A   B R I E F   H I S T O R Y   O F   N I G H T M A R E   T H E A T R E

Promotional Postcard for NIGHTMARE THEATRE (Circa 1970s) KIRO-TV
From the collection of Robert Griffin

One may assume that the following history of Nightmare Theatre is "brief" because of a lack of space or bandwidth; alas, this is not the case. This chronicle of the legendary late night program from the Northwest is sadly succinct because whatever records concerning its production that may still exist have eluded me. After a year of seeking and searching, poking and prodding, I have only come up with some basics. But until someone in the know digs up the necessary records, the following will have to suffice.

By the 1960s, most larger cities had their own weekly late night program that offered old horror films, usually hosted by a an actor or actress in ghoulish make-up, chewing the scenery and bombarding the mostly young audience with really bad jokes. For most of Western Washington, it was Nightmare Theatre and The Count. By most accounts, Nightmare Theatre--which ran Friday Nights, usually around 11:30 P.M.--was kicked off on September 25, 1964. What isn't currently known is when Joe "The Count" Towey stepped in to host the show, as Nightmare Theatre is said to have existed several years before The Count rose from his crypt in order to host the proceedings. It is a certainty, though, that Nightmare Theatre's mascot was around by 1968.

Aside from a few people and just as many possibilities, I have not been able to pin down a list of individuals who produced the Nightmare Theatre wraparound segments. Joe Towey--who was the primary director of The J.P. Patches Show for most of its twenty-one year run as well as a regular character actor--obviously starred in it, but whether or not he had a hand benind the scenes has yet to be confirmed. Charles "Chuck" Lindenberg functioned as Camera One on Nightmare Theatre from the beginning until he left KIRO-TV in the early 1970s, but he couldn't recall the exact years as he was kept busy at KIRO for his duration, and was also part of the regular crew for The J.P. Patches Show. Julias Pierpont Patches himself, Chris Wedes, made a guest appearance on Nightmare Theatre (as an inebriated victim of The Count), but that was the extent of his contribution to the show. (At least one source erroneously cites Wedes as having directed Nightmare Theatre, but an interview proved this false.) Wedes did state that three people he knew who worked at KIRO at the time--Tony Gracio, Derek Losso and Mike Spettin--may have had some hand in Nightmare Theatre, but I am still trying to confirm their involvement.

Although Nightmare Theatre went into short hiatus a number of times during the early 1970s--being replaced by non-horror programming--it ran fairly steady until 1975 in the Friday night time slot. It is rumored that The Count moved to prime time Saturday nights for about a year, until 1976 when it was ultimately cancelled, but local sources show that KIRO continued to run horror films in the Friday night slot until October of 1978. Whether these films were still being shown under the Nightmare Theatre flag sans The Count has yet to be confirmed, but it appears that-- aside from a one-off special aired on Halloween night of that year--he hung up his cape in 1975.

What is certain is that Nightmare Theatre had a tremendous impact on its younger audience at the time, whether they were dyed in the wool horror fans or just a young kid looking to be scared and/or amused on a Friday night. It amazes me that so many people in the area remember it, and remember it fondly, yet there is almost no documentation on it. Part of the problem is that--like many shows of its ilk--Nightmare Theatre's wraparound sequences involving The Count were shot live on videotape, and the tape was reused each week so previous shows were unceremoniously recorded over. The same thing befell The J.P. Patches Show, although at least three hours of footage from its twenty-one years has survived. The only footage known to exist of The Count as he appeared on the air is from the Nightmare Theatre 1978 Halloween special, which surfaced on the J.P. Patches Memories video which is available through The Official J.P. Patches Website. The footage is less than two minutes long, but features a familiar opening as well as a taste of Towey hamming it up for the audience. There is probably more to this particular piece, as it cuts abruptly on the tape, but it is doubtful that anything exists from Nightmare Theatre's original run.

Sadly, there is not much else to tell aside from some scant trivia regarding the show, some of which I have already mentioned elsewhere on this site. Hopefully, as this website reaches more people, it will serve as a valuable tool in collecting information about Nightmare Theatre. As the facts come in, I will update the site accordingly, and in the end I hope it will stand as a long overdue documentation of a program and a personality that touch so many lives, both of which should not be forgotten.

To View the Entire Nightmare Theatre Program Schedule As It Originally Aired, Click Here !

For News & Updates Concerning This Website and All Things Nightmare Theatre, Click Here !

In the Market for Vintage Books & Cool Kitschy Collectibles? Come Check Out

Books • Magazines • Comics • Digests • Film Memorabilia • Records • Novelties • Ephemera Experienced, Knowledgable & Friendly Service • All Items Strictly Graded • Competetive Prices & Reasonable Shipping Rates • Thousands of Books and Other Collectibles for $3.00 or Less!

Website layout, design and textual content copyright © 2004—2016 by Scott Aaron Stine.
All photo and art reproductions pertaining to Nightmare Theatre are the licensed property of KIRO-TV.
All other photo and art reproductions are copyrighted by their respected owners, with credits given when known.
For more information as to those individuals and institutions I am indebted to, please visit the Acknowledgements page.