It’s Alive! Frankie Stein and his Ghouls

Frankie Stein and his Ghouls

A couple years ago, Scar Stuff introduced me to Frankie Stein and His Ghouls, a band that put out four vinyl releases of instro-horror-surf-frug-goodness that has been in my rotation ever since. A lot of it is really nice late-fifties inspired music meant for people to dance to. Frug. Twist. Stomp. It’s fun. It’s one of those early bits of evidence for how well horror and surf go together, and it would be nice if there was a Frankie revival band to pick up where this one left off.

Someone else has done some research into who exactly was Frankie, and I would check it out for more information. Though Scar Stuff has gone defunct this year, there are other places where you can find the out-of-print LPs. I’m all for preservation in this case. If the band was still touring and making some dough that way, you’d be a rat fink to be swiping that music. But this is, in my opinion, a more humanitarian case. Find some Fankie. Crankie that Frankie and hav some fun.

Though, seems a couple were digitally remastered, though you can try your own luck with that.

It’s time to meet the Muppets…

Not only has the fansite Toughpigs.com spent a week with Halloween-related Muppets stuff, but they also have an semi-annual “Halloween Parade” of Muppet costumes:

First Halloween parade
Second Halloween parade
Third Halloween parade
Fourth Halloween parade
Fifth Halloween parade

Some are good, some are bad, and others defy description, but the comments are all great. Here’s hoping they’ll do it again this year.

Barrett’s Haunted Mansion

I'd pay to see this movie if it were real.  Seriously.
Location: 1235 Bedford Street (Rte 18) Abington, MA (Directions)
Dates/Times: Sept. 26-27, Oct. 3-4, 10-11, 12-13, 17-31, 7:00 to 10:30 pm (Dates/Times and prices subject to change as years go by)
Admission: $17 per person (Credit cards not accepted)
Phone: (781) 871-4573
Website: http://www.bhmansion.com

Although many would assume the best haunted house in Massachusetts would be located in Salem, they’re wrong. Based on my late 90’s visit, Barrett’s Haunted Mansion in Abington deserves the title. Why? Simply put, Barrett’s goes above and beyond the call of duty in all aspects of operating a haunted house.

Let’s start with something that can be neglected in haunted attractions: Line entertainment. When visiting a popular haunted attractions (house, hayride, etc), there’s bound to be a lot of people who want to go through. This leads to long lines and waiting times, which can get really boring really fast. In order to make the waits more tolerable, Barrett’s provides outdoor displays (I loved the skeletons in a rowboat) and “monsters” who terrorize those waiting in line. For 2008, they’ve added a separate attraction that simulates what it’s like to be buried alive in a coffin. If it’s anything like the “buried alive” simulator described here, it’ll also provide entertainment for people waiting in line as well. UPDATE: This attraction has since been discontinued at the mansion.

The mansion itself is absolutely amazing. They set up a realistic zombie-infested swamp, complete with a shaky bridge, running water, and a shack owned by a deranged redneck…INDOORS. The talented staff and high-quality props will constantly leave you guessing whether or not they’re people in costumes waiting to scare you or just inanimate objects. More often than not, you’ll guess incorrectly. This is not to say that all the “monsters” just leap out at you or stand still and suddenly come to life, though. The rooms all look great and several of them used creative methods of entering and exiting them. They also offered a great twist on the mirror maze concept that has to be seen in order to be fully appreciated. Also worthy of note are the expert use of lighting effects. Not only do they provide an appropriately dreary atmosphere, but they were also used to enhance certain scares. I especially liked the twist they put on the standard “dark maze”-style room. Plus they even give you candy when you exit the haunt. What’s not to love?

Barrett’s Haunted Mansion changes the rooms every year, although my casual research on the matter seems to indicate that select rooms reappear every year or so. So while I can’t be sure that you’ll have the exact same experience that I had if you visit, but I can be sure that you’ll have a great time. I’d imagine that some of you are balking at the ticket price, but trust me, it’s worth every penny. Besides, you can knock five dollars off the price of a ticket if you use this coupon (Only good Sunday through Thursday; discount doesn’t apply to the “Buried Alive” attraction).

