WARNING: There are chills and thrills ahead, and if you've not yet read this little column you are STRONGLY advised to stop reading this introduction, and move on to the actual column itself - start right where it says "News Update", and read all the way down. Do it now - don't worry, I'll wait for you!

Ah, you're back. Either you've just read this little piece or you remember it from October '99. This may be my favorite Halloween column to date, though I shall do my best to top it this year.

That past Summer had seen the release of "The Haunting", "The Blair Witch Project" and "The Sixth Sense". The first had been long anticipated, and was a disappointment. The other two, however, were complete surprises, and were both very, very good.

That Summer was also notable for another reason. Mom had returned to the South Bay to manage Book Again, giving brother Mike the opportunity to pursue a long time dream of his - to go live in Oregon for a while.

Mike's departure, coupled with the appearance of so many notable horror flicks, led directly to 1999's Halloween column. A Holiday "trick" for our readers, and one that I had a lot of fun with. I decided that, much as movie goers had experienced the aforementioned trio of films, Mike would pay a visit to a similar trio of "houses".

Now, I'd long wanted to do a real Halloween potpourri, and decided to pretty much pull out all the stops for this one. Therefore, in addition to my little tale, I came up with Top Ten lists for Halloween novels, short stories, films, and even TV moments. The result is one of the longest columns ever, so I'll stop yakking and let you get to it, if you've not already done so.

As to my "little tale", I was hoping to provide a brief, momentary chill, at best - a bit of harmless Halloween fun.

Instead, this column turned into Book Again's "War of the Worlds"!

Within days, the calls began pouring in, asking if we'd heard anything yet from poor Mike.

hee hee hee . . .

News Update

This was to have been our usual Halloween column. As many of you know, it's my favorite season, and one particularly suited for folkloric musings of the most deliciously sinister variety.

Sadly, we at Book Again have been rather distracted lately, and as so many of you have inquired as to the sudden departure of my brother Mike, we feel it's time to fill you in on what we've been able to discover. As you know, he was headed for Oregon, and then -

Well, the facts as we know them are brief, and are as follows:

Some time in August, 1999, Mike Nolte disappeared without a trace.

One month later, this email was found . . .


Dear Mom,

Hi! Hope all is well with you and the store. I've finally found a place here in Oregon. It's great! I'll have to have you up sometime soon. I've already started decorating - I found this quaint little odds & ends shop, and found a lot of things that I think will really make my place "homey". I've already bought one piece. I'm not sure what it's for, but it's clearly meant to hang on a wall, and it caught my eye just because it looked so - well, so real, for lack of a better word. It's hard to describe it, but it's a great example of what I think some people would consider early American "Kitsch". I asked the store's owner about it, and he told me it was hand made - a one of a kind rarity.

So it was that I immediately bought . . .

The Rare Kitsch Object


At any rate, it's hanging in my kitchen right now and - now what was that? Excuse me, Mom, I'll be right back. I just heard some sort of noise coming from the kitchen.

Ok, I'm back! Funny thing, it was that object I was just telling you about. It had fallen. Fortunately, it seems to be ok.

Now where was I?

Oh, you were asking about my house hunting. Man, I'm glad that ordeal's over! The first place I looked at seemed great at first. I'd seen a lot of ads for it, and someone had clearly put a lot of money into it, and I couldn't wait to have a look.

The outside was great, a lot of stonework and greenery, etc. I fell in love immediately!

As a matter of fact, it looked a lot like a house I'd remembered seeing many years ago, only this one seemed more colorful.

Unfortunately, the inside of the place just didn't measure up to my expectations, and oddly enough I found myself laughing at the most inappropriate moments. I was disappointed, but moved on.

The next place I actually found over the internet. I don't think they placed any print ads at all. I met the owner at the place, and it turned out he was planning to sell it, and didn't know if the new owner would want to keep it as a rental or not. He was very proud, though - I guess he'd built the house for a ridiculously low amount of money (35 thousand, I think), but by placing clever ads in cyberspace he had received offers already for more than ten times that amount! It was a cute place, small, but with character. (The owner also warned me that there were a lot of dizzying twists and turns inside, and people with vertigo or motion sickness would probably not want to rent it.)

Anyway, I didn't know if that place was going to stay on the market or not, so I moved on. The next house I found quite by accident. They'd just put it on the market without any advance notice. It looked pretty neat, and I met the landlady in front of the place. She'd brought along her nutty kid who kept mumbling things about "seeing dead people", and his mom told me she could only show me the house if I promised not to reveal what the inside looked like to anyone.

"Let them see for themselves," she smiled, a Disney-like gleam in her eye. "They'll be back, again . . . and again . . ."

Well, the whole thing was a little too creepy, so I hightailed it out of there as fast as I could.

Anyway - now what was that? Sorry, another noise. I'll be right back.

