getting spooky. And it all began with Helena Blavatsky and her spiritualist movement, then assumed a distinct identity within popular American culture…
Art Chantry (firstname.lastname@example.org):
What do the Cramps, Gwar, Alice Cooper, Marilyn Manson, Blackstone the Magician, David Copperfield, penn & Teller, Criss Angel,( roger corman, john waters, ray dennis steckler, william castle, herschel gordon lewis, goth, garage, rockabilly, stephen king, rob zombie, elvira, vampira, ghoulardi, zacharley, wolfman jack, forrest j. ackerman,) Rocky Horror, halloween haunted houses and most of punk rock all have in common?
Spook shows were a phenomenon that emerged (strangely) out of Mdm. Blavatsky’s spiritualist movement, vaudeville magic and mesmerism (hypnotism), carnival side shows and (interestingly) television. The heyday of the spook show was that period of time when TV was new and was deeply cutting into movie theater profits. It was the period when movie houses started peculiar and bizarre technical advances like todd a-o vision, cinerama, 70 mm, family drive-in theaters and 3D to attempt to drag in the audiences for an ‘experience’ rather than a movie or sitcom at home.
On the other end of the audience spectrum, the postwar teenager culture was still in it’s infancy. In fact, the whole concept of that strange period of time between childhood and adulthood that we now call a ‘teenager’ had just sort of been invented by american marketing geniuses. Prior to then, you went from childhood directly into “young adulthood”. It’s like you went from short pants to long pants without ever trying on blue jeans. Suddenly, as if out of nowhere, teens has their own music, their own cars, their own fashions, their own language – everything. It was a huge new demographic created by ad madmen simply to create new market and new product to suck money out of.
The movie industry went after them directly. soon those ‘family’ drive-ins catered almost exclusively to the teen market. Kids went there not for the movies but for… well, you know. the walk-in theaters developed a whole slew of ideas to drag in kids with their newly disposable income. The ‘midnite movie’ developed out of this market that needed to be catered to. Along with the vast array of low budget b-movies made on the cheap to sell to near broke theater chains – the more sensational, the better.
At the same time, horror movies, fed by the new hungry near 24hr broadcast cycles and the new packaging of re-issued classic horror movies (frankenstien, dracula, the works) by universal. Combime that with the nuclear fears and the new flying saucers from outer space fad, well, it was a perfect breeding grounds for monster hysteria.
Out of this mess there emerged a slew of enterprising old school show biz hustlers that maybe (maybe not) used to find work on vaudeville as 3rd string magicians. They had names like ‘dr. zomb,’ or ‘dr. silkini’, or ‘rajah raboid’, or ‘ray-mond’, or even ‘francisco’ and ‘ali baba’. They began to hustle live stage shows conducted almost exclusively at midnight after the screening of a giant atomic bug movie or teenage werewolf flick.
It was sold with sensational and cheezy efforts – hearses parked on the sidewalk (with coffins inside), big bold banners, mondo showcard ads, fright insurance policies, skeletons in the ticket booth,the works. The performances usually were conducted by the master of ceremonies, (like “dr, ogre”, for instance) in full scary fright makeup and always seemed to have a beautiful scantily clad female assistant.