UPDATE: It has come to my attention that Barrett’s Haunted Mansion no longer uses the “Buried Alive” attraction. As of 2013, they have added a second attraction called “The Cell.”

Final verdict: 5 skulls out of 5

Special thanks to Barrett’s Haunted Mansion for use of the picture.

Give me some light!

Zacherely

The first thing taken from Richard Scrivani’s ‘Goodnight, Whatever You Are’ is a sincere appreciation for both the classic horror films of his youth and the television host who made them a little less scary and a little more fun. That admiration is undeniable throughout his chronicle of his life alongside John “Zacherley” Zacherle. hosting ‘Shock Theater’ to his tenure on New York’s ‘Disc O-Teen,’ a show that featured both The Lovin’ Spoonful and the Doors. However, Zacherley never comes off as a rock star. Scrivani goes to show Zach as a down to earth, grateful for the fans man who never let his position go to his head.

While not a strict biography of the horror host, ‘Goodnight, Whatever You Are’ gives a first hand telling of Zachereley’s experiences early on as an regular actor before adopting the ‘Roland’ undertaker role that would morph into ‘Zacherley.’

Working with full cooperation from the ‘Cool Ghoul’ himself, Scrivani recounts both Zacherele’s experiences establishing him into Philidelphia television, which lead him from

Coming into this book thinking it was a biography of the famed horror host left me a bit surprised to see Scrivani use his experience as a foil. But as earlier stated, it becomes aptly appropriate considering the subject. Scrivani notes that Zacherley is a private man, and details about family life in the Zacherle household are scant. One of the few pre-Zacherely pictures in the book shows the host in his uniform when he was in World War II.

The display of reservation is visible in one scene, where Scrivani invites a friend of his to visit the Disc O-Teen set. Scrivani’s excited for friend to meet Zach. While Zacherle is courteous to everyone, he only shows interest when he finds out he friend is a merchant marine on home leave. It’s an instance that stands out where John Zacherle overshadowed his bigger persona.

Scrivani relates with strong detail the experience of growing up with the Cool Ghoul, giving a good picture of the Disc O-Teen regulars as well as those involved behind the camera. Those looking for complete biography will have to settle for the space left between themselves and the television screen.

Dracula’s Castle

I bid you velcome...

Location: 59 Wharf Street, Salem, MA (Directions)
Dates/Times: October 1-31, 12:00 noon to 8:00 pm (Dates/Times subject to change as years go by)
Admission: $8 per adult, $6 per child under age 12.
Phone: (978) 745-5888
Website: http://www.draculathecastle.com/draculascastle.html

Dracula’s Castle was first haunted attraction I went through when visiting Salem in the late 90’s. With that in mind, my rating for this haunted house only applies to my original visit, as I as sadly unable to visit it this year. The haunt has changed since then, so please use my old visit to gauge whether or not you should check it out.

Unlike at some haunted houses, the monsters at Dracula’s Castle don’t simply jump out of dark corners and yell “Boo!” Instead, they’ll charge at you, block your path, and some of them relentlessly pursue you throughout the haunt. Although I’ve heard horror stories of haunts where you’d catch the “monsters” in obvious hiding spots or having conversations with their masks off, that was not the case at here. The employees all stayed in character and were always prepared.

Dracula’s Castle also goes the extra mile by utilizing other types of scare tactics, such as misdirection and psychological-based scares. Although I enjoyed the ones involving misdirection (my favorite use of this involved spikes), I wasn’t impressed by the attempt at a psychological scare by having disembodied voices call out your name. This effect was hampered by the fact that you’d be asked your name immediately before the voices began, making the whole thing quite obvious (and resulted in my deducting half a skull from the rating). In my opinion, it would have been better if they had tried to get peoples’ names in a less obvious manner, like having the ticket seller secretly gather the names and send them to the “monsters” shortly after customers enter the castle. However, I’ve been assured that this is no longer done at Dracula’s Castle, which means my sole complaint about my 90’s visit would not apply to the attraction this year.

