Robert Boss and his wonderfully calm demeanor first appeared on television in 1983 on The Joy of Painting the Coming Darkness. In it, Boss would teach viewers the basic techniques for painting scenes of nightmarish hellscapes, much like “those I see in my dreams,” he said.
Each episode began with Boss standing with a blank canvas in front of a black backdrop (“as black as my heart,” he remarked with a chuckle). In under 30 minutes, Boss would transform the blank canvas into an image of fire and brimstone and tortured souls. Using two inch brushes and painting knives, he was able to quickly paint fire, smoldering rocks, bloody bodies and hellish mountains dwellers in a matter of seconds.
Each painting featured colors like midnight black, dark sienna, Van Dyke brown, alizarin crimson, bright red, cadmium yellow and occasionally burnt umber. As he painted, Boss instructed viewers to begin buying supplies to construct a bomb shelter and to board up their windows. He would also explain that no one outside their immediate family should be trusted. Boss discussed snippets of his own life, his treks deep in the Alaskan wilderness, where he had “the vision” and witnessed unspeakable evil for the first time. After the vision, Boss moved back to Virginia and began painting the images he’d seen and also capturing small animals to sacrifice to a goat-headed creature living in his basement.
From week to week, each consecutive painting displayed more and more of the “coming Hell on Earth” with Boss growing increasingly deranged during the half-hour. During the final episode, just before his disappearance, he can be seen talking off-camera to someone, his calm exterior cracking for the first time, explaining that he “won’t do it. I won’t tell them that!” Boss grows more erratic and finally drops his brush in the middle of painting a man clawing off his own face. As he walks past the camera, he hits the lens hood and the camera spins just enough to give the audience a view of the person off-stage. Though it’s hard to tell for sure, it looks a great deal like Louis Corvin, host of The $66,600 Question, looking as youthful as he did during the very first show back in 1955. The man, who’s partially hidden in shadow, motions to the camera and a TECHNICAL DIFFICULTIES screen is displayed.
Following the broadcast, Boss’s home burned to the ground, shortly after the painter had gone inside with a man in a suit, the same man who appeared briefly on set of the final episode. Witnesses claim they heard howls of pain coming from the flames, but when investigators combed through the ashes, they found no bodies. Robert Boss was never seen again.