MIDNIGHT MONSTER HOP NONSTOP

MR. LOBO INTERVIEWS GRAVELY MACABRE
COVER ART BY JIM KAVANAUGH

PART I: CASTLE BLOOD AND FRIGHT NIGHT FRIDAYS

The unsinkable Ricky Dick is known to Horror Host fans like MR. LOBO only as GRAVELY MacCABRE, the host of MIDNIGHT MONSTER HOP.
The characters from CASTLE BLOOD also populated another Horror Host Show from the 90’s called FRIGHT NIGHT FRIDAY. His company(with his Ex-Wife Karen) made clothes and props for FRIGHT NIGHT FRIDAY as well as for THE BONE JANGLER, NOCTURNA, THE LATE DR. LADY, and PENNY DREADFUL and he even showed GARU the werewolf how to do his make-up.
Years before his national stint on RTV, he owned a costume shop/makeup studio, was a professional clown, made clown costumes for other performers, and worked haunts. Halloween parties with his fellow costume makers and performers grew into the real CASTLE BLOOD, a first class haunt in South West Pennsylvania.
And it was regular parties with other haunters at Gravely’s house that also spawned THE NATIONAL HAUNTERS CONVENTION near Philadelphia where MR. LOBO met him this year at his booth. This man obviously knows how to throw a party!
Mr. Lobo: Greetings, Gravely! When did CASTLE BLOOD as a haunt, start?

Gravely MacCabre: It began in1993 as a “Trick ‘r Treat” haunt. My family and friends are costumers, magicians, and stuff like that, and we just had a party. Some are nationally known Science Fiction convention award winning costumers–So we’re all way overdressed. Magicians and hams can’t just hand a kid a damn piece of candy. They have to make it appear or something! So even though it was on my front porch with a bunch of tomb stones in the driveway–that’s kind of how we started.

 

Mr. Lobo: Every neighborhood in America there is always that one guy. You were the KING OF HALLOWEEN in your area?
Gravely MacCabre: We were “that one house“. When I look at real estate, I look to see if it’s a good Trick ‘r Treat Neighborhood–“Are the houses close enough together?” “Are the houses too far back from the main road?“–that’s gonna waste a kid’s time.

 

 Mr. Lobo: What you have at CASTLE BLOOD is enormously special. They don’t have this EVERYWHERE. Tell the readers of HORROR HOSTS and CREATURE FEATUTRES what they can expect when they come and visit.

Gravely MacCabre: I don’t want to say we’re an acquired taste–because even if you like really visceral crazy haunted houses that doesn’t mean you wont like us, too. Even people who watch SAW, deep in their hearts remember watching THE MUNSTERS on TV. Inspired by DISNEY’S HAUNTED MANSION as far as aesthetics go. We weren’t inspired by HARRY POTTER only because it didn’t exist when we started. However, it’s a lot like the last 20 minutes of a HARRY POTTER movie: “Go-here-and-do-this“, after you’ve found this then you can “go-there-and-do-that“. American Airlines Magazine wrote we were like playing CLUE in the ADDAMS FAMILY’S HOUSE.

You’re not running through scenes in the dark. We try to do the sets as perfect as possible because you’re in each set for 2 or 3 minutes. It’s harder because your eyes are going to wander, even if the actor, magic effect, or whatever special thing we’re doing there is great. I can’t just have black plywood walls or just throw blood everywhere. I can’t.

 

Mr. Lobo: So, you create an illusion of time and place. Do you always stay in character?

Gravely MacCabre: Absolutely. And our guided tours are very different and you may get our big giant weight lifting werewolf one time, and our totally ridiculous Lucille Ball style zombie bride another time. Even the cast is different every weekend. We’re an all volunteer haunt. We have people from 14 states and 2 provinces who come to Castle Blood on their own nickel to perform. They almost view it as a convention. A place to gather and put on their costumes and do what they love.

 

Mr. Lobo: So the aside from the performers the staff of CASTLE BLOOD are they all volunteers?

