Tag Archives: tv-55

Episode Recap: The Ghoul Show’s “House on Haunted Hill” (September 2, 2002)

I should probably wait till the 15th anniversary on September 2, 2017 to post this article, but I don’t care.

I’ve mentioned before how I avidly stayed up and watched (and taped!) The Ghoul on WBNX TV-55 every Friday night – in the late-1990s and most of 2000, anyway. I’ve also mentioned how when WBNX moved him to Sunday nights (technically Monday mornings; 12 AM time slot) in the fall of 2000, I kept taping, but still being in grade school, staying up to watch was no longer feasible. He was eventually pushed back to 1 AM, though my situation remained the same. I kept taping (and taping…and taping…) the show, but because of all the other duties and interests of a teenager, I could never get around to picking and choosing which to keep, or even watch, like I could when it was on Fridays. The end result? I eventually wound up with boxes of tapes, either unmarked or with a vague “The Ghoul” scrawled on them.

On one hand, my dereliction of duty was understandable. You see, the wind had been taken completely out of my sails; when it moved, the show was (mostly) gutted of all the momentum it had built since debuting in the summer of 1998. For the most part, host segments were cut back, drop-ins were, uh, dropped from many of the movies, which in turn was a side-effect of the cheesy old horror and sci-fi flicks being limited in favor of newer fare, a good portion of which wasn’t from the genres The Ghoul was known for. And even when they were, they were newer, bigger-budgeted, ‘real’ movies. I wrote about one such episode here, and took a closer look at the history of the show as a whole here.

Despite that, around 2011, I made a concerted effort to dig out and duly mark each of these tapes – finally. Besides the mental well-being of knowing what I had recorded years prior, this also served the purpose of essentially giving me ‘new’ episodes of The Ghoul. And luckily, as of late I had been itching for some new-to-me Ghoul. Not some Ghoul that I had watched and merely forgotten about (though I’ve got plenty of those too), but a new episode – or as close to a new episode as I could get nowadays, anyway. And that’s where today’s post comes in.

This doesn’t come from that 2011 notating project. Oh no, this was an unknown-to-me (well, utterly-forgotten-to-me) recording I rediscovered only some months ago. Just when I think I’ve found ’em all, a new one pops up! Buried at the end of an 8-hour tape that was properly marked otherwise comes The Ghoul’s airing of 1959’s House on Haunted Hill, and it definitely hit every point I had been hoping to write about. Despite the Sunday night/Monday morning slot (this originally aired at 1 AM!), this was one of those rare-for-the-time “old style” shows; that is, for all intents and purposes it’s like the Friday night broadcasts I hold such fond memories of. An old, ostensibly-classic (more on that in a bit) horror movie, complete with audio and video drop-ins, and loaded with plenty of Ghoul segments – I couldn’t have asked for a better rediscovery!

And as it turned out, regarding that less-than-stellar time slot, this broadcast holds an additional historical aspect, one I am fortunate to have captured: As The Ghoul himself pointed out above in the intro, this was the last show in which he was scheduled at that time! Yep, starting the following week (or actually, later that same week), The Ghoul Show was back on Fridays! Now, this wasn’t a return to the late-1990s glory days of the show, mind you; it was scheduled at 3:30 AM (!), which means technically it became a Saturday morning program. Also, the show itself really didn’t change; I’ve got that first back-to-Friday show, and aside from an all-new open (which means the “In Mono…” intro I used above as my header, and which I really really like, was evidently last seen here), it was still more-or-less what it had been since the fall of 2000.

Still, The Ghoul seems fairly happy with the move whenever it’s mentioned throughout this episode, and I guess I concur; while 3:30 AM wasn’t exactly ideal (it wouldn’t end until 5:30-6:00 AM!), staying up mega-late on a Friday night was (is) more doable than staying up late on a Sunday night, I suppose. Trade-offs and all that. Then again, I’m by nature a night owl, so my mileage may vary from yours.

But, the time change was not the only news permeating this episode; nope, this was also a Labor Day show! It was Labor Day weekend, which means this was actually airing on Labor Day!

Maybe I really should have waited until the appropriate time to post this? Meh, that’s months away, and my negligible creative juices are flowing right now.

Anyway, because it’s Labor Day, the apparent official food of Labor Day, a watermelon, is blown up in celebration. In the best tradition of the show, it’s a wildly satisfying explosion, and doubly-so for me since I’m apparently the only person in the universe who doesn’t like watermelon.

On a side note, I really like the darker, more-shadowy look of these host segments. Granted, it’s the same set it always was, but it seems much-more shrouded in darkness; looks more Ghoulish, even if The Ghoul himself was always more about comedy than presenting said Ghoulish image. Or something like that. Look, I just like it, okay?

(And no, I don’t think they appear darker because of my reception at the time; as you may be able to tell from the somewhat fuzzy screencaps that a rabbit ear antenna was employed. Actually, this broadcast and subsequent recording look significantly better than what I often got out of 55 around then.)

We’ll get to the rest of the festivities momentarily, but first, 1959’s House on Haunted Hill.

In the realm of public domain horror and sci-fi films, this is one of the biggies. It’s not as ubiquitous as, say, Night of the Living Dead, and it’s certainly not as esteemed either, but nevertheless, House on Haunted Hill is a veritable staple of horror hosted programs such as this.

And why wouldn’t it be? It’s 1950s black and white horror, which is cool by its very nature. It’s a film by William Castle, who specialized in real-life theatrical gimmicks (this time, a plastic skeleton apparently floated throughout the theater while the film played on), and that’s always cool. It’s got a cool title and a cool setting, which makes it look and sound like Halloween personified. And it stars Vincent Price, who was (is) the very definition of cool. Sounds like a can’t miss to me!

And yet, even though this is probably anathema to admit, I’ve never much cared for House on Haunted Hill. Indeed, way back in the late-1990s, an aunt sent a VHS copy to my brother and I, which prompted fond recollections from mom on what a fun flick it was. But upon playback, my reaction was one of severe indifference. And keep in mind, I was around 12-years-old, and therefore what should have been an easy audience for this kind of thing. I just don’t think it’s a very good movie. Even a recent viewing of the Rifftrax Live DVD take on it did little to change my opinion. Vincent Prince (along with Ice Pick from Magnum, P.I.) makes it watchable, but that’s really the best I can say about it.

Though to be frank, I do feel it works better here on The Ghoul than usual. You see, this was a less-than 2 hour episode (1 hour 53 minutes; the rest of the slot was filled out with WBNX featurettes, which were just pop music videos from the period), and it was absolutely saturated with Ghoul segments, which means there wasn’t a whole lot of time left for the movie. As such, there’s the initial set-up, some inter-movie bits, and then the conclusion. In other words, the meat of the movie was all that was left, and as such I found it much more tolerable. (There was an earlier showing of this movie on The Ghoul, from 2000, and I still have that broadcast as well, but personally I find that airing as a whole much less interesting, which is why we’re looking at what we are today.)

Still, even if the movie isn’t exactly one of my favorites, it’s still vintage horror, and it lends itself well to an older-style Ghoul episode, so it all personally ends up working anyway.

The plot? C’mon, you’ve seen this one!

Quick rundown: Vincent Price (above, with what was assuredly the basis for the theatrical gimmick – “Gee, ya think?!”) plays a millionaire playboy, who rents an old mansion from a panicky-guy (Elisha Cook, the aforementioned Ice Pick), and offers a $10,000 cash prize to him and four others if they can stay in the mansion overnight. Also, the mansion is supposedly haunted. Also, the party is being thrown at the request of Price’s wife, a marriage that is shown to be severely strained early on. You can almost figure where this is going from that description alone, can’t you?

Look, the movie is public domain. Everybody has released it. Everybody has aired it. You haven’t seen it? There isn’t much legwork needed to change that!

I don’t have any one definitive reason why I’m not big on House on Haunted Hill. It does a lot of things right, and by all means I should love it. But, there’s something about it that just leaves me cold. It’s not the fairly obvious plot, or the acting, or anything I can actually point to and say “thas why!” It just doesn’t do it for me. Though like I said, I dug this truncated print more than I expected to.

(There were drop-ins for the movie this episode, but most of them were in the form of audio; belches when people drink and so on, though there were funny images of junker cars crashing and whatnot interspersed into the pre-opening-titles sequence of the movie.)

Yeah, I’m not a big fan of House on Haunted Hill, but that doesn’t keep this episode from being a winner. It’s all about the whole, man.

The first skit proper is seen above, though you’d be forgiven for not knowing quite what you’re looking at; hey, everyone was moving around and it was dark. This screencap was about as good as it was going to get! Simply put, The Ghoul and his (I presume) crew raucously dance around for a few minutes. It makes absolutely no sense and that’s why it’s perfect.

You see, you (or at least I) didn’t tune into The Ghoul for just the movie. I mean, sure, yeah, the movie was a big part of it, but again, it was all about the whole. The flicks were often chopped up beyond comprehension (House on Haunted Hill fared better than many), and it seemingly had less to do with editing-for-content and more to do with jamming as many Ghoul segments as possible in. It was about the overall wild, wacky late night experience, and by and large that faded when he moved to Sundays. That’s why I was so disappointed with that previously-linked Poltergeist episode and so pleasantly surprised with this one; this really does feel like a brand new episode to me, which, if I ignore the dated references and commercials, it basically is.

The Ghoul was good at often presenting pretty random bits, and that’s why this real non-sequitur of a segment fits in so well; it absolutely encapsulates the vibes of the program.

Look how nifty this is!

The Ghoul mentions this (well, these) are by “Blues Airmen,” which I assume is this Detroit-based guitar center; makes sense, since The Ghoul was and still is huge in Detroit. But then again, there are bands, or at least a band, by that name, so I don’t know.

Anyway, dig this: They actually created not one but two Ghoul-themed guitars…made from very real toilet seats! The initial model is on the left, and you have no idea how much I love the fact it houses a roll of toilet paper. BUT, for this episode, The Ghoul debuted their newest creation: A new, super-deluxe model, complete with a built-in amp! That’s awesome. Even though he himself admits he can’t sing or play (more on that later), he still spends several minutes fiddling with the beast. Good stuff!

This is fantastic.

