Sunday, October 26, 2014


Penny Dreadful XIII or just plain old Penny Dreadful is a New England based horror host created by actress/writer/comedienne Danielle Gelehrter.  The persona was created because Danielle wanted to revive the concept of horror movie hosting on Boston-area television.  She is, appropriately enough for New England, a witch.

Her show is called “Shilling Shockers” and it premiered on local cable in January of 2006, first airing on Public-access television in Providence, Rhode Island; and, Boston, New Bedford and Salem, Massachusetts.  Throughout New England, it eventually expanded to over 200 cities and towns.

The witch, Penny Dreadful, is a mixture of both good and evil, being both silly and sinister at times.  She refers to her viewers as “Dreary Ones” and uses the exclaimation “hex-cellent!” when excited.

Penny had been a witch for centuries before going Hollywood.  She had cast a spell that backfired—she was poised to star in a never-made Universal horror film called ‘The Witch’—but the spell, instead, damned her to host the movies instead of starring in them.

“Shilling Shockers” is a rare horror hosting show in that there are storylines that develop throughout the season and they crossover into the hosted films at times.  Gelehrter has credited this to two influences, a horror host by the name of Dr. E. Nick Witty who hosted for about 20 years in Syracuse, NY and his storylines that ran on for multiple episodes and that the name and title of the character and show are serialized tales.  Readers would have to pick up the next installment of a penny dreadful or a shilling shocker to find out what came next.

Two-time winner of the Rondo Award for “Favorite Horror Host”, Penny was also the first host to recieve the award.

“The Dreadful HallowGreen Special”, a made-for-television film in which Dreadful co-produced and co-hosted with Larry Underwood aka horror host Dr. Gangrene, was nominated for a regional Midsouth Emmy Award in 2011.  In the special, Dreadful, Garou and Dr. Gangrene join forces to save Halloween.  In 2014, Penny Dreadful was inducted into the Horror Host Hall of Fame.

Penny’s sidekicks include Garou, who is a werewolf henchman and husband of the witch herself—portrayed by Magoo Gelehrter.  He communicates only through growls and facial expressions, as entusiastic as your average labrador retriever; Dr. Manfred Von Bulow is a semi-retired vampire killer with a thick German accent—he is Penny’s foil and is portrayed by Ivan Bernier; Luna is a highly intelligent madwoman who was released from the abandonded Danvers State Hospital.

Magoo Gelehrter, who was Danielle’s husband, died earier this year after a battle with cancer.  Due to this, the final and 9th season of “Shilling Shockers” won’t be completed and seen until some time in 2015.

Danielle has said that she may never appear at conventions or do another show as Penny, but that she is unsure how she will feel in five years.

Significant Sites Cited:

Saturday, October 25, 2014


“It’s Fright Night on Channel 8…”

As the success of the “Shock” package of films swept the country, WISH-TV Channel 8 out of Indianapolis picked it up in October of 1958 for their Friday night “Fright Night” show.  But it became more often referred to by viewers as, simply, “Selwin”, for that was the name of the fellow who hosted it.  Dubbed the son of Catwoman and Wolfman, the pasty host only had the claws to prove it.

Ray Sparenberg was central Indiana’s first Horror Host.  Wearing ghoulish make-up inspired by the manner of Zacherley, a get-up similar to the Phantom of the Opera and with a monster laugh during his audition that actually won him the job, Sparenberg was one of the program directors at the station.

Dave Smith, another program director at WISH, had conceived of the character, the name “Selwin” had been given by the editor of an Indianapolis television magazine, and Sparenberg himself was allowed to come up with the look for the character.  The look changed a bit from time to time as what worked was discerned.  Big rubber claw gloves were discarded due to them being cumbersome, for example.

An immediate success and quickly gaining heavy sponsorship, Selwin debuted on WISH in late 1958.  When his fan club “Selwin’s Society of the Shroud” was announced the station was swamped with requests for membership cards.

In ’59 it was decided that Selwin would host a live costume contest for Halloween at the height of his popularity.  Since the show was shot live from a small theatre at the WISH-TV studio, the station figured it could handle  a couple hundred people and so viewers were invited to participate.  Soon thousands arrived in costume with lines stretching for many blocks along downtown Indianapolis.  To accommodate everyone, groups of 300-400 were allowed in the studio for 15-20 minutes.

