Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Where the werewolves were in old-time radio

I was recently reading Guy Endore's 1933 novel the Werewolf of Paris and I began to reflect on how werewolves were portrayed in popular culture of the time, as I spent a lot of time enjoying literature, films and radio programs of the past. Although Universal's the Wolfman is one of the giants of classic monster movies, there really weren't very many werewolves on screen in those days. Similarly, while Dracula and Frankenstein are two of the great classic horror novels, there's no werewolf book whose reputation permits it to stand alongside them.

And what of radio? What I find interesting about werewolves on radio is that while they were frequently spoken of (say, in Raymond the host's jokes on Inner Sanctum Mysteries), they only infrequently figured in plots on the radio and even less often appeared in the fur & flesh - most radio werewolves involve a hoax of some sort. I can only go by what episodes still exist today, but going from that I've composed a list of werewolves on the radio, grouped together for your convenience into "name only," "hoaxes," and "the real deal."


There are two 1949 radio police drama shows featuring criminals who terrorize women and are referred to as a "werewolf," but only in allusion to the supernatural beast, not because anyone believes they are such. The two are so similar, I wonder if they were both inspired by the same real life event? First, an audition show for a series called Prowl Car presented "the Wilshire Werewolf," then a very early episode of Dragnet delved into its own werewolf.

Click here to listen to Prowl Car's "the Wilshire Werewolf" at myoldradio.com

Right-click here to download Dragnet's "the Werewolf" from archive.org


The earliest "hoax" program I've found is 1935's Front Page Drama, which presented an episode entitled "the Werewolf" which seems to be based on true events where people's superstitions about werewolves nearly leads to an innocent girl's death. The ending is a bit muddled but the most interesting thing about it is that this show uses the standard rules about vampires for werewolves! At one point the term "werewolf vampire" is uttered as though they were the same thing! Yes, vampires often change shape too, but since the supposed werewolves in this story are said to be corpses by day who can only be destroyed with a stake through the heart, it sure sounds like vampires, huh?

Right-click here to download Front Page Drama's "the Werewolf" from Radio Echoes.

I've found two episodes of the Shadow where he tangles with suspected werewolves. The first one, 1941's "Death Prowls at Night" is actually very good, involving a madman who can hypnotize people into thinking they're werewolves; but maybe he really is a werewolf? It ends on an ambiguous note. The second, 1947's "the Werewolf of Hamilton Mansion" involves a wealthy man who thinks his son is a werewolf and has kept him locked up, but it's all a trick.

Right-click here to download the Shadow's "Death Prowls at Night" from archive.org

Click here to listen to the Shadow's "the Werewolf of Hamilton Mansion" at youtube.com

I Love a Mystery has (barely) two surviving storylines involving werewolves: "Bride of the Werewolf" and "Bury Your Dead, Arizona." The former exists in only two parts out of fifteen, one produced in 1944, the other from 1952! The latter's 1949 version is complete and involves a supposed mystic whose assistant can become a wolf, but as I Love a Mystery is the program which inspired Scooby-Doo, you may not be surprised to hear it's all a fake.

Right-click here to download I Love a Mystery's "Bride of the Werewolf" part 3 from archive.org; part 12

Right-click here to download I Love a Mystery's "Bury Your Dead, Arizona" part 1 from archive.org; part two; part 3; part 4; part 5; part 6; part 7; part 8; part 9; part 10; part 11; part 12; part 13; part 14; part 15

A 1946 episode of the Adventures of Dick Cole entitled "The Werewolf of Farr" has a plot so slight it should have been an episode of Five-Minute Mysteries, yet drags itself out to a half-hour. People are convinced there's a werewolf loose, yet since the episode mentions early on that a real wolf has escaped you really shouldn't expect to be surprised by the climax.

Right-click here to download the Adventures of Dick Cole's "the Werewolf of Farr" from archive.org

Sherlok Holmes occasionally tangles with the supernatural, but by the very nature of his character - a man who make sense of the seeming insensible - the supernatural is thoroughly debunked each time. Such an instance is found in the 1946 episode of the New Adventures of Sherlock Holmes entitled "the Adventure of the Black Angus," in which a Scotsman believes he's inherited the family curse of lycanthropy. Weirdly, when Sherlock first says "werewolf," Watson responds "A vampire!" which is either exposing the cursory research of the creators or represents yet another "dumb Watson" moment.

Right-click here to download the New Adventures of Sherlock Holmes' "The Adventure of the Black Angus."

Easily the best werewolf hoax on this list, Escape presented an adaptation of Geoffrey Household's "Taboo" in 1947. Never mind that the suspected werewolf is only a man - it's a suitably terrifying story about hunting a monster at night - or being hunted by a monster! It also hints at some very dark, grisly affairs.

Right-click here to download Ecape's "Taboo" from archive.org

The New Adventures of Michael Shayne being set in New Orleans seemed contractually obliged to tell a "loup-garou" story and they got it over with early in 1948. It has lively performances by Jeff Chandler & Jack Webb, but the plot is nuts.

Right-click here to download the New Adventures of Michael Shayne's "the Case of the Bayou Monster" from archive.org

There are two western programs involving werewolf hoaxes: the Challenge of the Yukon's "Trail of the Werewolf" from 1949 and Wild Bill Hickok's "The Wolf of Ghost Mountain" from 1952. Both are juvenile westerns with simple hoax plots.

Right-click here to download the Challenge of the Yukon's "Trail of the Werewolf" from archive.org

Right-click here to download Wild Bill Hickok's "the Wolf of Ghost Mountain" from archive.org

Finally, Escape ventured into the bayou with their 1952 episode "Loup-Garou," wherein a man is accused of being a werewolf by a hateful mob; the play was performed again as a 1956 episode of Romance which is in much better condition than the earlier version.

Right-click here to download Escape's "Loup-Garou" from archive.org

Right-click here to download Romance's "the Loup-Garou" from archive.org


Appropriately, we begin with the Witch's Tale; unlike many of the later horror programs (such as Inner Sanctum Mysteries or the Mysterious Traveler), the Witch's Tale never shied from the supernatural. Unfortunately, surviving episodes tend to be of very poor sound quality, sound effects are minimal, performances are flat and there's very little tension. Placing only that aside, we have the 1935 rendition of "the Werewolf" (earlier versions are lost) in which the course of true love never did run smoothly; two young lovers are torn apart by the fact that the young man tears people apart at night when he becomes a wolf.

Click here to listen to the Witch's Tale's "the Werewolf" at youtube.com

Much later we have 1942's Dark Fantasy and "W is for Werewolf." Dark Fantasy is not a very distinguished program but it told its rather pulpy stories well. Like the Shadow episode I described above, this involves a man locking up his supposed-werewolf son - only this time, it's the real thing!

Right-click here to download Dark Fantasy's "W is for Werewolf" from archive.org

Sadly, very few episodes of Creeps by Night have survived and their audio quality tends to be very poor; considering the show used both Bela Lugosi & Boris Karloff it's quite a loss to classic horror fans! However, we still have 1944's "the Hunt," a story where people toss around the "w" word at each other - but who is the werewolf who's been terrorizing the area?

Right-click here to download Creeps by Night's "the Hunt" from archive.org

The Weird Circle didn't have the best actors in radio, but they adapted their material from some of the best classic horror fiction so it's a show of interest to all fans of radio horror. Their 1944 episode "the Werewolf" is adapted from a passage in Frederick Marryat novel the Phantom Ship, involving a woodsman who takes a new wife whose hobbies include hunting at night in the form of a wolf. Should've had a pre-nup.

Right-click here to download the Weird Circle's "the Werewolf" from archive.org

Special thanks to Ian Griev for pointing out this quick story from 1945's Strange Adventure; in "Werewolf Island," a wolf has been devouring sheep and the beast appears so intelligent that people suspect it's a werewolf!

Right-click here to download Strange Adventure's "Werewolf Island" from archive.org

Werewolf fans frequently cite the 1946 Suspense episode "The House in Cypress Canyon" as a werewolf program, even though the term never appears. It's actually to the show's benefit to not explain too much about what exactly the horror is - but if you like werewolf stories, this one delivers big time!

Right-click here to download Suspense's "the House in Cypress Canyon" from archive.org

Finally, in 1957 comedian Stan Freberg threw the films I Was a Teenage Werewolf and The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit into a blender and came up with an episode of the Stan Freberg Show with the hilarious skit "A Gray Flannel Hat Full of Teenage Werewolves." It concerns a werewolf who is cursed to become an advertising executive by day!

Right-click here to download the Stan Freberg Show's "A Gray Flannel Hat Full of Teenage Werewolves" from archive.org

Thank you for checking out this list!


Ian Griev said...

I've always been a fan of werewolf and old time radio! For more werewolf adventure might also check out Strange Adventure: Werewolf Island:


Michael Hoskin said...

Ah, thank you very much!