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The Witch's Tale

was a seminal series which established the standard of a host-based anthology series, and was the first horror series produced for radio. Exact numbers are difficult to nail down, but there were likely in the neighborhood of 150 stories produced, some in two or three parts, most of them original to the series.

The series ran 1931-1938 in the U.S. and, with a different cast and production crew, 1938-1943 in Australia. 54 episodes are known to exist—two-thirds of which are from the Australian runs and one-third from the 1934 U.S. run [nightkey]. The dates below are taken from nightkey's research.

Created, written and directed by Alonzo Deen Cole, these stories were hosted by a Salem witch, Old Nancy, and her wise black cat, Satan. Old Nancy was so ancient she could never remember how old she was: 103 years old one week, 110 the next, and 105 the following. Nancy was played by Adelaide Fitz-Allen until she died in 1935 at the tender young age of 79. Cole tried several replacements without much success. Then one night after the midnight broadcast, Cole noticed a 13-year old girl who said she'd come to audition for the part of Old Nancy. Cole laughed and said, "Go ahead!" He was so impressed, however, he hired her on the spot! Her name was Miriam Wolfe. (Unfortunately, I don't think any Witch's Tale recordings of Miriam Wolfe exist.)

EDIT - A listener (Dr S) recently wrote to tell me he heard a version of "The Knife of Sacrifice" starring Miriam Wolfe on XM Radio's Classic Radio Channel. So, apparently, some recordings of Miriam Wolfe do exist! (Note: my copy of "The Knife of Sacrifice", 1935, seems to have the same actress playing Old Nancy as "The Physician of the Dead", 1934. If the dates are correct, then the 1934 episode should have been Adelaide Fitz-Allen. I suspect the dates are wrong and both are actually from one of the Australian runs cited by nightkey and not from the U.S. run at all. But then again... a really good witch should be able to disguise her voice, shouldn't she?)

Currently this archive contains 17 of 54 plotlines

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Altar of Hate, The

aka: "The Altar"
Year: 1939-1941 [AU]
Duration: 30 min
Genre: Murder
Available for Listening Booth: Y
Story by: Alonzo Deen Cole, 1933

A tale of murder and revenge set in France during the Reign of Terror, toward the end of the French Revolution. Jean-Baptiste Carrier (1756-1794), known as The Butcher, was responsible for the death of perhaps 9,000 citizens in the Nantes region through starvation, firing squad executions, deliberate drownings in the Loire River, and the guillotine. It was a grizzly time. In this fictionalized account, Carrier captures Monsieur le Comte and Comtesse des Lauriennes and Monsieur le Chevalier des Lauriennes. The comte and comtesse plead for the life of their 16-year old boy and, in a macabre turn of events, The Butcher agrees... so long as the boy agrees to operate the knife that drops his parents' heads into the basket!

A 1933 script for this episode can be found at The Generic Radio Workshop. It is obviously the same story as the recording I have, but much of the dialogue is slightly altered. I suspect my recording is from the later Australian production.

Old Nancy is 103 years old today. "Draw up to the fire and gaze into the embers. Gaze into 'em deep. And soon you'll see the town of Nantes, in France. The time is that of the Reign of Terror and [the ruling man] is a man named Carrier who history calls, 'The Butcher'. Outside a handsome house where soldiers of the revolution are battering down a door you'll see a mob of maddened men and women. And there our story, 'The Altar of Hate' begins." --- Old Nancy

Reviews:
Poor audio quality and unfamiliar French names made this episode hard to understand. Once I found a copy of the script, however, I had a much easier time... except that the script didn't agree exactly with the recording I have! Melodramatic acting peppered this unusual tale (par for The Witch's Tale), but at least the premise wasn't one I had heard before. Overall, not bad. Wish the sound quality were better. [5/10] --- zM

Bells, The

Year: 1943 [AU]
Duration: 30 min
Genre:
Available for Listening Booth: N
Story by: Alonzo Deen Cole

Reviews:

Boa Goddess, The

Year: 1939-1941 [AU]
Duration: 30 min
Genre: Supernatural
Available for Listening Booth: Y
Story by: Alonzo Deen Cole, 1931

Three men—Morgan, Dutch, and Frenchy—lost in the Yucatán jungle, are found by a long-lost Aztec tribe. The High Priest's daughter, in a show of affection, tells Morgan where sacred emeralds can be found... adorning a stone statue of the Boa Goddess in a hidden temple.

Old Nancy is 122 years old today. "Now, draw up to the fire and gaze into the embers. Gaze into 'em deep. And soon you'll see a land of jungle. [Oh, we're] going into Mexco, [to] a place called Yucatán. There the [grass] and vines is so thick and tall that whole cities are hid among them. Big, forgotten cities. The old Indians used to live there long before the white man came. Soon we're going to hear [three white men] talking in that jungle. And so begins our yarn about 'The Boa Goddess'." --- Old Nancy

Reviews:
A simple plot with almost no suspense. Nevertheless, I found myself enjoying it and I'm not sure why. The acting was not overly melodramatic; the pacing was not rushed; the dialogue was weak, but believable; the ending, although expected, was well written. Better than average for the series. [6/10] --- zM

Bronze Venus, The

aka: "La Vénus d'Ille"
Year: 1934 [US]
Duration: 30 min
Genre: Supernatural
Available for Listening Booth: Y
Story by: Prosper Mérimée, 1837

Five days before Georgette is scheduled to marry Henri, Georgette's father, an archaeologist, uncovers a bronze statue of Venus—the Roman goddess of Love and Beauty. Henri, also an archaeologist, rhapsodizes over such a perfect illusion of Life in metal... with such a cruel face and such heartless beauty! Henri's attention, torn as it is between Georgette and the bronze idol, does not bode well for a happy and contented marriage.

