It's that time of year again kiddies... that time when you turn down the lights, cuddle up with someone to hold on to, grab some goodies and turn on...the radio? Yes, I said the radio. Well, it could be the computer, your ipod, a cd player- any audio player will do really. You see Halloween is one of those times when you can really get the willies by listening to a scary story. Sure, I guess you could watch a slasher film and all that, but as I've said before those gore-fests are not for me. No sir, I prefer watching the classics and the animated classics. But what really gets me in the Halloween spirit is listening to Halloween -themed old time radio shows.
Nothing beats the theater of the mind for scaring the beejeezus out of yourself. Think back to all the times when you were alone in your room or your house on a quiet night. The sounds that you heard, or thought you heard, created all kinds of images and possible scenarios that ran through your mind. What you imagined was more frightening than anything you could see on television.
If you are an old hand at old time radio, you probably know what I am talking about, if not, and you are interested, a whole great world will open up to you.
What follows are some of the things that make Old Time Radio great at Halloween and some links to some of the shows and a couple of sites that have a much larger comprehensive collection of shows that you can sample. Zoot Radio is still a favorite site, and you can register as a member and find many of the shows mentioned in the post there. Also be sure to check out OTR Perk, Radiolovers, Old Time Radio Fans and The Internet Archive and more sites for lots and lots of Old Time Radio.
For this article, we asked the gang at Zoot Radio to give us some of their favorite old time radio Halloween moments. Here is that list with some of our own favorites; these are the great things that make old time radio a hit at Halloween. Some are shows, series, or even special effects or actors. Check them out
Sound effects: Absolutely essential. One of the most famous special effects is, of course, the creaking door from the series Inner Sanctum. Serial shows like Lights Out!, Inner Sanctum and Suspense predate the Twilight Zone and other popular early television shows but have an anthology feel to them. Very creepy. Some recommendations from Zoot Radio include the above plus Fear on Four. As Zoot Radio member Smokie stated : "I'd like to listen to "Fear on Four" or one of the scarier shows in the dark this year, with only a lighted pumpkin in the window. OTR is best for Halloween because of the storytelling in the dark."
Creepy Heroes: Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men? The Shadow knows. How about The Whistler? "I am the Whistler, and I know many things, for I walk by night. I know many strange tales, many secrets hidden in the hearts of men and women who have stepped into the shadows. Yes, I know the nameless terrors of which they dare not speak." The writing on these shows was first rate and sometimes quite macabre. This ain't your daddy's Batman. Trust me.
Ghoulish hosts: Did you know that actors like Peter Lorre, Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff hosted their own shows for a time. I particularly liked Peter Lorre in Mystery in the Air (that announcer that you hear is Henry Morgan, from Dragnet and Col. Potter from M*A*S*H).
Ghastly guests: One of the members at Zoot, Papajoemambo, recommended one particular show: Bela Lugosi on the Abbott & Costello Show (the Haunted House episode - 'You Vhant I should get de Harrt-bouuurne??')." While Fess64 told us "My favorite Halloween show is Jack Benny's 1941 episode with Basil Rathbone. Good Stuff!" Comedy shows did particularly well in this vein as they could either do a parody of a movie or other suspense show, or even invite a movie star like Boris Karloff, to poke a little fun at themselves and the image Hollywood had created for them. One of my favorites is an episode of The Jack Benny Show where they did a take off on The Whistler in an episode entitled: "The Fiddler".
Movie/book adaptations: Some radio shows adapted films to radio, sometimes featuring the original stars. Films like Dracula, The Ghostbreakers and others have been featured on shows like Lux Theater or Screen Guild Players. The novels Dracula and Frankenstein have also been adapted to radio shows. Perhaps the most famous instance of a radio adaptation of a book is Orson Welles and Mercury Theater's production of War of the Worlds. An absolute Halloween must that you can listen to The Mercury Theater on the Air website.
Well, guys and ghouls - I hope this little look at old time radio might encourage you to do something a little different this Halloween. Click on some of the links we've provided above and try old some old time radio this Halloween. Turn the lights down, break out the cider, nab a little candy from the kid's baskets (don't even pretend you don't- besides they are in bed, right? Right?!) and curl up with some frightening friends from the past. And when you're ready - toss in Young Frankenstein, just for good measure.
Stay tuned for more Shelf Halloween Madness 2009!
If you're blue, and you don't know where to go to, why don't you go where fashion sits...
'UTTIN' ON THE 'IIIIITZ.