I love regional horror TV shows because of the creativity shown while overcoming their often low budgets. It results in a great blend of horror and comedy. These shows were created out of stations’ need for inexpensive content. It was a great way to jazz up cheap or free b-movies. The genre took off because studios released collections like Universal’s “Shock!” and “Creature Features”. Hence many shows took their names from these collections. Due to the genre’s popularity, there have been many great hosts of local horror TV shows. Here are AEE’s top 6 TV horror hosts of all time (because six is a evil number).
6) The Ghoul
Ron Sweed got his break in television because of another famous Ohio horror host, Ghoulardi. Sweed showed up in the audience of the Ghoulardi show in a gorilla suit and became a recurring character as a result. After Ghoulardi retired Sweed took up the cause of showing b-movies to the Ohio area with The Ghoul Show. The Ghoul was known for catchphrases, blowing stuff up, cheese wiz, and mistreating his co-stars. I believe the Ghoul has even recently inspired the wrestling world because Bray Wyatt’s Ramblin’ Rabbit is a total rip off of the Goul’s Froggy.
5) Morgus the Magnificent
Sidney Noel Rideau is on this list because he portrayed Morgus the Magnificent in the New Orleans area for over sixty years. Morgus was a mad scientist who performed experiments in between introducing b-movies. His sidekick, Chopsley, often hilariously refused to be his Guinea pig because of the propensity for disaster. Sidney Noel Rideau tried to stay incognito because he even kept his identity of the Morgus from his children. Unfortunately, Sidney Noel Rideau passed away in August but it’s nice to see that WUPL will broadcast vintage episodes in his honor on Halloween night.
Vampira is often regarded as the first TV horror host but that isn’t true. Swami Drana Badour was hosting Murder By Midnight in Chicago four years before the Vampira Show debuted in 1954. However, I think it’s fair to say that she popularized many of the tropes that we associate with regional horror TV. The actress that played her, Maila Nurmi, certainly had an interesting life story. Her Morticia Addams Halloween costume at a Hollywood party got her the role of Vampira for instance. The Vampira Show was canceled after 8 months apparently because of a character rights dispute. However, Vampira still became very famous. She even hung out with James Dean for example. She also reprised the character in 1959’s PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE.
John Zacherle started off hosting Philadelphia’s Shock theater as a character named Roland. His sidekick was his wife who never left a coffin. Roland also performed skits in between movies. He eventually moved the show to New York and subsequently changed the character’s name to Zacherley. He was known as the Cool Ghoul because he also hosted tv dance shows and charted with his song “Dinner With Drac”. It’s also interesting to know that his niece is Bonnie Zacherle, creator of My Little Pony.
I’m going to admit my bias with this one because Svengoolie is the horror host I grew up within Chicagoland. I grew up with the second or Son of Svengoolie, Rich Koz. Jerry G. Bishop originally played the character from 1970 to 1973 on a show called Screaming Yellow Theater. Then Koz took over the mantle in 1979. Svengoolie is popular for his parody songs, use of classic TV sound bites, dry humor and rubber chickens. Svengoolie’s longevity is amazing because the show has risen from the grave after multiple cancellations. It can still be seen Saturday nights on MeTV.
Elvira is the perfect combination of spooky, sexy, and funny. She started in the same comedy troupe as Paul Ruban and Phil Hartman. The original Elvira’s Movie Macabre aired from 1981 to 1986. The popularity of the show resulted in a brand that has become a merchandising empire. Elvira has been a spokesperson for Coors, has a pinball machine, and starred in a major motion picture for example. Her popularity will most likely last for years to come due to her strong brand and the ever growing popularity of Halloween.
I’ll aways have have a soft spot for these shows and ones they helped inspire, such as Mystery Science Theater 3000. I certainly believe that your favorite horror tv host has a lot to do with where you grew up. So, which ones did I miss? Tell me in the comments.