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WSJS Halloween Spooktacular / 1969
by Billy Ingram

Bob Gordon TheaterMy favorite television memory of Halloween came in 1969. I was 13 at the time, a bit old for trick or treat but I was a small, skinny kid so I could get away with it.

Stomping across crunchy dry leaves, I crossed into neighborhoods far away, places I'd never walked through before, arriving home with a HUGE stash of candy that lasted a month, at least.

But a real TV treat began that year at 8:30, after sunset - the first Halloween Spooktacular on WSJS (now WXII) channel 12 in Winston Salem, NC. On this night in 1969, the station broadcast a collection of the best Universal horror movies - Frankenstein, Dracula, The Mummy and Son of Frankenstein.

Host Bob Gordon and a collection of WSJS radio & TV personalities were on hand, dressed as monsters for local flavored segments between the films.

I had only ever seen The Mummy before, the weakest of the quartet as I discovered, but I sat glued to the screen for the other three while my younger brother and sister were appropriately terrified.

Most people reading this have probably seen these first three films but perhaps not Son of Frankenstein - surprisingly strong with Boris Karloff back as the monster, Basil Rathbone in the role of the mad scientist's twisted scion, along with Bela Lugosi breathing new life into Igor. The weirdo moderne sets are a sight to behold.

For Halloween 1970, WSJS once again returned to the Universal well with Bride of Frankenstein, Dracula's Daughter, The Invisible Man (wickedly good), and The Wolf Man, another superb lineup of moody chillers. Bride of Frankenstein is a true classic of the genre, stylistically impeccable, and a hell of a shocker as well.

Dracula's Daughter is more obscure, weak from a story point of view but beautifully art directed and directorially magnificent with overt (especially to modern viewers) homo-erotic moments.

If I'm not mistaken, Bob Gordon's 1971 lineup included The Mummy's Curse, Frankenstein Meets The Wolf Man, The Invisible Woman, and perhaps another weak sequel. There may have been one more Spooktacular in 1972, when I seem to remember Channel 12 went back to the original lineup from 1969, but can't be sure.

This was a practice that died out as the seventies unfolded, interrupting an entire night of NBC primetime fare just for the kiddies wasn't worth it any longer. The novelty of television had its day and that day had passed.

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