Also adapted for the CBS Radio Mystery Theater as "The Venus D'Ille".

Old Nancy is 102 years old today. "Now, draw up to the fire and gaze into the embers. Soon you'll see inside a happy home, across the sea, in France. It's down in the country whar them old heathen Romans used to live, 2,000 year ago. And whar they left some funny things, lying buried in the Earth—funny things, heh-heh—that men today sometimes discover. Gaze into the embers deep and hear our yarn of 'The Bronze Venus'." --- Old Nancy

Reviews:
Based on the classic tale by Prosper Mérimée (which I recommend reading). The plot is roughly the same with minor details changed, but the telling suffers from being condensed into a one-half hour episode. The original language of Prosper Mérimée is detailed, rich, and marvellously expressive. Much of this is lost. Still, this was a good episode with adequate acting and a few surprises. [6/10] --- zM

From the original (translated from the French)...

"As the face, I shall never succeed in describing its strange character; it was of a type belonging to no other Greek statue which I can remember. It had not the calm, severe beauty of the Greek sculptors, who systematically gave a majestic immobility to all the features. On the contrary, I noticed here, with a surprise, a marked intention on the artist's part to reproduce malice verging on viciousness. All the features were slightly contracted. The eyes were rather oblique, the mouth raised at the corners, the nostrils a trifle dilated. Disdain, irony, and cruelty were to be read in the nevertheless beautiful face.

" 'If the model ever existed,' I said to M. de Peyrehorade, 'and I doubt if heaven ever produced such a woman, how I pity her lovers! She must have taken pleasure in making them die of despair. There is something ferocious in her expression, and yet I have never seen anything more beautiful'." - La Vénus d'Ille, Prosper Mérimée

Bulldog, The

Year: 1939-1941 [AU]
Duration: 30 min
Genre:
Available for Listening Booth: N
Story by: Alonzo Deen Cole, 1933

Reviews:

Cage, The

Year: 1943 [AU]
Duration: 30 min
Genre:
Available for Listening Booth: N
Story by: Alonzo Deen Cole, 1936

Reviews:

Confession, The

Year: 1934 [US]
Duration: 30 min
Genre: Murder
Available for Listening Booth: Y
Story by: Alonzo Deen Cole, 1931

A priest, summoned to attend a dying Chinese woman, is startled to find her in perfect health. The woman's husband calmly explains that she is not ill... and that the reason she requires a priest is that he is about to slowly murder her.

Old Nancy is 113 years old today. "Now, draw up to the fire and gaze into the embers. Gaze into 'em deep. And soon you'll be in Californy, the land of the setting sun, and thar you'll meet some people from the land where the sun gets up. [?] to the [time of ? of San Francisco]. And thar to the house of [do-good 'cross the street] begins our yarn of 'The Confession'." --- Old Nancy

Reviews:
Very poor audio quality. Largely unintelligible. The Chinese accents were horrible. The Chinese stereotyping was worse. If I understood the gist correctly, this is a very grisly tale and not for the squeamish. A good quality recording might bump my rating up one or two points. But then again, maybe not. SPOILER A Chinese man catches his wife having an affair with another man. He tortures the man to death while forcing his wife to watch. Then he tortures his wife to death also. The husband kills the lover by selecting names of body parts at random (from a hat?) and inserting knives into those body parts until the lover finally dies. He then kills his wife by binding her to a chair and squeezing her throat with a silken cord until she cannot breath, pausing until she is near death, releasing her so she can catch her breath, and then starting all over again. Eventually she dies. As I said, grisly. END SPOILER There is an interesting twist at the end of the story, if you are able to listen that long... [5/10] --- zM

Dangerous Curve

Year: 1943 [AU]
Duration: 30 min
Genre:
Available for Listening Booth: N
Story by: Alonzo Deen Cole, 1933

Reviews:

Deserter, The

Year: 1943 [AU]
Duration: 30 min
Genre:
Available for Listening Booth: N
Story by: Alonzo Deen Cole, 1933

Reviews:

Devil Doctor, The

Year: 1939-1941 [AU]
Duration: 30 min
Genre: Supernatural
Available for Listening Booth: Y
Story by: Alonzo Deen Cole, 1934

After purchasing an historic manor house in England, an American discovers that one of the promised 106 de Caseract family portraits is missing. He summons a local expert, the Reverend Mr Roberts, for an explanation and discovers the portrait isn't missing... it is hidden. For a very good reason.

See also: "The Devil's Number"

Old Nancy is 116 years old today. "Make it nice and dark, and draw up to the fire and gaze into the embers. Gaze into 'em deep. And soon you'll see inside a big old handsome house in little old Merry England. There begins our story which we calls 'The Devil Doctor'." --- Old Nancy

Reviews:
A well-executed, action-packed episode. The screaming and maniacal laughter at the end dragged on a bit, but the story was well-written and the acting was solid. This episode had a rather involved back-story which was told in a flash during the first 5 minutes. It involves an alchemist, a black mass, a burial chamber, human sacrifices, witchcraft, Lucifer, and a plan to come back from the dead! This episode could easily have been expanded into a one-hour show. Good descriptive language; interesting characters; energetic screaming. [7/10] --- zM

Devil Hands

Year: 1938-1941 [AU]
Duration: 30 min
Genre:
Available for Listening Booth: N
Story by: Alonzo Deen Cole, 1934

Reviews:

Devil Mask, The

Year: 1939-1941 [AU]
Duration: 30 min
Genre: Supernatural
Available for Listening Booth: Y
Story by: Alonzo Deen Cole, 1935

Phyllis is in a quandary. She feels responsible for her child-like, alcoholic husband, Alec—and will never leave him—but she is still in love Lt Harlan Laurence, whom she knew before she met Alec. The three are preparing to leave Africa, when Alec, in a drunken binge, disrupts a religious ceremony. Not the brightest thing to do.

