SPOTLIGHT ON THE VAULT-KEEPER & THE OLD WITCH By Ryan B.
In almost every group, team, gang, or ensemble, there will always be that one individual who is more popular or stands out from the rest. For one reason or another they get the limelight, while the others are doomed to obscurity. People love Alvin, but forget about “The Chipmunks”. Josie gets the glory, while the others are just simply “The Pussycats”, and if you only know one member of The Rat Pack it’s probably Frank Sinatra, not those other guys.
You can count The Vault-Keeper and The Old Witch as being a part of this second banana category as well. While The Crypt-Keeper got selected by the fickle finger of fate to go on from the old EC comic books to become a huge television and movie personality, not to mention a marketable horror icon, his two fellow GhouLunatics got left in the dark.
So allow me to shed a little fright on those guys.
For more on The Crypt-Keeper himself, you can check out my other article here!
It all started in 1951 when Bill Gaines – head of EC Comics – launched his “New Trend” line of comic books, which consisted of three new horror titles and two crime ones. The horror ones were Tales from the Crypt, The Haunt of Fear, and The Vault of Horror. Bill and his editor, Al Feldstein, were inspired to create these comics based on their love of the old radio horror shows that they had both grown up listening to such as Lights Out, The Inner Sanctum, and The Witch’s Tale. Like these old shows they wanted their horror comics to have some creepy hosts to introduce the stories, and so, The GhouLunatics, were born.
The Crypt-Keeper had Tales from the Crypt of course, and was your standard creepy ghoul, but for the host of The Haunt of Fear, Al and Bill drew direct inspiration from Old Nancy, the hostess of The Witch’s Tale, in their creation of The Old Witch. The Old Witch was a sagging, raggedy, old crone in a tattered, red cloak. Who dished out her offensive offerings from her bubbling cauldron of crud. Her most distinguishing feature, by far, was her one big, bulging blue eye that always seemed to be fixed upon the reader.
In the comic books, however, her origin was a little more… interesting. As depicted in the story, A Little Stranger, from issue # 14 of The Haunt of Fear, the story tells how she was the unholy spawn of a dead werewolf father and a vampire mother who had both been
killed by an angry mob and then resurrected in a satanic cemetery by their fellow creatures of the night. After coming back from the dead these monsters did the mash and shortly afterwards The (Young?) Old Witch was born.
While The Crypt-Keeper is considered today, through the fog of history, to be the ringleader of the GhouLunatics, simply because he’s the one that got the most famous, at the time when the EC comics were around the argument could have easily been made that The Old Witch was the head honcho. Not only did she get one more story out per month than the others did thanks to having a spot at the end of every issue of Crime SuspenStories, but she’s also the one actually responsible for bringing her and her friends to EC in the first place, as shown in the story, Horror Beneath the Streets, from issue # 3 of The Haunt of Fear. After chasing Bill Gaines and Al Feldstein into the sewer where they are confronted by The Crypt-Keeper and The Vault-Keeper she is able to “persuade” them into giving her her own magazine along with the others.
Yeah, she looked a little different in the early days, as did the other two. It wasn’t until artist Graham Ingels got a hold of her and really made her his own that she got her now distinctive look.
As for, The Vault-Keeper, not as much can be said about him, unfortunately. He’s a man of mystery in many ways. He didn’t have an origin story like The Crypt-Keeper and The Old Witch did, he didn’t get an extra story in one of the crime comics, either. He didn’t even look all that different from The Crypt-Keeper to be honest. His most distinguishing difference was his cleft chin and copious amounts of drool always glistening in his grinning mouth.
I suppose one thing that does make The Vault-Keeper stand out a bit is that he was the only one of the group to have a sidekick. While the others hosted their stories solo throughout their entire run, V.K. had the mysterious Drusilla to accompany him for his final four issues… But more on her in a future article.
Back in the day, for the most part, all three ghouls seemed to be on equal ground, but after the comics ended, the dynamic began to change. Consider the Amicus movies of the 1970’s. First came Tales from the Crypt in 1972, which naturally featured as its narrator, a very subdued, yet reasonably acceptable Crypt-Keeper. Then came Vault of Horror, which naturally featured as its narrator…
Yep, they gyped The Vault-Keeper out of his own movie. But poor Old Witch, she didn’t even get a movie to be gyped out of! Amicus never made a Haunt of Fear movie and after only two cinematic outings with the EC titles Amicus never really did anything else with them again.
It wasn’t Until Tales from the Crypt the television show came to HBO in the late 80’s that anything else related to the EC comics got adapted to film. But sorry, no Old Witch or Vault-Keeper again. Sadly, it was only The Crypt-Keeper who once more got to play since it was his magazine that was deemed to have the best title. Still, a cameo or two wouldn’t have hurt! And that photo of The Old Witch on Harry Anderson’s desk in the episode Korman’s Kalamity doesn’t count.
Old Vaulty and Witchypoo had been left behind for the time being, but all was not lost. In 1994 during the second season of the animated series, Tales from the Cryptkeeper, they were finally reinstated alongside their old friend The Crypt-Keeper.
After one more season, which aired a few years later, the show was canned.
Since then, none of the GhouLunatics (The Old Witch and The Vault-Keeper in particular) have gotten much time in the slime light, which is really too bad. Perhaps one day in the near future these two characters will finally get to be brought to the big or small screen and be exposed to a whole audience of that never even knew they existed. To any fan of horror comics, however, (and anyone aware of comic book history too, really) these great hosts will always be remembered. They are an important part of our comic book heritage.