Davis, de Havilland, Flynn, Cagney, Bogart ...

Davis, de Havilland, Flynn, Cagney, Bogart ...

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Favorite TV Horror Host - Sammy Terry, The Ghoul That Ruled!

At the start, he was black and white ...
In color, he was a sight ...


Sammy, dear Sammy,
Your  jokes were so hammy.
Your face was all green,
Your hands looked so clammy.


You rose from your coffin,
Our courage would soften.
Your laugh was so evil
That we'd all stop talkin'.

Friday was your night
To give us a big fright.
When we went to bed,
We needed a night light.

Thanks, Sammy Terry,
For being so scary.
To all of us kids
You are legendary.

We kids are all grown up now, very grown up, but we all remember Sammy and Friday night Nightmare Theatre.  We didn't know it then, but Sammy Terry was Bob Carter, a reporter who worked for Sarkes Tarzian, the gentleman who owned WTTV Channel 4 in Indianapolis.  The show started out in 1962 as Carter's Shock Theatre, but soon morphed into Nightmare Theatre with host Sammy Terry.  I hate to admit how long it took for me to realize that his name was a take on cemetery, but I was just a kid so I guess I can be forgiven.

Sammy showed movies that were good, many that were awful, but all were of the horror genre and all were fun. It seems to me that Vincent Price's House on Haunted Hill was on every other week, but that's just my memory, I guess.  Sammy would interrupt the movie occasionally to comment on it, usually with puns that were real groaners.  In his dungeon lair, Sammy had a friend, George the spider, who was always hanging around -- groan.  His young son Mark appeared once in a while as another friend, Ghoulsby.  When the show started, Sammy's coffin lid would creak loudly and he would sit up.  Sometimes the coffin would tip a little as he stood, but we never held that against him.  There were some stories about Sammy, which we thought were all completely true.  One I remember particularly is that Sammy fell asleep in his coffin after the show, and some of the crew decided to put him into the back of a truck, drove him out to a deserted road and left him there.  I sure like to think that really happened.

The Screaming Skull!
I have 6 brothers and sisters, and we all sat on the floor in a semi-circle around the TV to watch Sammy every Friday night.  My very favorite memory of Nightmare Theatre involves humiliating my big brother, who always made fun of the rest of us for getting scared during the movie.  He would sit there chomping his popcorn and acting very superior about those "dumb movies" and our tendency to watch a lot of things through our fingers.  Of course, he never missed Sammy either.  One night, Sammy showed The Screaming Skull.  To me, it had a few shivers, but I didn't think it was very scary.  Then I looked over at my brother, and his face was a little pale.  He was scared, actually scared, and I was so delighted!  I think that was the first time he was ever really spooked, and after much razzing, admitted he hated skeletons and skulls.  One scene in particular made him jump, and being the sweet, rosy-cheeked little sister that I was, I NEVER LET HIM FORGET IT!  Revenge is sweet.  I won't even tell you the whole story of how I treated him when he was in love with a girl named Cathy, who didn't like him, and the Everley Brothers came out with their song "Cathy's Clown."  But I digress...

Sammy Terry and Nightmare Theatre ended in 1989, but I'll never forget him.  Bob Carter still lives in Indiana, and unfortunately is too ill to take on his alter-ego in personal appearances as he has done for years.  But Sammy Terry lives because of his son Mark.  Mark took over the cloak and makeup, and performs online and in person (see link below)..  He looks remarkably like his Dad, and even has the voice down perfectly.  He never appears in public without his makeup, which I think is pretty cool.  (Well, I imagine he doesn't wear the makeup to church or anything like that.)  But here is a clip of my Sammy in his prime, doing his introduction.  Those were the days.






The clip and some of the pictures are from Sammy's official website, http://www.sammyterrynightmares.com/home.html.  You can find out more about Sammy Terry there, and even find some great stuff to buy.  I might just get a T-shirt!