"Here that [Satan, ?] savage drums? With them begins our story of 'The Devil Mask'." --- Old Nancy

Reviews:
This is a good yarn and is well-acted given the style of the day. It is not over-acted for the period or the style of the story and it moves along nicely. The story begins in Africa and ends in England. There really are a pair of plots here. First there is the supernatural story of the mask. That is in counterpoint to the relationship between Phyllis and her drunken husband's colleague Harlan. Phyllis is loyal to her husband and the tension in that subplot weaves in and out of the supernatural storyline. Stimulated by the booze, Phyllis' husband starts to hallucinate and his hallucinations blend with the supernatural until it becomes hard to tell which is which. All-in-all this is a good early example of the horror genre, well-acted and well-written. As an aside, there is some question about the origin of this episode. Some place it in 1935 and some place it as one done by an Australian cast between 1939 and 1941. Either way, this one is well worth listening to with a devil of a twist at the end. --- Dr. S

Devil's Number, The

Year: 1939-1941 [AU]
Duration: 30 min
Genre: Supernatural
Available for Listening Booth: Y
Story by: Alonzo Deen Cole, 1935

According to this episode, Friday is a day of evil because it was the day of the Crucifixion—the day when evil triumphed over good, when the devil triumphed over God. And thirteen is the devil's number because a devil was always the chief of each coven of twelve witch's and wizards. This story takes place on Friday, 13th—the devil's day. The head of a manor house in England, Mr. Rockwell, tells his dinner guests the legend of a distant family member... a man who was burned at the stake by King James I for witchcraft... a man whose charred bones line the inside of an iron chest which is still stored in the North tower against the day he will return!

See also: "The Devil Doctor"

Old Nancy is 103 years old today. "Now, draw up to the fire and gaze into the embers. Gaze into 'em deep. And soon you'll see the Dining Room of a fine old house in England. And there, on the evening of the 13th of May begins our yarn about 'The Devil's Number'." --- Old Nancy

Reviews:
In some ways similar to "The Priest of Sekhmet" and "The Knife of Sacrifice" but better told than either of those tales. In some ways similar to "The Devil Doctor" but with a weaker plot. Nevertheless, the acting was solid, and the plot was engaging and well-told. [6/10] --- zM

Entomologist, The

Year: 1934 [US]
Duration: 30 min
Genre: Creatures
Available for Listening Booth: Y
Story by: Alonzo Deen Cole, 1934

Aboard a ship bound for Cape Town, South Africa, budding bug enthusiast Roy Bolton proposes to his sweetheart Edith, who eagerly accepts. World-renowned entomologist, Dr. Sternoff, does not approve however, and openly declares his own intention to pursue Edith.

[Note: "In the past the term 'insect' was more vague, and historically the definition of entomology included the study of terrestrial animals in other arthropod groups or other phyla, such as arachnids, myriapods, earthworms, land snails, and slugs. This wider meaning may still be encountered in informal use." --- Wikipedia]

Old Nancy is 123 years old today. "Draw up to the fire and gaze into the embers. Gaze into 'em deep. And soon you'll be upon a ship that's bound for Africa. Africa! [?] aboard that ship begins our yarn about a man who studies insects, our yarn of 'The Entomologist'." --- Old Nancy

Reviews:
Shallow and predictable. Not bad, but not remarkable, either. [5/10] --- zM

Fallon's Folly

Year: 1943 [AU]
Duration: 30 min
Genre:
Available for Listening Booth: N
Story by: Alonzo Deen Cole, 1937

Reviews:

Firing Squad, The

Year: 1939-1941 [AU]
Duration: 30 min
Genre: Supernatural
Available for Listening Booth: Y
Story by: Alonzo Deen Cole, 1931

A captain, worried about his young cousin's mental health, gives him a three-day pass to Paris, but extracts from him a promise not to visit his lover, Vera Courday. Courday has been implicated during the court martial trials of five young officers for treason, and the captain worries that she may have some means of enslaving the minds of men.

Old Nancy is 107 years old today. "Now, draw up to the fire and gaze into the embers. Gaze into 'em deep. And soon you'll see a ruined village behind the Western front in war-torn France in 1918. Heh-heh-heh-heh. And so begins our tale about 'The Firing Squad'." --- Old Nancy

Reviews:
Below par for the course. Not bad, but nothing new here. [4/10] --- zM

Flying Dutchman, The

Year: 1934 [US]
Duration: 30 min
Genre: Supernatural
Available for Listening Booth: Y
Story by: Legend

In the 1600s, a dutch sailing vessel attempts to round the Cape of Good Hope against fierce headwinds. The crew plead with the captain to turn back, claiming the will of God is against them, but Captain John van der Decken is adamant—the will of God must change!

I am a messenger. God has deigned to answer thee, John Van der Decken... fall upon thy knees and harken to thy doom. Thou shalt not die. To live shall be thy curse. In the teeth of a gale shalt thou fly forever always seeking harbour, never reaching home. A phantom ship of death shall be thy home. Thy crew shall be the blackened souls of sinners of the sea. Thou, their master and their slave, shall be alone of flesh and blood. Behold thy living tomb, as it rises from the depths...

