Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Rangeley robot monster attacks!

Back in early August 1960, newspapers across the nation screamed with headlines about the goings-on in Rangeley, Maine.
These were some of the superlative titles given to articles about the incident. But what happened?

Waitress Barbara Brackett had stepped into the walk-in refrigerator at Doc Grant's Restaurant on Main Street. As she moved through the cooler, she brushed up against something. The next thing she knew, she was in a scifi horror movie, with a giant, hideous monster robot grinding away a mere hairsbreadth from her. Sensibly, she ran screaming out the door, through the restaurant, and out onto the street. About 25 customers, no doubt startled by the shrieks and abrupt retreat of their hostess, followed suit. Apparently most of downtown Rangeley wanted to get in on the action, because by the time Deputy Sheriff Ronald "Pete" Durrell arrived, he was surprised to find himself tasked with enacting crowd control on a mob of about 150 people.
James Marshall and his hulking green creation!
Clearer heads prevailed eventually, and it was discovered that James Marshall was the mad inventor responsible for the behemoth that started the panic. The monster, happily described by its creator as "hideous and horrible," was in the walk-in fridge to test its ability to withstand low temperatures.

Poster from one of Dr. Evil's Rangeley
appearances, sometime in the 1960s.

Marshall had great plans for the beast, which he had spent the last couple of years-worth of his spare time to assemble. He had designed it to be featured in Dr. Evil's traveling spookshow, "Terrors of the Unknown." This roadshow made its way across the U.S. and Canada starting in 1953 and going steadily through much of the 1960s, when it lingered long into the tail end of the spookshow era. The show was supposed to go as far as Alaska, hence Marshall's determination that his monster be able to function after exposure to cold weather. It certainly worked enough to scare Ms. Brackett, and the robot's electronic machinery kept going until Marshall arrived to disconnect the wires.

The owner of the restaurant, Elmer "Doc" Grant himself, had given Marshall permission to use the refrigerator, but apparently failed to inquire closely into the exact intentions of the inventor. The newspapers quoted his reaction to the situation, as he stated, "I have never seen such a hideous creature in all my life," and he said that he never wanted to see Marshall or the monster again.

Marshall explained that he had wanted the monster to remain a secret, but it's hard to keep something a secret when it's "more than 12 feet tall, about 13 feet around the chest, with arms as big as a man... half animal and half fish." Add to that the fact that the beast had fur and hair up to the midsection,  succeeded by a layer of large green scales, topped off with a horn coming out of the top of its head. Did he really think people weren't going to take note of such a thing rattling around inside one of the major establishments of downtown Rangeley?
Doc Grant's Restaurant, Rangeley, Maine (postcard photo).
So did Marshall's monster ever make it onto the stage with Dr. Evil? The only clue I have found is this ad, run in the Biddeford-Saco Journal of August 23, 1965, on page 10. What do YOU think...?

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