PART I: CASTLE BLOOD AND FRIGHT NIGHT FRIDAYS
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.
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.
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.
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.
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“.
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.
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: 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: This was the early 2000’s?
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.
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.
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: 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: 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: 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.
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: 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.
MIDNIGHT MONSTER HOP NONSTOP
PART IV: FROM RTV TO FREEUNDERGROUNDTV.COM
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.
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: 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: 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.
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.