Friday, July 19, 2013

Horror Show Hosts – The End of an Era

Horror Hosts
Last week we took a look at horror show hosts from the 1950’s and 60’s. Today, we wrap up our scary look back at horror host from the 1970’s, 80’s and beyond…

Ads for Horror Shows
Those Creature Feature packages that television stations bought for late night viewing contained the best and worst of the B movies from the 1930’s – 50’s. But most viewers tuned in to be entertained by the show’s host – usually a station employee moonlighting as a vampire, ghoul, mad scientist, or an array of other undead beings. By the early 70’s they had learned how to deliver a high-energy show on a low, low budget simply by providing a dry wit and cool patter. By the end of the 70’s over 200 horror hosts roamed the late night television airwaves.


Dr Shock & Bubbles
Dr Shock was a well-known horror host in Philadelphia during the 1970’s. Portrayed by magician Joseph Zawislak (1937 – 1979, he was known as the “Mad Magician of Fright.” Dr Shock was a zombie with slicked back hair and a black frock coat – a bit sinister and over the top. The station decided to soften his shocking image by adding his daughter, Doreen, to the show. Her character was named Bubbles after the show’s sponsor Bubbles-Booth soda. The Doctor’s signoff, “Let there be fright!” was a catch phrase in Philly for years. When Zawislak died of a heart attack in 1979, the show died with him.

Watch a music video from Dr Shock’s only single record,
“Eat Your Heart Out, Baby

Sivad & His Coffin
Sivad, the Vampire with the southern accent, was the “Monster of Ceremonies” for the Fantastic Features horror movie program on WHBQ. Portrayed by Watson Davis (1913 - 2005 (Sivad was Davis spelled backwards), Sivad ruled the prime-time airwaves on Saturday nights in Memphis, Tennessee. His campy humor appealed to adults and youth alike, as was apparent when 30,000 people showed up for one of his personal appearances at the State Fair. Sivad was an expert at playing the "ghoulaphone" and the "coffinola," both instruments Davis created for Sivad.

Enjoy witty one-liners delivered by Sivad
to show sponsors

Svengoolie & a Chicken
He began as a horror host on a film program in the Chicago area in the late 70’s, but has moved on to become a national host for Saturday night movies on Me-TV. Such is the life of (Son of) Svengoolie whose name is a play on the word Svengali, meaning someone with evil intent.  Portrayed by Rich Koz since 1979, Svengoolie clues viewers in on the cheap movie effects, sings catchy little dirges, and tells corny jokes, all which usually ends up with him being pelted with rubber chickens by the undead audience.

Svengoolie and a parody of Mambo No. 5:


With the Me Decade came the influx of She ghouls! Women were taking to the airwaves as vamps, vixens, and man-eaters.

Stella the Man-eater
In Philadelphia, following Saturday Night Live, you could curl up with some popcorn and watch Saturday Night Dead, starring Stella the Man-eater from Manayunk (a working class suburb of Philly.) Stella was not a vampire or a ghoul; she was a self-described vamp, a ghoul next-door type who was the “Daughter of Desire.” Portrayed by Karen Scioli, Stella was a cult favorite with her vibrating bed, known as Beda Logois, and there were always a few half-dressed men hanging around her haunted home; it's said, she definitely knew how to keep a guy on his toes.

Hide-n-Go Seek with Stella

Elvira & Friend
Horror hostess Elvira greeted viewers in Los Angles each week in a low-cut, high slit gown as she introduced the current Movie Macabre feature. More quirky than creepy, Elvira quickly began appearing on other television shows during the 80’s before taking on NFL football in the 90’s and movies at the turn of the century. Portrayed by Cassandra Peterson (1951 -), a former go-go dancer and Vegas show girl, Elvira is a combination of sexy vamp and punk rocker who talks like a Valley Girl, but has a wit that’s razor sharp.

