WOR of New York: After the original
English-born "Witch" (Adelaide Fitz-Allen)
auditioned, but none
the eerie voice
desired for the part, except this twelve year
old girl, Miriam Wolfe, who took over.
Begun regionally on WOR radio in New York, this is one
of the earliest of the horror genre shows. It also helped
begin a trend in creepy hosts that "lives" on
to this day in popular entertainment. "Old Nancy, the
witch of Salem," was the cackling host of the show,
and she was a caution! She quickly became a favorite of
New York kids in the 1930s, who imitated her quips and
cackles to scare their younger brothers and sisters at night
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Since Nancy was a witch from Salem, she knew of the old
days, and relished a historical, and often hysterical, setting
with her charming cat, Satan! Some say the cat was played by producer
Alonzo Deen Cole MEOW!
John Dunning in his "On
the Air, The Encyclopedia of Old Time Radio,"
relates the odd tale of getting the replacement for the
original Nancy, Adelaide Fitz-Allen, who died at 79 in 1935.
A radio veteran, only a mere 13 years old, Miriam Wolfe by name, was then on the fine children's program, Let's
Pretend. Of course, she wasn't considered for the
part. She stayed in the studio during a late-night broadcast
by Witch's Tale writer/director, Alonzo Deen Cole,
and began her "Nancy" without warning. Cole was
so chilled by her mimicry of an ancient crone that she got
the part on the spot. Later in the show's run, the role
was taken by Martha Wentworth.
The Witch's Tale was sometimes forced and obvious,
but the good New York radio actors, ably directed by Roger
Bower, transcended the occasional clunky scripting to be
generally quite bold and horrifically enjoyable. The classical music used as interludes for commercials
adds some class and charm to the preternatural proceedings.
The scripts would sometimes use famous horror tales, such
as Frankenstein or
the Flying Dutchman. The show enjoyed popularity both the
New York regional and Mutual national runs. As a sidelight,
a version of the show is included in this compilation.
But real fans would scream that they don't hold a candle
to Old Nancy! When she started her spiel to Satan's bawling
(one wonders who did the cat role) - the mood was right
for another fright! Old Nancy was certainly the horror hostess
with the mostess in those days. Why, today, she'd be crowing
about being "183, I be today, 183." Be that as
it may, you can now revisit her in her younger years, when
she was just pushing the century mark.
For other horror hosts, listen to favorites such as Raymond,
of the Inner Sanctum,
the Man in Black of Suspense,
The Whistler, Mysterious
Traveler, and The
Strange Dr. Weird.
See also Quiet Please,
Dark Fantasy, Escape,
Lights Out, Mystery
in the Air, Weird Circle, and