Apr. 14th, 2009 05:04 pm
elionwyr: (spooky)
[personal profile] elionwyr
Though we know there were many horror host programs across the country, for many there is very little history left behind. Selwin is one such host.

Played by station director Ray Sparenburg (1939? - November 1, 2001), Selwin hosted Friday Fright Night from the fall of 1958 to 1961 on WISH-TV in Indianapolis. Worth noting is that Vampira reportedly co-hosted an episode of Fright Night and that, like his predecessors, Selwin had a well-supported fan club. One of the things that made Selwin unique, however, was that he had a pedigree to boast: he was the son of Catwoman and Wolfman.

The show's format changed over time from a horror-theme to a jungle-theme, and Selwin underwent costume changes as needed..though he kept his ghoulish make-up on under his pith helmet for his new character, "Jungle Jim." Selwin on Saturdays was on the air from late 1961 to April 1962. Sparenburg was then brought back to his late night slot, this time dressed as an astronaut and introducing science fiction films. The only thing clear about this show was that, even in a spacesuit, the was still unmistakably Selvin.

Sparenburg moved to Atlanta, where he reportedly tried to unsuccessfully revive his character, and the horror host mantle was passed on to Sammy Terry.

For more information about Selwin:


Apr. 12th, 2009 03:00 pm
elionwyr: (spooky)
[personal profile] elionwyr
Generally credited with being the first horror host, Maila Nurmi (December 21, 1921 - January 10, 2008) slinked her way into her title by winning a Hollywood costume contest in 1953. She dressed as the then-unnamed female that graced the pages of Charles Addams' New Yorker comics; in doing so, she caught the eye of KABC-TV's producer, Hunt Stromberg Jr.

It took five months, but eventually Mr. Stromberg got in touch with Maila. She was offered a position doing live-broadcast introductions to late-night horror film airings. During this era of television, having local talent involved with in-house production of programming was the norm. Maila's look and style, however, was something altogether different from what had come before, and her show set the bar for every horror host that was to follow.

A fan club and a mock-running for "Night Mayor of California" helped fuel Vampira's popularity. Though she remains legendary, most of her work has not survived over time because her show was a live broadcast. Additionally, The Vampira Show was only on the air from April 30, 1954 to April 2, 1955. She retained the rights to the character and took her act to competing station KHY-TV, but that version of the show was apparently never aired.

Ironically, some of the best photage that remains of Vampira is from the much-maligned film Plan 9 from Outer Space.

In later years, Maila would sue Cassandra Peterson over Peterson's creation of the character Elvira, which has a similar look and feel to Nurmi's Vampira. Considering Nurmi's deliberate efforts to make sure Vampira was not merely a Charles Addams' rip-off, one can understand Nurmi's emotions concerning the Vampira character. However, the courts ruled in Peterson's favour, and Elvira gained a legendary existence all her own.

For more information about Vampira, please visit: - episode list - "American Scary" clip

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