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Shock Theater Horror Host Dr. Ghoulman Rises Again!

img565Texas “Shock Theater” Host – Dr. Ghoulman, rises once more!

One of the most unusual and wonderful things happened to us Daves at the last Horrorhound Weekend in Ohio. It started  that opening night while we were perusing the main convention hall, ogling the unique items that the dealers had for sale while dodging fellow guests – many dressed as blood-soaked killers. Somehow, in the midst of all this pandemonium, my eyes focused on our dear friend, J.D. Feigelson. Feigelson, as our readers should at this time be well-versed, is the talented writer of one of my absolute FAVORITE films – DARK NIGHT OF THE SCARCROW.  Now if you’re new to this site, and haven’t caught the numerous posts we’ve done both on Feigelson or that movie gem, we urge you to go back and do so. Feigelson was, and always will be, one of the nicest celebrities out there and one we are proud to also call “friend.” As before, he was all smiles and a genuine pleasure to talk to. This time, however, that signature smile appeared to have maniacal overtones as, unbeknownst to us, he was harboring a bit of a surprise…

img_4441With J.D. Feigelson

Feigelson dug in a box behind him and pulled out a manilla envelope with my name on it. “I noticed you like horror hosts,” he grinned. “This is for you.” We both looked at him puzzled and I was about to open its contents when he said, “No, go look at it when you get back to your room and we can discuss it tomorrow.” The main hall was packed with people and quite warm, so we grabbed him some cold water along with promising that we’d return to see him the next day. As the night  wore on we met Tippi Hedren, Julie Adams, Gunnar Hansen, and many others before finally dragging our tired feet back to our room for some much needed “refreshments” of our own.

While going through the contents of my shoulder bag, I spied the envelope given to us earlier which, by this time, seemed like weeks ago. Intrigued, I immediately emptied its contents having no idea what I’d find. Inside were old B&W stills of a strange looking “ghoul” who was unmistakeably a Horror Host. Along with the photos (courtesy of Clyde R. Davis) was a DVD and a letter explaining that the shots were taken of a Host named Dr. Ghoulman.

daves-shockpackage-02Terror Daves “induct” The Universal Shock Package to Horror Host Hall of Fame 2012

When The Universal Shock Theater package of films arrived at the Pt. Arthur, Texas station of KPAC-TV in the late 1950’s, they (like many other stations across the country) decided to have them presented by a host. In this case, the host was one Dr. Ghoulman who would make his public debut in October of 1958.  Ghoulman’s “Shock Theater” would air for only about a year but would make a noticeable impact on the locals nonetheless.  “The show was a huge success in Beaumont, Pt. Arthur, & Orange Texas markets,” said Feigelson. “It cleared all the streets on Saturday nights as the neighborhood kids were all inside watching it.”

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Dr. Ghoulman was played by Fred Mills who, at that time, was a Senior Drama Major at Lamar University in Beaumont, Texas. Feigelson states that “his stunts and persona were so good, they are still fondly remembered today.” I wrongfully assumed that Feigelson was one of the many fans out there, like ourselves, who grew up loving a horror host and that this was his way of showing us who that character was. It would turn out, however, that his connection ran much deeper. Feigelson was also working at KPAC-TV at the time and was not only an assistant to Mills, but also responsible for helping to create some of his sinister props! This would be the first professional job Feigelson had and begs the question of how many other names in the horror world got their starts working with horror hosts?

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Upon leaving Horrorhound, that’s actually what I thought this blog post was going to be….”J.D. Feigelson’s connection to Horror Hosting.” We went back the next day and thanked him and, after settling back home, I started looking online for more information on Dr. Ghoulman but to no avail. I contacted noted host historians Michael Monahan (Producer of AMERICAN SCARY and author of “Shock it to Me“) as well as George Chastain of EGOR’S CHAMBER OF HORROR HOSTS but neither had heard of him. I also checked the book, “Television Horror Movie Hosts” by Elena M. Watson and no listing for Dr. Ghoulman could be found there either. I suddenly realized that this host, while still remembered by some of the seasoned locals, had somehow escaped national attention.

