View Full Version : Horror Stories from the OTR days (FYI)

08-19-2010, 07:28 PM
This is only indirectly related to our industry, but back in "the good old days" of live radio dramas, the best programs were the horror shows like THE WITCHES TALE and LIGHTS OUT. Those programs basically did what we do-- they gathered their audiences together and tried to scare the crap out of them. Only they didn't have props or costumes, just good actors, great stories, and imaginative sound effects.

Anyone who enjoys haunted houses usually gets a big kick out of these shows. Some are over the top and campy, while others are really scary. Radio dramas use the listener's imagination, and haunted house people are famous for having very vivid imaginations indeed. Listening to some of these shows in the dark can be a truly terrifying experience.

I was too young to hear these programs when they originally aired in the 1930s - 1960s, but once I heard them in college, I went out of my way to hear more. They are very addictive and fun to play on an iPod while building haunt sets. (They really put you in the right spirit!) I started collecting them, and any information I could get about them. Almost all the shows featured a haunted host of some sort: a witch, a devil, a fiend, you name it. Unfortunately, there is so little information about these people or the golden age of radio horror, that I felt compelled to research and publish what I discovered in a new book, to give these pioneers of horror the credit they deserve.

The result is THE OLD TIME RADIO HORROR HOST HANDBOOK. It tells their stories, including script samples, and photographs (when available). It's a big 8.5 x 11 inch paperback, 125 pages (190 images) for under $12. The publisher is currently offering free shipping for two or more copies until Aug 23.


It was risky to work on this project when we also had a haunt to finish, but it also kept me pretty excited about what we do, since we're basically building on a grand tradition started decades before. The horror shows on radio spawned the spook shows in the theaters, and those "traveling haunted houses" evolved into the full scale fixed attractions we create today. Nothing came from nothing-- it all evolved from earlier people who loved creating the same kinds of thrills that we do.

That being said, I'm glad the book is finished, so I can devote full time to this year's haunt! Halloween will be here before we know it!

Jim Warfield
08-20-2010, 07:08 PM
With big speakers! Put out very realistic sound reproduction and I'm talking the early 1950's here.
Inner Sanctum!
As an only child (til later) I would be infront of that huge radio in my parent's lonely front room, imagination going, hanging on every word,moan, sound effect...then a quick wind would come down the hill and make THE MOST INCREDIBLE NOISE! As it played with some slight tolerence between the front door and it's frame.??
The sound was sort of like the noise baseball cards clipped to the bike frame would make as they stuck into the spokes a series of "Tat-tat-tats" but add to this a whine of a jet engine revving up! And this rattled the front of the house itself! Quite the vibration!
It almost seemed as if the sound climbed up the outside of the house as it's pitch changed!
I would feel this in my backbone as I sat on the hardwood floor, as if skeleton's boney fingers were playing my vertabrae as a piano keyboard!

Many , many years later as a JC looking for creepy sound effects I was a few miles in the country listening to a long neglected windmill that still turned in a small amount of breeze even though it had not been lubricated in eons (My Grandfather used to do this as one of his normal jobs) and the sounds that thing made were also very classic, mechanical, and grinding, yet shreiking along the revolution too, sounding like it had a definately evil personality.
Maybe a Witches soul was trapped as she flew into the props in the dark one October and she is still screaming her anger?
A very scary concerto in a lonesome valley.
No recorder I ever owned could have captured it's sounds and done it "justice".