The Orphanage at Dreary Knolls

Ralph Reese is a brilliant illustrator whose art I first discovered in Choose Your Own Adventure books; he was my personal favorite. His work leapt off the page more than the others, owing to his apprenticeship under the great Wally Wood. In my teens, I found reprints of Ralph’s collaboration with Byron Preiss for National Lampoon, “One Year Affair”. I dreamed of being able to draw like Ralph Reese.

When Ralph did a feature in CRAZY magazine, it was a cause for celebration. Because Ralph wasn’t just a master illustrator.

Ralph was also a master of making you crap your pants.

This is an illustrated poem directed at children who are thinking of running away from home. In 1982, when this appeared in CRAZY, runaway kids were a common thing. There were ads on TV with toll-free numbers, depicting a terrified teen recounting abuse on a pay phone. Joan Jett’s old band was called The Runaways. There were songs about it, long before Soul Asylum’s “Runaway Train”.

At ten years old, I was forever disabused of even the notion of running away, after reading “The Orphanage at Dreary Knolls”. It freaked me out so much I showed it to my dad, and he took it away for a short time.

I’m getting the best scans that I can here, but the blackboard in panel one reads “Petty Larceny 201/Mr. Fagin”. Look at the crew in panel three. The short stubby kid on the right is eating worms! Like, totally chowing down!

Dark stuff, huh? Just you wait, kiddies!

I learned what “emetic” meant because of this story. “Writhes”, too. Well, actually, that might’ve come from “Acid Queen” by The Who. Reese does all the writing and lettering, by the way.

For the final page, Ralph moves to top the childhood terrors of Gorey’s Gashlycrumb Tinies. 

This page kept me up a night or two. Despite this, it had minimal effects on my homework, if any.

Pretty scary though, eh kids? Suddenly running away doesn’t seem like such a sweet deal, huh? Huh?

(Below is the back cover of this particular issue of CRAZY, written by Steve Skeates and drawn by Marie Severin. Looking back, this may have been why my dad took it away.)

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