Historian of Horror : A Haunted House in The Wild Wild West


A week or so before my birthday several years ago, my wife called me up and asked if I preferred The Wild Wild West or Gunsmoke. A strange request, I thought at the time, since we had not recently discussed any western television programs from the 1960s, but I answered honestly that The Wild Wild West was one of my favorite shows when I was a kid, I still liked it, and my family rarely watched Gunsmoke back in the day because there was probably something on another channel that my dad liked better. Ergo, I never developed any particular fondness for the latter program. I certainly did for the former.

Imagine my very pleasant surprise upon opening my gift on the 25th of that month to find within the festive wrapping paper a DVD set of all four seasons of The Wild Wild West. I binged it right away, and still return to it on occasion. To this day, I find it the most re-watchable of the shows I loved as a child. 

And the populace rises up in unison to issue a resounding, “So what? It’s a western. We’re here to celebrate all things horror. Wrong genre, doofus!”

Ah, but it’s not so far away on the genre spectrum as one might think. To begin with, The Wild Wild West was the progenitor of all things steampunk. Coming as it did in the midst of the secret agent craze, sparked by James Bond and fueled by myriad secondary spies of all shapes and sizes and colors, outfitting a pair of 1870s Secret Service agents with gadgets secreted within cowboy boots and gun belts and hat bands was a natural. While the various gewgaws and thingamajigs dashing hero James West (Robert Conrad) and his not-quite-as-dashing but dazzlingly brilliant sidekick Artemus Gordon (Ross Martin) used in their never-ending war on the foes of the United States during the Grant administration were theoretically possible for the period, there were also frequent excursions into the realm of science-fictional fantasies. And at least one episode that could be considered to be horror.

So it was that, a few days ago, I popped the pertinent disc into the player and reviewed with great pleasure the 12th episode of the second season, “The Night of the Man-Eating House”.

All 104 episodes had titles that started with “The Night…”, by the way. In case you were wondering.

The mission James and Artie were tasked with in that broadcast of December 2, 1966, required them to return an escaped prisoner, played by Hurd Hatfield (star of The Picture of Dorian Gray in 1945), to jail. They were accompanied by a sheriff played by William Talman, best known as District Attorney Hamilton Burger on the Perry Mason TV show. The prisoner, Liston Lawrence Day, had spent thirty years in solitary confinement for treason. He broke away from his captors and found his way to his former home, a plantation house so thoroughly infused with the spirit of his late mother that injury to the structure caused her to cry out in pain. She held the good guys hostage and tried to kill them so as to enable her son to escape. Meanwhile, Day was somehow restored to his youthful appearance and vigor. Thus rejuvenated, he conspired with the ghostly mansion to bedevil our heroes. 

A most unusual episode, in several ways. As far as I can recall, it’s the only one with a supernatural element. It’s one of the few, if not the only one without a lovely young miss in a feathered bonnet and a hoop skirt for James West to suck face with in between fistfights. And it is the least violent episode I think I ever saw, as there was no one for our fearless hero to punch but one old/young man. The violence that permeated the program’s entire history inevitably attracted the attention of a variety of parents’ groups resolved to force the networks to tone down the bloodletting and fisticuffs, which eventually resulted in the show’s demise.

It all came to an end on April 11, 1969, without any additional expeditions into the outré. There were two subsequent television movies before Martin suffered a fatal heart attack while playing tennis in 1981, and a 1999 feature film that was not well-received, for very good reason. Conrad passed away in 2020, and that was it for The Wild Wild West.

But for just one night, one singular evening when I was eight years old, the best adventure-espionage-western-science-fiction program of its time was also a horror show. And that is still pretty darn groovy, even sixty-six years later.

So as always, true believers in televised terrors, I bid you to be afraid.

Be very afraid.

 

Historian of Horror : ‘Tis the Season to be Horrid!

I know, I know, in my last missive I tantalized the populace with the prospect of an examination of the stellar, if flawed career of legendary British anthologist Peter Haining for this edition, but some new information has become available but not yet acquired. That posting must needs go onto the back burner for the nonce. Fear not, my faithful fiends, it will be forthcoming. For now, as Halloween is rapidly approaching, something more in keeping with the season seemed appropriate to take its place.

