The Witch’s Tale was the first horror-fantasy radio series, which aired from May 28, 1931, to June 13, 1938, on WOR, the Mutual Radio Network, and later in syndication. Creator Alonzo Deen Cole, a 34-year old Minnesota native, convinced the station to air the supernatural series that he wrote and directed himself. His goal was to draw audiences away from more conventional musical shows airing on rival stations.
The creepy 30-minute weekly anthology featured a cackling host named Old Nancy, a witch from Salem, who, along with her wise black cat named Satan, spun a new wicked “bedtime yarn” each week. The show terrified younger listeners and was a huge success with New York children, who adored Old Nancy, often imitating her cackles and quips, in efforts to scare younger siblings.
The shows were broadcast live, recorded for syndication, and then distributed to various national markets. It’s reported, that in 1961, Cole didn’t think the recordings held any value, so he destroyed nearly all of them (only about 30-50 recordings exist today).
Most scripts were original stories but there were a few literary adaptions as well. Cole played the cat Satan and enlisted the aid of his wife Marie O’Flynn to play lead female characters. Old Nancy, liked telling tales was created by stage actress Adelaide Fitz-Allen, who portrayed the spooky witch until her death in 1935.Auditions were held soon after to find a new Old Nancy and 13-year old Miriam Wolfe, a radio prodigy from Brooklyn, New York was chosen for the role after Cole heard the girl mimicking the character’s trademark cackling laugh. Wolfe would play the character for several years, in addition to other characters, before leaving to pursue other interests. Veteran radio and film actress Martha Wentworth (the famed Disney voice artist) then stepped in to lend her voice talents as Old Nancy. Top New York radio actors were often cast to fill roles of secondary characters respectively.
In 1936, a companion magazine called The Witch’s Tales was published by the small firm, Carwood Publishing Co., which reportedly failed to promote the radio show properly and completely mismanaged finances and distribution of the magazine. Only two issues (November and December) ever made it into print. Although Alonzo Deen Cole was named editor, real editorial work was believed to be done by Tom Chadburn. Cole did, however, write the lead story for the first issue and contributed the plot for the main story in the second issue. The magazine’s other stories were all reprints from the American version of Pearson’s Magazine.
The spell cast by The Witch’s Tale came to an end in 1958, with talk of bringing the series to television. Cole was eyed as a consultant and story supervisor for the pilot, but the idea never came to fruition.
You can find many episodes over at Archive.org: https://archive.org/details/TheWitchsTale
The video shown below is titled Graveyard Mansion, originally aired in 1934, about two brothers who may have stumbled upon a New Orleans vampire. Take a listen.