Welcome back to another edition of Retro Ramblings, and since Halloween is right around the corner and I know you probably have plenty more to do to be ready for the big night, let me just jump right on in and get started!
Fraggle Rock is Coming Back to HBO
Ron Howard is Open to Doing a Sequel to ‘Willow’
Ditched Indiana Jones Ideas That May Appear in Indy 5
Carol Burnett is Returning to Television With a New Sitcom
‘Biking to Buzzards and Other 80’s Childhood Adventures’ is now Available on Amazon
Funko Announces Q*Bert and Bill and Ted Pop! Vinyl Figures
Original ‘E.T’ Artwork Auctioned Off for $400,000
Rod Sterling’s The Night Gallery
Rod Serling’s The Twilight Zone had a cult following like few shows this side of Star Trek, and ever since the program’s cancellation in 1964, the die-hards had been begging for new episodes. They wouldn’t get them during Serling’s lifetime, but the king of eerie TV satisfied the masses with an all-new anthology series in 1970. He called it Night Gallery, and while it wasn’t exactly the same thing as The Twilight Zone—in fact, it was considerably more horror-tinged—it proved that there were plenty of chilling stories left to tell.
A made-for-TV Night Gallery movie in 1969 introduced the format: Serling once more served as host, introducing each segment of the show by walking the guests at home through a gallery of creepy paintings. Each had a story to tell, and every one was either darkly comic or just darkly dark. Like The Twilight Zone, Night Gallery rose and fell on those individual stories, and there were a number of highlights. Among them:
“Eyes” – Directed by a young Steven Spielberg and starring Joan Crawford, this segment from the pilot movie has Crawford as a blind woman desperate to buy or steal a working pair of eyes.
“Pickman’s Model” – In late 19th century Boston, a woman becomes intrigued by a strange painter and his horrible works.
“A Fear of Spiders” – A callous food writer turns to one of the recipients of his callousness when he finds a terrifying spider in his sink.
“The Return of the Sorcerer” – Vincent Price plays a sorcerer looking to unravel the secrets of an Arabic manuscript, hoping to find clues about his brother’s mysterious death.
“Rare Objects” – A gangster with a price on his head thinks he’s willing to pay anything for safety, but then, he doesn’t know what “anything” might entail.
As an anthology, Night Gallery had a cast that changed with every segment, and again like The Twilight Zone, the players included several famous faces: Crawford, Price, Leslie Nielsen, Diane Keaton, Edward G. Robinson, Zsa Zsa Gabor, Ozzie Nelson, Sally Field and many more. Initially, the series was part of NBC’s Four in One anthology hodgepodge, but by the fall of 1971, Night Gallery went solo.
The show’s popularity ebbed after the 1971-72 season—partly due to a shortening from one hour to a half-hour, partly due to conflicts between Serling and the producers and network—and after one more season of original episodes, the Night Gallery was closed. It may never have gained the same cult status as its Rod Serling predecessor, but Night Gallery lives on today, still chilling after all these years.
Halloween Themed and Spooky Music Videos
This week’s top ten countdown reflects this special Halloween Edition of Retro Ramblings, as we take a look at some of the best Halloween and Spooky themed Music Videos! Instead of a normal countdown, let’s go with a video countdown this time.
10) Addams Family Groove by MC Hammer
09) Monster Mash by Boris Pickett
08) Superstition by Stevie Wonder
07) Werewolves of London by Warren Zevon
06) Don’t Fear the Reaper by Blue Oyster Cult
05) Ghostbusters by Ray Parker Jr.
04) Lullaby by The Cure
03) Somebody’s Watching Me by Rockwell
02) Bark at the Moon by Ozzy Osbourne
01) Thriller by Michael Jackson
The Story of the Ouija Board
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 séance 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.
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.
Continuing on with the Halloween celebration in this edition of Retro Ramblings, this week’s links to more retro coolness all take you to some of the coolest, and most fun retro Halloween themed things I’ve come across lately. Surely, you can find something you like here:
The 8 Scariest TV Movies of the 1970s
11 Spooky Halloween Episodes of Classic TV Shows
NLogan’s Retro Halloween Anticipation
The Poltergeist Protocol
The Coming of the Autumn People
NLogan’s Retro Halloween Overload
Halloween Department 1980
Halloween Costumes for 80’s Pop Culture Junkies
Elvira’s 1986 MTV Halloween Special
One of my favorite things in this world is to find original commercials still intact when watching an older video. Not only does this week’s video include full commercials, it has Elvira at her peak hosting the yearly MTV Halloween Special that featured a ton of great spooky music videos, and a few other surprises. I hope you check it out, and I hope you’ve enjoyed this special Halloween edition of Retro Ramblings.
More Great Halloween Themed Posts From This Week’s Pop Culture League Challenge:
Here Comes Halloween from Alexis’ Universe
Here Comes Halloween from Mr. Smith’s Plastic Bubble
Most Wonderful Time of the Year from Cassie’s Library
Halloween Mischief from 2 Minute Toy Break
This is Halloween from The Toy Box
1988: The Year Halloween Never Came from 20 Years Before 2000
Here Comes Halloween from Whatever I Think Of
If you’d like to learn more about the Pop Culture League and it’s challenges, or for info on how to become involved, Click Here