CyPix: Gravesend Manor

Here’s a Halloween treat for those of you who stayed up late watching TV in the 1960s: a photo of the cast of WOI’s Saturday night horror movie show Gravesend Manor.

A signed photo of The Duke of Desmodas (Jim "Red" Varnum), Malcom the Butler (Ed Weiss), and Esmerelda (actor unknown) of Gravesend Manor, undated. (RS #?)

A signed photo of The Duke of Desmodas (Jim “Red” Varnum), Malcom the Butler (Ed Weiss), and Esmerelda (John Voigt) of Gravesend Manor, undated. (RS 5/6/D,E,M Box 432)

Gravesend Manor, or Grave’s End Manor as it was sometimes printed in programming schedules and notes, aired on Saturday nights at 11:00 in the 1960s and possibly the late 1950s. Our information on the program is limited, but programming notes and programming schedules indicate the show ran for certain in 1960, and then from 1964 through 1968. The program was one of those classic horror movie showcase shows in which a spooky host – such as Malcom the Butler, above – presented old, often B-movie quality, horror movies and would add in their own bit of humor. A current example is Svengoolie, whose show is broadcast on MeTV (channel 8.2 in the Des Moines broadcasting area) on Saturday nights. A couple of older examples include Vampira in the 1950s and Elvira in the 1980s. Some information on Gravesend Manor can be found online at DesMoinesBroadcasting.com and on a few websites dedicated to these types of shows, which can be found by conducting a Google search of Gravesend Manor. The only known remaining footage of the show consists of outtakes, which is featured on this YouTube video.

Curious researchers are more than welcome to stop in and research the WOI Radio and Television Records, RS 5/6/3, to see what else we might have on this program! Additional photos can be found in WOI Radio and Television Photographs, RS 5/6/6 in Box 1.

2 thoughts on “CyPix: Gravesend Manor

  1. Pingback: Artifacts in the Archives – Our Most Thrilling Artifacts! | Cardinal Tales: The Blog of Special Collections and University Archives at Iowa State University

  2. Tim Johnson

    My memory is more of the second run of this show, called “Son of Gravesend Manor,” which ran at least from 1974-75. I was 13 and in the 7th grade. On Saturday nights for that year at least, it was the 10pm news, followed by a syndicated Dolly Parton then a syndicated Bobby Goldsboro show. So “Son of Gravesend Manor” came on at 11:30pm on Saturday nights. It also featured Ed Weiss as Malcolm the Butler (with a wig – I think he was supposed to have been the “son” of the original Malcolm?), then James Red Varnum as the Duke of Desdemona and another WOI employee or ISU professor, Boris Cutyourheadoffski, who was the resident “executioner” in traditional executioner garb. They also had other guest appearances – and yes, did a consistent skit as part of the intro and commercial breaks of B-horror movies (a lot of the films were great classics made in Mexico and dubbed in English), such as “Curse of the Crying Woman,” “The Brainiac,” “Wrestling Women versus the Aztec Mummy,” “Robot vs. the Aztec Mummy,” etc. etc., many of which were produced and starred Abel Salazar. I also remember seeing an occasional Hammer horror film, even a vampire film, which I think was filmed in the Phillippines. So the films, even though grade B, were sometimes amazingly well done and foreign, which was interesting.
    Anyhow, I was such a big fan that I wrote them several letters, got nice autographed postcards in the mail, and even sent in storyline ideas, which I think they may have adapted in some episodes (I went uncredited, of course)! I was so enamored that I wrote an article about “Son of Gravesend Manor” and submitted it to “Castle of Frankenstein” Magazine. I really wanted to be a freelance writer back then – I had bought “Castle of Frankenstein” magazine, an irregularly published periodical at a grocery store checkout – the issue had a “Star Trek” cover. I looked it up on Writer’s Market at the library (which was published by Writer’s Digest), and sent in the artcle. (I wish now I had kept a copy of the article I submitted!) To my amazement, instead of a standard rejection letter, I got a personally typed note, asking me to submit photos of “Gravesie”(?!?) and they made it sound like I was going to be published. I immediately dashed off a letter to “Son of Gravesend Manor” at WOI, asking for photos. I believe they took the pictures when they taped a Saturday episode (during the week), and they even talked about posing for photos during that episode airing!!! So I get a stack of beautiful B&W 8×10’s – and instead of making copies, I shipped those off to “Castle of Frankenstein.” Then crickets — na da. Wrote to “Castle of Frankenstein” and heard not a peep. I only recently learned via wikipedia that “Castle of Frankenstein” stopped publishing in 1975, as the publisher moved on to other projects. 😦
    If any archivist/researcher with access to complete Des Moines Sunday Registers (including the TV Guide section in the Sunday paper), perhaps available online or on microfilm, look through the inside pages of the Register’s Sunday TV Guide separate section. I believe sometime in fall 1974, maybe September or so, there was an article which talked about the old 1960’s Gravesend Manor and the newer “Son of Gravesend Manor.” I remember reading that article, and that is what piqued my interest in watching “Son of” for that whole year.
    If you can find this DM Register article, that might be a great addition to your archive!
    I remember I was not doing that well in 7th grade math, and my mom was going to banish me from watching “Son of Gravesend Manor” unless I could improve my math grade. I must have done better in math because I still had my “Son of Gravesend Manor” privileges in tact, at least for that year. I honestly don’t remember it that much in the 1975-76 year, when I was in 8th grade, so I think the run of “Son of” was fairly short-lived – maybe just for that 1974-75 year?
    Tim Johnson

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