The props and set design were all very well-done; I was particularly impressed by the detail in the graveyard scene. There were some rather interesting touches in the layout of the haunt, such as placing a levitating vampiress in a spot that your eyes are drawn to or having to duck under sections of a cave. These, and the different types of scares, all combine to form a unique experience. Speaking of unique experiences, Dracula’s Castle changes its setup and scares ever year.

Interestingly enough, I learned that Dracula’s Castle was briefly renamed the Nightmare Factory a few years ago. Now it’s back to its original name and the owner has opened another haunt using the Nightmare Factory name. I mention this because both attractions (along with two other attractions) are part of the “Witch City Adventure Pass” program, in which you can buy a ticket ($24 for adult or $16 for a child under age 12) that grants you access to Dracula’s Castle, The Nightmare Factory, Count Orlok’s Nightmare Gallery, and The Witches Cottage. That roughly breaks down to paying the standard admission price for three attractions and visiting the fourth for free. For more information about obtaining the pass, please call any of the previously named attractions or ask the ticket-sellers for more information.

Final verdict: 4.5 skulls out of 5

UPDATE: I’ve received unconfirmed reports that Dracula’s Castle is now closed permanently. The Nightmare Factory is also gone (at least for the time being). Please keep that in mind when you visit Salem (and let me know whether or no this is true).

Special thanks to Dracula’s Castle for allowing use of the picture.

The Gremlins Return…Again!

While browsing the Halloween countdown at the blog, “Lost in Schlock,” I found a link to a fan-made film showing the Gremlins interrupting a “video on demand” (VOD) showing of Gremlins 2: The New Batch. You see, the theatrical version of that movie had a segment where the Gremlins took over the projection booth of the theater and stopped the movie. Then Hulk Hogan showed up to stop them so the film could continue. For the home video version, they replaced that with a bit where it looked like your VCR was messing up due to the Gremlins. Instead of Hogan showing up again, John Wayne had to make them knock it off. So the idea behind the fan film is what would happen if Warner Brothers took the same approach when preparing the film for VOD showings. You can see the video, along with a behind-the-scenes video, here.

I’ve also discovered that, according to the Gremlins novelization, the Mogwai/Gremlins were genetically engineered by aliens! This site offers more details on the matter.

But wait, it gets weirder! In Germany, there’s a Gremlins ride that features guest appearances by Alf. Yes, that Alf. I rank it right up there with Hello Kitty’s appearance in a Godzilla motion simulator ride.

UPDATE: WackyWeazle has uploaded some videos of the Gremlins ride featuring Alf into YouTube, with this one being my favorite:

Savage and Looney

Screaming Lord Sutch

Another well-known unknown to me, David Sutch is in the history books for his political career as well as his music. He featured lo-fi horror show antics, involving making an entrance out of a coffin, alluring female audience members to the front of the stage with a handsome member of his band only so that he could drop maggots down their shirts, and bashing the head in of a monk with a rubber club.

The Guinness Book of Records lists him as standing for British Parliment more times than anyone. His party, the Official Monster Raving Looney Party, defeated the much more serious Social Democrats in 1990.

David Sutch would take his life in 1999. It’s sad. With the recent lo-fi revival going on, I think Lord Sutch and the Savages have aged well. Though, a supposed 1998 poll named his first album the worst of all time, but this is the British. They said Oasis wrote the best album of all time. They can’t be trusted.

He has two books out – one, an autobiography ‘Life as Sutch’ and a second, written about him by a close friend, ‘The Man Who was Screaming Lord Sutch’ by Graham Sharpe. You can find the latter on Amazon, but it’ll take a search to find his former. Wiki lists it as being ‘recalled’ but I got a copy. Good read, so far. More concerned with his politics than his horror business, but from reading it, David Sutch always had a political mind. He claims that he met Winston Churchill and the Prime Minister used his cigar to give the young David a scar on the what would become the boy’s voting hand.