I'm back now. It's weird, but I could swear I hung my Kitsch Object on the same wall as before, but when I just checked the kitchen it was hanging on the opposite wall. Very strange.

Anyway, Mom, I should wrap this up. It's gotten awfully cold in here the last few minutes, so I've got to check the -

Now what was that?

Hang on a second, I'll be right ba

Joe's Lists of Terror
A small sampling of Halloween delights by Joe Nolte

Welcome back, heh heh heh . . . I trust you enjoyed our little Halloween "trick"!

So you're hungry for more, eh? Well, the Spirits seem to have returned to their otherworldly digs for the moment - perhaps they will return, perhaps not. At any rate, we can certainly steer you in suitable directions for your eerie edification.

There is, after all, nothing so spookily sweet as to curl up on a late October evening with a terrifying little tale, a monstrous little movie, etc. We all have our favorite Halloween stories - here are a few of mine . . .

Ten Great Halloween Novels

After all, what could be better than curling up on a cold Halloween night with a fiendishly frightening book, slowly immersing oneself in a world of shivers until every little noise seems preternaturally loud, and the little hairs on the back of your neck stand upright, and you seriously begin to question whether or not you really want to turn that next page . . .

That being said, I should point out that the natural form of the horror story is the short story, not the novel. Of course, in our own time many writers, Stephen King and Anne Rice most notably, have made the modern horror novel something of an institution, but this is a relatively recent development.

For this list I decided to ignore the obvious, assuming you're all pretty much familiar with the existence of books such as Shelly's Frankenstein, Stoker's Dracula, Stevenson's Dr. Jekyll, etc. Additionally, I decided to allow only one appearance by any author - otherwise, you'd undoubtedly see about four books each by the aforementioned King and Rice.

Here are ten novels perfect for your own solitary Witching Hour . . .


1. The Turn of the Screw - Henry James, 1898

So, naturally, I'm fudging a little with the first selection - this one is short enough to be perhaps properly considered a novella at best. Nevertheless, a chilling tale of possession with ominous undercurrents of depravity, subtle enough to evade the censors of the day and quietly terrible in a manner not duplicated until 1959's "The Haunting of Hill House". (Ironically, film versions of both tales appeared within a year and a half of each other in the early sixties, as "The Innocents" and "The Haunting", respectively.)

Just pray that no loud noise goes off as you're finishing the final page . . .


2. The Hound of the Baskervilles - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, 1902

Not actually a real ghost story, per se, yet this comeback vehicle for Sherlock Holmes possesses all the necessary ingredients of a classic supernatural tale: the foggy moor, an ancient legend, spectral howling in the dead of night - what more could one ask for? Indeed, as the next two selections will show, some of my favorite terror tales ultimately conclude with no actual ghost in evidence, the perpetrations having been laid at decidedly mortal feet.

Conan Doyle had killed Sherlock off in the 1890's, and was determined not to bring him back. The clamor for more was so great, however, that he decided to have it both ways, and produced this novel, set some time before the master detective's untimely end. "Hound" was such a hit, however, that Doyle bowed to the inevitable, inventing a plausible way to resurrect Sherlock Holmes from his seeming watery grave, and began a new series of Holmes stories that continued for twenty more years!


3. The Red Lamp - Mary Roberts Rhinehart, 1925

Rhinehart is also author of a lovely little tale called "The Bat", which was written around the same time as this one. "The Bat" was filmed at least three times, is one of the classic "old dark house" thrillers, and was in part the inspiration for a certain Caped Crusader that made his debut in the comic pages in 1939.

This one, as with most of her work, is a mystery, set in a house in which the surviving inhabitants (naturally, the tale starts with a murder) are troubled by repeated sightings of a mysterious Woman in White. As I recall, all the spectral nuances turn out to be of decidedly human origin, but before we get to the final pages there are thrills and chills aplenty.


4. Too Many Ghosts - Paul Gallico, 1959

Another ghostly mystery. Gallico is best remembered as a writer for film, and as the author of "The Poseidon Adventure". It is perhaps less known that he also authored a little tale called "Thomasina", the basis for the successful Disney film "The Three Lives of Thomasina", as well as this sadly unknown masterpiece.

The hero of "Too Many Ghosts" is a Paranormal Detective, specializing in Ghost Busting. In this haunting and delightful little book there are spooks galore, from a nun without a face to a harp that plays on its own, and of course the whole thing is set in an Old English Manor with an eccentric cast of guests.

This was obviously intended to be one of a series, but Gallico's detective regrettably made at most one or two more appearances. Pity.


5. The Haunting of Hill House - Shirley Jackson, 1959

We now come to the masterpiece of all ghostly novels. (The more astute of you have undoubtedly already noticed that these lists are chronological in nature.)

Whether or not the Great American Novel will ever be written, or has been, it is safe to say that "The Haunting of Hill House" is the Great Haunted House Novel. An extraordinary work - if you for some reason have neglected to read it, you should log off right now and go find the thing! Then, turn off all the lights except what you absolutely need to read, make sure you're quite alone, and begin.

