It’s a known fact that when MeTV’s national horror host, Svengoolie, makes an appearance near the Wisconsin border. It’s going to generate a record number of fans. Especially when you factor in temps in the ‘70s, that it’s his last appearance of the Halloween season and his first at Volo since 2019. This is why even a prolific Sven-stalker like me generally avoids this event; especially, since I’d just visited the museum with my friend, Jason, last August. However, when Svengoolie’s producer, Jim Roche, asked if I’d give them a hand, I couldn’t turn him down. I guess I was relieved they still wanted me around after sharing my displeasure with “Svengoolie Uncrypted” in a recent post. But now that the appearance is over, I’m wondering if this wasn’t retribution.
The appearance was scheduled from 12-2 pm and I arrived about 11:30. Volo is 90 minutes from my apartment so I gave myself ample time to get there. I knew the turnout would be huge when I noticed the parking lot was jam-packed and that most of the folks walking around were wearing Svengoolie T-shirts. Thankfully, a Volo escort had us follow him to a private parking area where we’d hop into a smaller vehicle and get shuttled to the event.
I saw the line outside stretched around the building, not realizing the inside was also full of fans. We entered and everyone started cheering.
We arrived with an arsenal of shirts, hats, and buttons to sell. Usually, there’s plenty of space between myself and the autograph line but this time I was right up against them. At first, it was awkward but I got used to it and, later, even appreciated it. The intimate vantage point allowed me to see all the cool stuff fans brought as gifts for, or to be signed by, Svengoolie.
One that really stood out was a Boris Karloff figure someone had 3D-printed and painted for him. As soon as I saw it, I imagined it sitting on his desk during an upcoming Mummy movie mail segment.
Another fantastic item was a full blanket someone had knitted of the Svengoolie Chicken Thrower T-shirt design. It was stunning!
Fans who had the luxury of bringing Svengoolie’s gifts personally were wise to do so. The station has been inundated with so many gifts, cards, and letters from fans across the country that there’s a tremendous backlog of unopened mail. Every time he tries to make a dent, he gets hit with even more correspondence. So, if you’re reading this and have sent Svengoolie a package wondering why there’s been no mention of it, chances are he hasn’t gotten to it yet.
I’d left my cell phone in my car and was shocked when one of the guests told me it was 1:55 pm. I looked around the room and the line was the same size it had been when we started, with even more people coming in from the outside. Either Jim had lost his skills at cutting a line or a decision had been reached for Svengoolie to go into overtime.
In this instance, Sven was feeling spry and didn’t want to disappoint anyone. Of course, nothing was said to me about it until Jim had the nerve to come up to me at 4 pm and ask, “You didn’t have anywhere else to be today, did you?” Fortunately, no.
The fans didn’t complain either. After standing hours in line, they were all in high spirits and even more excited to meet Svengoolie (and buy merch) than ever!
One guest I’d known through Facebook for years but hadn’t physically met before was Julie Jiles Cummins. She traveled all the way from Tennessee to see him and expressed her hope that future Svengoolie button collections will feature musical sidekick, Doug Graves (Doug Sharff), and his daughter, Anita X. Orcist.
At one point someone came up behind me for a selfie while instructing me to, “Smile!” It turned out to be Warner Todd Huston whom I’d last seen during the filming of “Svengoolie Uncrypted.” Warner is a Svengoolie/horror host collector whose impressive items were seen alongside mine and Nanette Keir’s in the special. He proudly showed off his latest acquisition and I must say I was impressed. The current “Spawn of Svengoolie” contest kicked off at the New York comic con earlier this month where some participants filmed their auditions. These brave souls were given a special lanyard commemorating that and, somehow, Warner managed to convince one of them to give theirs to him.
Young, old, and even canine showed up. I’m not kidding, someone brought their dog in a baby carriage. Unfortunately, I couldn’t make a sale off of him as he was already wearing his Sven shirt. Jim’s such a dog lover he happily escorted the pooch outside to piddle as its bladder proved no match for the long wait.
While all of this was going on, Svengoolie‘s Director, Chris Faulkner, and a cameraman I’d not met before were out getting footage for the show. When they’d finished, Chris hung out by me and we got into a discussion about Svengoolie’s past mail segment sidekicks. Earlier in the week my friends and I had a Facebook discussion listing all of them. There was “Ed of the Bat” (who was hilariously fired in a skit because management hated his voice), Querty the Spider (who sounded a lot like Ed), The Wacky Dactyl, and of course his most prolific – Kerwin. Peppered in there was also a re-purposed TriStar 1998 Godzilla figure that also assisted Svengoolie and none of us could remember its name. I asked Sven, himself, and when he couldn’t recall either, he went to Chris (its creator) for clarification. It turns out the reason none of us could remember its name is because it never had one. My favorite had always been the Wacky Dactyl which Chris also put together utilizing a Hasbro Jurassic Park III pterodactyl figure. Chris not only helped create some great characters (including co-creating Kerwyn) but provided one of the nicest compliments of the day. When a guest asked me what my role was in the Svengoolie crew, I responded, “I’m just a fan.” Then Chris interrupted saying, “He’s way more than just a fan.” I thought that was very kind of him.
By 5 pm Svengoolie had accommodated everyone and I’d sold out every single shirt, hat, and button we had. This was pretty impressive since a good chunk of guests were already wearing Sven shirts. Physically, I was wiped out but if Svengoolie was, he sure didn’t show it.
The nice Volo staff shuttled us back to our cars and I quickly took off. I’d made the mistake of waiting until after this appearance to shop for groceries but still made it back to my apartment in time for Svengoolie‘s presentation of Count Yorga, Vampire.
So I suppose the big question is “Would I ever assist with another Svengoolie Volo Auto Museum appearance again?” The answer is a resounding YES. Despite it rating a “10” on the “Svengoolie Appearance Difficulty Scale,” the fan enthusiasm was infectious, the Volo staff could not have been nicer, and It’s always a pleasure watching the Svengoolie crew at work.
And this ends Svengoolie’s Halloween 2022 appearances. I’m now going to get to work carving the five pumpkins I’ve picked up throughout the month and prepare for tonight’s festivities. I’d like to wish everyone reading this on October 31st a very Happy Halloween!