The role of Sammy Terry has been held by two people and originated with Robert "Bob" Carter in 1962. His son Mark took over the role from his father. Robert "Bob" Carter (1929-2013) was a television personality who appeared mostly on local television station WTTV in Indianapolis, Indiana, regularly during the 1960s and 1970s, and sporadically through the late 1980s. Carter was best known for his portrayal of horror host Sammy Terry, which is a play on the word "cemetery." The format of Carter's Nightmare Theater usually involved the showing of two films. During the commercial breaks, Carter, as "Sammy Terry," would engage in camp banter with the audience and his floating rubber spider, "George." This banter often included some commentary on the films being shown, which included classic films as well as many less-than-stellar productions common to the horror film era of the 1930s through the early 1960s. Carter died on June 30, 2013.
Biography and career
Carter, a native of Decatur, Illinois and a graduate of Millikin University majored in radio communications. After receiving a master's degree from Syracuse University, Carter worked as a disc jockey at a Fort Wayne, Indiana radio station owned by Sarkes Tarzian. While there, he filled in for Dick Clark on American Bandstand as a guest DJ on August 26, 1959. In 1961 he moved to Indianapolis, Indiana and filled a number of positions at Tarzian's WTTV as producer, director and performer, including the hosting, for a time, of a three-hour morning talk show called Coffee with Carter.
The still relatively new medium of television provided a means for classic films to generate revenue, and as part of that, Universal Studios packaged a set of more than fifty films as part of a "shock theater" package that was shown by many television stations across the country, usually as late-night fare. When WTTV purchased the set of films, which had been rejected by local CBS affiliate WISH-TV, Carter was chosen as the host of the new program. Carter's Shock Theater originally included only still photographs punctuated by voice-over narration during the commercial breaks. Over time, the popularity of the voice-overs with viewers and sponsors inspired Carter and his producers to develop the character of "Sammy Terry" as an on-air personality—a cloaked, pale-faced ghoul who rose from his coffin on Friday nights, laughed ominously, introduced and occasionally berated the films, and provided commercial-break entertainment. Renamed Nightmare Theater and with the banter mostly ad-libbed, the show and Carter's portrayal of "Sammy Terry" won him a large-scale following in the region, which allowed him to be ranked with other horror hosts of the era who operated out of much larger broadcast markets.
Carter's son, Mark Carter, continues to make frequent appearances as "Sammy Terry" and remains a popular figure in the central Indiana region.
His son Mark as Sammy Terry made a return for a Halloween special that aired on October 31, 2011, on WTTV. He also returned on February 14, 2012, Valentine's Day, on WTTV for a showing of 'Little Shop of Horrors'.
The last television appearance of "Sammy Terry" was on October 31, 2012, as he hosted the two hour special "Sammy Terry Presents: The Uninvited" on WTTV-4.
Anonymous. (1961). Profile: Bob Carter, he chatters continuously on WTTV. The Indianapolis Times, November 24, 1961.
Watson, E. (1991). Television Horror Movie Hosts. Jefferson, NC: McFarland.
- Higgins, Will (July 2, 2013). "Sammy Terry of Indianapolis late-night television dies at 83; public viewing Friday". The Indianapolis Star. Retrieved 24 September 2013.
- Hamaker, Cathy (September 28, 2013). ""It's Time for...Sammy Terry!"". Retrieved 17 October 2013.
- Sammy Terry of 'Nightmare Theater' dies at 83