On second thought, that's not such a good idea.

Actually, you'd better invite a lot of people, play some music, and have every light on the house on! I shudder to consider your fate if you dared to venture into this eerie story alone . . . in the cold . . . in the dark . . . when no one can hear you . . .


6. Something Wicked This Way Comes - Ray Bradbury, 1962

Unlike his later "Halloween Tree", which was intended for a younger audience and is more instructful than frightening, this is the great Ray Bradbury's paean to Halloween. He returns to the semi-autobiographical Small Town from "Dandelion Wine", to tell us what happened the year Halloween came a bit early.

Forget about the movie - the book's the thing here. A classic tale of a Dark Carnival, reeking with grim atmosphere and horrific revelation. A masterful work by the Master at the height of his powers.


7. Blackbeard's Ghost - Ben Stahl, 1965

Another novel remade as a Disney movie. Disney bought the rights to this tale (by a guy who actually ended up better known as an artist) almost instantaneously, then unfortunately proceeded to throw out the plot and turn the eventual film into a sort of Flubber meets Blackbeard shtick. That film was the last one Walt was personally involved with, and indeed as he looked out of his window from St. Joseph's Hospital in Burbank to his studio, as he breathed his last, "Blackbeard's Ghost" was in production.

Pity the book hadn't been written ten years earlier. The novel itself is a joy, a sort of modern (by mid-sixties standards) Hardy Boys mystery with a real ghost. This is the one book intended for younger folks I've chosen to include, and there's a reason. The actual book, though little known and less read, is worth seeking out. I myself read it shortly after publication, and was initially delighted to learn that Disney planned a cinematic adaptation.


The movie isn't exactly terrible, per se, it's just that it carries about a 20th of the impact the original tale does. I have to believe that, had Walt lived, the eventual product might well have stayed a tad closer to its origin.

If you're a Young Person, go find it and read it. If you're Otherwise, pretend you're a kid again and check it out.


8. Hell House - Richard Matheson, 1971

Having just dealt with the younger set, I hasten at the outset to assert in no uncertain terms that the great and legendary Richard Matheson's "Hell House" is most decidedly NOT for kids!

If you realize at the outset that we're dealing with a Haunted House not so loosely based on that Italian mansion once home to Aleister Crowley's demonic orgies, you'll realize why I say this.

Now, I'm as much of a fan of gratuitous sex and violence as the next unholy wretch, but this book would be a chiller were it edited down to 1950's prime time material!

Matheson is Legend (and a few of you will get that little pun), having written classic short stories and novels in the Horror vein, as well as being a principal contributor to the Twilight Zone series. (Which is what Ray Bradbury was supposed to have been - I may or may not divulge the reason that didn't happen later.)

To return to the book, this is one of the archetypal Haunted House tales of all time, and the film, which I believe did not make my Ten Best list, is nonetheless very much worth viewing.

Just so you know, Bad Things happen . . .


9. The Shining - Stephen King, 1977

King had the audacity to quote lines from the greatest of all House Archetypes, Shirley Jackson's "The Haunting of Hill House", in this novel. Audacious but allowed, as Stephen King has singlehandedly come to define Horror in our age (challenged only by a certain New Orleans native we're about to meet!). You cannot read "Salem's Lot" without getting up at some point to close the drapes over any nearby window, in fact, it is difficult to read any of this Modern Master's works without pausing to make sure the locks are secure.

I truly believe King is a modern Poe, and though cast in less than utmost regard by contemporary critics (in part due to his unparalleled success) is nonetheless destined to be glorified and consigned to English classes everywhere some hundred years hence, as a Master of American Prose in the 20th Century.

Whether or not that little prediction holds up, I of course will not be around. It is immaterial - as I said, I would probably have included at least three or four of his novels on this list were I not bound by my own restrictions. Since I am bound to choose only one, I choose this: "The Shining". A glorious Haunted House (hotel, actually) novel that reeks of History and Dark Doings, an extraordinary chiller that bears only a passing semblance to the film Kubrick subsequently created.

Now, I love the Stanley Kubrick film, though King, for obvious reasons, not the least of which is the fact that Kubrick completely bastardized the plot at relatively crucial moments, does not. The film is an entirely different entity. You cannot read the book and expect the film to even remotely correspond, and therefore you cannot see the film and read the book expecting a novelization.

The two are most assuredly not peas in a pod.

King has given me many a nightmare for over twenty years. This book alone sends shivers down my spine at its very mention.

No TV & no beer make Homer go crazy.


10. The Witching Hour - Anne Rice, 1990

So just when we settled comfortably into the notion that Stephen King was the official Horrormeister without peer of the Century, along comes Anne Rice to mess it all up.

