In 1957 John was hired as the host of WCAU’s Shock Theater, which debuted on October 7, 1957. As the host, Zacherle appeared wearing a long black undertaker’s coat as the character “Roland”, who lived in a crypt with his wife “My Dear” and his lab assistant Igor. The hosting of the black-and-white show involved numerous stylized horror-comedy gags that have become standard on television. In the opening sequence, Zacherle as Roland would descend a long round staircase to the crypt. The producers erred on the side of goriness, showing fake severed heads with blood simulated with Hershey’s chocolate syrup. The show sometimes featured live “cut-ins” during the movie in which the soundtrack continued to play on the air, while the visual feed switched briefly to a shot of Zacherle as Roland in the middle of a humorous stunt, such as riding a tombstone. The show ran for 92 broadcasts through 1958.
The purchase of WCAU by CBS in 1958 prompted Zacherle to leave Philadelphia for WABC-TV in New York, where the station added a “y” to the end of his name in the credits. He continued the format of the “Shock Theater”, after March 1959 titled “Zacherley at Large”, with “Roland” becoming “Zacherley” and his wife “My Dear” becoming “Isobel”. He also began appearing in motion pictures, including Key to Murder alongside several of his former Action in the Afternoon colleagues.
In a 1960 promotional stunt for his move to WOR-TV, Zacherley staged a Presidential campaign. His “platform” recording can be found on the album Spook Along with Zacherley, which originally included a Zacherley for President book and poster set which is highly collectible today.
Zacherle continues to make appearances at conventions, and to this day, Zacherle collectibles are still selling, including model kits, T-shirts, and posters. The book “Goodnight, Whatever You Are” by Richard Scrivani, chronicling the life and times of The Cool Ghoul, debuted at the Chiller Theatre expo in Secaucus, New Jersey, in October 2006.
And as always, you can buy this print, or any of my prints for a mere $25.00 by visiting the store, or simply by clicking the button below.