Gravely MacCabre: All Volunteers. I put a couple bucks in my own pocket because I have to work on it year round and they all know that and understand that. Sponsors and Ticket sales pay the bills for the Haunt. Even after all these years, it is not my full time job either because the money is not there…yet! I tell people I’m an unintentional Not For Profit Organization.

 

Mr. Lobo: You folks team up with charities and stuff like that?
Gravely MacCabre: All the time. That takes a chunk out to but it’s all good–and for good causes. We work with various children’s charities and animal rescues every year. We work with Big Brothers/Big Sisters. Any “Big” who shows their ID gets in with their kid for free. And in our area, the Tickets For Kids Foundation finds the worthy charity groups and kids who need to come. And because of the kind of haunt we are…it’s okay for these kids to come. How many haunts are appropriate for 10 and under AND are accessible for wheelchairs.

 

 Mr. Lobo: So when did the characters from the haunt start moving into the world of television?

Gravely MacCabre: Around the mid 90‘s, my wife at the time, GRIZELDA and I would sometimes appear on a horror host show produced at a nearby college. FRIGHT NIGHT FRIDAY with SPOOKY SPECTRE and his sidekick CEDRIC.

Mr. Lobo: The OTHER California University…in Pennsylvania. According to E-GOR’S CHAMBER OF HORROR HOSTS, FRIGHT NIGHT FRIDAYS was on CUTV Channel 29, Fridays at Midnight. Harry Metz was a gruff voiced grim reaper type as SPOOKY SPECTRE and Fred Adams was CEDRIC a tuxedoed professor who critiqued the films. Apparently the films were interspersed with elaborate adventures of SPOOKY SPECTRE and an ever growing cast of characters.

Gravely MacCabre: And I was sort of the wacky neighbor. Because we had Castle Blood SPOOKY had this whole second set to work with. So I was his buddy down the street so sometimes he would come down to the castle. But he had his own set and sidekicks so we were more like the “LAVERNE AND SHIRLEY” to their “HAPPY DAYS“.

 

Sadly, FRIGHT NIGHT FRIDAYS ran it’s course in 1999 sadly because we got offered a national contract by CCTV–College Campus Television. We were actually gonna make some money so went to our own college administration and said “We really need to get this all on paper after all these years because it’s only fair that you get a cut.” The college administrators at the time said “Here is a BILL for all the production costs for the past 6 years, we‘re gonna be taking all this money.” And we never made a penny. We had 5 adults on the show and an ever changing cast of kids who were getting college degrees. I didn’t go to college! These kids are getting communications degrees and we’re spending our own money on everything needed to do the show.

 

Mr. Lobo: And you’re training them.

Gravely MacCabre: Right! And none of us are teachers or anything. So we said “B-Bye!” So in our own little area we needed things to lie low for a while.

 

MIDNIGHT MONSTER HOP NONSTOP PART II:
NATIONAL HAUNTERS CONVENTION AND RETURN TO LOCAL TV

Mr. Lobo: So after FRIGHT NIGHT FRIDAYS it would be several years until you would attempt TV again. During this period would be the rise of the National Haunters Convention. How did it start and what was your role?

Gravely MacCabre: They were called gatherings when I first started them in1997. Very small, like 20 people would get together at my house or another haunter friend’s near us. Local haunt owners and home haunters would talk, have some beers, show each other props, show pictures and videos of the season–that kind of stuff. To create fellowship among haunters instead of fighting with a competitor.
Mr. Lobo: Always better to have colleagues than competitors. Bob Wilkins of CREATURE FEATURES was also a firm believer in that and I try to follow his example even when I personally don‘t like what other hosts are doing.

Gravely MacCabre: When times get rough I have people I can turn to. That understand.

Mr. Lobo: Who understands more than people who do what you do?

(Gravely pantomimes a mock situation and talks into an “air telephone“)

Gravely MacCabre: “Oh, my God, Dude! One of my props broke–I need a solenoid! Do you have an extra one? Can I drive to your haunt and pick it up?” That happens between us all the time!

Mr. Lobo: So you were part of the formation of what we today call The National Haunters Convention?
Gravely MacCabre: Yes, because the co-owners Michael Bruner and Robert Kocher Hightower met at one of my parties. They actually met sitting on my Coffin Couch in my living room. It’s not that I didn’t wan to put it on anymore–They just wanted to take it to a bigger level. So They moved it to a church hall, then they put it in a fire station, then a bigger auditorium, within 3 or 4 years we were at a Hotel and we immediately overflowed the Hotel and they were upset all weekend because we had way too many people.

Mr. Lobo: This was the early 2000’s?

Gravely MacCabre: Yeah. Now this is there 4th or 5th year at a convention center. I don’t own it anymore. I am on the board of directors. Y’know, I’m their conscience. I still am the media director and do press relations for them.

 

Mr. Lobo: This Haunters Convention is fairly unique. I came 3000 miles to be here.

Gravely MacCabre: Well, there are other Haunted House Conventions. There’s the TRANSWORLD HAUNT SHOW, There’s HAUNTCON. There’s regional ones: WEST COAST HAUNTERS CONVENTION, a MIDWEST HAUNTERS CONVENTION and I believe there still is a New England one going. They mainly cater to a more select crowd. TRANSWORLD is a Trade Show. The MIDWEST one, over the years, has become “actor” heavy–where you don’t necessarily sell the big giant props, but you sell make-up, masks, and there’s a great party. We love MIDWEST and the others, and even though we started as a trade show, early on, we wanted to encourage the home haunters, the amateur, and the Halloween enthusiast. And so many of us are into Steampunk and Renaissance Faire…we decided to open it up and make it full retail. For Example, if you’re big enough to place a large wholesale mask or costume order from someone like Spectre Studios…Well, of course, they’ll service you. But if a kid wants a skull mask they’re not going to say “Get out of here, you’re not big enough!” And that’s the spirit of what we’re trying to do: Everyone is welcome.

 

Mr. Lobo: Do you feel that the NATIONAL HAUNTERS CONVENTION maintain that spirit today?

Gravely MacCabre: Yeah, I think so. The first time FANGORIA Magazine was here they said “It felt like a haunters family reunion.” It‘s different because it‘s so much bigger than what it was. I do so many science fiction conventions and I’m on committees for so many things. My girlfriend Dawn and I work on ANIME NORTH in Toronto, which is 20,000 people, FAN EXPO in Toronto which is 60,000 people…only COMIC CON and DRAGONCON are bigger. So this certainly has a long way to go before I am freaked out by it. There are things I’d still like to see. I’d like to see more of the hardcore industry trade show people show here. We have some good animation dealers and wonderful masks and stuff like that. But some of wholesale only guys need to realize they could sell retail and make the bucks too. But that’s only gonna happen if we have enough customers. And our numbers are way up this year so that’s encouraging.

 

Mr. Lobo: I heard it was 30% more than last year. Let’s talk about 2006. Tell us about CASTLE BLOOD as seen on a television program called MIDNIGHT MONSTER HOP in it’s initial incarnation. You mentioned working with your girlfriend Dawn at conventions, it sometimes helps when you have a person who is close to you working on a project with you, since you have to work so damn much. And with that show it was a family affair…you had your wife GRIZELDA MacCABRE and SKULLY MacCABRE.

Gravely MacCabre: GRIZELDA, my ex-wife worked very hard on the show. SKULLY is my daughter. One of my cast members was talking to a still local “mom and pop” broadcast station. It was owned by Calkins Media, who owned the local newspaper in Uniontown, a little bit east of Beallsville. A director and camera man over there, was somebody from the old California University where we did SPOOKY SPECTRE‘s FRIGHT NIGHT FRIDAYS show. So we went in and pitched a bunch of ideas. We could do a one shot Halloween Special, OR a regular horror host show, OR a half hour with all our characters, just us, no movie…

Mr. Lobo: Like a sit-com?
Gravely MacCabre: No, Like a Variety Show. We pitched a dead SONNY AND CHER. Because of our skits and we like showing the Gothy Bands.

Mr. Lobo: MR. LOBO always called your show the “Horror Host Version of HEE HAW” of course that phrase has since been used by other hosts to describe other hosted shows. But in your case it was true.

