My West Seattle - A night in the creepiest place

It is a Friday evening in the early 1970s. The school week is over, but there is still some preparation required before my friend Larry and I can relax. The first thing we need to do is make a snack run to the Little Store (which became the Cat's Eye Cafe, and is now the Four Aims Center). At the store we each buy a can of Shasta black cherry cola, two 10-cent bags of potato chips, and a stick of jerky. Snacks in hand we're now ready for something we've been looking forward to all week: a night of horror.

We are going to spend the night in the creepiest place imaginable; a dark place of cobwebs, spiders, and a host of other creepy-crawlies. That place is my attic, a small triangular space at the apex of our house, 3 feet high and 5 wide at its base. A small hatch in the ceiling is the only way in, and the only way out. After clearing away some of the spiders, we lay out our sleeping bags. There is only one other thing we need now, one key thing, a television.

A small TV is hoisted up and we spend several minutes adjusting the rabbit ears to fine tune channel 7. We're ready for some ghoulish terror and, ensconced in our house-top dungeon, we wait for nightfall. The late news weather report marks the end of our wait. We watch as Harry Wappler tells us it's going to rain tomorrow - so what's new! Then, at 11:30 p.m. sharp, we crack open the pop, rip open a bag of chips, and watch as our favorite vampire, The Count, rises from his creaky coffin. It is time for "Nightmare Theater."

We love The Count. He brings us gory, scary, and campy movies that we look forward to all week. The classics, "Frankenstein," "Creature From the Black Lagoon," and "Dracula," keep us glued to the screen. Some of the lesser classics, like "Attack of the Giant Leeches," make us laugh. We even look forward to the commercial breaks, as they will occasionally be brightened by a few words from The Count. Usually something to the effect that he is getting thirsty, so we'd better watch out, he might come calling. We also enjoy some of the commercials. Especially the 10-second Dick Balch ads where he smashes cars with a sledge hammer.

By midnight the first bag of chips is history. Thirty minutes later the movie is only half over, but our snacks are gone - the last chew of jerky washed down with the final chug of pop. When watching "Nightmare Theater" we usually manage to stay awake to the end of the first movie; to see the villagers torching Frankenstein, to see Dracula get a stake dinner, or to see giant leeches suck the blood out of a damsel in distress. Tonight we manage to make it through the first feature. But soon after the second one starts, we're fast asleep.

Postscript: The Count, played by Joe Towey, passed away in 1989. Like Chris Wedes (J.P. Patches), Bill McLain (Brakeman Bill), Ruth Prins (Wunda Wunda) and Stan Boreson, Joe Towey left a lasting impression on those of us who grew up in the '60s and early '70s. Whenever an old monster movie comes on TV these days I always think of The Count, and that night in the attic.

Marc Calhoun may be reached via

Marc Calhoun

Nightmares in West Seattle:

A Night in the Attic

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