Horror Host Retrospective: Svengoolie


Real name: Jerry G. Bishop
Years active: 1970-1973, Chicago

The name of Svengoolie is practically an institution in Chicago broadcasting. The whole story began in 1970 with Jerry Bishop. Bishop invented the character of Svengoolie and Screaming Yellow Theater. Bishop at first did voice over narrations for WFLD then quickly moved to an on-camera position when that proved popular.

The character of Svengoolie was a wacky one. Bishop would begin the show with a celebrity opening his coffin. He would do song parodies and often be pelted with rubber chickens. His character was very much in the vein of Johnny Carson, only with more makeup. He was a goofy host who never had problems poking fun at the films shown, but his jabs were more lighthearted than most. Kaiser Broadcasting bought out WFLD and cancelled Screaming Yellow Theater, as they already had a horror host under contract and didn’t want two.

When most hosts retire, that usually signifies an end to the character. Some, like Dr. Shock, may have a successor some time later, but audiences would be treated to a return that had never been done before. Svengoolie may have been taken off the air, but the Son of Svengoolie would carry on his work.

Screaming Yellow Theater began in 1970 on WFLD-32 in Chicago and lasted until 1973. Jerry Bishop is still alive as of this article and is presently retired.

“If you’re just tuning in, you missed the whole show”