Out of nowhere, an old-school piece is presented. Looks like WCLQ TV-61 (that is, 1980s) era Ghoul, in which he intros the final chapter in an animated series of shorts, in which a gigantic (think King Kong or Godzilla) Froggy terrorizes the city. Impervious to other attacks, only The Ghoul can stop him. He does just that in this last installment. How so? Froggy drops dead after The Ghoul shows him one of the movies from his show.

It’s a fantastic animated bit done by Dave Ivey, who (as I recall it) did other work for The Ghoul as well as Wolfman Mac. Does he sound familiar? He should; we saw him at Monsterfestmania! Yep, I myself met the guy behind this short! How cool is that?! And, I can tell you from first-hand experience he is a great guy! Super talented too; he was behind the entirety of this cartoon, from animation to editing to voice, himself!

Another old bit, this time officially as part of the “Vault of Golden Garbage.” I always looked forward to this segment in each show, and it was especially great when old 1970s and 1980s clips were presented, mainly because I wasn’t around for those initially.

This time, a newer bit (Ghoul says it was done about 6 months prior) was shown, though it’s still fun. Here, marionette dolls of a band who-shall-remain-nameless (and faceless) are shown cavorting about, and are duly blown up one-by-one, yet their remains continue to dance even afterwards. I love it!

A follow-up to the new guitar reveal earlier in the show. I imagine it was always welcome when things sent in by fans became the catalyst for entirely new skits.

The premise: The fact that he can’t sing or play hasn’t stopped The Ghoul from going on tour, performing terrible renditions of Ghoul-themed classic rock songs.

I love the insanely high tickets prices, especially the “Gold Circle” seats, which cost a second mortgage! Also, remember when it was the “Gund Arena” and not the Q? Flashback!

Do you recall those “can you hear me now” cellphone commercials? They were all the rage back in the early-2000s, when cellphones were the size of bricks, they needed what was equivalent to a car antenna to pick up any reception at all, and in their extreme primitiveness could only make phonecalls and not a whole lot else (except maybe play rudimentary black & white games of bowling – if you were lucky). Nowadays, I’m pretty sure my phone will make me a sandwich if I press the right buttons. I guess what I’m saying is we’ve come kind of a long way in the nearly 15 years since this aired. Whoda thunk it?!

ANYWAY, this short simple skit (alliteration) is a play on those old commercials, in which Froggy walks around asking the everlasting question of whether he’s cognizant to the person on the other end of the line or not. In doing so, he interrupts a kissing couple and The Ghoul while in traffic. Annnd that’s pretty much all there is to the bit.

Earlier in the show, The Ghoul presented a homemade Brain That Wouldn’t Die diorama sent in by some young fans. Naturally, they asked him to blow it up. (I can relate!) As promised, it was taken care of in spectacularly satisfying fashion later in the program.

I’m not sure what it is that makes us so enamored by destruction such as the act of blowing inanimate objects up; maybe the same thing that makes us oooh and ahhh at 4th of July fireworks. The same ideal was at play back when Letterman was crushin’ stuff or throwing things off a building. Nevertheless, mindless (albeit innocent) destruction is always a good time, and boy, The Ghoul excelled at it.

And so, there’s the show. Most of it anyway. I didn’t bother covering the emails read and a few other bits I couldn’t think up enough to write about. Still, you get the gist.

According to the outro, later that day they’d be celebrating Labor Day at (now long gone) Ghoulardi’s Bar & Grille, a pub whose namesake was the one that put all this Ohio insanity in motion way back in 1963. If you showed up (or mailed in a self-addressed stamped envelope), you could get the swanky, then-new pictures seen in the left screencap above. The Ghoul would even sign ’em for you!

After further reminders that the show would be back on Fridays the next week, that was it; time for The Ghoul to bounce on out of there, as the big bouncy ball in the right screencap above signifies.

Except for the later date and time slot reminders, this really does play out like a classic Friday installment of The Ghoul; from movie to segments to general energetic vibe, this was a pleasant rediscovery of mine. There were even some neat commercials found during it, and with the new television season then-imminent, the recording plays out like a veritable snapshot of fall 2002. TV-wise, at least.

Do Over Promo

As I recall it, that season there was more than one series dedicated to a present-day-whoever finding themselves back in time…but as themselves. I might not be 100% correct on that, but that’s what Do Over was, and though I never watched all that much of it, I do recall it not being too bad. Naturally, it was cancelled after that first year. Actually, a quick online search sez it never even finished its first season.

Anyway, the premise of the show was that a 34-year-old man finds himself in the body of his teenage self, and thus can relive his life to some degree. How or why he was in this predicament, I do not know.

The promo only uses (I assume) clips from the pilot. I seem to recall a gag about the star/son/whatever telling his dad to buy stock in IBM (?), though his dad seems more interested in buying stock in Betamax. I might not be 100% correct on that either. Also, there was a Blues Brothers-centered episode, if I recall correctly. Those may have even been the same episode, I don’t remember.

Ody’s Clothiers & Tailors Ad

ODY!!!

Ody and the clothing store sharing his namesake got a mention here before, in this Ghoul article. He advertised for years on WBNX, and indeed, from maybe the late-1990s to, well, when this aired, he was advertising a going out of business sale.

But here, the ad states he’s put all that on hold to have the “sale of a lifetime.” Special savings are touted, as well as a buy-one-suit-full-price-get-another-half-off deal, which in and of itself is a pretty good special saving.

I’m not sure when Ody finally did close up shop, but he was around long enough for me to get my grade school graduation suit from him. That was spring 2001, and it’s kinda wild (for me) to realize I was just starting sophomore year of high school when this ad (and episode) aired. Also, it’s worth mentioning that Ody himself waited on us during our visit, and he was ridiculously nice. Thus, needless to say, I always enjoy seeing old advertising for his shop.

Family Affair Promo

Yes, there was a remake of Family Affair. And no, your eyes don’t deceive you; that’s Dr. Frank-N-Furter (aka, Tim Curry) up above, starring as the new Mr. French. (Gary Cole was also in it.) Despite what the screencap above might suggest, there was no gritty gunplay in it (that I can recall); that was glop of some sort on Mr. French-N-Furter’s shoulder. It wacky!

For those unaware, the original show involved one “Uncle Bill” taking in his orphaned nieces & nephew, who were further looked after by his blustery British butler (alliteration) Mr. French. Despite not being a fan of that original series, I did actually tune into the remake, and just like Do Over, I didn’t think it was bad at all, though also just like Do Over, it didn’t make it beyond the first season.

I’m almost positive the promo here used only clips from the pilot; I seem to remember there was a cast change with the nephew after the debut, though no one is reading this article anymore (ever?) so what does any of this matter anyway?

Elvis #1s CD & Cassette Ad

I own this album. I like this album. I’m an Elvis fan. But that’s not quite why I’m adding this screencap.

Rather it’s because of where we are music-format-wise nowadays. I mean, can you imagine a time when a CD cost $20, plus shipping? And a cassette tape?! 2002 almost seems too late to be pitching cassettes! And at over $20 after shipping! Thas wild, yo.

Anyway, as you may surmise, it’s a television commercial for said album, in which you could order said album over the phone and receive said album in the mail. Thas convenience, yo. The album was a monumental success, even when compared to how much Elvis stuff sells anyway, and today you can find it brand new for a few mere bucks, and even cheaper used. It’s not quite my favorite Elvis compilation; sticking only to the #1 singles, not unlike that then-recent Beatles comp, left out a lot of a lot of great material, but as an overview of his chart-topping career, it’s still a terrific listen.

(For the record, my top favorite Elvis compilation is one from 1984 titled Rocker. At only 12 tracks and focusing solely on 1950s RCA material, rockers naturally, it’s not even remotely comprehensive. BUT, for pure, unadulterated fifties rockin’, it’s hard to beat. I long ago lost count of how many times I’ve listed to it the whole way through.)

Birds of Prey Promo

When I (re)saw this promo for the series premiere of Birds of Prey, it immediately rang a bell, and had you asked me about it beforehand, I probably would have guessed it’s part of the recent spate of comic-based shows that are so much the rage now.

But, I would have been wrong. Like Do Over and Family Affair, Birds of Prey didn’t last past that first season (was the WB not having a good year, or…?), but unlike Do Over and Family Affair, I never watched Birds of Prey and thus couldn’t tell you much else about it.

So, maybe it’s for the best that this is an uber-brief promo for the premiere; basically, you see some chick (I assume one of the titular characters) kick a guy, while the voiceover fills you in on when and where to watch. So, yeah.


And there you have it, the recap for The Ghoul’s presentation of House on Haunted Hill, as it aired buried in the late (well, early) hours of September 2, 2002. Had you read through this entire post (and I’m not convinced that you have), you’d know the Ghoul-history-aspects of the broadcast, but truth be told, that’s not really why this struck my fancy enough to write about.

You see, the best episodes of The Ghoul were like a whirlwind; through the combination of a chopped-up (and mocked-up) movie, host segments and general energetic vibe, staying up and watching one of these on a Friday really felt like an experience. Sure, maybe not every skit hit the target, but it was like a, I don’t know, calliope of wackiness, one that had you almost winded once it was all over. Or something like that.

As I’ve mentioned some 9000 times by this point, that aura was either done away with or cut waaaay back when the show was moved to Sundays, but that’s certainly not evident here; this really, truly does feel like what I so avidly stayed up to watch to every Friday night in the late-1990s (and most of 2000). As such, it’s like discovering an entirely new-to-me episode of a huge part of my childhood – which of course is essentially what it is. Cool winnins!

WBNX TV-55 – The Ghoul’s Airing Of 1982’s Poltergeist (2001)

ghoul 2001 1

You can thank my brother for this post.

Y’see, I’ve got a lot of The Ghoul’s later episodes on WBNX TV-55, which I recorded myself back in the day. Recently, my brother and I were discussing movies, and he started talking about how much he enjoyed the 1982 Steven Spielberg horror opus Poltergeist. Using my incredible powers of memory, I recalled that the only version of the film I’ve ever had was the one aired on The Ghoul so many years prior. Much to my surprise, he was quite stoked by this piece of information, and immediately requested that I dig the tape out and convert the episode to DVD for our viewing enjoyment.

