Vampira, Ghoulardi, Dr. Shock: 20 Classic Creeps Of Regional Horror TV
By Sarah Norman | October 31, 2023
From 1954 to 1955 Vampira ruled Los Angeles. Even though The Vampira Show was only on the air for eight months it managed to set the standard for what a late night movie show looked like. Sauntering out of the dense fog, Vampira, played by Maila Nurmi, beckoned to the viewer with her sharp, claw-like fingernails and jabbed them and the films with caustic humor.
Like many of the copycats that followed, The Vampira Show was created as a way to show inexpensive - and in some cases free - horror movies that needed a hook beyond their mere existence. And even if the movies were bad, at least Vampira was fun to watch.
In 1981, Nurmi had an opportunity to bring Vampira back to TV on the Los Angeles station KHJ-TV. In the process of creating the show, Cassandra Peterson was hired as Elvira, a Vampira-like character, without Nurmi's permission. Nurmi quit, and filed an unsuccessful lawsuit against Peterson.
From 1957 to 1960 John Zacherle hosted two different late night horror shows, Shock Theater, and Zacherley at Large. Initially, he played “Roland” a ghoul who performed skits in-between moments in the film while speaking to his wife, a character who never exited her coffin. In 1958 he moved from Philadelphia's WCAU for New York's WABC, where he changed his name from Roland to Zacherley (the station added the "y" to his last name), and his show continued as if nothing was new.
Zacherley was a huge deal in the New York and Philadelphia areas, and aside from hosting his horror shows he also recorded novelty songs like “Dinner with Drac,” a song that broke into the Billboard Top 10. He continued working in regional television and radio through the ’90s, but he’s most remembered for his time hosting Shock Theater.