Holiday episodes of popular TV programs are a common occurrence, and indeed were even in the days when the dominant home medium was radio. After some research I have identified what appears to be the very first Halloween-related broadcast on what was in 1952 the new medium of American television: the fifth episode of the first season of The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet.

Ozzie Nelson was a big band leader in the 1930s who married his lead singer, Harriet Hilliard before they moved from the ballroom stage to the airwaves as regulars on Red Skelton’s radio show, The Raleigh Cigarette Program. Along the way, the couple found time to spawn a pair of sons, David (1936-2011) and Eric Hilliard, born in 1940 and known to family, friends and fans alike as Ricky. In 1944, Ozzie had enough clout to start his own radio show, The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet, starring himself and his better half as themselves with actors portraying their offspring. It was a typical sitcom of the time and medium, and was quite successful. Halfway through its ten-year run, the Nelson boys were deemed old enough to play themselves, and so mote it was. 

By 1952, television had been around long enough to warrant its own versions of many popular shows from the old medium, including the Nelson family’s. That program lasted fourteen seasons, for reasons that, honestly, I do not understand. Even more so after watching the TV broadcast of October 31, 1952, “The Halloween Party”.

I have no recollection of ever watching The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet during its run from 1952 to 1966, the reason probably being that my father, who exercised a sort of benevolent dictatorship over the family viewing on the one set we owned at the time, found it so monumentally boring that he refused to allow it to be seen in our house. As he was fond of saying, it offended by its blandness.

For so it is. Feel free to watch that episode with its aimless depiction of Ozzie’s utter ineptness at planning and executing a Halloween party for the neighborhood adults. I don’t recommend it, except as a rather curious historical artifact.

Instead, may I direct your attention to the radio broadcast of exactly four years earlier, October 31, 1948, “Haunted House”. Rather than engaging in banal pursuits into contrived incompetence, Ozzie spends his half-hour air time playing around with the idea of investigating a supposedly haunted house in the neighborhood, with some fairly amusing results. It had an energy to it that the television show lacked for its entire run, as far as I’ve been able to ascertain from the few times I’ve been able to bring myself to watch the odd episode or two. As with so many programs that made the transition, it was better heard but not seen. 

Despite that, it lasted long enough for younger son Ricky to join the trend of juvenile television stars making the move into music. Following the collapse of the first generation of rock ‘n’ rollers by 1959, including the deaths of Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and J.P. “The Big Bopper” Richardson in a plane crash that February, Ricky and his peers filled the airwaves with a more adult-acceptable version of the genre, one that had its rough edges carefully excised. Ricky was more successful than most, but his fame petered out by the time Motown and the British Invasion reshaped popular music for the better a few years later.

He did make a comeback fueled by nostalgia in the 1970s, but himself died in a plane crash in 1985. Ozzie passed in 1975, and Harriet in 1994. The couple’s one genre-related TV performance was in the seventh episode of the third season of Rod Serling’s Night Gallery in a tale called “You Can Come Up Now, Mrs. Millikan”, which aired on November 12, 1972. Ricky appeared in the fifth episode of Tales of the Unexpected on March 9, 1977, in a story entitled “A Hand for Sonny Blue”. 

A minimal contribution to the genre, admittedly, but an historic one. Being first does count for something.

And so, until next we meet, I bid you, as always…

Be afraid.

Be very afraid.

#HauntsandHellions Facebook Party

Haunts and Hellions

Week-long Facebook Group Party

FacbookEvent

In honor of the release of our #HauntsandHellions anthology,
we’ll be having a fun event in our group from May24th-May28th.

Join the group and answer questions to be entered into prize drawings!

Great prizes to be won!

One lucky winner will get the Special Edition Prize Pack including,
Signed book, wax-sealed letter, and skeleton key.
hhbookpack

David’s Haunted Library: Hollow House

David's Haunted Library

30968911Willow Street was a place where nothing interesting ever happened. People went about their everyday lives and didn’t pay attention to the abandoned house at the end of the street. That was until the stench of a dead body came from the old Kemper home. Suddenly the lives of everyone living on Willow Street are forever changed.

