Day 304: Masters Of Darkness

originally published October 30, 2012

I have a cluttered drawer of memory from my childhood television addiction, of tuning in to some late-night monster-movie show on one of our local channels. It was hosted by Elvira, the self-proclaimed Mistress of the Dark, and as a child it always left me confused. On the one hand, the movies were usually quite awful and filled with death, dismemberment, and feeble claymation. On the other, there were breasts and tasteless jokes during the breaks, two subjects that I knew even then would fascinate me well into my adult life.

There are 41 Horror Hosts listed on Wikipedia. I thought it might be fun to see if any of them are scary. Not having actually seen any of these hosts (and a little burnt out on Youtube research from Day 300), I’m rating their Creepy Factor based solely on my instinct. I know, that’s not totally fair, but I’m doing seven of these articles a week. Sorry.

Name: The Cool Ghoul

Location: Cincinnati, Ohio (1961-2004)

Story: Created by local TV host Dick Von Hoene in 1961, he got his own show called Scream-In (a take-off of the comedy show Laugh-In) during the 70’s, and remained a Cincy institution until his death in ’04. His trademark wig was allegedly taken off a woman who died in a car crash. The front half of the wig was buried with the woman, the rear half was given to Von Hoene for his costume.

Creepy Factor: 7.5. He looks like that crazy uncle who’ll give you a beer when your parents aren’t looking, but he gets at least three points for wearing a dead person’s headpiece.

Name: Marvin

Location: Chicago, Illinois (1957-1959)

Story: Marvin was a ‘demented beatnik’ at a time when that concept might have spooked an older audience. Terry Bennett, who played Marvin, also hosted a morning children’s show at the same time, which somehow makes him a little scarier. His show, Shock Theater, was cancelled for ABC’s Fight Of The Week, despite a huge petition protest. I guess he was locally beloved, so he must have been doing something right. Marvin often poked fun at the movies on his show, but sometimes he truly aimed to freak out his audience.

Creepy Factor: 5. Kudos for actually trying to spook the viewing public, but come on. He looks like a young Elvis Costello.

Name: Moona Lisa

Location: San Diego (and briefly LA), California; also St. Louis, Missouri (1963-1973)

Story: Her show, Science Fiction Theatre, featured Moona hosting among a cloud of ‘moon smoke’. Evidently she possessed that same Elvira-esque dichotomy of horror and boobies. During the breaks she briefly used a Beatles-like band called the Roaches, so… that’s kind of lame.

Creepy Factor: 8. Nothing creepy about a sexy woman and moon smoke, but Moona also used a lot of live snakes in her broadcast, including a giant python which she wrapped around her body. Well done, Ms. Lisa.

Name: Sir Graves Ghastly

Location: Detroit, Michigan (1967-1982); also syndicated to Washington DC and Cleveland

Story: Portrayed by Lawson J. Deming. He was known for his signature “Mwah-ha-ha” laugh (though I’m pretty sure he didn’t invent it). Deming could apparently pull off 27 distinct dialects, but creepy vampire-cliché was the one that paid the bills. The films were cut with sketch-comedy pieces, including some by a character called The Glob, who sang song parodies (like “I Wanna Bite Your Hand”).

Creepy Factor: 3. Did I mention this show aired against college football on Saturday afternoons? At that time of day these movies would be campy Mystery-Science-Theatre fare. No one was getting truly spooked by this show.

Name: Svengoolie

Location: Chicago, Illinois (1970-1973; 1979-1986; 1994-present)

Story: Once again, not the show you’re going to watch for your Halloween skin-crawlin’. This started with Jerry G. Bishop as host, then was brought back after a six-year absence due to viewer demand for more spooky flicks, campy jokes and song parodies. Rich Koz used to be some guy in Chicago who mailed in sketch ideas he wanted to see. He was hired as a writer, then promoted to host when the show returned in ’79. In true zombie fashion, the show keeps dying and getting back up.

Creepy Factor: 8. Something about this guy’s face makes me not want to trust him to water my plants while I’m out of town.

Name: Dr. Creep

Location: Dayton, Ohio (1972-1985)

Story: Barry Lee Hobart got himself a degree and a killer job working in the control room at a Dayton, Ohio TV station. He heard management was looking for something new to fill the dark, pre-SNL void on Saturday nights and Barry suggested a horror movie show. He even threw down and auditioned for the thing. Suddenly Barry was Dr. Creep, an Ohio institution right up to his death in 2011.

Creepy Factor: 9.5. His show was cancelled because the humor was getting too risqué. That means Dr. Creep had a problem with authority. Didn’t like the rules. Maybe he had something to prove. Look into those eyes and tell me those aren’t the ingredients to a deadly recipe.

Name: Crematia Mortem

Location: Kansas City, Missouri (1981-1988)

Story: The host of the local Creature Featuresbroadcast, I worry that her name sounds like a joke that would have gotten Dr. Creep thrown off the air. The Creature Features format happened in cities all over the continent between the 60s and the 80s. Crematia is one of the few hosts from these shows to have a Wikipedia page, so I’m going to skip right past any corroborating research and assume that’s because she was one of the best.

Creepy Factor: 3. Admittedly, she’s wearing bunny ears in this photo so that could be what’s killing the spooky vibe.

Name: Son Of Ghoul

Location: Akron, Ohio (1986-present)

Story: Son of Ghoul (Kevin Scarpino in his other life) once worked on the Cool Ghoul’s show. But not the Cool Ghoul above – a different one. Apparently there was more than one Cool Ghoul in the Ohio broadcasting supersphere. It’s all too confusing. I actually elected to pick a different host, when suddenly Wikipedia just crashed. Every other site is still up and running, but Wikipedia went down. It’s as though the Son of Ghoul himself knew I was about to deny him some free publicity when he… intervened.

Creepy Factor: 10. He read my mind through the internet. Son of Ghoul wins.

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