Category: Spooktober!

Elvira on The Fall Guy?!?

Elvira Fall Guy

For those of you keeping track of this sort of thing, I recently did a whole post on The Fall Guy, and my fond memories of it, and you should check it out if you were a fan, or if you’ve never heard of it in the first place.

Anyway, I came across this ad while going through some old TV Guides, and I was blown away!  I felt pretty sure I had seen every episode of The Fall Guy, but I’ve never seen this one.  I’m doubly surprised because I was a big Elvira mark back in the day as well, and yet somehow, this appearance has alluded me.  I will be quick to remedy this situation and track down the episode somewhere, somehow, and settle in and watch it in what I am sure is all it’s glory.

Any of you guys and gals remember this episode?

Ernest Scared Stupid Was Hokey, But Fun

Ernest Scared Stupid

Somebody with a runny nose is gonna die.

Having already applied his bumbling shenanigans to one holiday in 1988’s Ernest Saves Christmas, slapstick neighborhood doofus Ernest P. Worrell set his sights on Halloween in 1991’s Ernest Scared Stupid. Purring singer/actress Eartha Kitt joined in the spooky/goofy shenanigans, as did an army of slimy trolls.

This time around, Ernest is in suburban Missouri, working as a garbage collector. As always, he’s a friend to kids everywhere, so when a group of neighborhood preteens asks for his help building a treehouse, Ernest naturally obliges. But this particular oak tree happens to hold Trantor, a 200-year-old evil troll, and as local crone Old Lady Hackmore warns, the troll will be released if a Worrell puts his hand on the tree the night before Halloween and says, “Trantor, I call thee forth.” Well, stupid is as stupid does…

Once Trantor is released, the mean, mucous-covered munchkin sets out to capture the souls of Ernest’s young pals by turning them into wooden dolls. That’s bad enough, but when Trantor tries to pull his wooden magic on Ernest’s pet dog Rimshot, the little snotface has crossed the line. Ernest is out to kick some troll tushie, and this time, it’s personal.

The Halloween season wasn’t as good to Ernest as Christmas had been three years earlier. Ernest’s “human cartoon” slapstick still brought in fans, but not as many as previous films had. Ernest Scared Stupid was the last Ernest movie made in partnership with Disney subsidiary Touchstone, but director John Cherry and actor Jim Varney plugged ahead without the corporate backing, turning out Ernest Rides Again in 1993 and four more direct-to-video Ernest films over the following five years.

Are You Afraid of the Dark?

Are You Afraid of the Dark

The age-old tradition of the campfire ghost story got a 1990’s update in Nickelodeon’s Are You Afraid of the Dark? Debuting as part of the Friday night SNICK block in 1992, the show featured a group of teen and preteen storytellers, each telling tales of the spooky and the macabre.

Horror fan Gary was the founder of the Midnight Society, a club of kids who each week retired deep into the woods, lit a campfire and took turns scaring the living daylights out of one another. In addition to Gary, the original Midnight Society lineup included Betty Ann, Kiki, Frank, Kristen, David and Eric.

As each episode began, one of the Midnight Society members would begin spinning his or her web of gloom, and the show would segue into a dramatization of the story. The familiar vampires, werewolves, haunted houses, mad scientists, etc., were all present in the kids’ tales, but the stories also delved into Twilight Zone territory. Kids were given twisted morality lessons about prank phone call police, magic mirrors that showed inner ugliness, the problems with having your wishes all come true, and so on. And for the hard core scare fans, the Midnight Society also had its share of voodoo, cannibals, scary clowns and raising the dead.

The Midnight Society was the show’s only regular cast, as other actors took over during the stories themselves. That left plenty of room for guest stars, and Are You Afraid of the Dark? filled the bill with appearances by Bobcat Goldthwaite, Melissa Joan Hart, Neve Campbell, Boy Meets World’s Will Friedle and TV’s original Riddler, Frank Gorshin.

