The frightening figure you see on the right is John Zacherle AKA The Cool Ghoul (born 1918) one, if not the most, famous of the late night television horror hosts. Zacherle started his career as a stage actor in the early 50's after being discharged from the army after World War II. He eventually began appearing in small bit rolls in television westerns and when Universal Studios announced that it was releasing its classic & b grade horror films of the 30's and 40's for broadcast, which the studio had labeled Shock Theatre, Zacherle auditioned to be the wacky host for the movies on WCAU in Philadelphia.
Quoting from his official website...
Shock Theatre debuted in September of 1957 with Zach appearing as Roland, a crazy character who lived in a crypt. Charlie Vanda, the president of WCAU came up with the name and as Zach is quick to point out, the accent was on the second syllable -- Ro-LAND. Roland had an assistant named Igor, and his wife lived in a coffin. The wife was referred to as "my dear" and occasionally Roland would make her day with a well-placed thrust of a wooden stake. (The stake was actually driven into a bucket of dirt). Other times he would join her in the coffin while watching the evening's film with the audience. Another character was Gasport, Roland's son who hung formlessly from the wall in a burlap bag and moaned...
Roland opened each program by walking down the staircase and then reciting some little bits of info in a ghoulish voice. People who were regular Roland followers have said that Zacherle's performance at WCAU was usually more gory than broadcasts on WABC or WOR. For example, he would occasionally carry a basket down the stairs with him and reveal to the viewers that it contained a severed head complete dripping blood, which was actually, chocolate syrup.
...Originally, the program was aired in the 11:15 late night movie slot on Monday and Tuesday. However, the show was popular not only among adults but among children as well. Therefore, the program was moved to Friday and Saturday and Roland's popularity increased in leaps and bounds. At one point, there were in excess of 800 Roland Fan clubs in Philadelphia and kids could be spotted all over the city wearing large black buttons that said "Roland" or "l like Igor." Zach was even the subject of a feature article in the August 16, 1958, issue of Saturday Evening Post called "T.V.'s Midnight Madness."
... One of the more famous incidents at WCAU was the open house held at the studio, so that, all of Roland's fans could meet their hero. The executives at the station expected 1200-1300 people but realized that as many as 2,000 might show up. In actuality, 14,000 people showed up, stopping traffic throughout Philadelphia and damaging the WCAU facility. Needless to say, WCAU executives vowed to never hold another!"
Well to make a long story short, Zacherley, as he was then known after he left WCAU and went on to work as horror host at WABC, did it all. He appeared in a movie in 1957, recorded crazy horror themed records where he half-sang half-recited the lyrics, wrote introductions for a series of ghost story paperbacks, ran for President (though not seriously), was a radio host... I could go on but I think you get the picture.
The poem featured on this track is called "Happy Halloween" and it's taken from a Halloween various artists CD produced by Rob Zombie and was released by his Zombie A G0-Go Records called Halloween Hootenanny. Zach does two recitations on the album and even teams up with the group Southern Culture On The Skids for a wacky tune called "Sinister Purpose."
The spooky reggae track that the Cool Ghoul is riding is by Keith Hudson's studio band The Chuckles and its called "Darkest Night Version." It comes from the 2004 Trojan double CD set called The Hudson Affair which features music originally recorded and released in the 70's. Sadly, not much is written about the Chuckles so I can't give you any real information about who was in the group but the track speaks for itself. It's the perfect combination of title and sound - it just sound sinister.
So before I spend the rest of the afternoon writing this post I'll just give you the link...
Check back tomorrow for one last treat before the ghosts and goblins come out to play.