Screen capture courtesy Ranger Bob Rides Again/YouTube
Our favorite YouTube wormhole this shut-in Halloween has been digging up clips of classic horror hosts – creepily attired comics who'd crack jokes over bad horror flicks, usually for local TV stations – who never quite made it to the level of Vampira, Elvira or Zacherle. And finally our jealousy of Tampa for laying claim to Dr. Paul Bearer has been salved somewhat by the discovery of the forgotten Orlando horror host the GraveMaster.
Tucked away at the 39:30 minute mark of the "Golden Age of Horror Hosts Vol. 1" compilation video is nearly 15 minutes of wonderment from "Friday Night With the GraveMaster."
It's pretty impressive stuff amongst the usually lo-fi standards of horror host fare. The GraveMaster's makeup, costume and sets look top-notch, the puns are groany fun, the puppetry is stellar, he reads haunted "horrorscopes" and even gives away tickets to then-new film Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me.
What really brought us out of our seats, though, was when the GraveMaster announced a trivia contest where the winner would score a glow-in-the-dark shirt. And the address he directed answers to was the TV18 studio in Orlando.
Indeed, the GraveMaster was an Orlandoan.
"Friday Nights With the Gravemaster" broadcast for a few whirlwind months out of the Channel 18 studios on Courtland in 1992. Though canceled after one season to make way for a sitcom, according to New Spirit, the show was a pro production and ghoulish fun right out of the gate. And – given the trivia, caption contests and amount of viewer mail read on the air – it must have enjoyed a healthy cult audience.
There's not all that much information on the GraveMaster online – save for a sparse IMDB entry, short capsule bios on a couple of Horror Host websites, and a much better page on In the Night – and, even worse, no full episodes readily available, besides a few compilation clips put together by hardcore fans. But the clips out there in YouTube land hint at pure zany, horrifying fun.
The man behind the GraveMaster's frightening visage was Tim Kincaid (né Trombitas), MUCH better known locally for his daytime gig as Ranger Bob of the children's show Ranger Bob's Buckaroo Club. The sets and special effects were handled by Pat Tantalo, an industry pro who went on to do special effects for Bug, A Walk to Remember and Ace Venture: Pet Detective. It's clear watching GraveMaster that these guys were just doing this to have some creepy fun.
Trombitas is now retired from television, and serving as a man of the cloth (no foolin') in Winter Garden, so don't hold your breath for an Elvira-style comeback. The GraveMaster is buried forever, it would seem. A small but vital footnote in the larger story of horror hosts.
Settle in and watch some more GraveMaster goodness below – the beginning skit with the winner of the Bithlo talent contest is sublime – and allow yourself some hometown Halloween pride …
We welcome readers to submit letters regarding articles and content in Orlando Weekly. Letters should be a minimum of 150 words, refer to content that has appeared on Orlando Weekly, and must include the writer's full name, address, and phone number for verification purposes. No attachments will be considered. Writers of letters selected for publication will be notified via email. Letters may be edited and shortened for space.