THE BONE JANGLER "Shake, Jangle and Roll Them Bones"

By Dr. Abner Mality

I meet few truly kindred souls in my lonely existence, but the immortal BONE JANGLER is surely one of these. This bespectacled being with the humongous mutton chop sideburns is one of that rare breed known as the "TV Horror Host" and you will find few so proud of that honor or more articulate about it. Mr. Jangler has been in the public eye for more than a decade now, accompanied by a lovely harem of ghoulish beauties known as the Coven and his special companion, the bewitching Nocturna.

Recently I stepped foot in the web-encrusted dungeon of the Bone Jangler to speak to him about his career as Horror Host. The result was more intriguing than even the Good Doctor could have dreamed. Bone is a man determined to separate himself from the pack and he's devoted to spreading the true horror host creed far and wide.

Read on, poor souls, and learn the depths of The Bone Jangler's Creepy Crusade...

WORMWOOD CHRONICLES:    Greetings from Dr. Abner Mality and Wormwood Chronicles. It is a pleasure to converse with a fellow fiend. Enlighten us with the origin of the Bone Jangler’s TV reign of terror!

 BONE JANGLER:  Why, thank you, Doctor! I guess the best place to start is the beginning. Since long before time itself had been recorded, there has been The Bone Jangler. Throughout the years, this world's most prolific thoughtsmiths have theorized that the "Big Bang" that spawned the Earth's creation also heralded my arrival from the great Beyond. This is correct.

 WC:  When did you first realize you were destined to be a horror host? How long has this evil been brewing?

BJ: Well, starting in the mid-1950s, Television Horror Hosts began springing up about the United States, as TV stations acquired the "Shock Theater" package of 52 old Universal Horror films. The stations employed costumed hosts, spawning the Horror Host genre. Enchantress Nocturna and I saw many of these Horror Hosts, as we traveled about the country between 1954, and, say, 1981. Vampira, Ghoulardi, Sammy Terry, and the original Jerry G. Bishop Svengoolie were amongst our favorites, back in the day.

 By the late 1990s, it was as if the Horror Host genre was dead. It was at this time that I decided that we should enter   the fray, partially to help keep this important American folk art/tradition alive. I had begun collecting numerous Horror Host shows on VHS at the time, and had amassed quite a collection, and, between that, and my omniscience, I'd seen pretty much everyone's work. I felt that, with us actually living this life, the kind of life that these Horror Hosts were portraying on their TV shows, we'd make for a very authentic addition to this genre.

On Saturday, September 29th, 2001, at 10:30pm Central, we made our TV debut. Within a few short months, we were airing on several stations around the country.

 WC:  Give us an example of some of the films you show. Are they the usual bunch of public domain horrors like “The Devil Bat” and “Night of the Living Dead” or are you able to reach into more unusual realms?

BJ:  We show the same public domain films as every other Horror Host, although, we've yet to host "The Devil Bat." The reason for this is simple. Like 99% of today's Horror Hosts, we aren't paid to host these movies. We currently appear on 43 stations in 21 states, and the cost to air non-pd movies is prohibitive. Nonetheless, I dig deeper than most Horror Hosts, and find movies that we are free to use, movies that seem to be under most others' radar for whatever reason. Now, we do host non-PD movies occasionally, when they are offered to us by the distributor, producer, and/or director.

Unfortunately, these days, I see many Horror Hosts, or "Horror Hosts" as I refer to these particular culprits, flagrantly hosting blatantly obvious non-PD Horror films, usually the old Universal films, films that they clearly do not have the right to host.

WC:  What criteria do you use in selecting your films?

BJ: When selecting movies for us to host, I look for movies that are free, and legal, for us to use, movies that I think our viewers will enjoy. Sometimes, some of these movies need a little enhancement, and, in those cases, I'll go in there and add some well placed sound inserts to add humor to the slow spots. But, yeah, we either need to have permission to use these movies, or they're already in the public domain. There are movies which we've hosted years ago, and, now, they're no longer PD. One movie that we never hosted, but I sure wish we had while it was okay for us to do so, is "It's A Wonderful Life." I love making the Christmas shows, and, we've done 15 of them in the last 11 years.

 WC: Do you bother with modern horror or are you more of a classic kind of ghoul?

BJ: As far as the nighttime movie hosted show is concerned, I'll show as modern a movie as possible, so long as I find it entertaining. There are a lot of modern films that I'd love to host, but, it'd be illegal for us to do so, without permission. I actually prefer to host the "classic" films that you're used to seeing on Horror Host programs, stuff like "The Killer Shrews", "Bride Of The Monster", etc.

Outside of TV, there are many modern genre films that I enjoy, but, one thing I can't stand is the "Torture Porn" genre. Give me a film like "The Woman In Black", and I'm happy. You can have "The Human Centipede", "Hostel", and the like. Having said that, I do, however, love Rob Zombie's "The Devil's Rejects."

WC: What would you say is the one film that inspired you the most? What would you say the best horror film is? .

BJ:  Inspired me? Well, I don't really look to these films as inspiration. I look at them as entertainment. I prefer movies that have ghosts, or a monster, not psycho killers. Too many of today's films appear to me to be some kind of primer for would be serial killers. Where are the monsters?

As for which film I think is the best Horror film, that's a really difficult question. There have been so many. The imagery of "The Cabinet Of Dr. Caligari", "Nosferatu", "Dracula", and "Frankenstein", for a few examples, has never really been topped, not in my mind. The Mexican Horror films of the 50s and 60s, the sets were magnificent to my eyes. Then again, when I watch Ed Wood's "Orgy Of The Dead", as hokey as that set was, I feel like I'm actually there, and don't ever want to leave. Writing-wise, movies like "Psycho", and John Carpenter's "Halloween", those movies are great, and, like many of the early Universal Horror films, will stand the test of time, while much of today's movies, and music for that matter, will be largely forgotten. (A sentiment I heartily agree with...Dr. M)

WC:  Do you draw the line at certain levels of violence or is everything fair game?

BJ: Well, our nighttime show airs almost entirely on access stations, and on the Internet. Therefore, we don't have a lot of restraints regarding the timeslot, the violence, language, or nudity. As a result, I like to leave these movies as intact, and complete, as possible, and rarely cut anything out. When I do, it's usually genitalia, for obvious reasons. Our audience knows that we aren't the Disney Channel kind of Horror Host show. They want us to go over the edge a bit.

WC:  Is there a particular genre you prefer…Japanese monster movies, Hammer horror, Italian zombie flicks or are you pretty omnivorous?

BJ: I like all of the various genres that we show on the nighttime show, the Horror, and the Psychotronic, much more than the Sci-Fi, I must admit, though. Nocturna's the Sci-Fi lover, and, because of this, these films are growing on me. But, as far as the Horror goes, it's so varied. On one hand, I love the 50s monster movies and the 60s Kaiju, but, the South Of The Border wrestlers vs. monsters are tops with me as well. Love me some naughty Giallos too. The Italian zombie films I like, but, nowhere near as much as, say, the Paul Naschy El Hombre Lobo films. Basically, if there's a monster, I probably like it. Throw in some bikini girls, and some Garage rock, and I love it.

WC:  Is the Bone Jangler a 27/7 kind of gig or do you shut him off most of the time?

BJ: Well, I am The Bone Jangler. So, in that regard, yes, it's a 24/7 kinda thing. The Bone Jangler doesn't come with an "Off" switch. Still, I like to have my privacy, and my quiet moments. With these chops, it's hard to go out sometimes, depending on where we're at. If we air in the area that we're, say, shopping or dining in, sometimes it's difficult to maneuver like an ordinary mortal. Locally, people are pretty good about leaving me be, as they look at me like their hometown hero, and, when they see me, for example, taking Master Gregory out shopping for toys or video games, etc., they just kind of nod, or give me a knowing look, like, "There you are. I see you," and they just smile. I always leave the house early when going to the store, allowing time for fans to stop me, and say hello, and/or get a quick autograph. I always have a pen, and/or Sharpie, on me. I'm approachable.

WC:  You have quite the taste in lovely ladies! Tell us about Nocturna and some of the members of your Coven!

BJ: Well, to be certain, Enchantress Nocturna is "My Baby"; the love of my immortal life. I've known her for, like, 150 years or so. In fact, when I first met her, she actually a little girl. Years later, when I met her for the second time, I made her into an immortal like me, and we've been together ever since. She's a beautiful, and sexy, creature, and sooo very talented. We have the best wardrobe of all of the Horror Hosts, and, much of that is due to Nocturna's handiwork. Many fans think of Nocturna as a sort of cross between Vampira and Morticia. In reality, Nocturna's more like Lily Munster, and Endora (from "Bewitched"). I say Endora, because, just as Endora has very little appreciation for Darrin, Nocturna often shows disdain for the mortals in the films we host.

