Nightfall – Canadian Horror Story Radio

It’s not very often that I come across examples of radio drama stories produced in Canada. Even though horror is not my favourite genre, I was happy to discover Nightfall – a series produced by the Canadian Broadcast Corporation in the early 1980s, is partially available for free download online. I say partially because when I tried to download the entire series, I ended up with only about half of the episodes and some were not in great shape. Since I’m not that much in to horror, I’m not motivated to try and track down the rest of the episodes. But. This series has some serious fans, and it would be nice to see it receive a full-scale restoration and re-release. I don’t see why it couldn’t be put on the air through the CBC again. (Although I believe there are still-in-place copyrights which they would have to sort out, and which is why I will not be linking this post to the downloads I found. They’re probably not entirely legal.)

The Nightfall series seems to have alternated between adaptions of classic stories, such as The Tell-Tale Heart and The Bodysnatchers, and more obscure stories adapted by Canadians for radio – such as the episode ‘Wildcats’ which seems to have been adapted from a German short story specifically for Nightfall, and ‘Mkara’ which was borrowed from South Africa, as well as original Canadian stories and scripts. There are said to be 100 episodes, although I was only able to download about fifty-five of them. At least some of the episodes were also aired on the USA’s public broadcaster, NPR.

Should you happen to be listening to Nightfall, here are a couple of the episodes (out of those I heard) that I found stood out.

Welcome to Homerville – written by Don Dickinson & Allan Guttman, this is an episode you may have heard before – a tale about a trucker who as he approaches his destination, is repeatedly warned away… I believe I may have heard this episode on college radio when I lived in the city, it was oddly familiar and it certainly does seem to be one of Nightfall’s best remembered stories.

In the Name of the Father – written by Janet Bonellie – this is a tale about the strange behaviours a visitor witnesses in a small east-coast fishing town.

Late Special – written by Clint Bomphray – set during a winter storm somewhere in southern Saskatchewan (one of my favourite regions on the continent) and making use of the abandonment of short rail lines still seen as a tragedy by some locals (And there is still random talk about reviving some of the lines, which were economic lifelines to small farming communities.)

Wind Chill written by David McCaughna – another winter-set story this one in Ontario cottage country, when a woman’s car gets stuck in a snowdrift, her rescuer may not be quite what he seems…

Special Services written by Martin Kinch – could be this story is channelling Canadian fears about private health care.

Reunion at the Victory Cafe – written by Tom MacDonnell – visiting a special pub in London, two Canadians (who do the oh so recognizable thing of telling a guy they meet that no, they’re not Americans) find themselves getting a rather direct history lesson as they are transported back to wartime.

Mindrift – written by F. Peter Lee – this one [spoiler alert] reminded me of The Manchurian Candidate.

All-Nighter written by Graham Pomeroy – while many of the Canadian stories are set in small towns, this one is set in the big city, where gruesome things are happening at a 24-hour laundromat.

Last Visit, Ringing the Changes, Guest of Honour, The Fatal Eggs, The Room, In the Eye of the Beholder, there are several more entertaining episodes, however, if you’re expecting the same sort of restrained language as that found in horror stories from the 1940s, beware. Many of these stories being contemporary to the 1980s, they use obscenities, have some quite frank conversations and also use some slurs which would not go on air in the 1940s or (particularly not on the CBC) newly now.

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