Horror Host of Many Talents – Halloween Jack

Horror Host of Many Talents – Halloween Jack

The Haunted Cinema (THC) – Thanks for stopping by The Haunted Cinema for a chat. Ghastly and I have been dying (well technically Ghastly is already dead, but you get the point) to talk to you. Before we get into your Horror Hosting, it’s kind of a tradition around here to get to know our guest’s horror roots. When did you first realize that you were a Monster Kid? What are some of your earliest memories of watching monster movies, Halloween, or anything you care to share about our horror background.

Halloween Jack (HJ) – Thank you to you and Ghastly for having me here!

Where it started for me, was when I was six years old, very much into comics, superheroes, Batman, GI Joe etc. I was sitting in my room when my father called me out to the living room. He pointed to the Television and said, “bet you never saw anything like this before.” There on the screen was the Creature from the Black Lagoon swimming underneath Julie Adams. From that moment I was hooked. I think my dad might have regretted that moment for years to come because I embraced horror voraciously. Though, my parents did not discourage me. I remember spending some Saturday nights in our basement, watching the New York versions of Creature Features and Chiller Theater.

Another fond memory was one about my favorite Halloween.  When I was ten years old. For the first time I had talked my dad into getting me a complete, over the head, rubber Wolf Man mask, as opposed to the plastic Ben Copper masks I had worn up to that point. My father had rigged a plastic dagger to make it look like it was stuck in my chest, complete with red paint for blood. It was my favorite costume and Halloween ever. I even wore that to school, and nothing was said. Shows you how far we have come, or should I say, we’ve gone backwards?

THC – What are some of your favorite films in the genre? What makes them so special?

HJ – The Hammer films have a big place in my heart. Back in my childhood, movie theaters and drive-ins would recycle films. So it was not unusual to be able to see films from the 40, 50’s and 60’s. One of the events that hooked me on Hammer was a triple feature at a local theater that I attended. It was The Curse of Frankenstein, Horror of Dracula and The Night Caller from Outer Space. Ok, so the last film seemed a little out of place, but it was a great triple feature. I was in the theater all day.

Then there is my favorite film of all time, Night of the Living Dead. I was taken to see this film at the tender age of 8, at the Newark Drive-in, in Newark New Jersey. Though many films had scared me, that film absolutely terrified me! I didn’t sleep for a week. Yet, I was drawn to it like a moth to a flame. One afternoon I was heading downtown with a friend to see a film. While walking down the main drag through town, I looked down the street at another theater. I could see the marquee and emblazoned in big letters was the title Night of the Living Dead. I dragged my poor, unsuspecting friend into that theater and subjected him to 97 minutes of pure terror. I believe he didn’t sleep for two weeks, and his parents wouldn’t let him hang out with me anymore. At least, not to go to the movies.

I believe that all of these films that we had the chance to see in movie theaters, drive-ins, or on TV, as children, were all special because they all left an impression on us. No matter how bad they were. Even now they take us back to that time of wondrous discovery, seeing these films for the first time.

THC – From what I have read about you, you are based in New Jersey. Did you watch Zacherely growing up? What impact did he have on the host you would become? Were there any other horror hosts form those days that you followed?

HJ – Believe it or not, the New York, New Jersey area did not have a lot of Horror Hosts. I was too young for Zacherle’s run as a Horror Host, but I do remember him hosting Hercules cartoons in the afternoon on WPIX channel 11 in New York, and then the American Bandstand inspired show Disc-o-Teen, which was on a local New Jersey station.

In the 70’s we did have a host called The Creep who started to host movies on Creature Feature, which began as a host-less show. But his was run was fairly short. I was under the impression that I was the first host to actually host movies in New Jersey, but I had discovered that there was a host called Angus who was on cable access in the late 80’s. Not sure if he hosted films or just a show. I’m hoping to find out more about him or to eventually get in touch with him.

Morgus the Magnificent was syndicated to a local New York station the in 80’s and Son of Svengoolie was also syndicated to a Philadelphia station, so I did get to see their shows too.

In the late 90’s a bunch of aspiring hosts had gotten together on a Yahoo group created by Count Gore De Vol. We started to share tapes and ideas. This was the first time I was actually able to see various hosts from around the country. Two that stood out and were big inspirations to me were Ghouldardi from Cleveland and the original Svengoolie from out of Chicago. It was a thrill to actually see these hosts in action, after reading about them for years. Others that I was absolutely thrilled to see were the aforementioned Count Gore, Sammy Terry, The Ghoul, Dr, Creep and so many more.