This post is part of the Horror Host blogathon sponsored by the Classic TV Blog Association.  To find the complete list of bloggers, click on http://classic-tv-blog-assoc.blogspot.com/2012/10/classic-tv-horror-host-blogathon.html

19 comments:

  1. Fun article Becky! I grew up in the early 60's watching Zacherley on Chiller Theater (WPIX-Channel 11 in New York), my introduction to horror films.The memories are both fond and scary!

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    1. John, same timing, different locations, perfect way to describe the memories!

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  2. Becky, what a delightful post about one of the longest-lasting horror movie hosts! I went to college in Bloomington in the late 1970s and watched Sammy regularly. You asked if he was profiled in Elena Watson's TELEVISION HORROR MOVIE HOSTS and he is (though only for a couple of pages...should be longer!). She discusses his long career on Channel 4 and later Channel 11 and describes some of his gags such as showing up at the Indy 500 in a coffin car. Great contribution to the Classic TV Horror Movie Host Blogathon.

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    1. Thanks, Rick! Sammy was a stitch with his gags. I'm going to send this article to my big brother. Yet another chance to embarrass him about The Screaming Skull! I really enjoyed doing this and being part of the Classic TV Blog Association's Halloween event.

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  3. Becky - I was a Zacherley kid, too. I'll always remember how his wife appeared - on a string from the ceiling - a rag, a bone and a hank of hair. Thanks for some great memories!

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    1. A rag, a bone, and a hank of hair -- love it!

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  4. What a fun post. Wish I had grown up watching this :)

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    1. I think you would have made a good addition (you'd have been #8) of the Barnes kids' Friday night horror fest!

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  6. This guy sounds like a real character. I can just picture Lil Becky sitting on the floor, clutching her favorite doll, just ready to yelp at seeing The Screaming Skull. Funny...Lil Becky sounds the name of a character from Little House in Indiana...just yanking your chain. You little devil...you sounded absolutely perverse when you described your poor brother. Toronto didn't have a Friday Night Fright person. That's what we got for liking hockey so much. I don't recall Buffalo having one either. Sounds like your older brother got spooked the most, and not his screaming, squealing little sisters.

    Now tell us about your brother. Remember....we know where you live....just kidding.

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    1. Yeah, messing with your big brother is a sister's biggest delight...too bad you didn't have a Sammy Terry -- he was one of those characters who was so bad he was good!

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  7. What a fun post, Becky! The memories of getting back at your older brother in particular since I never quite got back at mine.

    Sammy Terry to "cemetery" is very clever, I must say. I'm not sure I would have realized it myself and it's rained quite a bit since I was a child!

    I'm really regretting not having paid much attention to horror hosts reading all the great entries. All, like yours, written with such deep affection.

    Aurora

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    1. Thanks, CS ... I really had fun doing this one. Isn't it weird how a kid will just take something at face value -- never occurred to me to question his name until I got a lot older. It was a time when stations were still local, and these guys were part of growing up. Great time.

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  8. Lots of fun memories in your remembrance of Sammy Terry. We had such fun watching those movies "back then" I may have to buy a Tshirt too! It's great his son is carrying his legacy on.

    Laura

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    1. We did have good times with Sammy, didn't we?! I'd love to have a T-shirt. Would I dare wear it at my age -- LOL!

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  9. Becky, although I'm not familiar with Sammy Terry, our family DOES love TV movie hosts in the Zacherle/Svenghoulie vein (ha! :-))), and Sammy's show sounds like a blast! Your affection for him and his show shines through!

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  10. I watch Svengoolie on Saturday nights on Me-TV. He's hilarious. And you are right -- after all these years it is affection I feel for old Sammy!

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  11. Sammy Terry is awesome! Reminds me of Peter vincent, the great vampire killer (fright night)

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    1. LOL! You are so right! Hey Mike, I'm glad you came to read and comment...come back again!

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