"Interview With the Vampire" was a cult novel for many years before it began spawning innumerable (and uniformly great) sequels, as well as a lovely film (and where is the "Lestat" film, I might ask?). Rice has created a genre breadbasket akin in the Scare market only to King's, and her fame rests mostly on the Vampire Chronicles. Which are good. Read them all.

I, however, have a particular fondness for those wondrous Mayfair Witches. Reading any of those books is to understand what L'Engle's "A Wrinkle in Time" would have been had it been written as a Gothic Horror. This may never make sense to many of you, but I bet a dollar to donuts ol' Anne will immediately catch my drift . . .

Essentially, the Witch series (still going strong) introduces us to a myriad cast of characters that are mostly decadent, frequently Dead, and in general otherworldly. We meet witches and ghosts aplenty, and learn more about the dark underside of New Orleans' Old French Quarter than we expected to.
We typically soon begin wishing we were part of the family.

The stuff is almost akin to Tolkien, in that it arouses a hitherto unknown yearning to be a part of a hitherto unknown world.

It is also Classic Horror.

The first, being our introduction, may as well serve as the Best.

"Witching Hour" was unexpected when it came out, and has spawned a series as delightful (at least) as the Vampire series. You know Halloween not who live your lives without this book.

Well, that's it for the novels. It's time to traipse deeper into our lurid literary dungeon, and hearken to the Horrible Heart of the matter: the Short Story . .

Ten Great Halloween Short Stories

1. Guests From Gibbett Island - Washington Irving, 1855

Now, we all know Irving as the spinner of a couple of decidedly more well known tales: that paean to Old Dutch Ghosts known as "Rip Van Winkle", and that monumentally archetypal American Ghost Classic, "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow".

But you've already read those two, haven't you? And Shame on you if not!
Assuming you're already well acquainted with the exploits of the spectral crew of Henry Hudson, and a certain headless German horseman, I offer this as a delight perhaps as yet untasted.

Essentially, the last thing one wishes to encounter in one's own home would be a trio of old comrades one had recently seen dangling from The Rope.
Arguably one of Irving's most chilling concoctions.


2. The Monkey's Paw - W. W. Jacobs, 1902

This is a must - I first heard this tale in the dark of night, as a fire burned, from my Dad, who told it to me and my equally entranced siblings (he would also introduce me to Ray Bradbury the same way), as we sat transfixed in the dark, fascinated and increasingly unwilling to go to bed . . .

One of the great archetypal Ghost Stories - be careful what you wish . . .


3. The Hound - H. P. Lovecraft, 1924

Lovecraft is of course considered one of the great Horror fiction legends. That being said, many if not most of his tales venture perhaps a bit too much into the realm of the Fantastic to offer anything akin to genuine Chills to a modern audience.

"The Hound" is a bit different. No Ancient Gods from the Dawn of Time here - only a grim, eerie excursion into a graveyard-ridden netherworld, and an ending that I assure you will afford you many a sleepless night - heh heh heh . . .


4. Footsteps Invisible - Robert Arthur, 1940

Robert Arthur is, in my humble opinion, one of the greatest purveyors of Weird Fiction the 20th Century produced. Amazingly, he is relatively unknown.

Among other things, he did a lot of ghost writing for Alfred Hitchcock in the sixties, including editorial duties for a great series of Horror Collections for young readers. He also produced several brilliant short fantasy stories, occasionally delving into the grimmer, more spectral side of things, as in this one.

"Footsteps" may actually have been made into a radio drama, and if not, it should have been. You'll understand once you've read it.


5. Homecoming - Ray Bradbury, 1946

As with our other categories, an author is allowed one and only one entry. Which is something of a challenge when one comes to the Master, Ray Bradbury. The obvious choice (and a great tale) would have probably been "The October Game", which is about a nice little Halloween party - and is gruesome enough to compel me to state that it is decidedly not for the wee ones.

"Homecoming" was part of a trilogy of short stories Ray wrote early in his career. I for one wish he'd done more, but we can be grateful at least for what we have.

This trilogy concerns a rather odd family, where uncles are most likely to sport bat-like wings, and cousins have a definite preference for the taste of blood . . .

Remember, this is nearly 20 years before the advent of the Munsters and the Addams Family!

At any rate, this particular tale, which revolves around the "black sheep" of the family, i.e. a young boy who actually sleeps at night and can't even fly, is not only rich in dark Halloween-type atmosphere, but is quite moving, as well. It will stay with you a long time.


6. Ghost Hunt - H. R. Wakefield, 1948

Here's a story that is actually told in the guise of a radio broadcast transcript. Which makes it my pick for possibly the all time best story to read aloud on Halloween night. It's a classic Haunted House story, and be careful under what circumstances you allow yourself to read this one, as you may find yourself bolting upright from an unremembered slumber in the dead of night screaming "To the river! To the river!"


