Although horror films, detective stories and thrillers are very popular in Germany, there was hardly anything comparable in this country - in the USA, however, horror TV shows have had a fixed slot in the late evening program since the 1950s. And nationwide.
One of these shows was hosted by John Zachlerle aka "Zacherley". With an unmistakable voice and a characteristically creepy laugh, he announced horror films on the show "Shock Theater" in the 50s and 60s. He wowed so many people with his role as a terrifying entertainer that he built a huge following over the years.
In his "Shock Theater" Zacherle was seen as an undertaker in a black coat and somber make-up. He moderated in a gruesomely decorated crypt – a studio setting, of course. The TV show based on the B-movie horror films shown was perfectly staged: "The Cool Ghoul", as Zacherle was also called, talked to his invisible wife, for example, whom he addressed as "My Dear". She was in a coffin with a stake in her heart. He also had a "son", who hung from the ceiling as a potato sack and occasionally gave a loud groan. During a show, he sometimes jumped into the films with the help of effects. With the mostly humorous interludes, Zacherle not only provided entertainment during the introduction, but also during the commercial breaks.
In addition to B-movie horror, classics were also shown, including "Dracula", "Frankenstein" and "The Mummy". The fact that his appearance was well received by the appropriate audience was noticeable in the ratings: These increased by over 1000 percent in the first year of broadcasting - and the "Shock Theater" was finally renamed "Zacherley At Large". When the station invited to the open day, where viewers were able to look at the television studios and get to know the moderator, more than 13,000 people came instead of the expected 1,500. Everyone wanted to meet the master of dark evening entertainment.
Besides appearing in a few films and doing voice acting jobs, Zacherle also made music. Songs like "Monster Mash" or "Scary Tales" should not be missing from any Halloween playlist today.
Own horror shows were shown in many local stations in the USA. There was, for example, "Sammy Terry", a kind of zombie. "Morgus the Magnificent", a cross between Frankenstein and Mr. Wizard. "Moona Lisa" wore a skintight cat suit and draped a python around her neck during her broadcast. They all moderated their programs in gloomy scenes.
However, "The Vampira Show", which was broadcast in Los Angeles in the 1950s, is regarded as the forerunner of all horror shows. "Vampira" was moderated by Maila Nurmi. At the beginning of each episode, she floated down a foggy hallway and screamed at the camera at the end. Then the respective film of the evening was introduced with creepy jokes or puns. Nurmi alias Vampira is considered the first horror show presenter ever - and wrote television history.
The success of such shows suggests that people have always "liked" to be scared. Even in the otherwise well-behaved 50s. And the horror genre probably wouldn't have become what it is today without these formats.
Sources:"NYT", "Saturday Evening Post"