To me, as a kid, Saturday afternoon was a sacred time. I spent each Saturday from 1pm until 6pm watching Superhost Marty Sullivan show old horror and sci-fi movies from Cleveland, OH. In fact, I dare say it was a more religious experience to me than my Sunday mornings at church!
As such, I have a great fondness for Horror Hosts and the Creature Feature programs they hosted. According to what I read, they were the result of packages of old B-Grade Horror Movies being sold to small and independent stations back in the day to pretty much act as filler content during lulls in programming. The problem was that these movies were all of odd lengths, and generally needed to be fit evenly with commercials into 2-3 hour blocks. So, they created Horror Hosts like Vampira (the first horror host was actually a Host-ess!) to fill in the gaps or occasionally narrate around edits for time when things needed to be shortened.
This evolution was chronicled in the documentary American Scary, which you can watch in full here:
Each Horror Host had their own schtick and style, and there were a lot of them! Superhost was the one I actually watched on a regular basis because of his fondness for Japanese Giant Monster Movies, but I did occasionally watch Sir Graves Ghastly from Detroit if there was something he was showing I thought it was worth staying up for.
Most Hosts did extra comedy skits, and many of them became very famous local celebrities, often appearing at special events and doing charity work.
Oddly enough, Cleveland (which is right across Lake Erie from my own city of London, ON) was a hotbed for Horror Hosts, and the producer of one of the most famous- Ghoulardi. Ghoulardi was way before my time (1963-1966) but was so influential and popular that there’s even a convention in his honor held every year which attracts many fans of the genre. There was also an Emmy award-winning documentary made about him called Turn Blue, which you can also watch on Youtube…
Sadly, Horror Hosts seem to have been a uniquely American phenomenon (here’s a list of the Top 12), with the only non-American host I’ve been able to find being one in Australia. I tried to find examples of Canadian ones, but we don’t seem to have had any true ones. (I have heard there might have been one in Montreal, though.) They’re a cultural artifact which has mostly passed into history, as there are only a tiny handful of them left, mostly on local public access TV channels in the US. I’ve also heard there are a few modern Horror Hosts doing their thing on Youtube, but haven’t found any yet.
I’m not sure why they interest me so, I guess it’s just nostalgia as I get older. They’re an artifact of my childhood that I wasn’t aware was different while I was growing up, but are gone now that I’m old enough to appreciate them. Yeah, there’s Rifttracks and MST3K, but it’s not the same. I guess you just had to be there! 🙂
A few sites with more information: