Sounds of Halloween by Naching T. Kassa
The room is dark. Dim, red light shines from the electronic device as it whirs softly. White noise sounds followed by a menacing voice. Gooseflesh rises with that tone.
Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men?
The Shadow knows!
So began one of my favorite programs. And, no, it wasn’t on television.
In the days before cable television, satellite television, and streaming Netflix, there were (depending on where you lived) only a few channels on the dial. Most entertainment came in the form of a VHS tape if you didn’t like the TV shows, but there was another alternative. You could buy them through a mail-order catalog and play them on your cassette recorder.
Radio shows were programs played on the radio during the 1920s, 30s, and 40s. The Lone Ranger,The Abbot and Costello Show, The Life of Riley, The Bickersons, The Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy Show, and The Jack Benny Programwere all favorites of my family. And, though I liked the comedies, my tastes ran a little darker.
Ok, they ran a lot darker.
Around Halloween, my family played the scary shows. My favorites. We listened to The Shadow,The Whistler, Inner Sanctum, and Suspense. Many of these shows terrified me.
The beauty of radio programs was that they required imagination. You had to visualize The Shadow based solely upon the sound of his voice and certain ingenious sound effects. You had to picture scenes in your mind. And, as a result, monsters were far more frightening. Just ask the listeners of H.G. Wells’ War of the Worlds(1938.) Because of the way Orson Welles produced and executed the Halloween broadcast, people believed Martians had invaded the US!
Monsters on radio ranged from frightening to bizarre to ridiculous. There were shrunken heads, werewolves, vampires, ghosts, zombies, and giant apes. Sometimes, the most frightening character in the show was the hero. Lamont Cranston was a man who’d discovered a way to “cloud men’s minds” while traveling through Asia. He used this skill to fight crime as The Shadow, a ghost-like presence with a malicious laugh. The Whistler was an omniscient narrator who taunted criminals and evil-doers during the show. His appearance was announced by footsteps and a mournful whistle.
Sometimes, the show walked a tight-rope between terrifying and corny. One episode of The Shadow, included a Gypsy woman and her parrot. The Shadow while investigating, interrogates the woman and her bird. The parrot has a big mouth and keeps spilling the beans, which leads to the Gypsy strangling her bird. He dies with a loud and unconvincing, “Aaaarrrgggghhhhh!”
I believe these “exercises in imagination” helped shape and sharpen my skills as a writer, and I still listen to them today. A couple years ago, around Halloween, I streamed one show off the internet. It was an episode of Lights Out, a show I’d never heard. It was terrifying! Three girls go to a mountain resort and visit a cemetery. While there, they defile a grave. They think nothing of it until they’re followed home by a creature. This thing murders them one by one, crushing them with a tombstone from the graveyard.
So, if you’d like a little thrill this Halloween, try staying in. Turn off all your lights and turn a radio show on. I know you’ll enjoy it. How do I know?
The Shadow knows!
BIO: Naching T. Kassa is a wife, mother, and Horror Author. She’s created short stories, novellas, poems, and co-created three children. She lives in Eastern Washington State with Dan Kassa, her husband and biggest supporter.
Naching is a member of the Horror Writers Association and a writer/interviewer for HorrorAddicts.net.
Her work is available at Amazon.com https://www.amazon.com/Naching-T-Kassa/e/B005ZGHTI0and you can follow her ramblings here: http://frightenme.weebly.com/