"I Will Tell the Audient Void: My History in Audio Horror" a personal essay by Orrin Grey
My first exposure to audio horror came in the form of some short story books-on-tape that my local library had when I was a kid. “The Yellow Wallpaper” and a couple of Stephen King stories: “Jerusalem’s Lot” and “The Mist” in “3-D Sound,” which basically meant that it was an elaborate radio play complete with sound effects, rather than a straightforward reading of the story. I must have listened to all three of those dozens of times, especially “The Mist.” Some nights, I would go to sleep listening to them. That probably explains a lot.
There was an intimacy to those stories and those tellings that always stuck with me. That campfire tale quality of the narrator whispering the ghost story directly into your ear, speaking just to you. The sound turned up until the scratchiness of the tape was audible, so that the horror could drown out everything else.
In later years I would find the Vincent Price albums A Graveyard of Ghost Tales and A Hornbook for Witches, in which he told me traditional ghost stories, how to make a hand of glory, and how to see ghosts (or surely bring them to you). For me, the voices of those vintage horror film actors have always been synonymous with audio horror. Vincent Price, Boris Karloff, Christopher Lee, Roddy McDowall. Those sinister gentlemen of the old school, intoning the stories of Edgar Allan Poe and H.P. Lovecraft.
So when I wrote “The Worm That Gnaws” as both as a nod to the grave robbing duos who often cropped up in old black-and-white monster movies and as an experiment to see if I could write in that rich Edinburgh grave robber accent, I really couldn’t imagine it working any way but in audio. I had only recently learned of the existence of Pseudopod, so I crossed my fingers and sent it off.
Back then, I had only published one or two other stories, so I never really expected this one to go anywhere. What I certainly didn’t expect was for Pseudopod to not only buy the story, but to produce it so perfectly, so sublimely, that it would never feel completely like my story ever again. Ian Stuart not only brought the story to life, he made it something more than it had been on the page, so much so that it took me six years to ever publish the story in print in my second collection, and then only due to popular demand. In my mind, “The Worm That Gnaws” will always be an audio tale, so much better coming from Ian’s lips than it ever could be from the printed page.
I’ve since published two other stories with Pseudopod, with hopefully more on the way, and every time—and with every other story that I listen to on the podcast—the production is impeccable, the telling as much a part of the tale as the story itself. And every time I tune in, I am reminded of those late nights listening to those short stories on tape from my local library.
Orrin Grey is a writer, editor, amateur film scholar, and monster expert who was born on the night before Halloween. His stories of monsters, ghosts, and sometimes the ghosts of monsters have been published in dozens of anthologies, including The Best Horror of the Year, and he is the author of the collections Never Bet the Devil & Other Warnings and Painted Monsters & Other Strange Beasts, not to mention Monsters from the Vault, a nonfiction book collecting his essays on vintage horror films. You can find him online at orringrey.com.