Sunday 21 January 2018

Radio: A frightfully good time at Halloween

Sinead Gleeson
Sinead Gleeson
Darragh McManus

Darragh McManus

I know I say this every year, but… I love Halloween, me. And unlike every clown who nowadays claims to love it more than any other holiday, I actually have always loved it.

This goes right back to being a kid and "liberating" cans of aerosol spray for the local bonfire, then filling a bag with leaves and placing it on a dark country road to confuse and/or terrify drivers, before scooting home in time for "the horror" on telly.

I don't do any of that any more - much - but, conveniently, radio has come to fill the Halloween space formerly occupied by aerosols, roadside reckless endangerment and Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter.

As a medium, radio is perfect for spookiness and dread and scares. Dublin playwright Peter Dunne told us on The Book Show (Radio 1, Sat, 7pm): "I love ghost stories - what you don't see and what you imagine are far worse (than what is explicitly shown). There are certain stories that I've actually jumped in fright while reading them."

The same goes for radio - it's the suggestion of horror that gets you, allowing your mind free and full rein to plumb the depths and the darkness. Dunne was bringing host Sinéad Gleeson on his walking tour of the capital city, Eerie, an audio experience "filled with stories and sounds that are guaranteed to chill your spine".

The tour, which began as a series of underground film nights, physically starts at Smock Alley in the south inner city, and brings walkers around "another Dublin", visiting "the historical things that are hidden in this big city". It sounded like a blast, whether done at Halloween or not.

BBC Radio 4 is always a good bet for some frightening audio dramas and stories, and this year gave us Fright Night, which ran for about a week up to Halloween itself on their website (all these shows are still available to hear, by the way).

Ring in 3D Sound was probably the pick of the bunch, from a purely technical standpoint if nothing else.

This hour-long adaptation of the classic Japanese horror movie Ringu was, as the station advised, best listened to "with a good set of headphones". Using very clever sound design and effects over a lucid script, it was deliciously unnerving.

Rosemary's Baby was also excellent, a two-hour abridgement of Ira Levin's famous horror novel - and even more famous Roman Polanski film version - read by Sex and the City star Kim Cattrall.

And we had Irish involvement in crime writer John Connolly's short story The Rat King, a retelling of the Pied Piper legend. If you're a fan of Connolly, you'll know what to expect: tightly but expressively written, and a real craftsman's knowledge of when exactly to press hard on the audience's mental fear-centres. Great fun.

On a slightly different tack, Dave Fanning (2FM, Sat-Sun, 10am) interviewed American author Bess Lovejoy about her book Rest in Pieces, which looks at how, where and why the bodies of some famous people were disposed of - their "posthumous misadventures", as she phrased it.

Often, she said, their families, friends or even the State "get in the way" of these people's own wishes for what happens to them post-mortem. Charlie Chaplin, for example, had been buried in Switzerland for about a year when his tomb was, well, raided, and his corpse stolen.

Rather humorously, in a black sort of way, his wife wouldn't negotiate with the thieves because Chaplin had always sworn he'd never deal with kidnappers. It turned out the two grave-robbers had hoped to open a garage with the money.

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