THC – You mentioned Ghoulardi in Cleveland, I grew up in the Cleveland, OH area in the late 60’s and 70’s, I was exposed to a multiple of horror hosts from the late Ron Sweed, aka. The Ghoul, Big Chuck and Hoolihan (and later Little John), and Super Host. Horror Host weren’t limited to Cleveland, they existed all over the country. Why do you think they were so popular and what was it about the culture of the time that allowed them to thrive?

HJ – I believe a lot of it had to do with the fact that they were local. They would talk about events in your town, sometimes have viewers on the show and/or show fan art, which was a big part of Ghoulardi’s afternoon shows. You felt that they were “your” host, and it was all on a personal level. They were very reachable, accessible and chances are they lived in your town. Plus, the programming was so fresh and different. There was nothing like it on television at the time. A lot of us were seeing the Universal, and American International films for the first time. Back then, they were scary to us. The humor and zaniness of the hosts took the edge off.

THC – Sadly, Horror Hosts started disappearing in the 80’s and early 90’s with a few exceptions like Elvira. They disappeared almost completely by the mid-90’s. Flash forward to the year 2000 and suddenly Hosts such as yourself began to find a new audience. Talk about those early days, why did you decide to become a host? What changed from the late 80’s thru the 90’s that suddenly made Horror Hosting viable again?

HJ – Like I had touched on before, in my case and quite a few others, we discovered Count Gore De Vol‘s Horror Host group on Yahoo. We were surprised to discover that Horror Hosting was still alive and revered. It was a group of many like-minded people and it was that list that helped launch many of the modern day hosts, like myself. We bantered ideas around and even started making appearances on other hosts shows.

It also led to the creation of The Horror Host Underground, which was a self-promoting, self-syndicating network. We started to air the various shows all over the country. We started to trade tapes of the classic hosts and I was able to see many that I had never seen before. It was the spark that many of us needed to take the plunge.

When we started hosting, I think it filled a gap for a genre that was sorely missed. There were a few like A. Ghastlee Ghoul who had still been doing this since the 80’s, but with the start of the Internet, we were able to find a whole new audience that really missed the Horror Hosts and draw attention to those hosts who were still fighting the good fight.

It also put me in touch with another host who had just started out, The Bone Jangler. He became a good friend, actually my best friend, and we shared a kinship that survives even to this day. When I had given up due to the health issues, he never let me give in and to this day he and I are still carrying the banner very proudly.  He was a very big influence and inspiration in my life.

THC – Let’s talk more about Halloween Jack and The Haunted Theatre (we here at the Haunted Cinema feel a kinship to The Haunted Theatre, maybe we can join together and become the next Regal or AMC chain…although now that I think about it, with most of our clientele being dead, that could cause some concerns in the local communities), what was the inspiration for your character?

HJ – Haha, now that would be a grand partnership! I’ll put my people in touch with your people. Only problem is…I have no people.

My character sprang from many sources. Believe it or not, the look of the yellow skin came from my favorite comic book character The Creeper. The red wig and beard from the original Svengoolie (who sported a green wig and beard) and who is one of my all-time favorite hosts. Ghoulardi was also a big influence. As for the attitude, well that came out of the days I worked in professional wrestling. I referred in many federations and I also played a manager called Christina Greed. I loved playing the “heel” or the bad guy. Being good and getting cheered was one thing, but there was something about the reaction you could elicit by pissing people off. So, I figured by becoming a host, I could piss off a much larger group of people at one time! Kidding aside, I really wanted to entertain people and bring some of these classic films back to them.

THC – You don’t do the show alone; you have a cohost, Halloween Jacqueline. Tell us more about her. Was she there from the beginning?

HJ – I had started the show in 2000 and ran for four years. Then because of health reasons I had taken a hiatus. I had a stroke in 2010 and I thought that was it for my hosting because I had lost a lot of dexterity and had speech problems. But then I had seen the Horror Host gathering at the first HorrorHound convention. I couldn’t believe the list of Horror Hosts in attendance. Some old familiar faces and a bunch of new ones. It really did something for me. At that point I knew I had more to do, so I went to physical and speech therapy, and worked my tail off to get back what I had lost.

It was about then I started working for various streaming channels., the most notable, The Monster Channel. I became program director and was there every day. Jacqueline was frequent viewer, who was having some problems with a few stalkers, lurkers, what have you. We had phone conversations about a lot of it and we really hit it off. She was so into the Horror genre (and so beautiful if I might add) to me she was the perfect woman and she was a dream come true. It was one Internet love story that had a happy ending. 

One day I was thinking about the fact that she had red hair just like Jack and she would be the perfect co-host, so I moved from New Jersey to Virginia, we were married, and we started doing shows together. It was the perfect match. She had inspired me to start filming shows again and picking up on my passion for programming channels. I know the word “soul mate” is overused and seems corny these days, a sentiment I agreed with, but she truly is mine and my muse. I would be doing what I am doing today if it wasn’t for her.

