“Each week I am your guide to the secret places, your friend of the mists.”
Horror hosts are more important than your average emcee, than DJs, keynote speakers, the friendly face introducing happy tales or asking for donations to a charitable cause. All have their place, and plenty of horror has no host, but the horror host lingers in our minds as friend, tormentor, and teacher in ways you otherwise have to be straight out Mr Rogers to achieve.
From the Crypt Keeper to Elvira to whoever starts out a round of, “You know what we should do? Tell spooky stories!” we love someone who can bring a bit of, “it is just a story” into the true fairytale anxiety of horror. Otherwise, even the most absurd scary tale is easy to embrace, in the moment and in the dark after, as something that could be true. There could be a goat man, a deer woman, and a prom ghost all hitching any lonely stretch of road. Richard Speck is real, and if we had one, chances run high that any aliens out there have theirs, too. Ted Bundy with a UFO. Biker gangs plus Hell. Honestly, sometimes, your reflection in the bathroom mirror does side eye you like it could rip off your face.
The best of these hosts, in any form, anywhere, any time, is British phantasm, Misty. In her self-titled anthology comic, she lures us in, and though the comic has not run in decades (though it has been resurrected as a shared irregular comic, along with Scream), those Misty issues retain both allure and power. The Crypt Keeper, he’s a dead guy who works at a crypt. Alright. That’s still a guy with a job. Elvira and Svengoolie both need cash, eat food, pay rent. Witches, be they EC or Archie or DC variety, are mostly yet still women with day to day lives and some magic powers. Misty is weird.
Misty does not sleep. Of her origins, she says her fate began beside “the Pool of Life, into which it is said the Waters of the Moon flowed long ago.” And, Misty, she assures us, is real. The reason Misty is real, is that she exists in our minds, she is unshakeably in our minds, and since all we can know of reality is in our thoughts and experiences, that is where she becomes, and has become, and will always be real. Misty is not only fearless, she tells us she is the only creature who has no reason to fear. She wants us to go with her into horrible places, into haunted realms, where she has nothing to fear (but implicitly or explicitly we do), not because it will be great for us, but because she is our friend and because it is entertaining for her. Misty, living in the misty caves and haunted places in our minds, likes to talk with us.
Misty visits with us, originally weekly, now on rereads, and maybe without even needing another comic to read. She invites us to, “Look deep into my eyes, make my way your way,” to, “touch my hand,” to take a look at things through her eyes.
Can you imagine the Crypt Keeper asking us to take his hand? The Witches Three asking us to look through or into their eyes? Those three witches, those proxy fates, they run off or boil alive their visitors. Elvira or Vampira, though friendlier, don’t want that much to do with most of us.
Misty is unique in that she is both friendlier than and more impalpable. She offers an intimacy that is neither as jocular nor sexualized as other hosts.
Your Guide to Secret Places
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