I'm beginning the Vintage Para Month (covering all things paranormal from the 1950s, 1960s, 1970s) with a posting about the Paranormal Icons of our youth. And, one thing we know is that we were born and raised in a paranormal milieu that created the para geeks were are today! (Enjoy some theme songs with the shows)
With a tall lanky presence, charm, penetrating stare and distinctive voice, Vincent Price was well cast in every movie he chose to pursue. In his youth, he went to London to study fine arts and ended up theater. He did not start out to do horror, but once in that genre, he found his niche and was one of the most beloved horror movie actors of all time. Some of his movies included; The Fly, The House On Haunted Hill, Pit and the Pendulum, The Last Man on Earth, and House of Wax. It is impossible to be in lov with horror and not have at least several Vincent Price movies we loved.
It's hard to believe that "The Munsters" show only ran from 1964 to 1966; talk about having a cult following! As a kid, I was comforted by the family because I often felt like the niece, Marilyn, who was "normal" girl in an abnormal home. Considering the scary haunted house on the hill I grew up in, I understood how the Munster family felt being the odd ones out, but they seemed to revel in their own monstrous joy, whether the outside world understood or not. This alternate universe that involved a home filled with the paranormal and horrors, shaped many of us kids growing up and seeing it was kind of cool to be dark.
The Addams Family
This 1960s TV series featured a romantic offering of ghoulish delight, a family that was eccentric, dark, gothic, and enchanting. The Leave It To Beaver family could never compete with this odd mix. This series literally paved the way for the love of gothic, dark and dismal, especially when the beloved character, Wednesday, and her devious and torturing ways and overall depressive pallor won our hearts.
The series "I Dream of Jeannie" lasted from 1965-1970 and took advantage of our fascination with the space program as we were just first landing on the moon. What if one of our All-American heroes, a diligent and nerdish astronaut came across a bottle with a genie in it and found himself stuck with a servant for life that was bent on doing good for him, but only bumbled up his life even more? How many boys wanted Jeannie and how many girls wanted to be her? Come on, admit it, at some point you did rub a bottle and make a wish....
It doesn't matter what para-geek you talk to, you are going to get a comment that Kolchak was the equivalent of what X-Files Muldar was in the 90s as far as para influence and being glued to the TV set. Kolchak: The Night Stalker was a short lived series (74/75 season) with a serious cult following. This bumbling reporter driven to be in the right place and the right time to run across the paranormal and always manage to not get a clear picture, was our favorite and his cases were eerie and disturbing. There were no budding para geeks who didn't want his job (and his convertible).
Scooby Doo Gang
This para-themed cartoon ran from 1969 to 1976. During that run, a lot of para-geeks were glued to the TV screen, waiting to see if they would finally fine a genuine para event or just a butler wanting to knock off his employer. They were cool enough to drive a van, but young enough to be great heroes for youthful precocious investigations. It is perhaps one of the most collectible para shows from the past in which adults seek out any and all toys and figures as the identifiers of our para-geek transition as a kid into the love of ghosts and horror.
The 1960s to 1970s opened our minds to lots of alternative ways to live. No, TV wasn't ready to portray gay characters and men and women living together without benefit of marriage, but they were just fine with portraying quirky spooky families and women with strange witchcraft powers. Samantha Stevens just wanted a normal life with a normal husband in a normal neighborhood, but her history as a witch from a long line of witches made it impossible. And we loved every minute of it. How many of us tried to twitch our noses?
Uncle Martin/Lost in Space
What do you do when a martial crashes in your neighborhood? Take him and pretend he's your uncle until he can fix his ship, right? Well, that was the premise of the 1960s show, "My Favorite Martian." Ray Walston and Bill Bixby were a dynamic duo trying to hide the reality of an antennae wearing interplanetary survivor. Come on, didn't you at some time try moving things around by pointing your finger and waving it?
