Grave Encounters: A Tribute To Louisville’s Horror Heritage (PART II)

Welcome back, everyone. I hope you enjoyed our adventure at Cave Hill Cemetery. I am the Phantom of the Ville, and now we will be heading away from downtown on Baxter Avenue, turning right on Winter Avenue and then left on Barret Avenue to arrive at St. Louis Cemetery where we will find the grave of one my personal horror heroes, the Fearmonger!

Who is the Fearmonger and how did he become known by that creepy nom de plume? In daily life he was known as Charles Kissinger. He was born in 1925 and spent most of his career as an actor in Louisville, KY at Actors Theater and at Shakespeare in Central Park. His fabled career as a character actor in horror films started when he met our last subject, local cult filmmaker William Girdler. The two became lifelong friends and Girdler ended up using Kissinger in seven out of his nine feature films, even giving him leading roles in “Asylum of Satan” (1972) and in “Three on a Meathook” (1973), where he played the psychotic Pa Townsend! It was a match made in horror heaven, and part of the fun of watching Girdler’s films is spotting Kissinger in his inevitable cameos.

The Fearmonger was born out of the necessity of a lost era of local broadcasting. When WDRB-41 went on the air in 1971 it brought with it many hours of locally produced programs that ranged from children’s shows like “Funsville” with Presto the Clown to local news, farm and hog reports. To fill time on Saturday nights, WDRB-41 bought a package of horror and science-fiction films known to horror fans as the “Shock Theater” package to show as double features between the hours of 7PM and 10PM.

Kissinger was already well known to local broadcasting head honchos for his voice-over and television commercial work, and he was promptly hired to serve as the host of ceremonies on what would be called “Fright Night”! They didn’t want to spend the budget on a set or any costly props, so Charlie was the whole show. Kissinger was lit from below, an effect not unlike putting a flashlight under your chin in a dark room (and many kids did just that in their bathroom mirrors to imitate the Fearmonger!), and a spooky tune called “Spell of the Unknown” played in the background as the Fearmonger would introduce the night’s films and occasionally pop in to crack deadpan jokes at the movie’s expense.

The program ran from 1971 through 1975, introducing many future wee Louisville Phantoms to the likes of creepy characters like Dracula, Frankenstein, the Wolf Man, the Mummy and the Creature from the Black Lagoon. A complete film schedule can be found on David Conover’s wonderful tribute website, The Fearmonger’s Chambers, at

Sadly, WDRB-41’s budget concerns gave way to a lack of forward thinking about cultural preservation and no footage of the program survives today. All the tapes used to record “Fright Night” were reused to tape other programs. Only one promotional image of Kissinger as the Fearmonger remains.

The Fearmonger’s grave at St. Louis Cemetery will take just a bit more adventuring to find since I do not have exact section and lot information, but I do have directions! When you pull into the front gates at St. Louis Cemetery, turn right and head for the corner. Find the huge, scary looking tree that looks as if it has been scarred down the middle by lightning (trust me!) and take twenty some paces forward from the tree to nearly reach the driveway. Look down. A local legend lies here.

Allow me to close with the immortal words of the Fearmonger every Saturday night as he introduced us to a new horror. “Lock your doors, bolt your windows and prepare for the horror of,” the next column from the Phantom of the Ville!

~The Phantom of the Ville

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