If you’re of the generation that recognizes the phrase “Cool Ghoul,” you’ll know immediately it’s a reference to the legendary Cincinnati TV horror show host.

It was 40 years ago this month that Dick Von Hoene went on the air, creating a sinister schtick character that is etched in our collective memory, a wacky demon who may be the best remembered television personality — outside of a newsroom — in the Tristate’s broadcast history. Yes, I’m sure Ruth Lyons was a very nice lady. And this is with all due deference to Bob Shreve, Paul Dixon, Bonnie Lou and Skipper Ryle. Kudos to Uncle Al and Captain Windy, too.

But who actually remembers even one of their broadcasts as well as the over-the-top Cool Ghoul? Who can forget his trademark “Bleeeh! Bleeeh! Bleeeh!” vocalization? The man could do a mean Boris Karloff.

As host of Channel 19’s weekly Scream-In scare fare extravaganza, the Cool Ghoul wigged out literally. His stringy orange hair was the most notable part of his campy camouflage — the scraggly wig actually came courtesy of the county morgue, from a woman who had died in an automobile accident. Or so goes the story. The wig was cut in half, front and back, with the front part joining the woman in her coffin.Brrrrr. Appropriately creepy origins.

Yes, today, you can rent a copy of Plan 9 from Outer Space orI Was a Teenage Werewolffrom the Blockbuster down the street. But what’s the fun in that? It was the communal experience, talking about the movies the next day at school, that empowered these freaky franchises in every market, from Ghoulardi in Cleveland to Elvira in La-La Land.

I knew Dick in another context entirely, as an occasional guest on his public affairs cable TV program,Northern Kentucky Magazine. The dramatic leap in persona, from crazed scream dream to elder statesman of the airwaves, always seemed amusing to me. (The man was nothing if not flexible. By career’s end, he’d worked for at least five radio stations, two cable outlets and three TV stations in this market, as reporter, as news announcer, even as disc jockey.)

The Purcell grad actually earned his acting chops honestly, graduating with a master’s degree in theater from the University of Cincinnati. He influenced a couple of generations of journalists, as well. One of Von Hoene’s hires over the years was Channel 19’s Tricia Macke. And Michael Flannery, formerly the “On Your Kid’s Side” beat reporter for Channel 9, fondly remembers being on his show as a kid, an appearance that actually inspired Flannery to go into the TV biz. “It was such a big deal when we were allowed to stay up late and watch him. I even had my own Cool Ghoul dartboard.”

Lesser known is that Von Hoene successfully expanded his Cool Ghoul franchise in other markets, appearing in the 1980s on television stations as far away as North Carolina. He syndicated before syndication was king.

Von Hoene died of a heart attack, at the age of 63, in 2004. But the Cool Ghoul lives on, at least in some memories, as well on Wikipedia — the online encyclopedia — where “The Cool Ghoul” entry notes Von Hoene “was an icon of Cincinnati television and local pop culture for nearly four decades.”

If anybody has a copy of his vinyl release,The Cool Ghoul’s Phantasmagorical Funky Fonograf Record, let me know. I hear his parody of a 1920s standard “Has Anybody Seen My Ghoul?” is, well, a howl.

Meanwhile, Dick, fangs for the memories. nRemember When Campy Horror Movies Had an Equally Campy Host?