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

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Old-Time Radio Playlist: Halloween, Part 1

Vintage Halloween Postcard from The Public Domain Review

Today, I present a selection of Halloween treats–some lighthearted old-time radio episodes that capture an interesting period in the history of Halloween.

(On Tuesday, October 30, I’ll post some Halloween”tricks”–spooky holiday offerings and classic horror stories.)

European immigrants to the United States popularized Halloween celebrations in the late 19th century.

By the turn of the century, there was a move to downplay the scarier aspects of the holiday. According to History.com, “Halloween parties for both children and adults became the most common way to celebrate the day. Parties focused on games, foods of the season and festive costumes.”

By the 1920s and 1930s, pranks were a big part of the holiday, “often devolving into vandalism, physical assaults and sporadic acts of violence.”

Most of these radio shows date from the 1940s, when trick-or-treating was just beginning to transition into a community-sanctioned, kid-friendly activity. I’m guessing that’s why so many of the adults in these shows seem ambivalent about Halloween–looking back fondly on their own parties and pranks, but wary of letting their children participate in trick-or-treating.

Unknown Date
Air Castle, Halloween

Air Castle was a children’s show that ran in the late 1920s and early 1930s. It was entirely the work of Baron Keyes, who starred as the “Story Man” and provided voices and sound effects to represent various fanciful characters. This Halloween episode is cute!

October 19, 1933
Martha Meade Society Program, Halloween Parties

This cooking show provides a nice slice of 1930s life. From this and other radio shows, I’ve gleaned that doughnuts were a popular Halloween tradition in the early 20th century.

October 24, 1939
Fibber McGee and Molly, Halloween Party at Gildersleeve’s House

This would be a good starter episode for a new Fibber listener. It’s filled with typical wordplay and punning humor, and most of the classic supporting characters appear.

October 31, 1940
The Aldrich Family, Halloween Prank Backfires

Just about every episode of this family comedy involves a misunderstanding that snowballs out of control. These Halloween hi-jinx are typical.

November 2, 1941
Jack Benny, Halloween with Basil Rathbone

I’m in love with the Jack Benny Program. To really appreciate the series, you need to listen to a long run of consecutive episodes. Characterizations and jokes build from week to week. This is my favorite of several Halloween episodes–Jack annoying his Beverly Hills neighbors is always a win.

October 29, 1944
Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy, Halloween

Guest star Orson Welles is quite amusing, especially when he ad-libs.

October 29, 1944
The Life of Riley, Haunted House   

Near the end, this takes a surprisingly sharp turn into patriotic messaging. You’ll have that sometimes in World-War-II-era programs.

October 31, 1944
Lum and Abner, Discuss Halloween Pranks

Lum and Abner has been growing on me lately, and this episode is a cute one.

November 1, 1946
Baby Snooks, Halloween

Fanny Brice’s mischievous Baby Snooks is a natural for Halloween pranks. This episode has a strong start, but a weak finish, in my opinion.

October 29, 1947
Philco Radio Time, Boris Karloff and Victor Moore

Boris Karloff was the go-to guest for variety-show Halloween episodes. Here, he’s the guest of Bing Crosby, and he and Bing actually sing together (along with comedian Victor Moore)!

October 31, 1948
Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet, The Haunted House       

I always found the TV version of Ozzie and Harriet bland, but the radio episodes I’ve listened to have been surprisingly chuckle-worthy.

October 31, 1948
Adventures of Sam Spade, The Fairly-Bright Caper    

I’m not a huge Sam Spade fan–ditzy Effie gets on my nerves–but this has a nice Halloween flavor.

Oct 31, 1948
Jack Benny, Trick or Treating with the Beavers

This is another good Halloween episode, with an inventive way of bringing the supporting cast into the story.

October 31, 1951
The Great Gildersleeve, Halloween and Gildy Finds a Lost Boy

I’m not the biggest Gildy fan, but this episode has great warmth.

November 7, 1951
The Halls of Ivy, Halloween

I really enjoy this series, which stars Ronald and Benita Colman. Having spent plenty of time in academia, I appreciate the college setting, and the Colmans are just charming.

Oct 29, 1953
Father Knows Best, Halloween Blues

Robert Young’s character is in preachy mode, and the end doesn’t work for me, but this is an interesting look at those changing Halloween customs.

Listen to more old-time radio!