Old Nancy is 111 years old today. "Draw up to the fire and gaze into the embers. Gaze into 'em deep. And soon you'll see the hands of time turn back 400 year. Soon you'll be up on the ocean, off the Cape of Good Hope, that's down in Africa. Thar upon the stormy waters, rolls a ship whose captain's name is Van der Decken. That's his name now, heh-heh, but soon he'll be called, by sailor-men, 'The Flying Dutchman'." --- Old Nancy

Reviews:
The first few minutes—during the heart of the gale—are very difficult to understand (fierce wind, shouting crewmen, poor audio quality), but the style settles down after that. The plot is a bit simplistic, especially toward the end, but I liked the explanation of why Van der Decken is forever doomed to captain the Flying Dutchman. [6/10] --- zM

Four Fingers and a Thumb

Year: 1939-1941 [AU]
Duration: 30 min
Genre: Supernatural
Available for Listening Booth: Y
Story by: Alonzo Deen Cole, 1937

Burke Daily, a man without prejudice, is a gambler who is in love with Cash's wife. Cash knows this and, between beating his wife, works out a plan to get rid of Burke once and for all. Burke is invited to a friendly card game at Cash's place. When he arrives, he finds a Chinaman waiting to play cards with them. Burke extends a hand in friendship to the Chinaman... knowing full well that other members of the community will run him out of town when they discover he is friendly with Chinese and treats them with respect.

"Four fingers and a thumb extended in friendship...
...greater than 10,000 hands coming with swords."
                                          --- Chinese proverb

Old Nancy is 117 years old today. "Now, draw up to the fire and gaze into the embers. Gaze into 'em deep. And soon you'll see a dusty road, way out in Californy, in the year of 1852. Now down that road you'll hear a horseman riding. As he rides into our story, we'll begin. And it's what we calls 'Four Fingers and a Thumb'." --- Old Nancy

Reviews:
Odd that I should have enjoyed this one. Strong racial stereotypes should have made this a bomb of an episode, but Cole used them to his advantage and created an episode critical of such stereotypes. A decent story with solid acting and very good audio quality. One of the better episodes in the series. [7/10] --- zM

Frankenstein

Year: 1934 [US]
Duration: 30 min
Genre: Sci-Fi / Creatures
Available for Listening Booth: Y
Story by: Mary Shelley, 1818

A young scientist named Victor Frankenstein conducts experiments into human anatomy, physiology, and electro-chemistry. He is intent on improving the human race—a race he claims is weak due to its reliance on delicate foods, need for long hours of rest, susceptibility to sickness, and fear of heat and cold. Body parts are delivered to Frankenstein's lab from slaughterhouses and morgues and eventually Frankenstein creates life—life which when compared to men, makes them seem as 'flies living out a summer day'. Frankenstein, however, is repulsed by his creation and attempts to destroy it, but the monster escapes. Frankenstein pursues...

A 1931 script for this episode can be found at The Generic Radio Workshop.

Old Nancy is 111 years old today. "Now, draw up to the fire and gaze into the embers. Gaze into 'em deep. And soon you'll be with us in Switzerland. Soon you'll hear our yarn of 'Frankenstein'." --- Old Nancy

Reviews:
A rather faithful retelling of the Frankenstein tale (in a general sense)—with changes necessitated by compression into a one-half hour show. One of the best of the series. The acting is reasonable (not over-the-top melodrama) and even though minor details have been changed, this retelling retains some of the original charm. [7/10] --- zM

Gipsy's Hand, The

aka: "The Gypsy's Hand"
Year: 1934 [US]; 1941 [US]
Duration: 30 min
Genre: Supernatural
Available for Listening Booth: Y
Story by: Alonzo Deen Cole, 1932

A doctor surgically removes the infected left hand of Michael Gagino, one of the world's greatest pianists. Gagino strenuously objects and, as he is being anaesthetized, vows revenge on the doctor and casts a gipsy's curse.

My copy of this is actually from a 1941 episode of The Star Spangled Theater, with Isabel Jewel, Bert Lytell, and Alonzo Deen Cole. Features "Funeral March of a Marionette" by Charles Gounod (Alfred Hitchcock theme music).

See also: "The Beast with Five Fingers" (Fear on 4)

Old Nancy is 122 years old today. "Draw up to the fire and gaze into the embers. Gaze into 'em deep. And soon you'll see the operatin' room in a big New York hospital. A cheerful room it is—heh-heh—where they cut folks up. And thar begins our yarn about "The Gipsy's Hand'." --- Old Nancy

Reviews:
A very strong performance by Isabel Jewell with plenty of ear-splitting, hysterical screaming. This episode suffers from poor audio quality, but the energy, cacophony, and horror of her performance shine through. I loved the interplay between the two main characters as they slide into insanity... punctuated by a simple melody played over and over and over... a melody played on a piano by a single, severed hand. I'd love to listen to a good quality version of this episode! [8/10] --- zM

Graveyard Mansion

Year: 1934 [US]
Duration: 30 min
Genre: Vampires
Available for Listening Booth: Y
Story by: Alonzo Deen Cole, 1933

Two brothers arrive in Louisiana after inheriting a mansion that's been vacant for over 100 years. The locals refer to the place as "the house of the living dead" and refuse to give the brothers a lift so late at night. As the brothers approach the house on foot, they notice something moving in the darkness beyond the family burial ground... something white. A mist that rises from the bayous? Or something more ghastly?

A 1933 script for this episode can be found at The Generic Radio Workshop.

Old Nancy is 103 years old today. "Now, draw up to the fire and gaze into the embers. Gaze into 'em deep. And soon you'll be down South with us in old Louisiany. Heh-heh. It's strange country down thar. Ghost country. And outside a little railway depot thar, begins our yarn 'bout 'Graveyard Mansion'." --- Old Nancy

Reviews:
I don't usually recognize music, but this time I recognized snippets from three popular pieces! "Funeral March of a Marionette" by Charles Gounod (10:06) [popularized as the theme music for Alfred Hitchcock Presents]; "The Sorcerer's Apprentice" by Paul Dukas (13:39; 25:33); and "Symphony No. 6 in B minor, Op. 74" by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, aka "Pathetique" (4:45; 19:02; 21:00; 21:58; 23:30; 29:00). I recommend all of these pieces, especially—if you're ever feeling blue and need some cathartic-release music to completely shatter any self control you have left—the adagio movement of the Pathetique. Warning: must be played LOUDLY. And watch out for the eardrum-exploding change-of-pace at 9:08!

