Hear 149 Vintage Halloween Radio Shows from the Golden Age of Radio

As Hal­loween radio broad­casts go, it would be hard to dis­place in Amer­i­can cul­tur­al mem­o­ry the adap­ta­tion of H. G. Wells’ The War of the Worlds that aired in 1938. Not every Hal­loween spe­cial can be direct­ed by a young Orson Welles, of course, but that’s hard­ly a rea­son to ignore the count­less oth­er Hal­loween broad­casts from the Gold­en Age of Radio. This year you can tune them in with the Youtube playlist above, which col­lects 149 such spook­i­est-time-of-the-sea­son episodes from such beloved shows as Lum and Abn­er, The Aldrich Fam­i­ly, Fib­ber McGee and Mol­ly, Our Miss Brooks, The Great Gilder­sleeve, The Jack Ben­ny Pro­gram, The Shad­ow, and more.

Whether com­e­dy, dra­ma, or anoth­er genre besides, old-time radio pro­grams tend­ed to seize upon the theme of every hol­i­day that came down the pike, and Hal­loween — with its cos­tume par­ties, ever-present threat of pranks, and door-to-door demands — offered their writ­ers and per­form­ers a once-in-a-year oppor­tu­ni­ty for unwont­ed degrees of mis­chief.

For nor­mal­ly light­heart­ed shows, it was also a chance to go at least a lit­tle bit dark; for a show like Sus­pense, whose long and often chill­ing run began with an Alfred Hitch­cock pro­duc­tion, most weeks were Hal­loween right up until the end of radio’s Gold­en Age. (This playlist fea­tures a broad­cast from August of 1961 that still enter­tains in Octo­ber of 2022.)

If you’d just like a sound­track straight from the clas­sic Amer­i­can air­waves for next Mon­day night (or a week­end par­ty before­hand), have a lis­ten to the new­ly uploaded vin­tage Hal­loween playlist just above. Its fif­teen tracks include sea­son­al­ly suit­able songs from Tom­my Dorsey, Glenn Miller, Bing Cros­by, Ella Fitzger­ald, Sam­my Davis Jr., and Sarah Vaugh­an (not to men­tion its open­er, a not-exactly-“Monster Mash” num­ber from Bob­by Pick­ett), with vin­tage adver­tise­ments and oth­er broad­cast ephemera in between. It was as true in radio’s hey­day of the late nine­teen-twen­ties through the ear­ly six­ties as it is now: Hal­loween is the time to let blur the bound­aries between light and dark, myth and real­i­ty, the ordi­nary and the grotesque — and to make more than a few corny gags while you’re at it.

Relat­ed con­tent:

Hear Vin­cent Price, Hor­ror Film Leg­end, Read 8+ Hours of Scary Sto­ries

Hap­py Hal­loween! Louis Arm­strong Per­forms Skele­ton in the Clos­et (1936)

Hear 14 Hours of Weird H.P. Love­craft Sto­ries on Hal­loween: “The Call of Cthul­hu,” “The Dun­wich Hor­ror” & More

Hear 90+ Episodes of Sus­pense, the Icon­ic Gold­en Age Radio Show Launched by Alfred Hitch­cock

What Scares Us, and How Does this Man­i­fest in Film? A Hal­loween Pret­ty Much Pop Cul­ture Pod­cast (#66)

Hear Orson Welles’ Icon­ic War of the Worlds Broad­cast (1938)

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His projects include the Sub­stack newslet­ter Books on Cities, the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

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