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  • (dramatic music)

  • (screaming)

  • - (sighs) Screaming relaxes me so.

  • (exciting music)

  • - The modern horror genre arguably got started

  • on a June night in 1816 when Lord Byron

  • challenged his companions at Lake Geneva

  • to write ghost stories to tell each other.

  • That challenge resulted in Frankenstein

  • and the modern vampire as we know it.

  • Now here's the part where it'll probably sound like

  • I'm reaching, I think it's that origin story

  • with a group of story tellers sitting around a fire

  • that has led horror to be drawn to anthologies

  • and horror hosts.

  • It's probably no shock to you all that I,

  • someone who talks about horror movies on the internet,

  • have a huge love for horror hosts.

  • And while the internet has changed a lot

  • I thought we could look back at the history

  • of how we got here.

  • Vampira, played by actress Mila Nermey

  • was the first horror host.

  • For a single season from April 30th, 1954

  • to April second, 1955 the Vampira show ran

  • on KABC in Los Angeles at the glamor ghoul

  • in her long, tight black dress

  • reclining on a Victorian couch introducing movies.

  • Now that probably sounds a bit familiar to a lot of you

  • who have never even seen Vampira.

  • But she was the first to do it.

  • She was Morticia Addams before Morticia Addams.

  • Literally.

  • She based her look on the nameless character

  • from Charles Adams' cartoons in The New Yorker

  • who wouldn't be known as Morticia

  • until the TV adaptation a decade later.

  • What's really crazy about the character of Vampira

  • and her influence is her short tenure.

  • A year in, ABC tried to buy the character from Nermey.

  • She refused, they canceled her.

  • That was it for Vampira.

  • But she started a format that would thrive

  • and launch a million monster kids.

  • Then in 1957 Universal Studios packaged

  • 52 of their classic horror films as Shock Theater

  • and distributed them around the US

  • for television syndication.

  • And encouraged the use of hosts for the broadcasts.

  • This led to a wave of late night costumed hosts

  • taking to the air to introduce the films

  • with stand outs like John Zacherley, originally appearing

  • as Roland in Philadelphia before moving to New York

  • and presenting as Zacherley,

  • becoming nationwide sensations.

  • Zacherley really leaned into the horror comedy

  • side of things and incorporated cut away gags,

  • parodying the films he was presenting,

  • which has kind of become the standard.

  • Zacherley even had a hit record

  • with Dinner For Drac, breaking the top 10 in 1958.

  • And that's sort of what my introduction to Zacherley was,

  • not Dinner With Drac in 1958, but from Rock and Roll.

  • He and the Ghastly Ones do a great cover of CCR's

  • Sinister Purpose on Rob Zombie's

  • Halloween Hootenanny compilation.

  • The Shock Theater package hitting television

  • created a monster craze in the late '50's

  • that would also benefit from Forrest J. Ackerman's

  • Famous Monsters of Filmland Magazine

  • and comics like Tales from the Crypt.

  • While the horror hosts of the era were mostly made up

  • of weather men and other personalities already employed

  • by the respective stations presenting archival films

  • during the late '50's a genre series would emerge

  • that would change everything.

  • Rod Sterling was already an established name in television

  • when he created The Twilight Zone

  • an anthology series which presented original sci-fi,

  • fantasy and horror tales which used the freedom

  • of genre storytelling to tackle stories and theme

  • that he felt were being suppressed and censored elsewhere.

  • The show with Sterling narrating through each stand alone

  • story until its twist ending is one of the most

  • beloved franchises in television history.

  • And has spawned a movie, countless imitations

  • and three revivals including an upcoming version

  • executive produced and hosted by Jordan Peele.

  • While The Twilight Zone brought about a new kind

  • of horror host one that presented original material

  • it didn't mean that the Late-Nite Schlock host

  • went anywhere.

  • In fact they thrived through the '60's with names like

  • Ghoulardi, Sammy Terry and Moona Lisa

  • ruling their local airwaves.

  • Some of the characters from the original monster craze

  • are still going like how Mark Carter replaced his Father Bob

  • as Sammy Terry and Rich Koz took over

  • the reigns of Svengoolie.

  • First replacing Jerry G. Bishop as Son of Svengoolie

  • from 1979 to 1986 then when the show was resurrected in 1995

  • Bishop encouraged Koz to drop Son of

  • and he's been Svengoolie every since.

  • Now expanded from the original Chicago market

  • to reach audiences nationwide Saturday night's on METV.