Then, there's The Coven. The Coven is a group of sexy women, with an attitude to match, that sort of hangs out with, and runs with, Nocturna and I. They're like a cross between bodyguards, not that we really need any, obviously, and cheerleaders, only with benefits. HARMony's been with us for a really long time (since August 2004), is the overall fan favorite, and she has a special relationship with Master Gregory. The relationship status between Nocturna and I, and The Coven, and Greggy, especially in his case, would best be summed up as "It's complicated." We're like a cross between a spooky gang and a family, emphasis on family. We're a sexy, and attractive, family, all of us put together, The Bone Jangler Family.

WC:  How much of an influence has the great Svengoolie been to you?

BJ:  By "Svengoolie" you mean Rich Koz. We call him, "Sven." Well, Nocturna and I are, indeed, Sven fans. I particularly enjoyed his days as "Son Of Svengoolie." Sven is an institution in Chicagoland, so much so that, for years after we started doing this, many of his diehard fans; people who really had almost no idea of what our presentation is like, treated me like an interloper, like, "You shouldn't be doing this. You know this is Sven country." In their minds, the only other person who should be allowed to do this would've been Elvira. The Son Of Ghoul used to run into this sorta thing in NE Ohio, with Ghoulardi/Big Chuck, Hoolihan, & Lil' John/The Ghoul fans. Meanwhile, the further west you get from the city, the more you'll run into a lot of people who either a) live in a bubble, and have never heard of Sven, mostly younger people, or b) live in a bubble, and don't realize that he's been back on TV here since 1995. The difference with the people west of Chicago is many of them know exactly who we are, and, because of us airing other Horror Hosts during, and especially after, our local timeslots, they know of many, many other Horror Hosts from around the country. They realize that, like music artists and rock bands, whether they like them or not, there's room for more, that there's more than 1 style of Host, and there's no reason to think that "their" Horror Host is the only one who deserves to be on TV. In recent years, with our shows now also airing on the Internet, we've had the pleasure of adding many diehard Sven fans to our fanbase, which is really nice.

While we don't hang out, Sven is certainly a friend of ours, and I have the utmost respect for him. I'm really happy for him going pretty much national back in April of 2011. He has a well-honed act, knows what his audience wants, and knows how he wants to give it to them. As for being influenced by him, the main influence he's had on me is the way that he does his sound inserts, or "Svensurround", as his longtime fans refer to them. Although he rarely does them anymore, when Sven does sound inserts, he's very clean about it, very skillful. Some Horror Hosts that do sound inserts are very ham-fisted about it, and, it's like, "Attention! Attention! Sound insert approaching!" Sven is more smooth about it. If there's one way that he's influenced me, it's in that manner. I don't approach that stuff all willy-nilly like some people. Editing is a huge part of this gig, when you're serious about it.

WC:   What other horror hosts have inspired you over the years?

BJ: Horror Hosts like Halloween Jack, and myself, and a few others from the original Horror Host Underground, we're different than the Horror Hosts who came before us. We weren't weathermen at the local UHF station who had no interest in these films, and no knowledge of who made them, and little to no knowledge of who came before them. HJ and I, we did our homework, we gathered countless tapes of every Horror Host, past and present, imaginable. And, we wore those tapes out. There wasn't YouTube, or Wikipedia, or any of this cheater crap. We knew our movies, we knew our directors, we knew our actors, we knew our Horror Hosts, and, the original Horror Host Underground worked together as a support group, promoting each other's work. The Horror Hosts that came before us, the overwhelming majority of them, they all did their best to act as if there was no other other Horror Host out there.

As for my influences, I really just approached this organically, just being myself. My favorite Horror Hosts of all time, as in from "back in the day", are the original Jerry G. Bishop Svengoolie, and Ghoulardi. They were cool, and it wasn't an act. They, especially Ghoulardi, talked directly to you, like you were watching the movie with them. That's how we approach it.

WC:  It seems the horror host culture is staying strong in a high tech world. What’s the secret to its success?

BJ: Horror Hosts are primarily an American thing, a time honored tradition. While most Big Money TV stations will tell you that the viewing public doesn't want this kind of programming anymore, the success of Svengoolie proves otherwise. Count Gore De Vol was the one who took the bull by the horns, so to say, way back in 1999, realizing that the Internet figured prominently in the future.

Nowadays, there's apparently over 100 of us, with the majority of us hosting solely on the Internet. As for us, we've been on the air, on TV, for nearly 12 years, with no end in sight. We do have an Internet presence, and, without fail, we always dominate our timeslot. We routinely attract viewers from all over the world, including far flung places such as Viet Nam.

People can make as big of a deal as they like about how the Internet blows away TV, because of its potential reach, but, I'm here to tell you that, as of right now, the TV blows away the web when it comes to actual viewership. That's one reason why I hesitated airing our programs online. Now, after having done so for a few years, I have to admit that I enjoy the instant feedback from the fans. And, the interaction with the audience is undeniable.

