Halloween in Comics, Radio and in the Movies

Unbelievably, Halloween-inspired scripts and stories first made their appearance not in movie theaters but in good, old radio. We owe the first scary and thrilling story for Halloween to the novelist HG Wells. If you remember Tom Cruise's War of the Worlds, then you might already know of this novelist.

HG Wells was the creator of the War of the Worlds. So how could people be scared by something as plain as a literary piece? A radio production made by Orson Welles is the genius behind the effective appropriation of War of the Worlds for Halloween.

"And in the news today … Aliens!"

You guessed it right. Somewhere in the recent thriller / horror / comedy films of modern Hollywood, Welles' production was remembered. Parts of War of the Worlds were used as news bulletins that were read in between the pieces of music.

Imagine hearing something as macabre as War of the Worlds as real news on an ordinary day, just before Halloween! The premise was perfect. Again, you guessed it right. People were actually scared! There was news that people actually panicked (North American listeners).

Actually, in New Jersey people were subjected to mass panic! Imagine the effectiveness of the move. It was pure genius, and a wonderful appropriation of a classic literary piece. In addition, this was just in the 1930s. What would follow was a careful yet guided effort to use Halloween as a central theme in available media.


The thematic of Halloween was also able to penetrate the realm of literature. Just fifteen years after the spooky radio production, a writer by the name of Anthony Boucher came up with a noir story that played with reality and the macabre. The setting of Boucher's story was in California.

Five years later, a North American comic series, Shock, rendered the prospect of Halloween scarier than it originally was. A hardened master of an asylum for orphans ever got his just reward as a Halloween pumpkin. Moreover, Halloween pumpkins are hollowed out pretty well, and get some of their front coverings removed. It was a bold move, the existence and acceptance of such materials soon made Halloween an event where only a few universal themes were followed.

EC Comics was also not far behind, this time focusing on things like cutting off parts of the body. However, before the sixties, the American Comics Code regulated the use of such literary devices. It was no longer 'acceptable' and so the short while that the code was really active, these comic books died down.

Today, Alan Moore's Watchmen and Neil Gaiman's Sandman series are proving to be profitable ventures. However, they are not really endorsed by the American Comics Code, for the ACC rewards comic books like Archie.

Free TV and the movies

For some reason or another, free TV was slow to respond to the Halloween theme. Perhaps it was censorship (the religious Right) that made television productions that much more difficult.

The following are the earliest seen Halloween-inspired shows and movies in North America:

o Whispering Ghosts (Milton Berle)
o Footlight Serenade (Betty Grable & Victor Mature)
o Frankenstein (Boris Karloff)
o The House on the Haunted Hill (Vincent Price)
o Rosemary's Baby (Audrey Hepburn)
o Night of the Living Dead (George Romero)
o King Kong
o Godzilla
o Psycho (Hitchcock)
o Night of the Demons

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