Kids have always loved television shows and movies featuring monsters. For those fortunate enough to live in New York during the 1970s, there was a particularly cool show called The Hilarious House of Frightenstein. Featuring all the popular creatures of the day (and night), the horror spoof was more funny than frightful, endearing millions of youngsters during its run.
Debuting in 1971, The Hilarious House of Frightenstein originated in Canada (where it still airs to this day). The series was the brainchild of a man named Riff Markowitz, who envisioned an educational skit-based comedy show for kids while working at Ontario’s independent television station, CHCH-TV. The show was given the green light and the studio proceeded to produce an astounding 130 episodes in a nine-month period.
Each show both opened and closed with a poem, read by none other than horror icon, Vincent Price. He didn’t actually appear in the episodes though. The majority of characters on the show were all portrayed by the same actor, a well-known Canadian comedian named Billy Van. Two of his more memorable monsters were The Wolfman, a radio DJ who sounded remarkably similar to Wolfman Jack, and Grizelda, a witch who hosted a cooking show called “The Ghastly Gourmet.”
Van also played a British explorer named Bwana Clyde Batty, who taught kids about animals, and The Librarian, an elder ghoul who tried unsuccessfully to scare young viewers with such non-horror tales as “HUmpty Dumpty.” Billy Van also wasn’t above donning a gorilla suit on occasion and getting mercilessly attacked by ping-pong balls.
While kids delighted in all the elaborate costumes and spooky settings, few realized that they were actually learning things along the way. Rather slyly, the show imparted kids with lessons in grammar, science, animals and the importance of reading, all under the guise of silly comedy skits. The Wolfman sketches also featured some great classic rock and roll tunes, although due to musical licensing agreements, many of them were removed from future airings and the eventual DVD sets (which you can purchase at our Long Island 70s Store).
Do you have fond memories of watching The Hilarious House of Frightenstein as a kid growing up on Long Island? If so, we would love to hear any memories you may have in our comments section below, as we pay tribute to a show that is hardly known in the rest of the country, but whose memory lives on to a bunch of Long Island 70s Kids.