By Professor Kinema (Jim Knusch)
In the 'golden age'- the late 1950s and early 1960s- of monster fandom a lot was happening. A generation weaned on television and made fearful of the evils of communism and the reality of nuclear war was coming of age. That is, they were into their teens. Both the USA and Great Britain began to resurrect (in more ways than one) and breathe a new life into many of these classic monsters in updated productions for the big screen. These new offerings were embellished with color and gore. Life magazine of Nov 11, 1957 featured a two page spread promoting new and upcoming horror and sci-fi releases from American-International Pictures. Big screen horror and monsters were in. Vintage horror movies, especially of the 1930s, were finding a welcome audience on the tube. This acceptance was so strong that it led to a repackaging of select titles being syndicated and offered weekly under the title of SHOCK! The SHOCK! TV package was seen in some areas as SHOCK THEATRE, NIGHTMARE and HOUSE OF HORROR. As was suggested by the SHOCK! promo book, some of these were hosted locally by bizarre personalities. These personalities in themselves became phenomenally popular. This was evidenced by major pictorial articles in national magazines, hundreds of fan clubs, the marketing of premiums and-most importantly-high TV ratings. To the teenage fan caught up in all of this a trip to the local newsstand would result in the purchase of a comic book, a humor magazine or an occasional 'Tales of the Crypt'- type of periodical that was somewhere in between a comic book and pulp magazine. By 1958 something new was added to the racks; the Monster Magazine.
Trailblazing a few years before SHOCK! was unleashed, the premier nationally known bizarre TV presenter of horror films is Vampira (Maila Nurmi). Unreliable sources have endeavored to mention (none, so far, by name) earlier local TV horror hosts and hostesses who may have made fleeting appearances in small, out of the way TV stations. Yet Vampira succeeded in capturing national media coverage and securing a true cult status. A good part of that cult status stems from her active part in the era and sect of a bygone Hollywood that surrounded James Dean. Many (non-monster) periodicals have dealt exclusively with that element of which she is a survivor (or is it hangover?) of. Haunting the airwaves of Los Angeles' KABC, her on-camera horror-jinks and off the wall humor-laced with a macabre eroticism-captured the notice of the national media. The name of her show? THE VAMPIRA SHOW, of course. Newsweek of May 24, 1954 gave her coverage right next to the Army-McCarthy hearings referring to her as 'Vampire.' Life magazine of June 14, 1954 featured a three page pictorial titled, 'Good Evening, I Am Vampira.' TV Guide of the week of July 17-23, 1954 featured an article, accompanied by a color photo, titled 'Local Ghoul Makes Good.' By 1957 she had been off the air for the better part of three years but was definitely not forgotten. She would end her show with the sign-off, "Bad dreams, darling."
She was eventually brought to movie screens in such pseudo classics as PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE (1959), THE BEAT GENERATION (1959), THE BIG OPERATOR (1959) and SEX KITTENS GO TO COLLEGE (1960)- all billing her as Vampira. Consequently the bulk of her coverage in the monster magazines have been from PLAN 9. She is mentioned in and/or pictured in Famous Monsters of Filmland #2, #3- erroneously listing her as 'The Black Ghost' in Ed Wood's NIGHT OF THE GHOULS (1959) (a mistake that Bill Warren repeats in his mistake-filled two volume work Keep Watching the Skies), #s 13 & 14-in makeup from THE MAGIC SWORD (1962), #18, #19, #41, #84, #s 36 & 38-in a few paragraphs in 'Headlines From Horrorsville,' #61 and #142. Issue #144 pictured her on page 3 in a gag shot sitting on the edge of a bed pulling tight a stocking wrapped around her neck.
Monster World #s 4 & 7 featured her in 'Terror Talk.' Photos of her either from PLAN 9 or THE MAGIC SWORD cropped up in Fantastic Monsters of the Films #1, Castle of Frankenstein #15 and Mad Monsters #s 1 & 2 (in wax, no less). An oddball photo appearance appeared in Thriller #s 1 & 2, unidentified, accompanying articles on vampires. #1 also contained an uncaptioned photo of Zacherle in the same article. From the 1970s on, occasional 'where is she now?' articles appeared. Monsters of the Movies #9 featured the familiar photo from PLAN 9 but also mentioned that she was once a TV Horror Hostesses. Fangoria #30 contained a major article on Vampira, by Maila Nurmi. She is mentioned in the well-researched book The Monster Show by David J Skal. Like the content of many of the syndicated news stories that often appeared well into the late 1980s, a key point that she was making concerned her feud with Elvira. The negative results of this ongoing feud/lawsuit, were featured in the closing credits of Tim Burton's ED WOOD. Andy Warhol's Interview magazine carried an article focusing on her infamy as (quote) '...the Mystery Woman in James Dean's life, the spooky sexpot who sent him that fatal open-grave postcard: "Come and Join Me"'-a week before he was killed. This slim waisted, unique and mysterious lady was prominently featured in a major two part article surveying various hosts and hostesses past and present in issues #13 & 14 of FilmFax.
When watching SHOCK THEATRE in the familiar surroundings of one's own home, an atmosphere of fun mixed with monsters - a monstrous fun if you will - was felt. These horror hosts and hostesses created a milieu where all of the popular screen monsters cohabited in the same neighborhood. One could imagine strolling down the main street (of 'Monstertown, USA?') and alternately encountering on a friendly basis Dracula, nicknamed 'Drac,' the Frankenstein Monster, nicknamed 'Frankie,' hunchbacks, witches and ghouls of all sorts. In some cases these neighborhoods were conveniently referred to as Transylvania. In print, monster magazines created a similar milieu. Images of a publishing house with offices populated by several assorted Transylvanian creature types are evoked.
Famous Monsters of Filmland often used Transylvania in it's text on the back cover. Calvin Beck's Journal of Frankenstein and early issues of Castle of Frankenstein listed Baron Victor Frankenstein III as the editor while referring to his publishing company as Gothic Castle Publishing. Here one could equally imagine a printing press set up in a dark, cobweb filled dungeon being operated by Fritz the hunchback. To further tie in TV horror-fun with printed horror-fun, Horror Monsters regularly offered a feature listing casts and synopsis of horror films under the title 'Shock Theatre.' A complete listing of where SHOCK! could be seen around the country was listed in the first issue of Famous Monsters of Filmland. As part of this article, titled 'TV Means Terrifying Vampires,' a generic 'Frank' (someone in a rubber Frankenstein monster mask, like on the magazine's front cover) and his 'ghoul friend' (a bizarre beatnik type) were featured. The only SHOCK! hostess to be pictured and named was Ottola Nesmith of KTLA. By issue number 2 of FM an article titled 'Terror Vision' appeared profiling more SHOCK! hosts and hostesses. Now named and pictured were; Marvin (twice), Dr Meridian, Gorgon the Gruesome, The Hunchback of Notre Doom and the Tarantula Girl, aka, Tarantula Ghoul, ( Suzanne Waldron), Roland (John Zacherle), Warren Reed and his assistant 'Frankie' (yet another rubber mask) and Selwin (Ray Sparenberg). Mentioned in the text were; Dr Lucifer, David Allen, Milton Budd, Mad Daddy (Pete Myers), Terrance, Chuck Zink and his assistant Screaming Mimi, and a mention of someone from a not-too-distant bygone era; Vampira. Yet by the time FM number 2 appeared, fall of 1958, specifics of SHOCK! were changing. For example, WCAU's Roland had left Philadelphia and started a second season at New York City's WABC now known by his real name; Zacherley (the 'y' was added to the spelling). Being a true TV phenomena, the SHOCK! madness had also attracted the attention of non-monster journalists and consequently was given coverage as major features in national publications.
TV Guide of March 29, 1958 carried an article titled, 'What a Revoltin' Development!' and featured Marvin (as Terry Bennett), Milton Budd, Terrance (Russ Coglin), Miss Tarantula Ghoul, George Byram, Chuck Zink, Gorgon (as Bill Camfield), Dr Lucifer, David Allen, Roland, a photo of the 'WTVJ creature' puppet head and, like the FM #2 article, Vampira in a past tense. Life magazine of May 26, 1958 featured a three page pictorial titled 'Night Harbingers of Horror' and pictured John Barclay, Warren Reed, John Zacherle (not named Roland) Gorgon and Ottola Nesmith. Look magazine of Aug 16, 1958 featured a four page article titled 'TV's Midnight Madness,' mainly highlighting Zacherle. Three photos of Zach were included, one of him out of makeup and tending his garden. Also mentioned were Marvin, Dr Lucifer, Ottola Nesmith, Terrance and Gorgon. Also pictured were Ottola Nesmith, Marvin, Dr Lucifer and two unidentified in rubber masks. Also sometime in 1958 appeared a 'dossier' type of feature on Zacherle, Milton, Dr Lucifer, Gorgon and a few others in TV Star Parade. This list could go on to include articles in local newspapers, Sunday magazine suppliments and numerous other 'TV fan' types of magazines. When the SHOCK! furor died down, select horror hosts continued to find mentions in the pages of monster magazines.
