I haven’t talked a whole lot about The Ghoul up to this point, mainly because I’ve been waiting for this July 10th anniversary of his 1998 debut on WBNX TV-55. I can’t believe it’s been 15 years already; it really does seem like just yesterday The Ghoul ruled my Friday nights. The Ghoul had been on and off Cleveland TV since 1971, when he debuted on WKBF TV-61. He had last been on TV in our area in 1985, when he ended a three year run on WKBF’s successor, WCLQ TV-61 (he was also pretty popular in Detroit). As of today, his WBNX run has thus far been his latest on Northeast Ohio TV (ending in, I believe, 2003). While WBNX later messed with his timeslot, movie selections, and what he could and couldn’t do on-the-air, for his first two years on Friday nights at 11:30 PM, he was the best thing on. I suppose it’s a good thing I hadn’t yet discovered David Letterman and was at the time only a very casual fan of Big Chuck & Lil’ John, because then I would have had some serious viewing conflicts (ah, the days before DVR). Something tells me The Ghoul would have won out anyway.
Truth be told, in those pre-internet days, and me being only 12 years old, I didn’t really know about The Ghoul beforehand. I was vaguely aware of Ghoulardi, though he was obviously waaaay before my time, and I had become a fan of Son Of Ghoul that previous Halloween, but I had always assumed Son Of Ghoul was short for “Son Of Ghoulardi”. It wasn’t until my aunt gave me a newspaper clipping announcing The Ghoul’s return that I was able to piece it all together (I’ve still got that clipping, which The Ghoul himself later autographed for me). For the record, there were some legal problems between The Ghoul and Son Of Ghoul in the late-80’s, and they’re apparently not exactly friends nowadays, but to the best of my recollection, I had no real knowledge of all that until much later on. For some it may be a one-or-the-other deal, but I grew up as a fan of both, I’m still a fan of both, and that’s all I’m gonna say about that.
It all started with this promo, which ran in the, I guess, weeks prior to that July 10 debut. I recall seeing it at least once, but this particular copy comes from that July 10 night, when it aired during the last commercial break of whatever was on before The Ghoul started at 11:30 PM. Good thing I usually started recording several minutes before the scheduled start time of whatever it was I was taping. Actually, WBNX was pretty good at usually running one last Ghoul promo during the last commercial break of shows that were on before, and as a result I’ve got a lot of Ghoul promos.
Most Ghoul promos followed a set pattern of The Ghoul on his set, acting wacky and giving the title of that week’s movie. I mean, what else could they really be? For his debut, however, the promo has The Ghoul bouncing down the the street while his voiceover gives us the lowdown. In classic Ghoul Power style, The Ghoul lets us know that he’s arriving at WBNX on July 10th, and that our Friday nights will never be the same. Boy, was he right about that.
Interestingly, the first movie is never mentioned. Maybe that’s appropriate since the promo’s more about letting us know “The Ghoul is here!” rather than that week’s feature. It’s kinda fitting because The Ghoul would pack so much into his show (especially that first year to year and a half, when it ran 2 1/2 hours) that the movie was almost an afterthought. It was usually cut to ribbons so that The Ghoul could fit all of his bits in, so much so that following the plot was more or less impossible. And you know what? it didn’t matter, because the show was a blast.
Anyway, the promo doesn’t mention it, but that first movie was Ghost In The Machine, which always seemed like such an odd choice to me. I mean, yeah, it was a bad horror film, but it never seemed like a fitting “first show” kinda film. It was very emblematic of the kind of film WBNX showed regularly back then, however, so I guess that’s why it was chosen. The next week, the film was Up From The Depths, a waaay better choice. Unfortunately, I don’t have a promo for that one.
So, there’s my little tribute to The Ghoul on this 15th anniversary of his WBNX debut. I’ve still got many, many episodes recorded, and they’re some of my most treasured recordings. Obviously, I’ll always be a big fan. It goes without saying I’m a “Ten Star General In The Ghoul Power Army!”