Shock Theater Horror Host Dr. Ghoulman Rises Again!
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…
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.
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.”
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?
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.
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!