John Kassir - Cryptkeeper
Steve Saunders - Host
Danny Mann - Digger
Van Snowden - Puppeteer
Even though Tales from the Crypt was winding down its seven-season run
on HBO, CBS
decided to fill the Saturday morning void left by the cancellation of the
animated spin-off, Tales from the Cryptkeeper, with
yet another entry in the franchise.
They acquired the rights to the and developed a new children’s program
based around it. However, instead of another anthology series, they decided to
make a game show.
|Introducing team Sloths.
Created by Eytan Keller
and Jack Wohl, the series
was filmed at Universal
Studios Florida on a mixture practical and CGI set designed by The Post Group’s Dale Mayeda. It was laid out
like a carnival haunted house complete with a creepy cemetery, sub-level and
secret passages. Two teams of two children would compete in various challenges
around the set for a chance to win a Macintosh Performa 6300,
with a set of Grolier’s New Book of Knowledge going to the
runners-up. Each team name was derived from something creepy, from science or
some kind of animal; such as Amoebas, Hogs, Newts, etc.
|The Cryptkeeper ready to heckle you to your grave.
Unlike the animated series, Secrets
didn’t shy away from using the original Cryptkeeper puppet from the HBO
series. The Cryptkeeper (John Kassir) was on hand on a separate set, watching
the events of the game unfold and offering friendlier chides than he would on
HBO towards the competitors. Although he was prominently featured, he wasn’t
the host of the show. Instead, those duties went to Steve Saunders, who was on
hand on set to guide the teams between challenges and inform them of the rules.
Also on hand was Digger (Danny Mann), a virtual skull that presided over three
of the challenges and would also throw minor insults at the players to try and
distract them. Digger’s effects were rendered by Simgraphics Engineering Corp.,
and his mouth movements were synched to Mann’s allowing it to be animated in
Secrets of the Cryptkeeper’s
Haunted House debuted on CBS on September 14, 1996. The show utilized Danny Elfman’s theme from the
HBO series, while Robert J.
Walsh provided the rest of the music. Each episode was consisted of five
rounds called “frights”, with nine different frights in total. The first, third
and final round were always the same: Fireball Alley, The Incredible Shrinking
Room and Skullduggery.
|Defending tombstones from Digger's spew.
Fireball Alley had one player from each team in turn facing off against
Digger on a “rickety” bridge as he spat “fireballs” at them. The object was to
protect the row of headstones behind them while also keeping from falling off
the bridge to their “doom”. For each remaining headstone, Digger would list a
series of four people, places or things and both players on the team would have
to identify the relationship between them in order to gain points.
|A little...pressed for time?
The Incredible Shrinking Room had each team racing against the clock to
complete a series of six words with missing letters, which Digger would explain
the relationship between at the start. As the room shrank on the team, one member
would relay to the other end of the room to retrieve a letter the other called
out for. The team gained points for each word correctly solved, and additional
points for finishing all six and calling out the password (the first word on
Skullduggery saw one player from each team racing against each other
through four rooms in the Cryptkeeper’s mansion looking for skulls within a
limited time for each room. They would then join their teammates in the graveyard
to stack each skull on a waiting stake. The winning team was the one with the
higher stack, or the ones who stacked theirs the quickest in the event of a
|Death by fire or by wind...your choice!
The second fright was usually the Worminator, but would sometimes
alternate with The Swamp from Hell (yep, they managed to use the h-word on a
kid’s show). The Worminator had each team traverse a wind tunnel while carrying
and exchanging balls at certain intervals. The object was to get as many balls
as possible in waiting baskets within the time limit without dropping any or
falling and being “vaporized”. The Swamp from Hell found one of the players
suspended over a CGI pool of lava. The other player would jump on a trampoline
in a yard set to try and grab bags of skulls dangling above. For each one
successfully grabbed, they would be waiting for them at the Swamp to be carried
over a narrow path to the other side. Completing that task in the time limit
freed the trapped player; failing or falling in resulted in “vaporization”.
|Hanging in there in The Abyss.
There were four different challenges that would alternate for the fourth
fright: The Abyss, Ghost Battle, Endless Hallway and Vampire’s Lair. The Abyss
saw one player moving between rope ladders in a cavern to climb to answers for
questions read out by their teammate. They would gain points for each correct
answer and had to race the clock while keeping from falling into a hungry
spider’s CGI web below. Ghost Battle gave Digger a full body and pit him in a
90-second joust against the players (although Digger never actively struck the
players). Each tap of his shield was a score, and five taps would defeat him
completely. Endless Hallway had one player on a treadmill for 75 seconds going
through a virtual hallway while trying to memorize details about it. At the
end, the team would have to fill in an appropriate blank with an item seen in
the hall. Vampire’s Lair had one player calling out directions to his teammate
as they would traverse a dark room briefly lit by strobes. The object was to
reach a switch in the middle of the room within 45 seconds in order to awaken
the vampire within. The quicker team won the challenge.
Secrets didn’t fare too well in
the ratings, and was put to rest within the year; ending its run in August of
1997. It was replaced in the line-up by Wheel
2000, a kid’s version of Wheel of Fortune. Not ready to give up on the license yet, CBS decided to revive
the cancelled Tales from the Cryptkeeper for
a third and final season in 1999.