10 Gorilla Guys

Hollywood loves gorillas. They are mysterious and scary, yet close enough to human for an actor to play one. Many actors and special effects pros have portrayed gorillas at one time or another in movies such as Gorillas in the Mist or the Planet of the Apes series, but some became particularly known for being "the guy in the gorilla suit." At first, the only requirement for a star gorilla was that one own a gorilla suit. As the competition heated up, these guys had to bring something special to their roles.

1. Charles Gemora

Charles Gemora was the first to specialize in gorilla portrayals. He worked in Hollywood as a set designer and makeup artist before he built a gorilla costume for the 1927 silent film The Gorilla, which was not about an ape, but about a man who wore a gorilla costume. Fascinated by the idea of playing an actual gorilla, Gemora studied the apes in the local zoo to perfect his gorilla act, which he debuted in the 1928 film The Leopard Lady. The 1930 film Ingagi was passed off as being a documentary, but was totally fabricated. Viewers bought it, which confirmed the talents of Gemora, who played the gorilla. Gemora played an ape in 30 films up until 1958, including Murders in the Rue Morgue, The Road to Zanzibar, and White Witch Doctor. Most of his roles were uncredited, which was common at the time in order to preserve the illusion of a real gorilla in the role.

2. Emil Van Horn

Emil Van Horn was a vaudeville actor who appeared in burlesque shows and made the leap to film in the 1940s, when he appeared in nine films, all as a gorilla, beginning with Never Give A Sucker an Even Break with W.C. Fields in 1941. His career as a gorilla came to an end, he said, when his landlady confiscated his possessions in lieu of rent, which included his gorilla costume.

3. Ray Corrigan

Ray "Crash" Corrigan went from a fitness trainer for the stars to a Hollywood stand-in to a western actor in the 1930s. However, he owned a nice gorilla costume, which led to jobs in ape movies beginning with Tarzan and His Mate in 1934 and lasting until he sold the costume in 1948. His most prominent gorilla role was in the 1945 film The White Gorilla, in which Corrigan played a man, a gorilla, and the narrator as well. The film is shown here in its entirety.

4. George Barrows

George Barrows appeared in 96 movies and television shows, not all as a gorilla. But he built his own gorilla costume and found plenty of gorilla work, beginning with a couple of episodes of The Abbot and Costello Show in 1953. His most celebrated gorilla role was in the 1953 movie Robot Monster which became known as one of the worst films of all time and eventually gained cult status. Oh yeah, he was supposed to be an alien in that one, not a gorilla, but that was the only costume he brought with him to the low-budget film.

5. Janos Prohaska

Janos Prohaska immigrated from his native Hugary to work in Hollywood as a stuntman. He was cast as Clyde the ape in the 1964 movie Bikini Beach and began a career portraying different animals afterward, designing his own costumes for the various roles. Prohaska did more TV roles than films, playing a gorilla in Gilligan's Island, Land of the Giants, and Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea. Prohaska is pictured here in Escape from the Planet of the Apes. He often played a bear on TV as well. Prohaska died in a plane crash in 1974.

6. Steve Calvert

Veteran stuntman Steve Calvert bought a gorilla suit from Ray "Crash" Corrigan in 1948. With the suit, he also received lessons in how to act like a gorilla, which he supplemented by studying real apes on his own, and a new star was born -even though Calvert did not receive screen credits for most of the movies he appeared in as a gorilla. He played a very realistic gorilla in a slew of ridiculously unrealistic '50s B-movies, such as Bela Lugosi Meets a Brooklyn Gorilla, The Bowery Boys Meet the Monsters, Bride of a Gorilla, The Road to Bali, and Bride of the Beast. Calvert retired from acting in 1960, and lived to the age of 74.

7. Don McLeod

When American Tourister luggage released a print ad featuring a gorilla abusing their product, they used a real gorilla. The campaign was such a success they took the act to TV in 1980, but could not use a real gorilla for the filming. In stepped Don McLeod. McLeod is an actor, mime, and "living statue." He played gorillas in the movies Trading Places (he was the "real" gorilla), The Man with Two Brains, and Tarzan: The Epic Adventures, as well as other creatures.

8. Garon Michael

In the summer of 2007, an advertisement for Cadbury chocolate took the internet by storm. It had nothing to do with chocolate; what we saw was a gorilla playing drums to Phil Collin's song "In the Air Tonight." The man under the suit was revealed a month or so later. Garon Michael may be an unfamiliar name, but he was no stranger to the suit. Michael also played gorillas in the movies Congo, Instinct, and Planet of the Apes, as well as other furry creatures.