Unfortunately, this is not all that unusual. VCR’s and home recording devices certainly weren’t around during those “Shock Theater” days and it was common practice for stations to tape over their programs soon after airing them.  In this vein, horror host historians are not unlike archaeologists;  blindly chipping away at random rocks in some remote desert with the hopes of stumbling across an old TV listing or evidence that a local host had existed. Walking into a convention hall and having something like this simply handed to you was virtually unheard of.

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Of course we Daves are NOT horror host historians and made sure that copies of all these materials were sent to the right people to ensure that they be properly archived. We also encourage any old viewers of KPAC-TV who have memories of Dr. Ghoulman to contact us and share them with us. This will help ensure that Fred Mills and the character that captivated a young audience in 1958-1959 is never allowed to disappear again.

We can’t thank J.D. Feigelson enough for trusting us with this find and for also allowing us the privilege of sharing it with all of you.  As for the DVD I mentioned earlier, believe it or not, that would reveal yet ANOTHER unknown Texas horror host who also has a connection to J.D. Feigelson. THAT story, coming soon!

Special thanks to J.D. Feigelson for his generosity in sharing this incredible find! Also, to Clyde R. Davis for the priceless photos!

Dave Fuentes~

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23 responses

  1. Nick Nichols

    Used to watch this at my Grandma’s house in Port Arthur in the 1960’s. Scared the crap out of me. What great memories.

    January 13, 2013 at 11:16 pm

    • Nick I can’t tell you how happy we are to hear from you. We have been desperately hoping someone with a good memory would write in. I forwarded your message to JD Feigelson and he was tickled pink! If you have any specific show memories PLEASE share them! They are, thus far, the only fan ones we have.

      January 15, 2013 at 9:18 pm

  2. Doris

    Dr. Ghoulman was a recent facebook discussion among three of us who graduated Nederland High School in 1965. Great memories of watching that show with friends and family.

    February 3, 2013 at 3:45 pm

    • Thank you, Doris! If you or any of your friends have specific fan memories of that show, PLEASE send them to us. Yours and the previous message are the ONLY record we have for this performer and your insights would give many an idea of what his show was like.

      February 5, 2013 at 7:55 pm

  3. Robin

    Was there a horror host in Beaumont in the mid to late 60’s

    March 9, 2013 at 11:39 pm

    • In 1964 they had a brief host named Professor Headstone but I have no idea if there were any in the late 60’s. Thanks for your question!

      March 10, 2013 at 8:08 pm

  4. Geraldo

    Wow! I was just a kid.. but I remember him his show was the talk of school and neighborhood. Beaumont ,Tx. Millard Elementary.

    April 4, 2013 at 10:38 am

    • It is really great to hear from people like you know that have memories of Dr. Ghoulman! Thank you SO much for sharing them!

      April 4, 2013 at 7:13 pm

      • Geraldo

        Dave, I can’t Thank you enough for the memories. I’ve sent this to my old friends which were so pleased and surprised. Again Thank You!

        April 5, 2013 at 8:44 am

  5. Jack K.

    Been searching every once in a while for the past few years for this. Saw ‘SHOCK’ when I was about 7 and never forgot it! Scared me to death!!! Thx for posting.

    May 14, 2013 at 8:46 am

    • And thank YOU for taking the time to write. Every time someone does I forward the message to JD Feigelson and it makes him very happy! Also, in the next issue of Scary Monsters Magazine (#88) these articles and photos will be printed!

      May 14, 2013 at 7:21 pm

  6. David Hooker

    Dave,

    I cannot express to you the amazement and joy I felt when, flipping through the latest issue of Scary Monsters at a bookstore, I came across the articles on Dr. Ghoulman by You and JD Feigelson!

