The Slightly Creepy, Mostly Cheesy World of Horror Hosting

Ransom Riggs

Growing up in Southwest Florida, we had Dr. Paul Bearer. Other people knew Vampira or Elvira or Svengoolie or Grimsley -- all regional TV horror hosts. They would dress up in Halloween-appropriate attire, vamp around a campy set and introduce grade-B horror movies on Saturday afternoons (or whenever your local station showed them). As a kid I thought Dr. Paul Bearer was the only horror host out there, but really there were dozens more. He was full of bad puns (always referring to St. Petersburg, where the station was, as "St. Creaturesburg") and silly prop gags and he had this great gravelly voice and an artificial eye that he'd turn slightly sideways. He'd show up at city parades riding atop a vintage hearse, and he signed off every broadcast by saying, "I'll be lurking for you!" Here's a clip:

It all started with Vampira in the 1950s (not much original footage exists, unfortunately, as TV broadcasts were rarely recorded to tape back then), but other notable hosts included Svengoolie, from Chicago:

Folks from Nashville may remember Sir Cecil Creape. I think he might be the most genuinely creepy character of the lot.

The Detroit area had Sir Graves Ghastly (why are they all English knights?) through much of the 70s and early 80s.

Who was your local horror host?