Okay, maybe some are more “terrifying” than “fun,” but let’s not pick nits. Here are some classic tales, and they’re all short too, perfect time fillers. Some of this stuff is weird for the time too, it’s surprising the graphic imagery that made it on the radio back in those days.
Leiningen vs. The Ants (Escape!)
Any old time radio list would not be complete without this epic tale of man versus nature. A plantation owner in a Brazillian rainforest prepares for a line of approaching ants: Several miles wide, several miles deep. Most would give up the land, but Leiningen, ever the believer in human fortitude, has a plan. This story is actually horrifying at points, there is no way to describe people and animals being killed by a swarm of ants without it being ghastly. But ultimately, this is a tale about Lieningen, and the lengths a man will go to to defend his pride.
The Cave (Escape!)
This is just so bizarre I had to include it. A couple of kids find a cave that leads to a parallel universe (I guess) where pirates lives in the world contained within the cave. One of the children chooses to stay, resulting in one of the most peculiar twists I’ve ever come across. This is compounded by the fact that several shows used this as their CHRISTMAS EPISODE of all things. Peculiar, and maybe a touch unsettling.
Zero Hour (X Minus One)
This bone-chilling tale is sampled in Aesop Rock’s “Horse Flakes” (with Hail Mary Mallon). Aliens invade Earth by appealing first to the children. What follows is a terrifying tale of murder, and betrayal. The climax features an unsettling chase scene that will still seem scary 70 years later.
Jimmy Goggles, the God (Escape!)
This is a fantastic tale of ocean adventure. A crew keeps a diving suit that becomes the ships good luck charm. When disaster strikes, the diving suit “Jimmy Goggles” may be the only thing that stands between the narrator and a tribe of cannibals waiting to devour him on the beach.
The 32nd of December (Suspense)
This listens like a Twilight Zone episode, which is always a good thing. A man with money problems finds a watch that can change the time of day and date. It seems like the answer to all his troubles, but it just may turn out to be a cage which could trap him forever.
The Country of the Blind (Suspense)
In a remote valley in The Andes, a man finds a village of people who were all born without sight. They have trouble communicating with him, as the idea of sight is completely new to them. the man finds a compelling reason to stay, but to do so he must pay a dreadful price.
The Time Machine (Escape!)
This is a short, quirky, rewrite of the classic. This version sees a friend travel with the narrator as we take a familiar trip to the future. This one captures a FEW more elements of the original novel.
It’s hard to know where to start in old time radio, mainly because there are thousands of episodes to choose from. Hopefully this list has given you a solid place to start. kick back, close your eyes, and enjoy!