Poltergeist, despite the accolades it has garnered over the years, really isn’t my kind of horror film. Not that I have anything against it, it’s just that when it comes to the genre, I really like horror movies of a more vintage variety, particularly the whackadoodle older stuff. Nevertheless, anytime I have an excuse to dig out an old Ghoul episode (beyond the occasional personal whim, I mean) is just fine by me, so if I had to watch Poltergeist, it might as well be along with Ron Sweed’s legendary late night horror host.

Unfortunately, this proved to be a bit easier said than done. Once the process of actually locating the tape (not always an easy task, though relatively pain-free in this instance) was completed, I discovered that, much to my chagrin, I had recorded the episode on a pretty cheap brand of tape, one that my normative playing/converting/whatever VCR wasn’t exactly fond of. When the tracking issues weren’t punching me in the face, the VCR enjoyed a steady diet freezing up and un-spooling the tape inside the deck on me. This isn’t normative behavior for the machine, though I have, rarely, encountered this malady before with other tapes; usually, switching the reels into a new tape shell cures the problem. Not in this case, because I had the same result. Whatever the problem is/was, it was with the actual tape.

Anyway, when all was said and done, an older Sony VCR played the thing back decently enough for me to get a conversion out of it. But by the time this was all over, I was irritated enough to decide that I was getting a post out of the whole thing no matter how much or how little I had to work with. I have a very unnatural sense of personal ethics, so if this article dissolves into incoherent babbling, that’s why. My pride.

ghoul 2001 2

30 years! Yep, The Ghoul began on Cleveland’s WKBF TV-61 waaaaaay back in 1971. He wasn’t on a continuous 30 years all in a row, nor were the years he was on the air always spent in Cleveland, but nevertheless, 2001 was the big 3-0, so it’s cool to see an episode partaking in that. The screencap above may give the impression that this was specifically a special 30th anniversary episode. It wasn’t. Rather, it was just a quick blurb from the then-current opening credits. I’m not sure if there even was a specific 30th anniversary episode.

I tend to think of this as the “In Mono Where Available” era of The Ghoul, thanks to what you saw as the header of this post; that was the first image of the opening theme, accompanied by the sound effect of sirens blaring. It’s a pretty memorable start, though it belies the sad state of the actual show at the time: this wasn’t just the “In Mono Where Available” era of The Ghoul, this was the Sunday night-era of The Ghoul.

I went into further detail about this here, but a streamlined account of what happened is this: The Ghoul started on WBNX TV-55 in the summer of 1998 in a Friday 11:30 PM time slot, running numerous cheesy (i.e., bad in a good way) horror and sci-fi flicks with the expected humorous audio and video drop-ins, all interspersed with the prerequisite skits and host segments. It was a lot of fun, and I never missed it.

The Ghoul stayed that way until the fall of 2000, when the station moved him to Sunday nights, first at 12 AM and then later at 1 AM (yes, yes, technically that’s Monday morning, I know). For obvious reasons, this was a less desirable time slot, and even worse, The Ghoul’s segments were cut back AND the film selections were changed to a more general range of movies, which meant the audio/video drop-ins were more-or-less eliminated completely, except for select ‘old style’ flicks that were pretty few and far between. It basically destroyed everything that had been building since 1998 in one fell swoop, and naturally The Ghoul was vocal about his displeasure on the air.

The show was later moved to a late, late Friday night/early Saturday time slot sometime in 2002, but the other problems weren’t really fixed, and the show kind of just faded off-the-air that way around 2003/2004.

This 2001 airing of Poltergeist was right smack dab in that “new era” of The Ghoul. In other words, a relatively uncut movie, no drop-ins, etc. It’s a good flick but, for reasons I’ll get to in a bit, a rather disappointing show overall. And the unfortunate fact of the matter is that while the broadcast may not be representative of every episode at the time, it is emblematic of the problems that, as far as I’m concerned, helped eventually destroy the program.

ghoul 2001 3

(You’ve probably noticed by this point the antenna reception issues in these screencaps. That’s because we were using gol’ derned rabbit ears at the time. And the sad fact of the matter is there are infinitely worse examples of this occurrence found on several of my other recordings!)

Because of my inherent problems with the Sunday night time slot (namely, I had school the next day and couldn’t stay up to watch without some serious draggin’ come Monday morning), I naturally wound up taping these episodes. And taping, and taping, and taping. The problem was, it became increasingly hard to find the time to sit down and actually watch them. Eventually, it got to the point where I had boxes of tapes with The Ghoul on them, most of them either unmarked or with a vague “Ghoul” scrawled on the sleeve. It’s kind of the same sort of thing with the DVR nowadays; I’ll have stuff I fully intend to get on tape sit there for months at a time, simply because I can’t find a moment to sit down and watch them. And when I do have time, I’m usually going through thousand-year-old videotapes or writing for my stupid dumb blog.

Around 2011, I made a concerted effort to dig out all of these Ghoul tapes and duly notate them. As far as I can remember, that’s when I first actually discovered he ran Poltergeist, though my mind is playing games with me; maybe this was one of the few I labeled correctly back then. Not that this matters to anyone but me, of course.

Anyway, Poltergeist is one of the better features run during those later years on 55. Not only because it’s such an acclaimed horror film, but also because it actually fits within the genre so widely (and understandably) associated with The Ghoul. Horror and sci-fi, it’s what horror hosts are made of, man! Action movies, comedies, dramas, even animated films were ran during the Sunday-era, and given the loose horror motif of the rest of the show and the general absence of the audio/video drop-ins, well, it made for the occasional awkward broadcast. Trading Places and Cocktail hosted by The Ghoul, they happened and they were strange (and not in a good way).

Luckily, Poltergeist is so good that the lack of drop-ins doesn’t really hurt the movie; people probably would have been angry had they been used, I imagine.

That’s the title screen up above, by the way.

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I think most everyone has seen Poltergeist by this point. It’s one of those horror movies that have wound up pretty much beyond reproach. The whole “They’re heeeere!” quote is even known by people that haven’t seen the film (all 8 of ’em). Generally considered a legitimate classic, it really is one of the more famous films run during that later era of The Ghoul on WBNX. Deliverance is another, though I’d easily take Poltergeist over that one.

I’m tempted to describe Poltergeist as “Coach fights ghosts!” even though that really, really does the movie a disservice (and isn’t all that accurate, either). Starring Craig T. “Hayden Fox” Nelson and JoBeth “Frasier’s girlfriend that one time” Williams (I, of course, am being a cad; both Nelson and Williams are accomplished actors with a ton of great stuff to their credit), Poltergeist, for those that don’t know (again, all 8 of ’em), details a California family beset by problems of a supernatural nature. The end!

Actually, that description also does the movie a disservice. Since the danger of spoilers is even more of an issue here than it usually is with these posts (since, unlike what I usually talk about, people will actually want to watch this one!), let me see how much I can and can’t get away with. Yes, it’s a household under attack by the titular character(s), but it’s quite a bit more than that. In this unfortunate house, weird spooky occurrences start out small, but soon turn deadly dangerous, including a killer tree and the youngest daughter being straight-up kidnapped by the ghostly forces. Building a house over a cemetery usually yields these results, and that’s exactly the reason this all happens here. This is a poor synopsis of the movie, isn’t it? Stop relying on me and just go watch it, already!

Being a PG-rated film, no one should go in expecting a gore-fest, which is fine by me since I don’t go for those kinda flicks anyway. And with this being a big budget Steven Spielberg film (directed by Tobe Hooper, no less), it stands to reason that this is going to be a cut-above the rest, and well, it is. And even with the editing for television (as was especially par for the course with films shown by The Ghoul), it’s an entertaining watch. I dig it!

Even though, as previously stated, this isn’t the kind of horror movie I usually watch, I actually wound up liking what I saw. I can’t promise that I’d ever watch Poltergeist again or in any other format, but at least I now ‘get’ why so many people are so wild about it.

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Unfortunately, for as good as the movie is, The Ghoul segments are the area that turns the overall episode into a disappointment. Simply put, they’re almost non-existent. Granted, the switch from Fridays to Sundays brought a lessening of Ghoul bits, but rarely were they this sparse. Maybe it was done to keep as much of Poltergeist intact as possible, but the bottom line is this barely qualifies as an episode of The Ghoul. Honestly, if it weren’t for the intro, no one would really know what was going on. Usually, for a ‘normal’ episode, I’d pick-and-choose which segments I wanted to spotlight, but in this case, there are so few and the ones that are here are pretty short, I might as well take a quick look at each of them.

There is no introductory segment or skit following the opening theme; the show goes directly into the movie. Indeed, at no point does The Ghoul ever mention the movie, have a mail-reading segment, or even talk to the viewer one-on one as he usually did. Rather, the first we actually see of him in action is during the first commercial break: As per the screencaps above, he’s visiting Fresh Hair at Great Lakes Mall. It’s a short bit, in which he enters the establishment, and smells everyone’s hair to make sure it is indeed “fresh.” Simple, but kinda funny.

Looks like Fresh Hair is still up and running at Great Lakes Mall, too! Thanks, Ghoul…?

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You best believe there was at least one Ghoul-style blow-up in the episode; there almost has to be! It’s practically a prerequisite of the show! In this “installment” (ha!), a little car of some sort is blowed up. The firecracker used is kinda wimpy, and thus the explosion is relatively subdued (though any destruction is always fun, of course). Also, The Ghoul seems to have a hard time finding a working lighter prior to said explosion, which points to the general off-the-cuff, improvised nature of the show (which was always a lot of fun).

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A return to Fresh Hair. In this one, The Ghoul sits down for a trim, which is amusing because, obviously, hey, fright wig, fake beard and mustache. Still, there’s not a whole lot to the bit beyond that, which makes it the weakest of the four (!!!) Ghoul segments in this episode.

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The last bit of the night. The Ghoul is at a carnival/fair/something somewhere, and instead of throwing darts at the normal targets that would usually garner a cheap prize, he is instead wingin’ ’em at Froggy! After a miss or two, he finally hits a bullseye…in Froggy’s “lower extremities!” Funniest moment in the episode!

And…that’s it. Those are the only Ghoul bits of the night.

Actually, I wouldn’t be surprised if all of these bits were taken from older shows, and made up to look like a “new” episode, as that had been done in the past (The Curse, during the Friday night run, is the one I remember most; I was taping that night, but was so disappointed with the result that I wound up taping over it). Even so, the segments presented here are short, random, and not at all representative of the show as it could be (to be fair, even during the Sunday years there were episodes that were more ‘complete’ with mail segments and whatnot, so I’m going to go out on a limb and say it’s all Poltergeist‘s fault).