Oops got a little side-tracked. If you've ever heard this type of story before, then you'll know exactly how it's going to end five minutes into part one. And if you haven't... where have you been? Even so, I enjoyed this episode. The acting was solid, the writing decent. I dropped my rating a point because I have heard this story so many times before. [6/10] --- zM

Guardian of the Tomb, The

Year: 1943 [AU]
Duration: 30 min
Genre:
Available for Listening Booth: N
Story by: Alonzo Deen Cole, 1935

Reviews:

Hairy Monster, The

Year: 1934 [US]
Duration: 30 min
Genre: Supernatural
Available for Listening Booth: Y
Story by: Alonzo Deen Cole, 1932

After five years of legal battles, Barbara Turner inherits a mansion from from the deceased Mrs Hawker—a woman known for her love of magic, alchemy, and Tibetan arcana. But fulfilling the conditions of title transfer might be difficult—Barbara is required to sleep in the Master bedroom every night for a year... she cannot spend a single night away... and she must remain alone for at least three hours every night between midnight and sunrise.

Old Nancy is 110 years old today. Or maybe 118. "Now, draw up to the fire and gaze into the embers. Gaze into 'em deep. And soon you'll see four people at the door of a fine, big house; soon you'll learn about the hairy monster. That's our tale for tonight, 'The Hairy Monster'." --- Old Nancy

Reviews:
Mediocre episode, but the cop and some of the dialogue are unintentionally funny. [5/10] --- zM

Hand of Glory, The

Year: 1943 [AU]
Duration: 30 min
Genre:
Available for Listening Booth: N
Story by: Alonzo Deen Cole, 1932

Reviews:

Hangman's Roost, The

Year: 1943 [AU]
Duration: 30 min
Genre:
Available for Listening Booth: N
Story by: Alonzo Deen Cole, 1932

Reviews:

Happy Ending, A

Year: 1934 [US]
Duration: 30 min
Genre: Murder
Available for Listening Booth: Y
Story by: Alonzo Deen Cole, 1933

Clint returns home after being away 5 years at college in response to a telegram from his ma: 'They killed your pappy. Bring your gun.' He's a 'Greenway', they are 'Morrows'; the two families don't exactly get along. En route from the train station, young Clint is offered a lift from young Bessie. He falls in love... only to discover she is a Morrows.

Old Nancy is 113 years old today. "Now, draw up to the fire and gaze into the embers. Gaze into 'em deep. And soon you'll be with us in Old Kentucky. Thar amongst the mountains, folks knows how to Hate. And thar hain't no law except The Gun. A yarn about a feud [?] be telling ya tonight. A feud between the [Greenways] and the [Morrows], who've been killin' one another for a hunnerd year. We calls this story be the title of 'A Happy Ending'." --- Old Nancy

Reviews:
Was this as much a cliché in 1933 as it is today? Sappy dialogue, beat-you-over-the-head foreshadowing, racial stereotypes. This simply doesn't work as Horror. However, if you think of this period piece as a lighthearted parody (despite the dark subject), it's not too bad. My copy had very poor audio quality, which, coupled with the hokey backwoods slang, made for very difficult listening. [4/10] --- zM

Haunted Crossroads, The

Year: 1939-1941 [AU]
Duration: 30 min
Genre: Ghosts
Available for Listening Booth: Y
Story by: Alonzo Deen Cole, 1932

Over the past 70 years, five people (all police officers) have been found dead at a deserted crossroads in Massachusetts... the most recent just last week. All had been stabbed in the back by unknown assailants and no clues have ever been found. Rumour has it that the crossroads are haunted, but Sergeant McGee and patrolmen Fallon and Hardy don't believe in ghosts. At least, not yet.

A 1932 script for this episode can be found at The Generic Radio Workshop.

Old Nancy is 122 years old today. "Now, draw up to the fire and gaze into the embers. Gaze into 'em deep. And soon, by the light of the moon and stars you'll see a barren stretch a land where two roads meet in old Massachusetts State. Three policemen stand a-talkin' there, beside them motee-cycle bikes, and soon you'll hear the story of 'The Haunted Crossroads'." --- Old Nancy

Reviews:
A quick moving tale with some improbable events, followed by some plot twists, and finished off nicely with an abrupt, tidy explanation. The script is actually quite good for 1932, but the acting is rushed. Pacing is important in horror stories, and this tale moves along too fast to have much impact. The fiancée's line "Her face was like the dead, there was an awful purplish tinge as if she'd been strangled, and around her throat there was a heavy rope that dangled to the ground. Oh, God, I'll see it till the day I die!" is delivered in a rush in fewer than 10 seconds, without taking a breath. Erik Bauersfeld (The Black Mass) would have taken 30-40 seconds to deliver this same line, allowing us to wallow in the horrific imagery. The audio quality of this episode is better than most in the series, which makes this one of the best places to start with if you are new to the series. [6/10] --- zM

Honeymoon Cottage

aka: "Honeymoon House"
Year: 1934 [US]
Duration: 30 min
Genre:
Available for Listening Booth: N
Story by: Alonzo Deen Cole, 1931

Reviews:

House of the Bridegroom, The

Year: 1934 [US]
Duration: 30 min
Genre:
Available for Listening Booth: Y
Story by: Alonzo Deen Cole, 1933

