Movie Mom

Movie Mom


William Castle’s “13 Ghosts”

posted by Nell Minow

People often ask me if I’ve ever walked out of a movie.  Fortunately, I seem to have an endless tolerance and sometimes even affection for bad movies.  But just once, I did insist on leaving the theater, and a delightful tribute to William Castle’s horror movies on Turner Classic Movies reminded me of the film that did drive me from the theater.  It was Castle’s 13 Ghosts.

While William Castle worked with legendary Hollywood artists like George Stevens and Orson Welles, he is best remembered for his cheesy horror films, produced on micro-budgets but marketed with magna-artistry. Indeed, his marketing campaigns were far more creative than his films with fantastic gimmicks like a life insurance policy for anyone who died of fright during the film and a plastic skeleton that flew out into the audience from a wire above the screen.  He even wired seats in the theater to give the audience an electric shock for The Tingler.

I wrote about my favorite, for the movie Homicidal, in my new book, 101 Must-See Movie Moments.

As often happens in thrillers, there comes a point near the climax when a character is warned not to go into a dark, menacing house.  Of course, she goes anyway, but before she does, the movie gives us a “fright break.”  A stopwatch on screen counts down 45 seconds to give those who are too terrified to find out what is inside that house to leave and get their money back. According to director John Waters, a Castle fan, when people actually took advantage of this offer,

William Castle simply went nuts. He came up with “Coward’s Corner,” a yellow cardboard booth, manned by a bewildered theater employee in the lobby. When the Fright Break was announced, and you found that you couldn’t take it any more, you had to leave your seat and, in front of the entire audience, follow yellow footsteps up the aisle, bathed in a yellow light. Before you reached Coward’s Corner, you crossed yellow lines with the stenciled message: “Cowards Keep Walking.” You passed a nurse (in a yellow uniform?…I wonder), who would offer a blood-pressure test. All the while a recording was blaring, “Watch the chicken! Watch him shiver in Coward’s Corner!” As the audience howled, you had to go through one final indignity — at Coward’s Corner you were forced to sign a yellow card stating, “I am a bona fide coward.’“ Very, very few were masochistic enough to endure this. The one percent refund dribbled away to a zero percent, and I’m sure that in many   cities a plant had to be paid to go through this torture.

I hope not many got their money back.  The surprise in the house is pretty wild!

In “13 Ghosts,” a family moves into a spooky house.  The gimmick is explained by Castle himself at the beginning of the film.  I was so sure that the ghosts were real that I insisted my mother take me out of the theater.  But now, I own the DVD, which of course came with its own ghost viewer.

YouTube Preview Image


Previous Posts

Classic Hollywood Memorabilia Auction Tomorrow from Bonhams/TCM
Bonhams and Turner Classic Movies have joined together again for another auction of classic Hollywood memorabilia, with treasures from the golden age of movie-making, including the piano Sam plays "As

posted 8:00:36am Nov. 23, 2014 | read full post »

Little Hope Was Arson
In a small East Texas community "with a church on every corner," 10 churches were burned. One church showed the Christian film "Fireproof" one night and showed that it was far from fireproof itself

posted 8:40:04pm Nov. 22, 2014 | read full post »

Docudrama about Handel's Messiah on BYUtv November 27, 2014
BYUtv has produced a new docudrama, Handel’s Messiah, premiering November 27, 2014, about the world’s most popular and renowned choral work by one of the leading composers of the Baroque era, George Frideric Handel. The docudrama, narrated by Emmy® and Golden Globe®-winning actress Jane Seymo

posted 8:00:38am Nov. 22, 2014 | read full post »

Another #Epicfail for Barbie -- And a Non-Barbie Alternative
Remember when Teen Talk Barbie got in trouble for saying "Math is hard?" Well, Mattel did not get the memo because a new Barbie book intended to encourage girls' interest in STEM subjects like computer

posted 8:00:00am Nov. 22, 2014 | read full post »

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 Stars Talk About the Film
Fandango has a great interview with the stars of "The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1." What was the toughest part for Jennifer Lawrence?  Singing! [iframe id='ifplayer' name='ifplayer' frameborder='0' marginwidth='0' marginheight='0' width='620' height='349' scrolling='no' src='http://www.fanda

posted 8:40:25am Nov. 21, 2014 | read full post »




Report as Inappropriate

You are reporting this content because it violates the Terms of Service.

All reported content is logged for investigation.