One of the first of the late-night TV horror movie hosts has died. The New York Times reports that John Zacherle died Thursday at his home in Manhattan. He was 98.
Zacherle, who sometimes spelled his name Zacherley, played a crypt-dwelling undertaker, first in Philadelphia and later in New York. He became known as the “Cool Ghoul,” but wasn’t television’s only character known by that name. Another “Cool Ghoul,” Dick Von Hoene, became known on radio and television in Cincinnati.
Zacherle also wasn’t the first horror host on television, an honor that belongs to Finnish-born actress Maila Nurmi, who became known as Vampira starting in 1954 on KABC-TV in Los Angeles.
But The Times reports that Zacherle was the most famous of the early horror hosts, “inspiring a host of imitators at local stations around the country.”
“As Roland in Philadelphia and Zacherley in New York, he added grisly theatrics and absurdist humor to the entertainment on offer, which more often than not was less than Oscar quality. He became a cult figure, making star appearances at horror conventions across the Northeast,” The Times reports.
The report adds: “At intervals throughout the evening, Mr. Zacherle performed mini-skits with his stock company, treated viewers to recitations from his opera ‘Draculare’ or taught conversational Transylvanian. (‘The skull of my aunt is on the table.’)”
Zacherle hosted “Shock Theater” on Philadelphia station WCAU-TV in 1957-58 and “Zacherley at Large” on New York’s WABC-TV in 1959-60. He also recorded the novelty song “Dinner With Drac” in 1958.