Film & TV

Character Study: Cassandra Peterson Writes a Heartfelt Letter to Elvira

Film & TV

Character Study: Cassandra Peterson Writes a Heartfelt Letter to Elvira


In 1981, actor Cassandra Peterson gave birth to Elvira, Mistress of the Dark, a snap-witted, raven-wigged alter ego with gravity-defying cleavage and a campy knack for introducing and lampooning all manner of deliciously crummy horror movies as the host of the TV series Elvira’s Movie Macabre. Since first wishing “unpleasant dreams” on her devoted throngs, she’s expanded her cloven-footed empire into comic books, video games, and even pinball machines. But it hasn’t always been easy for Peterson to walk in her creation’s six-inch heels—especially on Halloween.

Dear Elvira,

First and foremost, I want to thank you for keeping food on the table for over three decades now. I’m not sure how I would have survived in Hollywood without you. Not many actors can say they’ve played the same character for 32 years and made a better-than-average living out of it. Stars may come and stars may go, but you’re still here, kicking ass, looking hot, and paying my rent.

I also want you to know that I admire you. You’ve grown as a character and as a woman. I look back on some of the early stuff you did and feel embarrassed for you. (The flat hair alone is enough to make me cringe!) I’m amazed at how far you’ve come and that you’ve survived it all in one piece.

It’s sometimes hard for me to believe that what started out as a silly little part on a local late-night horror show has turned you into a one-name pop-culture icon, especially considering you came from a farm in Kansas. That you were able to get the rights to your name and likeness and parlay them into one of the best known brands in the country, well, I have to give you props for being smarter than you look. You go, ghoul!

I’m sorry about the uncomfortable outfit you’ve been forced to endure year after year: the six-inch heels, the straightjacket-tight dress with the steel-belted radial bra and the masses of makeup and hair extensions. I know it gets old after a while—ask any drag queen. If I could go back to 1981 and do it all over again, I would design you a much more forgiving costume, something loose and flowy with a pair of flats. It might not have had the same impact, but at least I wouldn’t have to listen to you bitch every time you get dressed.

If I have any gripe with you, it’s that you could never be around on Halloween to take my daughter trick-or-treating. She’s still a little resentful and often mentions feeling deprived when the subject comes up. Hopefully, when she’s an adult, she’ ll realize that you are, after all, the Queen of Halloween, and forgive you.


Cassandra Peterson