Seasonal Treats Day 3: Listen to Some of the Best Radio Horror of All Time


There’s not much that’s scarier than sitting around listening to ghost stories being told in an authentically spooky voice, and nobody does it better than those old-time radio drama shows.  In case you’re too young to know what we mean, they were like the forerunners of podcasts – they used actors, sound effects, and snippets of music to turn the disadvantage of the medium—no one could see what’s happening—into its greatest asset.

The Nitrate Diva collected 31 of the scariest old-time radio drama episodes, and we’ve culled 10 of our favorites. Gather up the kids, the neighbors, whoever you know that enjoys a good scare; and listen in. Then be sure to visit the Diva for the rest – they’re guaranteed to put you in the Halloween spirit!  Just sit back and turn the…


1. “The Devil Doctor” – The Witch’s Tale – January 8, 1934
In “The Devil Doctor,” a long-dead warlock in league with Satan rises from the dead and seeks a woman’s blood to reassimilate his decayed body.

2. “The House on Lost Man’s Bluff” – The Hermit’s Cave – c. 1930s
In one of the best and most disturbing haunted house stories from the golden age of radio, car trouble forces a woman, her cold and snappish husband, and her brother to spend the night in a deserted house with a macabre past. Prepare to get spooked by its long stretch of airtime filled by nothing but breathing and quiet footsteps.

3. “The Dream” – Lights Out! – March 23, 1938
Boris Karloff delivers perhaps his greatest radio performance as a man whose recurrent nightmare urges him to kill, kill, KILL!

4. “Valse Triste” – Lights Out! – December 29, 1942
Two women on vacation fall into the clutches of a soft-spoken, violin-playing psychopath who decides to take one of them as his bride—and kill the other. Arch Oboler breathed life into a very human, very plausible monster.

5. “The Dunwich Horror” – Suspense – November 1, 1945
Wilbur Whateley, the dangerously odd grandson of the village crackpot, wants to get his hands on the local university’s copy of the Necronomicon. But why does he want it? And what does it have to do with whatever he’s keeping in his barn—and feeding on blood? As the professor narrating the story, Ronald Colman captures much of the cerebral terror that H.P. Lovecraft evoked so well.

6. “Ghost Hunt” – Suspense – June 23, 1949
A zany radio host decides to spend the night in a famous haunted house and see what his microphone picks up. He doesn’t make it out alive, but we get to hear the recording. This episode’s clever premise foreshadows the popularity of the “found footage” horror sub-genre. It’s not just spooky—it’s meta spooky.

7. “The Horla” – Mystery in the Air – August 21, 1947
How do you make Guy de Maupassant’s uncanny story about a parasitic phantom (or paranoid schizophrenia, you decide) even creepier? Just add Theremin music and a full-throttle Peter Lorre performance! This may be the apex of Lorre’s radio hysterics, culminating in an ending so intense that it must’ve made listeners at home wonder if poor Peter had finally lost his shit.

8. Three Skeleton KeyEscape – August 9, 1953
Vincent Price brings the creeps as only he can in this claustrophobic classic. A horde of bloodthirsty rats lay siege to a tropical lighthouse, driving the three men who live and work there to the point of insanity.

9. “The Thing on the Fourble Board” – Quiet, Please – August 9, 1948
In one of the most celebrated tales on the list, an oil rig roughneck encounters a creature risen from the bowels of the earth.

10. “He Who Follows Me” – The Hall of Fantasy – March 11, 1950
Evil often wins in The Hall of Fantasy creator Richard Thorne’s stories and adaptations, reminding us of the inevitability of our own deaths. Transplanting M.R. James’s “Count Magnus” to 1940s America, this episode centers on the unfortunate fate of two travelers who unwittingly stumble into the mausoleum of a man known as “the death that walks.”

BONUS: “Possessed by the Devil” – CBS Radio Mystery Theater – October 10, 1974
To add a more modern element (from the groovy, free-wheeling 1970’s), you won’t believe what CBS got away with in this episode. It features, among other things, satanic rites at a college and a brutal sex crime. As if that weren’t enough, prepare yourself for an utterly believable demonic voice emanating from the man possessed.




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