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It’s Time for an Officially Sanctioned and Recognized Horror Hall of Fame

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It's Time for an Officially Sanctioned and Recognized Horror Hall of Fame

As someone who has been employed off and on at the National Baseball Hall of Fame since 1995, I’d like to think I know a little something about the value of a hall of fame. It’s a great way to remember the history of a sport, honor the greatest who have ever played the game, and stir debate about who deserves to be enshrined in the Hall—and who falls just a bit short.

So I have to ask, given all of those benefits, why isn’t there an officially sanctioned and recognized Horror Hall of Fame? Why don’t we have a place to honor the legendary actors and actresses who have contributed so much to the genre, while also spotlighting some of the greatest horror films ever made?

Oh, there have been more informal and less structured attempts to honor the genre of horror. From 1990 to 1992, famed Nightmare on Elm Street actor Robert Englund hosted the Horror Hall of Fame Awards on network television. For the first program, Boris Karloff and Vincent Price were inducted, along with films like Psycho and The Exorcist. The awards, in an Academy Award style presentation, also honored the best horror films of the year. In the second year, a similar structure was used, with Bela Lugosi earning induction; in the third season, only films were inducted. Sadly, the show lasted for only three years, before falling victim to the judge and jury of television ratings. Other than a brief 2017 comeback as a podcast, the awards show has never been resurrected, even in recent years when horror has become more popular and more mainstream.

Robert Englund NOES

More recently, the ongoing and prestigious Rondo Hatton Awards have made an excellent effort at honoring numerous categories within the genre of horror, ranging from film and TV to literature, comics, and research efforts. But the Rondos, based on fan voting, are more like an annual set of awards, with an emphasis on past year accomplishments over career achievements. The Rondos do elect deserving folks to a “Monster Kids Hall of Fame,” and that is a good thing, but it’s not quite to the level of a full-fledged Hall of Fame that I have in mind.

Now one could argue that if someone were to create a Horror Hall of Fame, then there would need to be an accompanying museum where plaques could be displayed and memorabilia could be showcased. In the long term, a horror museum would be a much-needed institution, but it wouldn’t necessarily be required from the start. After all, when the Baseball Hall of Fame election process was first established in 1936, that was three years before the completion of a museum building; the Hall of Fame and Museum didn’t officially open until June 12, 1939. So there is clearly precedent for first establishing a Hall of Fame, and then following with the more expensive proposition of building a permanent structure to house plaques and artifacts.

A museum will obviously involve great cost and considerable financial investment, but the idea of a Hall of Fame election process requires little more than imagination and a passionate interest in the genre of horror. There is certainly no lack of potential candidates for enshrinement. An inaugural class of Hall of Famers could easily include the legendary likes of Boris Karloff, Bela Lugosi, Lon Chaney Sr., and Vincent Price. And one could also make an argument for Lon Chaney, Jr. Peter Cushing, and Christopher Lee as part of an inner circle of Hall of Famers. Looking further down the line, accomplished character actors like John Carradine, Peter Lorre, and Basil Rathbone would also be legitimate candidates for election. And if you’re looking for more modern candidates, there are certainly a bevy of possibilities, including Ingrid Pitt of Hammer Films fame, the late Sid Haig, and current-day actors like Bruce Campbell, Jamie Lee Curtis, the aforementioned Robert Englund, Bill Moseley, and Tony Todd, just to name a few.

Horror Legends

A Horror Hall of Fame could also include directors, providing another pool of candidates past and present. From the classic era, James Whale (who directed no less than four masterpieces, including the original Frankenstein of 1931) would likely be at the top of any list of candidates. Then there’s Alfred Hitchcock, who directed three terrific horror films (including the iconic Psycho), and more recently, a slew of directors ranging from Tobe Hooper and George Romero to John Carpenter, Roger Corman, and Wes Craven.

As an added attraction, celebrating the best horror films of all time would also add some buzz to a Horror Hall of Fame. Some sports halls of fame honor great teams, so why not include honors for films, which are also a product of a team effort? It’s relatively easy to compile a list of 20 to 30 of the best horror films of all time, so there would be no lack of viable candidates. By enshrining at least one film per year, a Horror Hall of Fame would be able to supplement the celebration of individual accomplishment with a remembrance of the great collaborative efforts that filmmaking requires.

With so many quality candidates in terms of films, directors, and actors, elections for a Horror Hall of Fame would stir heavy interest in the genre for years to come. In order to sustain that interest, it might be wise to limit the number of electees in a given year (with perhaps five being the maximum), rather than honor so many inductees at one time that they become lost within the crowd. It might also help avoid the temptation to enshrine so many candidates that the institution becomes the “Hall of Very Good,” rather than a true Hall of Fame of the very best.

Kane Hodder Holding Hockey Mask

That brings us to the issue of an electoral body for our imagined Horror Hall of Fame. Who exactly would be entrusted with the responsibility of voting on potential candidates? Some might suggest a vote among horror fans, and while that sounds very democratic on the surface, it runs contrary to what sports halls of fame have traditionally done for so many years. Sports halls have generally relied on writers and broadcasters to do the voting, in the hopes that they will bring special insight and relative objectivity to the process.

In order for a Horror Hall of Fame to have full credibility, the election would need to involve longtime writers and historians of the genre. I’m thinking of the following people who have preeminence in the field of covering and researching horror: David J. Skal, the foremost expert on Dracula and a man who has written so many wonderful histories on the genre; Joe Bob Briggs, a horror host with encyclopedia knowledge of films (even the bad ones); historian Frank Dello Stritto, who could offer an especially valuable perspective on the era of black-and-white horror; fellow historian Greg Mank, who has also authored a number of books on those early years of talking film; and Tom Weaver, who has contributed 35 books on the subject and also interviewed hundreds of people within the industry. There are many other historians who could participate meaningfully in the election process, but those five would provide an excellent starting point in creating a blue ribbon committee to consider the people most worthy of enshrinement.

So who else is with me? (Or am I out of my mind?) I mean, wouldn’t it be cool to have an official Horror Hall of Fame as a way of honoring and celebrating the genre?

Well, that’s my idea. Maybe something will happen—someday.

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