7. Jimmy Takes Vanishing Lessons - Walter R. Brooks, 1950

I would be remiss in my duties if I did not allow at least one tale designed for Young Readers to sneak its way in here. This one is one of my favorites, not really scary, but heart warming and lots of fun, nonetheless. Additionally, it's got the ghost, the haunted house, and the opening pages wherein Jimmy first makes his way to the front of his grandfather's long forgotten mansion are beautifully descriptive, and gave me quite a chill as a young Joe.


8. The Lovely House - Shirley Jackson, 1950

Jackson is of course the celebrated author of both "The Haunting of Hill House", which has yet to be equaled as the definitive haunted house novel, and the possibly more famous short story "The Lottery". She was an absolute master of incredible subtlety, of quiet horror and chills that would sneak up on the unwary reader so quietly that one would often wonder why exactly the room temperature had just dropped so . . .

This is probably her best story ever. It's a little long, but well worth it. It is arguably the most subtle of her pieces, and indeed after finishing it you may well feel compelled to backtrack a bit, to attempt to ascertain exactly how she suddenly tipped the world on its axis, and how this quiet little tale suddenly went so horribly Wrong . . .


9. The House of Balfother - William Croft Dickinson, 1963

I give the publication date as 1963, mainly because I can find no other. Nevertheless, this story seems older by far, and as 1963 is the year Dickinson died, I surmise this was written earlier, though perhaps undeservedly unpublished till his death.

There is an old castle in the north of Great Britain. It's called Glamis Castle, and is rumored to be the place where Macbeth slew Duncan. It was also the birthplace of the Queen Mother. At any rate, it's one of the most haunted spots in England, and has many a legend connected to it.

Chief among these legends is the tale of the Great Secret, which remains unknown to the rest of the world, but has always been passed on father to son, to each new Earl of Glamis upon his entrance into adulthood.

It is said that more than one future Earl's hair turned immediately white upon receipt of the dreaded knowledge.

There have, of course, been various tales alluding to the roots of this Secret. Some say there is a secret room in the castle, which is occupied either by the rotting skeletons of unlucky neighbors of Glamis who were walled in many centuries ago, or by the eternal shade of a Glamis ancestor, doomed to play cards with the devil for eternity.

The most common theory holds that, hundreds of years ago, there was an Earl who was born hideously deformed, yet lived for centuries. This version was the basis of an early 50's 3D movie called "The Maze", which I quite enjoy and recommend. It's also the very loose basis for this tale . . . Robbie Norrie canna die, Robbie Norrie willnae die . . .

Heh heh heh . . .

(I should mention that no less than Rod Serling also explored the Glamis legends, producing a tale that deals more with the skeleton angle. Unfortunately, he wrote it just too late to make a Twillight Zone out of it, which is a great pity.)


10. Pumpkin Head - Al Sarrantonio, 1982

A relatively modern author, a relatively recent story. It's a nice little story, all about a class of children preparing for Halloween.

What could happen?

In retrospect, one should be a bit cautious before inviting the shy little kid to your Halloween party . . .

Ten Great Halloween Movies

You knew I'd get to movies eventually! How could I not - what better way (other than perhaps reading an ancient supernatural tome) to spend this most chilling of seasons than with an appropriately horrifying film? There are many such films, of course, and if you gather ten people in a room chances are you'll end up with ten completely different Top Ten lists.

Here's mine . . .


1. The Canterville Ghost (May 1944)

The original Oscar Wilde story, on which this film was relatively loosely based, was a candidate for inclusion in the fiction lists. However, as great as it is, and it is indeed great, it was a bit heavy on the mirth, and somewhat light on terror.

Of course, this film is essentially a comedy, with the irreplaceable Charles Laughton as the Ghost. However, the opening montage is quite eerie, and indeed my initial viewing of same as a child is my first memory of hiding my eyes in the theater!

A delightful, mostly fun but occasionally spooky film - plus you get to see Robert (Father Knows Best) Young play boogie woogie on the piano. (Given the year it was produced, it's almost a given that the time frame was updated to World War II England.)


2. The House on Haunted Hill (January 1959)

William Castle had to be represented, of course - and no film is a more worthy epitaph than this. It's arguably the first of the Vincent Price tongue-mostly-in-cheek sixties Camp Horror classics, and those lucky enough to see it in its initial theatrical release got to experience "Emergo" - basically a skeleton on wires flying out into the audience at the appropriate moment.

Great 50's noir character actors, a decidedly modern Frank Lloyd Wright style house, acid baths and bodies galore - it's incredibly Camp, as all Castle productions were, but a scream or three is positively assured. Watch it with the lights out.


3. Black Sunday (February 1961)

I had to include at least one truly horrible grim dark gruesome film in this list - what could I choose but this? The great Italian horrormeister Mario Bava produced this epic in '61, and it was not allowed into the U.S. for at least five years!