News reporter Ben Traynor starts to investigate the death in the Kemper House and finds out there is much more here than meets the eye. The strong smell starts off a series of life altering events on Willow Street. Not only is the house cursed but so is the town and no one is safe from its influence.

Hollow House by Greg Chapman is a haunted house story on steroids. This is the first story I’ve read where the house haunts the whole neighborhood and it was this concept that made the story original. I’ve read a lot from Greg Chapman and was really looking forward to this book and it didn’t disappoint. What makes the story interesting is that it gets into the heads of everyone living near the house and they all react differently to the evil infecting the Kemper house and how they are on the surface is different then how they really feel.

One of my favorite characters in this book is a girl named Amy who is getting over a suicide attempt and trying to get her life back together. Though as she is contemplating why she prefers virtual friends over real friends she starts getting plagued by a spirit who wants to make her suffer. I felt Amy was a character that most teenage girls can relate to and was really rooting for her to find the happiness that she couldn’t find online. Another good character was news reporter Ben Traynor who comes across as a callous self-serving jerk early in the book. Later on, when faced with death we see a different side to him and despite his flaws, you learn to like him.  The characters in this story seemed so real and that was what kept me reading Hollow House.

Though I generally liked the book I did find the story to be confusing in places and I didn’t understand the ending. The characters in the book were so strong though that I never lost interest. I really enjoyed how complex all the characters were, they act differently in public than they do in their homes and when confronted with the supernatural they show what they are really like. This book is like a case study on what secrets can lie hidden in a small picturesque town. Greg Chapman knows how to create great characters and scare his readers. I look forward to reading more from him in the future.

 

 

Press Release: The House That Dripped Gore

(Slightly) New Horror Novel Released By Author and Independent Horror Film Maker, Dan West — The House That Dripped Gore

 

San Francisco-based horror author and independent film maker Dan West (Monsturd, RetarDEAD) is pleased to announce the release of his (slightly) new horror novel, The House That Dripped Gore

18492232    Welcome to the infamous Hull Family Mansion: a disgusting, squirming cesspool of horrific paranormal activity and murderous intrigue. The old rumors of the horrid house weave a salacious and sordid tale of demon worship, human sacrifice, cannibalism and Satanic sex orgies; just the sort of juicy material needed to entice an unethical, down-on-his-luck, paranormal investigator seeking a career-making case. Enter Stanley Matheson: parapsychologist and occult writer: a man referred to in his own professional circles as, “The mentally-defective ghost detective.”

Hired to lead the investigation of the awful, otherworldly activities taking place at the Hull Mansion, Matheson hastily assembles a team of fellow researchers whose strange eccentricities nearly rival his own. Reluctantly joining forces, this squad of bickering, mismatched ghost busters must unravel the murderous mysteries of the macabre mansion before each of them falls prey to the poisonous influence of the gruesome house of horrors.

Book Details:

The House That Dripped Gore

by Dan West

Published 12/01/2014

ISBN: 9781105641183

Pages: 185

Illustrated by the author

Genre: Horror/Humor

About the Author:

Dan West is a San Francisco-based comedy writer and comedy/horror filmmaker. He is the co-writer and co-director of the bottom-of-the-barrel exploitation films: Monsturd and RetarDEAD. The House That Dripped Gore is the very first of the Stanley Matheson Chronicles series, which also includes the chilling sequel And They All Died Screaming.

Twitter: https://twitter.com/dwesthorrorcom

Print: http://www.lulu.com/spotlight/danwesthatesyou

Kindle edition: http://www.amazon.com/House-That-Dripped-Gore-ebook/dp/B00DK0HD5C/ref=sr_1_fkmr0_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1438658276&sr=8-1-fkmr0&keywords=the+house+that+dripped+gore

Notable press quotes:

 “The House That Dripped Gore, spoofs The Haunting of Hill House and H.P. Lovecraft with a mix of reverence and full-steam-ahead insanity, aided by a hefty sprinkling of surreal tangents, dirty jokes, and obscure pop-culture references. You’ll laugh! You’ll cringe! You’ll wonder exactly what a ‘farting Ouija board’ might sound like!” (Cheryl Eddy) SF Bay Guardian

