Old-Time Radio Playlist: Halloween, Part 2

Last week I presented some Halloween “treats” from the world of old-time radio—lighthearted holiday episodes. Today, I’m offering a few “tricks”—spooky Halloween episodes and a few classic horror stories.

Enjoy—and let me hear from you. What are your favorite old-time radio Halloween episodes? What’s your favorite show in the suspense or horror genre?

November 7, 1937
Columbia Workshop, The Horla

By early radio standards, this is a good adaptation of a creepy Guy de Maupassant story.

July 11, 1938
Mercury Theater, Dracula

This is faithful adaptation with a great cast: Martin Gabel (if you’ve seen What’s My Line? re-runs, you may remember him as Mr. Arlene Francis), Agnes Moorehead, and, of course, Orson Welles. The Mercury Theater’s actual Halloween episode, The War of the Worlds, might seem more appropriate for this playlist, but I wanted to choose something slightly less well known.

February 20, 1944
The Weird Circle, Frankenstein

Many radio shows adapted Mary Shelley’s story—I picked this version rather randomly. I’d love to hear opinions about the best radio Frankenstein.

October 27, 1947
Quiet Please, Don’t Tell Me About Halloween

“Marry in haste, repent at leisure” takes on new meaning when your spouse is immortal. This is an entertaining episode of Quiet, Please, a series of psychological horror stories that aired from 1947 to 1949. Wyllis Cooper created the show and wrote every episode—an amazing feat, in my opinion. Not every episode is brilliant, but they are all interesting. This episode has a bonus for me as a Guiding Light fan: Charita Bauer, who played Bert on GL, is the female lead.

January 10, 1948
Favorite Story, Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde

Ronald Colman hosted this series, which presented a classic story each week, supposedly picked by a celebrity. Colman tells us that Alfred Hitchcock picked this classic Robert Louis Stevenson story. Radio stalwart Bill Conrad gives powerful performance in the dual role.

October 31, 1948
Quiet Please, Calling All Souls

This episode has a good story, but the organ music grates—that’s one aspect of old-time radio I just don’t love.

October 31, 1949
Inner Sanctum Mysteries, A Corpse for Halloween

I’m not a big Inner Sanctum fan, and this story loses me a little. It does have compensations, however: Its Halloween setting, its tiger motif (I like anything cat-related), and its star—Larry Haines. As with Charita Bauer, I know Haines from the world of daytime TV drama; he played Stu on Search for Tomorrow for 35 years. He was also a prolific radio actor, and he gives a good performance here as a guy who’s cracking up.

March 14, 1951
NBC Short Story, The Lottery

Long before there was The Hunger Games, there was this classic Shirley Jackson story. No one faces any monsters here; the horror that unfolds is the horror that human beings can inflict on each other when they cling blindly to destructive traditions. Even when you know what’s coming, the end packs a huge punch. The music is appropriately haunting.

October 30, 1976
CBS Radio Mystery Theater, The Witches’ Sabbath

This story doesn’t reference Halloween, but its subject matter suits the holiday. Once again, we encounter Larry Haines as a man cracking under a strain—his performance is even better here than in the Inner Sanctum Mysteries episode above. The conversations between his character and the bartender amused me.

Enjoy more old-time radio playlists:

Halloween, Part 1

Edgar Allan Poe, Part 1

Edgar Allan Poe, Part 2


Old-Time Radio Playlist: Till Death Do Us Part (And That Might be Sooner Than You Think)

I put this playlist together after noticing how many old-time radio mystery shows had presented episodes titled “Till Death Do Us Part.”

“Till Death Do Us Part”

Suspense, December 15, 1942
“Just remember, I shall be waiting…out, in the dark and cold, where there is neither marriage, nor giving in marriage…I’ll be waiting, for my little pet to come and join me.”
Story: A professor, jealous of his wife’s love for another man, comes up with a clever plan to eliminate both his problems.
Writer: John Dickson Carr, well known Golden-Age mystery writer, who wrote many Suspense episodes.
Notable Cast Members: Peter Lorre, whose voice oozes creepiness, plays the murderous husband. The same year this episode aired, Lorre played one of his most memorable film roles: Ugarte in Casablanca.
About Suspense: Suspense billed itself, with ample justification, as “radio’s outstanding theater of thrills.” Extremely popular, it ran for 22 years (1940-1962). For much of that time, it attracted top Hollywood stars, who often got the chance to play roles that contrasted with their on-screen image. William Spier produced Suspense in its best years and, according to Dunning, “personally guided every aspect of the show, molding story, voice, sound effects, and music into audio masterpieces.”
Weapon of Choice: Aconite, also known as monkshood, a poison.
My Verdict: An entertainingly over-the-top performance by Lorre and a script with several good twists make this a must-listen.