Philadelphia based WCAU offered it's SHOCK! showings with a local host. John Zacherle was part of a repertory company featured as part of an afternoon 'soaper/oater' titled ACTION IN THE AFTERNOON. In one episode he portrayed an undertaker. Producer Ed White had this portrayal in mind when he approached him to host the station's offering of classic horror films. What resulted was a character that was a cross between an undertaker and a ghoul and was given the name 'Roland.' What wasn't foreseen was this character/personality's meteoric rise in popularity. Subsequently this garnered much media and journalistic coverage as well as premium marketing. Fan clubs mushroomed everywhere within the WCAU viewing area. As was mentioned, TV Guide, Life and Look took notice. After his move to New York City much was done to promote him and the SHOCK!/SON OF SHOCK package, with many stills and press releases in circulation. By issue #4 of FM Zach, now known by his real name, warranted a 6 page article with stills titled 'All Shock Up!' complete with a mention on the cover. Journal of Frankenstein featured his photo on the back cover, a 3 page article and a plug for NY's WABC SHOCK THEATRE. Yet by this time SHOCK!/SON OF SHOCK ended it's run. Zach's popularity didn't fade and he accepted a similar horror hosting offer from another NYC TV station; WOR. Castle of Frankenstein #1 featured a 'draw Zacherley's wife' contest. CofF #4 featured it's next, and final, photo of him with a mention of his moving to yet another NYC TV station; WPIX. FM #7 featured the first (by Albert Nuetzell) of two painted full face portraits of Zach on it's cover. As all true collectors know, 3 slightly different issues were printed; one with a cut saying 'Remember Roland?', one with his TV appearance schedule on WOR and one announcing 'Tomorrow's Monsters.' These were distributed to the appropriate areas of the country. In those pre-national cable, local TV days there were many who wouldn't know who Zach was. Inside offered another 5 page, 15 still pictorial plugging his WOR show, now appropriately named ZACHERLEY AT LARGE (the title was based on a current popular local show, GARROWAY AT LARGE). Zach's sign off was always, "Good night, whatever you are."
Zach was cropping up in print everywhere. Either photos, articles or cartoon renderings were appearing in Nuts magazine #1 (Feb 1958), Mad magazine #s 49 (Sep 1959) & 68 (Jan 1962),Newsweek (Apr 6, 1959), High Adventure (Apr 1959), Fantastic Monsters of the Films #7 and Monster Howls (1966, repeated in 1989 in Cracked Monster Party). Ads offering two paperback book tie-ins; Zacherley's Vulture Stew and Zacherley's Midnight Snacks were in FM and CofF. The 6 foot poster, his Spook Along LP (one of 4) and a full face rubber mask were offered through mail order in FM. FM #15 featured a Basil Gogos full face likeness of Zach on it's cover. This was the last time that Zach, or any other horror host, appeared on a monster magazine cover in this 'golden age' period. No article on Zach was featured, just a mention that he was to be one of the judges of FM's next amateur make up contest. Letters about, photos and mentions of as well as ongoing Zach fan club announcements continued to pepper the pages of FM into the late 60s. By this time Zach had turned up hosting a local teen/rock & roll afternoon show called DISC-O-TEEN on the New Jersey UHF channel 47. Now occasional journalistic coverage included various teen fan magazines, ie,TV-Radio Mirror, March 1966.
