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A horror host is a person who acts as the host or presenter of a program where horror films and low-budget B movies are shown on television or the internet. Usually the host assumes a horror-themed persona, often a campy or humorous one. Generally there are breaks in the film where the host comments on various aspects of the movie. Many horror host shows also include skits involving the hosts themselves, sometimes with a sidekick or other supporting characters. Some better-known horror hosts include Vampira, Zacherley, Ghoulardi, Sinister Seymour, Dr. Creep, The Ghoul, The Cool Ghoul, Svengoolie, and Elvira, Mistress of the Dark.
In October 1957, Screen Gems released a bundle of old Universal horror movies to syndicated television, naming the collection "Shock!". They encouraged the use of hosts for the broadcasts. This is why many of the early programs were called "Shock Theater". Viewers loved the package, as well as the concept, and ratings soared. A "Son of Shock!" package was released in 1958.
Creature Features was another film package that was released in the early 1960s and added to in the 1970s. The films in this package ranged from horror and science-fiction films of the 1950s, British horror films of the 1960s, and the Japanese "giant monster" movies of the 1960s, and 1970s. This package also included an uncut print of Night of the Living Dead.
The first television horror host is generally accepted to be Vampira. The Vampira Show featured mostly low budget suspense films, as few horror films had yet been released for television broadcast. Despite its short 1954-1955 run, The Vampira Show set the standard format for horror host shows to follow.
Hosts were often plucked from the ranks of the studio staff. In the days of live television, it was not uncommon for the weather man or booth announcer to finish a nightly news broadcast and race madly to another part of the soundstage for a quick costume change to present the evening's monster tale.
While a few early hosts like Zacherley and Vampira became the icons of this nationwide movement, most hosts were locals. The impact of these friendly revenants on their young fans cannot be overestimated. The earliest hosts are still remembered with great affection today.
The tradition was continued throughout the 1960s and 1970s and gained national attention in the early 1980s, after the death of L.A.'s Host, Sinister Seymour. Cassandra Peterson auditioned for a replacement host and won the role. She became Elvira, Mistress of the Dark who is arguably the most widely recognized horror host in history. In the late 1980s, Mystery Science Theater 3000 would capture the popular imagination and build a massive fan base.
In the past 10 years,[when?] a new generation of hosts have appeared in local markets as well as on a national level. Cinema Insomnia with host Mr. Lobo may be one of the most notable hosted horror programs of the 2000s, recently raising over $10,000 for their anniversary season. Elvira and Svengoolie have also returned to syndication.
- Al "Grampa" Lewis
- Bob Wilkins
- Count Floyd
- Count Gore de Vol
- Count Scary
- Crematia Mortem
- Dr. Paul Bearer
- Elvira, Mistress of the Dark
- Freddy Krueger
- Fritz the Nite Owl
- Joe Bob Briggs
- Morgus the Magnificent
- Mystery Science Theater 3000
- Ned the Dead
- Sammy Terry
- Son of Ghoul
- Son of Svengoolie/Svengoolie
- Uncle Ted
- American Scary
- Cinema Insomnia
- Creature Double Feature
- Creature Features
- Creature Features (WNEW)
- Creature Feature (WTOG)
- Horror hosts in comics
- Virginia Creepers
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- Watson, Elena M. (2000). Television Horror Movie Hosts: 68 Vampires, Mad Scientists, and Other Denizens of the Late Night Airwaves Examined and Interviewed. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company. ISBN 0-7864-0940-1.
- Colton, David (October 20, 2007). "Halloween horror hosts rise again on radio, TV, film". USA Today. Retrieved May 4, 2010.
- "The Horror of Them All!". Filmfax (13): 28–32. December 1988.
- "CINEMA INSOMNIA".
- ""CINEMA INSOMNIA" AND AMGTV ARE BRINGING HOSTED "MIDNIGHT MOVIES" TO PRIME TIME AND COAST TO COAST!".
- "SDCC '10: Press Release for the return of Elvira".
- "Svengoolie is scaring up laughs on Me-TV!". Archived from the original on 2011-08-18.
- Schmaltz, Anita (August 22, 2001). "What's a Ghoul to do?". Metro Times. Detroit: Euclid Media Group. Retrieved April 5, 2019.
- Culham, Devin (April 3, 2019). "Late-night TV horror host Ron 'The Ghoul' Sweed dead at age 70". Metro Times. Detroit: Euclid Media Group. Retrieved April 5, 2019.
- Kiska, Tim (April 3, 2019). "Legendary '70s TV horror host the Ghoul, a.k.a. Ron Sweed, has died". Detroit Free Press. Detroit: Gannett Company. Retrieved April 5, 2019.