Horror and politics being connected makes sense. Both are show business and usually involve romanticizing wicked people into thinking that they’re misguided. ‘I love the monster,’ et al.

Think of Sutch during this Halloween season. His song ‘Jack the Ripper,’ presumably his biggest hit, is a nice one but songs like ‘Dracula’s Daughter’ and ‘All Black and Hairy’ are good additions to this year’s soundtrack.

Half pint of snakebite.

A quick pre-review preview.

I’ve noticed that the main problem with with writing a biography, or any non-fiction, is the separation of author from the subject, specifically maintaining that distance so the biography remains impartial and in such, pure. When the author and the subject are intertwined, the bias is unavoidable. It’s impossible for one of the characters of the story to judge whether or not the entire account is told, since they’re partial to their own side.

‘Goodnight, Whatever You Are,’ the official John ‘Zacherley’ Zacherle book, written by Richard Scrivani and published by Dinoship Press. A third-of-the way in so far and I’ve noticed that this isn’t a straight up biography of the former horror host. The book’s biline, “My Journey with Zacherley, the Cool Ghoul” aptly sums the book up. Zacherle gave total cooperation and the book does provide a good visual history of the Cool Ghoul from start to the near present.

It doesn’t start with Zacherle’s birth. In fact, the earliest we see of him is a picture of him during his WWII period. But we do know of Richard Scrivani growing up with Zacherley on television and the author’s love of monster movies. I don’t know much of Zach’s father but I do know that Richard Scrivani’s father passed away due to cancer. It’s probably in the book, which I haven’t even finished yet. I’d make a poor reviewer for the New York Times.

It’s a good dynamic between author and subject, with the distance between the reader and the subject created with the author acting as a filter. Or, to put it simply, because Richard Scrivani has a natural distance between him and Zacherley, that distance is reproduced in his biography. The distance between him as a television viewer and Zacherley’s program is in this book. It’s kind of frustrating because I want to see the screen but I have to shout ‘DOWN IN FRONT.’

But, as I said, only a third through. It’s a pretty fun read. You can find a copy here or on Amazon.

 

The Gremlins Return!

Although it’s not a third Gremlins movie, fans of the franchise will be interested to learn that the Gremlins appeared in a 2008 TV ad for British Telecom. The special effects are 100% “old school” puppets and no CGI appears to have been used. You can check it out here.

Wikipedia claims that “[a] ‘Gremlins consultant’ was brought in to assist with the BT Gremlins commercial. Matthew Delieu who is considered to be the movies biggest fan provided original Gremlins blueprints and an original puppet during the production of the commercial and also puppeteered Gremlins in the 50 second advertisement. Delieu lives in the UK and owns many original items from the first movie including some original blueprints for Gizmo and original puppet designs.”

Interestingly enough, this isn’t the first time the Gremlins have appeared in an advertisement not related to the films or merchandise. Back in the 80’s, Gizmo and co. showed up in a public service announcement about drunk driving. You can find out more at this site.

Visiting Godzilla Island

Godzilla Island was a Japanese tv series about Godzilla and other monsters battling invaders from Planet X that ran from 1997-1998. What makes this show so interesting is how each episode was only three minutes long and that most of the monster scenes used toys being moved around. Okay, technically they were figures made from the molds of various Godzilla-related toys, but I think you get the point. From what I understand, the show was apparently intended for children to watch before heading off to school (and to advertise Bandai Godzilla figures).

TarsTarkas.net has several episode reviews, complete with screencaps and video clips. You can check out a look at the first story arc here.

Graveyard Smash

Bobby ‘Boris’ Pickett

A grand Halloween favorite, ‘the Monster Mash,’ created by Bobby ‘Boris’ Pickett. Two versions here, one with John ‘Zacherley’ Zacharele and one in color back in the heyday. In addition, some Mr. Show.

Looking for horror flicks?

Latenight Wingman has you covered with its list of horror movies playing on cable this month.