    I had long seen articles on various Shock Theatre hosts and hoped that someday the Good Doctor would get his due. And now, thanks to you, he has!

    I live in Beaumont, TX, and grew up here. I have a slight acquaintance with JD Feigelson, having met him at a number of local film and writing conferences, and I have always enjoyed talking with him. Anyway, our local Shock Theatre exercised a profound influence on my whole aesthetic! I now teach English and humanities at Lamar Institute of Technology here in Beaumont.

    I was 12 years old, that wonderful age, when Shock! (KPAC-TV dropped the “Theatre”) premiered on Saturday night, Oct. 4, 1958, with a broadcast of the 1932 Frankenstein. The way JD described the opening was right on targt: the grungy shoes descending the staircase, the figure of Dr. Ghoulman receding away down a dark corridor toward a lighted doorway. Whoever arranged the music was a genius! Not only did the show open with the low opening chords of Stravinsky’s Firebird, but a few bars later, the wailing theme from Miklos Rosza’s Spellbound score mixed in over the top! It was a beautiful, haunting combination and set just the right tone and atmosphere! (I didn’t know until later what those works were; interesting that both Stravinsky and Rosza were still alive and composing then.)

    I later tearned that Dr. Ghoulman was really Fred Mills,a theatre major at Lamar Tech (as it was known at the time; it became Lamar University in the ’70s). Fred was a wonderful actor, VERY over the top, sort of a combination of Vincent Price and James Mason, very urbane. In person, he was kind, polite, low-key, mature, very soft-spoken, even a little reserved, but very charming. But he played Dr. Ghoulman every weekend with absolute and total conviction, wringing his hands Uriah Heep-style and projecting volubly. I don’t think anyone used any kind of body mikes back then, and there was a kind of hollow studio sound. Around that time my sister, Priscilla, saw Fred in the role of Gen. Burgoyne in Shaw’s The Devil’s Disciple at Lamar. (It was the role that Laurence Olivier played in the movie.)

    My dreams came true when I was able to appear on Shock! My father managed a lawn mower place called Yazoo of Texas, and when he saw what a craze Shock! had become, he decided to advertise on it. Yazoo had just manufactured a little go-kart, with a lawnmower engine, called the Yazoo Dragster, and so Pop arranged for me to drive it around in a figure 8 live on the show! I was thrilled to see the set and to meet Dr. Ghoulman, who made a fuss over me! Expecting to see the whole studio filled with the set, I was amazed to find that it consisted pf only a few flats, a kind of tryptich-like alcove of three walls hung with paraphernalia, a rectangular lab table in front, and a few flats arranged to form a hallway entrance leading to it, with a small step unit — only about three or four steps — at the other end. And that was it! The cameras shot at various angles, and to my young mind it was one huge laboratory!

    Later on, Shock! parties became the thing to do, and Pop hired Fred to bring some of his equipment over to the Yazoo place one day, and he set up a lab in a kind of alcove in the store. Kids came in in droves and were delighted — as were my father and all the adults who came along and watched. And JD’s Van de Graff generator got some use there, crackling like mad!

    I got to see Dr. Ghoulman again later at a Haloween carnival at a local elementary school. Could not get enough of him!

    The show ran until sometime in 1960. I remember watching the last broadcast — it was Son of Kong — when Fred made the announcement that that would be the last show. I was disconsolate for weeks!

    Some of his shtick bits remain in the memory: the Good Doctor entering in full costume of a Chinese mandarin for a broadcast of The Mask of Fu Manchu, and intoning that this character always reminded him about the proverb of tobacco — “Many man smoke, but Fu Manchu!” During a showing of Mark of the Vampire, the Doctor received a visit from a relative he feared was a vampire and decided to test his suspicions by driving a stake through his heart — only later commenting to himself that he would be dead either way. One night the show was moved to a very late spot because of some special, and the Doctor was seen with toothpicks propping his eyes open. He had a couple of regulars with him as well — a werewolf affectionately known as Wolfie, and a blob, called Hugo, that pulsed in a small tank.

    Again, thanks more than I can ever tell you, for immortalizing the Good Doctor!

    July 2, 2013 at 11:49 am

    • David – As a heads up, the newest issue of “Monster Memories/Scary Monsters” features another story on Ghoulman written by a guy who worked with him. Please contact me and I can arrange to get a copy to you otherwise it will be on the stands by March 2014.

      February 18, 2014 at 4:34 pm

  7. Dewayne Norris

    I was maybe 5 or 6 years old when Shock Theater aired in Beaumont and I remember Dr. Ghoulman, Wolfie and the blob. My brother and I loved that show and agree with Nick. It scared the crap out of us. Thanks for keeping this memory alive!

    July 15, 2013 at 6:06 pm

    • Thanks, Dewayne, for sharing your memories!

      July 16, 2013 at 6:19 am

  8. This is just FAN-tastic! Thank you very much for this! You made J.D.’s day!

    July 16, 2013 at 6:17 am

  9. As an update, I received an email from JD Feigelson and the Lamar University confirmed the death of Fred Mills stating, “Our research person found Fred. He graduated in 1960.
    I am sorry to tell you that Fred passed away in April of this year. It appears that he was living in Atlanta.”

    August 27, 2013 at 6:10 pm

    • Geraldo V.

      Sad day, Rest in Peace and Thank You for the wonderful memories Mr. Mills(Dr.Ghoulman).

      August 30, 2013 at 8:08 am

  10. Another Follow up…the latest issue of “Monster Memories/Scary Monsters Magazine” hits the stand early March 2014 and features another Ghoulman article, this one from the perspective of someone who worked with him. It also has more unearthed photographs. You can order copies at http://www.scarymonstersmagazine.com/

    February 18, 2014 at 4:36 pm

  11. charles siller

    My dad worked nights, 6 days a week. Our weekend treat, on Saturday night, was waiting up, ’til daddy came home’, and, watching Shock Theater. More often than not, my cousin Mike from down the block would spend the night, and my mother would make us a quilt pallet on the floor, and, we’d pull the blankets over our eyes during the really scary parts of Dr. Ghoulman’s movie feature. Thanks for the memories.

    February 22, 2014 at 10:04 pm

    • This makes my day! Thanks, Charles for this great memory!

      February 22, 2014 at 11:02 pm

  12. Larry McCaughn

    I vividly remember watching the original “Frankenstein” on “Shock Theater”. Someone previously mentioned it was in Oct of 58. I was in the eight grade. My mother worked multiple jobs (both day and night) and I spent a lot of time by myself. I amused myself by staying glued to our 19″ B&W TV.
    Here’s the scenario:
    I’m home alone @ 10:30 on a Sat night. There is thunderstorm raging outside(nothing new foir the Beaumont area) and the wind is blowing and whistling through the various cracks in the old house. I’m sitting in a chair withthe front door to my immediate left( the door knob was probably 8″ from my shoulder. The TV is is across the room at about a 45 degree angle to my right.
    In order to not waste money all the lights in the house are off; the only light being from the flicker on the TV.
    There’s a scene in the movie where the monster is locked in a room. He is banging on the door trying to escape. At the same time the rain is heaveir outside and the wind is gusting.
    The Monster contines beating and pounding on the door until the door finally flies open.
    At that same exact moment the wind blew the front door open next to my chair.
    I do believe that, had my fingernails been longer, I would have been suspended from the ceiling like a scared cat hanging by his claws.
    I had never been so startled before (or since). When my mother got home later that night she chastised me for having every light in the house on.
    And to this day I still love a good horror/sci-fi movie.

    May 14, 2014 at 11:53 pm

    • This is a GREAT story, Larry, and for a moment I felt that I was there too. Thank you so much for taking the time to write this.

      May 15, 2014 at 7:55 am

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