“Till Death Do Us Part”

The Sealed Book, July 8, 1945
“Oh, no, I’ll never leave you, darling. Never, never, never.”
Story: A man is determined to escape his smothering wife—and she is determined to keep him.
About The Sealed Book: A cheesy mystery-horror show with a very cheesy opening sequence, The Sealed Book was a syndicated show that ran for six months in 1945.
Weapon of Choice: The sea.

My Verdict
: A so-bad-it’s-good kind of entertainment. By a few minutes in, you’ll want to kill Blanche, too.

Till Death Do Us Part”

Murder at Midnight, December 9, 1946
“One life has already paid for yours. And, quart for quart, your blood is worth no more than my family’s.”
Story: A newlywed husband is tormented by fantasies of killing his bride.
About Murder at Midnight: Similar in some ways to The Sealed Book, this was a syndicated show with a cheesy opening and ample organ flourishes. The quality is much higher, though. As Digital Deli Too writes, “Anton Leader, later famous for his Television work, directed the series. The writing staff was also top-notch, with names such as Max Erlich, Joe Ruscoll and Robert Newman, among others.”
Weapons of Choice: Strangulation, a gun.
My verdict: This story is clever and complex, and it uses Oscar Wilde’s “The Ballad of Reading Gaol” to eerie effect as a recurring motif. The actress playing the bride gives a good performance.

“Till Death Do Us Part”

Inner Sanctum Mysteries, October 27, 1947
“Oh, baby, how did we ever get into a mess like this?”

Story: Newlyweds are witnesses when a man murders a woman, and their honeymoon just gets better from there.
About Inner Sanctum Mysteries: This was the father of all campy-mystery-horror-with-cheesy-opening shows. Famous for its creaking-door sound effect and its punning host, Inner Sanctum Mysteries ran from 1941 to 1952.
Notable Cast Members: Everett Sloane and Mercedes McCambridge, two prolific radio performers. Sloane was a member of Orson Welles’ Mercury Theater and appeared in the films Citizen Kane and The Lady from Shanghai. Two years after this episode aired, McCambridge would play an Academy-Award-winning supporting role in All the King’s Men. Her movie career would also include providing the voice for The Exorcist’s demon.
Weapons of Choice: A gun, smothering (sort of).
My Verdict: Inner Sanctum has its fans, but it consistently underwhelms me. My mind kept wandering during this one, and the ending didn’t satisfy me.

“Till Death Do Us Part”

The Whistler, April 14, 1948
“He made a mistake–a bad one.”
Story: A shady art dealer meets up with the equally shady young wife of an ailing art collector. This won’t end well for anyone.
About The Whistler: A popular mystery-crime show, The Whistler ran for 13 years. It has similarities to the shows above, except that the episode’s central character is usually the bad guy, whom the narrator addresses directly and tauntingly.
Notable Cast Members: Gerald Mohr was another prolific radio actor whose most memorable role was Philip Marlowe. Doris Singleton would go on to play the recurring role of Carolyn Appleby on TV’s I Love Lucy.
Weapon of Choice: Sleeping pills (sort of).
My Verdict: The Whistler can be hit or miss. This wasn’t an outstanding episode, but it did keep me guessing. I always enjoy Gerald Mohr’s sexy, hard-boiled voice.

“Until Death Do Us Part”

Private Files of Rex Saunders
“It worked. It worked real good.”
Story: A casino owner’s second wife becomes convinced that her husband killed his first wife–and that she is about to be his second victim.
About Private Files of Rex Saunders: This private investigator show was a starring vehicle for Rex Harrison that aired during the summer of 1951. Himan Brown directed the series.
Notable Cast Members: Rex Harrison is best remembered as My Fair Lady‘s Henry Higgins, of course. Leon Janney, who plays the assistant, began his long theatrical career when he was still a child.
Weapons of Choice: Guns.
My Verdict: It’s fun to hear Harrison play a private investigator, and the story has some nice twists.