THE WITCH’S TALE
Alonzo Deen Cole
Edited by David S. Siegel
BearManor Media / 262 pages / (November 11, 2011)
Has some of the best drama ever produced aired and vanished before you were born? That may well be, but it’s no excuse for not being aware of the great radio programs of the 30s, 40s, and 50s. If you aren’t lucky enough to live within range of a station that replays these captivating shows, go looking for them. Until then Dunwich Press has taken all of the effort out of it and rounded up some of the best episodes of The Witch’s Tale, one of radio’s longest running and most popular shows.
If you’ve never had the pleasure of hearing any of the old radio dramas, comedies, adventures, and others, you can’t appreciate the sheer pleasure of tuning in. It’s rather like being read to by your grandma, if your gran was Helen Hayes… and she had an orchestra and foley artist on call. It’s your favourite book with all the voices you only heard in your own head. (Don’t worry; everyone does that.) And none was more successful than the suspense dramas like X Minus One, Lights Out!, and, of course, The Witch’s Tale.
David Siegel has combed through seven years of scripts to cull the very best for this collection. The thirteen tales he selected run the gamut of gothic horror, filled with vampires, maniacs, the occult — pretty much everything you can cram into the genre. Remember that this is only a tiny fraction of the total shows and marvel at that kind of creativity. Oh yeah, I’d say he was prolific.
Reading these stories you might be tempted to scoff at the fear they instilled. After all, you’ve seen the original Omen and Let The Right One In. But imagine these plays enacted for you, listened to in the darkness, when your next door neighbour probably wasn’t a serial child molester. The glow of the radio dial, the crunch of footfalls, the sudden scream of terror, and the mental images your lurid imagination conjures up — that is an entirely different kind of scary, babe.
Cole knew quite a bit about how to keep an audience wrapped up in a story. Take the first selection, “The Image,” a lovely tale of demonic possession with genteel intellectuals, tough cops, and corpses piling up like cord wood. “La Mannequinne” brings to life an artist’s dummy with violent and chilling repercussions. “The Altar” has one of the more grisly endings in horror fiction, an especially surprising turn considering the sensibilities and censorship of that era.
These are the kinds of tales that would allow children to scare each other and themselves silly and the lady of the house to be suitably shocked. How many children must have heard the threat, That’s the last time for you, (Insert name here). That is not something a child should be listening to! For their sakes, I hope the proclamation was forgotten by the time the next show aired.
For your sake, I hope you feel the same irresistible draw to check out The Witch’s Tale.