‘50s Portland horror hostess, Tarantula Ghoul
Everyone knows about Vampira, the 1950s TV horror movie hostess whose iconic character drew influence from the Morticia character of Charles Addams’ New Yorker cartoons, the Dragon Lady from the comic strip Terry and the Pirates and the evil Queen Grimhilde from Disney’s Snow White & The Seven Dwarfs. She is considered to be the first “television horror host.”
Vampira’s highly successful show was cancelled after only a year in 1955 when she refused to sell the rights to the character to ABC. The popularity of the Vampira character spawned imitators all over the country. It seems that at some point every major television market has had at least one ghoulish horror host or hostess. One of these was Portland, Oregon’s Tarantula Ghoul—known as “Taranch” to her fans.
From the March 29, 1958 issue of TV Guide.
Tarantula Ghoul was a vampy “monster of ceremonies” for KPTV’s House of Horror from 1957 to 1959. Played by Suzanne Waldron, the Vampira-like character bears a striking resemblance to Wynona Ryder’s Lydia Deetz character from Beetlejuice.
House of Horror followed the standard format of showing z-grade movies with comedy bumpers. The cast members included Milton, a grave-robber-turned-gardener, Baby the boa constrictor, and Sir Galahad the tarantula. Sadly, all episodes of House of Horror seem to be lost to the sands of time. No footage exists of the show or of Waldron in character. According to Patrick McGreery, general manager of Fox KPTV and KPDX, “The archives are gone. Nobody did a good enough job saving the clips.”
TV Radio Mirror - July 1958
The show was cancelled in 1959 when Waldron became pregnant out of wedlock. This was unfortunately very frowned upon at the time, and Portland lost a classic campy horror hostess as a result.
During her time as Tarantula Ghoul, Waldron released a single with the songs “Graveyard Rock” and “King Kong.” Both songs are considered classic schlock rock and have been comped a handful of times, including on the popular Las Vegas Grind and Sin Alley series.
Even without access to clips from the original show, these songs, preserved forever on wax, are quite a legacy for Taranch.
Be sure to spin these frightfully ghoul tunes at your next mash: