When Universal Pictures floated its set of classic horror flicks from the 30s and 40s as ready-made content for the TV stations cropping up across the country in the 1950s, WISH-TV was the first Indiana station to bite—so to speak. In 1958, the young station at Channel 8 on the dial created the ghoulish character Selwin to provide local continuity during breaks in such chestnuts as Dracula , Frankenstein , and The Wolf Man .
Joining the ranks of such “Shock Theatre” hosts as Vampira in the LA market and Zacherley in New York, Selwin was played by station director Ray Sparenberg in white pancake makeup, a bolero hat and cape. WISH-TV viewers could hunker down for the Friday Fright Night telecast until the wee hours, when their host would bid them adieu with his trademark salutation: “Good night, whatever you are!” Within a few years, Selwin traded his bolero for a safari helmet and decamped for Saturday afternoons, where he hosted the station’s telecasts of Tarzan and Bomba the Jungle Boy . In time, Selwin returned to Friday nights, but this time in astronaut garb, for science fiction night.
WISH-TV dropped the shock package in early 1963, only to see it picked up by local competitor, WTTV, Channel 4, where host Bob Carter spun a pseudonym from the word “cemetery” to host Nightmare Theatre. A Channel 4 fixture, the hooded Sammy Terry rose from his coffin every Friday night to tell terrible jokes and wish viewers “many pleasant nightmares!” off and on through the late 1980s.
This program is a production of the Indiana Public Broadcasting Stations in association with the Indiana Historical Society. More information is available on-line at “moment of Indiana history.org.”