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Saturday, November 2, 2013

7 Spooky Stories from Old Timey Radio Days

What did you do this Halloween?  Dress up like a slutty Christmas tree and go boozing?  Watch a marathon of streaming horror movies while eating a greasy Tombstone pizza?  Take your kid trick-or-treating and proceed to eat all of her candy while she slept?  Sit in a room and think your dark thoughts?

One thing I didn't get this Halloween was the day off of work (damn this state and it's rampant religious intolerance!).  Can you believe I was forced to spend Halloween in my office, performing the job for which I get paid?!?  Balderdash!  I didn't, however, let this take away my Halloween spirit.  Rather, I devised a devilish plan to bring Halloween covertly into the workplace.  I did this by downloading a virtual pillowcase-ful of spooky stories from the olden days, when families would gather around a radio for their nightly entertainments (see above picture for reference).

I listened to a total of 7 horrifying stories that day, and I thought I'd tell you about them, gentle readers, that is, if you have the guts.  BWA-HA-HA-HA!!!  (To readers without guts because of some kind of medical issue or anatomical anomaly from birth, I mean no offense.  You are welcome to continue reading.  Thanks for visiting the site.)

1. The Spirits of the Lake (The Witch's Tale) (1933)
Host(s): Old Nancy, a witch, and Satan, her cat. (I couldn't tell if the witch was supposed to be a racist depiction of an elderly African-American woman OR an elderly Asian man.  I could tell, however, that Satan was just a dude make cat noises, poorly.)
Key Phrase: "Hunner and five year old I be today.  Yes, sir, hunner and five year old."
Theme Song: comically overlong
Plot: A needlessly mean asshole lives with his rich, sick wife in a mansion on an island surrounded by (mostly) friendly Indians (and water, obviously).  He is convinced by his money-hungry mistress, a "Dutch farmer's daughter" who lives on the same island, to murder his wife, but make it look like an accident so he can inherit her money without any hiccups.  The husband--who is a real obnoxious prick, by the way--takes his wife for a moonlit canoe ride and purposefully crashes into an outcropping of jagged rocks.  As the wife drowns, she calls on the spirits of the lake to punish her whiny, pussy-whipped, dickhead husband.

The husband, now a mostly insane widow, inherits his wife's fortune and marries his mistress.  They return to the island after two years of guilt-ridden wedded non-bliss so the mistress can flaunt her ill-gotten wealth in front of the Indians, I guess, who are endlessly referred to as "Injuns" and "savages."  As you've probably guessed, both parties are dispatched by the spirits of the lake, Indian spirits who were close personal buddies of the wife, who watches, in ghost form, as her husband is drowned by lake slime.
Is it scary?: Lack of quality sound effects rendered this rote tale of beyond-the-grave revenge pretty tame.  It's scary how racist the characters are, however, all of the racists do die, so, that's something. 

2. Under the Hull Tree (Beyond Midnight) (1969)
Host: a fancy British gentleman
Sponsor(s): Bio-Tex ("Just soak!  Just soak in Bio-Tex!"); Grandpa Headache Powders
Plot: Some dude finds a photograph of two familiar people while vacationing in Hawaii.  He proceeds to ask members of the hotel staff the names of the couple in the photograph, but no one seems to recall. He finally reveals to the hotel's on-staff photographer (because that was probably a thing) that the people in the picture are his aunt and uncle who both perished in a deadly train accident the day they left for a planned honeymoon trip around the world.
Is is scary?: It's sweet, but not scary.  Grandpa Headache Powders sound like they work scary good though.

3. Casting the Runes (Escape) (1947)
Host: An excitable gentleman, prone to shouting ("Had a hard day?  Sit back and relax...ESCAPE!!! CAREFULLY PLOTTED TO FREE YOU FROM THE FOUR WALLS OF TODAY!!!).
Theme Song: "sinister-ass music" (that's what it says in my notes...I don't know what that means...)
Plot: After writing a scathing review of Coswell's latest book on alchemy, Edward Dunning is cursed by the bitter author to die in three months time.  The curse is laid upon our hero when Coswell, in disguise as a friendly museum janitor, slips Dunning a scrap of paper with a series of demonic runes written on them.  From that point forward, Dunning is nightly pursued and stalked by an evil, invisible force.  With the help of a man named Harrington, whose brother was Coswell's last victim, Dunning successfully re-routes the curse, and Coswell gets a big old chunk of cement to head for his treachery.
Is it scary?: No, but it is intense.  The train scene is extremely effective.  This was my favorite one of the day.  You should probably just go listen to it right here

This, only with a lot of weird cackling

4. The Blackness of Terror (The Hermit's Cave) (some time between 1936 and 1947)
Host: The Hermit (Think The Crypt Keeper as an excitable old-time prospector)
Plot: A jealous old creep's life of crime is revealed to the daughter he longs to keep all to himself when in his old age, he his haunt-tortured by the spirit of the wife he murdered.
Is it scary?: No, but The Hermit thinks it's hilarious.

5. W is For Werewolf (Dark Fantasy) (1942)
Host: a man who was awoken from a deep sleep just before introducing the program
Plot: A man, his wife and their baby pay an old friend, who has removed himself and his sons from society and moved them to an island (so many islands in these old shows), a visit.  The reason for his hasty retreat from the mainland?  Well, his sons have inherited their grandfather's lycanthropy ("werewolf disease") and he is trying to cure them.  Well, one of them.  The other one is already dead.  Werewolves!
Is it scary?: Werewolf stories don't really work on the radio.


6. The Castle of La Voca (The Hall of Fantasy) (1952)
Host: Shouty, Echo Guy
Plot: A man (who is probably Fred Willard) and his wife are biking through Eastern Europe when they come across a mysterious, triangle-shaped castle.  A weird creep at the local inn recounts the sinister history of the castle and its connection to every major war.  The weird creep leads the couple (one of which is almost assuredly Fred Willard) on a tour of La Voca Castle the next afternoon, where a series of weird occurrences bring about the start of WWII.
Is it scary?: No, but it is historically accurate.
Was it Fred Willard?: Well, I did a little research, and, um, Fred Willard would've been 13-years-old when the "Castle of La Voca" was originally presented, so it probably isn't him.  Unless he's had that voice since age 13.  It's possible, right?
Is it possible?: No.

7. Blood Bath (Escape) (1950)
Stars: Vincent Price (for real; this is not another "Fred Willard Situation")
Plot: Five explorers/businessmen/dicks discover a massive deposit of uranium ore in the South American jungle that they predict to be worth three-trillion dollars.  They agree to split the profits, but the next morning, three of the "friends" awake to find that the other two have made a mad dash for the river in an attempt to rip them off.  One by one, each guy is killed in some gruesome fashion (disease, piranhas, boa constrictor, someone falls of a donkey, I think), and only Vincent Price survives.  He makes it out of the jungle alive and offers to tell listeners where they can find "enough uranium ore to blow up the world" indicating that doing so will create the titular "blood bath."
Is it scary?: A story titled "Blood Bath" starring Vincent Price should be scarier than this, right?  It's got some fun stuff in it though.  And Price is pretty great.

(You can hear all of these stories and tons more at Relic Radio.)


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