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Old Time Radio Horror: The Sounds of Fear

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Before EC Comics, before TV Horror Hosts, and before the mad scientists, psychos, and domestic and foreign ghosties and beasties took over the megagoogaplex screens, there was dramatized horror on radio just a twist of the dial away.

I fondly remember pulling out the old Webcor reel to reel tape player to listen to old time radio shows, and my favorite will always be Three Skeleton Key with Vincent Price, otherwise known as "that one about the rats." Imagine being trapped in a lighthouse with a horde of ravenous rats that have eyes and taste buds only for you; inexorably finding their way in until you have no where else to run. How can you escape?

With the advent of MP3 players, it is now easier than ever to rediscover the sinful pleasures of old time horror radio drama. Much of it is in the public domain these days (script writers and budding horror authors take note!), and can be found online or in CD collections for a nominal charge.

Hot on your list should be audio plays from shows like Lights Out, Suspense, Inner Sanctum, The Creaking Door, and The Haunting Hour, though there are many more providing ample thrills and chills.

Aside from Three Skeleton Key, other superb radio dramas to listen to are Sub Basement and Spider from Lights Out, and The Dunwich Horror and The House in Cypress Canyon from Suspense.

In Sub Basement, a man takes his wife to the sub basement of a big department store with plans of murder on his mind, but something else in the basement has other plans for them. And in Spider, two weary jungle hunters meet their match in another furry, but not so little or cute, multi-legged and very patient hunter. Just what exactly is in the closet in The House in Cypress Canyon will make your neck hairs stand on end.

Sound can be quite frightening indeed. As you listen to these tales of terror, horror, and suspense, be careful your imagination does not run too wild.

And remember, listen with the LIGHTS OUT!

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About ILoz Zoc

  • A timely article John as I’ve been listening to some radio horror myself albeit of a slightly later (70’s) vintage – Night of the Wolf starring Vincent Price. I’m currently up to part three of the six part Aliens of the Mind also staring Price and another titan of terror, Peter Cushing.

    Both were BBC productions but only Aliens of the Mind is available on CD so I’ve had to make do with a battered old tape copy of Night of the Wolf.

    I’ve added your recommendations to my future listening list.

  • AJ

    Nice article. Thanks for recommending some material.

    Can you also do another post on these with actual links? Because I could google and find stuff but I could never be sure if I Was listening to the right stuff..

  • Ian, good heads-up about more radio horror available, especially from the BBC. I’ve got to find out more about them. Price and Cushing together must sound fantastic.

  • AJ, Thanks; go to my blogsite and check the post. I’ve got the links added.

  • You’re so right!

    Old-time radio is culturally interesting and very entertaining. It plays in the best theatre of all–the listener’s mind–involving the creative imagination in a way that watching film or video can’t.

    YOU participate actively by providing the setting, scenery, actors, & costumes in your mind’s eye, rather than passively receiving all the images that someone else has dreamed up for you.

    It took real talent to make it all happen with good writing, human voices, great timing, and creative sound effects. Horror, drama, comedy, variety shows–they all still work on radio. I recommend satellite radio for its across-the–board programming–really something for everyone–and that includes a 24-hour-a-day old-time radio channel.

  • RE: A.J. regarding a specific place to listen to some of these great horror shows: I would suggest taking a look at OTRCAT.com +which has Lights Out, Suspense, Escape (which includes Vincent Price’s appearances in Three Skeleton Key and others). Its worth a listen!

  • gefliuygef

    You are awesome!
    Long live old time horror and old time radio!