Growing up with Horror in Indiana

My childhood wasn’t easy… but who’s is, really? From struggling with a bone disease to nasty family issues, it was a hard way to go for a young boy growing up in the middle of Indiana. But there was one escape from reality that allowed me and my psyche to survive the trauma and drama that threatened, on a daily basis, to take me down.


I know, it sounds crazy that in the small, struggling town of New Castle, Indiana, horror would be even remotely alive and well. And while attending Scarefest this past weekend, I was reminded of one of the biggest reasons I hopped onto the dark hayride in the first place.

When I think of horror, the first thing that pops into my mind isn’t Pinhead, Candyman, Pazuzu, Wes Craven, or the train wreck that has become TLC. The first image that pops into mind is that of Sammy Terry. For those that have never enjoyed the treat-fest that is Sammy Terry, let me be the first to introduce you to the man who introduced the Zombie King to horror.

But just what is a Sammy Terry? Simple — Sammy Terry (a play on “cemetery”) was a fictional character (played by Robert Carter) that served as a ghoulish host for horror films in the 60s and 70s. The show, Nightmare Theatre, was a WTTV (Indiana) favorite every Friday night and had Sammy Terry doing his campy schtick (along with his pet rubber spider George) during commercial breaks. The show was MST3K for horror well before the tasty cake snackin’ robots had their time to shine. And Nightmare Theatre helped to make me who I am today.


Nightmare Theatre ran while I was but a boy. At the time I had already become enthralled with the likes of The Drac Pack, Groovy Ghoulies, and anything the Universal Monster Army could throw at me. But I seemed like an outcast. I remember feeling alone on my dark path in elementary school. No one wanted to read “spooky books” and Halloween was nothing more than a means to a candy-high end (and not a celebration of all things frightening).

The man with the laugh I will never forget made being spooky cool… at least for me, and that’s all that mattered.

Sammy Terry wasn’t the only inspiration for all things “fright”. There was (and still is) a tiny, one-screen cinema in New Castle (The Castle Theatre)  that used to host all day B Horror movie festivals. Me and my little sister would plop our tiny hinders down in the front row and cover our eyes to the likes of Tentacles, The Claw, and other B-Horror delights. It’s a rarity that you find a small cinema offering such wonders to children and adults with child-like hearts.

But more than anything — the small town of New Castle, Indiana played a mighty game called “Nothing to do and nowhere to go”, thus forcing our creativity to keep idle hands from fondling the devil’s junk. One of the most delish treats, for me, was coming up with an inventive costume for Halloween as well as ways to scare the shrieks out of my little sister. So heading over to Ben Franklin (before it was Ben Franklin Hardware) or K-Mart (there was another department store, but I’m at a loss for its name) to rummage around for the parts to combine together in some form of eclectic, eccentric whole sure to be as unique as it was odd. I remember fondly adding a set of tiny lights in the eyes of a Frankenstein mask (while watching the Groovy Ghoulies on TV) to create something no one else had. Sure I shocked myself a few times, but what young boy didn’t? It was all part of growing up.

Yes, I was born in a small town… and I can breathe in a small town. Sorry, channeled Mr. Melecamp for a moment. Ahem. What was I saying?

Oh yes… There is, indeed, more than corn in Indiana. For me there was plenty of inspiration to lead me down the dark, sick path of horror. I am not only proud of the genre that wrapped it’s cold, dead hands around my creative heart, I am proud of the small town that enabled me to hop onto the dark hayride and never look back!

Continue this dark hayride with more Hoosier Horror Blog Hop!