The Case of the Scary Serial.

“I ain’t afraid of no ghost…”


Since Halloween is fast approaching, I thought I’d relate a tale of horror. O.k, well not “horror” in the classic sense, but more like a time when I was horrified.

The year was around….1975-76 and I was seven or eight years old. My dad was in the Navy and we were stationed in Sigonella, Sicily. Back then, before the days of cable television, you only had what was on your local t.v. stations. Being in Sicily meant that everything was in Italian. At least, I’m pretty sure it was as I don’t think we even owned a t.v. back then.  I didn’t speak Italian of course (nor do I speak it now), so it really put a damper on what entertainment venues I had at my disposal.

Luckily, there was a movie house on the base and it was roughly five or six blocks from our house so, needless to say, I spent a lot of time there. My dad and I spent many nights there, after dinner, catching such movies like The Planet of the Apes, American Graffiti, and, The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly.

Now, this movie place showed all sorts of films, from first runs to a lot of the old stuff. I remember seeing quite a few old cliffhanger serials. There was one, though, that used to scare the crap out of me. It was called…The Crimson Ghost.

I remember it to this day. On Saturdays, it was some sort of “Kid’s” day, so that’s where we all congregated to watch the old movies. They’d show a cartoon and then the ‘feature’ which consisted of an old movie serial. Back then, I had no idea what a “serial” was…I just knew I had to come back each week to find out what was going to happen next and was always left on the edge of my seat.

Well, one Saturday they started with Chapter One of  The Crimson Ghost and the more I looked at that guy in the skull mask and cloak, the more terrified I became. I would start fidgeting in my seat and it got to the point where I had to cover my eyes whenever he’d come on-screen.  If it weren’t for the fact that they rotated different serials in (I don’t really remember the other ones, I just knew they were different each week of the month), I’d probably have stopped going on Saturdays instead of opting to just skipping the Crimson Ghost weeks.

Of course, one week I miscalculated and thought they were showing a different serial only to see that giant skull face appear on the screen and the scary music booming from the speakers. I don’t think I’ve ever moved that fast in my life. I bolted out of the seat and ran for the door…screaming bloody murder the whole way. I don’t think I went back for a few Saturdays after that and took quite a bit of teasing from the other kids, afterwards.

I know it will sound a bit silly but, I’ll always remember that as a time in my life when, for a brief moment, I was the most afraid.

Of a guy in a skull mask.

Self Analysis Moment: This whole incident could be one of the reasons why I really don’t like horror movies, or haunted houses, to this day.

The funniest thing was, as time went on, that incident would be pushed back to a deep, dark, part of my mind and I’d almost forget about it. Then one day…I think it was in the late 80s…the USA Network was showing  old ‘horror’ movies at midnight. I forget the name of the show, but I saw where the they would be showing The Crimson Ghost. Of course, I had to tune in and sat there laughing. Not only at the cheesiness of the serial, but at the idea that it could ever scare me so much. I also realized that the actor who played the Lone Ranger, Clayton Moore (in the rare role as a villain), played one of the Ghost’s henchmen.

If you want a good ‘scare’…o.k, well more like a chuckle at some old production values, you can catch the whole thing on YouTube…starting with the first episode below. If you watch it, though, try to keep from hopping from your chair and running through your house in terror. <Insert Vincent Price-esque laughter here>

Happy Halloween!

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