Nevertheless, it’s not an ideal way to celebrate a 30th anniversary year, is it?

It’s at this point that I usually look at the old commercials aired during a respective broadcast. While the original ads were included on this recording (I never cut them during The Ghoul, or for that matter, 99.9% of my other recordings either), truth be told, there just weren’t any good ones. There’s some okay ads that are a neat blast from the past during the actual viewing, but nothing interesting enough for the purposes of this post. So, the heck with it, I’m skippin’ that feature this time around. It would have just been filler in this case, anyway. Even more so than usual, I mean.

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This is the final image of the episode, show immediately after Poltergeist‘s end credits. No Ghoul outro, nothing. It’s just over. The ending “Runaway Production” card was always a melancholy moment anyway, since you knew The Ghoul was all done for the week, but in this case, it leaves an especially bitter taste in your Northeast Ohio Video Hunter’s mouth. Figuratively, I mean; it’d be kinda weird if it were in a literal sense.

And yet, a part of me is still glad I have this recording. It’s not representative of The Ghoul at his best on WBNX, but still, if I have to watch a movie, I’d rather it be with one of our local late night legends than not. Even in this diminished a form, I still get the old thrill of staying up late and watching a horror/sci-fi flick. The Ghoul may have been buried on Sunday nights and cut waaaay back in every way possible, but yet, some of that old magic still remained. That’s what’s so amazing about our Northeast Ohio horror hosts; you just can’t keep ’em down! It’s a thing of beauty!

Oh, and thanks, Northeast Ohio Video Hunter Brother, for making me convert this to DVD! You gave me the post for this week, and that’s also a thing of beauty!

Front Row Entertainment’s Fantasy Mission Force VHS (1996)

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Unlikely as it may seem, I was super stoked to find this sealed VHS copy of the Jackie Chan film Fantasy Mission Force at the Midway Plaza Goodwill recently. And not because I’m a Fantasy Mission Force megafan, either; lots of people love it (albeit for all the wrong reasons), but I can’t count myself among them. It’s a whacked-out flick, and I probably should enjoy it for the complete insanity that endears it to so many others, but I just don’t. And you can’t make me.

Nor am I an especially big kung fu movie fan. I like some of the Bruce Lee films, and I have a special affinity for The Dragon Lives Again (a nutbar “Brucesploitation” film where “Bruce Lee” dies, goes to the underworld, teams up with Popeye, and fights Dracula. Yes, really), but if I have any kind of kung fu fandom in me, it is only of the most casual variety.

(Anyone who has seen both is probably now wondering why I like a film as oddball as The Dragon Lives Again but don’t like the-also-super-weird Fantasy Mission Force. Search me. Also, while on the subject of weird kung fu, I so wanted to love Bruce Lee Strikes Back From The Grave, but man, aside from that opening intro, dude, screw that. Awesome theatrical poster, though.)

Fantasy Mission Force ostensibly stars Jackie Chan (his role basically amounts to a bit part), is ostensibly set during World War II (cars from the 1970’s show up, and references to Abraham Lincoln, James Bond and Rocky are made), and is ostensibly…well, I don’t really know where I was going with that kinda-gag. It’s a crazy flick, though. (To be fair, all of the inconsistencies are intentional.) It starts off with a bizarre singing-drinking party, then later there’s a Scottish soldier and his ultra-annoying sidekick, a tribe of Amazons, and a sojourn to a haunted house. It’s one “what the hell?” moment after another, and I’m not exaggerating, that reaction is pretty much nonstop throughout the whole thing. Oh, and to top it all off, there’s an obnoxiously catchy theme song that bores itself into your head for 97 years at a time.

Actually, when I describe the movie like that, Fantasy Mission Force does sound pretty awesome. I take back all the awful things I said about it? Nah.

So, if I don’t really like the movie, why get so jazzed upon finding a sealed copy at Goodwill? It’s not even remotely rare, and if all I wanted was a sealed copy, I’m sure they’re found easily enough online. No, only nostalgia could get my adrenaline pumping in regards to a film like Fantasy Mission Force. Here’s the ultimate proof:

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That $2.99 price tag. I know it by heart. The image is burnt into my memory. This sticker is proof-positive that this tape originally came from Best Buy’s fabled (in my mind) $2.99 VHS section. Not only did I dearly love this section, where films of an otherwise-doubtful sales-potential resided (silent shorts, b-westerns, spaghetti westerns, cheesy horror/sci-fi; a lot of crap not unlike Fantasy Mission Force, basically), but that also means that this copy of Fantasy Mission Force is as identical in every aspect as possible to the one I had in the late-1990’s. Where did my original copy go? All will be revealed in due time (settle down, I’ll get there.)

Also, don’t you just love that picture above? Jackie seems to be glaring at the price with so much resentment. “I’m only worth three bucks?!

For a short time in the late-1990’s, I was on a kung fu kick, so when I saw this tape (and having seen no other Chan flick beforehand) in Best Buy’s $2.99 section, I snapped it up right quick. I was already well-acquainted with the section, so it’s not like I didn’t know what could reside there, but that didn’t stop me from happily carrying it to the checkout counter like I’d just found a pot of friggin’ gold. It must’ve been the summer of 1998, because I’m positive I didn’t have this the summer before, and because the clerk asked if I was getting it for my Dad for father’s day. No, nosy checkout guy, this one is [was] mines. Further evidence it was summer of ’98? I had my copy of the film for about a year before it left me.

Where, how and why it went, you’ll soon know. But first, a closer look at the tape itself.

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Front Row Entertainment was a budget outfit, and make no mistake, their Fantasy Mission Force sure looks like a budget tape. You’d never see a major studio putting out something looking like that above. That said, it IS a bit more competent than a lot of cheapo videos. At least as far as the packaging goes. I mean, look at it. The pinks, blues and whites make it look like something akin to an ice cream cone. Do I dare take a bite out of it? It’s an aesthetically pleasing sleeve, even if it doesn’t scream “hot kung fu action!” and completely belies the actual product, which as previously mentioned, is NOT a thing of beauty.

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The back of the sleeve is plain-Jane, but adequate enough. I mean, the description is perfectly serviceable, though the final sentence is a massive understatement. Maybe it’s impossible to properly explain a film like Fantasy Mission Force in the space of one VHS back-cover.

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See, sealed. Did you think I was lying? I wasn’t. I can get an opened copy anywhere, so I refuse to crack the seal of my assuredly-from-Best Buy-and-just-like-the-one-I-used-to-have version.

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No, I didn’t succumb to temptation (ha!) and open it. As fortune would have it, I received a totally random and completely sleeve-less copy in a recent tape lot. Why was it in there? Was it a premonition? I don’t have the answer to those burning questions, and you’d better believe I wasn’t even remotely as excited as I was when I found the Best Buy-sealed copy (seriously, what are the odds of that in this day and age?), but if nothing else, it allows me to show you, the reader, what the actual tape looks like. Exciting, isn’t it? Amount of tape used: approximately a foot. High quality it was/is not.

Okay, the preliminaries are out of the way. Now, the real reason I was so excited to find this: my original copy is the subject of one of my fondest Northeast Ohio horror movie host memories. Behold!

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That is absolutely my original copy in The Ghoul’s hand, during the summer of 1999. The Ghoul had been on WBNX TV-55 for roughly a year at that point, and that year had seen me become a big fan of his. I had also watched my copy of Fantasy Mission Force twice in that year, and I just couldn’t stomach a third. I mean, no kidding, it sucks pretty bad. So, my VHS became the subject of the first package I ever sent The Ghoul. The package also included a “Parma Yo-Yo” (which The Ghoul seemed to like a lot but never did anything with again) and a big “Ghoul Power!” banner, but the Fantasy Mission Force tape was a grand finale of sorts. Being a young, 13-year old Ghoul fan, of course I asked him to blow the thing up.

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Being a man of the people, The Ghoul kindly obliged my request (“ask and you shall receive in Ghoul Power land!”), and trust me, there is no more fitting fate for Fantasy Mission Force than one of The Ghoul’s boom-booms. I really was jumping up and down during this whole segment, and the final fate of my awful movie was totally the topper. You have no idea how much I just loved all this. And while it doesn’t translate as well into still-pictures, this was a seriously satisfying blow-up.

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Those final two images are the last looks I ever had of my beloved Fantasy Mission Force tape. I don’t know what kind of firecracker he used, but man, that thing obliterated the video, as you can well see. It was, and is, a beautiful thing.

Keep in mind, not once have I regretted sending The Ghoul that tape. Oh, there are plenty of tapes I had, later got rid of, and ended up regretting, but this wasn’t one of them. The whole segment has become legendary to me. Fantasy Mission Force may not be good for much else, but it was certainly good for this.

And now I have a sealed copy, just like the one I sent to The Ghoul 15 years ago! Has it really been that long? Sure doesn’t seem like it. Maybe if The Ghoul ever comes back to local TV, I’ll send him this copy, too…

Nah, the chances of me coming across another sealed copy from the long-gone Best Buy $2.99 section are just too slim. The only question remains: where to put the tape? It’s stupid sealed Fantasy Mission Force, after all. It’s gotta go somewhere of semi-honor, doesn’t it?

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It’s got action like Commando, and it’s got comedy like Dan Aykroyd. A fitting combination? Hmmmm…

Christmas & New Year’s with The Ghoul, Son of Ghoul and Big Chuck & Lil’ John (1998/1999)

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There it is. Not the most-heralded of my many late-90’s/early-2000’s tapes, but certainly one of the more-heralded ones. Please ignore my sloppy, 12-year old handwriting (I’ve kinda sorta improved in that area), and while we’re at it, please ignore The Avenger (a 1961 Steve Reeves film) and the vague “TV Land Programs” descriptive line; those recordings are not conducive to our ultimate goal today (indeed, the TV Land stuff was recorded later, in the summer of ’99). Nope, we’re focusing on the ‘big three’ of Northeast Ohio horror hosts today, all on one powerhouse of a tape, all recorded during or around the holiday season of 1998/99, and all part of some serious nostalgia for me.

1997-1999 was probably the time period most responsible for making me, well, me. Not completely, of course; I continued to refine my goofy self (whatever that means) in the years following, but there’s little doubt that some of the things I’m a still a huge, huge fan of first took hold of me in the era this tape hails from. I had discovered Mystery Science Theater 3000 and Son Of Ghoul in ’97, The Ghoul came back to Cleveland TV in ’98, and despite first watching them in ’96, I really started to appreciate Big Chuck & Lil’ John around ’99. Except for the absence of MST3K and the now-head scratching inclusion of The Avenger, the tape seen above is really a pretty great description of your Northeast Ohio Video Hunter’s interests in the late-90’s. Even the old TV Land programming is a sight-for-sore-eyes.

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The lead-off recording was The Ghoul’s first Christmas special of his WBNX TV-55 run. It’s also one of the earliest episodes I have from those WBNX years. I recorded the first couple episodes (which I still have), and a few select later ones (which I don’t), but as it stands, this is one of the earliest to survive. In lieu of any other opening credits or theme music, the specialized “Ghoul’s Christmas Special” title makes it clear that this is a ‘big deal’ in the Ghoul Power world. Also a big deal: according to a quick internet calendar search, this aired on Christmas ’98, a Friday, which was obviously December 25th (at the very tail-end of the day, 11:30 PM, but hey, it counts).

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The Ghoul loved the Christmas season and would go all out to celebrate it, including the special Christmas-themed border and groups of kids in attendance, as seen above. It’s clear he loved the holiday season, and the next year, he would even have, roughly, a month-long celebration, running the 1935 Scrooge as well as Santa Claus In Mother Goose Land (which was actually The Magic Land Of Mother Goose and was, if I recall correctly, only vaguely Christmassy) in addition to the film that was also shown that first year…

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It’s the 1959 Mexican film Santa Claus. A the time, I was only familiar with this movie via what was printed in the Mystery Science Theater 3000 Amazing Colossal Episode Guide, and since it wasn’t listed in Leonard Maltin’s guide nor had I discovered IMDb yet, I had no idea what year it was even released in, which is why, if you scroll back up, you’ll see I have only “Mexican” listed in brackets next to the title on the tape sleeve. I wouldn’t have known even that if the opening credits didn’t mention Mexico.

The Ghoul loved running this movie during Christmastime, and I have four separate Christmas airings of it: this first one from 1998, plus 1999, 2000 and 2001. And for all I know, he ran it again and again during the rest of his WBNX run.

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Truth be told though, I’ve never much cared for the movie. If it weren’t for the fact that it was then a (to me) obscure foreign film, and one that had been MST’d at that, I’m not sure it would have survived all these years, let alone the three other airings I have. Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad I have all of them, the more Ghoul the better, but I’m not as enamored of this flick as others are. In fact, for a movie that’s gained a pretty impressive cult following, I really can’t stand it at all. Oh, I should love it for the incredible weirdness it presents (Santa battling the forces of evil, wind-up mechanical reindeer, Merlin, and a bizarre pair of moving red lips that are the very definition of “terrifying”), but I don’t know, it’s a movie that has always left me cold.

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Not so with the second recording on the tape, which would have aired on Saturday, December 26th. It’s Son of Ghoul’s Christmas special! At the time, SOG was on both Friday and Saturdays, 8-10 PM, so an identical episode would have been aired the day before on Christmas Day as well. It’s interesting that both The Ghoul’s and Son of Ghoul’s shows were/are so different, yet they both really went the extra mile for Christmas.

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Oooh, I’m diggin’ that swanky green border! Unlike usual episodes, SOG read the mail on the main dungeon set, as seen in that left screencap. On the right, the screencap comes from the very close of the show. As you can see, they even had a guy in a reindeer costume, and fake reindeer poop on the floor to go with him/it! Tis the season?

SOG’s annual Christmas show has become one of my favorite ‘extra’ parts of the season. Nowadays he’s only on Saturdays, and every weekend before Christmas, there’s a yearly show dedicated to the holiday. More than once (twice, to be exact, including this year), stuff I’ve sent in has been presented on the Christmas show, and it’s always a nice addition to my holiday season. I was regularly writing SOG by 1998, but nothing of mine was presented during his ’98 special. Considering I never really had anything particularly interesting and/or important to say back then, that was probably for the best.

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It hasn’t been shown for a few years, but Santa Claus Conquers The Martians (see, I told you my UAV tape wasn’t the last you’d see of it this holiday season!) was once a yearly tradition, not unlike SOG’s running of Night Of The Living Dead every Halloween. I like this movie waaaay more than Santa Claus. It’s weird, it’s goofy, it’s idiotic, but all in a good way. Some may argue that the other movie was all of that and more, but the fact remains that Santa Claus Conquers The Martians is my preferred bad movie for the Christmas season. Even the MST3K version was, in my opinion, superior to their take on Santa Claus.

Speaking of the MST3K version, when they riffed the film, their print didn’t include the title card as seen above. Apparently, because of that, many people were unaware that the film circulated/circulates with a title card. which was odd to me, because by the time I saw the MST3K episode, every print of Santa Claus Conquers The Martians I had seen up to that point had a title as you’d expect.

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I first saw this movie when SOG ran it during the Christmas season of 1997, and then right after, I got my copy of the Mystery Science Theater 3000 Amazing Colossal Episode Guide for Christmas 1997, and learned they did the film, too. It’s a pretty weird movie, clearly aimed at the lil’ baby childrens, in which martians kidnap Santa in order liven the martian children up. It includes Pia Zadora (who, contrary to my UAV tape’s description, is not especially precocious – yes, I’m still irritated by that line), and a guy that looks a lot like Jamie Farr but isn’t Jamie Farr (much to my chagrin).

That left screencap above is either the embodiment of the Christmas season, or a truly nightmarish visage, I can’t decide. Maybe it’s both.

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At one point, SOG superimposed himself into the movie, and tried to light Santa’s pipe. I thought that was pretty funny.

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The last (applicable) recording on the tape is the New Years portion referred to in the title. It didn’t air on New Year’s Eve or Day, nearest I can figure is it was broadcast in the first half of January, but nevertheless, this episode of Big Chuck & Lil’ John’s Couch Potato Theater has some pretty strong memories attached to it (not the least of which is the image above, well familiar to me from so many Saturday afternoons).

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Ah, Big Chuck & Lil’ John on their old King Kong set. It was the same set as their usual Friday night Big Chuck & Lil’ John Show, except Couch Potato Theater was always broadcast Saturday afternoon and was called, you know, Couch Potato Theater. Couch Potato Theater was a bit of a wild-card: sometimes a full-length movie would be shown, other times old Three Stooges shorts or episodes of The Abbott And Costello Show, even skits-only if time was an issue (similar to what the revived Big Chuck & Lil’ John Show is now). In this case, though, old silent short comedies were the day’s subject.

My recording of this almost didn’t happen. At the time, I was a big, big fan of silent comedy films (still am, actually, though not quite as fervent), and trying to catch and tape some of them when they were run as unscheduled-between-programming-filler on WAOH/WAX was a common thing with me. Somehow, though, I missed the TV Guide listing for this episode of Couch Potato Theater, in which several old silent comedies were run over the course of the afternoon. To make matters worse, we had to leave soon because my brother had a basketball game. So, I grabbed the only available tape, cued it up after The Avenger, and hit record. Better than nothing, right?

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I began taping in the middle of some Keystone film, the title of which I no longer remember, but was able to capture the entire last subject of the day: Charlie Chaplin’s The Champion, a 1915 Essanay film, which was from the period when Chaplin’s movies started to get really good. From how I understand it, this particular short has been the subject of much editing and whatnot over the years, but the version Big Chuck & LIl’ John ran was the Blackhawk Films print, apparently one of the better ones. Certainly lengthier, if nothing else.

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The Champion, as the name and screenshots kinda sorta show, detail Chaplin’s Little Tramp character becoming a boxer. The subject of boxing is one I’ve always liked (having grown up on the Rocky movies), and the addition of an English Bulldog is always a plus, so yeah, I like this short. I’m sure I have many of them on cheap, public domain DVDs, but I’m not as familiar with Chaplin’s Essanay films as I am with his Mutual work, which I consider my favorite of his.

At the time, I was just then starting to appreciate Big Chuck & Lil’ John, something that would be more fully-realized when I began watching The Abbott And Costello Show on their Saturday afternoon program. Still, I recall having made a habit of at least checking the listing for their Friday night show, so I’m not sure how I missed the listing for these old silents. I can’t remember if I discovered the broadcast while flipping channels or if I came across it that day in TV Guide, but either way, I came in when most of it was over. It was one of those feelings, unfortunately well-familiar to me as a heavy-taper by then, of “Oh man, I’m missing this!” Of course, the follow-up “Well, at least I got some of it” took a bit of the sting away.

(If you go way back to the top and look at the tape’s label, you’ll see that the listing for this is off to the side and not where it should be, right after The Avenger. That’s because, for years, this broadcast was unlisted on the tape. I don’t know if it was due to the haphazard nature of the recording or what, but for whatever reason, I never labeled it properly. Oh sure, I took the time to label “TV Land Programs” later that summer, but Chuck & John got shorted on that front. It wasn’t until 2011 when I was making a concerted effort to label a lot of my tapes that had suffered in obscurity for years that this was duly notarized. It took a bit of searching, I could only remember it was on a tape with a purple Sony tape, but finally I found it, labeled it, and it is now given the proper respect it so deserves.)

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There’s just under an hour of Chuck & John action on the tape, but even so, several skits were captured. My favorite of them (tied with “The Lil’ Flash,” at least) was Cuyahoga Jones, their Indiana Jones parody. This was the first time I had ever seen one of these skits, which were part of a continuing storyline in which Cuyahoga tries to steal the “Kapusta Diamond.” Big Chuck played Cuyahoga, and Lil’ John played Shortstuff. In this one, they tried to earn $20 in order to buy supplies to help them carry the safe containing the diamond out of the castle. Pretty funny stuff!

Believe it or not, there’s a lot of memories tied into this tape, more than I could ever hope to accurately describe in print. The video itself, yeah, I fondly recall all of this stuff from that winter season, but it also brings to mind that general period in my life. All of the things/shows/etc. I was and am into, sure, but also other memories, like going to the mall with my Mom for Christmas shopping, come to mind when thinking of the era this tape comes from. As much as I love the actual recordings, I think those memories are even more important to me. Maybe I’m doing a sloppy job of getting across what I’m trying to say, but hopefully you know what I’m getting at. I’m sure you can all relate in one way or another.

