Tag Archives: Sammy Terry

BEHIND THE SCENES OF JOHN SEMPER’S “CREEPORIA” PART 2

*This is the second in a three-part series; here’s part one.

In regards to John Semper[1], Patrick Greathouse asked the question, “Why partner with the Asylum House?”

I put this question to Mr. Semper. “I liked my conversations with both you and Pat,” he responded. “You dig deep into films and so do I. Pat seemed to enjoy comedy-horror and we bonded over that. I was impressed with all of the resources at hand. Pat prepared a video guided tour of your standing sets and props. I could begin to envision that with all of those resources, and also the makeup talent, we might be able to pull off a halfway decent film for very low dollars. The script was easy. I tried to keep it limited to the resources Pat had on hand. ”

Naturally, the script was not entirely limited to the Asylum House location. Six additional locations were required. We secured those locations over the course of a year in pre-production. We needed a restaurant and found one in Miss Betty’s Dinner Theater in Trafalgar, Indiana. It is run by a bona-fide golden girl named Betty Davis, AKA Miss Betty.

Still from CreeporiaThe Historic Hannah House, in Indianapolis, is a haunted attraction with which The Asylum House has a good working relationship. The Hannah House perfectly served the script’s needs for the “Mason Q. Arkham” wax museum scene. The equally historic Fountain Building in Fountain Square would be the home of our big dance number and laboratory scene.

“Creeporia” has been a blessed project in many ways.  It seemed for every setback we had, an opportunity opened. Clearly, the production was going to need a bigger budget than what we immediately had available on hand. A local businessman had expressed interest in investing in the project. Several months into pre-production, that potential investor backed out. Shortly after he did so, another source of capital opened for us. A year previous, The Asylum House had put in a bid in for an extensive mural job at the Veteran’s Hospital. Patrick and I worked several months fine tuning our bid package, submitted it, only to be told that the Hospital could not raise the needed budget at that time. A year later, our bid was accepted, and the income from that job would be beneficial for our post-production needs.

In addition to being a producer (mainly, a pre-production producer), I also had been assigned the position of casting director. John Claeys, an Asylum House veteran who has designed and built many of the attraction’s sets, was tapped for Art Direction, Assistant Director and the role of our Mad Genius Professor. Claeys, a true blue eccentric who channels the elder Peter Cushing when he acts, was aptly cast.

Over the year, Patrick and I began filming auditions for 47 monsters. For the pivotal role of antagonist Mason Q. Arkham, we landed another Asylum Continue reading BEHIND THE SCENES OF JOHN SEMPER’S “CREEPORIA” PART 2

  1. John Semper bio []

BEHIND THE SCENES OF JOHN SEMPER’S “CREEPORIA”

* This is the first in a three-part series.

Patrick Greathouse, of the Asylum House and Asylum Productions, was excited when he called me. With Patrick, that is the norm. Since returning to Indiana, I had been sporadically working with him on the Asylum Haunted House; the upcoming season would mark the 13th anniversary of the project. Patrick, not being Internet savvy (and myself being slightly more so), asked me to go onto MySpace and contact horror hosts around the country. He wanted to do a cross promotion. The Asylum House would promote them on the Asylum website; in turn, the horror host could film a “Happy 13th Anniversary Asylum House” video. OK.

Promotional image from Creeporia As I was looking at some of the so-called horror hosts, one caught my eye: Creeporia. She had an atypical look, but, more importantly, she had a story. She did not merely appear on camera doing her schtick. Actually,  Creeporia wasn’t a “horror host” at all since she doesn’t do any hosting—and that was probably a good thing. The Creeporia webshow decidedly channeled old school horror. It was fun and classy in a way similar to Rankin/Bass’ Mad Monster Party (1967) and Roger Corman‘s The Raven (1963). After contacting the actress who played the role, she directed me towards her creator: .

Since I have not watched television since about 1989, I was not familiar with the name John Semper.  I contacted him, letting him know what I was seeking. Semper emailed me within a short period, gave me his number, and suggested I call him on Thursday since he preferred not to communicate via email. In the meantime, he asked me for a link to the Asylum House site and links to my own work, including my film reviews at 366. He suggested I check out his online resume. I did, and was surprised to discover that he was the creator of a 1990s animated “Spiderman” television series. Semper had a lengthy Hollywood resume, having worked with such names as  and George Lucas.

Thursday: Semper and I talked at length about movies. , , Roger Corman,  and were among numerous shared interests. We both agreed that genre labels were a silly waste of time. However, when the subject of the horror “genre” came up, we felt kinship in the view that the label itself had considerably degenerated. When  landed Frankenstein (1931), he knew he had reached a new plateau in his art and career. Today, for the most part, work in the horror genre imprints a brand of gutter slumming on the director.