Old Nancy is 122 years old. "Now, draw up to the fire and gaze into the embers. While we takes ya across the sea, to Merry England, land of ghosts and haunted castles. Gaze into the embers deep while we spins ya a yarn about 'The House of the Bridegroom'." --- Old Nancy

Reviews:

In the Devil's Name

Year: 1937 [US]
Duration: 30 min
Genre:
Available for Listening Booth: Y
Story by: Alonzo Deen Cole, 1932

Old Nancy is 115 years old today. "Now, draw up to the fire and gaze into the embers. Gaze into 'em deep. And soon you'll see back through time to the year of 1662. Soon you'll see inside the kitchen of a farmhouse. Soon you'll hear a angry man a talkin'. Soon you'll know what happens when you call "In the Devil's Name'." --- Old Nancy

Reviews:

King Shark God, The

Year: 1943 [AU]
Duration: 30 min
Genre: Supernatural
Available for Listening Booth: Y
Story by: Alonzo Deen Cole, 1935

A missionary in Kahala is warned to stay away from a half-caste girl named Irene McLennan. Ever since Irene's mother, Kalima, was tossed aside by her husband, strange things have happened to any white man who pursued Irene. It is said that Kalima still believes in the old gods and isn't shy about issuing a curse or two.

A 1935 script for this episode can be found at The Generic Radio Workshop.

Old Nancy is 108 years old today. "Draw up to the fire and gaze into the embers. Gaze into 'em deep. And soon you'll see a boat that's coasting up the shores of the island Hawaii, oh, Hawaii. Where the flowers are finest perfume and weeds are rankest poison. Where there's happiness and life from sunshine and where there's darkness, fear and death. Hawaii, that's the setting for our perky tale we call 'The King Shark God'." --- Old Nancy

Reviews:
More stereotypes about ignorant savages who cannot express complex thoughts or emotions. I suppose this was par for the 1930s, but I find it depressing. Hawaiian culture is marvellously rich, and the language contains over 26,000 words. I doubt I ever use more than 5,000 English words, so who's the savage? Aside from my dissatisfaction with the back-story, I found the acting moderate and the plot mediocre; the pacing seemed right and the ending surprised me. Audio quality, listenable. [5/10] --- zM

Knife of Sacrifice, The

Year: 1939-1941 [AU]
Duration: 30 min
Genre: Supernatural
Available for Listening Booth: Y
Story by: Alonzo Deen Cole, 1935

Two archeologists, a spouse, and an engineer discover an obsidian sacrificial knife while searching for buried Aztec treasure. One of the archeologists believes the knife may have been used to sacrifice a victim to the gods of Hate and War to gain their favor so they would watch over the treasure.

See also: "The Priest of Sekhmet"

Old Nancy is 107 years old today. "Now, draw up to the fire and gaze into the embers. Gaze into 'em deep. And soon you'll see inside a house way down in Mexico. Mexico, where once a bunch of Indians lived. They're all dead now, them old Aztecs, but they is [?]. Sometimes the Dead are very much Alive. And now begins our story about 'The Knife of Sacrifice'." --- Old Nancy

Reviews:
Four people sitting around a card table playing... Bridge? This must have been written in the 1930s! A fast moving, jerky tale, which uses symbolism and stereotypes to move the plot along rather than fine writing. Melodramatic acting. [5/10] --- zM

The opening scene is a bridge game in a shack on an archeological expedition in Mexico. There is an obvious conflict early on between the objective of archeology and history, and the goal of attaining a huge fortune in gold from a hidden Aztec hord. The archeologists have found an ancient Aztec priest's obsidian knife, presumably a knife of sacrifice. We get a dramatic description of the way the knife was used and Pete, the engineer of Mexican ancestry (the Emperor Montezuma) begins to become agitated. A séance with a ouja board then kicks the plot into high gear. Ultimately the plot is resoved in a particularly unpleasant way. The tone is a bit dramatic and the acting is a bit overdone, especially Eunice, the female lead, and Pete the treasure-obsessed engineer. Plot is pretty straightforward with a few minor detours although there is a rather nice twist at the end. The date of this episode (1935) is in question—see my review of the episode "Devil Mask" for more. This one is fun to listen to, especially if you like to mock over-acted horror stories. If you are serious about your early horror OTR, though, "Knife of Sacrifice" might not cut it for you. --- Dr. S

Magic Skin, The

aka: "La Peau de Chagrin"
Year: 1935 [US]
Duration: 30 min
Genre: Supernatural
Available for Listening Booth: N
Story by: Honore de Balzac, 1831

Reviews:

Mannequin, The

Year: 1943 [AU]
Duration: 30 min
Genre:
Available for Listening Booth: Y
Story by: Alonzo Deen Cole, 1933

Old Nancy is 113 years old today. "Now, draw up to the fire and gaze into the embers. Gaze into 'em deep. And soon you'll see inside a little shop across the seas in Paris, France. A little 'curiosity shop' it is, full of odd and old and funny things for sale. And there begins our story of 'The Mannequin'." --- Old Nancy

Reviews:

Physician of the Dead, The

Year: 1939-1941 [AU]
Duration: 30 min
Genre:
Available for Listening Booth: Y
Story by: Alonzo Deen Cole, 1934

Old Nancy is 106 years old today. "Now, draw up to the fire and gaze into the embers deep. And soon you'll see this old world roll back to the year of 1793. Soon you'll be in Paris, France. And the time of Danton, and of Robespierre. A time folks called the Reign of Terror. And there in the shadow of the guillotine begins our tale of 'The Physician of the Dead'." --- Old Nancy

