The Witch's Tale
The Witch's Tale is a horror-fantasy radio series which aired from May 21, 1931, to June 13, 1938, on WOR, the Mutual Radio Network, and in syndication. The program was created, written, and directed by Alonzo Deen Cole (February 22, 1897, St. Paul, Minnesota - April 7, 1971).
Production and casting
The first horror drama on radio, Cole's spooky show was hosted by Old Nancy, the Witch of Salem, who introduced a different terror tale each week. The role of Old Nancy was created by stage actress Adelaide Fitz-Allen, who died in 1935 at the age of 79. Cole replaced her with 13-year-old Miriam Wolfe, and Martha Wentworth was also heard as Old Nancy on occasion. Cole himself provided the sounds of Old Nancy's cat, Satan. Cole's wife, Marie O'Flynn, portrayed the lead female characters on the program, and the supporting cast included Mark Smith and Alan Devitte.
The majority of the scripts were original stories, but there were literary adaptations as well, including:
- 1931: "The Bronze Venus," adapted from La Vénus d'Ille by Prosper Mérimée.
- 1932: "In the Devil's Name," adapted from the confessions of supposed real-life witch Isobel Gowdie. (Only the first half of this episode has survived.)
- 1934: "The Wonderful Bottle," adapted from The Bottle Imp by Robert Louis Stevenson.
- 1934: "The Flying Dutchman," based on the legend of the ghost ship The Flying Dutchman.
- 1935: an adaptation of Frankenstein by Mary Shelley.
There were likely other adaptations that have not survived.
For syndication, the shows were recorded live during broadcast and distributed to other stations. These recordings were destroyed by Cole in 1961, so few episodes survive. Cole was also the writer, producer, and director of the radio mystery-crime drama, Casey, Crime Photographer.
In November 1936, Alonzo Deen Cole edited The Witch's Tales magazine with the lead story by Cole. It ran for only two issues.
An effort was made to bring the series to television. In 1958, Television Programs of America made plans to film a pilot with Cole as consultant and story supervisor. The associate story editor was Raymond Levy. However, the show never made it to TV.
- Dunning, John (1998). On the Air: The Encyclopedia of Old-Time Radio (Revised ed.). New York, NY: Oxford University Press. p. 724. ISBN 978-0-19-507678-3. Retrieved 2019-09-18.
- Cartmell, Deborah (2012). A Companion to Literature, Film, and Adaptation. John Wiley & Sons. ISBN 9781118312049. Retrieved November 13, 2019.
- Reinehr, Robert C.; Swartz, Jon D. (2010). The A to Z of Old Time Radio. Scarecrow Press. ISBN 9781461672074. Retrieved November 13, 2019.
- "TPA Buys 'The Witches [sic] Tale' For Television". Ford Lauderdale News. Florida, Fort Lauderdale. July 21, 1958. p. 23. Retrieved November 13, 2019 – via Newspapers.com.
- Cole, Alonzo Deen, edited by David S. Siegel with introduction by Miriam Wolff. The Witch's Tale (253 pages). Dunwich Press, 1998. 13 scripts plus episode log and biographical sketch of Cole. ISBN 978-1-891379-01-7
- Killmeier, Matthew A. (15 May 2012). "Aural Atavism: The Witch's Tale and Gothic Horror Radio". Journal of Radio & Audio Media. 19 (1): 61–82. doi:10.1080/19376529.2012.667021.