Arts and Entertainment

A look back on late-night horror host Sammy Terry

Television horror host Sammy Terry is a legend that most any slightly older Hoosier knows and still loves. The role of this character began back in 1962 by Robert “Bob” Carter. He actually came up with the name Sammy Terry as a play on the word cemetery. Carter’s career as Sammy began on the local Channel 4 WTTV by introducing late night Friday horror films that were airing. Channel 4 had to create its own content in the beginning, so they often had to be creative and think outside the box. Bob’s idea was certainly a big hit because he eventually earned the title of longest-running horror movie host in America. Sammy Terry was the host for every horror film that aired on the Nightmare Theater from 1962 up until 1989.

As a sidekick of sorts, he had a “floating” spider named George who would also be part of the humorous banter during breaks. There were other characters that appeared on the show as well, one of which was a butler named Ghoulsby, who was played by his son Mark on several occasions.

Children and adults alike enjoyed Sammy Terry and his antics while they watched their Friday night horror movie. When I was young, my parents worked opposite shifts, and I was probably allowed to stay up later than most due to this. At that antennae-based TV time in Linton’ history, we were on cloud nine getting access to channels 2, 4, 10, and 38. Four channels, and especially Channel 4 out of Indianapolis, were all a person could ask for and more. Channel 4 was definitely a channel we watched a lot, and I vaguely remember watching Sammy Terry back then because I am still not that old.

By day, Bob worked at his family’s music store. On the show, he transformed into the entertaining, cape-wearing ghoul with spooky makeup. He even had a small set on the show to make it look like he was in a cemetery as he was coming out of his coffin. They went to great lengths to make their own coffins for Bob to use because coffin props were often not built to last. For dramatic effect, he would slowly come out of the coffin.

Speaking of which, one time after the show, his coworkers decided to pull a prank on him. Bob fell asleep after his long work day, and his coworkers put him inside the coffin and dropped him off near the side of a highway. At about 2 AM, Bob woke up still wearing his costume and climbed out of the coffin. Imagine what a sight that would have been for the people passing by!

In 2010, his son Mark took over the role as Sammy Terry. Mark had been on the show himself as various characters from time-to-time since he was in seventh grade. He knew Sammy Terry inside and out, and closed down his businesses to accept the role in honor of his dad. He has made several appearances over the years, and he still entertains adults and children as the infamous Sammy Terry.

Mark especially loves going to live events because he appreciates seeing the faces of the fans and their adoration for his Dad’s creation: Sammy Terry. He regularly shows up on Facebook Live and YouTube Live sessions for the fans online too. The amount of global reach that this character has is incredible with improved technology these days. Mark has commented that his dad would be so amazed at how many people still watch Sammy Terry across the globe to this day.

So, Sammy Terry’s legacy will continue to live on and be a part of the culture of Indiana hoosiers, especially around Halloween. We hope you enjoy watching some Sammy Terry classics this season, just look around online for some. Many still love Sammy Terry and, who knows, maybe even plan to pay tribute to him this Halloween!

Photo: Sammy Terry, CC BY-SA 3.0

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