Maila Nurmi (December 11, 1922 – January 10, 2008) was a Finnish-American actress, who created the campy 1950s character, Vampira. She portrayed "Vampira" as TV's first horror host and in the Ed Wood cult film, Plan 9 from Outer Space.
She attended high school in Astoria, Oregon for at least several years, before arriving in Los Angeles at age 17. She modeled for Alberto Vargas, Bernard of Hollywood and Man Ray, gaining a foothold in the film industry with an uncredited role in Victor Saville's 1947 film, If Winter Comes.
On June 20, 1955, Nurmi was the victim of an attempted murder when a man forced his way into her apartment and proceeded to terrorize her for close to four hours. Nurmi eventually escaped and managed to call the police, with assistance from a local shop owner.
By 1962, Nurmi was making a living installing linoleum flooring. "And if things are slow in linoleum, I can also do carpentry, make drapes or refinish furniture," she told the Los Angeles Times.
In the early 1960s, Nurmi opened Vampira's Attic, an antiques boutique on Melrose Avenue. She also sold handmade jewelry and clothing. She made items for several celebrities, including Grace Slick of the music group Jefferson Airplane and the Zappa family.
Unable to continue using the name Vampira, the show was abruptly renamed Elvira's Movie Macabre with Peterson playing the titular host. Nurmi soon filed a lawsuit against Peterson. The court eventually ruled in favor of Peterson, holding that "likeness' means actual representation of another person's appearance, and not simply close resemblance." Peterson claimed that Elvira was nothing like Vampira aside from the basic design of the black dress and black hair; Nurmi claimed that the entire Elvira persona, which included comedic dialogue and intentionally bad graveyard puns, infringed on her creation's "distinctive dark dress, horror movie props, and...special personality." Nurmi herself claimed that Vampira's image was in part based on the Charles Addams The New Yorker cartoon character Morticia Addams, though she told Boxoffice magazine in 1994 that she had intentionally deviated from Addams' mute and flat-chested creation, making her own TV character "campier and sexier" to avoid plagiarizing Addams' idea.
In 1986, she appeared alongside Tomata du Plenty of The Screamers in Rene Daalder's punk rock musical Population: 1, which was released on DVD in October 2008.
Unlike Elvira, Nurmi authorized very few merchandising contracts for her Vampira character, though the name and likeness have been used unofficially by various companies since the 1950s. In 1994, Nurmi authorized a Vampira model kit for Artomic Creations, and a pre-painted figurine from Bowen Designs in 2001, both sculpted by Thomas Kuntz. In 2004, she authorized merchandising of the Vampira character by Coffin Case.
Hollywood Forever Cemetery.