Gothic Horror is a form of fiction that successfully combines the elements of Romance and Horror. Combining these elements heightens the terror of the stories, allowing us to sympathize the plight of the desperate, virginal lovers as they move inexorably closer to their dark and horrible fates.
Gothic Horror has its roots with the Romantic Poets during the Enlightenment period at the beginning of the nineteenth century. Enlightenment philosophies influenced, among other things, the Founding Fathers of the United States, the beginnings of Feminism, and a decline of the influence of Religion. Curious and even fun from a modern perspective, the Enlightened Romantics would have been recognized as a threat to the old guard.
The terror that the monsters inspire works best in contrast to the innocence of the lovers, and Gothic Horror needs both to be successful. It is a formula that truly found a home in Radio's Theater of the Mind.
Our collection begins with Orson Welles' Mercury Theater. The program and its young creator would be catapulted to national prominence with the 1938 "Halloween Prank" broadcast of War of the Worlds, a terrific example of Gothic Horror in its own right. The program actually began in July of that year with one of the definitive Gothic Horror tales, Bram Stoker's Dracula.
Successful Gothic Horror is usually driven by the imagination of a talented writer. Such is the case with Dark Fantasy. Oklahoma City writer Scott Bishop originally developed the series for WKY in 1941, and the series soon found a national audience over NBC. The stories may have seemed far-fetched, like the airplane flying, opera singing gorilla in "Spawn of Sub Human", but in actuality they were very well performed and produced. So well done that the radio network felt obligated only air the show well after bedtime for 1940s kids.
The long running Suspense, "radio's outstanding theater of thrills", featured many scripts that fit the definition of Gothic Horror. Many of the early scripts were written or adapted by noted mystery author John Dickson Carr. Primarily known for his mysteries, especially Closed Door Mysteries, Carr was also a genius of Gothic Horror.
The villains of Gothic Horror are usually a personification on Evil. This means that everything is secondary to their nefarious and selfish schemes. In Carr's "Will you Make a Bet With Death" the tyrannical stepfather stumbles on to a plot to drive a young man insane and frame him for murder, all for the stepfather's own amusement.
After the Blue Network became the American Broadcasting Company, there came a call to capitalize on the formula created by Suspense. Specifically, a supernatural thriller program featuring the voices of celebrities. ABC's answer was Creeps By Night, initially hosted by Boris Karloff, which attracted a number of the screen's "scream stars" along with Karloff, including Peter Lorre, Bela Legosi, Raymond Massey, and Basil Rathbone. Mostly drawn from the Dashiel Hammett edited World's Finest Mystery Stories, Creeps By Night, managed to find stories that were even scarier than Suspense, although the network show could not equal other's success.
The Strange Doctor Weird was an even creepier follow-up to Mutual's Mysterious Traveler.The Strange Doctor Weird had the same narrator, Maurice Tarplin, and sponsor, Adam Hats, and writer, Robert Arthur, as Traveler. Doctor Weird's villains were not always supernatural, like the desperate robbers in "The House Were Death Lives". There is plenty for them to fear, when they are locked up with their dead accomplices.
This creepy collection will send shivers up your spine and make you scream in terror as you root for the innocent victims and hide in terror from the scary villains.