Gravely MacCabre: And that’s what we wanted to do. It could be a clip show with a bunch of our skits. I’m the only horror host show that regularly shows footage from other haunts because I know everybody. We could say “Now lets go to West Sheboygan and the Haunted Fire House of Doom and visit our friends.” and we’d show footage. However they decided on the full traditional horror show. Which is an easier sell.

Mr. Lobo: And less work load for you guys.

Gravely MacCabre: True enough. They tried four episodes for October. And after the first one aired they said “We just want to do this.” “We’ll do four in October and then we’ll do one a month.” And that was how we did seasons. NO MONEY, of course! But they paid for the production costs. They were doing all the High School Basketball games and had like a mini ESPN truck. They’d drive it up and run the wires into the castle and we’d go.

MIDNIGHT MONSTER HOP NONSTOP

PART III: THE CASTLE BLOOD TV SHOW AND RTN

 Mr. Lobo: You where taping your TV shows right there at the haunt…
 Gravely MacCabre: I had 5000 square feet of sets! I had all these characters…some of them had been with me for 10 years. There was one or two characters we invented because I knew we needed more comedy to do a horror host show. More than the serious spookiness of a haunt.

Mr. Lobo: Horror Hosts are almost always funny.

Gravely MacCabre: Yeah. And some of our customers were thrown by that. A lot of the characters on the show were the managers at the haunts so you don’t see them perform all the time. So some people were extrapolating that we were meaner than we were. We invented DELIRIA the Zombie Maid because I have a circus background and knew I needed a “slap and fall guy“. If someone was going to take a pie in the face…I knew it wasn’t going to be me.

Mr. Lobo: Well, Not with that moustache.
Gravely MacCabre: Correct. Heather Rows plays a gorgeous Vampire in the haunt but on the TV show a Goofy Zombie Maid is what we needed. That kind of thing. And the show is a little odd because the 4th wall is up and sometimes it‘s not. If Gravely is being all creepy and weird and doing “the hands” the forth wall is down and I’m talking to the audience. If it’s a little wackier that’s because the 4th wall is up and where showing you what goes on in the castle when it’s not haunt season. `

Mr. Lobo: You seem to showcase a lot of other people coming through.

Gravely MacCabre: A lot of other horror hosts tell me I’m crazy. They say “If you’re gonna advance in this business, you need to be more of a “Camera Whore” and be in every scene yourself.” I’m like “NO”–this is an ensemble cast, these are ongoing stories, these are my best friends in the whole world. Y’know, I’m riding on the coat tails of haunt with this. No, I’ll open the show, I’ll close the show and Those actors who always seemed like dopes when they say “What I really want to do is Direct”–I totally get that now. There’s one episode that I’m not in at all and that‘s my favorite episode. Because, I could be BEHIND the camera for a change and MAKE SURE I got what I wanted. The Director and Head Camera Guy after 6 or 7 shows really understood. And got it.

Mr. Lobo: How did doing the TV show effect the haunt?

 Gravely MacCabre: Monetarily, Not At All. It brought me SOME new customers in the fall but not many..It effected the theme-ing of the haunt in the fall-Not At All. It effected my cast–GREATLY. Because, now we were working year round. It used to be I could go 3 to 5 months without talking to some of my cast. But over the course of the 3 seasons we did the show, If you count all the HEE-HAW cornfield jokes-I’d bet we had 30 different cast members on the show. I know it’s confusing as hell for the audience sometimes because those are the criticisms I get. We have the core 5 or 6 people.

But who ever was available to do stuff were invited to come on in. I don’t think it was confusing for the local people. The public is used to seeing you in the fall. I think it was more confusing for out of market people.I only know two friends who have a haunt and a show. THE LATE DR. LADY, THE HORROR HOTEL, and Ben Armstrong who is DR. SPECULO, who now owns NETHERWORLD. But He didn’t do NETHERWORLD and DR. SPECULO at the same time. Ben told me “The people who sit at home and watch horror movies do not want the visceral thrill of walking through the haunt. They‘re not going to come to your haunt.” Totally different group.