Midnight Society members came and went during the show’s first run, with Sam, Stig and Gary’s kid brother Tucker joining up to replace the exiting spook meisters. With the start of the sixth season—which came after a three years of no new episodes—an entire new Midnight Society was formed, with only Tucker hanging on as the group’s new leader. Excitable tomboy Vange, upscale Megan, burly farm boy Andy and streetwise Quinn were now the ones sharing their chilling yarns.

After more than seven seasons and dozens of nightmares, the Midnight Society continue to hold their macabre meetings in the woods, and as long as kids love good ghost stories, the tradition will surely stay alive.

And do you remember that cool dust they would throw on the camp fire to make the flames change colors?  Well you can get the can of crystals so you can replicate it at your own camp fire.  Check them out here on Amazon.

Who You Gonna Call? Ghostbusters!

Ghostbusters

They came, they saw, they kicked it’s-well, you know the story. Ghostbusters has become part of the pop culture Hall of Fame, spawning a film sequel, two cartoon series and a host of lines that are still quoted today- “Don’t cross the streams,” “Are you the keymaster?”, “Back off man, I’m a scientist,” ‘He slimed me!” and many more.

At the time, it was a gamble-a big-budget comedy starring a pair of Saturday Night Live alumni (Bill Murray and Dan Aykroyd), a screenwriter (Harold Ramis) and Sigourney Weaver, who was still best known for her role in the original Alien.Ghostbusters would have to be a blockbuster to pay back its FX-inflated budget, at the time the highest ever for a comedy. Well, guess what…it did.

The title stars of Ghostbusters are three paranormal scientists-sarcastic “game show host” Peter Venkman, naive Ray Stantz and brainiac Egon Spengler-who just lost their university research grant. The timing could have been better. Paranormal activity in New York City is heating up, and the boys just had their first run-in with a real manifestation over at the public library. On Peter’s urging, Ray takes out a third mortgage and the three set up shop in a dilapidated old fire station, promising to fight all spooks, spirits and specters as the proton-powered Ghostbusters.

In a nicer part of town, concert cellist Dana Barrett has noticed some supernatural goings-on in her upscale apartment-eggs frying on the counter, an ancient pagan temple in her fridge, and so on. Against her better judgment, Dana makes the trip over to Ghostbusters HQ, where the womanizing Peter immediately tries to hit on her. Meanwhile, the lads have been up to their necks in ghosts, starting with a slime-trailing green blob in a fancy hotel.

Egon figures that something big is bubbling up, and Dana and nerdy neighbor Louis are inadvertently involved. The Ghostbusters hire Winston Zeddemore as their fourth member, but the whole operation is shut down by an uptight EPA official and the Ghostbusters themselves are thrown in jail. Even worse, the HQ’s “Ghost Trap” has been shut off, freeing the captured spirits to prepare the coming of the all-powerful Gozer. The Ghostbusters are freed just in time for a showdown in the Big Apple, taking on the Gozerian’s chosen form-the titanic, poofy, sugary-sweet Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man.

Co-written by Aykroyd and Ramis, Ghostbusters was originally intended to be a vehicle for Aykroyd and pal John Belushi. Belushi’s premature death in 1982 forced a change in plans, and the script was rewritten for Murray. No one knows how the original version would have turned out, but the Murray/Aykroyd/Ramis teaming, along with Weaver, Rick Moranis, Annie Potts and Ernie Hudson in key roles, was a winning combination.Ghostbusters became one of the highest-grossing films of all time, and its success was heralded with toys, video games, tee shirts and Ray Parker Jr.’s #1 hit title song.

In 1987, ABC debuted the long-running animated series The Real Ghostbusters, with new actors taking over the voice roles of Peter, Ray, Egon, Winston and the rest. The original cast was reunited in 1989 for a theatrical sequel, Ghostbusters II, another monster hit.

Eerie, Indiana

Eerie Indiana

This ultra-quirky sitcom was notable for any reasons. Not only did it place the family sitcom in a unique setting and situation, its sophisticated handling of its paranormal elements also paved the way for later non-sitcom shows like The X-Files and Roswell.

