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Stiff is a pinball machine released by Bally (manufactured by the Midway
Manufacturing Company) in 1996. It’s the follow-up game to the popular 1989
Elvira and the Party Monsters. Both pins
feature the on-screen horror hostess character Elvira, Mistress of the Dark
played by the real life actress Cassandra Peterson.
The Elvira character rapidly gained notoriety during
the 80’s and 90’s while hosting a horror television show. “Elvira's
Movie Macabre” featured the Elvira always seen with tight-fitting, low-cut
black gown oozing massive cleavage. The movies shown were always campy B grade
or even lower. She was typically reclining on her red Victorian couch,
introducing and randomly interrupting the movie. She lampooned the actors, the
script and the editing. Her humor revolved around dropping sexual double
entendres also making frequent jokes about her cleavage. Elvira’s delivery was
witty and sarcastic often using the tone of a California Valley girl.
closing line for each show was wishing her audience "Unpleasant dreams".
Peterson is reportedly a big pinball fan. She licensed the "Elvira" name and
likeness to Midway not once but twice. The “Elvira” theme translates well for
pinball encompassing horror and humor. The designer Dennis Nordman found great
inspiration with Cassandra’s character. Cassandra enthusiastically voiced the
custom speech calls herself for both games. Scared Stiff has all the staples
of a Dennis Nordman pin with wild sprawling ramps that measure the length of
the entire playfield creating incredible flow. Both pins were successful games
for Midway and very collectable today.
Stiff requires the player to get all 6 Tales of Terror to activate the
Stiff-O-Meter. Once the Stiff-O-Meter is activated the player shoots lit
Jackpots to see how Scared Stiff they can get! The six tales are:
Terror from the Crate: Knock on the Crate for chilling
The Monster’s Lab: Visit the pop bumpers for
Eyes of the Bony Beast: Shoot the left ramp to
complete the Hypnotic Stare!
The Stiff in the Coffin: Lock 3 balls to unleash
Night of the Leapers: Complete all 3 leaping Frog
Targets then Watch Where You Step!
Return of the Deadheads: Shoot for the Skull Lanes to
Wake the Deadheads!
The rules and layout of the game are easy to grasp but
hard to master. Playing a short game can be just as fulfilling as a longer
one. Getting to the "Wizard Mode" is not overly hard but completing all 10
levels requires some practice and isn’t for the faint of heart. The
playfield’s main toy and easiest target is a crate. It’s decorated with
warning signs not open and futures tiny led’s on top to represent glaring red
eyes. What terror waits inside?
Stiff is simply a fun pin to play and filled with a number adult humor by
Elvira and company. The “Stiff in the coffin” accompanies Elvira by calling
out modes and bonuses all in Sesame Street-esk Count Dracula accent. The music
score is top notch that making heavy use of a dramatic organ for creepy
atmosphere. The sound package is completely satisfying and is one of my
Scared Stiff artwork is very detailed and lively. There
are tons of things to look at with something new to spot every time one plays.
Heavy use of black, red and gray for the cabinet and playfield work well for
the theme. The modes give the splattering of color to balance it out.
game features a rather unique interactive trans-light with a spinning spider.
With a little skill the player can pick bonus items for points, extra ball or
help finish a tale. By collecting all the bonus items in the back glass
unlocks hidden or Easter egg multi-ball called “Spider Mania”. A 4 ball
multi-ball begins with everything on the playfield lit for scoring. This
includes all 3 Jackpots (which are doubled due to the wheel lighting Double
Trouble), Boogie Mania, Extra Ball, etc. This ends once you have less than two
balls. The layered artwork of Elvira and characters gives it a 3D appearance.
Like Elvira and the Party Monsters, the artwork on
Scared Stiff has many hidden meanings including the use of Cows. The use of
cows in William’s games is notorious and its origin is fairly clear. Enter the
initials “MOO” when achieving a high score next time to see 1 out of 3
instances of Cows in Scared Stiff. Most items aren’t apparent to a casual
pinball player. Robert Winters page has a comprehensive list of these hidden
treasures and behind the scenes information on his Scared Stiff at his page.