  • While the horror hosts didn't go anywhere

  • through the '70's popularity did dip a bit.

  • But there was a resurgence in the early '80's

  • thanks to the Mistress of the Dark herself, Elvira.

  • The origin story of Elvira actually circle us back

  • to Vampira which shouldn't really come as any surprise.

  • Looking to revive Fright Night not the movie

  • which featured a horror host but the LA area horror show

  • that had been hosted by Sinister Seymour

  • producers reached out to Mila Nermey she was on board,

  • but according to Wikipedia she wanted Lola Falana

  • to take over the role, producers said no and Nearmy walked

  • which was kinda her thing.

  • Auditions were held to find a new hostess

  • and Cassandra Peterson won the job,

  • but since Nermey owned Vampira,

  • remember she refused to sell the rights the character

  • of Elvira was created.

  • And as you can expect there were some lawsuits.

  • But it was ruled that characters that just shared

  • a close resemblance that if anything could be sourced

  • back to Charles Adams.

  • The hostess and movie macabre went on to be

  • a media sensation throughout the 1980's

  • and has been a staple of pop culture ever since.

  • In fact, there's rumors of another sequel

  • to Mistress of the Dark and talk that a new version

  • of Elvira's movie macabre may be making its way to Netflix.

  • It was at the very end of the '80's that arguably

  • the greatest horror host of the greatest horror

  • anthology series made his debut.

  • Tales from the Crypt sound so weird it had to work.

  • I mean someone said let's have a puppet corpse

  • introduce a bunch of short films starring and created

  • by A-list Hollywood talent based on horror comic books

  • from the 19050's.

  • And they said it with a straight face

  • and then it actually worked.

  • Thanks in large part to the John Kassir voiced Crypt Keeper

  • who would also make the leap to Saturday mornings

  • with the markedly tamer Tales from the Crypt Keeper.

  • There are definitely a group of horror fans around my age

  • who would cite the Crypt Keeper as their first horror host.

  • But for me that honor goes to a group of Canadian kids

  • sitting around a campfire.

  • The Midnight Society of Are You Afraid of the Dark?

  • met weekly with each member taking a turn

  • submitting a tale for approval.

  • It wasn't a traditional horror host set up for sure,

  • but it was an effective one that cultivated

  • a new group of monster kids.

  • Are You Afraid of the Dark? is even moving to the big screen

  • it and Annabelle Creation's scribe Gary Dauberman

  • has written the film which is due in theaters this fall.

  • But beyond Kids in the Woods the '90's also saw

  • the emergence of something else that would change

  • the landscape of horror hosts, the internet.

  • Count Gore de Vol of Washington D.C. who originally

  • broadcasted from 1973 to 1987 lays claim to being the first

  • horror host on the internet with his online series

  • which dates back to 1998.

  • But it's not just existing hosts taking to the web

  • the last few years has seen a rise

  • in a new generation of horror hosts.

  • Like Blair Bathory of Fear Haus who has been hosting

  • her carefully curated selections of short horror

  • since May of 2015.

  • The show is now weekly with new episodes on Wednesdays

  • and they've even expanded to a Fear Haus Watch Club group

  • on Facebook for fans of the series to join the discussion.

  • There's also Deadflix hosted by hellbound video store clerk

  • Morgul from the team at Grind Mind.

  • Their series is an anthology of original short films

  • with new episodes coming monthly.

  • So like the horror hosts going back to the '50's

  • even the internet has hosts who introduce pre-produced films

  • and hosts who present original works.

  • Ad of course I can't forget Joe Bob.

  • Joe Bob Briggs is a bit different

  • than your usual horror host having originally been known

  • as a Drive-In critic

  • before hosting Drive-In Theater and Monster Vision.

  • These days he set up show with the folks over at Shudder

  • where the last Drive-In knocked out three epic marathons

  • in 2018 and now news is out that a weekly series

  • will be coming to the streaming platform in the new year.

  • Look I know I missed a bunch here including Grandpa Al,

  • but who's your favorite horror host?

  • Do you prefer original anthologies

  • or archived presentations?

  • Let us know in the comments.

  • And remember Frighthype and Cryptv are all over the internet

  • until next time keep the horror on the screen

  • and off the streets.

  • (intriguing music)

  • - [Narrator] Watch new scary vids every Tuesday,

  • Thursday and Friday.

  • (upbeat music)

(dramatic music)

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Fright Hype | "Horror Host History" | Crypt TV Culture

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    Amy.Lin posted on 2019/05/30
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