In this edition of Halloween on the Ancient Internet, you’ll see everything from the original Scream’s original site to a bunch of discontinued ice cream flavors. I’m pushing all of your best buttons.
We’re gonna have a time! Unplug your landlines and settle in with that sweet 2400-baud connection. If you missed the previous editions, they’re here and here.
Elvira’s Halloween Soup!
Elvira was one of the first celebs who understood the powaaa of the internet, using it not just to maintain her fame, but to become truly self-sufficient.
Early versions of her website were simple by today’s standards, but they held the key to Elvira’s still-going success: She built a direct line to her fans. It’s Celebrity 101 in 2020, but she did it when most people were still trying to figure out what those weird AOL discs that kept coming in the mail were for.
In the early 2000s, Elvira had a recipe section on her site. It must’ve been a point of passion for her, because the recipes were for mostly-normal foods that did not scream “Elvira” in any way.
Shown above is the recipe for Elvira’s Halloween Soup, a basic black bean soup that isn’t the slightest bit vampy or goth. I love that I can prepare such a pleasantly everyday meal and still call it a tribute to Elvira!
The Original SCREAM Site!
Scream hit theaters in December of ‘96, but its website continued updating throughout 1997, since they still had VHS releases and whatever else to promote.
This was actually a high-end movie site in its time, not just for its design, but for its tone. Tongue-in-cheek snark was pervasive online, but rarely on big “official” websites. Looking over it now, I’m struck by how much of the verbiage wouldn’t fly in 2020, even as a joke.
The neatest part was the Woodsboro High Yearbook, which cheekily pleaded the case of each character. Could Sidney be the next victim, or was she the killer?
(At least three of the characters shown in that yearbook are returning for Scream 5, by the way. Not sure when that one’s coming out. With the way things are going, I’ll assume 2057.)
Tales from the Crypt!
The original Tales from the Crypt site highlighted what’s thankfully become a lost art: Putting text right over textured backgrounds.
It was easier to put up with back then, since we were all on dial-up with s-l-o-w connections. If it took us an extra minute to digest white text over a slimy brick background, that wasn’t necessarily a bad thing. These days, it’s hard to persuade people to stay on any single page for more than 10 seconds, but back then, ya kinda wanted to stay put after a new click.
My favorite part of the site was the Cryptique, an online shop. Get a load of that life-sized Crypt Keeper! Made by Gemmy, you might remember seeing it at Spencer Gifts. Not very many were made. The talking dolls rarely pop up on eBay and sell for small fortunes when they do, whether they’re in working order or not.
(I don’t know who the nude model standing beside the Crypt Keeper is, but if somebody hired me to get naked for an audio-animatronic Crypt Keeper product shot, I would never stop talking about it.)
Michael Myers Webring!
Oh, this is just precious. If you’re too young to remember webrings, they were essentially “clubs” for various sites of a similar nature to share traffic with one another. Every member would throw a banner like that somewhere on their site, which in theory would increase the number of visitors to all of the sites.
Naturally, The Michael Myers Halloween Webring was for websites that had something to do with the Halloween franchise. (Or just horror movies, apparently. The webring’s creator was flexible, though they did request that your site not be “total trash.”)
There were a billion webrings for every subject imaginable, but I’d estimate that 95% of them quickly fell into disrepair. Still, in a world without social media when even search engines were just beginning to master their craft, a webring was one of the best ways to “find your people.”
Ben & Jerry’s Flavor Graveyard!
Ben & Jerry’s Flavor Graveyard is still a part of their brand. The company even maintains a real world version that you can actually visit!
These days, the Flavor Graveyard is a mostly-classy parody of a real cemetery. Back in the late ‘90s, it was an all-out spooky thing, with the goofy Halloween clipart to prove it.
It was (and continues to be) a way for Ben & Jerry’s to pay respect to their fallen flavors. I’m truncating the page in the above screenshot; even in 1997, the list was a lot longer. I imagine that the Graveyard’s existence spurred serious fans to never miss a flavor, lest it end up irretrievably buried under a pile of tombstone gifs.
Thanks for reading. I’m hoping to publish at least one more edition of Halloween on the Ancient Internet before the Countdown concludes. Gross bony skeleton fingers crossed!
PS: The next Purple Stuff Podcast drops next week. We just posted this month’s bonus show on Patreon, too, if you want to hear us imitate the guy from the Nightmare VCR game.