The show focused on Marshall Teller, a young man who felt quite homesick when his inventor father, Edgar, uprooted the family from their New Jersey home and moved them to Eerie, a small town in Indiana. Also along for the ride were Marilyn, Marshall’s mom, and Syndi, his narcissistic older sister. Marshall’s post-move depression quickly gave way to bemusement when he took stock of his new surroundings.

The town of Eerie truly managed to live up to its name. Bizarre things went on night and day: Elvis Presley lived in a little suburban house, there were two young men who had remained teenagers since the 1960’s by sleeping every night in giant plastic containers called Foreverware, and the dogs in the pound were making an escape plan that could only be heard over a friend’s set of dental retainers.

Unfortunately, Marshall’s parents and sister either were too busy to notice or wouldn’t believe him when he pointed these things out. Luckily, he found an ally in Simon, another kid his age who also believed that strange things were afoot in the town of Eerie. Together, the duo would ride their bikes around town and keep tabs on all the unusual goings-on.

Although nominally aimed at children, Eerie Indiana was smart enough to be enjoyed by older viewers. The series’ eccentric sense of humor made frequent use of in-jokes related to television and film, touching on everything from Twin Peaks to Godzilla. Also, the show wasn’t afraid to play with the medium of TV itself, something it did memorably in an episode titled “Reality Takes A Holiday.” In this episode, Marshall found a script for a television show in his mailbox and then realized his life was being turned into a show called “Eerie, Indiana.”

The show was canceled in April of 1992 after 20 episodes. However, it became popular again after the similar The X-Files became a hit, getting frequent reruns on various cable stations and building a cult of dedicated viewers. It remains popular with fans of the bizarre today for its mixture of eccentric humor and its sly knowledge of horror and science-fiction conventions.

Ouija Board

Ouija

So there’s no gray-haired psychic in your town? And you can’t sneak another call into the astrology hotline without your mom noticing the long distance charges? If you need some answers in your life, and answers more specific than the good old Magic 8 Ball can provide, the Ouija Board might be your next stop. Not only, for example, can the Ouija tell you if you should go ahead and color your hair, it can tell you what color you should choose. Fortune telling was never this specific! There is much debate as to what moves the pointer around on the board-is it the players themselves or the busybody spirit world? And if you think the 8 Ball has its fair share of literal-minded, no-fan-of-anything-you-can’t-reach-out-and-grab opponents, you should get a load of the apprehension and controversy that the Ouija inspires. All of it would make William Fuld, the board’s quirkily entrepreneurial patriarch, very, very proud.

In mid-nineteenth century New York, communing with the “other side” was all the rage. Spiritualist churches were popping up everywhere, and the city’s chic hostesses clamored for authentic mediums to attend their gatherings, so that chatty members of the spirit world could speak through them. As an alternative to all that zany vocalizing, there was “spirit writing,” wherein the medium would establish contact with a spirit, grab a pencil, and let the spirit do the rest. A doohickey called the “planchette” was invented for such parlor sessions-a small, heart-shaped plank (planchette means ”little plank” in French) with a pencil at the heart’s apex. The downside to spirit writing was that the mediums, or ahem, their spirit-communicators, didn’t always have the most legible penmanship, and message transmission tended to be a bore-and nobody wants that at a seance party.

“Talking boards,” the brainchild of three Americans named E.C. Reiche, Elijah Bond and Charles Kennard, came next. This rectangular wooden slab provided a flat surface for the wooden-pegged planchette to glide over, featuring the alphabet, numbers one through ten, and words “yes” and “no.” According to some, Kennard called the board “Ouija” after an Egyptian word for good luck, and even better yet (at least better for Ouija’s sometimes purposely murky history), Kennard claimed the board itself suggested the word. In 1892, Kennard’s ex-foreman, William Fuld, took the company over, named it the Ouija Novelty Company, and began producing the board in high volume numbers.

Ouija 2

Fuld, no marketing dimwit himself, concocted his own version of the Ouija’s genesis: claiming he invented the whole enchilada himself, and that the word Ouija was actually an amalgam of the French “oui” and the German “ja”-possibly just a way to force people to pronounce it correctly. Fuld didn’t own the market on talking boards (there was Milton Bradley’s Genii, for instance), but he certainly cornered it. In 1927, Fuld fell from a factory roof in his native Baltimore-some say suicide, some accident. Fuld’s children took over after that, and then in 1966, Parker Brothers bought the company.