Reviews:
Poor audio quality made this episode hard to follow on the version I had. Interesting nonetheless with its brutal depictions of the French Revolution. One might say there were more connotations ascribed to ‘doctor’ than previously thought! [7/10] --- Noelle

Power of Lucifer, The

Year: 1943 [AU]
Duration: 30 min
Genre:
Available for Listening Booth: Y
Story by: Alonzo Deen Cole, 1934

Old Nancy is 106 years old today. "Now, draw up to the fire and gaze into the embers. Gaze into 'em deep. And soon you'll see a crowded ballroom in a fine big house in New York City. And there, 'midst happiness and laughter, begins our tale about 'The Power of Lucifer'." --- Old Nancy

Reviews:

Priest of Sekhmet, The

Year: 1943 [AU]
Duration: 30 min
Genre: Supernatural
Available for Listening Booth: Y
Story by: Alonzo Deen Cole, 1933

Archeologists digging up a 2,000 year old temple in the Egyptian desert discover a huge statue of the lion-headed goddess, Sekhmet, The Destroyer, to whom young virgins were allegedly sacrificed, and, in the same chamber, the bones of young woman and the perfectly preserved body of an ancient priest.

See also: "The Knife of Sacrifice"

Old Nancy is 104 years old today. "Now, draw up to the fire and gaze into the embers. Gaze into 'em deep. And soon you'll see a famous land, that's fer across the sea: a land of sphinxes, and the pyramids... the land of Egypt. And there, far out upon the desert some modern Englishmen are digging up the buried temple of an old-time god who's been forgot 2,000 years. And so begins our story about 'The Priest of Sekhmet'." --- Old Nancy

Reviews:
A tale told in two 15-minute segments: the first segment is actually a flashback, 3 years earlier. But you don't learn about this until later. That's a little confusing. The first segment has similarities with 'Whence Came You' [Quiet, Please], and the second part has similarities with 'The Knife of Sacrifice' [The Witch's Tale]. The story is not bad, but it plays like other stories I've heard before. To top it off, the audio quality is fairly poor. [5/10] --- zM

Puzzle, The

Year: 1939-1941 [AU]
Duration: 30 min
Genre:
Available for Listening Booth: Y
Story by: Alonzo Deen Cole, 1934

Old Nancy is 117 years old today. "And draw up to the fire so that ya can gaze into the embers. You'll need a fire to warm your blood after ya listen to this perky tale. You'll gaze into the embers deep and soon you'll see a big railway depot in the town a London, England—heh-heh-heh-heh—[you hear] them funny little engines the English peoples got? Heh-heh-heh-heh. Soon you'll see a funny little coach, like the ones they pull behind 'em. And soon you'll hear the yarn about 'The Puzzle'." --- Old Nancy

Reviews:

Rappaccini's Daughter

Year: 1943 [AU]
Duration: 30 min
Genre:
Available for Listening Booth: N
Story by: Nathaniel Hawthorne

Reviews:

Rat in a Trap

Year: 1939-1941 [AU]
Duration: 30 min
Genre:
Available for Listening Booth: Y
Story by: Alonzo Deen Cole, 1932

Old Nancy is 102 years old today. "Now, draw up to the fire and gaze into the embers. Gaze into 'em deep. And soon you'll be a-way out West in the [?]. And there, in a fine big house where there's a party going on, begins our yarn called 'Rat in a Trap'." --- Old Nancy

Reviews:

Reunion

Year: 1943 [AU]
Duration: 30 min
Genre:
Available for Listening Booth: N
Story by: Alonzo Deen Cole, 1933

Reviews:

Rock-a-Bye Baby

Year: 1934 [US]
Duration: 30 min
Genre:
Available for Listening Booth: Y
Story by: Alonzo Deen Cole, 1932

Old Nancy is 105 years old today. "Now, draw up to the fire and gaze into the embers. Gaze into 'em deep. And soon you'll be across the sea, in England. Thar begins our yarn of 'Rock-a-Bye Baby'." --- Old Nancy

Reviews:

Share and Share Alike

Year: 1934 [US]
Duration: 30 min
Genre:
Available for Listening Booth: Y
Story by: Alonzo Deen Cole, 1932

Old Nancy is years 111 old today. "Now, draw up to the fire and gaze into the embers. Gaze into 'em deep. And soon you'll see the hands of time turn back 200 year, back to the days of pirates, stolen gold, and sudden death. Soon, you'll see a crossroads by a little bay. A crossroads where a gallows stands from which two corpses hangs in creaking chains. Below it, men are coverin' up a hole which looks like a new-made grave. Through the darkness of the night, offshore shines the light of a pirate ship. Where men are singing. [Here and thar] So begins our story of 'Share and Share Alike'." --- Old Nancy

Reviews:

Spirits of the Lake, The

Year: 1934 [US]
Duration: 30 min
Genre: Murder
Available for Listening Booth: Y
Story by: Alonzo Deen Cole, 1931

A husband, bored and frustrated with his invalid wife, sneaks off to visit his potential mistress. She, however, refuses his advances and demands he marry her first... even if he has to hasten along his current wife's demise. Meanwhile, local Indians convince the current wife that the spirits of the lake, the [Neepa Norbegs] take terrible vengeance on those who affront the lake or harms its friends.

A 1933 script for this episode can be found at The Generic Radio Workshop.

