Horror Host Retrospective: Marvin the Near-Sighted Madman

Marvin the Near-Sighted Madman

Real name: Terry Bennett
Years active: 1957 to 1959, Illinois

The first host out of Chicago, entertainer Terry Bennett was no stranger to television. A writer, producer, director, and ventriloquist, Bennett was already well known to Chicago residents for his morning children show the Jobblewocky Place.

When Screen Gems, the television arm of Columbia, acquired the rights to the Universal Monster catalogue, it was encouraged for the station carrying the Shock package to have an emcee. Bennett was picked for his station and the character of Marvin was born.

A beatnik, Marvin sported coke bottle thick glasses and a black turtleneck sweater. He often appeared with his wife, the mysterious and rarely seen Dear, played by Bennett’s real life wife Joy Bennett.

The show was so successful there was a spin off. Playing directly after Shock Theatre, the Shocktale Party was presented as a demented wrap party. Guests included hunchbacks and giant Frankenstein monsters, as well as a live band known as the Deadbeats.

The show was a hit, but in what would sadly reoccur for far too many hosts, Shock Theatre was dropped in favor of another program. Bennett would stay on WBKB until 1961 when the Jobblewocky Place was cancelled. Afterwards he and his family relocated to New York to work in television and advertising.

That would not be the end of horror hosts in Chicago, but it would take another few years before someone else would again try.

Shock Theatre ran on WBKB-7 from 1957 to 1959. Mr. Bennett passed away in 1977.

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