Smith would write the scripts, Sparenberg would put them into the teleprompter and the show was then shot between 7-9pm and then telecast at 11:15pm that same night.  Sparenberg usually stuck close to the script, but one evening his most famous ad lib happened when Vampira was on as a guest.  She and Selwin were about to have a drink when the vampy ghoul kept talking until Selwin interrupted her with, “Better drink it darling, before it clots!”

By 1961, Selwin had changed his look to that of a Jungle Jim type with khakis and a pith helmet and he was hosting a package of Tarzan and other jungle related films.  In ’62 it was science fiction films to host and so Selwin went into space in a $7.95 government surplus astronaut suit.

In 1963 Selwin’s show went off the air and around that time Sammy Terry began hosting scary movies on WTTV-TV Channel 4, another area horror host was taking up the torch.

Selwin’s sign-off was equal parts Zacherley and Jimmy Durante…
“Good night… whatever you are.”

Essential Sites Cited:

Friday, October 24, 2014


At 13 Idle Hour Road sits Madblood Manor in the little town known as Pungo.  And that is somewhere between Virginia Beach, Virginia and the Great Dismal Swamp.  This is where the great and horrible Doctor Maximillian Madblood practices his medical arts and conducts his experiments!

The creator of Doctor Madblood is Jerry Harrell, a former Bozo the Clown, a former interpreter in the Air Force who thought up the character while he was creative services director for WAVY-TV 10 in Portsmouth, VA, in 1974.

It wasn’t until Halloween of ’75 that “Dr. Madblood’s Movie” debuted as a one-time special, though.  It got so much fan response, that it became a weekly show.  It just so happened the station had a late-night horror movie on Saturday nights that needed a host.

Originally, Dr. Madblood was going to be a Jekyll and Hyde split personality played by himself and his parter, Mark Young.  Young’s half was to be the personality of a game show host.  The two soon realized this would be a one joke thing and finally decided to go with the straight “Mad Scientist” route.  Mark played Volley, the assistant instead—a silent dwarf in a monk’s robe, he was hardly visable.

For most of it’s run Madblood’s show followed “Saturday Night Live” at 1am and then it moved to Saturday afternoons in 1979.  By January of 1982, the local PBS station, WHRO, picked up the Doctor with a new show, “Dr. Madblood’s Night Visions” which aired Sunday nights at 11pm.  Unfortunately, ratings were low and “Night Visions” only lasted a year.  Self-syndication proved unworkable and so Madblood took a sabatical for a while.

In 1984, on Halloween Dr. Madblood returned to his original station, WAVY, with “Dr. Madbloods Halloween Howl”.  Here, the whole gang was back and were getting ready for the doctor’s annual party.  The story crossed over cleverly into the movie “Brides of Dracula” and Madblood characters appeared in the film.

And again, the gang went away, moving on to other things for five years—until early April of 1989.  WTVZ Channel 33 aired more Madblood.  And the gang was back with a few additions such as Nurse Patience Dream.  Madblood took a trip to Hollywood for a tour of Universal Studios and a visit with Forrest J. Ackerman.  This incarnation of the show lasted until 2002.  The show celebrated it’s 25th anniversary during this time.

Later in 2002, WSKY-TV picked up Madblood and put him in a prime-time slot on a series called “Doctor Madblood Presents The Friday Night Frights” wrapping around episodes of “Alfred Hitchcock Presents” and Boris Karloff’s “Thriller”.

By 2004 the program moved to Saturday during prime-time, becoming simply “Doctor Madblood Presents” and it wrapped around Rod Serling’s “Night Gallery”.  At this time, Madblood’s 30th anniversary on television was celebrated.  The show concluded it’s run in August of 2007.

The Halloween specials continued on, in 2007 there was “Doctor Madblood’s Halloween Horror Express” where a plot was woven into the film for the Madblood characters to appear in scenes from the film “Horror Express”.  2009 brought us “Doctor Madblood’s Haunted Halloween” in which characters appeared in “House on Haunted Hill”.  And in 2010, the 35th anniversary of the series was celebrated with a showing of “Horror Hotel” along with clips from the various episodes of Madblood’s shows.