This Is All

Screamin’ Jay Hawkins

“I learned all about roots from living in the forest without no blanket and no food. I learned how to eat certain bark, plants, and flowers, how to get certain stones out of ponds and rivers and make rock soup and how to cure pains and cuts with certain plant – strictly old home remedies. If my Blackfoot Indian mother was from Africa, you would call her a witch doctor; if she was from New Orleans, you’d call her a voodoo priestess. I just put it to music.”

Discography here.

I get a lot of my info from biographies. Books fill my shelves with the lives of people I should know about, dead people who existed before me. These are history books to me — books about punk rockers and writers, about bomb builders and mutants. It’s sad that there’s not a book about Screamin’ Jay Hawkins, that I know of, but thankfully someone has an extensive site up that does more than his Wikipedia entry. He’s known for three hits, mostly ‘I Put a Spell On You,’ though I admittedly don’t know much more about him.

 

There’s something about Screamin’ Jay Hawkins that makes him seem important to our current affairs in the Horror Business. He started to do his act back in the mid-fifties, thirteen years before Alice and thirty years before the Misfits. He’s dubbed as the ‘orginal shock-rocker’ but that’s such a weak brand to put on him.

Screamin’ Jay, born in Cleavland, given up as a child and raised by Blackfoot Indians, boxing his way into World War II at age 14 and becoming a champion of Alaska, turning to music and from that, bringing coffins, snakes and canibals to showbizness. Aligator wine. Feast of the Mau Mau. He was singing about horror and spooky before everyone else. Rocket From the Crypt dressed up like him for their final appearance because they wanted to go out as kings. Screamin’ Jay was a king. He wasn’t a shock rocker. ‘Shock’ implies a lack of ‘substance,’ a firework or a loud noise that burns away with little or nothing remaining. What of Jay Hawkins? Is he forgotten? I don’t know. I would hope not. There’s parts of him I want to know about that aren’t clear.

The site writes this:

The time until 1962 includes a prison sentence of 22 months for whatever reason…

22 months of prison for whatever reason? FUCK.

Before a Boston show he tells the Boston Herald, “I am going to reach into … [spectators’] chests, grab their hearts, fumble with their emotions, and have them walking sideways and eating chop suey with chopsticks out of their ear[s] while wearing a gas mask.”

Jay’s been dead for eight years now. His death was overshadowed by Tom Landry and Charles Schultz. I think that’s an example how comic strips and football made everyone look past the dead wild man. I want to think there’s a good amount of people out there that know about him and could answer my questions, write his story down in a book. I think he needs something like that. I’m also talking without knowing, which makes me a fool.

BEST PICTURE EVER

YES

This amazing Frankenberry picture was drawn by Mark Poutenis, creator of the “The Thinking Ape Blues” and these awesome costumes.

Special thanks to Mark Poutenis for allowing use of this picture.

Vintage Halloween Insanity

Here’s a scanned article from a 1934 issue of Modern Mechanix called “Thrills and Chills for your Hallowe’en Party.” Emphasis on “chills,” because there’s no way you could get away with 99% percent of those ideas without getting roped into a personal injury lawsuit.

Go Ask Alice

Alice Cooper

Discography here.

Next year marks forty-years since the first Alice Cooper album, which makes him a prime candidate to kick off a Blood of Your Father’s theme for a couple of days. Alice Cooper, in music and performance, has been a stalwart of spooky for over four decades. Though, Vincent Price yesterday sort of started BoYF, which–if you can follow–had Weird Jon lead me to the discussion of ‘evil’ over at Tough Pigs, which then had me think about what was said of Alice Cooper’s appearance on the Muppet Show:

>”There’s a kind of cheerful teenage nihilistic savagery behind Alice’s act — like he’s taking all the fears of mainstream 1970’s America and saying, yup, we’re gonna destroy everything you hold dear. We’ll seduce your daughters and blow up your schools, we’ll sell drugs and wear ugly clothes and we don’t care what you think about it, because we’re beyond your bourgeois rules and laws.

