The Horror Honeys: Holiday Fear from the Golden Age of Radio

Holiday Fear from the Golden Age of Radio

A Horror TV Honey Holiday Time Warp with Kat W

Hey, little Jimmy.
Are you scared of the radio show or just dropping a load in your pants?

It’s December, which for horror fans means revisiting classic holiday horror films like Black Christmas, Silent Night, Deadly Night, and Gremlins, and favorite anthological horror TV episodes like Tales From the Crypt's And All Through the House and The Twilight Zone’s heartwarming episode, The Night of the Meek. Dedicated horror fans also love nothing more than a deep cut, and because the holidays are traditionally a time of nostalgia and reflection on years gone by, now seems like a good time to take a trip back to the days of old time radio. Why radio (and decades-old radio at that)? We all know that right now is an incredible time to be a horror fan.

We’re right in the middle of the second “Golden Age of Television,” and horror is really hitting its stride on that platform. But during its heyday (from the early 1920s to the 1950s), radio laid the foundation for the great work that would be done on TV, from writing and acting to sound design, and some of the most exciting work was done on spooky shows like Quiet, Please, Suspense, The Hermit’s Cave, Lights Out, CBS Radio Mystery Theater, and Escape. There are some great holiday and winter-themed episodes of these shows, and below are just a few of them. Sit back, put your headphones in, and turn the volume up. These tales will chill you right to the bone. Just don’t blame me when you get a hankering to buy some Lucky Strike cigarettes or War Bonds.
Ah, advertising in the 40s…

Wait, is this ad from the 40s or 2016?

Korean Christmas Carol
from Suspense (Original air date: 12/20/59) Christmas Eve, 1958.

Larry, a lonely G.I. stationed in Korea, is headed back to camp after a night on the job when he meets a hitchhiking soldier along the road. Something feels a about the hitchhiker, but Larry feels compelled to give the fellow a ride. After all, it is Christmas Eve. The hitchhiker passes the time by telling Larry of a very bloody battle he was involved in in ‘51, during which a buddy of his died.

SPOILER ALERT FOR A 50-YEAR OLD RADIO SHOW: The hitchhiker is the one who died!

Of course, any horror fan with half a brain guessed that from the word “hitchhiker,” but it’s all about the journey, right? Plus, who doesn’t want to hear an orphanage full of Korean children singing “Jingle Bells” in Korean? The answer is nobody. A little strange and more than a little spooky, this tale is sure to send shivers down your spine.

Listen to the episode HERE 

Suspense was a real "who's who" of familiar voices of the era.
And *what joy* these cassettes can be yours
Back for Christmas from: Suspense (Original air date: 12/23/43)
Escape (Original air date: 12/24/47)

Yeah, this is a tough one. You’re gonna want to listen to both of these. Adapted from a short story by John Collier, Back for Christmas is the story of Herbert, a botanist who is far more interested in digging and planting a “Devil’s Garden” of rare orchids in the cellar than in bending to his shrewish wife Hermione’s pleas that he prepare for their upcoming trip to America. Having come to the end of his rope with Hermione’s years of nagging and tight control over his every move, Herbert has planned the perfect murder and getaway. But Hermione may have designs on him, even from beyond the grave, to make sure he’s...BACK FOR CHRISTMAS.

The Suspense version of this tale stars none other than the inimitable Peter Lorre, and listening to him mumble angrily, plot under his breath, and scream through clenched teeth while strangling his wife is really a treat for the ears. It’s a must listen. Airing four years later, Escape’s take on the story stars Paul Frees as Herbert (Frees is the voice of the “Ghost Host” at Disneyland’s Haunted Mansion) and Eleanor Audley as Hermione (Audley is the voice of Madame Leota in the Mansion; she also voiced the wicked stepmother in Disney’s Cinderella and Maleficent in Sleeping Beauty). If you’re looking for iconic voices in a fun and dark holiday tale, both versions of this story are must listens.

 Listen to both episodes HERE 

The White Wolf from CBS Radio Mystery Theater (Original air date: 01/26/77)

Here, we’re stepping out a bit from the Golden Age. CBS Radio Mystery Theater aired from 1974 - 1982, and was a sort of reboot of the genre of classic horror/suspense/mystery shows of yore. While not set during the holidays, The White Wolf has more whipping wintry winds and snowstorms than you can shake a fruitcake at. The story follows a father and his adult children living at the heart of a remote wilderness. Plagued by the stalking howls of a white wolf that the children suspect is in fact a human shapeshifter in their animal form, the family’s horror only grows as the mystery of the werewolf’s identity unfolds. The ambiance alone would warrant a listen, but the story is pure gothic horror that will chill you to the bone.

 Listen to the episode HERE 

 Are you a vintage radio junkie? 
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