Semper and I talked so much of film that it was some time before we got around to the subject of the Asylum House. He had read the rave reviews of the haunt and seen some of the pics and trailers. He was impressed by the effort put into the endeavor and asked about our future plans. Patrick had been flirting with the idea of producing an old school horror anthology film. Before calling Semper I had shown Patrick the “Creeporia” web series. One of the proposed anthology stories concerned a horror host, and we speculated on possibly using a clip from Creeporia within the Continue reading BEHIND THE SCENES OF JOHN SEMPER’S “CREEPORIA”

THE NEW NIGHTMARE THEATER WITH SAMMY TERRY: FIRST IMPRESSIONS (WITH EDISON’S FRANKENSTEIN: 1910)

I have gotten several requests to do a write up on the new “Nightmare Theater” with Sammy Terry.  Despite the requests, I have been reticent for several reasons.  The new Nightmare Theater is in the grass roots stage, although whether or not it should be is debatable.  After all, Sammy Terry has a fifty year legacy, so it should not be a case of having to compete with the Johnny-come-lately horror hosts, of whom there are far too many of dreadful quality.  With his long history, Sammy Terry could be venturing into new territory, rather than reconquering the market of local television, especially since local television really no longer exists.


The first and most glaring problem with contemporary horror hosts is the question of whether they’re needed.  In the golden age of horror hosts there were a half dozen or so local television stations, and the video/cable/Internet age was something akin to science fiction.  If one wanted to watch James Whale‘s Frankenstein (1931), then you might get the chance to see it once a year via the local host, who, in our case in Indianapolis, was Sammy Terry on WTTV 4.  Today, the horror host is simply not a necessity, so in order to entice an audience the host should have interesting personalty, story, and characterization.  Today’s hosts simply get up and do their shtick.  Often, one questions whether or not they have even watched the hosted film.  If the host wants the audience to acknowledge his or her entertainment value, then his enthusiasm needs to be contagious.  It rarely is.  The host hardly has to have a back story and, indeed, some sense of mystery should be retained.  Today’s audience is much more sophisticated; the personality of the host, and his or her ability to make us care, is vital.  Instead, contemporary horror hosts can often be seen hawking their wares at various horror conventions, seeming more like used car salesmen than mysterious entities.

Mark Carter is the son of Bob Carter, the original Sammy Terry.  Bob has retired and has passed the cape onto Mark, who is a dead ringer for his dad.  Mark has an answer for the inevitable question “are you the Son of Sammy Terry?”—a classic “only Sammy’s blood has worn this cape.”  Unfortunately, Mark’s ready-made response has yet to be put to use in an actual public interview.  Instead, when local news programs interviewed the new Sammy Terry, he broke character when the question arose, which was a misstep.

I fondly reviewed the original Nightmare Theater two years ago, but the primary reason I have been reluctant to do this follow-up is because I have numerous associates working on the Continue reading THE NEW NIGHTMARE THEATER WITH SAMMY TERRY: FIRST IMPRESSIONS (WITH EDISON’S FRANKENSTEIN: 1910)

NIGHTMARE THEATER WITH SAMMY TERRY

On Friday nights in Indiana during the 1960’s and 70’s, you invited your best friend over to spend the night (Denny), pleaded with Mom to fix a tray of pizza rolls and, out of courtesy, asked to stay up late for a night of Nightmare Theater with Sammy Terry. Of course, Mom always allowed it, as you knew she would, fixed those pizza rolls, brought in the blankets and left the two of you to your night of magic because she sure as heck was not going to watch those “scary movies’.

The creaking of the coffin filled the house as you watched, transfixed, as Sammy Terry and his spider, George, emerged to host a night of classic horror.  Usually, it was one of the Universal movies starring Karloff, Lugosi, or Chaney, Jr.

Bride of  Frankenstein, Dracula, The Mummy, The Black Room, Werewolf of London, The Invisible Man, The Wolfman, Frankenstein Meets the Wolfman, and Creature from the Black Lagoon were frequently shown favorites.  Quite a few of the Val Lewton RKOs were shown regularly, as well as the occasional Jack Arnold film, such as Monster on the Campus, Tarantula, or The Incredible Shrinking Man. My own personal favortie was Ulmer’s The Black Cat with Karloff and Lugosi battling out to strains of the Beethoven 7th. If the films shown on Nightmare Theater were  not always approached by the filmmakers as high art (i.e. The Wolfman) , then there was certainly consummate craftsmanship that one always felt Sammy approved of.

In between the features, Sammy Terry would discuss the movies, make jokes with George and other regulars (Ghost Girl, Ghoulsbie) , have an occasional guest, talk about the Pacers, or show off the crayola drawings of Sammy and George that local children would send to WTTV 4.  Sammy had an inimitable laugh that would send shivers down the 8 year old spine.

If you made it to the end of the night (and frequently did not, hence the blankets)  Sammy would retreat to his coffin and bestow his wish of “Many Pleasant Nightmares.”  You knew, with excitement and dread, that he would return the following Friday.

There were lots of local urban myths about Sammy Terry and we were all too happy to spread those myths to fellow classmates since Sammy was a favorite subject.  Of course, this was long before the days of cable TV, VCRs, and even color TV (at least until the mid 70’s at our house) so the local WTTV 4 Station ruled the roost out of the four available TV Continue reading NIGHTMARE THEATER WITH SAMMY TERRY