Horror collection adds ‘Chilly Billy’ archive

As part of its growing Horror Studies Collection, the University Library System has acquired the archive of William “Chilly Billy” Cardille — longtime host of “Chiller Theater” on Pittsburgh television.

Donated by Cardille’s daughter, Lori Cardille, the collection contains photographs, news clippings, awards and memorabilia spanning Cardille’s career as well as scripts from “Chiller Theater,” on which he played host as “Chilly Billy” from 1964-83. Cardille died in 2016.

The Horror Studies Collection got its start with the acquisition of the George A. Romero archive in 2019. It has since added works from other horror notables. Cardille was the first recipient of the George A. Romero Foundation Pioneer Award, for people who helped Romero become the pioneer he was. Cardille was a friend and supporter of Romero and had a small role in “Night of the Living Dead.”

“The Cardille family is proud to share Chilly Billy’s pioneering career in early television as well as his huge influence on the horror genre,” Lori Cardille said. “To know that his work will be studied and used for years to come is truly an honor and a moving tribute for his family. We know that he would have been thrilled, more so than any statue or plaque could ever have provided. Bill Cardille was a creative and caring man who loved his family, his friends, his many fans, and of course Pittsburgh. We can think of no finer resting place for his archives than the Horror Center at the University of Pittsburgh’s Hillman Library.”

Born in 1928, Cardille lived most of his life in Western Pennsylvania. He started his broadcasting career in radio in Indiana, Pa., in 1951 before moving to Erie to get his start in television. He came to Pittsburgh in the mid-50s and became a fixture of Pittsburgh television, working for WPXI until his retirement in the early 1990s and then returning to radio until his death. 

Cardille was perhaps most famous to Pittsburghers as Chilly Billy. “Chiller Theater” pioneered the concept of the horror host, paving the way for other hosts such as Joe Bob Briggs, Elvira, Svengoolie, and the crew from USA’s “Up All Night.” “Chiller Theater” was so popular in Pittsburgh that it delayed the local broadcast of “Saturday Night Live” for four years before WPXI gave in to NBC demands and moved it until after “SNL.”

The show also featured a number of nationally known guests such as Phyllis Diller, Jerry Lewis, Lorne Green, Vincent Price, and Bruno Sammartino. 

— Susan Jones


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