Today, the board is made of folding cardboard instead of wood, and the planchette glides on velvet tabs instead of wooden pegs, but other than that, it looks nearly the same as it did over one hundred years ago. The alphabet spans the board in two crescent rows, the numbers are below that, and in the corners are the words “yes” and “no,” and at the bottom, “good bye.” All this handy data faces the player who sits at the base of the board, so if reading upside down doesn’t come easy, savvy players sometimes recruit a note-taker to jot down the letters, which can then be deciphered later.

The unspoken rules that go along with this game are legion. Never play it alone. Never play angry. Never, especially in the case of permanent hair color choices, let the Ouija be the final authority. Play at night, because according to Ouija aficionados, there is less traffic in the psychic atmosphere. Decide on one person who will ask all the questions, because there is less confusion to any, um, spirits who are out there, navigating said psychic traffic. Candlelight is recommended (the spirit world having always been a big advocate of energy conservation), and two players are best. The board is best placed atop the two players’ knees, but a table is okay if the candlelight is making a jittery player’s knees knock. Warm the planchette, or pointer, up by moving it around in circles, but then stop moving it altogether. Check for white around the fingertips, which indicate someone is pressing down, and then ask a clearly stated question. Hopefully, if the atmosphere is favorable and the traffic is light, the spirits will take over.

Or will they? Some believe the board is just a reflection of the players’ inner psyches no spirits at all, just us good old fashioned, earthbound folks who guide the pointer unconsciously. Fair enough, but let’s face it, sometimes the pointing isn’t always unconscious. Those same rascals who occasionally “borrow” from the bank in Monopoly when no one is looking are also known to form words on the Ouija Board deliberately. And then, of course, we feign great surprise (with a sly mental nod to their junior high drama class teachers) as that magic planchette spells out exactly what we want to hear.

Parker Brothers likes to avoid negative Ouija connotations, but when dealing with a supposed conduit for incorporeal intelligences, there’s a certain degree of creepiness can’t be helped. The board was supposedly banned in Britain during the 70’s, and there are plenty of parents and religious groups today who’d just as soon their kids just play checkers. Of course, all the mystique just sells more boards and makes impromptu Ouija sessions feel nicely forbidden and scandalous-a feeling you just can’t get from checkers.

The Monster Squad

Monster Squad

Long before the phrase “virtual reality” was coined, wax museum caretaker Walter accidentally brought replicas of Count Dracula, Frankenstein’s monster and the Wolf Man to life with his “crime computer.” The trio of leading men from horror’s golden age joined Walter to form the Monster Squad, dedicating themselves to a new after-life of fighting crime.

This show’s tongue-in-cheek attitude was reminiscent of the 60’s Batman series, but The Monster Squad didn’t reach the airwaves until the 1976-77 season, which was heavily laden with live-action series. Like many of its contemporaries, The Monster Squad featured a hip vehicle—in this case the squad’s van—and high-tech gadgets like the team’s belt communicators.

Character actor Vito Scotti played one of the villainous foes our heroes faced, a mad scientist dressed as a man on one side of his body and a woman on the other. Walter was played by Fred Grandy, who went on to TV fame as Gopher on The Love Boat. After ten years on that show, Grandy spent eight years in the U.S. House of Representatives. Alas, The Monster Squad was not as long-lived, returning to the grave after only one season.

Kolchak: The Night Stalker

Kolchak

It was woefully short-lived, but this horror/sci-fi series has become one of the most beloved series of its kind over time. First introduced in a 1972 made-for-television film called The Night Stalker, Darren McGavin starred as Carl Kolchak, a crusty old reporter for the Independent News Service in Chicago. The film, which had Kolchak investigating a vampire in Las Vegas, became the highest-rated television film of its time, and its sequel, The Night Strangler, found similar success. ABC subsequently ordered a series, which began its run in September of 1974.