 “The House That Dripped Gore deserves to sit alongside the year’s best, like King’s, Joyland, Hill’s, NOS4A2 and Adams’, Deadbeat. It’s a remarkably entertaining piece of fiction that immediately yanks you right into the fold. It’s hard to escape.” (Matt Molgaard) – Horror Novel Reviews

 “Oh yeah … there’s also porn-loving corpses, demon-summoning secret societies, black magic cults, anally inserted puppets, metal reinforced bowler hats, and even Elton John. And Guess What? It all works beautifully and comes together in a really rich and layered story.”  (Scott Shoyer)—Anything Horror

Press Release: How To Live With That Creepy Shadowy Ghost in your Home

product_thumbnail (3)Living with the non-living.  Every writer in his or her creative writing class are taught the golden rule of writing: To write about what you know.

Horror writer Don Wright practices this golden rule in his new Book: How to live with that Creepy Shadowy Ghost in your Home.   This is a shocking DIY ghost busting testimonial.  Don Wright grew up living with numerous ghosts as a young child, He lived in several apartments and houses with some nice spirits and some not so nice.

It’s been estimated that countless individuals share their homes with ghosts. Don Wright’s DIY Book is the first non-technical common sense approach on how to deal with the Paranormal. If you think you might be sharing your home with a ghost then this book is a must have.

Available at lulu.com

For more information on Don Wright go to:  http://www.donwright250.blogspot.com

 

6 Food Items to Make Your Haunted House Spookier

For those of you trying to torture little children on Halloween night by building the best ever Haunted House, check out these sensory items to really creep them out.

  1. grapesPeeled grape eyeballs.
  2. Ketchup Blood.
  3. Spaghetti veins.
  4. Mayo pus.
  5. Crushed Oreo mud.
  6. Strings dipped in honey spiderwebs.

Do you have some other food you use for your Haunted House? Please share!

Endless Home

bigfrontcoverEHImagine being trapped in a house with no way to escape. The attic has a satanic altar, there are spiders with eyes on their backs running around, blood is dripping from the walls, paintings and dolls come to life and a phantom stalks the hallways. These are some of the horrors that you will witness in Kirk Warrington’s Endless Home.

The story begins with the main character Maya along with her boyfriend Neal, mother Thelma, sister Dawn and friend Leroy trying desperately to escape from the home of satanic serial killer Heston Graves. The windows won’t break and the door won’t budge. Things get worse for the unwilling house guests as the rooms start to fill with blood and they are forced to escape to the attic, which looks like a place where satanic rituals are performed.

Thinking that they have found safety in the attic, they start to look for a way out again and the wall opens up into a long hallway. The house is unnaturally large, there are doors that go on forever and behind every door knob is a nightmare waiting to be unleashed. Endless Home is like a haunted house on steroids and those trapped inside are going to have to go through hell and back.

One feeling I had while reading Endless Home was that this would make an excellent horror film. The imagery that the author uses is disturbing and you almost feel like your trapped in the house with the victims. There are some great suspenseful scenes in this book. I loved it when Dawn and Maya had to battle a room full of evil dolls and when creatures came out of  a painting to stalk the trapped house guests. I constantly had a feeling of unease while reading because I didn’t know what was going to attack Maya and the others next.

I also liked the depth of the characters in the story. You find out early on that Maya is pregnant with Neal’s baby but she’s not sure if she wants the baby or Neal. You felt sorry for her as she deals with everyone influencing her decisions and at the same time I felt mad at her for the way she treats Neal. One scene in particular that I really liked in the book was when it looks like Neal is about to die and Maya finds herself feeling sad, but then she gets mad at herself for feeling that way.

One of the  things I didn’t like about Endless Home was how all the characters got trapped in the house. I found myself rolling my eyes at the explanation given and I figured there would be more to it later on, but it never came. I would have also liked to hear more about Heston Graves in the story. I felt having a serial killer in the house would have added more suspense to the story but even without him there is a lot of good scares in this book. Endless Home has all the elements that you could want in a horror novel and was a really fun read, I highly recommend it.