Elvira at Comic Con
After 30 years, Elvira is still making the rounds, touring the country as the Mistress of the Dark. With her own webpage that sells DVDs, music, costumes, apparel, and autographed photos, it appears Elvira will not going gently into that good night…

Campy Elvira presents -

1990’s and Beyond

With the 1990’s came the public’s acceptance of the home computer and a new kind of horror host was born. Mystery Science Theatre 3000 aired for 11 years, beginning in Minneapolis, Minnesota on KTMA and moving to the Comedy Channel (Comedy Central) and later the Sci-Fi Channel. 

Robots Say the Funniest Things
The premise? Horror host Joel Robinson, is stranded on a space station, forced to watch awful movies as part of an evil science experiment. He builds four robots from parts lying around, and hilarity ensues as they critique and bash each week's film from front row seats. The show’s original host Joel Robinson was portrayed by show creator, Joel Hodgson (1960 -) for the first four years, before Michael Nelson took the reigns. But it was the robots Crow T. Robot, Tom Servo, Gypsy and Cambot, and their wisecracking comments during the film, that stole the show and made MST3K the most successful TV program to satirize those B movies from the past.

A taste of Mystery Science Theatre 3000 (MST3K)

The Remaining Undead –

Dr Gangrene
Dr Gangrene provides southern fried horror for the residents of Nashville, Tennessee. What began as a public access program called Chiller Theatre on a Hendersonville cable access channel spun out of control into a full-fledged horror show. Dr Gangrene, portrayed by Larry Underwood (1966 -) is one of the first horror hosts to self syndicate his program. The show moved to WNAB in Nashville in 2005 and became the Creature Feature. In 2008, Go Green with Dr Gangrene, a series of Public Service Announcements began airing in Nashville and won a Rondo Award.

Dr Gangrene goes Green with PSAs

Penny Dreadful
Penny Dreadful XIII is a witch intent on casting a spell on viewers and bringing back the “daze” of the late night horror host to the Boston-area airwaves. Portrayed by Danielle Gelehrter, Penny Dreadful is a hex-citing host, one minute delighting with a dry wit and the next casting a sinister gaze upon the proceedings. Penny Dreadful’s Shilling
Shockers now air in 10 states around the country, and online. Penny is a regular witchy attraction at horror conventions around the country.

Penny Dreadful Shilling Shockers Open

And there are so many more –

Vincent Price

So, to all of the horror hosts who have guided us down those dark and dank alleys, late at night, providing a bit of wit and humor along those dark passages, we remember you with the words of Vincent Price – Master Horror Host:    

The foulest stench is in the air
The funk of forty thousand years
And grisly ghouls from every tomb
Are closing in to seal your doom
And though you fight to stay alive
Your body starts to shiver
For no mere mortal can resist
The evil of the thriller


~ Joy


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  3. Absolutely Love your website!
    I am trying to track down the name of an "obscure" late night scary/horror show that was in the early to mid 60's and probably transmitted out of Los Angeles to San Diego and came on at 11:00 P.M.
    The setting starts out dark black and then a very dark looking Cemetery shows up and I'm not sure if it moved or was stationary.
    Then from the distance is a bright ball of light over the distant horizon.
    The "ball of light" then zig zags across the TV screen and comes closer into focus and becomes a White Bald Head of a Man!(shaven and slightly wrinkly but 50-60 years old and scary)
    There was some sort of scary music as well.
    Point is this scary man's Head is ALL that shows up and introduces a movie and then disappears.
    Very scary when you are only 8-10 years old and it is late at night.
    For the life of me, I can't remember the name of the show.
    I was watching this show from San Diego and it was NOT a local station.
    (Out of KTLA 5 Los Angeles, Channel 11, or another station??)
    Can you or anybody our wonderful site identify this late night scary shown??
    It is certainly something that really gets your attention.
    John Email:


    1. John, I didn't come up with any host who was represented by a bald head, but there is a book. "Creatures of the Night That We Loved So Well; TV Horror Hosts of Southern California," by Jim Fetters that is focused on Southern California horror hosts. You might want to contact the author and see if he knows who this host was. Please let us know if you find him.