Oh, you know, the usual - rotting corpses, eyeless sockets, decay, hideous torture, etc.

Quite a fun little flick, and awfully awful considering it's in black and white. Forget about "Psycho" - this one'll kill you. (Put the young ones to bed first, though!)


4. The Haunting (September 1963)

Yes - the classic supernatural film of all time. I've written about this one in previous columns, and this is the only work that made both Top Ten Novel as well as Top Ten Film.

You must have seen this by now - if not, just do it. It's great, it's got Russ ("Tom Thumb", Twin Peaks) Tamblyn, it's got effects Disney would promptly steal for the Haunted Mansion, and at the end, even as you're avoiding every shadow, you're not sure why you're so ill at ease.

I mean, you didn't actually see anything, did you?

Did you?


5. Comedy of Terrors (December 1963)

For me, there is nothing so quintessentially Halloween as a good mid-sixties Horror Comedy. This is the first of two I've chosen, and I feel a bit bad that, this being the only AIP film to make the list, I didn't opt for a Roger Corman work instead.

So, let me expiate my guilt thus: Corman rocks, you should immediately go and see "The Raven", the 1960 "Little Shop of Horrors", "Bucket of Blood", and all the rest.


"Comedy of Terrors" was one of the few AIP's not directed by Corman, but I absolutely have to choose this one, for the following reasons:

A. Vincent Price
B. Boris Karloff
C. Peter Lorre
D. Basil Rathbone

Yes, dear friends, these four archetypal timeless masters did indeed share silver screen time with each other in this one film, and only this one film.
Price and Lorre are delightful foils for each other as undertakers, Karloff plays a wickedly senile grandfather, and Basil (Sherlock Holmes) Rathbone simply won't stay dead . . .

What better way to delight one's senses on Halloween night?


6. The Ghost and Mr. Chicken (May 1966)

Well, I suppose a Don Knotts comedy from 1966 with the great Vic (Addams Family) Mizzy supplying not only the very Addams-esque score but actually playing the haunted organ comes pretty darn close!

Nothing earth-shaking here, folks, just a silly little flick with Don, the least brave man in the Free World, running into a Haunted House. It's played for laughs, it's generally a lot less heavy than some of the other entries on this list, but it's good fun, with lots of delightful Haunted Atmosphere.

Oh, as you may have suspected, all the ghosts are pretty much unmasked by the end of the film.

That is, almost all . . .


7. The Changeling (Spring 1980)

With the sad passing of the great George C. Scott recently, I would have had to include this lesser known gem under any circumstances.

The fact is, I'd have done so anyway. By turns grim and gentle, this Scott film gets positively bone chilling at times! You'll never look at a wheelchair the same way again, and as for getting into a bath - forget it!

I have to believe that the plot was at least somewhat inspired by the legend of The Chimes (remember that column?). Very creepy.


8. Poltergeist (June 1982)

Yeah, I know, it's Spielberg, and a bit obvious, but you've gotta admit this film is a lot of fun. This is the closest thing to a definitive post-"Haunting" house flick we've yet to see, the effects are great, and there are genuinely scary moments throughout.

You left the bodies, didn't you?


9. Nightmare Before Christmas (October 1993)

Yeah, I know, it's Disney, and a bit obvious, but as Tim Burton has yet to make a mediocre film, and has paid homage repeatedly to the Horror genre, his inclusion was a given.

Especially a given was the inclusion of this delightful trip to a little place called Halloween Town. One would be hard pressed to come up with a more definitive Halloween flick suitable for the entire family! (Great songs, too.)


10. The Sixth Sense (August 1999)

Yep, I'm one of those suckers who have already made this film, out a scant couple of months, into one of the twenty biggest cinematic blockbusters of all time.

Don't want to say too much about it, because if you haven't seen it yet you are better off knowing as little as possible.

And once you've seen it, you'll have to see it again. I guarantee it.

"I see dead people."


You'll have noticed that I've left out all the obvious choices, assuming you must be familiar with them. In any case, "Frankenstein", "Dracula", "The Mummy", "The Invisible Man", "The Phantom of the Opera" (the Chaney original), "The Hunchback of Notre Dame" (ditto), "The Werewolf of London" and "The Wolf Man" are all perfect Halloween fare, as are most of the sequels.

And there are even one or two non-Universal pictures that fill the bill . . .

Now it's time to turn from the large screen to the small, to give you a very eclectic and personal journey into what I consider to be . . .

Ten Great Halloween Television Moments

1. Alfred Hithcock Presents: "Banquo's Chair" (May 3, 1959)

May as well begin with Hitch. Again, only one entry allowed per show, which wasn't too difficult in this case as the Hitchcock series rarely dabbled in the actual supernatural.

When they did, though, man oh man - chills-ville!

This one is actually not technically about a real ghost, at all - or is it?