9. Bob Woolf

Hollywood isn't the only place for a man in a gorilla suit. The man behind, er, under the Phoenix Suns gorilla mascot suit is gymnastics coach Bob Woolf. He's the second Suns gorilla, and has worn the costume since 1988, when he was a senior gymnast at Arizona State University. Despite his age (mid-40s), Woolf gives the act his all, jumping on a trampoline, sinking baskets, spinning the ball, and shaking hands with hundreds of people at every performance. He suffers occasional injuries, but as each one makes the papers, the fans know when he's not able to appear at a Suns game. Outside of the court, Woolf appears in costume at schools to entertain kids and promote healthy living.

10. Rick Baker

Rick Baker is a special effects wizard who perfected the eyes of a gorilla costume in order to make believable gorillas for the 1988 film Gorillas in the Mist, in which he acted as well as worked as associate producer. Baker also portrayed gorillas in the 1976 version of King Kong, the 1988 version of Mighty Joe Young, and the 2001 remake of Planet Of The Apes.

This list was inspired by a post at Metafilter. Read about more gorilla men at the Gorilla Men gallery and the Gorilla Men blog.

Wolfgang via Flickr // CC BY-ND 2.0
8 Legendary Monsters of Christmas
Wolfgang via Flickr // CC BY-ND 2.0
Wolfgang via Flickr // CC BY-ND 2.0

The customs of the holiday season, which include St. Nicholas Day, New Years Day, and Epiphany, as well as Christmas, often incorporate earlier pagan traditions that have been appropriated and adapted for contemporary use. Customs that encourage little children to be good so as to deserve their Christmas gifts often come with a dark side: the punishment you'll receive from a monster or evil being of some sort if you aren't good! These nefarious characters vary from place to place, and they go by many different names and images.


As a tool to encourage good behavior in children, Santa serves as the carrot, and Krampus is the stick. Krampus is the evil demon anti-Santa, or maybe his evil twin. Krampus Night is celebrated on December 5, the eve of St. Nicholas Day in Austria and other parts of Europe. Public celebrations that night have many Krampuses walking the streets, looking for people to beat. Alcohol is also involved. Injuries in recent years have led to some reforms, such as requiring all Krampuses to wear numbers so they may identified in case of overly violent behavior.

Krampus may look like a devil, or like a wild alpine beast, depending on what materials are available to make a Krampus costume. In modern times, people can spend as much as they like to become the best Krampus around—and the tradition is spreading beyond Europe. Many cities in America have their own Krampus Nights now.


Jólakötturinn is the Icelandic Yule Cat or Christmas Cat. He is not a nice cat. In fact, he might eat you. This character is tied to an Icelandic tradition in which those who finished all their work on time received new clothes for Christmas, while those who were lazy did not (although this is mainly a threat). To encourage children to work hard, parents told the tale of the Yule Cat, saying that Jólakötturinn could tell who the lazy children were because they did not have at least one new item of clothing for Christmas—and these children would be sacrificed to the Yule Cat. This reminder tends to spur children into doing their chores! A poem written about the cat ends with a suggestion that children help out the needy, so they, too, can have the protection of new clothing. It's no wonder that Icelanders put in more overtime at work than most Europeans.


Flickr // Markus Ortner

Tales told in Germany and Austria sometimes feature a witch named Frau Perchta who hands out both rewards and punishments during the 12 days of Christmas (December 25 through Epiphany on January 6). She is best known for her gruesome punishment of the sinful: She will rip out your internal organs and replace them with garbage. The ugly image of Perchta may show up in Christmas processions in Austria, somewhat like Krampus.

Perchta's story is thought to have descended from a legendary Alpine goddess of nature, who tends the forest most of the year and deals with humans only during Christmas. In modern celebrations, Perchta or a close relation may show up in processions during Fastnacht, the Alpine festival just before Lent. There may be some connection between Frau Perchta and the Italian witch La Befana, but La Befana isn't really a monster: she's an ugly but good witch who leaves presents.


A drawing of Belsnickel.
Lucas, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

Belsnickel is a male character from southwestern German lore who traveled to the United States and survives in Pennsylvania Dutch customs. He comes to children sometime before Christmas, wearing tattered old clothing and raggedy fur. Belsnickel carries a switch to frighten children and candy to reward them for good behavior. In modern visits, the switch is only used for noise, and to warn children they still have time to be good before Christmas. Then all the children get candy, if they are polite about it. The name Belsnickel is a portmanteau of the German belzen (meaning to wallop) and nickel for St. Nicholas. See a video of a Belsnickel visit here.

Knecht Ruprecht and Ru Klaas are similar characters from German folklore who dole out beatings to bad children, leaving St. Nicholas to reward good children with gifts.


Hans Trapp is another "anti-Santa" who hands out punishment to bad children in the Alsace and Lorraine regions of France. The legend says that Trapp was a real man, a rich, greedy, and evil man, who worshiped Satan and was excommunicated from the Catholic Church. He was exiled into the forest where he preyed upon children, disguised as a scarecrow with straw jutting out from his clothing. He was about to eat one boy he captured when he was struck by lightning and killed—a punishment of his own from God. Still, he visits young children before Christmas, dressed as a scarecrow, to scare them into good behavior.