 

We don’t need to go much into Alice Cooper’s life – he was born Vincent Furnier in Detroit, moved to Phoenix, started a group and got signed to Frank Zappa’s label. After hits with ‘I’m Eighteen’ and ‘School’s Out,’ his career took off and got out of hand where his alcoholism nearly killed him. He’s sobered up, learned to play golf (and got a good score) and he currently performs, records and hosts his own syndicated radio show. There’s a lot of biographical information you can find about Alice. If you want to get that back issue of Rue Morgue with the piss-poor write up of the great ‘Earth E.P.’ I talked about, it’s got Alice on the cover and you can get a crash course in the man. Or find the VH1 ‘Behind the Music’ somewhere on YouTube.

Music wise, Alice has never been pigeonholed. He’s always been refining himself with the passing of time. Listening to his seventies albums is as efficient as any time machine. Same goes with his releases for the eighties and the nineties. He’s always had that signature voice and songwriting but he’s never been confined to a specific decade. Alice has been able to adapt, to change his appearance so he doesn’t come off faded or irrelevant. It’s probably why he’s still performing today with not the jaded dismissal usually reserved for Led Zepplin or The Rolling Stones.

I prefer his earlier albums, though having not heard them all, it’s hard to say. He just released a new one and I will give it a listen. Even a bad Alice Cooper album isn’t that bad of an experience. I would relate to it as pizza. Pizza and Alice Cooper are rarely so bad that they’re inconsumable. I do like ‘Man behind the Mask’ and not just because it’s the theme to ‘Friday the 13th VI.’ (Careful, that link contains massive amounts of codpiece.) Admittedly, the author (Matt) reads a little too much into the episode. While his write-up is an accurate description of the impressions of Alice Cooper at the time, a zeitgeist of the time when he was considered dangerous, it seems to ignore that such sentiments embodied by Alice were nothing terribly new. Old v. New, young & wild v. tried and established. Blah, blah.

While I think that he read a little too much into the Muppets episodes, I think that’s his job. It is, after all, a Muppet site and if he wasn’t going hog wild about it, he might as well not try at all. But I think he missed the point. The eighties brought about the sanitation of our media, and that’s such a horrible thing. Alice, god bless him, came about before then and was able to plow right through. Sure, he was thought of as a devil and a deviant. But he wasn’t the first.He was taking on a different medium, though. Alice was a horror show rock star, and he had/still has a great show. The man admitted that his whole act was ‘vaudeville,’ and it’s exactly that-vaudeville, a performance. It would also explain why he, along with Vincent Price, appeared on ‘The Muppet show.’ Imagine any of the shock-rockers of the mid-nineties, and ask if Marilyn Manson, Slipknot or the ilk would show up alongside a felt-puppet and sing? It’s a ludicrous thought. Those bands took themselves entirely too seriously, and in that lies their fatal flaw.

Alice has been dangerous, but I don’t think he’s ever been scary. He’s been serious, and he remains talented in my opinion. A man doesn’t perform for forty years without a modicum of talent or at least the intelligence to maintain a steady fan-base.

But if not scary, Alice Cooper has, in my opinion, been spooky. His songs like ‘I Love the Dead,’ ‘Teenage Frankenstein’ and ‘Devil’s Food’ have captured some of the best spirits of the season. But he’s always been there for some fun along with the music. I think you can laugh at an Alice Cooper show. You couldn’t laugh at a Manson concert and that’s what done him in. For when it’s hard to laugh, it’s easy to say ‘fuck you,’ and that’s what was said to Manson. I’d be rather distressed to see someone say ‘fuck you’ to Alice. Why? Because Alice knew the difference between spooky and scary. Scary was alcohol addiction that threatened his life. ‘Scary’ was buying too heavily into the performance and not maintaining the health of the actor. ‘Scary’ was taking it too seriously. There were real scary things in life and ‘Black Widows’ and ‘Cold Ethyl’ didn’t do it – but spouse abuse in ‘Only Women Bleed,’ well fuck. That is scary. Alice has always been one to point that out and I’m grateful for him.

I think Alice Cooper set a good example for many horror-based musicians and acts to follow. I think the ones starting out today could follow his path as they forge their own. He’s a saint, that Alice. God bless him.

 

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