In the Scene's "NashEvil" Halloween issue this week, a ghoulish brew of horrible happenings, spooky sites and supernatural tales from Nashville's past and present, Randy Fox pens a loving history of Nashville horror hosts — the local TV reporters, announcers and technicians pressed into duty (and capes) to introduce scary movies late at night from cardboard cemeteries and backroom mausoleums.
Of these, the champion remains Sir Cecil Creape, hero to a generation of Middle Tennessee miscreants as host of WSM's Saturday night Creature Feature. From the moment the show went on the air in 1971, Fox writes, the ghastly host was a local sensation:
Sir Cecil Creape (pronounced "Ses-sill," not "See-sill") was an unlikely TV star: a balding, portly hunchback with dentures from hell and an accent like a Southern-fried Boris Karloff. But from the moment he came clumping down the stairs "deep within the catacombs" beneath the WSM studio, and onto the televisions screens of Middle Tennessee and southern Kentucky, he was a graveyard smash. ...
Overnight, talk of Sir Cecil Creape and his signature greeting "Did someone caaaall?" was everywhere. He soon appeared on the cover of the Tennessean's Sunday Showcase section and was mobbed at live events. WSM even created a Sir Cecil Creape Fan Club, which offered a poster and a cardboard mask perfect for terrorizing younger siblings, and the Boy Scouts of America Middle Tennessee Council issued a special "Sir Cecil's Ghoul Patrol" patch.
WSM added to Sir Cecil's popularity by making his true identity a top secret. Many of WSM's on-air personalities were suspects, including weatherman and future game-show millionaire Pat Sajak (who worked on scripts for Creature Feature). But the true identity of Sir Cecil was a man normally behind the cameras at Channel 4, film editor Russ McCown. A native Nashvillian and Vanderbilt graduate, McCown was a regular in local theater and a collector of antiques, which he used to decorate the set of Creature Feature (along with, for unknown reasons, a photo of station political analyst Floyd Kephart).
I spoke to the late McCown almost two decades ago for a story, unaware of his secret identity. He was retired by then, but when he mentioned his claim to fame, I was astonished to be talking to the real Sir Cecil Creape. He sounded gratified. I asked him what he remembered most about the Sir Cecil days, and his response was hilariously gruff: "Little kids were always trying to kick me in the balls."
Above is a deleted scene from American Scary, a documentary about America's horror hosts (including legends such as Cleveland's Ghoulardi, played by Ernie Anderson, Tim Conway's old comedy partner and the father of director Paul Thomas Anderson). It offers glimpses not only of Sir Cecil but of Nashville's first horror host, Dr. Lucifur, and their modern-day disciple and Scene cover ghoul Dr. Gangrene (who proudly shows his Sir Cecil Scout patch).
Below: the intro from the old Creature Feature show.