McGavin continued to play the role of Kolchak in the new series, squaring off against a new otherworldly menace. Kolchak cut an intriguing and distinct figure, dressed in a light-blue seersucker suit and a straw hat. His personality was gruff and sarcastic and always put him at odds with authority figures. Vincenzo was his editor, who was driven to the point of ulcers by Kolchak’s penchant for bizarre stories. Emily Cowles was a fellow writer at INS who was friendly with Kolchak and also happened to be the only person he trusted.

The plotlines followed a consistent pattern: Kolchak would stumble across a series of grisly and mysterious killings and realize that something non-human played a role in the murders. Inevitably, the local authorities would want to keep them quiet, and Vincenzo would not believe Kolchak’s theory. Kolchak would risk life and limb to get to the bottom of the story and fight off the villainous menace in the process. Of course, the evidence would always slip through his fingers and thus cause others to not believe his story.

During the series’ run, Kolchak faced off with everything from vampires and werewolves to aliens and androids. The biggest favorite among fans of the show was “Horror In The Heights,” in which Kolchak stumbled across a demon while investigating a story about a rash of deaths among the elderly. He quickly discovered the culprit was a Hindu demon called the rakshasa that tricks its victim by taking on the appearance of the person he/she trusts most before killing them.

Kolchak: The Night Stalker only lasted one season, ending its run in August of 1975. However, it has become a huge cult favorite amongst fans of horror and science fiction. Many people even consider it to be a blueprint for the later and more successful The X-Files, which shared much with Kolchak in terms of style and substance. Even Chris Carter, the creator of that show, has acknowledged the important influence this show had on his work. In the wake of The X-Files’s success, all of the Kolchak: The Night Stalker episodes have been released on video, including the two made-for-television films. As a long as there are viewers who like a good scare, Kolchak: The Night Stalker will always be in demand.

Beetlejuice

Beetlejuice

“Betelgeuse, Betelgeuse, Betelgeuse!”

These were the three words that launched the straggly-haired, bad-humored demon Betelgeuse (pronounced “Beetlejuice”) into the land of the living, to terrorize those with warm blood still coursing in their veins. Beetlejuice, Tim Burton’s darkly comic vision of the afterlife, included a “bio-exorcist,” menacing sandworms and a handbook for the recently deceased.

Barbara and Adam Maitland are a loving married couple who have the misfortune of being killed in a car accident. At first, they don’t even realize they’re dead, but a visit the offices of their undead social worker lets them know they must live in their New England dream house for the next one hundred and fifty-three years. To the Maitlands’ dismay, they come back home to find that their beloved home has been sold to an artsy New York family, the Deetzes.

Barbara and Adam try to get rid of their pesky intruders by haunting them, but they’re just too nice to actually scare anyone. The Deetzes, now aware of the supernatural presence in their new home, start making plans to turn it into a tourist attraction. Only the Deetzes’ sullen teenage daughter, Lydia, can communicate with the Maitlands, and the three of them become friends.

In despair, the couple turns to Betelgeuse, a troublemaking demon who specializes in getting rid of unwanted humans. By saying his name three times, Barbara and Adam launch him into the living world. But they realize too late that Betelgeuse is even more troublesome than the Deetzes, and also very dangerous. Complications and chaos ensue when Betelgeuse wants to marry Lydia and tries to stay in the world of the living forever.

Beetlejuice combined inventive special effects and Danny Elfman’s unique music into one of the most unusual movies of its time. Among the more memorable moments of the movie was a bizarre song-and-dance sequence, wherein the Deetzes and their guests were possessed and forced to sing “Day-O,” before their shrimp dinners jumped off their plates and latched onto their faces. Despite (or, more likely, because of) all the weirdness, Beetlejuice was a commercial success, earning an Oscar for Best Makeup and helping turn Michael Keaton (Betelgeuse himself) into a major star.

Burton created a strange world for the dead that seemed just as vibrant and alive as the world of the living, and from 1989 to 1991, that world lived on as an animated series, also titled Beetlejuice. In it, Lydia and Betelgeuse inexplicably became friends, taking part in adventures in the worlds of both the living and the dead.