Actor who played ghoulish TV host Sammy Terry dies

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Bob Carter, the actor who portrayed ghoulish Indianapolis late night television movie host Sammy Terry for nearly three decades, has died at 83, a funeral director said Monday.

Carter died Sunday at an Indianapolis nursing home, Paul Burton of Singleton Mortuary said. He did not disclose the cause of death.

Sammy Terry was a fixture of Indianapolis television from 1962 to 1989, beginning each episode of "Nightmare Theater" on WTTV-TV by climbing out of a coffin with a trademark fiendish chuckle and wearing a blood-red cape and skullcap, and green makeup on his face. His sidekick was a toy spider named George.

The name Sammy Terry was a play on the word cemetery.

Carter was among the early television pioneers at independent stations around the country producing and starring in local programs. Before arriving in Indianapolis and inventing Sammy Terry, he worked as a weatherman in Peoria, Ill., and hosted a teen dance television show in Fort Wayne. He had a master's degree in television production from Syracuse University.

"There was hardly any programming available for the independent stations back then, so we had to build programming," Carter told The Indianapolis Star in 2007.

Carter also owned and operated an Indianapolis music store.

Carter is survived by his wife of 59 years, Phyllis, and his four children, including a son, Mark, who has appeared as Sammy Terry in recent years.

A public viewing of Carter is planned for Friday at the mortuary. A private burial is planned for Saturday.


  • RIP
    You were the reason I became a fan of all things scary. Miss you and that laugh!
  • Lost A Great Man
    I just found out this very morning about the death of Sammy. I was half asleep watching channel 4 and saw their tribute to him pop up suddenly. It put me in tears. I'm now going on 29 years of age but watched him when I was little and later on enjoyed his last few appearances for Halloween specials. I was a huge fan of his and am deeply saddened by the news of his death. I almost feel like I've lost a close friend. R.I.P Sammy. We love you.
  • The World a scary place, now.
    Sammy Terry (Bob Carter) left us this past Sunday and the world is a scary place for it. Bob was an icon, as so many others on this post have noted, and a signficant memory from our collective childhoods. We are lesser for his passing.
  • It's a sad day
    When I was about 4, my older cousins would come over to the house to visit and sometimes would watch Nightmare Theater when it came on Channel 4. To say I was horribly terrified of that laugh and the sight of Sammy Terry would be to say Mount Everest is just a tiny hill. Of course it didn't help that my cousins were mean and held me in front of the TV to see me freak out and cry until their mom came and yelled at them. For years, whenever it got late enough that I thought he might be on, I would avoid turning to Channel 4 as though my life depended on it. He truly made me frightfully frantic if the show was on. It wasn't until high school that I happened to be TV channel surfing on night that I came across Sammy. Trying to be "brave", I finally summoned enough courage - and turned all the lights on in the room - to watch. That's when I finally realized, "you gotta be kidding me, this is what I was so afraid of?". So Sammy - thanks for making me just a little less afraid of late night "scary", schmaltzy shows and upping my level of courage. Rest In Peace.
  • Sammy's legacy
    Sammy was a true icon, but not just here. He apparently inspired others around the country. Abe Lemmons, the former basketball coach at Texas even did a take off on the opening several years ago. Texas was one game behind Arkansas in a conference title race and Arkansas had only one game with the last team in the league. They lost the game, forcing a playoff; and, that night on his show, Lemmons opened up with the classic Sammy Terry coffin in the spot light. When it opened with the same eerie creek, Abe sat up in ST makeup, skull cap and cape; looked out at the TV and said, "We ain't dead yet!" It was awesome!
  • Farewell, Sammy...
    Sammy Terry was an Indianapolis icon, and his memory will continue on for years to come. He raised "camp" to an art form, and for that we will always be grateful. Farewell, Sammy, you will be missed, as there will never be another like you...
  • Thanks for the memories!
    Sammy Terry was a Friday night favorite in our house growing up. We gathered as a family to watch his show every week. Thanks for being a part of my childhood, Sammy Terry!
    • Many Pleasant Nightmares!!!!
      RIP Sammy Terry.

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