Friday, July 25, 2014

A Simply Spook-tacular Idea, Horror Fans

Last summer, I wrote two blog posts about horror show hosts. Many readers wrote back about their favorite memories of local horror hosts and it became apparent that these “emcees” of the darkness were well loved. 

Favorite Horror Hosts
Many horror hosts became American icons dressed in costumes, trading barbed comments with other cast members, the television crew, or inanimate objects before introducing the B-grade horror movie of the night. These “thrillers” were the mainstay in the late 1950’s, 60’s and 70’s, and every TV station seemed to have a happenin' “Horror Host” during these years.

The role of horror host was usually filled by someone who worked at the TV station; the weatherman was a favorite, a booth announcer, film editor, or someone from the late night news cast. This was low-budget television at its best. 

Host Sir Graves Ghastly
All you needed was some grease paint, a costume, low lighting, and spooky music to set the mood.  The fact that the host wasn’t afraid of vamping it up was a definite plus.

In 1957, Screen Gems released some old Universal horror movies syndicated to television, and the “Horror Host” was born.  The name given to the syndicated show was “Shock” and local television stations were encouraged to use hosts dressed in the horror theme. It was a death-defying hit!

Then in the 1960s and 70s, Creature Feature packages were released and included, not only horror films but science-fiction from the 50’s, British horror films of the 1960s, and those great Japanese monster movies with English-dubbed sound tracks.

Host Sammy Terry
By the early 70’s these true “shock” jocks 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 1970’s, over 200 horror hosts roamed the late night television airwaves: A tradition that continued into the 1980s before dying a slow death at the feet of the cable and satellite channels.

But some fans won’t let their old favorites … die.

One example is Madd Frank, a popular monster movie host from 1985 to 1995 in Fargo, North Dakota. “Madd Frank Presents” showed B-grade horror movies every Friday and Saturday night. The show lasted for ten year before eventually going into syndication across the country; but a few years later lost its impact when infomercials took to the air. Del Dvoracek was Madd Frank, and over the years he developed a cult following around the country.

Here’s a glimpse of a Madd Frank show intro:

After the show died a final death, fans decided that they were not content to just let it rest in peace.

Cast in 1993-94
Madd Frank and Frizzy
Madd Frank has been resurrected and is now becoming the subject of a documentary being produced by fans in Bemidji, Minnesota. Madd Frank was a favorite of producer Mike Bredon, and he decided that a 2-hour program about the original show and cast was in order.

Cast Today
That’s why there is a Kickstarter project that has been developed to collect $12,000 for the making of the Madd Frank documentary. The entire cast including Madd Frank (Del Dvoracek), Programmer (James Erickson), Ichy Bodd (Martin Jonason), Billy Jabber (Dave Prentice), Dr. Phil O’dendron (Bill Flint), and Vanilla White (Judy Rae) have all agreed to take part. The documentary will consist of modern interviews with the cast, interspersed with archival footage of the show.

Once the documentary is completed, the team hopes it will be aired at the 15th annual Fargo Film Festival next March.

So far, the project has over 50 backers and has raised one-quarter of the needed funds. But there’s still time to get involved: the project doesn’t close until Monday, August 4th.

Here’s wishing “Ghoul Luck” to all involved!

~ Joy

Friday, July 18, 2014

Remembering the Father of Radio: Guglielmo Marconi

Guglielmo Marconi
He is known for many of his inventions including long-distance radio transmission and the radio telegraph system, but he is best known as the “Father of Radio.” 

Italian inventor, Guglielmo Marconi was born in Bologna, Italy on April 25, 1874 to Giuseppe Marconi and his wife, Annie Jameson, the granddaughter of John Jameson, founder of whisky distiller Jameson & Sons. Marconi was privately educated and developed an avid interest in science and electricity at a young age.

A Young Marconi
In 1894, Marconi began conducting experiments using radio waves to transmit telegraph messages without wires. Although the idea was not new, the 20-year-old Marconi was able to achieve transmission ranges of over 1.5 miles: unheard of at the time.

Setting Equipment Up
In 1897, Marconi transmitted the first wireless communication over open sea from Flat Holm Island to Lavernock Point in Penarth. The distance was 3.7 miles. The message sent: “Are you ready?” Immediately, the equipment was moved to Brean Down Fort on the Somerset coast and the message sent again, covering 9.9 miles over the ocean.

Marconi at Turn of Century
Marconi began lecturing in London and soon received international attention with his first U.S. demonstration taking place in New York in the fall of 1899.

By 1901, Marconi had created Marconi House in Wexford and was attempting to transmit wireless messages between two points that were a distance of 2,200 miles apart. Critics doubted this claim and Marconi prepared a new, documented test in February 1902, which showed reception up to 1,550 miles with audio reception of up to 2,100 miles.

President Roosevelt
King Edward VII
Finally, on January 18, 1903, Marconi Station in South Wellfleet, Massachusetts sent the world’s first radio message across the Atlantic to the United Kingdom; it was a greeting from President Theodore Roosevelt to England’s King Edward VII. Marconi now knew that he could establish communication with ships at sea from both sides of the Atlantic.

In 1905, Marconi married the Honorable Beatrice O’Brien, daughter of a baron. They had three daughters and one son. The couple divorced in 1924 and Marconi married Maria Cristina Bezzi-Scali in 1927: Benito Mussolini was his best man. He and his second wife had one child, a daughter.
Noble Prize for Physics

In 1909, Marconi shared the Nobel Prize in Physics with Karl Braun for his contribution to radio communications.

Jack Phillips
Harold Bride
In was spring, 1912 when two Marconi International Marine Communication Company employees, Jack Phillips, senior wireless officer, and Harold Bride, junior wireless operator were manning the radios on the ill-fated Titanic that April night when she hit an iceberg and sank.

David Sarnoff
Add caption
The RMS Carpathia kept radio contact with Marconi Company employee David Sarnoff for 72-hours as it made its way toward the U.S. with the survivors of the Titanic. Junior operator, Harold Bride was on that ship, and told Marconi how they had continued to signal for help. 

Marconi and Harold Bride Testify
Marconi gave evidence to the Court of Inquiry about the marine wireless radio’s function. Marconi was acknowledged in the final summation of the report with this statement: "Those who have been saved, have been saved through one man, Mr. Marconi...and his marvelous invention.”

Marconi and Radio Equipment
Basilica of Santa Croce
Guglielmo Marconi died on July 20, 1937 from heart failure in Rome. He was 63 years-old. A monument to Marconi is located in the Basilica of Santa Croce, Florence, but he was buried in Sasso, Italy near his hometown.

A period of radio silence was observed for the pioneer of radio communications: a fitting tribute for the Father of Radio.

~ Joy

Friday, July 11, 2014

Four Fascinating Medical Museums

Take me to a museum and I can spend hours soaking up the atmosphere. In the U.S, there are over 35,000 museums, with the world’s largest museum, the Smithsonian, home to 19 museums. Worldwide, there are an estimated 55,000 museums. Last week we took a look at museums of death; today we’ll check out some medical museums that may astound you …

1) The Mütter Museum in Philadelphia is one of the best medical history museums in the country. Founded in 1858 by Dr. Thomas Dent Mütter, the museum is home to anatomical specimens, wax models, skeletal specimens, antique medical instruments and other medical oddities. The museum is a combination of art, history, culture, science and technology all shrouded in the cloak of medical mysteries and diagnosis. The museum is open seven days a week and admission is charged.


2) Located in a corner of the former Central State Hospital (better known locally as the Indiana Insane Asylum) grounds is a small building which once housed the Pathology Building. In fact, it is the oldest surviving pathology facility in the country. Inside is the Indiana Medical History Museum where you will find a recreated doctor’s office from the early 20th century along with artifacts from the beginning periods of scientific psychiatry and modern medicine. The museum also offers free guided tours each Saturday from June through September of the Medicinal Plant Garden. Open Thursdays – Saturdays: admission is charged.

3) If bones are your thing then this is your museum! The Museum of Osteology is America’s only skeleton museum with over 300 skeletons on display. Located in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, it’s 7,000 square feet of skulls and skeletons from all over the world. The idea for a bones museum began in 1972 when 7-year-old Jay Villemarette found a skull in the woods; he began collecting them. He opened Skulls Unlimited in 1990 and the current museum opened in 2010 with the largest privately held collection of osteological specimens in the world. The museum includes displays on comparative anatomy, adaption and locomotion, forensic pathology and the skeletons of various species of animals, including human. The museum is open seven days a week; admission is charged and cameras are welcome.


4) Just opened: The Morbid Anatomy Museum, in Brooklyn, New York offers a chance to “explore the intersections of death, beauty and that, which falls between the cracks.”  The museum held its grand opening to the public Saturday, June 28th! The museum’s collection of books, photos, art, taxidermy, ephemera and artifacts all relate to the history of medicine, social curiosities and death, with special exhibits like “The Art of Mourning” which takes a look at the mourning culture from the 18th century through the 20th. The museum is now open everyday except Tuesday and admission is charged.

There are hundreds of medical museums and natural history museums around the world. For a comprehensive list visit and review the Museums/Collectors; Medical Museums and Natural History Museums sections listed on the left hand side of the page.

Next week, a look back at a great inventor.

~ Joy