Mr. Lobo: Does it go the other way where the people who come to the haunt watch you on TV?

Gravely MacCabre: And some of them are disappointed because they think so much of the castle that they were surprised we did a slapstick typical horror host show. I think they wanted a castle blood version of AMAZING STORIES-which I would have loved to do if we had the SPIELBERG budget. We change our themes all the time and their very involved story lines. One year we did COURT OF THE CRIMSON KING sort of a horror version of the old song. And because we’re kind of the thinking man’s haunt so we have Sci-Fi and Fantasy Aficionados who do have strong opinions and demand more. Which is a double edged sword.
 
Mr. Lobo: I’m always afraid my fans are smarter than I am.
Gravely MacCabre: Please enjoy the show I am doing not the show you wish I could do. I’m going to judge some Mom and Pop dirt hay ride differently than Madison Square Garden’s. I go for fun and enjoy what they are doing.
Mr. Lobo: When did RTN come into the picture?

Gravely MacCabre: At the end of ‘07. We were in the Pittsburg Television Market, and owner of Scare House, another friendly local haunt, used to be the sound tech at the NBC affiliate of Pittsburg. He used to get me on all the local talk shows because I had the gift of gab during October. They knew I was the go-to guy for something goofy. Which is funny because CHILLY BILLY CARDILLE still worked there. He didn’t like it too much.

Mr. Lobo: That’s how it always is. There’s that one entertainment guy who’s grandfathered in at the local TV station.
Gravely MacCabre: He’s never going to die. I’m gonna Die before him–I’ll never own Pittsburg. He did the introduction on my first show and when I ran a movie festival he was my guest of honor. I had the county proclaim it CHILLY BILLY DAY. I kiss the Papal Ring of horror and it‘s all good. He actually is a great guy.
Mr. Lobo: He’s great. I met him at MONSTER BASH.
Gravely MacCabre: So, I knew the production staff. So I’m told that our local NBC affiliate with all these new digital sub channels is going to bring in RTN. This could be a good opportunity for you because you’re already getting the show produced elsewhere.
Sadly like many hosts find out it was the old “We want you to pay to put the show on the air and we‘ll give you all the commercial time”. So that was a long drawn out process of “No-No-No-No-No. “ But our small local TV station decided you give us rights to promote and sell the show-NOT OWNERSHIP-we will from the cost to put you on RTN.”
Mr. Lobo: So you let the local station foot the bill–and they got to keep all the commercial time?
Gravely MacCabre: That seemed fair enough. They had a whole TV station with a sales staff chomping at the bit. And our little local ads could start airing regionally. So they did that and it ran fine for a couple years.

MIDNIGHT MONSTER HOP NONSTOP

PART IV: FROM RTV TO FREEUNDERGROUNDTV.COM

Mr. Lobo: So, In 2008, RTN becomes RTV and your show goes national…

Gravely MacCabre: The way it was supposed to work, was that we go nationwide on their system and our local station will get a percentage…uh, like for every SHAM WOW that’s sold.

Mr. Lobo: DIRECT RESPONSE ADVERTISING.

Gravely MacCabre: So from all that “Direct Response Advertising” that our NBC affiliate put on nationally, for every 50 cents they made, we would get a quarter of that. But our work was already done. We were still feeding the tiny station programming.

Mr. Lobo: You were doing the show regardless.

Gravely MacCabre: Calkins Media, owned also owned some big Philadelphia papers and newspapers were dying. So they kept cutting the staff and production budget of the TV station. They could no longer produce my show for free. Sadly, we never saw any of the money for the national deal. They would not even give me an accounting. In the meantime, RTN collapsed and was reborn as RTV, management changed.

 

Mr. Lobo: On Wikipedia it stated Equity Media Holdings in Little Rock filed for bankruptcy and sold RTN to Luken Communications.

Gravely MacCabre: I’d go to all these conventions, and I would call the old home office in Arkansas and ask if they’d send me a box of stickers or buttons because I’m out there shilling my show on my nickel–I‘d be more than happy to promote their network. I had a hard enough time getting a print quality logo just to put on my pictures that I give away!

