John Zacherle, who delighted horror fans for years as the host of various horror shows on the East Coast, passed away today at the age of 98. The legendar genre favorite passed away at his home in New York City on Thursday. He became well known as one of the first horror hosts to appear on TV programs in the late 1950s, under the moniker “The Cool Ghoul Zacherley.”
Deadline reported on The Cool Ghoul’s passing, although no details were given about his death. John Zacherle was born September 26, 1918 in Philadelphia, PA, the youngest of four children. He was raised in the Germantown area, and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania. During World War II, he enlisted in the U.S. Army and served as a quartermaster in North Africa and Europe, and after the war he returned to Philadelphia, joining a local repertory theater company.
He landed his first TV job in 1954 in the Western Action in the Afternoon, which was produced by Philadelphia TV station WCAU-TV, and aired in the New York market. In that film, he played three characters, one of which was an undertaker. WCAU-TV hired him three years later in 1957 as the host of Shock Theater, where he would introduce a number of horror films that would air on the network. He would also appear in various skits parodying each film as the character Roland, who wore an undertaker coat like his Action in the Afternoon character, along with his “lab assistant” named Igor. The show ran for 92 episodes between 1957 and 1958.
John Zacherle was also a close friend of iconic TV host Dick Clark, and sometimes he would even fill in as the host of touring broadcasts for American Bandstand. Dick Clark also gave him the nickname “The Cool Ghoul,” and helped him record the hit song “Dinner With Drac” in 1958. After WCAU-TV was bought by CBS, John Zacherle moved to New York City where he continued the same Shock Theater format with a new show Zacherley At Large. His Shock Theater character Roland was changed to Zacherley, adding an extra “y” to the end of his name. One of his regular bits was where he would insert himself into classic horror films.
John Zacherle appeared in Frank Henenlotter’s horror films Brain Damage and Frankenhooker in 1988 and 1990, respectively, and he also starred in the 2010 documentary The Aurora Monsters: The Model Craze That Gripped the World.. He would regularly make appearances at horror conventions, and he was inducted into The Broadcast Pioneers of Philadelphia Hall of Fame in 2010. Take a look at two Twitter tributes to John Zacherle below, from Elvira and Gilbert Gottfried.
— Elvira (@TheRealElvira) October 28, 2016
RT RealGilbertACP “Thank you, John Zacherle
Horror Host Extraordinaire
for all the spooky memories
& this too:
— Gilbert Gottfried (@RealGilbert) October 28, 2016