie more than 100 times and spent years trying to track down the original prop. But he could never locate it, because the robot was burned at the end of the movie. Never willing to give up, Ackerman got hold of the design and gave it to filmmaker Bill Malone, who built a replica. The robot comes with a stuffed monkey doll that once belonged to Lang. Only two were made, and one of them was buried with the Austrian director in 1976. The estimated price for the lot: $12,000.

Other items are not as pricey: Autographed photos of Marlene Dietrich, Karloff and countless other actors, writers and filmmakers start at $200. The goal was to make the auction accessible to fans and collectors, Burns said, and preserve Ackerman’s legacy.

“At the end of the day, the one that made the museum was him,” he  said. “He was the greatest item in his collection.”

— Alicia Lozano



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Auction items photos courtesy of Profiles in History. Forrest J Ackerman at his home in 1969. Credit: Jack Carrick / Los Angeles Times.


13 Responses to Forrest J. Ackerman’s scary treasures part of Hollywood auction

  1. Arye Michael Bender says:

    Was at the sadly wonderful MGM three day studio auction, and saw the saucer go for more than I could afford. Still, it wasn't very much.
    I believe it was classified as a miscellaneous prop from The Twilight Zone.

  2. Lucian Tomes Jr. says:

    Here's hoping that Forry's treasured artifacts end up with someone who appreciates the "magic" they represent as much as Forry did. The saddest thing about Forry's passing was that his collection was unable to be preserved intact for future generations to enjoy …

  3. Spymunk says:

    The real shame of all this is that Forrest J. Ackerman is a perfect example of the do-nothing celebrity – someone who contributed not-thing-one to culture and art but who leeched off genuine talent. Shame on people for supporting this mania for materialism.

    • Max says:

      Go to hell Spymunk. Go-to-Hell.

    • Mr. Dan says:

      Dear Spymunk, I hope I can make u understand that Forry was a Keep-of-of-the-Torch of the
      Sci-Fi genera, he help keep it alive when the movers and shakers in Hollywood were Not taking it
      seriously. He was a Fan in the truest sense of the word and that should not be condemed but appluaded. I hope I have helped you see things in a different way.

  4. DennyWilson says:

    Forry was not a "do-nothing celebrity" – He was a writer,a literary agent, a magazine editor,historian and futurist.

  5. William Berube says:

    What a great guy!
    He opened his home to scores of people every year so that they could get a glimpse at his treasures – many of which would have been relegated to a dumpster if not for Forry's foresight. He was well aware that these were true pieces of pop culture history, and that he really didn't own them, but was actually their temporary caretaker.
    For the man who coined the term Sci-Fi, I say good night and farewell. You will be missed!

  6. Sean A. Curtin says:

    It's a shame they couldn't have all been kept together as a permanent Sci-Fi museum but that was Forrests request and it's only right that his wishes be honoured. It would have been like walking into a Ripleys believe it or not!. Would have made for a very interesting museum(possibly the only one like it in the world). Alas now it will be scattered all over the globe and who knows where what will end up as the years go on.

  7. Shop From Us says:

    Its such as you read my mind! You appear to grasp so much about this, such as you wrote the e book in it or something. I believe that you can do with some p.c. to power the message house a little bit, but instead of that, this is great blog. An excellent read. I will definitely be back.

  8. r brantell says:

    i met Forrey back at the world sci fi convention in phx back in 78 or 79 what a beautiful man and was entralled to hear him speak with such love and passion also met Harlan Eliison and together they were pushing for the ERA but alas az would not pass it also it was so interesting to hear that he said I don't want to go yet untill i vote for Obama and he died a monthe to the day he did not being political but just describing the mans passion I am 63 and remember the first time I read FM of Filmland and still read them over and over again Godspeed Forrey I'm so glad that I once shook your hand

  9. FJA’s collection was a huge loss. Sad to say that when Michael D. Stein purchased the collection back in the late 80’s there was hope for a museum to house these iconic artifacts from an industry that changed the world and brought people together from different places around the globe. It is pathetic to think that his treasures were sold off. When a forward thinking individual such Forrest J. Ackerman saw the impact of this medium engage a growing audience of passionate, young enthusiasts, he was “dead” on with his decisions to save these pieces.

    As a whole, they represent some of the most powerful influences in popular culture. Not only did the films prove to be financially viable projects for the most part but the

    licensed products that followed a decade or two later demonstrated that these movies had a deeper impact on our collective cultural preferences.

    I have always been of the opinion that the invention of the screen and what followed is massively more powerful art than a Picasso painting. And yet even today in 2013 Museum professionals are all to eager to repackage a very tired Degas show than ever attempt to look at the rich, transforming contributions of the movie industry.

    Michell Muldoon

  10. Forrest J. Ackerman had the unique ability to realize the true value of the “Sci-Fi” objects that would have otherwise been destroyed. It’s sad that his selfless denial in collecting otherwise discarded historical objects, books, sculptures, etc. resulted in years of collecting, being dissacembled piece by piece.

  11. mike margalski says:

    It's a shame Forry's home couldn't be preservered as a museum….I waited for many years hoping to go there but never had the time or the money….now that I can it's all on the selling block….shame on you Hollywood….this is something everyone should be able to see and visit for future generations….MM

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