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: