Welcome to the Old Time Radio feature at Tangent Online. Every Saturday you’ll see classic radio dramas posted here for your listening pleasure. You’ll find science fiction, fantasy, dark fantasy, horror, suspense, and tales of mystery, all from the Golden Age of Radio. Ranging from the 1930s through classic radio’s waning days in the early 1960s, and with each episode running generally just under a half hour, you’ll find stories adapted from some of science-fiction’s greatest talents, such as Isaac Asimov, Ray Bradbury, Robert A. Heinlein, Murray Leinster, Fred Pohl, James Gunn, Fredric Brown, H. Beam Piper, and numerous others, as well as many original scripts written specifically for each of the various shows.

You will also find classic tales of terror as voiced by the likes of Orson Welles, Boris Karloff, Peter Lorre, and Vincent Price.

Decades before the advent of widespread, affordable, commercial television (the 1920s, 1930s, 1940s, and even the very early 1950s), radio was where America received the vast majority of its home entertainment, music, and news. From dawn until late in the evening, radio stations (local and national) filled the airwaves with a variety of programming, much like commercial television does today. One could find episodes of Gunsmoke, The Cisco Kid, and The Lone Ranger alongside such diverse fare as the Sealtest Variety Theater (with guest stars Dorothy Lamour, Dean Martin & Jerry Lewis, and Charles Laughton to name but a few), Academy Award Theater, the Adventures of Ellery Queen (and Sam Spade, Sherlock Holmes, The Saint, Nero Wolfe, and more, played by some of Hollywood’s top stars), the Black Museum (a police procedural starring Orson Welles), Dragnet (starring Jack Webb), and even episodes of the never-say-die and ever-popular Ripley’s Believe It or Not (from as far back as the 1930s), right alongside such musical, or variety entertainments as the Andrew Sisters, Breakfast in Hollywood (a morning “man on the street” show performed in a Hollywood diner), The Bing Crosby Show, and The Bob Hope Show (precursors of such variety shows as television’s The Ed Sullivan Show and countless others over the years).

Quiz shows, game shows, audience participation shows, dramatizations of classic novels, historical docu-dramas and soap operas–all were born on radio and thrive today on television. There were also many shows during the 1940’s devoted to, or in some way about, World War II, such as You Can’t Do Business with Hitler, Words at War, and GI Journal  (a musical-variety show whose purpose was to build morale for soldiers overseas; it featured the likes of Jack Benny, Bob Hope, Bing Crosby, Gary Cooper, Mel Blanc {the voice of Bugs Bunny and innumerable other cartoon favorites}, Groucho Marx, Lucille Ball, Alan Ladd, Robert Young, Lionel Barrymore, and many more).

When television began to permeate America’s homes on a broad scale in the 1950s, many of the most popular radio shows became tv’s first shows (drawing their radio audiences along with them). As well, many radio actors were able to transition into the first tv stars–though some would not make the transition from radio to tv successfully as actors for a variety of reasons, though they would find steady work for decades to come as the voices behind some very popular classic tv cartoon characters. 

The relationship between old time radio and early television is many-layered and intricately woven, but our interest lies in those classic radio shows devoted to science-fiction, fantasy, dark fantasy, horror, suspense, and mystery. As such, you’ll find episodes from the following radio series’, and more as we go along:  Dark Fantasy, Suspense, Dimension X (the forerunner of X Minus One), X Minus One, Lights Out, The Mysterious Traveler, Tales of Tomorrow, Escape, The Witch’s Tale, Inner Sanctum, Mystery in the Air, The Avenger, and The Shadow.

A word of gratitude and acknowledgment is due at this time. From 1979-1992 DAW Books published a twenty-five volume landmark series of thick paperbacks with the overall title of The Great SF Stories. It began with the year 1939–the year considered the beginning of modern science-fiction, when Astounding Science Fiction and its new editor, John W. Campbell, Jr., began to reshape the entire genre and bring a measure of maturity to the SF story. The series ended with the year 1963, the year before stories would become eligible for the newly founded (1965) Science Fiction Writers of America’s Nebula Awards for stories published in 1964. Each volume provided an historical overview of each year covered, as well as introductory notes on each story by the series editors, Isaac Asimov and Martin H. Greenberg. In my own prefatory remarks to many of the old time radio episodes herein–and while other sources (and my own memory) were used as source material–I have borrowed quite liberally from those yearly introductions by Isaac Asimov and Martin H. Greenberg. They are invaluable time capsules into the stories of each particular year and provide fascinating historical (and personal to the editors) context. Therefore, I am grateful to Messrs. Asimov and Greenberg and hope they (now only the latter, sadly, with the passing of Asimov) will not begrudge my use of the introductory format they used to such great advantage in their wonderful series. In this case, imitation truly is meant to be the sincerest form of flattery.

In the meantime, just click on the titles below to listen to the science fiction, fantasy, horror, detective, western, mystery, and suspense episodes we’ll have for you on a regular basis.

Please note that the most recent OTR episodes are listed first, at the top of the list below, and if you wish to listen to them in chronological order, as presented, simply scroll to the bottom and work your way up.