And so, with that, this Christmas post nears an end. I sincerely hope all of you have a fantastic Christmas and New Years. Thank you to all that have taken the time to read this blog, and in some cases, even pass the link around. Have a wonderful holiday season and be safe in the new year.

Stay tuned, more goofy stuff to come!

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The History Of The Ghoul Show On WBNX TV-55, As Told Through Old Promos.

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I’ve mentioned before what a faithful viewer of The Ghoul I was during his run on Northeast Ohio’s WBNX TV-55. For the first two years he was on the network (1998-2000), he was on Friday nights at 11:30 PM, and many, many of my weekends were kicked off by staying up late and catching an awful movie with The Ghoul. In the fall of 2000, his show was moved to Sunday nights at 12 midnight, and then later to 1 AM. With the timeslot switch also came changes in the movies and what The Ghoul could-and-couldn’t do.

I taped and still have many of those Friday night shows, though perhaps ironically, I wound up with even more of the Sunday airings; because I usually had school the next day, staying up and watching was pretty much out of the question. So, I’d set the VCR timer and tape each episode, but I always had a hard time catching up, and thus unmarked tapes would just keep piling up. The result was that up until 2011, I had boxes full of tapes with no knowledge of what was on them other than the vague description of “The Ghoul” (if even that). Starting in ’11, I made a concerted effort to dig out and mark each tape accordingly, and while there may be one or two stray tapes (just when I think I’ve found them all, I come across another), the vast majority are now labeled as they should be. I was constantly discovering “new” episodes, the contents of which were occasionally quite surprising.

Anyone that’s read even a little bit of this blog knows what an old commercial/promo junkie I am. Needless to say, any old spots featuring our local horror movie hosts are waaay up at the top of my “want list” whenever I go searching through new old tapes. In the case of The Ghoul, all of my promos come from my personal tapes. WBNX often (but not always) aired one last promo for the show during the final commercial break of whatever was preceding The Ghoul. Since I always I set the VCR timer to begin recording a few minutes before the show’s start-time, I wound up with a good number of Ghoul promos.

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Not counting spots that mentioned The Ghoul was appearing somewhere locally or commercials for local businesses (the Norton Furniture ads, for example), I have 65 episode promos total, 64 of which I have the actual episodes for (we’ll get to why there’s one missing in a bit). Add to that the extremely large number of episodes I have recorded that didn’t have a corresponding promo on the tape, and well, I’ve got a lot of Ghoul saved. Obviously, unless I wanted to have a 3-day long post, I can only spotlight a very, very small portion of all that. So, let’s check out some old Ghoul promos, ranging from the years 1998 to 2002 (he was on WBNX until 2003, but I don’t have any promos from that year). Not only will they give a glimpe of WBNX’s Ghoul advertising, but they also serve to trace the history of the show on the network.

(I should note that describing the promos in detail or transcribing them would quickly become redundant; typically The Ghoul would act “wacky” while mentioning that week’s movie, and then the title and time would be shown. They’re all pretty much the same in that respect. I’ll mention interesting points if need be, but my comments will ere more on the personal and historical side of things rather than a strict review of the promo itself. Indeed, the larger purpose of this article is to trace The Ghoul’s run on WBNX, which actually works pretty well going by promos, believe it or not.)

Frankenstein Unbound Promo (1998)

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Of all of the promos I have, this is the only one I don’t have the corresponding episode for. I almost never taped anything off of WBNX during The Ghoul years except, you know, The Ghoul (though around 2003, when The Ghoul was winding down and/or completely off-the-air, I did find the need to record many Just Shoot Me reruns off the station. Don’t ask me why). In the summer of 1998, for some reason I decided to tape Gold Of The Samurai off of WBNX. It’s a movie I have zero interest in watching nowadays, but recording it did net me this very early promo for The Ghoul on the channel, so hey, no complaints. Aside from the July 10, 1998 premiere promo (which I covered on, well, this past July 10), this is the earliest promo for the show I have. The Ghoul had only been on WBNX for about a month and a half at that point.

Since I don’t have this episode, it’s hard for me to say much about it, but when The Ghoul first came back, most of his segments were made up of his introducing older bits from his 1970’s & 1980’s runs. Shortly into his WBNX run, he began focusing more on new material, with the older bits being relegated to a “Ghoul’s Vault Of Golden Garbage” segment in each show. Don’t quote me on this, but I *believe* it was around the time of this promo or soon thereafter that The Ghoul began focusing on newly filmed bits and whatnot.

Santa Claus Promo (1999)

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Ah, Christmas time with The Ghoul. The holiday season was always a lot of fun on the show, and The Ghoul always went all-out, especially for his second holiday season on WBNX. Not only did he run Santa Claus for the second year in a row, but in the weeks leading up to this Christmas Eve airing, he also ran Santa Claus In Mother Goose Land, which was actually the Santa Claus-less The Magic Land Of Mother Goose (out of all of my personally recorded tapes, my copy of that episode is the only one to have oxidized, for reasons I don’t understand because the other tapes in the box, including The Ghoul’s airing of the ’89 Phantom of The Opera, were fine. As it stands, I still have the tape, but you get sound without picture, and I learned the hard way it clogs VCR heads right quick. So, what the hell?). The 1935 version of Scrooge was also shown during that ’99 holiday season. So yeah, like I said, The Ghoul went all-out.

Anyway, Santa Claus was a Ghoul favorite. I’ve got a total of four separate Ghoul airings of the movie (1998, 1999, 2000, 2001), perhaps the most of any movie during his WBNX run. The 2000 broadcast was chopped up beyond belief, but I’m fine with that, because while it’s become a cult-classic, frankly I can’t stand this 1959 Mexican film. I should be all for it, seeing as it’s incredibly bizarre and twisted. But, meh, Santa Claus Conquers The Martians was always more my speed, anyway.

Godmonster Of Indian Flats Promo (2000)

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Now we’re talkin’! The Ghoul was responsible for introducing me to some very bizarre, very obscure films I probably wouldn’t have seen otherwise. When this film showed up on his online schedule and I read up on it, I was seriously stoked. However, the reasons for my excitement were only partially due to the “out there” movie. Let me explain: During Thanksgiving 1999, The Ghoul ran Blood Freak, in which drugs turn a guy into a mutated killer turkey. It was a wild film, and I had set the VCR to tape it. Problem was, I had pretty well ran that particular VCR into the ground; sometimes it would record uninterrupted, other times stop recording after a period of time and turn off. Unfortunately, Blood Freak was one of those times when the VCR decided to stop, and needless to say, I was salty. By the time Godmonster Of Indian Flats rolled around, I had gotten a new (albeit somewhat used) VCR from a relative, and while I eventually ran that one into the ground too (some things never change! Just ask the stack of screwed-up VCRs sitting in the same room as I am!), for the time being I was good to go.

Godmonster Of Indian Flats may not have completely taken the sting out of losing Blood Freak, but it certainly satisfied the lingering need for a “what the hell is this?” movie. How so? Well, the film details a mutated sheep fetus going on a rampage. Yes, it’s a film about a monster sheep. The scariest thing? It’s not nearly as awful as it could have been. Well, apparently so, at least; The Ghoul airing was so chopped up that the film was rendered completely incomprehensible. However, there are actually a number of positive/semi-positive reviews on it out there. I’m very, very happy to have this episode saved for posterity, but you know what? I think I still rather have Blood Freak. Like John Mellencamp once sang, I ain’t ever satisfied.

Indestructible Man Promo (2000)

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First off, someone goofed: It’s IndestructIble Man, not IndestructAble Man. Hope no one got canned over this monumental, station-rocking error that’s on par with Janet Jackson flashing everybody at the Superbowl. Anyway, this 1956 Lon Chaney Jr. film is a staple of horror movie shows and public domain VHS and DVD sci-fi sets. Even Mystery Science Theater 3000 tackled it once. But you know, I’ve never really liked the movie at all. It should be a lot of fun, but I’ve always found it deadly dull.

So why give this promo a spotlight? Because, I was actually IN this episode. Dad and I took a trip to the now-gone B-Ware Video in Lakewood for a Ghoul appearance, and we ended up in some crowd shots when this episode aired a few weeks later. So, not anything special, it’s not like I was in a skit or anything, but still pretty cool for a 14 year old Ghoul fan. And no, I’m not posting a screencap of me in the crowd; I don’t think any of us looks good at that age, but I will say I’ve aged for the better.

Trading Places Promo (2000)

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Uh oh, we’re getting into the “Sunday era.” Look at that timeslot, and look at that movie. Not very “Ghoul Power,” is it? Not that there’s anything wrong with Trading Places, it’s a very popular comedy, but geez, it’s about the last thing I think of when I think “Ghoul Movie.” Y’see, when WBNX moved The Ghoul to Sunday nights, they also imposed some very un-Ghoul-like rules. Not only was the timeslot just awful, but the movies changed from the horror & sci-fi flicks to an all-around selection. Those types of films still played now and then, but comedies, dramas, action and adventure movies were also now part of the show. Furthermore, The Ghoul couldn’t add sound effects and whatnot to them. And, to make matters worse, The Ghoul’s segments were cut back. This was probably done to avoid the sometimes incoherent editing of the movies during the Friday shows. Sure, ostensibly people were tuning in for the movie, but Ghoul fans know it was more about the overall experience. Yeah, sometimes it was impossible to follow a film’s plot, but that was really part of the fun. The Ghoul would pack so much iinto each show that a lot of the time it seemed the movie was actually an afterhtought. The Sunday move changed all that. Once in awhile The Ghoul would be allowed to show an old-style film with all of the effects and everything, but those instances were few-and-far-between.

