Hello everyone. Today I will be writing my fond memories of watching Creature Features in Chicago. Anyone who grew up in Chicago in the 1970s will undoubtedly remember this local program that debuted on Saturday night at 10:30 p.m. on September 19, 1970. The television program showcased classic horror movies from The Universal Studios Library. More classic movies from other film studios were typically shown as the years went on. The unique show instantly began with a creaking coffin door opening with the iconic theme song playing Experiment by Terror composed by Henry Mancini.
During the proper introduction of the show, local news anchors Carl Greyson and later Marty McNeeley read a creepy poem. It was recited off-screen for each movie that aired every Saturday night. The poem was recited like this:
Gruesome ghouls and grisly ghosts,
Wretched souls and cursed hosts.
Vampires bite and villains creep,
Demons scream and shadows sleep.
Blood runs cold in every man,
Fog rolls in and coffins slam.
Mortals quake and full moon rise,
Creatures haunt and terrorize.
As the poem was recited, a photo from the 1927 silent movie London After Midnight that starred Lon Chaney Sr. is revealed with the announcer laughing in an evil way. His role as a toothy vampire was shown every week. Sometimes he was more frightening than the movies themselves. The movies were double features. That method lasts for only a few months. The first movies that were presented were Dracula from 1931 and She-Wolf of London from 1946.
Other classic horror movies that aired were Frankenstein, The Wolf Man, The Mummy, and Creature from Black Lagoon. My favorites were the movies that starred Bud Abbott and Lou Costello. They met Frankenstein, Dracula, The Wolf Man, The Mummy, The Invisible Man, and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Over the years they repeated the same movies. More were added that included films in color.
The show for me was enjoyable and terrifying at the same time. I didn’t watch it every week. I was in grade school, and my mother didn’t let me stay up late on Saturday nights. She wisely said to me that those movies would give nightmares and she was right. I start watching the introduction of Creature Features, and that was unnerving enough. The iconic images of the monsters, the poem recited and the photo of Lon Chaney Sr. was very frightening to me and at a young age. I would hold a pillow and have a blanket over me while I am watching the movie in terror. During the movie, the television bumpers would show Lon Chaney Sr. and the name of the film. When the show went to commercial, I felt very safe and my fear would disappear. Once the movie resume, My fear returned and I continued doing that until the movie ended.
I heard from other people over the years that watching Creature Features was one of their favorite childhood pastimes. Inviting their friends for a sleepover, eating popcorn, pizza, and drinking soft drinks sitting in front of their television sets. Most people at the time had black and white televisions, and the movies were made that way. I never watched the movies with the lights off. That was too much for me. Even some of the classic horror movies were bad, they were still fun to watch.
The last movie that aired was the 1931 movie Dracula. It was on May 29, 1976. Most of the time the show was preempted by The Chicago Blackhawks or Chicago Bulls games. My guess why the show ended was the television viewers were losing interest. I was sad it ended. Creature Features wasn’t the first show that presented horror movies. There were Shock Theater, Thrillerama, and Screaming Yellow Theater. Screaming Yellow Theater debuted on September 18, 1970, a day before Creature Features. I wrote a story about that one not too long ago. It featured a host by a man named Svengoolie. He was played by Jerry G. Bishop. Other programs with the same horror theme were Science Fiction Theater, Monster Rally, Thing Theater, and The Monstrous Movie.
On June 16, 1979, Son of Svengoolie premiered. I still watch it occasionally, and the show is still entertaining. What made Creature Features so special was there was no host. The show experimented with a host briefly, but it was rejected by viewers. The loyal viewers wanted merely to watch the movies. Every so often people can be disapproving of certain things based on the television programs they watch.
As the 50th-anniversary approaches, I was hoping WGN-TV Channel 9 will commemorate this historic occasion. I have a feeling they won’t, and it’s a terrible shame. If they put together a special presentation, the ratings would hit the ceiling. The fans of the show would be tickled to death. Maybe for Halloween. Fingers crossed. We will see. On Saturday night, I am tentatively planning to watch the two classic movies, Dracula and She-Wolf of London on DVD. I am doing this to properly honor a remarkable wonderful show that Channel 9 created for Chicago television viewers. I have a feeling a lot of fans of the show will promptly do the same. Another treasured memory for me growing up Chicago. Thank you. Pete Kastanes. Admin for Vanished Chicagoland Facebook Page.