A rabid collector and tireless, unabashed fan rather than a creator per se, Ackerman “founded the future”, invented “-cons” and inspired generations of makeup artists, writers, directors — and nerdy kids — to invent their own worlds, where freaks played all the starring roles:
He was also an omnivorous memorabilia collector who once turned a former home of his overlooking Los Angeles into a sort of scream-a-torium. Thousands of science-fiction fans made pilgrimages to the house, a repository of more than 300,000 books, posters, masks, costumes, statuettes, models, film props and other artifacts. [His collection eventually included more than 40,000 books and 100,000 film stills.] (He sold the house several years ago to pay for mounting medical bills.)
Between 1958 and 1983, he wrote and edited Famous Monsters of Filmland, a seminal black-and-white magazine heavily illustrated with photographs from Mr. Ackerman’s collection. The magazine emphasized the scream-worthy features of movies and was fond of groan-worthy wordplay. “Menace, Anyone?” was a typical title. But it also conveyed the idea that language was flexible and that using it could be fun.
7. In 1939, he attended the first World Science Fiction Convention (Worldcon) dressed in a costume made by his girlfriend. No one knows why. It began the long SF tradition of fan costume contests.
9. He told a young Ray Bradbury that he should write SF, paid his way to that first Worldcon in 1939 and lent him the money to start his fanzine, Futuria Fantasia.
13. He appears in Michael Jackson’s video for Thriller. He’s the old white guy in the audience.
14. He’s also appeared as a character in books: Philip José Farmer’s novel Blown features a character based on Ackerman, and Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle’s novel Fallen Angels features a house inspired by the Ackermansion.
17. His collection included a signed first edition of Bram Stoker’s Dracula. But not just signed by Stoker. Over the years, he had it signed by actors Bela Lugosi, Christopher Lee, Frank Langella–everyone who played the count in film. When he would hand the book to people–that’s right: you got to touch the stuff in the Ackermansion–he would say, “You don’t see one of these every day.”
18. Lugosi gave him the ring Dracula wears in the 1931 film, and Boris Karloff gave him the Mummy ring from 1932’s The Mummy. Forry daily wore the Dracula ring on one hand and the Mummy ring on the other. He never took them off for non-blondes.
21. He edited the legendary magazine Famous Monsters of Filmland. Everybody read it–from musician Gene Simmons (KISS) to director Joe Dante (Gremlins). About him Dante said: “[Ackerman] was one of the most influential figures, not just in sci-fi fandom, but in general movie buffdom. … The list of [Famous Monsters] fans who were spurred on to become successful figures in the film and book worlds is legendary. Which is why I had to chuckle when the last line of his AP obituary claimed ‘He had no children’; he had so many.”