The Witch's Tale

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Overview | Significance | Background | Plot | Cast | Resources | Episodes | Notes

Overview

The Witch's Tale (1931-1934) was the first OTR fantasy-horror series.

Significance

The first OTR fantasy-horror series, and the first to establish the standard for a host-based anthology series. Literally a one-man production as male leads and the black cat, Satan, were voiced by writer, director, and producer Alonzo Deen Cole. Female leads by his wife, Marie O'Flynn.

Background

The fascination of the eerie! Weird, blood-chilling tales, told by Old Nancy, the witch of Salem, and Satan, her wise black cat. They are waiting—waiting for you—now!

Each half-hour episode of The Witch's Tale, many in two parts, was written, directed, and produced by Alonzo Deen Cole (1897-1971).

Old Nancy Holcomb, the Witch of Salem, who hosted each episode of the United States series, was voiced by Adelaide Fitz-Allen, and after her death at age 79, by thirteen-year-old Miriam Wolfe. Martha Wentworth also provided the witch's voice on occasion. Cole voiced the lead parts and the sounds of Old Nancy's cat, Satan. His wife, Marie O'Flynn, voiced the lead female character in each episode. Supporting roles were provided by Mark Smith and Alan Devitt. [2]

Cole also wrote scripts for the mystery-crime drama Crime Photographer (1945-1947), and its iterations Casey, Crime Photographer (1947-1950), and Crime Photographer (1954). Additionally, Cole wrote scripts for The Shadow (Season 7; 1943-1944), Gangbusters (dramatized FBI cases), The Hour of Charm (featuring Phil Spitalny and His Hour of Charm All Girl Orchestra and Choir with Evelyn and "Her Magic Violin"), and The Kate Smith Hour, producing in total nearly 1,000 radio plays and becoming an important OTR figure.

Plot

A different story (often about ghosts or other eerie subjects) with each episode, narrated by Old Nancy Holcomb, the Witch of Salem, and her black cat, Satan.

Cast

Male leads (Alonzo Deen Cole)
Female leads (Marie O'Flynn)
Old Nancy Holcomb (Adelaide Fitz-Allen, Miriam Wolfe, and Martha Wentworth)
Satan, the black cat (Alonzo Deen Cole)
Director, producer, writer (Alonzo Deen Cole)

Resources

The Witch's Tale radio logs at Jerry Haendiges Vintage Radio Logs website
Witch's Tale radio broadcast logs at the Audio Classics Archive website
Plot summaries and credits at Radio Gold Index website
The Witch's Tale scripts at Generic Radio Workshop website
The Witch's Tale episodes (US) at Old Time Radio Researchers Library website
The Witch's Tale episodes (AUS) at Old Time Radio Researchers Library website
Witch's Tale Errors notes the difficulty of establishing exact dates for each episode because of confusion between transcriptions and Australian productions. Known existing episodes are listed.

Episodes

Totals

Total episodes: 332(?)
Surviving episodes: 30 (approximate)

Timeline

28 May 1931-12 October 1934
Live, local production of WOR, New York City

8 November 1934-13 June 1938 Mutual Radio System (MBS)

1939-1943 Syndicated broadcast in Australia, with different cast and crew, based on remakes of the original scripts. [1]

Exemplary Episodes
  • Episode 70

    The Haunted Crossroads
    Episode #70, 17 October 1932
    A ghost story about five police officers found dead at a deserted crossroads in Massachusetts over a period of seventy years. This version is probably an Australian remake, 1939-1941. Script available here.

Notes

[1] According to David Siegel, Cole destroyed all his personal recordings of the series in 1961, thinking they had no commercial value (Siegel, David and Alonzo Deen Cole. The Witch's Tale—Stories of Gothic Horror from the Golden Age of Radio. Yorktown Heights, NY: Dunwhich Press, 1998). As a result, only about thirty transcriptions of original live United States broadcasts and Australian remakes represent the surviving episodes.

[2] Siegel, David and Alonzo Deen Cole. The Witch's Tale—Stories of Gothic Horror from the Golden Age of Radio. Yorktown Heights, NY: Dunwhich Press, 1998, 9.