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the genre's premiere review magazine for short SF & Fantasy since 1993

The Witch's Tale -- "The Hairy Monster"

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The Witch's Tale (1931-38) aired "The Hairy Monster" on September 26, 1932, though there is doubt about the precise date, many of the episodes being detroyed by the show's creator Alonzo Deen Cole (1897-1971) who believed them to be of no commercial value. A scant 54 episodes are known to still exist of the estimated 150 produced (although this number varies too), and only a third of those remaining 54 are from the US series, the remainder coming from the Australian airings (1938-43). This is only the second episode of The Witch's Tale we have showcased, the first being six years ago on October 31, 2009, also a Halloween Saturday. A capsule history of the show, its creator and primary narrators in the role of Old Nancy can be read here. It's a fascinating history, the highlights being that the show was the first all-original horror series on radio, and it was the first to introduce a narrator for an on-going series, that of "Old Nancy." Old Nancy's influence paved the way for other radio narrators such as Raymond of Inner Sanctum fame, and Bill Gaines, of the legendary EC Comics took Cole's witch "Old Nancy" as the idea for the Old Witch in his horror comic The Haunt of Fear, for yet another example. And how can we forget the Crypt Keeper from television's excellent series Tales from the Crypt? All owe a debt to Alonzo Deen Cole's The Witch's Tale and Old Nancy.

The radio series, usually airing at midnight, proved popular enough that a magazine with the slightly altered title of The Witch's Tales, saw its first issue with the November 1936 issue. Unfortunately, due to magazine publishing inexperience and lack of cross media advertising (there were no ads for the radio show in the magazine, and vice versa), the magazine folded with its second issue dated December 1936. The cover of this final issue can be seen above left, and while difficult to read at this size, the third line under the photo of Cole in the upper left has as a featured story titled "Mrs. Hawker's Will," which is a retitling of "The Hairy Monster." The photo above right is a 1930 publicity shot featuring Cole menacing his wife Marie, with the original Old Nancy, Adelaide Fitz-Allen lurking above. Fitz-Allen was the voice of Old Nancy until her death at age 79 in 1935, at which point a 13-year old Miriam Wolfe (1935 photo at right) would shock Cole with her Old Nancy impression and was hired on the spot. Wolfe would go on to have an impressive career in radio, Broadway, and other endeavors, gaining the respect and accolades of her peers. To learn of her amazing career and sad death, click here (same link as above).

This episode of The Witch's Tale is, by the way, the oldest Old Time Radio episode we have yet showcased in the 6+ years we have been doing them, with an early Tarzan episode coming in as second oldest with a December 1932 air date.

"The Hairy Monster" is divided into two 15-minute episodes, with instrumental interludes before each episode so that local sponsors could insert their ads. The story is a rather familiar one. A young woman, Barbara Turner, has inherited a large mansion upon the death of a woman five years previously who her sister had been caring for. The mansion was to have gone to her sister, but upon said sister's tragic demise Barbara inherits the mansion (following a long court battle) from the deceased woman, one Mrs. Hawker, a person she has never met. Mrs. Hawker was the wife of a missionary who traveled with her (now deceased) husband to China, and is where she developed a great knowledge of magic, alchemy, and ancient Tibetan lore over the years. This may or may not have anything to do with the strange provisions of her will, several of which require that the inheritor of the estate live for one year in the mansion, sleep every night in a certain bedroom, and each night must remain alone in this bedroom from midnight to 3 AM. But our Barbara is gladly willing to fulfill these requirements as the mansion is well appointed in all areas and for her is a dream come true. But then things begin to go awry (as they always do), a death ensues, and physical remnants (a white hair 6 foot long, for one) are found. What kind of creature--or hairy monster--has hair six feet long? Where did it come from and why does it kill? Might the answers have any connection to the late Mrs. Hawker's casket, set deep in the mausoleum near the mansion? The casket that has held the dear woman for the five years since her death and which features a handle to lift the top from the inside? Mythical demon from the Far East? Vampire? Werewolf? Something else? Only by listening to this creepy episode will you uncover the identity of "The Hairy Monster."

Astute listeners may note that Old Nancy can never remember how old she is, in this episode or any other. In this one she claims to be 118 at the beginning, then 112 later on. Just one of the old witch's endearing qualities, and which inconsistency her feline familiar Satan never seems to notice.

Play Time: 29:40

{To be honest, in September of 1932 there weren't the number of SF magazines to choose from there would be in years to come. Nevertheless, neighborhood youngsters would gather at the corner newsstand and come away with enough adventurous reading material to slate their unfettered imaginations, a few of their possible selections shown below.}

[Left: Amazing, Sept. 1932 - Center: The Shadow, Sept. 1932 - Right: Weird Tales, Sept. 1932]

     

{Because this is Halloween, the night of unspeakable horrors, we thought it only fitting to assault your tender senses with two of the most horrible covers in the history of the SF magazines. Please hide your children as you view these terrible covers, especially the unspeakably abominable cover of Wonder Stories.}

[Left: Astounding Stories, Sept. 1932 -- Right: Wonder Stories, Sept. 1932]

       

To ease the pain from the lingering retinal torture from the above covers, we leave you with some levity to balance out your Halloween evening. Enjoy!

Play Time: 3:04

To view the entire list of weekly Old Time Radio episodes at Tangent Online, click here.