Passings: John Zacherle, The Cool Ghoul (1918 - 2016)

by VVN Music

Sometimes, events happen that seem so improbably timed that they are downright spooky.

Such is the case with the death of John Zacherle, the television host, voice actor and recording artist who made a living associated with Halloween and horror. Zacherle died on Thursday in his home in Manhattan at the age of 98.

Zacherle was born in Philadelphia on September 26, 1918 and grew up in the Germantown area of the city. He graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with a degree in English Literature and served in the Army during World War II before returning to his hometown in the late 40's to join a repertory company.

In 1954, Zacherle was hired by WCAU television in Philadelphia to act in their afternoon western serial, Action in the Afternoon, which was also shown in the New York city market.

On October 7, 1957, Zacherle was cast in the role that would set the course for the rest of his career, Roland, the undertaker host of WCAU's Shock Theater.  While the program would only last a year, it brought John's acting and comedy talents to the notice of the public and the television industry in the northeast U.S.

It was also during this time that Zacherle became friends with Dick Clark who arranged for him to go in the studio and cut the novelty record Dinner With Drac with Dave Appell. The original version of the record was a bit strong for Clark's American Bandstand audience, so he had John go back in the studio to cut a tamer version.  Both were released on the single a single in 1958, becoming a national hit at number 6 on the Singles and 19 on the R&B Singles.

While Zacherele never has another hit, he did release a number of albums that would mix novelty horror songs with special sound effects.

Also in 1958, Philadelphia's WCAU was purchased by the same company that owned New York's WABC and Zacherle's horror show moved to the Big Apple with his name changed to John Zacherly and the program name becoming Zacherly at Large. Over the years, he also hosted cartoons on New York's WPIX along with their Chiller Theatre in New York, and eventually moved to radio doing mornings and, later, evenings for WNEW and WPLJ.  As late as 1992, he had a show on WXRK-FM in New York.

Throughout his career, John made hundreds of appearances in character at shows and, as late as last year, was still appearing at horror conventions.


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