The Hall of Fantasy
The Hall Of Fantasy was a dark series where the supernatural forces of darkness often triumphed!
When it comes to The Hall of Fantasy, there are some mysteries that persist to this day. Maybe that's appropriate, because it claimed to be "the series of radio dramas dedicated to the supernatural, the unusual, and the unknown." One mystery that remains uncertain is who the announcer actually was. His lines were so over-the-top, maybe he wished to remain anonymous. But it's this same dead serious approach to monsters, horror, and the supernatural that makes this series so much fun to listen to in a modern context. Despite this campy dimension to the program, do not assume that the series wasn't scary. Many episodes were rather frightening. If the dark, desolate atmospheres didn't get at your nerves, the down-beat endings usually did. A common scene occurred at night, with the crickets chirping in the background. The two protagonists would be lost or running for their lives (or both!). One would hear a far off scream, and he would realize-- along with the audience-- that his friend was a goner. One episode, 'Hang Man's Rope,' never revealed exactly how the killer managed to catch and hang his victims, or why. The only thing we knew for sure was when the crickets stopped chirping and the dog started howling, someone would wind up hanging from the nearest tree. The protagonists spent most the show trying to solve the mystery. They failed. But at least one of them saw how the killer accomplished his dark deed. Unfortunately, he didn't live long enough to explain it. All we heard was a sudden scream, the snap of his neck, and the stretching of the rope as his body swayed. Talk about dark, the lights in The Hall of Fantasy always seemed to be shot out!
But not everything about the show is shrouded in mystery. We know that the series started as a different program altogether. It began at KALL in Salt Lake City in 1946 and lasted a year and a half. Richard Thorne and Carl Greyson were announcers who created a bare bones murder mystery drama with stories written or adapted by Robert Olson. But when Thorne and Greyson went separate ways, the series discontinued. Then in 1949, Thorne and Greyson happened to work at the same station again (WGN in Chicago) and the series resumed. This time, the focus was on supernatural horror with Richard Thorne writing or adapting the stories. (OTR Cat.com) The three dozen or so shows that survived appear to have been recorded for broadcast transcriptions. (A recorded scene from the climax is played at the beginning of the program as a teaser.) Richard Thorne is one of the main recurring actors (Dunning, 307).
Hall of Fantasy didn't seem to have much of a budget. The actors weren't big names and the music and sound effects were sometimes lackluster. But the situations and original writing usually made up for these shortcomings. It was similar in that way to another low budget but even more imaginative series, Quiet Please.
[Ed. note: A 2005 email claiming to be from Carl Greyson's son said it was Richard Thorne who announced the series. Unfortunately, there is no way to confirm either the source of the email or its claim, and requests for further evidence have not been answered. It also said both Richard and Carl had passed on.]
Ed. Note #2: Some of the shows heard on MP3 collections sound like direct from disk, but a few sound like they were recorded off AM radio in the 1980s or later (complete with unrelated ads). One such instance was an episode called "The Jewels of Kali". It still had commercials in it from recent events in the last decade or two, and mentioned this episode was originally aired in 1953, "a satisfactory copy of the program did not survive, so in 1979 it was faithfully reproduced." They did a good job of it too, but you could tell that Richard Thorne (the announcer, writer, and common lead in the series) was not present. The replacement character's voice was distinctive and identical to a character in the episode before it, called "The Hand of Botar" (So that one must have been recreated as well by the same people.) The series was repackaged for syndication during the same decade (1970s), so likely, bad recordings were remade as part of that deal to provide more programs. I haven't heard the restof the series yet so have yet to identify additional remakes.
Ed. Note #3: Discovered another one that appears to be a "Hall of Fantasy" remake from 1979. It's "The Jewels of Kubla Kahn". You can hear where the new title is spliced in after the traditional introduction, and some of the same cast as the other remake (though the ethnic character is altering his voice for the role).
A typically gruesome episode was "Hangman's Rope." Artist depiction courtesy of Tune In For Terror © 1992
The Standard Intro:
Announcer: "And now...
(Sound effect: Echoing footsteps.)
Announcer: "The Hall of Fantasy!"
(Sound effect: Kettle drum pounds in cadence with continuing footsteps.)
Announcer: "Welcome to the Hall of Fantasy. Welcome to the series of radio dramas dedicated to the supernatural, the unusual, and the unknown. Come with me, my friends. We shall descend to the world of the unknown and forbidden... down the depths where the veil of time is lifted and the supernatural reigns as king! Come with me and listen to the tale of... (title of show)."
(Excerpt from play inserted, followed by cymbal crash.)
Announcer: "In just a moment, The Hall of Fantasy will present (title of show)."
An Opening Narration:
Announcer: "And now, for our story. An original tale of fantasy by Richard Thorne entitled, 'The Night The Fog Came.'"
(Background sound: Eerie music.)
Narrator (Richard Thorne?): "If the theory of evolution is correct, then there is a connection between the minute organisms which are found to be living in water and life as we know it today. What connection with us did those things have that came from out of the fog? What connection with human life did those horrible creatures who came from the depths have, and what is their purpose? Why did they suddenly appear and destroy, then vanish as suddenly as they had come? I shall tell you as much as I know about it. Listen to the tale of... 'The Night The Fog Came...'"
The Standard Closing:
(Sound effect: Kettle drum pounds along with echoing footsteps.)
"So runs tonight's tale of the unusual, the terrifying, the unknown. Join us again when next we journey down the corridors of The Hall of Fantasy to hear another strange tale of the supernatural..."
Hear An Actual Episode!
Hear up to 21 different episodes of Hall of Fantasy in RealPlayer care of OTR.net!
(RealPlayer allows you to continue to browse other sites while you listen.)
Some Suggested Samples
(Courtesy of OTR.net)
The Shadow People - Strange "shadow people" who exist in the darkness are after a young woman.
The Cask of Amontillado - By Edgar Allan Poe. A man decides to reek revenge on another by taking him down in his basement and then...
The Hang Man's Rope - People are dying, hanged in the fog, but by whom, and why?
Dance of the Devil Dolls - Scary story about a witch and dancing voodoo dolls.
The Temple of Huitzilipochle - Explorers seek to find treasure among the strange and mysterious Amazonian indians.
Read more OTR Plot Spot synopsis of various episodes from The Hall Of Fantasy: http://www.otrplotspot.com/HallofFantasy.htm
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