Vincent Price's Once Upon a Midnight Scary was the most charming Halloween special of the '70s

Holy mackerel! This slice of family horror was like an afterschool special for goths.

Images: CBS

The Seventies were undeniably the golden age of horror on primetime network television. Twilight Zone creator Rod Serling shifted his focus to the spookier Night Gallery. ABC, the channel known for its family programming, aired a film called Satan's School for Girls— Aaron Spelling produced it and it starred two of Charlie's Angels. You had fright-flicks like Bad Ronald and Salem's Lot. Darren McGavin battled zombies and witches on Kolchak: The Night Stalker. KISS had its own made-for-TV movie — made by Hanna-Barbera! And who could forget the demon doll from Trilogy of Terror?

And, of course, there were the Halloween specials. Speaking of KISS, they appeared alongside Carol Brady in the groovy, goofy Paul Lynde Halloween Special. But for fans of classic horror — and, honestly, a healthy dose of after-school special — there was Vincent Price's Once Upon a Midnight Scary

Airing in late October 1979, Midnight Scary showcased three adaptations of famous scary stories — Richard Peck's "The Ghost Belonged To Me," Washington Irving's "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow," and John Bellairs' "The House with a Clock in Its Walls." Price, the august star of The BatThe Abominable Dr. Phibes and, um, Dr. Goldfoot and the Bikini Machine, introduced each short from his "library." The segments came across as a cross of his spoken-word bit in "Thriller" and an infomercial for a book of the month club.

Price was far and away the most notable name attached. Outside of Rene Auberjonois (Benson, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine), giving it all as the iconic Ichabod Crane, the cast was a real who's who of "Who?" Honestly, it's almost impressive how this production booked actors who were in little, if anything, else. We're talking names like Mike Brick and Pat Petersen. To be fair, most of these roles were for teens.

Alexander and the ghost girl in ''The Ghost Belongs to Me''

As the lead kid in "The Ghost Belonged to Me," Christian Berrigan delights with his enough "Holy…!" declarations to make Burt Ward envious. For example, when the translucent ghost girl in the barn tells him she died in the water, he exclaims, "You were drowned? Holy mackerel!" That's just funny. Later, as he watches a flood wash away a bridge like a scene from The Ten Commandments, he blurts, "Holy Moses!" Good stuff.

Likewise, Auberjonois really milks his line "Silly specter!" for all its worth. Considering it's the most cherished story ("An American classic," Price reminds the audience like an eerie substitute teacher), "Sleepy Hollow" receives a surprisingly rushed retelling. But the Headless Horseman honestly spooks. To remind you that you are indeed watching Seventies horror, the director does not shy away from showing a severed human head. 

Ichabod and the Headless Horseman

Like The Ghost Belonged to Me, The House with a Clock in Its Walls was adapted from a relatively recent young-adult novel released in the 1970s. Perhaps that's why so much of the affair feels like a presentation from the fine people at Scholastic Books. It's like a Bookmobile come to life, only the star of The Tingler is behind the wheel.

With a heavy dose of Seventies production values — bowl cuts for every boy! — Midnight Scary brings you right back to the era of bellbottoms and banana seats. If your parents made you do homework that night — or if you're just younger and nostalgic — seek it out.

Did you have a fond memory of Midnight Scary?

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dalavad671 44 months ago
I am making a good salary from home $1200-$2500/week , which is amazing, under a year back I was jobless in a horrible economy. I thank God every day I was blessed with these instructions and now it's .... paydaykit,com
HerbF 44 months ago
Here's an original idea -rather than WRITE about this special - see if it still exists,is obtainable and AIR THE DARN THING!
BrittReid 44 months ago
House Of Wax or Last Man On Earth.
stephaniestavropoulos 44 months ago
How can one have a "fond memory" of something, if one has never heard of it before?
I am a Vincent Priced fan, and I don't recollect having heard of this before.
My favorite tv special he did, {in fact, these are my favorite performances of his,} is also a product of the '70's {not only was it a "product," it ushered in the decade, airing on 1/1/1970.} tv special: "An Evening Of Edgar Allan Poe." He was literally a one man Tour de Force in the following tales: "The Tell-Tale Heart," "Cask of Amontillado," "The Sphinx" and "The Pit and the Pendulum." Now this is what should be considered "Must see, tv." {Let me correct myself: must see dvd!}
texasluva 44 months ago
“I’m Frederick Loren and I’ve rented the house on haunted hill tonight so my wife can give a party. A haunted house party… She’s so amusing. There’ll be food and drink and ghosts and perhaps even a few murders. You’re all invited. If any of you will spend the next twelve hours in this house, I’ll give you each $10,000. Or your next of kin in case you don’t survive.
Ahhhhh here come our other guests. Are you all brave enough to visit............
The House On Haunted Hill (1959)
1h 15min
Vincent Price.............and company
Can you make it through the night......

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Aye, aye, captain. How many lashes be it this time .......
MrsPhilHarris texasluva 44 months ago
I was thinking about Rob the other day. I miss his retro pictures. Now Moody is missing.
texasluva MrsPhilHarris 44 months ago
Instead of Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys Mysteries we will call it
Mrs Phil Harris and Texasluva Mysteries
The Case of the Missing MeTV Posters
We will have to check in attics , basements, floorboards hidden passageways with the clues left behind.

That or hire Mannix
MrsPhilHarris texasluva 44 months ago
Good idea! 🤣
daDoctah 44 months ago
Does this article mean that MeTV is planning to show the special, or are they just messing with us?

(And is that Severn Darden I see in the upper right of the splash image?)
Maybe not METV in general but on a specific show This could be a sneak peak of something SOS might be airing on a Saturday in Oct.
I checked and your eyes weren't playing tricks on you: that is a a photo of Severn Darden.
SOS Son of Svengooliel.
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