Hammer Horror Icon Barbara Shelley Dies at 88

Hammer Horror Icon Barbara Shelley Dies at 88
Barbara Shelley — the Hammer icon known as "the first leading lady of British horror" — has died. This morning the actress passed away after contracting COVID-19, her agent confirmed. Shelley was 88.

Born as Barbara Kowin on February 13, 1932, in London, Shelley starred in a long list of horror classics, including The Gorgon, Dracula: Prince of Darkness, Village of the Damned, The Secret of Blood Island, Rasputin: The Mad Monk and Quatermass and the Pit.

"Hammer was like a family, a very talented family... with a wonderful atmosphere on the set and a wonderful sense of humour," Shelley once reflected on Hammer.

"When I first started doing Hammer, all the so-called classic actors looked down on the horror film. All the other things I did, nobody remembers those. But the horror films, I'm very grateful to them because they built me a fan base, and I'm very touched that people will come and ask for my autograph. If you went to see a [Hammer] film in the cinema, the gasps were interspersed with giggles because people were giggling at themselves for being frightened, they were frightening themselves; and this is what made Hammer very special."

Beyond her many horror roles, Shelley starred in multiple other films and TV series during her long career, including roles in The Saint, Man in the Dark, Hazel, The Man from U.N.C.L.E., The Avengers, Crown Court, Doctor Who, EastEnders and Uncle Silas.