Like Vampira, occasional stills and mentions of Zach found their way into the pages of FM for the remainder of it's run. Other magazines and periodicals from the 1970s on asked "where is he now?"-- usually as part of pieces covering his 'new career' as an FM radio DJ. His name was alternately spelled Zacherle, Zacherley, Zacherly or misspelled altogether. Metropolitan Review (Nov 2, 1971) referred to him as Zacherele. Fangoria, always interested in resurrecting and reporting on TV horror hosts and hostesses past and present, featured an article on him in issue #21. This article ended with an appeal to' get Zach back on the air' while also initiating a national horror host and hostess search. Zach's recordings were also prominently featured in Fangoria's 'Shock-A-Billy' two part article in #s 26 and 27. The Monster Times of the mid 70s conducted yet another tongue-in-cheek interview with him. By the late 70s into the early 90s 'The Cool Ghoul's' personality and activities were explored and commented on in New York Magazine (Apr 24, 1978), Rockin' 50s (1987), Goldmine (Oct 7, 1988) and as the principle subject of a two part article in Filmfax (Dec 1988 & Mar/Apr 1989) by Jim Knusch. Psychotronic Video magazine pictured and mentioned him in issues #8 & 12. Various publications appeared. A book titled Zacherly For President appeared as part of a kit that also included a small poster, a campaign button and bumper sticker around 1960. Within a few years copies turned up in bargain bins. In recent times when he was asked about this one time entry into politics Zach always quipped, "My platform was: 'Put a vampire in the White House, just for fun.' I believe that it may have been John Kennedy that I was running against." This was based on the last cut on his Spook Along album. Other books that mentioned him were Living In Fear (subtitled 'A History of Horror in Mass Media') by Les Daniels and The Monster Show . A paperback book simply titled Zacherle! by Gordon R Guy was independently published. Three prominent fanzines appeared; Zacher-Lore, Return of Zacher-Lore and (Gasport?) the Son of Zacher-Lore, and have become collectors' items. Two (that I'm aware of) active fan clubs strive to keep an interest in Zach alive while irregularly issuing newsletters. One of these, Zacherley Fans At Large, has been steadily maintained by Lynn Bramberger since vintage SHOCK THEATRE days. A select piece in the Famous Monsters Chronicles book (FantaCo, 1991) features an article chronicling Zach, his connections with SHOCK THEATRE, FM and Forry Ackerman. Regular radio, cable TV and convention appearances have gotten him onto the pages of current publications like Scary Monsters #7, Screem #2 (both featured a piece on the unsold ZTV pilot) both by Jim Knusch, Scarlet Street #4 several Chiller magazines as well as a special one-shot titled (you guessed it) Zacherley � the Cool Ghoul. and Chiller's premier issue. For the 35th anniversary convention of Famous Monsters a special edition of FM was prepared and numbered 200 (jumping ahead from #191). Being one of the honored guests Zach was subsequently featured in this special issue. As long as Zach is active and doing his thing he will continue to be found on the pages of monster, and similar, magazines.
In between Zach's featured articles in FM #s 4 & 7, another locally popular (to the Miami, Florida SHOCK! viewers) and more bizarre TV horror host was highlighted. MT Graves was featured on 6 pages with 6 photos in issue #6 (was there some significance with the 666?) of FM.. The cover referred to him not by name but rather as 'Zacherley's Shocking Rival.' Select copies were distributed in the south with a sticker in the lower left hand corner of the front cover. It sported a drawing of his face and a plug to'...see MT Graves in the Dungeon, WCKT/Miami.' MT Graves was also pictured in FM #s 5 (not identified) & 10. Later magazine appearances include FilmFax #13, Pure Images #3 and Scary Monsters #9. Curiously, CofF #24 carried a photo of what appears to be someone made up to look like him. Also pictured in FM #6 was Tarantula Ghoul as well as someone referred to as The Mad Man of Des Moines. In other issues of FM appeared; an unnamed Caligari-like host with his pet Troglodyte, Troy and a photo of Pod John in #15; a still of Gregory Graves (Harvey Brunswick) in #18; a 4 page article with stills about Dr Paul Bearer (Dick Bennick) in #144; a photo and issue dedication to John Stanley in #181. The same photo of Moona Lisa seated with Forry Ackerman and Robert Bloch cropped up in issue #s 97, 138 and 191. John Burke was featured in an article titled 'Lurk, Burke, Lurk' in FM #20 and is named 'The Outsider' in an article in Fantastic Monsters of the Films #6. Jeepers Keeper (Fred Struthman) was pictured in FM #36, Monster World #4 with Grandpa Munster (also known as Dracula), Al Lewis and Filmfax #s 13 & 16. His 'Alter Ego' Jeepers Creepers (Bob Guy) appeared in an article in FMoftF #4 and Filmfax #16. FMoftF #7 featured a photo of Ghoulita as well as a listing of her fan club. Sinister Seymour (Larry Vincent) was featured in The Monster Times #s 10, 12 & 13 while FM carried his 4 page obituary in issue # 120. Gregory Grave's visage appeared in FM #5, Pure Images #3 & Scary Monsters #10.
Horror films with and without hosts continued to be shown on screens across the country. They were variously called CHILLER THEATRE, CREATURE FEATURE(S), MAD THEATRE, THRILLER THEATRE, COBWEB THEATRE and SATURDAY NIGHT DEAD. Zach imitator Dr Shock (Joseph Zawislak) appeared in The Monster Times #19 and Scary Monsters #9. Like Horror Monsters, Modern Monsters featured regular pieces called 'Shock Theatre' and in issue #3 pictured 2 stills of Count Macabre seated with actor David McCallum. Of the several other hosts who were featured in Fangoria were Son of Svengoolie (Rich Koz) in #24 (as well as photos popping up in other issues) and an article on Sammy Terry in #27. Joe Alston was featured in FM #13 and Horror Monsters #4. Bob Burns was featured in two substantial articles in FM #s 13 & 15, Horror Monsters #4, Fantastic Monsters of the Films #4 and Monsterscene #5. Monsters of the Movies #5 pictured the Vegas Vampire (Jim Parker). Ghoulardi (Ernie "Stay Sick!" Anderson) was referred to as a horror host rising in popularity in FM #36 and regularly cropped up in Psychotronic Video; #2, in a 6 page article and in #s 3, 8, 12, 13 & 15. Issue #25 of Psychotronic is a 'special Ghoulardi issue.' Editor Mike Weldon reflects on his passing, reminisces and states how he was the primary influence on all things Psychotronic. Psychotronic also mentioned and pictured The Ghoul (Ron Sweed) in #s 13 & 14, and reported the death of Bill Camfield (Gorgon) in #6. Of the personalities featured in Scary Monsters magazine are Asmodius (#7), The Garden City Kid and Willie Thall (#10), Baron Daemon (Memories #3), Bob Berringer (#8), Bob Wilkens (#14), Cool Eddie (Memories #1), The Cool Ghoul (not Zach) (Memories #2), The Cool Rider (#10), Count Gore DeVol (Memories #5), Count Warlock (#9), The Creature (#3 & Memories #1), Dr Cadaverino (#6 & #8), Dr Creep (#13), Dr Paul Bearer (#s 8, 10 & 14), Dr Speculo (#s 9 & 15), Dr Terror (#s 10 & 15), Dr X (#9), Dr Ygor (#4), Feep (#5), Fritz the Night Owl (#5 & Memories #2), Gaylord (#13), Ghost Host (#13), The Ghoul (#8), The Host (#5 & 8), John Stanley (Memories #3), Klara Kackel (#10), Milton Budd (Memories #1), Moana (#5), Moona Lisa (#8 & Memories #2 by Jim Knusch), Professor Fantastic (#14), Sal U. Lloyd (Memories #2), Shock Armstrong (#9), The Shroud (#10), Simon (#10), Sivad (#13), Son of Ghoul (Memories #2), Svengoolie (#s 14 & 15) & Son of Svengoolie (#s 8, 10 & 15).
