MICHIGAN HORROR SHOW HOSTS #1: Christopher Coffin, 1961-1967
Back in the 1950’s, when movie studios like Universal, Paramount, Columbia, and MGM began selling their movie catalogs to television, the most popular package was Universal’s “Classic Horror” films. You know the ones; Dracula, Frankenstein, the Wolf Man, the Mummy, the Creature from the Black Lagoon, the Invisible Man, and all the other spin-offs, sequels, and one-shots. TV audiences – especially the kids – couldn’t get enough of these classic old horror films, so the need for a wrap-around was inevitable.
Thus was born the “Horror Show Host”, a male or female, usually dressed in some kind of scary garb, hosting the evening’s fright flicks and doing shtick between film segments. Puns abounded, making the audience groan, but they loved every second of it.
Christopher Coffin (portrayed by Reed Pasternak) was Flint’s premier horror show host, showing great old horror classics from the 1930’s, 40’s and 50’s.
His program was titled “Theatre of Thrills” and aired on WJRT-TV. Premiere dates for the show vary; some remember the show making its debut in 1961, where others recall the year as 1963. This could be due to the fact that the show was picked up by other affiliates in 1963 after having been on the air for a while. The show had a good run, expanded to Friday & Saturday nights, ending in 1967.
Christopher Coffin opened the show in his coffin, where he would greet the audience and read fan letters. Aside from his coffin, he was seen throughout the show in a wheelchair, where he did skits in between movie segments, sometimes mocking the movie he was showing. His backdrop was his ‘castle’, where various monsters helped him with domestic duties, and a graveyard set constructed outside the TV studio.
In the fall of 1967, “Theatre of Thrills” and Christopher Coffin were put to pasture. Why? WJRT-TV switched from black-and-white broadcasts to color. WJRT execs decided the gothic atmosphere of Chris’ antics plus the special effects would not have the same affect in color, so the show was scrapped.
Christopher Coffin’s alter-ego Reed Pasternak used his first name, ‘Farrell’ and continued as ‘Reed Farrell’, hosting a TV show in St. Louis from 1972-1974 and over the years voiced many TV films, documentaries, and commercials, and wrote literally hundreds of commercials for TV and radio.
Farrell Reed “Christopher Coffin” Pasternak passed away on July 6, 2019 at the age of 89.