10 years later, the Fort Wayne horror host is still haunting screens

FORT WAYNE, Indiana (WANE) – For 10 years and 300 episodes, Rob Gruesome Graves has been welcoming guests to the Haunted Hotel.

It’s a show that’s been airing in Fort Wayne since October 31, 2012 – Halloween night. And over the past decade, viewers dubbed the “Children of the Grave” have made acquaintance with the horde of horrors.


WELCOME TO THE HAUNTH HOTEL

Via the television screen, the audience is greeted in the hotel lobby and encounters Graves as he climbs out of a creaking coffin. Graves, dressed in black from hat to shoes, introduces himself as the night manager in a deep, booming voice.

Dressed in black from hat to shoes, Graves chooses to keep his identity a secret so the audience can focus on the show itself and not his true identity.

Graves is accompanied by his “bell animal,” Fang, who is said to be camera shy. Viewers get a glimpse of Fang in each episode, usually just a furry arm reaching for room key 13 onscreen. As the Bell Beast prepares the room – or grave – Graves begins a “dead time story”.

Graves features commentary, trivia, and plenty of spooky puns to punctuate a classic horror or sci-fi movie that audiences can look forward to every Friday night.

The detailed shot that viewers see on screen is the hotel lobby with Halloween decor, to stay on topic. There’s a cobweb-covered table with a rat affectionately called Ratatouille and two spiders – one perched on an orange brain called Ribcage and another hanging from a gong called Fred.

The show’s creativity was inspired by Graves’ lifelong love of horror and his knowledge of the film genre.

“I’ve got a bunch of useless information lying around up here – it’s a pleasure to finally be able to use it,” Graves said, gesturing toward his head, which was always hidden under black cloth to protect his identity.

Graves chooses to keep his identity a secret so the audience can focus on the show itself and not him.


THE MONSTER KID BEHIND THE MADNESS

Graves said he grew up in the 1960s and ’70s, and it’s the same era of horror movies he chooses to host, introducing a whole new generation of movies he’s always enjoyed, as well as many he’s seeing for the first time sees.

At age 10, when Graves was a “monster kid,” he saw his first horror host on TV. The Fort Wayne native said his future was particularly inspired by two local presenters – Asmodeus at the Shock Theater and The Shroud at the Nightmare Theatre.

But Graves said being a horror host was relegated to the background after growing up and he pursued a “more practical” career.

Fast forward to 2012 when Graves said he went to a Monster Bash convention aimed at his generation of Monster Kids. There he met Penny Dreadful, a horror host who would soon become his mentor.

Graves came home from the convention with advice from Penny on how to be a horror host. Now that he’s retired from his day job, Graves has finally been able to invest in his childhood dream.

He soon came into contact with Access Fort Wayne, a multimedia production studio at the Allen County Public Library’s main branch.

“They were behind us 110 percent,” said Graves, who now refers to the crew as family. He refers to them as “dead-itor, die-rector and camera fiends”.


BEHIND THE SCENES AND SHOUT

Graves credits Kristine Sprunger, his “dead-itor and die-rector,” with the magic behind the show.

Sprunger works with special effects, like at the beginning of each episode when a skeleton materializes into the tall, black figure called Graves. Sprunger also created from scratch the backgrounds displayed on the green screen – eerie environments like the hotel lobby.

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Haunted Hotel setting hosted by night manager Rob Gruesome Graves.

Sprunger edits other shows at Access Fort Wayne, but it’s the Haunted Hotel that can really bring them to life.

“This is where I have the most creative input,” said Sprunger.

A decade into production, Graves and his crew have found a rhythm. Graves said six shows are typically recorded in the studio at the same time, and the editing process for two shows takes about three hours.

“I’m sure a lot of people don’t realize how much work there is,” said Mrs. Graves, the host’s wife, who also works behind the scenes.

Graves develops the commentary and bits and bobs through extensive research into each film’s characters and behind-the-scenes stories that he is able to share with audiences.

“It’s a process, but sometimes it’s like a treasure hunt,” Graves said.

Graves said he’s often been asked how much money he’s making from filming Haunted Hotel. His answer: “Not a cent. It’s a passion.”

“If I can pass something on to the next generation of Monster Kids, that’s enough pay for me,” Graves said.


10 YEARS OF DEADTIME STORIES

Serious, mysterious and hilarious at times, Graves has struck a balance between comedic and, well, serious for his on-camera personality.

“It made me see the connection between horror and comedy,” Graves explained. “You laugh and release the fear and tension.”

This balance is one of the reasons the audience spans generations.

Though not often recognized without his signature black suit, Graves recalls a time at a convention where he wore a Haunted Hotel t-shirt. He said a little boy approached him hoping he was Graves and they took a picture together. The father thanked Graves and said he made the young fan’s day.

“I love talking to fans and I’ll bite their ear off if they give me the chance,” Graves said.

Fans can look forward to two special shows celebrating the 10th anniversary and 300th episode of Haunted Hotel.

The 10th Annual Halloween Special airs October 31 at 8 p.m., and longtime fans can expect a nostalgic episode.

“We’re going to celebrate and commemorate that with something similar to our first ‘Death Time Story,'” Graves said.

Find out more about the upcoming release of Episode 300 and stay tuned to the Haunted Hotel series’ Facebook page.

“There’s room for everyone in the coffin,” Graves said.

Viewers can make a reservation at the Haunted Hotel by “digging in” on Fridays at 10:00 p.m. on Comcast Channel 57, FIOS Channel 27, or by streaming from the library’s website.

Don’t forget to “burrow,” and as Graves would say, it really creeps.

https://www.wane.com/news/local-news/10-years-later-fort-wayne-horror-host-still-haunting-screens/ 10 years later, the Fort Wayne horror host is still haunting screens

Tom Vazquez

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