Elvira Pulls Back the Curtain on Her Beloved Halloween Persona, 40 Years Later

The Mistress of Darkness makes all of our undead dreams come true.
Cassandra Peterson aka Elvira has been making audiences swoon, laugh and tremble with fear as a hilarious horror hostess for over 40 years. During the anniversary of the premiere of her "Santa Claus of Halloween" stage character, Peterson made headlines with their same-sex relationship, with her memoir, Yours Cruelly, Shudder, and AMC + Streaming Movie Marathon Elvira's 40th Anniversary, Very Scary, Very Special Special, and Takeover of Social Netflix channels every Sunday in October for weekly Netflix & Chills events.
Even Melissa Joan Hart is hoping to work with Elvira on a Sabrina the Teenage Witch crossover!
At 70, it's safe to say that Peterson is still the Queen of Halloween - and she's obviously just getting started on her second act. The B-Movie-Scream-Queen visited her O.G. Series Elvira's Movie Macabre, and only reveal why her character Elvira was never "accidentally funny".
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Below you can see Elvira's epic world over the years as Peterson answers all of our burning questions about being the mistress of darkness.
Widescreen / shutterstock
E! News: Congratulations on your 40th anniversary special. What was it like returning to Elvira for the Shudder and AMC + film marathon?
Cassandra Peterson: I hadn't done it in a while. I think the last thing I did was for Hulu [at 13 Nights of Elvira], but that was a few years ago [2014]. So coming back and doing this again, my regular horror hosting gig, was really fun and exciting. I love to do it. I found a new writer, Eric Kornfeld, who is great. He has been an author at Bette Midler for 20 years. I think the material is really funny. We had a lot of fun doing it. It was a bit rushed and on a budget, but I think we made it. We have four fantastic films.
E! News: How did you choose the films to feature, from House on Haunted Hill, City of the Dead and Messiah of Evil to your own Mistress of Darkness?
CP: I couldn't believe it, Shudder really made this selection up, and of course I was thrilled that it was Mistress of the Dark, but I was just as thrilled as House on Haunted Hill with Vincent Price because that was the movie that I saw as a kid that made me a horror, and I think it ultimately led me to this gig as Elvira. So it was really nostalgic for me to have that movie there. I loved watching it again - I've seen it a million times over the years, but seeing it again and then having my idol Vincent Price in the film, a guy I just kept up with as a kid until he died I worshiped away ... He was just a wonderful person.
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E! News: How did Elvira come about in retrospect?
CP: I started comedy at the Groundlings Theater, a comedy improvisation group in L.A. I was there for four and a half years. I also saw myself as a comedian. I think many other people are not aware of this. I mean, they know I'm funny, but I think they think I'm funny by mistake. I actually studied that and put that together, but it really started a little, low, low budget thing that looked like it was shot in a basement or something, and we got to record it nationally, so it got to be the first nationally syndicated horror show with a presenter on it. Each type of local market had its own horror host growing up.
NBC / New World / Kobal / Shutterstock
It started very small at a local station and went national and then I started national ads for Coors, Pepsi, and it really got the character into some sort of cult status. I think the main thing that has kept the character going over the years - and there have been some very, very lean times and some very eventful times - but basically, when Halloween went around every year and still rolls around every year, I was return. So I feel a lot like Santa Claus. Except for the beard, we are very similar. But aligning myself with a national holiday sure didn't hurt, you know? I think Elvira and Halloween have become almost synonymous.
E! News: Yours Cruelly really proves you've lived nine lives as a celebrity. Fans may not have known you ran an Italian pop band or you were the youngest Las Vegas showgirl in history. Was there anything you didn't want to consider when writing your memoir?
CP: I had things I wondered if I should talk about, but at the last minute I just said, 'Look at it, put it in there.' I am now 70 years old. What, will I just keep this under my hat until I die?
George Rose / Getty Images
I've had a very interesting, bizarre life and so many of my friends over the years have said, 'You have to write your memoirs and talk about all these things and let people know,' because most people just think it was me born on the day Elvira started in 1981 and don't know of any of my previous adventures before. I always told people that my life was so interesting and strange before Elvira came that when I became Elvira it was suddenly completely normal. 'Oh, finally I can be a normal person and everything has calmed down.' So you know, if someone looks like Elvira and their life used to be stranger, then you know there is something really bizarre out there. To the right?
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Dave Allocca / StarPix / Shutterstock
E! News: What do you hope fans will take away from your memoir?
CP: I have a feeling that as the word of this book gets around and more people read it, they will not focus as much on Elvira as they may focus on me as Cassandra Peterson does. There is only a small part of the book that deals with Elvira. I hope that women who have been through trauma - all women unfortunately have some stories of sexual harassment or sexual assault - I hope it speaks to them so that they can hear my story and not feel so alone. I hope it appeals to people who felt like an outsider as a kid. I definitely did, as a baby I was burned and covered in scars. As a child I was bullied. I hope the other people who have had similar situations and that doesn't mean getting burned, but they felt like an outsider because they may have been gay as a kid and felt different from the other kids and were teased ... them and that they will feel like they have someone to share these stories and they will not feel alone.
It's one of those things that you carry around your whole life, and it's not good for you. It brings things back when I hear other people's stories they are almost PTSD-esque. So I wanted to get it out and not hide it, and I wanted other people - especially other women - to see that unfortunately it happens to everyone and not feel alone or alienated because of it.
Elvira's 40th Anniversary, Very Scary, Very Special Special, is now streamed on Shudder and AMC +. Yours Cruelly is available wherever books are sold.
Further information on Elvira's projects can be found here.
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In this article:
Cassandra Peterson
American actress and television presenter

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