Magic, Monsters and Movies: The Rise and Fall of the Midnight Ghost Show
October 30, 2013 7:49 PM Subscribe
Placing a bag over the boy‘s head, Dr. Silkini proceeded to cut if off with a knife. The girls in the audience squealed and screamed as blood dripped over the white tablecloth. Just after this decapitation, the Frankenstein monster seized the newly-severed head and started down the steps into the audience. At that precise moment, the house lights went off. Enthralled onlookers thought the rampaging creature was loose in the dark.
During the blackout, girls shrieked and boys shouted as ghosts, bats, and eerie faces zoomed about overhead and up and down the aisles. On the stage a chorus line of glowing skeletons danced in front of tombstones and vanished as they floated skyward. After three minutes of special effects and imaginative terror, there was a flash explosion and then the lights came on.
The above description of a sequence from "Dr. Silkini‘s Asylum of Horrors
" conveys what an audience might have experienced at a typical midnight ghost show around 1941, as excerpted from Beth A. Kattelman's paper from 2010, Magic, Monsters, and Movies: America’s Midnight Ghost Shows
(PDF), and covered in additional detail on the Paleofuture blog post The Rise and Fall of the Midnight Ghost Shows
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