Sunday, January 13, 2008

MAILA NURMI, 1921-2008

The Morlock Heights Harbinger sadly reports the death of Maila "Vampira" Nurmi, who passed away in her sleep on Thursday, January 10, 2008. She was 86. A legend among horror fans, Nurmi first came to prominence as the character of "Vampira," the first television horror host.

Born Maila Elizabeth Syrjaniemi, Nurmi's career as Vampira began when she attended a masquerade party dressed in a costume inspired by the cartoons of Charles Addams. TV producer Hunt Stromberg, Jr. hired her shortly after to host horror movies on Los Angeles' ABC television affiliate KABC-TV. Based on elements from Theda Bara, Gloria Swanson and The Dragon Lady from the comic strip Terry And The Pirates, Vampira's fame spread quickly, leading to the eventual creation of the now-classic Shock Theatre and an explosion of horror-movie hosts in the years that followed. Vampira went on to make guest appearances on a variety of TV shows of the Fifties, including The Red Skelton Show and Ed Sullivan's Toast Of The Town, and was nominated for an Emmy for "Most Outstanding Female Personality" in 1954. Though she appeared in several films, her most famous role was in Ed Wood's science-fiction-horror flop Plan Nine From Outer Space. She is also a direct inspiration for the character of Elvira, created by Cassandra Peterson--and also served as the main model for a certain vampire MonsterGrrl.

We express our sympathy and condolences to all her fans and friends. At the time of this writing, funeral details were still unknown. Vampira will be sorely missed by us here in the Monster Shop.

Vampira: The Movie, a 2006 documentary about Maila Nurmi and the Vampira character, has its official website here.