Mr. Lobo: I know exactly what you’re talking about,

Gravely MacCabre: The truth of it is. My life started getting weird and I was headed for a divorce. The national boys were screwing us on the TV show. There is no money coming in.

Mr. Lobo: The National Boys Always Screw You.

Gravely MacCabre: Correct. If I could have changed my last name to Spelling maybe it’d be different. We were still paying locally in Pittsburgh to be on. Hoping the national Money would pay that bill. It never did and my life was on the verge of going through a lot of upheaval. And Sadly I needed it to stop for a while.

Mr. Lobo: So, MIDNIGHT MONSTER HOP ended in 2008. WOLFMAN MAC and the gang at CHILLER DRIVE-IN got your old slot when his local DETROIT station made a similar buy-on deal and the rest was RTV history. Now, your show is back on again?

Gravely MacCabre: I guess the “pay it forward” thing happens for real sometimes. A recent College graduate contacted me from the Communication Department who has all this new technology. He says “Hey, I used to live near you. I’ve been going through CASTLE BLOOD since I was 12. I have this new thing called FREEUNDERGROUNDTV.COM and if you me permission to air your show I’ll give you your old Friday Night Midnight slot back. I say “Uh, Okay?”–and I do a little bit more investigation. I meet the guy and he says “I‘m not making any money and it‘s all public domain TV shows I‘m showing…” And I’m thinking with the changes in life, and wanting to keep as fresh as I can, and the fact that he actually has the ability to fix what’s wrong with my copies of the show and do some other things for me that this could work. I tell him “I have 34 episodes—You help me get the masters fixed and do some other stuff with me and I will give you a 68 week run, no problem. It’s Non Exclusive so if I get some Other Deal I can do it.

 

The Divorce is Over, The Castle is Moved, The Attraction is secure again, and all the while somebody else is making sure that the show is still available. So, when somebody asks about the show, I can say I’m on Fridays at Midnight at FREEUNDERGROUNDTV.COM.
Mr. Lobo: Fantastic. We’re looking forward to the new incarnation of CASTLE BLOOD: MIDNIGHT MONSTER HOP, out of a new facility.

Gravely MacCabre: Yes, it will for Halloween this year we’ll be at an all new facility. All Indoors now. However, I still have a lot of stuff in the can that we never edited so I can get a big head start on stuff. But were going to very closely recreate the sets. I have 90% of the same cast. Grizelda wont be on it anymore. Madame Spooky wont be on it anymore. They’re on the other team. It’s all good. Whatever. My daughter will be my co-host.

Mr. Lobo: SKULLY.

Gravely MacCabre: Yep, and PROFESSOR SCRYE, Chris Handa is my best friend, WHIPLASH, mean ol’ WHIPLASH–now that you’ve met Sarah Black in person she’s the sweetest girl you ever met, isn’t she?

 

Mr. Lobo: And she has nothing but wonderful things to say about working with you.

 

Gravely MacCabre: I actually, got her out of a High School Drama department, she was 16, and she started working for me, October 12th of 1996.
Mr. Lobo: 17 years ago.
Gravely Macabre: She has not missed a performance yet. Not at the haunt, Not a promotional event, Not a parade, Not anything! She’s got older, she got married, she went to college, she has a child…

Mr. Lobo: Take that, people who make excuses why they cant be creative!!!

Gravely MacCabre: I call her “Charlie“. Because if I’m WILLY WONKA she is my “Charlie“. If something happens to me, and happens to SKULLY, WHIPLASH has to take it because she’s the only one who knows how to run the factory the right way. She’d need everyone else to help her. But she’s the only one who understands that little extra thing that makes it work and wont try and change it.

Mr. Lobo: And so the magic lives on for another generation…that’s wonderful. Thanks GRAVELY…I could go another 11 hours but we have to go now. Let’s meet again at the Castle.

Gravely MacCabre: Absolutely. It was my pleasure, MR. LOBO.

***

One thought on “MIDNIGHT MONSTER HOP NONSTOP

  1. Very nice horror blog, thanks for the good post about my favorite host! I’m a poet!

Comments are closed.