2. Twilight Zone: "Long Distance Call" (March 3, 1961)

There are several candidates for the spookiest Twilight Zone episode, among them "The Grave", which features Lee Marvin in a new rendition of an old Urban Legend, and "Mr. Garrity and the Graves", which features a cast of - no, I'd better not say. Don't want to ruin it.

"Long Distance Call", however, is special to me. I remember when it aired. All too bloody well, as a matter of fact.

It's a nice little story about a boy, his grandmother, and a toy telephone.

I distinctly remember running out of the room screaming in mortal terror.


3. Boris Karloff's Thriller: "Masquerade" (October 30, 1961)

As the original air date suggests, this was deliberately produced as a Halloween Episode, and it's worth the price of admission just to see a pre-"Bewitched" Elizabeth Montgomery trading barbs with Tom Poston and John Carradine!

A young couple gets stranded in a storm (sounds original, doesn't it?), and find themselves in front of a creepy looking place that looks very much like the Psycho House (and, actually, probably was).

Nothing too ominous, yet - except for all those rumors about Vampire sightings . . .

Great show, quite funny for a "Thriller", and a cool little ending.


4. (Unknown local show) (October 1963)

Here's one you'll never see - I remember it well to this day, however, and include it, well, because it remains one of my own most memorable Halloween TV moments.

The cool thing about television in the early sixties (this was a month before the JFK assassination, when the world was still Innocent), is that the independent channels were truly independent. You never knew what kind of strange thing was going to pop up.

On Saturday mornings in October of 1963, this strange little show aired that was on the surface nothing more than a showing of old cartoons, sandwiched by what could best be described as an ongoing commercial for one of the top Costume makers of the era. Essentially, a group of kids led by presumably a representative for the sponsor find themselves lost in a cave, with nowhere to go but down and deeper . . .

Eerie, low budget things kept happening to them, and they descended further into the abyss week after week.

For some stupid reason I missed the last show, and to this day I wonder . . . what did they find there?

And after all, what captures the essence of Halloween better than the Unknown, the Great forever Unsolvable Mystery?

I am going to find that thing one day. I'll let you know how it turned out!


5. The Ghostbreakers (pilot) (Summer 1967)

Here's another one you'll never see, which is a real shame. In the Summer of '67 one of the local L.A. network stations (I believe it was ABC, but it could have been CBS) began airing a little Monday night thing devoted to Pilots. Pilots, as you know, are initial offerings of a proposed TV series. The cast is assembled, they get presumably the best script they can, they dash the thing off and hope for the best. The result is what is shown to the Network Bosses, and what determines whether or not the series is picked up.

Most pilots, of course, never make it. The station in question thought it would be a real kick to show some of these "lost pilots" that summer. One of them was this - "The Ghostbreakers". It had a theme by none other that John Williams, who was still going by the name of "Johnny" and was best known at the time for his "Lost in Space" theme.

Oh, what a show! The premise was that a team of detectives existed who specialized in the Supernatural (shades of "Too Many Ghosts"), and this pilot dealt with a recently dead millionaire named Ramson, who owned a large (also dead) dog.

Naturally, the appearances of the supposed ghosts of Ramson and pet seemed suspicious, and our daring detectives proceeded to unravel what turned out to be a mystery of decidedly human origin. Mostly.

One of the most chilling moments for me was when they came across the skeleton of the late puppy, seconds after hearing it howl!

The most chilling moment, though, was the ending. I hesitate to reveal it, because I am fairly certain the thing exists out here in Hollywood somewhere, and can be Had. If so, I'll get it, and let you know how you can, too.

If, however, there is sufficient interest in an immediate spoiler, let me know and I'll divulge what I can remember in a future column.

Come to think of it, I believe there's a certain Book Store Web Master who was involved in the TV industry back then (still is, actually, and he's free to edit this part out if I'm revealing State Secrets here!) - Hmmmm . . .

At any rate, for the next two months all I or my brother John (brother Mike may have been in the loop as well) had to do to keep the other one up all night was to wait until it all got very quiet, and then, in the cold and dark of night, to whisper, softly, just once . . .


note from 2003: I have finally uncovered a bit more information on this. The exact broadcast date of "The Ghostbreakers" was September 8, 1967, and it was actually on NBC. I even found a cast listing - it's here:


I'll keep you all updated as I learn more . . .


6. Seymour's Fright Night (early 1970's)

Yeah, I know Vampira was the first, and I know all about the great legends from other parts of the country such as Zacherly, etc.

The Horror Host phenomenon owes its true popularity to Universal, who in the late fifties offered to television, for the first time, a package of their classic monster movies ("Frankenstein" and all the other ones I mentioned earlier) under the title "Chiller Theater".

Local stations across the nation jumped at the thing, quickly putting together their own shows to present these classics in an appropriately Chilling (and often humorous) manner. Ghost Hosts became legends, wacky mad doctors and fake vampires vamping and hamming it up and in general winning the hearts of young horror fans.

