Dave F: Ohio is one of the most prolific states when it comes to churning out horror hosts. Therefore, it was not surprising that several inductees to The Horror Host Hall of Fame would hail from there. One of these was Dick Von Hoene a.k.a. The Cool Ghoul!
Classic commercial horror hosts were also professional broadcasters and Von Hoene was no exception. In the early 1960’s, he worked on Cincinnati radio and was featured on a show called “Bob Smith’s Monster Mash.” It was there that The Cool Ghoul character was born, though it would not be until the latter part of the decade (after he moved from radio to television) that the character would be given its official “look.”
Aside from professional broadcasting, Von Hoene also had a background in theater from The University of Cincinnati where he received an MA. This would prove a winning combo for Ohio horror fans in the 1970’s as The Cool Ghoul served up lots of campy fun while hosting the “Scream in” show on Saturday nights.
For outsiders (such as myself) there was some confusion regarding the name “Cool Ghoul” since Von Hoene was not the only one to carry this moniker. Fellow Ohioan horror host, George Cavendar (who played out of Cleveland), would also be named “The Cool Ghoul” though it is important to note that Von Hoene did grant Cavendar permission to do so. Both versions would be characterized by red hair and make-up, but that is where the similarities would end as both gentlemen brought their own unique brand of schtick to the hosting genre.
The great Zacherley was also called The Cool Ghoul – one of his many names (Roland, etc). Like Zacherley, The Cool Ghoul also ventured into the world of novelty records and released his own album, “The Cool Ghoul’s Phantasmagorical Funny Fonograf Record,” on the Artists Records label. I was grateful when my friend, Michael Monahan (Doktor Goulfinger) sent me a copy last year. A lot of fun!
The show opened with a warning to viewers that they might want to consider changing the channel before the theme music played and The Cool Ghoul mad his entrance via an upright coffin. He was also known for his laugh, described by a fan on Egor’s Chamber of TV hosts as “Blih, blih, blih, BLEEAAAHHHH-AH-AH-AHHH!
“Scream in” would only last three years on the air but “The Cool Ghoul” remained a fixture of Cincinnati pop culture making numerous appearances and even being given a jersey from the Cincinnati Reds (Number Zero). Later, in the 1980’s, he would move his character down to North Carolina. Von Hoene died in 2004, and his official Horror Host Hall of Fame plaque will be featured at the Ripley’s Believe it or Not Museum.
Horror host, Butch Cleaver (Brian Easterling), from Ohio’s MEET CLEAVER THEATER was given the honor of inducting the late Dick Von Hoene a.k.a. The Cool Ghoul. Unlike many of the presenters featured at this event, Butch Cleaver had the distinction of not only growing up with memories of The Cool Ghoul but also the honor of meeting him. TERROR FROM BEYON THE DAVES was delighted when Mr. Easterling agreed to share his recollections with us…
Butch Cleaver (Brian Easterling): I grew up in the mid 70s & early 80s, a little bit after our local horror host, The Cool Ghoul was cancelled from regular air play, but our local UHF station at the time, WXIX would play repeats of his original horror host show. I would spend my Saturday afternoons drinking in every ounce of monster goodness I could and the Cool Ghoul was my TV pal watching with me. As an only child on a street full of aged people, a horror host takes on the unique role of being your viewing companion, and a welcome and humorous TV pal at that. I developed a deep love of Halloween at an early age and I always looked forward to the new “Cool Ghoul” Halloween special to finish out a bountiful night of trick or treating.
It wasn’t until I was 17 years old that I had the opportunity to meet my TV pal live in the ghoulish flesh at a big Halloween party at an old church in Mt. Adams, a ritzy section of Cincinnati, Ohio. The Cool Ghoul just happened to be the MC for the evening and it came as a complete surprise to me and my friends. Between sets he would venture down into the audience and enjoy an adult beverage with the crowd. I gathered up my nerve and approached him. He was remarkably warm and friendly, shaking my hand and listening to me as I told him stories of how much I enjoyed his work and what it meant to me as a youth. He seemed genuinely appreciative to meet fans and closed the encounter with a hug and a photo opportunity.
Flash forward to age 20 and I was completing my bachelors in film at a local university. I had an opportunity to meet and work with Dick Von Hoene who was hosting a local affairs talk show in Northern Kentucky. He was an absolute professional and I always admired how he could mingle with the myriad of people and professions. We had another opportunity to discuss his horror hosting work and his charity work throughout the tri-state area. My time spent with Mr. Von Hoene was always very inspiring and I would venture to say, it germinated the seed of horror-hosting that had been planted so many years ago.
It came as a heavy shock when we learned that Dick Von Hoene had passed away unexpectedly in 2004. The city, which I thought had largely forgotten his early work, came together and the now fox-affiliate WXIX put together a 30 minute tribute show on his life and work as the Cool Ghoul. It was nice to see him fondly remembered by the generations he touched with his kindness.
Just a year before his death we started our own horror host program, inspired by him and many other Ohio hosts. While we could never ever fill his shoes, we felt our show was a way to not only honor the tradition of TV Hosting but also honor our TV pal, The Cool Ghoul.
In March of 2011, I had the extreme honor of inducting Dick Von Hoene, Cincinnat’s Cool Ghoul, into the Ripley’s Believe It, Or Not Horror Host Hall of Fame. How could I have imagined that I would have trodden this path with that TV pal of mine so many years later? It was a pleasure to grow up watching him, a treasure to know him and an honor to carry on in the tradition of him.
Butch R. Cleaver
Meet Cleaver Theatre
Cincinnati/N. KY. Horror Host