While technology and television have changed a lot in the last three (nearly 4) decades, it seems there is always room for a horror host and, in Madblood’s case, a host of horrors!  Most Tidewater residents will always think of Harrell as Doctor Madblood.

And the good doctor is at it again this Halloween—he’ll have a new Special on WHRO-TV Channel 15 and it will be streamed live Friday, October 31st at 10pm ET so that world-wide we can all catch the hijinks!  So turn off the lights and pull the shades!
More info on that here:

And, as the Doc says,
“Thanks for turning us on.”

Significant Sites Cited

Thursday, October 23, 2014


Now we've come to the part of our show where we take a break from all of the Horror Hosting to focus more on the imagery that one can find.

Remember kids, this slideshow may be eerie and strange and it may tickle parts of your brain that you don't even know you have, but don't worry, that just means it's working!

And remember, chances are you can click on one of these images to make it 'spode to full size for a better look--that is, if you dare!

Here we go:


Stay tuned tomorrow night for another exciting chapter of
Horror Host Tribute!

Wednesday, October 22, 2014


Born November 3, 1928 in Asheville, North Carolina,  Ernest R. “Dick” Bennick collected monster movie magazines and decided to go into the entertainment industry at age 5 when he saw his first magician.  At 18, he joined an illusion show and travelled the country putting on shows and picking up tricks that he would incorporate into his later acts.

Starting out in radio in Charlotte in 1949, Dick went to a station in Winston-Salem where he was one of the ground-breaking DJs who introduced rock and roll music to the city.  He had record hops and his own teenage dance club—becoming the most poplar radio personality in town.  

Television came calling, WGHP asked him to do interview shows and do the weather.  He then hit the station up to do a dance party show like Dick Clark’s American Bandstand and they gave in.  In fact, whenever a job would open up, Bennick would put in for it.

When the position of Horror Host opened up on the station’s show “Shock Theater”, Bennick jumped at the chance, but he wanted to do it so that it would draw in viewers with a character.  And the character he came up with was “Count Shockula”.  The Count was a kind of living skeleton design in tie and tails, opera cape and white gloves.  He wore a white skullcap and had teeth made up and black and white skull make-up.

But for some reason the character didn’t catch on.  He knew after only a few weeks that he had to do something, otherwise, he could loose the gig.  So he ran a promotion called “How Do You Kill Count Shockula?”  He already knew how he wanted to kill the character, because of his knowledge of a magic trick.

Finally, after six weeks of waiting, someone wrote in saying “nail a stake through his heart”.  This was fine with Bennick as he was stalling for time anyway, trying to come up with a new character—stealing bits from all the horror characters he’d loved as a kid.  And so, through the magic of television, Dr. Paul Bearer killed off Count Shockula by staking him in the heart and then took over the show.

The ghoulish undertaker character told corny jokes and used ghoulish puns.  His deep, gravelly voice and speech pattern were very distinctive and worked well with the context of the character.  He wore a long tailed tux with his hair parted stringily down the middle, heavy mascara,  grease paint and a scar.  Bennick would also turn his artificial eye outward, giving himself a stranger appearance.

It worked—Dr. Paul Bearer hosted the show for six and a half years in North Carolina.  He then moved to Florida and started over in radio again down there at WGTO.  A year later, a television station owned by the same folks who owned the radio station he worked at hired him to do two shows, one on Saturday afternoons and one at 11:30pm that night.

For 22 years he was host of WTOG Channel-44’s Saturday noontime horror show, “Creature Feature” in St. Petersburg, Florida.  He would refer to the town as “St. Creaturesburg”.

Dr. Paul Bearer gets some visitors and appears on Hee Haw:

Here’s a big playlist of twenty videos from Youtube featuring Dr. Paul Bearer:

At the time of his very untimely death in 1995, during open-heart surgery, he had been in the middle of shooting episodes, having finished a few.  Those last episodes were never aired due to the wishes of his family.  He once told his wife that he should worry if kids stopped coming up to him asking for his autograph.
He never had to worry.

Just two years earlier, Bearer became the longest running host of televised horror movies in the country.  Tampa Mayor Sandy Freedman had declared October 30th “Dr. Paul Bearer Day”.

Dr. Paul Bearer would always sign-off his show with the phrase:

“I’ll be lurking for you.”

Insightful Sites Cited: