john zacherle dead
Courtesy of WABC TV

Popular horror movie host John Zacherle, nicknamed “The Cool Ghoul,” died Thursday Oct. 27 in Manhattan. He was 98.

Zacherle was best known for presenting horror films on local TV stations in New York and Philadelphia throughout the 1950s and ’60s. Through the character he created, “Roland/Zacherley,” he interjected humor and comedy into his hosting.

In 1958 he recorded the novelty horror-rock and roll song “Dinner With Drac,” in which he cackled and imagined that he was the main course at a vampire dinner. The song was a Top 10 hit for Cameo Records.

A graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, Zacherle was born and raised in Philadelphia and went on to serve as a captain in World War II.

He began his career as an actor at local Philadelphia channel WCAU-TV in Philadelphia, where he  played several roles in the Western drama “Action in the Afternoon.” Later he was hired as the host of the classic horror film package show “Shock Theater,” which aired on WCAU. He appeared as a horror host by the name of Roland in a long black undertaker’s coat.

Zacherle became a close colleague of Philadelphia broadcaster Dick Clark who reportedly gave him his nickname, “the Cool Ghoul.” He would occasionally fill in for Clark on road touring shows of “American Bandstand” in the ’60s.

Zacherle moved his act to New York City in 1959 and changed the name of his show to “Zacherley at Large” and the name of his character to Zacherley. He went on to join WPIX in New York and served as host for “Chiller Theatre” in 1963.

He moved away from the horror genre to host the teenage dance show “Disc-O-Teen” on WNJU-TV in 1964, which led to him becoming a morning radio host for WNEW-FM as the station transitioned to a progressive rock format.

Zacherle also produced several short story collections and in 2010 he was inducted into the Broadcast Pioneers of Philadelphia Hall of Fame.

He is survived by three nieces including Bonnie Zacherle, creator of the My Little Pony toys, as well a collection of great nieces, nephews and great great nieces and nephews.

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