October is the time for horror, and this Halloween season radio as a vehicle for horror has been on my mind even more than usual. I’m in the midst of my usual autumnal horror binge, and that’s been extended to listening to radio shows on my commute. More importantly, The League’s own David Cole is appearing in the Post Meridian Radio Players live radio show (i.e. on stage but not actually broadcast) production of both the classic Suspense episode Ghost Hunt and a new adaptation of The Night of the Living Dead. If you live near Somerville take the time to check out-I think you will find that it’s worth it. Their Ghost Hunt is well performed and the script is interesting as one of the earliest “found footage” stories in a medium other than print (since found manuscripts that tell a horrific story that the narrator did not survive are legion); it also contains some meta humor as we listen to the recording of a radio DJ’s “night in a haunted house” stunt gone horribly wrong. Their adaptation of Night of the Living Dead is well done, and is your chance to see how the casting of Duane Jones transformed the script (since the actor playing Ben is white, but also since the script never mentions race). It’s also fascinating to see how the show deals with the issue of adapting the many scenes in the original film where there is no or little dialogue while people do things-a problem that faces many radio adaptations. The solutions mostly work (this is the most talkative Barbara ever, however), though it might be interesting to hear a radio version of the story at some point that adapted the story to the medium more liberally.
If you’re in the Greater Boston area, you can certainly go see the PMRP‘s show in the next week-but if you aren’t (or can’t make it) you can still get a seasonal radio horror fix in the next couple of days. One of the great things about radio is that the shows are available all over the web; knowing what I know about copyright law, it seems unlikely that they are truly in the public domain but there also doesn’t seem to be anyone rushing to sue people for posting them online. When I listened to these as a kid, they were on tapes and CDs my older brother bought, and selection was very limited; now there are thousands of episodes from a large variety of shows dating from the 1930s all the way up to the 1970s that are easily available. The only real challenge is where to start. Here are some suggestions, personal favorites: