“Shock Theater”? It Sure Shocked Me


Photo credit: Steve Iverson

Seven years ago, when the world seemed beautiful and new and I was just starting this project, I honestly believed that Horror Incorporated was the first real creature feature program in the Twin Cities. I knew about the Shock! and Son of Shock! packages, and I knew about TV horror hosts in other cities, but I really thought the Twin Cities was just a late bloomer — and that the famed Shock! package had passed us by for more than a decade.

It turned out, of course, that this wasn’t true. Dimension 5 was a forerunner to Horror Incorporated, running through the early part of the 1960s. Jake Esau remembers it well, noting that it leaned quite heavily on the Shock! and Son of Shock! titles.

I certainly didn’t think there were any late night creature features earlier than that, but again I was wrong (I am nothing if not consistent). Steve Iverson of MN Kidvid wrote to me and mentioned a post he’d done two years ago (and I’d missed it — arrgh!) describing a show on WTCN-11 that started in 1958. It was called Shock Theater and was hosted by — gulp! — WTCN’s violently upbeat pitchman, dogsbody and utility program host Mel Jass!

Mel Jass?? Holy crow! How had I missed that?

Even though Steve’s post contained the display ad you see at the top (he found it in a TV Guide at the Pavek Museum archives) I still had a hard time believing it. I asked Jake Esau (who would have been a pre-teenager at the time) if he remembered it; and Jake said he didn’t. How could he of all people have never heard of the show?

But Jake read Steve’s post and he was sold. “This is one on me!” he wrote. “I have no recollection of this show being on Sat. nights at 10:30 PM….I guess it shows that my memory is as peccable as anyone’s.”

All the same, I went back and looked up the newspaper listings for February, 1958 — and damned if there isn’t a Shock Theater program listed at 10:30 pm Saturday nights, right after the late local news. It’s still baffling to me, because there’s a whole lot of material online about Mel Jass’ career. I’ve seen references to him doing every kind of show under the sun in the early days of TV — kids’ shows, game shows, news shows, etc — but not a whisper of him hosting a horror movie show. And he’s never appeared on any list of horror hosts that I’m aware of.

And yet, there it is. So — I tip my hat to Steve Iverson for his sleuthing. Maybe someday I’ll chronicle those Shock Theater episodes too.

In the meantime, if anyone out there remembers this show, please post your recollections in the comments.



  1. This would have been a bit before my time, but I do remember an occasional program called Creature Feature Night. I don’t believe it was on KSTP. It may have been ‘CCO or one of the others. You may have covered it elsewhere but I’ve never seen any posts about it anywhere.

    I don’t think it had any staged intro; just an announcer and a graphic. When it aired, I believe they ran it at 7 or 8pm on Fridays. This was an advantage for me because I could watch it more easily than Horror, Inc.

    And I watched it religiously.

    I vividly remember when they showed the Peter Cushing film Island of Terror. It scared me so badly that I turned off the set and ran around the house telling everyone how I loved the movie but was too scared to watch it.

    Those were the days!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I remember Creature Feature.I believe it was on KMSP TV Channel Nine.

    I was about 5 in 1973 when I first watch Horror Inc. I couldn’t watch it much
    but sometimes my mother would relent and let me stay up late.I got to watch
    Horror Inc, Mel Jass and WCCO’s Early show (afternoon sci fi /horror films)
    as well as Saturday and Sunday afternoon movies on Channel Nine for my
    70’s Horror fix.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Robert, I fondly remember Mel’s Matinee, which could yield any kind of movie — drama, comedy, adventure, horror, sci-fi — and I also remember the Early Show on WCCO. I got very excited when that show did a sci-fi week. I don’t remember all the movies, but a couple were new to me — First Spaceship on Venus and The Terrornauts. Neither were very good, but you took your sci-fi as you could find it. Channel 9 did a show called “Creature Feature” but I don’t remember a lot about it — it seemed to be fairly irregular in terms of schedule. Horror Incorporated seemed to benefit from the fact that it was on so late at night that no one really messed with it.


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