You see, kids growing up in the post-Atomic age had never seen the original monsters. To suddenly see them all, week after week, ignited a Pop Revolution second perhaps only to Beatlemania (though presumably a word could be said for Batman, I suppose). By 1961 Aurora Models had produced plastic make-it-yourself model kits of Frankenstein and Dracula, and when stores couldn't keep them in stock the rest of the ghoulish gang soon followed, and indeed by the fall of 1964 one prominent journalist noted that " . . .this year's toy catalog looks like a mausoleum!"

Monster Mania was everywhere, thanks to Chiller Theater.

(As an aside, those horror afficianados out there who are planning to be in the L.A. area are strongly encouraged to visit the mansion of Forrest J. Ackerman. The founder of "Famous Monsters of Filmland", he also coined the term "Sci Fi" and has the most amazing collection of Fantasy, Science Fiction and Horror you'll ever see. And you can - approximately twice a month he welcomes visitors. Anyone interested is free to inquire for more info.)

At any rate, we in L.A. had a rather simple version called "Chiller", which was basically just a dripping logo with an eerie echoing voice saying various appropriately eerie things. There were other shows, but my memory has been overtaxed doing this crazy list thing and has Gone South for the Winter.
Enter the early seventies, and Larry Vincent. He ends up on a similar show for one of the local stations, and to his chagrin realizes that their collection of horror films is mostly really, really bad.

So Vincent adopts the name "Seymour", borrows a lot of the comedic shticks from the legendary horror humorists of past years, and takes it one step further. Not content to rail about how stupid the film is during breaks, he proceeds to jump in while the film is in progress.

Yes, that is where Elvira's thing originates!

Anyway, Seymour was a hit, very very funny, and it was a sad day when he died (cancer, I think) in the mid seventies.

My last Seymour memory: I brought flowers to St. Joseph's Hospital (sound familiar?) in Burbank, and was fortunate enough to be allowed to bring them to his bedside. He lay there, asleep, as still as death, and it was tragic to see someone so animated, who had brought so much good natured ghoulish joy to his demented fans, in such a state.

I looked out the hospital window, realizing this was approximately the same view the dying Walt Disney would have had, nearly a decade earlier, while "Blackbeard's Ghost" was going into production . . .

So long, Seymour - we still miss you.


7. Tales from the Dark Side: "Trick or Treat" (October 22, 1983)

"Tales from the Dark Side" was a short lived syndicated series, and if you run across it (as it tends to turn up on the odd station from time to time) it's frequently well worth catching.

Before the series, though, there was the inevitable Pilot.

This pilot was deemed cool enough to air nearly a year before the series really got off the ground, and I myself have deemed it good enough to include here.
Essentially a happy little haunted half hour concerning a Scrooge-like miser who, shall we say, gets his Just Desserts one especially eerie Halloween Night . . .

Happily, said miser's one joy in life was scaring people, so we're treated to lots of Amusement Park style horror effects. Quite fun.


8. The New Twilight Zone: "Gramma" (Feb 14, 1986)

The "New Twilight Zone" was quite extraordinary for its first few months, before producer Harlan Ellison bolted following an argument over the Christmas episode late in '85.

That being said, one of my favorite episodes has to be this, aired months after Harlan's departure. The story is by Stephen King, and knowing that you need only to also be informed that the plot concerns a little boy who is left alone on a dark and stormy night to look after his grandmother.

Who promptly dies.


9. Amazing Stories: "Go to the Head of the Class" (November 21, 1986)

Someone once summed up "Amazing Stories" as . . ."They Weren't." ("Amazing", that is.)

In spite of that possibly unfair assertion, the show had its moments, most notably this special hour long episode, featuring a weird professor who arguably become even more eccentric after death . . .

Also, any show that opens and closes with scenes from "House on Haunted Hill" has just gotta be cool.


10. The Simpsons: "Treehouse of Horror #10" (COMING THIS MONTH!)

Really, any one of the existing nine Simpsons Halloween specials could easily have found its way onto this list. These delightful spectral satires have in the past parodied everything from the Twilight Zone to Rocky & Bullwinkle to the Devil & Daniel Webster to Copolla's Dracula to Poe and the Monkey's Paw and . . . well, you get the idea.

You know Groening was watching Chiller Theater back in Those Days!

Anyway, I choose the upcoming episode (don't know the airdate, but it's coming up as you read this), because it's the only one I've yet to see!

And it's just gotta be cool . . .

There you have it, and how else to end this look at favorite Halloween moments than with a moment yet to be experienced. Just remember, my friends, as you turn on the tube . . .

I'll be right there with you - in Spirit . . . heh heh heh . . .

In conclusion, I'd like to -

Now what was that sound? Sounded like it came from the kitchen -

But no one's in there.

Hmmmm - hang on a second, I'll be right ba-