Today in Horror History

Happy birthday, William Castle

Happy birthday, William Castle
Born April 24, 1914

Castle was known for his horror movie gimmicks, drawing in crowds by utilizing various interactive techniques.

In The Tingler, the monster would attempt to crawl up a potential host’s spine, creating a tingly sensation. The only remedy was to yell to make The Tingler flee. Castle rigged random seats in theaters to vibrate during key moments in the film, hoping to make the seat’s occupant scream as well and make others scream in turn.

Mr. Sardonicus involved a “punishment poll.” Audience members were given glow in the dark thumbs at the start of the movie. At the climax, the projector worker would stop the film and the audience would vote on the character’s fate: thumbs up for mercy, thumbs down for punishment. The projector worker would then tally the votes play the appropriate ending, though allegedly only the “punishment” ending was made.

13 Ghosts featured the use of red and blue colored film in a paper card. If a viewer was brave, they could view the “hidden” ghosts during certain scenes by looking through the red film. Alternatively, should the viewer be afraid, they could use the blue film to further obscure the blue-tinted ghost on the screen. The remake Thirteen Ghosts paid homage to this gimmick with their own ghost-viewing glasses.

House on Haunted Hill featured a glowing skeleton which soared above the audience. Homicidal allowed viewers to leave and receive a full refund during a “Fright Break,” on the condition they take their earned “Coward’s Certificate.” He also employees fake audience members to scream to encourage real viewers to do the same, and stationed nurses and ambulances outside theaters to assist with any who could not physically handle the fear.

The movie Matinee with John Goodman is largely about William Castle.

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