Rod Serling, the philosopher for us para geeks. "Twilight Zone" and "Night Gallery" were just two of this brilliant writer and narrator's works. We could not miss an episode, but we almost surely watched it from under a blanket with our feet tucked up off the floor. Rod made us ponder our place in the universe, the arrogance of our self significance, and the very foibles of our egos that might bring us down when faced with a true enemy or challenging paranormal situation. He had mood, storytelling, tense acting, and moral lessons down pat! We still can't get enough. How many people indulge in the "Twilight Zone" marathons when Syfy Channel shows them?
We para geeks regarded Leonard Nemoy in the role of Mr. Spock as our intellectual hero, but when he moved into the 70s and hosting "In Search Of," we were certain this man understood our very souls. The series ran in the 70s and into the early 80s. It covered ever para subject that could whet our appetites. When the series came out on DVD in a set recently, people rushed to buy it, even at the cost over $100! This was really our first series of para info shows that made us want to go hunt answers.
Barnabas Collins/Dark Shadows
From the mid 1960s to the early 1970s, a soap opera of a new flavor appeared on TV. "Dark Shadows" got a great following who wanted romantic, gothic, with dark tones. Just imagine a dramatic soap opera version of "The Addam's Family." Barnabas Collins, the lead character, was a 175-year-old vampire. Although to some he might be an unlikely sex symbol, he had a following of swooning women who thought dark and brooding was h-o-t!
I still remember going to see "The Legend Of Boggy Creek" with my older brother when I was turning 10. In one scene, I jumped into the guy next to me's lap when the "hairy beast" was at the door when they opened it. I had never considered the concept of a hairy wild thing in the woods before, but right after that pseudo-documentary, I went out into the woods wearing a heavy jacket, gloves, and a football helmet, spending an entire summer looking for one. For most of us, this was a pivotal point of interest in Bigfoot and nothing was ever the same again. The movie showed us that, anywhere there was countryside, there could be the Tall Ones. The Fouke Monster became and overnight curiosity.
Patty the Bigfoot
Although the controversial Patterson film was shot in 1967, today it is still debated hotly. The figure walking across the creek bed with swinging breasts appeared to be a female Bigfoot and fans lovingly named her Patty for Patterson's expedition. Many saw this film on release soon after, but for some of us, like us kids who didn't necessarily watch late-night TV, we were older when we saw it. For me, it was in the documentary "Mysterious Monsters" with Peter Graves and also on "In Search Of." It made everyone stop and think a moment. I still cannot imagine today creating a costumed person who could get anywhere near that appearance.
This illusionist really took the world by storm by doing all kinds of interesting metal-bending tricks. He supposedly made watches stop and could tell about hidden drawings, and much more that made everyone ooh and ahh. In a time in the 70s when psychics like Jeane Dixon and others were the hot item, he became a sought after personality on variety shows, documentaries and public appearances. He ended up being a millionaire many times over and supposedly dowsed for minerals for mining companies. The legitimacy of his talents were disputed openly and honestly by magicians who showed how it was done.
Erich Von Daniken
Erich von Daniken had a sorted history including being jailed for embezzlement and arrested for falsifying documents and having no background in archaeology, but bringing forth a concept of aliens coming to the Earth long ago and proof of their technology in the ancient buildings and glyphs around the world. He was considered a pseudoscientist to many, but to others, he was a cult leader of a new era of questioning our origins. "Chariots of the Gods" shaped a generation in the 70s into seeing outside of evolution and creationism and seeing a possibility of the earth being seeded. No matter what we might think of him as a mind or as an upstanding citizen, he did make us look at archaeology with a new bend and for that many are thankful.
Supposedly abducted by aliens in 1961, Betty and Barney Hill were the first to ever talk about the human-alien interaction process. They opened up a new era of perfectly normal suburban folks being abducted, examined, returned to their beds, and often times forgetting it until hypnosis. It nagged at the back of our minds for some time until more and more people came forward with their stories and it got harder and harder to ignore.
Casper the Friendly Ghost
Casper the Friendly Ghost and his buddy Wendy, were favorites of kids from the 50s onward. He didn't want to be a spooky nasty ghost scaring others, but he wanted to spread his happy ghost messages. Having a ghost like Casper around sounded like a pretty good deal to most of us kids. In fact, if ghosts were like that, we had nothing to fear, right?