Pittsburgh based horror host Bill 'Chilly Billy' Cardille occasionally turned up in stills from NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD (1968), depicting him in his cameo as a TV reporter, as is seen in CofF #18. Bob Michelucci's first edition ofThe Collector's Guide to Monster Magazines (1977) featured an article on him with 'then and now' photos. In various other Cinema magazines featuring pieces about NOTLD, ie, Filmmaker's Newsletter of the early 1970s, he is pictured primarily as the TV reporter and not elaborating on his horror host activities. Of the not already mentioned hosts that were featured in Filmfax #s 13 & 14 are; Frank and Drac, Professor Cerberus (Greg Bransome) and the truly unique and bizarre Morgus the Magnificent (Sid Noel Rideau). Reportedly Morgus' name was a combination of thewords 'morgue' and 'disgusting.' Morgus is also featured in Scary Monsters #8, pictured and with a mention of the feature film THE WACKY WORLD OF DR MORGUS (1962). When his show was resuscitated and syndicated briefly in the late 1980s articles were appearing in Sunday newspaper magazine supplements. Pure Images #3 (Mar/Apr, 1991) carried an article about 'Monster Mania, 1957.' Accompanying the article on the SHOCK! madness, artist/publisher Greg Theakston featured an illustration of various vintage hosts. Caricatured are; Zach, Gregory Graves, Terry Bennett, MT Graves, Tarantula Ghoul, The Host (Tom Leahy) & Rodney (Lee Parsons), Morgus and the WTVJ puppet head. Ghoulardi (mostly), Zach (second mostly), Dr Shock, Houlihan, Big Chuck & Little John, The Ghoul, The Cool Ghoul, Son of Ghoul, Fritz the Night Owl, Zombo, Dr San Guinary, Vampira and Gregory Graves where mentioned on the pages of an irregularly published newsletter titled Ghoul-Pardi. It was put out by an artist/fan from Barberton, Ohio who went by the moniker of Kaptin Ignatz. It's entire run was 20 issues. Issue # 14 (Summer, 1994) reprinted author Elena Watson's obituary. Ms Watson being the author of the definitive book (to date) about TV Horror Hosts and Hostesses; Television Horror Movie Hosts � 68 Vampires, Mad Scientists and Other Denizens of the Late-Night Airwaves Examined and Interviewed (McFarland, 1991).
Into the 1980s a syndicated TV horror movie series titled MOVIE MACABRE saw a new, overhauled and attractively repackaged type of hostess; Elvira, Mistress of the Dark ("Yes, they are real"). Her trademark signoff is, "Unpleasant dreams." Other select Horror Hostesses past and present included Vampira, Ghoulita, Ottola Nesmith, Tarantula Ghoul, Crematia Mortem (Roberta Solomon), Moana, Moona Lisa (Lisa Clark) and the equally sexy Stella (Karin Scoli). A comprehensive article on Stella titled 'Stella of the Night' appeared in the Philadelphia Inquirer (June 6, 1986). Elvira outclasses them all. Here the accent was on sexiness, generous helpings of cleavage and legs, peppered with extremely cornball humor. When a hostess looked like Elvira (Cassandra Peterson), who cared what kind of humor was assaulting the viewer? Her one tie with the vintage SHOCK! days is the distinction of being the only other, to date, TV horror host/hostess (along with Morgus) to have had a feature film based on her character. Photos of her posing with celebrities occasionally cropped up in People magazine. One main article showed her at home, out of makeup with her husband and pet python, Dick. Other major articles and cover appearances include Forrest J Ackerman's Monsterland #s 2 & 7 (as well as occasional mentions in other issues) and Femme Fatales #s 2 & 3. Scream Queens (The Very Best of High Society #33, 1991) promised stills of her nude. The few nudes of her that do appear are of a pre-Elvira Cassandra Peterson. A full figure photo of her and a few words of praise for FJA can be found on p38 of the book Forrest J Ackerman, Famous Monster of Filmland (Imagine, Inc, 1986). Yet coverage of TV personalities, horror hosts or hostesses notwithstanding, is rather different these days. A personality such as Elvira has become a virtual industry of specialty marketing. Coverage has included national news syndication, magazines like People and tabloids such as The Enquirer and The Globe. Perhaps the ultimate periodical involving Elvira is the comic book series which uses her character as, what else?, the hostess of bizarre and macabre tales titled Elvira's House of Mystery (shades of Vampirella!). To date, two separate series have hit the stands. Rumor had it that a similar series of comic books were to feature Zacherley, as The Cool Ghoul (shades of Creepy and Eerie). This harks back to the Tales of the Crypt publications of the pre-monster magazine early 1950s. Perhaps this also brings to a close the diabolical circle of the Horror Host and Hostess Fantastique.
Great to see your coverage of fanzines and magazines. An area of horror that's still going strong, but doesn't get the attention it should.
Posted by: zoc | December 04, 2010 at 11:55 PM
An exceptionally interesting and informative post!!!
Loving those monster movie magazines!
Posted by: cyberschizoid | December 03, 2010 at 04:24 PM