- RODERICK and VAMPIRA (II)
- (Jack Whitaker [John Milton Whitaker, died in 2003]; Phyllis Ranson [now Phyllis Child] )
- Saturday at 10:30 pm / Midnight
- KUTV, Channel 2 (Salt Lake City, Utah)
- Mystery Mansion
- Day? Time?
- KSL-TV, Channel 5 (Salt Lake City, Utah)
- Magazine reference:
- SHOCK! TV listing ad with picture of Roderick holding skull (see sidebar), with
"monster memories" discussion by Mike Gelino, published in Scary Monsters magazine No. 6,
March 1993, page 39.
- Information extracted from Mike Gelino's letter in Scary Monsters, cited above:
The year was 1958, I was eight years old, and I vividly remember being introduced to horror films by Roderick, the old Shock Theater
film host in Salt Lake City, Utah.
The Mummy's Hand was the featured film on Shock Theater,
and the impact of the film on me was so great that it created a lifelong love of horror films.
Roderick hosted Shock Theater on Channel 2 from 1958 to 1959, and later returned to television for a brief appearance
on Channel 5 hosting Mytery Mansion
Roderick then disappeared from television,
and with the exception of one final appearance on a Halloween make-up show for children, has not been heard of since.
Funny thing, despite the availability of over three-hundred titles in my horror film library, I kind of miss those wonderful Saturday nights.
Impatiently waiting for the news to end and the familiar opening scene from Citizen Kane to announce the presence of my dear friend Roderick.
- E-gorespondent David Humes from Seattle WA sent a great lead related to this host and his show:
A friend of mine claims her mother, Phyllis Child, co-hosted with Roderick --
she was some sort of Vampira clone.
When I wrote to him and asked him if he could find out more information, he was very helpful;
he forwarded my e-mail to his friend, who told him her Mother was "most excited to correspond" with me!
In August 2005 he wrote again:
Phyllis has asked me to forward this to you; I hope you find it as fun and interesting as I did.
Thanks for your interest.
- Phyllis L. Child's memories of co-hosting Shock Theater with Roderick as "Vampira" are VERY interesting, to say the least!:
About my stint at KUTV, Channel 2:
When I started to work at Channel 2 in September 1958 I was going by my married name, Ranson.
KUTV was an ABC station, but a year or so later there was a big shakeup and it became Salt Lakeís NBC station.
Channel 4, KTVT, became the ABC affiliate.
It was a big deal to make it to NBC and when the station went to color a few years earlier they used the
Peacock at every opportunity.
Many people in the business played musical chairs between the three TV stations in Salt Lake City.
I had several friends at KSL, which was only two or three doors down the street,
and at the radio stations along Social Hall Avenue.
Although working there was the most fun to be had while employed,
I left my employment at Channel 2 at the end of 1960 to work for a newly-elected Salt Lake County Commissioner.
I was at Channel 2 in pre-video years.
Videotape use was in its infancy and everything was done live.
According to my friend who was an engineer there,
KUTV didnít begin to use videotape until later.... probably not until sometime in 1961.
He said they might have used the big bulkier tapes,
but doubts that any were kept because of storage problems with them.
Iíve tried to get in touch with a couple of other people I worked with,
but havenít made contact with anyone else....
John Milton Whitaker is the correct name, but no one at the station called him anything but Jack.
He died in 2003; I have a copy of the obituary from a Salt Lake city paper....
Hereís how I became involved:
A year or so after I started working at the station, [I met?] Jack Whitaker,
a schoolteacher who worked mostly during the late afternoon show for children.
He played the role of Kimbo the Clown.
One day Jack mentioned he had been assigned to host the lead-ins for the Saturday night horror movies,
to be called Shock Theater.
Jack planned to call himself "Roderick" for the show, and asked me to be "Vampira," his girlfriend.
I asked what my role would involve and he told me all Iíd have to do was stand and stare!
I said Iíd try it, it sounded like fun to me.
I would have to furnish my own wardrobe for the show;
I asked him what would be appropriate.
He said a long, white dress would be the best choice.
The only item in my closet that was long and white was my wedding dress,
which Iím sorry to admit, had no sentimental value to me.
I couldnít afford to buy a dress or even fabric to make one,
so my wedding dress had its second life as a costume for a spook show!
Late every Saturday night for the next several months I went to the station and appeared as Vampira at midnight.
It was terrific fun and often so hilarious I had difficulty not breaking up.
There was no script as such; it was a seat-of-the-pants thing.
Jack (Roderick) led us and we followed.
The other "supporting actors" were station prop boys,
Jerry (I don't remember the surname) and Ollie Hunter.
Jerry played the part of "Igor" and Ollie was a big hulk who merely wandered around in the background.
The music used came from opera or classical selections and Jack handled that, too.
Usually at the beginning of the movie Vampira would be put into a coffin,
and Jack would close the lid and the movie would begin;
in a subsequent break he directed Jerry and Ollie to raise the lid of the coffin and assist me in my exit.
Roderick made comments all the while about what was happening in the movie and what was coming.
We had only one and a half minutes for the break (oh, the joys of early TV!)
so there was no pre-planned programming at all.
During other breaks I got out and stood staring, as he had promised I would.
The hardest part was keeping my eyes steady and trying not to laugh!
Since Jack nearly always arrived just seconds before the lead-in break,
we seldom ever had a clue what was expected of us.
His instructions for my appearances came willy-nilly.
One night I was caught in mid-question just as the red light went on (indicating we were on the air).
"What am I to be doing?" I was asking and Roderick replied,
"Just stare, my dear, just stare!"
When the light came on to indicate the movie was rolling,
the guys in the control room were yukking it up hilariously!
Nearly every Saturday night [my daughers] Paula and Cindy had begged to stay awake
so they could see me on television;
when I finally gave permission for them to do so they fell asleep before midnight!
I donít think they ever saw me as Vampira and to my regret,
no photos exist that I know of.
My friends then didnít accompany me to my gigs.
Jack and I (to a much lesser extent than he) achieved a minor fame around town.
Halloween night (probably 1959), "Roderick" pushed the coffin containing "Vampira" for a block.
I was "driven" all the way down State Street from Social Hall Avenue and into the lobby of the Lyric Theatre,
where I ascended from the coffin and we made a "personal appearance" prior to the movie.
An unruly throng of teenagers and a few adults was gathered at the Lyric to applaud us and a big cheer
went up as I exited the coffin.
I felt like a bona fide celebrity!
Shock Theater host
Roderick on KUTV,
Ch. 2, Salt Lake City.
Image adapted from a
TV listing ad published
in Scary Monsters
magazine, courtesy of
Mike Gelino. Click
image to see complete