THC – Talk about some of the challenges you faced getting your show up and running and on the air.

HJ – One of the biggest challenges is the negative reaction that the horror genre gets. You tell a person you’re a Horror Host and you get a variety of looks and people do not take it seriously. I asked Cablevision to first air the show in a half hour format. Then pushed for an hour one. Well, the show became so popular, they asked me to do 90 minutes and finally two hours which was unheard of for them because the norm was half hour shows only. The biggest hurdle is to convince people that it will work. It was a long road for about a year, but then the mail came rolling in and they saw it differently.

Another big challenge when the show went to two hours, and I had three hours of editing time on Tuesday to put together a show for the following Friday. If I didn’t bring the right materials or if there was a glitch that occurred during filming, I had to go with it. But I always have believed that this is the charm of Horror Host shows. The off-the-cuff improv and the mistakes that couldn’t be covered up or edited.

THC – Do you remember the first movie you hosted? Talk about that first show. Any stories you can share?

HJ – Wow…you’re asking me to think way back. Haha. In the half hour format, we did shows that were collections of trailers with themes, like Dracula or Frankenstein films. I believe the very first one I did was a tribute to the living dead. It was a mess and very much all over the place because we really didn’t have any idea of what we were doing, but it was fun. And that was the important part to me. The crew always had fun.

When we were bumped up to an hour, I was able to do short horror films, but to include our bits I really had to chop them up. It’s difficult to take a film that is 1 hour and 2, or 3 minutes and pare it down to 5o minutes. The first film I hosted was a cut up version of Ed Wood’s Night of the Ghouls. Once I had 90 minutes to work with, the first full length film that I aired without having to cut was one of my favorites, Children Shouldn’t Play with Dead Things.

THC – For someone who has never seen your show, how would you describe it.

HJ – Crappy. No seriously, we weren’t very technical, there was goofs and gaffs, but I think it’s the heart we had that people really dug. Our love for the films and for the genre of Horror Hosting itself, really shown through. It was zany and wild, very impromptu and we would throw everything into it. I always loved the frenetic, kinetic energy of The Ghoul‘s show, so we just did what we did. Used whoever was around that day, actually wrote some of our bits right there on the set and never rehearsed or scripted anything. Above all else I would describe it as uncontrolled chaos, but funny and I hope, entertaining.

I know a lot of shows have big effects now and that is great for many of the new breed of hosts, but I was very old fashioned in the sense that I felt less was more. The shows should be about the hosts, not as much as the sets and effects. Not that I am knocking that for any other hosts, they all use each of those to brilliant effect and that is their thing, but one host I always admired was The Bowman Body. He had a piece of plywood behind his coffin, with badly painted stones all over it, and he was a huge success in his area. It’s because it was about his hosting. That is what I was striving for.

THC – Different hosts acquire their films that they host in different ways. Some lean on the Public Domain titles, others license them form the studios. How do you decide on what movies to host?

HJ – Back when we started, there were a lot of films on VHS that did not have copyright notices and we were able to host a lot of films that we wouldn’t be able to today. Heck, I had a copy of The Creature from The Black Lagoon like that, though I would never think to host that. To me, you do not mess with the big companies.

As time went on, a lot of films were grabbed up and copyrighted by various producers and distributors. I still question to this day if they really legally own them, but I try and abide by the law as often as I can. I know hosts who have been misinformed about the public domain status on some films and have gotten notices from companies, but it really only amounts to a cease and desist, which is fine.

While working with The Monster Channel, we had come up with a definitive list of public domain films out there, so I stick with as many of them as possible.,. There are quite a few if you know where to look and do the research. And that is my biggest piece of advice….do research!! Do not take anyone’s or any websites word. The ignorance defense only goes so far!

Some hosts today are approaching independent filmmakers which I think is great. You don’t have to worry about copyright’s and some of these films which are very good, get exposure. But for me, give me an old creep classic every time.

I recently marked my 20th anniversary as a host and Jacqueline and I have permission to do host wonderful independent film to commemorate the anniversary. I just have to find the time to film it! Running The Monster Channel takes me (as my best friend The Bone Jangler often says) 27 hours a day, 8 days a week to run. Hopefully We’ll get the chance to film that soon.

THC – What was your favorite film that you have hosted? What was the worst? What about each of them either clicked or didn’t for you?

HJ – Believe it or not, my favorite hosting of a film was the very last show I did with my old crew, The Undertaker and His Pals. We had decided to take a break (which became a permanent one) because we felt things had become stagnant. After four years of airing a weekly show, we were burnt out. I don’t know if it was the idea of taking a break or that the pressure was going to be off, we had a blast filming that episode.  We were cracking each other up so badly, it took twice as long to film. It was such a great time.

