Once upon a time in America, there was no television. Only a few had telephones - sometimes on a party line - and cell phones did not appear, even in dreams. Families gathered around the radio to listen to the daily news, and father read the newspaper every day after work. And sometimes there was radio theatre . . . or was it real?
The MACC will transform into Station WMAC on Halloween night, Thursday, October 31, and Friday, November 1, for a stroll down memory lane with two radio programs that caused a wee bit of consternation in the United States. Three thrillers from that long-ago time will again fill the airways and the MACC auditorium, returning to that time when voices on the radio seemed to bear the ring of truth, and panic filled the world at the arrival of aliens in Orson Welles’ chilling treatment of the news the day the Martians landed. The show begins at 7 p.m. each night and is free to the public as the MACC celebrates some of the work of the Signal Mountain Preservation Fund as it restores the building. Although there is no charge for admission, a hat will be passed in hopes that attendees seeing what has been accomplished and what else needs done will want to help. A bit of sweat equity is also much appreciated.
If that isn’t blood-curdling enough, every person who was ever on the receiving end of a prank phone call can revisit those moments of fear in the radio drama “Sorry Wrong Number.” And think about it. Aren’t we often fooled by articles we see on Facebook or Twitter? What happens when the information that emerges blurs that thin line between fiction and truth? What do you believe? And why?
Also on the horror theme, “The Hitchhiker” gives new meaning to a cross-country trip as a driver takes off, despite his mother’s worries about his safety. Who is the hitchhiker who seems to be only a stop ahead of him as he takes to the road? Set in the 1940’s, we are reminded that in those days, communication was rare, and our protagonist leaves with a promise to wire his mother immediately upon his arrival in California. We follow him from New York and share in his adventures.
Think about it. Do you want to spend Halloween gorging on candy and besieging the neighbors? Or would you rather be frightened into spasms by what might even be real? The MACC Players will recreate those spine tingling presentations guaranteed to scare the geewhillikers out of the audience.
Imagine October 30, 1938, as millions listened to an adaptation of H. G. Welles’ well-known book, “War of the Worlds.” The news bulletins seemed so real that panic erupted and people all over the country began to quake as they imagined that the next stop after New England might be … here! The book was adapted to the time constraint of an hour - including commercials. But the repercussions lasted until the present. It’s only fair to note that the introduction to the program included an announcement that Orson Welles and the Mercury Theatre program was on the air. But if you sat down a few minutes later? Suffice to say, Welles set the scene, the weather report came on, and a musical program began, only to be interrupted by a newscaster breaking in to interview scientists and explore events.
Strangely, no one paused to ask if the events weren’t moving rather fast. In the current day of instant news, this doesn’t seem strange, but evidently in 1938, people were more gullible. Want to hear what happened next? Tune in to WMAC to find out.
In “Sorry, Wrong Number,” a wealthy New York invalid uses her phone as her lifeline. When she calls the operator because she is unable to get a call through to her husband, she is inadvertently connected to the wrong number. She learns of a murderous plot, but the police do not believe her. As she tries to track down the events, she finds out some disturbing truths. Tune in to see what happens when someone else answers her phone and says, “Sorry. Wrong number.”