Old Nancy is 117 years old today. "Draw up to the fire and gaze into the embers. Gaze into 'em deep. And soon you'll see a island in the center of a lake, in Michigan. Not so long ago, the red injuns owned that land out thar and worshipped the spirits of its waters and its skies. And [they're] what we're going to hear about hear tonight, 'The Spirits of the Lake'." --- Old Nancy

Reviews:
Another not-so-bad story. The Indians were stereotypically portrayed as simple-minded savages who have difficulty expressing complex thoughts, but I guess that's to be expected from 1931. The rest of the story is a typical love triangle... with the addition of an avenging spirit. The acting and pacing were fine, but the story was uninspired. [5/10] --- zM

Statue of Thor, The

Year: 1939-1941 [AU]
Duration: 30 min
Genre:
Available for Listening Booth: Y
Story by: Alonzo Deen Cole, 1933

Old Nancy is 102 years old today. "Now, draw up to the fire and gaze into the embers. Gaze into 'em deep. And soon you'll see a tremendous [bom]-like room in New York City. It's called a 'studio'. At one end stands a great big ugly man who's posing. In the center, a little handsome man is modeling an enormous [hump] of clay into the statue of a god: the old Norwegian god of strength and thunder. And that's what we're telling yer about tonight. 'The Statue of Thor'." --- Old Nancy

Reviews:

Suicide, The

Year: 1939-1941 [AU]
Duration: 30 min
Genre:
Available for Listening Booth: Y
Story by: Alonzo Deen Cole, 1935

Old Nancy is 103 years old today. "Now, draw up to the fire and gaze into the embers. Gaze into 'em deep. And soon you'll see into the parlour of a fine big house in a great city. Soon you'll see a woman sitting there afore a table on which there lies an open letter... and a knife. She's a crying. Crying as if her heart is break. And blending with her sobs, you'll hear the ticking of a clock—a clock whose hands are moving toward the hour of four in the morning. And so begins our story of 'The Suicide'." --- Old Nancy

Reviews:

Tourists Accommodated

Year: 1943 [AU]
Duration: 30 min
Genre:
Available for Listening Booth: Y
Story by: Alonzo Deen Cole, 1938

Old Nancy is 101 years old today. "Now, draw up to the fire and gaze into the embers. Gaze into 'em deep. And soon you'll see a fine smooth highway running through the prairie state of Kansas. Driving along it through a night of pelting rain, you see a little autee-mobile, that's as old and battered looking as the man and woman in it are young and fresh looking..." --- Old Nancy

Reviews:

Treasure, The

Year: 1943 [AU]
Duration: 30 min
Genre:
Available for Listening Booth: N
Story by: Alonzo Deen Cole, 1934

Reviews:

Troth of Death, The

Year: 1939-1941 [AU]
Duration: 30 min
Genre:
Available for Listening Booth: Y
Story by: Alonzo Deen Cole, 1933

Old Nancy is 117 years old today. "Now, draw up to the fire and gaze into the embers. Gaze into 'em deep. And soon you'll see a moonlit patch of woods in county Clare, soon you'll hear a boy and a girl a-talkin'. Heh-heh-heh-heh. And there begins our story of 'The Troth of Death'." --- Old Nancy

Reviews:
One of the best episodes old Nancy ever told. [8/10] --- Noelle

Violin, The

Year: 1939-1941 [AU]
Duration: 30 min
Genre:
Available for Listening Booth: Y
Story by: Alonzo Deen Cole, 1934

Old Nancy is 108 years old today. "Now, draw up to the fire and gaze into the embers. Gaze into 'em deep. And soon you'll see a noble castle in old England as it was 200 years ago. Soon, in a room in that castle, you'll see a perky woman with hard and selfish eyes, and [?] here's the story of 'The Violin'." --- Old Nancy

Reviews:

Wedding Gift, The

Year: 1939-1941 [AU]
Duration: 30 min
Genre:
Available for Listening Booth: Y
Story by: Alonzo Deen Cole, 1938

Old Nancy is 109 years old today. "Now, draw up to the fire and gaze into the embers. Gaze into 'em deep. And soon you'll see a famous city that's fer away across the sea, the city of Alexandria, in Egypt. It's the town of today, you're gonna see. Street cars and automobiles roll along the ancient streets where chariots once passed, the chariots of Julius Caesar and Mark Anthony and the great Queen Cleopatra. In a handsome modern building there, you see inside a room with a book-lined wall. And behind the desk a young man sits, a young man who gazes into space with worried, haunted eyes. And so begins our story of 'The Wedding Gift'." --- Old Nancy

Reviews:

Werewolf, The

Year: 1934 [US]
Duration: 30 min
Genre: Creatures
Available for Listening Booth: Y
Story by: Frederick Marryat

Largely unintelligible plot due to extremely poor audio quality. I gather there was a werewolf in there somewhere. Probably some throats ripped out, lots of spilt blood, and quite a few screams, too. Maybe even a silver bullet. Who knows? Quite possibly based on the classic story by Frederick Marryat.

Old Nancy is 120 years old today. "Draw up to the fire and gaze into the embers. Gaze into 'em deep. And soon you'll see a [forest] across the sea, in France. Thar begins our yarn about 'The Werewolf'." --- Old Nancy

Reviews:
In a way, it cracks me up that OTR vendors continue to sell episodes with such poor audio quality. I notice the Library of Congress has a copy of this episode—wonder what sort of condition it's in? --- zM

Will, The

Year: 1943 [AU]
Duration: 30 min
Genre:
Available for Listening Booth: N
Story by: Alonzo Deen Cole, 1932

Reviews:

Wonderful Bottle, The

aka: "The Bottle Imp"
Year: 1934 [US]
Duration: 30 min
Genre: Supernatural
Available for Listening Booth: Y
Story by: Robert Louis Stevenson

Old Nancy is 111 years old today. "Draw up to the fire and gaze into the embers. Gaze into 'em deep. And soon you'll see a dusty road, way down in South America in the wilds of the Argentine. On that road begins our tale of 'The Wonderful Bottle'." --- Old Nancy

Reviews:

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