The French legend of Père Fouettard, whose name translates to "Father Whipper," begins with an evil butcher who craved children to eat. He (or his wife) lured three boys into his butcher shop, where he killed, chopped, and salted them. St. Nicholas came to the rescue, resurrected the boys, and took custody of the butcher. The captive butcher became Père Fouettard, St. Nicholas' servant whose job it is to dispense punishment to bad children on St. Nicholas Day.


The Jólasveinar, or Yule Lads, are 13 Icelandic trolls, who each have a name and distinct personality. In ancient times, they stole things and caused trouble around Christmastime, so they were used to scare children into behaving, like the Yule Cat. However, the 20th century brought tales of the benevolent Norwegian figure Julenisse (Santa Claus), who brought gifts to good children. The traditions became mingled, until the formerly devilish Jólasveinar became kind enough to leave gifts in shoes that children leave out ... if they are good boys and girls. 


All the Yule Lads answer to Grýla, their mother. She predates the Yule Lads in Icelandic legend as the ogress who kidnaps, cooks, and eats children who don't obey their parents. She only became associated with Christmas in the 17th century, when she was assigned to be the mother of the Yule Lads. According to legend, Grýla had three different husbands and 72 children, all who caused trouble ranging from harmless mischief to murder. As if the household wasn't crowded enough, the Yule Cat also lives with Grýla. This ogress is so much of a troublemaker that The Onion blamed her for the 2010 eruption of the Eyjafjallajökull volcano.

A version of this post originally ran in 2013. See also: more Legendary Monsters

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84 Years Ago Today: Goodbye Prohibition!
A huge queue outside the Board of Health offices in Centre Street, New York, for licenses to sell alcohol shortly after the repeal of prohibition. The repeal of prohibition was a key policy of Franklin Roosevelt's government as it allowed the government an opportunity to raise tax revenues at a time of economic hardship.
A huge queue outside the Board of Health offices in Centre Street, New York, for licenses to sell alcohol shortly after the repeal of prohibition. The repeal of prohibition was a key policy of Franklin Roosevelt's government as it allowed the government an opportunity to raise tax revenues at a time of economic hardship.
Keystone/Getty Images

It was 84 years ago today that the Twenty-First Amendment to the Constitution was ratified, repealing the earlier Amendment that declared the manufacture, sale, and transport of alcohol illegal in the United States. Prohibition was over! Booze that had been illegal for 13 years was suddenly legal again, and our long national nightmare was finally over.

A giant barrel of beer, part of a demonstration against prohibition in America.
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Prohibition of alcohol was not a popular doctrine. It turned formerly law-abiding citizens into criminals. It overwhelmed police with enforcement duties and gave rise to organized crime. In cities like Milwaukee and St. Louis, the dismantling of breweries left thousands of people unemployed.

Photograph courtesy of the Boston Public Library

Homemade alcohol was often dangerous and some people died from drinking it. Some turned to Sterno or industrial alcohol, which was dangerous and sometimes poisoned by the government to discourage drinking. State and federal governments were spending a lot of money on enforcement, while missing out on taxes from alcohol.

New York City Deputy Police Commissioner John A. Leach (right) watches agents pour liquor into sewer following a raid during the height of Prohibition.

The midterm elections of 1930 saw the majority in Congress switch from Republican to Democratic, signaling a shift in public opinion about Prohibition as well as concerns about the depressed economy. Franklin Roosevelt, who urged repeal, was elected president in 1932. The Twenty-first Amendment to the Constitution was proposed by Congress in February of 1933, the sole purpose of which was to repeal the Eighteenth Amendment establishing Prohibition.

American men guarding their private beer brewing hide-out, during Prohibition.
Keystone/Getty Images

With passage of the Constitutional Amendment to repeal Prohibition a foregone conclusion, a huge number of businessmen lined up at the Board of Health offices in New York in April of 1933 to apply for liquor licenses to be issued as soon as the repeal was ratified.

The Amendment was ratified by the states by the mechanism of special state ratifying conventions instead of state legislatures. Many states ratified the repeal as soon as conventions could be organized. The ratifications by the required two-thirds of the states was achieved on December 5, 1933, when conventions in Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Utah agreed to repeal Prohibition through the Amendment.

Workmen unloading crates of beer stacked at a New York brewery shortly after the repeal of Prohibition.
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A brewery warehouse in New York stacked crates past the ceiling to satisfy a thirsty nation after the repeal of Prohibition.

Keystone/Getty Images

Liquor wouldn't officially be legal until December 15th, but Americans celebrated openly anyway, and in most places, law enforcement officials let them.


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