I remember the first Sunday show. The change had been announced almost casually (just the week before, if I recall correctly), and needless to say, I was instantly irritated that my Friday night institution was being disrupted. But, that’s what VCRs were for, right? Unfortunately, after seeing that first Sunday show, any hopes of mine that The Ghoul would be the same other than the night he aired were dashed. The movie was the 1993 kid’s flick Remote, and to rub salt in my wounds, not only were The Ghoul’s bits limited, but the movie had no audio dubs, and to further distract people from the fact that this was The Ghoul, the movie actually had it’s own bumpers like it was just any old weekend airing, something that was not done prior (The Ghoul had bumpers for the overall show, but not the movie specifically). I was completely crushed. The whole vibe that the show had established since starting ’98 was largely wiped away in one fell swoop. The Ghoul was very vocal both on-air and during personal appearances about how displeased he was with the move (at one point during the end credits, a line read “Help! Get us off Sunday nights!”). What made it even harder to take was that when The Ghoul did show up on-screen, he was still very entertaining, but that just made the changes all the more glaring.

In The Army Now Promo (2000)

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Yep, even Pauly Shore made it onto the show in that Sunday era. This promo is pretty funny, because The Ghoul very clearly states how much he hates Pauly Shore movies. Can’t say I blame him, because hey, if you gotta show comedy films, they might as well be good ones, right?

In retrospect, I think (and this is just my guess) that WBNX may have been trying to give The Ghoul a more all-around appeal akin to Big Chuck & Lil’ John. At one point they showed strictly horror & sci-fi films, and then that changed to a general film-selection in the early 90’s. Problem with that was that Chuck & John may have been horror hosts, but they didn’t really dress or act like them. The look of The Ghoul instantly placed him as a bonafide horror host, though, and thus the switch-up didn’t work nearly as smoothly.

Alice In Wonderland Promo (2000)

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Yep, even Disney movies were fair-game for the Sunday era. I mean, geez, Alice In Wonderland?! I wouldn’t watch that on my own, and I sure don’t wanna see it on The Ghoul! And to make matters worse, would you believe this was the Halloween show?! Man, let the guy show something appropriate for the season! The Sword In The Stone was also shown during the Sunday era, for the record.

This promo is pretty funny. The Ghoul starts off stating he’d like to say that week’s episode in 3-D…he’d like to say that, but he can’t. It’s the same old “cheap show!”

Blood For Blood Promo (2001)

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The Ghoul told viewers to call the station and ask to get him off Sunday nights. His displeasure wasn’t exactly secret. I know I did my part (well, Mom called for me, same difference). It didn’t help. Instead, he was pushed back an hour to 1 AM. I couldn’t really stay up and watch him either way, of course. Shortly after being moved to 1 AM, he began calling it the “Breakfast Club.” It wasn’t really an “official” renaming of the show, maybe more of a “making the best out of a bad situation” type deal, but The Ghoul did specifically call it the Breakfast Club during promos and the show.

Furthermore, certain segments were produced with a different set than usual. Brick-walled and with a table and usually a couple other guys from the show (Frank-On-Line, etc.) hanging out. You know, a breakfast club. You’ll see more of it in the next promo, but the screencap on the left above gives you an idea of the set. It was definitely, well, different. Also, while The Ghoul started at 1 AM prior to this episode, this promo makes it sound like this is the first “Breakfast Club” show. it’s hard to tell because of the static during this broadcast’s reception (gotta love rabbit ears). So, Blood For Blood (a Lorenzo Lamas film I have no desire to see) *may* have been the first Breakfast Club-branded Ghoul show.

Mark Of The Vampire Promo (2002)

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This is one of those few-and-far-between shows I was talking about earlier. 1957’s Mark Of The Vampire was given the full Ghoul treatment, and this is mentioned prominently in the promo. In that left screencap you can see the regular Breakfast Club set, and notice that the show is now listed as “Monday at 1 AM,” as opposed to the previous promo’s “Sunday At 1 AM.” Make no mistake, it’s the same late Sunday/early Monday timeslot for both. I certainly don’t recall The Ghoul ever airing late Monday/Early Tuesday, at least.

200th Episode Promo (2002)

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Let’s end this with a promo for one of the coolest shows of The Ghoul’s entire WBNX run, Sunday night or otherwise: The 200th Episode. No, the movie in the episode isn’t called Bicentennial, it simply means it’s The Ghoul’s bicentennial. The reason a movie isn’t listed during the promo is because there is no one specific movie. Rather, the show starts off with How To Make A Monster, and after returning from each commercial break, a different movie is in progress, finally ending with the conclusion of Blood Freak (alright, now I’m *kinda* satisfied). As The Ghoul counts off in this spot, there are a total of eight movies. No, it doesn’t make much sense as a coherent movie, but it’s a cool idea and pretty fun, and overall much more memorable than the 100th episode, The Head.

A some point in later-2002, The Ghoul would actually be moved back to Friday nights, but it was at some verrrry late hour. Even with my being a night owl, I still couldn’t really stay up and watch, not unless I wanted to sleep-in until 3 PM Saturday. Even with the slightly better timeslot, the movie selections/restrictions/etc. remained the same. I know for certain that I have the first back-to-Friday show (Yesterday’s Target), and perhaps I may have a few more episodes I’m just not recalling. But nevertheless, it became so hard to keep up with taping (and never getting around to watching), and all the changes were so disappointing, that at that point I fell away from taping The Ghoul. He wouldn’t be on WBNX all that much longer, leaving the network at some point in 2003. In retrospect, I wish I would have kept up, but oh well.

I have a lot of videotapes, and of the many I personally recorded myself, some of my most treasured are the ones featuring our local movie hosts. Obviously, a large part of that collection is made up of episodes of The Ghoul. It’s easy to complain about some of the changes/restrictions imposed on him later in his WBNX run, but even then, when it comes right down to it, it was an entertaining show. I wish some network would see fit to get The Ghoul back on TV; now that Big Chuck & Lil’ John are back and Son Of Ghoul never left, it would be kinda sorta close to the days of the late-90’s/early-2000’s, when this was the TV that absolutely made up my weekends.

The Ghoul’s WBNX TV-55 Debut 15 Years Ago Today.

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.

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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.

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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!”

WAOH TV-29 in Akron / WAX TV-35 in Cleveland (“The Cat”) stuff.

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In the late-90’s and early-2000’s, one of the most important channels for me was WAOH TV-29 in Akron / WAX TV-35 in Cleveland, better known as “The Cat” (Cleveland-Akron Television, dig?). Both 29 and 35 were the exact same channel, so I’ll simply identify it as The Cat or WAOH. There’s surprisingly little info about the station on the internet, and someone I was talking to once exhibited some interest at the fact I had recorded a number of programs off the station (believe me when I say I taped a lot of stuff).

What made the channel so special to me was the sheer number of ancient movies, old TV shows and local content they played. Granted, the majority of the movies and TV shows weren’t actually owned by WAOH, but was rather syndicated content from the America One Network, but the fact remains that The Cat ran things you weren’t going to find on ANY other channel. And all of the local programming (which naturally had nothing to do with America One) gave The Cat a terrific Northeast Ohio flavor.

Furthermore, despite the A1 affiliation, this was really an honest-to-goodness independent station, something that (unknown to me at the time) was becoming increasingly rare around the U.S., and while there were still some old and/or local programming on other channels (for example, WJW had Big Chuck & Lil’ John, and WBNX brought The Ghoul back in 1998), none reveled in it like WAOH.

I discovered the station in the summer of 1997. It was nothing earth-shaking, I was just flipping channels, when I came across an airing of a hugely battered old print of the original 1930 version of The Blue Angel. No one else was running things like that, not on local TV at least, and from then on, I was hooked.

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Of course, probably the most popular show then (and now) , and certainly my favorite on the channel, was The Son Of Ghoul Show. Like Ghoulardi and The Ghoul before him, Son Of Ghoul ran old movies, inserted humorous sound effects/drop-ins, performed comedy skits, and read viewer mail. As I’ve mentioned before, SOG started on WOAC TV-67 in 1986, and in 1995 he moved to The Cat.

Those screencaps above are from my two earliest SOG Cat promos. The one on the left is a silent still-card promo that ran for 10 seconds, so what you see is what it was. The one on the right features the standard SOG-pitch: He mentions the show and  the awful movies they run. It’s an all-around promo, and SOG did more than a few for The Cat over the years. Most of them say basically the same thing, but I mean, they’re supposed to.

I actually didn’t discover SOG right away. I mean, I saw the promos, sure (The Cat tended to run the same promos a LOT), and I had seen bits and pieces of the show here and there, mostly in passing, but it was Halloween 1997 that I actually sat down and watched the show. I stumbled across an airing of the original Night Of The Living Dead, which I had never seen before. Even with all of the sound effects and jokes (it took me a minute to realize what they were doing, but I immediately loved it), I seriously dug the movie, and I became an instant SOG fan. I even wrote him a bunch of letters, and his reading them on the air was always a thing of great excitement. Of course, I was only like 11/12 years old, so I never had much to actually say (and watching my old tapes, I can’t help but cringe a bit).

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Today, Son Of Ghoul is still running, and I’m still watching. That screencap above is from the latest promo for the show that I’ve seen. I captured it in 2011, but I think it’s been running since 2009, and I know it’s ran several times since 2011. The reason I say 2009 is because that’s when The Cat became an RTV affiliate, and SOG’s timeslot switched to Saturday evenings at 7:00 PM. The promo is, like the one above, a standard SOG pitch: talking about the awful movies, humorous sound clips, and comedy skits, with the exception that SOG mentions the new timeslot “starting in June,” which was when The Cat became RTV (though I still continue to call it The Cat, and always will). Despite the June mention, this is the only promo I’ve seen the station run for SOG relatively lately. Probably because most of the vast majority of content is RTV’s, and they have their own promos and whatnot. But, you do catch some locally-produced promos here and there. I don’t think they run quite as much as they used to, but there were some WAOH-produced spots for RTV shows, which I’ll get to in a bit.

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Speaking of local promos for syndicated content, that sort of thing isn’t new to the station. The screencap on the left is from 1997, the one on the right from 1999. Both are for the western movies that the channel ran every weekday afternoon (and on Saturday afternoons for awhile, and if I recall correctly, occasionally on Sundays, too). Both promos are more or less the same: various scenes from old westerns, while appropriate music plays. In the ’97 spot, it’s “Happy Trails.” The other features “Where Have All The Cowboy’s Gone?”

The afternoon Western flick was actually America One’s “Western Theater,” and I loved it. It’s thanks to these films that I became a fan of  westerns. You didn’t tune into this program to see The Shootist, though; these were all old rickety “B-Westerns”, mostly from the 1930’s and 1940’s. Probably all of them were/are in the public domain. You saw the standards like Roy Rogers, John Wayne’s poverty row films, Hoot Gibson, Ken Maynard, Rex Bell, etc. etc.

