A Look At… The Top Horror Hosts of the 1950’s

B Movie Love in Black and White

A few months back my dad, Dave sent me a package from Arizona with a t-shirt inside. I opened the package and found a shirt featuring a man named, ‘Svengoolie’. He’d mentioned the name before but I knew nothing about the guy or his show. He was sure that I would love the art and subject matter. He was right, the shirt was right up my horror loving alley.

It turns out that Svengoolie is the host of a television show that runs on Saturday nights on the MeTV network. The ‘Memorable Entertainment’ channel features classic movies and television shows, one of which is the horror hosted “Svengoolie”. The show features low budget horror and science fiction films with comedic skits and segments interwoven around commerical breaks.

It dates back to 1970 with its original host, Jerry G. Bishop donning the costume up until 1973. Rich Koz took on the role (originally as ‘the Son of Svengoolie’) from 1979 until present day.

I finally got my first dose of Svengoolie and all of his cheesy, campy glory this past Saturday while visiting my dad. The movie being featured was the 1984 classic ‘Ghoulies.’ It was as awful as I remember it being but the host kept me watching until the end. I’ll be sad to leave Arizona and return home to Michigan next week, as I am currently without MeTV. The show has its roots in Chicago but has been nationally syndicated in recent years.

Growing Up

Detroit’s own Count Scary

In Detroit we had ‘The Ghoul’ and ‘Count Scary’. I don’t remember the Ghoul as much as I do Count Scary. I can remember looking forward to watching “Creature from the Black Lagoon” or something similar late on a weekend night. My folks would let me stay up late and would even stop by 7-11 to pick up a free pair of 3-D glasses for me. Count Scary always made for a memorable evening in his silly, generic vampire way.

A Dying Art

There aren’t many of these guys left but there is certainly still a market for the idea of a host delivering low budget fun on a weekly basis. Watching “Ghoulies” the other night made me happy. It made me feel like a kid again and that is something I sorely needed.

Where it All Began

There have been hundreds of horror hosts across the country over the years but let me introduce (or reintroduce) you to some of the folks who started it all.

1. Gorgon

Real Name – William Joseph Camfield 6/27/1929 – 9/30/1991

Years Active – 1957 to 1976

Location – Texas

Known for – Being an eerie, black-caped character with a sinister laugh. His other character, Icky Twerp, hosted a morning kids show that ran cartoons and Three Stooges episodes.

2. Marvin

Real Name – Terry Bennett 4/25/1930 – 10/15/1977

Years Active – 1957 to 1959

Location – Chicago, Illinois

Known for – Being a demented beatnik who wore thick glasses and a black turtle neck sweater. eerie, black-caped character with a sinister laugh. He also hosted a morning children’s show called ‘The Jobblewocky Place.’

3. Morgus the Magnificent

Real Name – Sidney Noel Rideau 12/25/1929 – 8/27/2020

Years Active – 1959 to 1987

Location – New Orleans, Louisiana

Known for – Being a mad scientist who’s experiments always seemed to go wrong by the end of the movie. He also starred in his own movie in 1962.

4. Selwin

Real Name – Ray Sparenberg 6/28/1929 – 11/1/2001

Years Active – 1958 to 1963

Location – Indianapolis, Indiana

Known for – His trademark bolero hat, cape and pasty makeup

5. Tarantula Ghoul

Real Name – Suzanne Waldron 7/23/1931 – 6/1982

Years Active – 1957 to 1959

Location – Portland, OR

Known for – Being a raven-haired hostess that had a striking resemblance to Morticia Addams and was based on our next entry. With her backing band the Gravediggers, Tarantula Ghoul recorded “King Kong” and “Graveyard Rock”.

6. Vampira

Real Name – Maila Nurmi 12/11/1922 – 1/10/2008

Years Active – 1954 to 1955

Location – Los Angeles, CA

Known for – Being the original ‘horror host’. She later appeared in Ed Wood’s Plan 9 from Outer Space in 1959.

7. Zacherley (originally Roland)

Real Name – John Zacherle 9/26/1918 – 10/27/2016

Years Active – 1957 to 1963

Location – Philadelphia and New York

Known for – Wearing a long black undertaker’s coat and ghoulish make up. He continued long after his role as Horror Host, starring in television shows and movies.

Did I miss any of your favorites that started in the 1950’s? I’ll dive into hosts from the 60’s next.

Until then, here’s a drawing I did of Svengoolie while I watched ‘Ghoulies’ the other night. I gifted it to my dad, and will guilt him into hanging it somewhere.

And I’ll have this to look forward to this weekend…

Leave a Reply