WC:  I get a strong rockabilly vibe from the Bone Jangler. Is that an accurate take on you?

BJ: I'd have to say no. While I do, indeed, enjoy the Rockabilly music and culture, it really has had no sway over the way we present ourselves. I am a multi-instrumentalist, the lead guitar being my main role in the world of music. If anything, I'm much more of a Metal/Prog Rock/Garage Rock kinda dude. People always ask if I consider myself Goth. I do not. Again, I appreciate, and enjoy, many things considered Goth. We kind of have an all encompassing appeal, and all of these worlds intersect with what we do, and we have a great deal of friends from both the Rockabilly scene, and, especially, the Goth scene.

WC:   Who are some of your favorite musical acts? Do you ever feature bands on the show?

BJ: . My favorites? Wow. We'd be here all day, if I named even 5% of them. Some easy ones to name off the top of my head would be The Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, Van Halen (not Van Hagar), The Monkees, Slayer, Yes, Miles Davis, Man... Or Astro-Man?, and Esquivel.

We generally don't often have bands perform on the shows. However, we do feature a ton of music on every show, whether it be "The Bone Jangler" or "The Bone Jangler's Daytime Dungeon." Much of it is by unknown/forgotten bands, bands that had a regional "hit," like, their song made it to #17, in some remote part of North Dakota, for 2 weeks, in 1967. Most of these bands, for real, no one knows their names, or anything. Some of the music is written and performed by me, and, before too long, we'll be going back into the recording studio to cut lots of tracks for the shows. The rest is from current acts who've given us permission to use their songs. Overall, when you watch our shows, you're treated to an eclectic mix of sounds, and sights.

WC: How about authors? Do any authors influence TBJ’s world?

BJ: I owned a bookstore for years. So, as a result, I'm familiar with many authors. I have my favorites, I suppose, but, none of them has really had any kind of impact on what we do on TV. And, to be honest, I'd rather read a Silver Age comic book than a regular book. I read more magazines than anything. These days, when I read a book, it's non-fiction.

WC:  Where do you see the horror host phenomenon heading in the 21st century? To me, it just doesn’t seem quite the same as it in the 50’s to the mid-80’s.

BJ: The future of Horror Hosting will continue to see a proliferation of fans going to Halloween stores on November 1st where they'll purchase their costume, and their "set." High quality camcorders continue to drop in price, and these people will continue to adopt the DIY approach, using various ad-supported online venues to air their shows. Some of these people will be fairly enjoyable. We may very well see some real awe-inspiring talent spring from this, while most of them will have very little appeal to the general populace, giving "civilians" the wrong impression of what a true Horror Host is, and/or should be. The average person, when their first exposure to current Horror Hosts is one of those Hosts, it makes them go, "Oh. THAT is what a Horror Host is? No thanks. I'll pass." We've already been seeing this for the last 5 years or so, and it seems to be getting worse.

Svengoolie will be the first to tell you that he's lucky to have someone like Weigel Broadcasting exec Neal Sabin behind him. You don't see a lot of Horror Hosts on commercial TV these days. When you do, don't assume that they are being paid by their station(s) for their work. The overwhelming majority of this handful of Horror Hosts on commercial broadcast are not being paid like that. If they get anything, it's from taking on the added job of finding sponsors to buy commercial time during their shows. There will always be quality Horror Hosts out there. Whether or not they enjoy nationwide popularity on a commercial broadcast station remains to be seen.

WC: What plans do you have to expand your empire?

BJ:  I have no rigid plans to "expand my empire." It's funny that you say that. When we started out, I always referred to our convention appearances as "The World Domination Tour." Within a few years, after The Horror Host Underground seemingly saved this genre from extinction, and spawned countless offspring, legitimate and otherwise, I began to see "World Domination Tour" on an awful lot of newbie Horror Host websites. As for me, I'd like us to get a shot at what Sven has, or what Elvira once enjoyed. With the proper support, we could do it. Hell, I'd be happy to have what Sammy Terry had in Indiana, or Big Chuck & Lil' John had in NE Ohio, what Son Of Ghoul still has in NE Ohio, totally saturate a major metropolitan region, have a large concentration of viewers there, and get paid for it.

WC: Any last words for the humanoids out there?

BJ: I'd like to say thank you to all of our fans and friends for enjoying what what do. I make these shows, first and foremost, to make people happy, have fun, and momentarily forget their troubles and worries for a few hours at a time. While many Horror Hosts have come and gone, I intend to keep doing this for a long time.