A Detroit icon has passed away


This one will probably not mean much to those who don’t have a Detroit connection (such as, like me, having been born there and spent the first 26 years of my life in southeast Michigan), and it will probably mean nothing at all to my cadre of international readers, but it saddens me nonetheless to have discovered this bit of news via my sister.

Lawson Deming, the man who played Sir Graves Ghastly for so many years, died on April 24, just one day after his 94th birthday.

For Detroiters of a certain age, who grew up from the 1960’s to the early 1980’s, Saturday at 1 PM was the time that the cheesy horror music played, the mists swirled around the graveyard, and the coffin opened to reveal your congenial vampire host, Sir Graves Ghastly, who invariably urged the viewer to “turn out the lights…pull down the shades…draw the drapes” and told you that “you will watch the movie and you will enjoy it” before rolling the old horror or monster movie chosen for this week (or, as the show often joked, “dug up“), and who invariably closed the show with his exhortation, “Happy hauntings!” before the credits rolled. In between, there were amusingly low-budget sketches, such as Sir Graves serenading his own hand to a creepy tune, the “Glob” (in reality, Deming’s mouth shot upside down with eyes and a nose painted on his chin) singing various songs, the ever-popular skeleton dance, or visits to the Art Ghoulery, where horror drawings from children were displayed.

Was it low budget? Sure. Was it often silly? Definitely. I even realized that as a kid. But it was addictively watchable and almost always entertaining. Sadly, Sir Graves never appeared in markets other than Detroit and, for a time, Cleveland, and Washington, DC., but then it just wouldn’t have been the same show if it hadn’t remained a local oddity. In any case, they just don’t make TV shows like that any more. I’ll leave it to the reader to decide whether this is a good thing or not.

Rest in peace, Sir Graves. Those of you who knew and loved Sir Graves can, if you choose, light a virtual candle for him.