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Shocking New Medium

In 1947, fewer than one-percent of US homes had a TV set. Most people watching the first significant telecast–the 1947 World Series match-up of the New York Yankees and the Brooklyn Dodgers–were sitting on a barstool at their local watering hole. By 1955, half of American homes were equipped with a black-and-white TV. In the meantime, stations had been cropping up across the nation. CBS- and ABC-affiliate Channel 6, WFBM-TV, now known as WRTV, was the first station to broadcast in Indiana when it covered the 1949 Indy 500. Later that year, WTTV and WISH were also broadcasting to Central Indiana.

In addition to running syndicated shows from their affiliates, the new stations produced local programming, from news to station breaks. One opportunity for creating a local presence emerged with the so-called “Shock Package” of classic horror films Universal Pictures distributed to fledgling television stations. First WISH-TV and later WTTV picked up the set of movies from the 1930s and 40s, introducing a new generation to Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi. But Frankenstein and Dracula were not the only personalities young viewers watched until the test pattern came on screen. Beginning with Channel 8’s Selwin in the late 50’s, and extending through the 1980s with Channel 4’s Sammy Terry, local hosts connected with the emergent TV audience through the genre of horror.

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