Of course my favorite film to host was my favorite film of all time Night of the Living Dead. We would often do skits based around the films we showed and do comedic drop ins, but I couldn’t do that for this film because I loved it so much.

We also did a tribute to Ghoulardi hosting The Hypnotic Eye where we had used sound bites and pictures of Ghoulardi to help me “host” the film.

I think the worst was actually the second to the last show we did. I can’t even remember what movie it was, but I know at that point, I felt all I was doing was rambling on about the film in front of the camera. I had always insisted on doing skits based around the film we were hosting, and we really got away from that. I think the creative juices had dried up, so that second to last show was like pulling teeth.

Another one that I thought was the worst was when we hosted Curse of the Crimson Cult. Not that it was a bad film, but it was the only episode we had scripted for some reason. I think because I was giving so much information and trivia on Boris Karloff, that I had to write it down on cue cards, and it was actually written out in script form. It seemed so unnatural and forced, I would say it was the worse episode I did.

As far as movies, I can’t say anything bad about any of them. I love all horror good or bad.

THC – Hosting on TV isn’t your only gig, you also co-hosted a radio show, The Eerie Late Night Radio Show. How did this come to be? Describe the show to those who have never heard it.

HJ – Back a few years ago, when I was running a streaming channel called The Kreepy Kastle, we had decided to do a radio show which was a lot of fun. I was also working with another Host called Mr. Manical. He, Jacqueline and I split of from The Kreepy Kastle for personal reasons and Mr. Maniacal and I decided to do a new channel and a new radio show. The name came from the very first show I had hosted in 200 called The Eerie Late Night Horror Show. I decided to recycle the name for both the channel and radio show.

The Bone Jangler became a frequent guest, so we added him on as a co-host. Mr Maniacal had decided to take a break from the hosting world, so The Bone Jangler and I continued on.

The show is about all thing’s horror, sci-fi, toys, television comic books and everything we have been nostalgic for. I call it a fun little ride for all the horror fans out there. We like to bring up all those fond memories that we had, growing up as Monster Kids.

But our best shows have been with our guests, and we have been blessed to have had so many luminaries of this genre. Svegoolie, Super Host, Count Gregore, Count Gore De Vol, Cremetia Mortem, Lil John, Fritz The Night Owl, Stella, Sandra Niemi who is the niece of Vampira and so many more. They have all been gracious and really grateful for us asking them to be on. Which surprises us, because we are the ones who are grateful and extremely thankful. Yet they thank us for keeping this genre alive. It’s amazing and absolutely blows me away.

THC – Since you started hosting, there have been many folks who have also begun shows, with new ones starting all the time. What advice can you give to someone thinking of taking on the challenge of being a horror host?

HJ – When someone approaches me and says “do you have any advice on becoming a Horror Host”?” I usually say “don’t”. I’m glad that some don’t take that advise. If not, we would not have the likes of Octavian Hallow, Vincent Grimmly, Deadhead Daddy and Slash, who are the best of the new hosts out there.

But my advice is be unique in look and in name.  No “Son of’s”, no remakes of classic hosts, be original from the ground up.

THC – As we wrap up, I want to take a minute to discuss The Horror Host Hall of Fame. You have been active in getting this off the ground and thriving. Take a minute and talk about it and why it’s important and needs to be supported.

HJ – I took over the Hall of Fame from Jason Hignite five years ago. He had his hands full with many other aspects of the HorrorHound convention, so I was more than happy to step in. It was the brainchild of Matthew Brassfield, whose contributions and love of the Horror Host genre not only rivals my own, but surpasses it. Matthew has taken over the duties this year because I just didn’t feel right being nominated while I was involved in the voting process. His first order of business was putting me on the ballot, which I really appreciate.

I feel it’s important to let everyone know the amazing hosts out there that have been overlooked by time and location. It’s just now that we are realizing the scope and impact these hosts had in their area. Horror Hosting was a very local phenomenon back in the days before the Internet, so it has been our goal to let everyone know about these icons who have been overlooked.

It’s also very important to the hosts we honor. There is nothing more satisfying than hearing how they thought they were all but forgotten and how we have introduced them to a whole new generation of fans.

THC – How can people find you and your show?

HJ – I do air may show occasionally on The Monster Channel,  but I usually defer the time slots to the other hosts, which can be seen by going to www.eerielatenight.com and at our Eerie Late Night Roku channel  where we show some of the best Horror Hosts in the business.

Thank you. This was my absolute pleasure.

A cartoon drawing of a zombie in cinema staff attire