**This interview with Robert Englund for True Terror includes light spoilers. Readers beware.
“You’re all my children now,” Robert Englund growled into the phone to a group of reporters who’d gathered to chat with the legendary actor about True Terror, a new show he’s hosting on the Travel Channel.
The series, which premieres on Wednesday, October 18, 2020 at 10 pm EST, digs deep into strange and reportedly true stories from the history of the U.S. with Englund hosting and narrating reenactments involving everything from a dragon sighting in 19th century Arizona to a blood drinking religious cult and a particularly macabre ghost story surrounding the invention of the telephone.
The actor couldn’t be prouder of the series and he told us it was the sort of “comfort food” aspect of the show that initially drew him to True Terror.
“It’s sort of equal parts Rod Serling Twilight Zone with some of the aspects of that great Robert Stack series, Unsolved Mysteries, you know, and then just a dash of Dateline,” he explained. “I like the comfort food aspect that it has this structure and this formula that we know. And it’s something you can tune into and learn something dark from the sort of underbelly of the American psyche.”
Further, it was the fact that all of the stories included in the series began as newspaper articles that really piqued Englund’s interest.
It’s one thing when you’re told a story by your brother’s cousin’s best friend from high school and quite another when you read the same story in your local newspaper. This adds a layer of reality to the stories, no matter how crazy they may seem, but also a level of genuine terror and unease at times even for the show’s host.
Englund pointed to a particular story that took place during one of several smallpox epidemics from the nation’s history.
“I had no idea that there was some scam between coroners and the guys that drove the charity wagons to the cemetery, coffin makers…and the last buck stopping with the gravedigger,” he said. “That, in fact people were literally being buried alive for profit!”
Stories like this, of course, often become inflated and conflated with others, leading to urban legends that we tell to this very day.
That doesn’t mean that the sources for these tales aren’t fascinating all on their own, however. The actor and host admits, for instance, that when he first saw that they would be doing a segment that involved sasquatch, his thoughts first turned to sitting in a drive-in theater on a double date watching The Legend of Boggy Creek.
He knew, of course, that there is a long history of sightings and that they date back to indigenous population in the U.S., but he wasn’t sure just what kind of story they would be telling on the show.
“When I saw the title to that segment, I thought, ‘Uh oh, here we go,'” Englund said. “And then, when we did our segment–and not only was it published in newspapers, but we actually have a president of the United States, Theodore Roosevelt, as one of our sources.”
Throughout True Terror‘s six themed episodes, there are a variety of chilling tales to experience and quite naturally the conversation turned to Englund’s own experiences with the strange and inexplicable during which he recounted a story that his mother related to him.
Describing her as a chain-smoking, martini-drinking liberal who once worked on the Adlai Stevenson campaign in the 1950s in California, his mother, apparently, often told a story that occurred during a horrible flood in the 30s in Los Angeles.
She was living in a sorority house at the time, and she and her sorority sisters had stayed up late listening to the radio and the reports of flooding. When the rest of her friends retired for the evening, she stayed up to wash out the coffee cups and clean up the kitchen when there was suddenly a knocking at the front door.
His mother opened the door to find one of her sorority sisters standing there soaking wet. She brought her inside and made her a cup of coffee and they sat and talked while the girl rested before telling Englund’s mother she intended to go up to a local boarding house to stay with a friend.
The next day, the police showed up to inform them they’d found the body of their classmate.
“But, they had found it like 36 hours before, which would have been about, you know, 12 to 15 hours before my mother made a cup of coffee for her,” Englund said. “And my mother said she went back and found the coffee cup, and it had lipstick on it.”
As True Terror goes, that would make one hell of a segment. Alas it was never covered in the newspapers.
There is one story, however, that Englund would very much like to see covered if/when season two of the series should come to fruition, and it all centers on the Chicago World’s Fair in the 1890s and the rise of serial killer H.H. Holmes.
The actor has recently become fascinated with the story after reading Erik Larson’s book, The Devil in the White City.
“[He] exploited the growth of the fair and the growth in the population in Chicago and the country girls coming to town for the fair,” the actor said. “And, you know, there’s some estimates that he may have killed up to 200 people. I’m not sure–I don’t know. But, they never found all the bodies.”
Holmes would definitely be a fascinating story to tell alongside stories of unnatural killers, ghosts, and the occasional psychic visions of True Terror.
The series premieres tomorrow night at 10 pm EST on the Travel Channel. Check your local listings for more airing information and prepare yourself for True Terror with Robert Englund!