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Speaking of films, through America One, The Cat ran a lot of them. This promo is from 1999, and spotlights just how many they play a week. Even back then, the claim of “over 40 films a week” seemed just a bit high to me, but they did play a lot. There was a morning movie that began at 10 or 11 AM, and ran for an hour and a half, the western at 12:30 PM, which also ran for an hour and a half, then the noon movie at 2 PM, which ran for 2 hours. At 8 PM, there was another 2-hour movie. The overnight hours generally featured content from the American Independent Network (AIN), and, if I recall correctly, was two 2-hour films in a row. The weekends were a wildcard. I have a recording of three consecutive westerns from a Saturday afternoon in the late-90’s, but that wasn’t always the case. There could be one, maybe two, or maybe none. Sundays generally had less than that or none altogether, and didn’t necessarily have to be a western (I once taped The Tonto Kid, obviously a western, on a Sunday, but my copies of Goliath And The Vampires and Monster From A Prehistoric Planet, clearly not westerns, also came from Sunday airings).

I don’t know, maybe over 40 films a weeks wasn’t so far off after all.

Most of the films were from America One, but there were a few that the station itself seemed to own itself. Every Halloween, they’d run Night Of The Living Dead, the most scratched up and battered print you’ve ever seen. Since none of the A1 branding was present during these annual airings, I’m guessing the station owned it’s own print. For Christmas Eve, they’d run the 1935 Scrooge and then Beyond Tomorrow back-to-back, commercial-free. I still have a recording of Scrooge, but not Beyond Tomorrow.

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A movie that received some actual promotion was their 1999 airing of the infamous Reefer Madness. I taped it, but later taped over it. I don’t recall if it was an A1 presentation or not. A1 films generally weren’t singled out for promos like this, but I don’t know, maybe they thought there was a specific audience for this? They had various clips on-hand for the promo, and the local announcer that did all of The Cat’s promos did the voiceover here, too. or maybe the clips were provided by A1? Either way, I may not have the actual airing, but at least I managed to capture the original promo.

Sprinkled throughout all of these movies were lots of old TV programs. The early mornings typically had old black and white sitcoms before the morning movie, The Cisco Kid once ran before the afternoon western, and Dobie Gillis followed the 2 PM afternoon movie.

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At one point, there was a fairly big push for the Dobie Gillis reruns (big for The Cat at least). They were all humorous, such as the one above. There were a couple “Dear Maynard” spots, always featuring someone writing in to Maynard ala Dear Abby, and then Maynard’s “advice” (a clip from the show taken out of context, which was really pretty funny since it was essentially a non-sequitur moment). There were also promos playing up Bob Denver’s then-recent arrest for marijuana, Dobie’s father’s strictness, and Dobie’s falling for every girl under the sun.

Dobie ran until about 1999, and since I had grown accustomed to watching the 4:00 PM weekday airings after school, I found myself missing it once it was gone. TV Land ran episodes now and then, and nowadays you can catch it on MeTV, but those old Cat airings probably mean the most to me. Even today, I still really like the show.

Other shows that appeared on The Cat over the years courtesy of America One or other networks:

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For the girl-watchers, there was Babewatch, which was apparently just girls parading around bikinis.

Emergency was, I believe, a cheap Rescue 911 knock-off.

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One Step Beyond I watched a few times, but it never really grabbed me. Sort of a lower-rent version of The Twilight Zone.

While I like old sitcoms, The Adventures Of Ozzie And Harriet was never one of my favorites. WAOH’s promo for it, though, was awesome. This was when V-Chips were first being widely introduced, and the gag was that Ozzie was V-Chip-free TV, but all of the clips had words bleeped out as if there was constant swearing in the show. For example, one was a clip of Harriet saying “I think you’ve got the wrong girl,” but “got” is bleeped out. It was a riot. As you can see from that and the Dobie promos, The Cat often put a lot of humor into their spots.

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Two more I never liked. Bonanza, I know it’s considered a classic, but I’ve always been a Gunsmoke man. Also, The Beverly Hillbillies has always left me cold.

Still, The Cat did a great job of selling these promos, mostly through humor, and if I already didn’t like them, I probably would have tuned in to check them out.

And of course, Enigma Theater With Edward St. Pe’, which I’ve already written about, aired very late Saturday nights/Sunday mornings on WAOH, though it seems very, very few people remember it nowadays.

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I mentioned above the overnight airings being from the American Independent Network. A lot of the same movies as America One were shown, but the print’s weren’t the same. AIN even ran some of genuine “big time” movies once in awhile. Once, they played the original 1939 Stagecoach, which I taped. Despite having never seen the film prior, I could tell huge chunks of the movie were cut out; Stagecoach was just way too disjointed, way more than any film widely considered an American classic would be. I later taped over that airing with a unedited version from AMC, and I kinda wish I hadn’t done that, because in retrospect, film’s of that caliber (i.e. big-time, never-gonna-be-public-domain) weren’t usually shown on The Cat.

This was a fairly minor problem with the daytime programming, but the overnight schedule was notorious (to me, at least) for rarely being correct. It was often a crapshoot whether a scheduled movie would actually be run, or an entirely different film instead. Many times, there was a movie listed that I was seriously stoked for, and I’d set the VCR timer, only to be crushed come the morning when I found out something I had zero interest in was played instead.

Rather, a lot of WAOH’s late night programming was often made up of content from who-knows-where. I mean, nothing ever adult, or actually disturbing, but still, waaaay obscure stuff from the far reaches of the U.S. I haven’t always had the greatest sleep patterns, and I recall sometimes stumbling out of bed and watching The Cat when I couldn’t sleep, and wondering “Where did this come from?” Have you ever heard David Cronenberg’s inspiration for Videodrome? When he was a kid living in Canada, late at night his TV could pick up signals from Buffalo, NY, and he’d worry he’d be able to see something he wasn’t meant to. It was the same sort of thing with late night WAOH.

Of course, at the heart of The Cat was the local programming. Son Of Ghoul, sure, but also a lot of stuff that’s been more or less lost to time. A lot of The Cat’s local programming was simple, live call-in shows, with the host or hosts seated in front of a plain black screen and taking phonecalls. Today, the only show from the old days left besides Son of Ghoul is Steve French Sportstalk and Handy Randy.

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Of boy, two of the dullest shows you could imagine. Back Talk was exactly that, chiropractic talk. And Senior Talk? Well, that was what it sounds like, too. Back Talk I don’t recall running very long, but Senior Talk ran for a number of years, at least until 2006. It may have been a casualty of the 2009 switch to RTV, I don’t know.

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Dining Out With Steve ran for a looong time. I believe it did last until the 2009 switch. Basically, you could call in, talk about local restaurants, and even get gift certificates.

The Hunting And Fishing Show ran for a number of years, and in the summer of 2011 they even tried bringing it back, but it didn’t last very long. There were promos for it, and I think I have a few that aired during SOG, but I haven’t put any on the PC.

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Big Al was very short-lived. It was essentially people performing in a karaoke bar, and hosted by the show’s namesake. I only caught one episode, which featured a bizarre Elvis impersonator that admittedly did sound a lot like The King, but didn’t look much like him at all (despite Al’s constant insisting the guy was “so real it’s scary!” or something to that effect).

I don’t know when Steve French started hosting his WAOH show, but it’s still on, and apparently still pretty popular. I even tried calling in a few weeks back, but I didn’t get through, which is probably a good thing, since I’m by no means a sports expert and the last thing I need is to make an idiot of myself on local TV.

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While on the subject of the local call-in shows, SOG hosted a live game show from about 2001 to 2004 or so. Unfortunately, this promo is all I have as far as original recordings go (I did buy some DVDs from SOG himself at the last Ghoulardifest convention). Son of Ghoul’s House Of Fun & Games ran at a time when I actually couldn’t watch The Cat. Y’see, the station was so low power that we couldn’t pick it up with the rabbit ears dad decided to use to save money. I wouldn’t even have this promo except I went to grandma’s house one afternoon to tape a movie I particularly wanted back in 2001.

So, that’s my “golden age” of WAOH/WAX, roughly 1997-2001. Like I’ve mentioned, they became an RTV (Retro Television) affiliate in the summer of 2009. Since Son Of Ghoul survived the switch, I was generally okay with it, though I missed some of the old movies or other assorted America One content. Still, RTV was pretty cool. A lot like old school TV Land. A line-up shift in the summer of 2011 took away most of my favorite programs, though there are still a few shows I like, and Wolfman Mac’s Chiller Drive-In on Saturday nights and Off Beat Cinema on Sunday nights is pretty awesome.

To end this post (aka massive article), here’s a few screencaps from locally produced promos for RTV content, which harkens back to the late-90’s era I so findly recall. All of the modern promos are simply scenes/music taken from the opening credits of the respective series, with appropriate logos and voiceover. Unfortunately, no promos for Airwolf or Quincy, M.E. were ever made, and RTV no longer runs them, much to my chagrin.

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Neither of these are run anymore. Knight Rider is legit awesome, and I don’t mind The A-Team in small doses. Knight Rider in particular I really miss.

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You’d better believe Magnum, P.I. gets two screencaps. Of all the shows that left the RTV schedule in the summer of 2011, this is the one I miss most. I’ve mentioned before what I big fan of the show I am, and while I’ve got the DVDs, it’s still nice to see Magnum being actually aired on TV, even if the broadcasts were a loooong way from DVD quality. As of this writing, no one, at least not in my area, is playing the show, and THAT, my friends, is major uncool.

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Highway To Heaven is still being aired on RTV, but Starsky & Hutch is not. I don’t like either show. Starsky & Hutch, in particular, is a show I want to like, I should like, but I really, really don’t like. It’s just never done anything for me.

So, there’s my long, long overview of WAOH TV-29/WAX TV-35. There’s more I could talk about, but man, this post is a beast as it is. It’s not what it used to be, but I’m glad the station is still around, and that they’re still supporting Son of Ghoul. As of this writing, I’m not too big on RTV’s programming line-up (aside from Wolfman Mac & Off Beat Cinema), but if RTV keeps WAOH/WAX alive, I’m all for it.

Better to have some semblance of The Cat than none at all, right?