The Hilarious House of Frightenstein
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, I would love to hear any memories you may have in the comments section below, as LI70K pays 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.
You can catch a few episodes of this on Youtube, as well as some really irritating Tom Carvel “cookie puss” commercials tossed in. I remember in our early teens, my buddies and I used to do our own versions of the bits on a cassette recorder, out in the garage, using all manner of JUNK and machinery as background sound effects. A rotary saw and 3 screaming kids were a very convincing “mysterious murder at Hawthrone Road” docu-drama!
IF you were a kid at the time these aired, you also should have gotten your first exposure to Monty Python’s Flying Circus on 13. My mother hated my watching it, because they made fun of homosexuals and did sketches in drag.
IIRC, this used to air on Channel 5 (then WNEW-TV) in the afternoons, but I’m not sure if it lasted more than a year or two. I particularly liked the Librarian segments, until they went exclusively to Aesop’s fables — the humorous variety was gone! Once the series itself was gone, my afternoons eventually became dominated by Channel 5’s Star Blazers – Battle of the Planets hour.
I totally remember that show. “Glory, glory Transylvania!” A random memory was when the Wolfman DJ would introduce a song he always said “From way back in 1970” and as a kid it struck me that that wasn’t very far back. I asked a friend about it and he said disgustedly, “They always say ‘Way back'” So it became a thing with us…”Did you see that Happy Days episode from way back last week?” Etc…
Anyway, I just discovered your site and I’m digging it.
I SO remember this show! I’m from Huntington Station. I believe I was 3 when it started in 71, but I remember it!
Yaaayyyy yes, totally hav memories of ths great show! I was born in 79 tho so I guess i was watchng reruns (whch didnt bothr me, it was my fave thng tht came on one of our 2 channels)
Vincent Price and Billy Van left huge impressions on me and iv loved creepy thngs evr since…the humour is so wacky too but smart, a hidden gem! They dont make TV like it anymore!
Im interested in a remake, tho cant imagin who wld play Billy, he was a comedy genius.
That 70’s vibe? Not sure tht can be replicated eithr…lots o groovy stuff, jst LOVE it and am proud it was Canadian!
I grew up in northern Minnesota and watched the show there. It might have been broadcast out of Canada for us. I was fond the show, but also a little frightened.