June 8, 2011 by JRD Skinner
The legend of Midnight Tales with Cassandra still abounds on the American East Coast. It’s said that, in the summer of 1973, a radio drama began appearing on an otherwise unoccupied AM band – while most believed the show to be a pirate broadcast, all seem to agree on the surprisingly high level of production values that went into the fourteen known episodes. Although the audio is reported to have been extremely crisp, most also cite their belief, at the time, that the shows were presented as artistic endeavors involving very little standard plotting, and heavily relying on incidental, naturalistic, dialog to explain the events as they unfolded.
Hosted by Cassandra, a sensuously-voiced woman, each episode opened with a theme played on pipe-organ, followed by a brief introduction by the hostess herself. While no transcripts remain of her prefaces, the apparent tag-line “listen now, or be doomed to repeat it,” is usually ascribed by those who claimed to have tuned in.
Not much attention was paid to the transmissions, as interest in radio as a method of telling stories had long been superseded by rock & talk programming blocks. This lack of relevance is also often cited as the reason why none of Cassandra’s tales were recorded. The only physical evidence that the broadcasts happened rests on then fourteen-year-old Benjamin Earl, who states that he happened across the show at the midway point of its first broadcast, and was careful to record each successive title, provided by the hostess, in his diary.
- The Murder of Selma Tyrone
- Saigon Follies
- The Three Mile Problem
- Flight 191
- St. Helen’s Warning
- The Fall of the Hyatt Regency
- The Lost Return of the Challenger
- The Preacher’s Swagger
- The Rise of the Mississippi
- Terror Comes To Oklahoma
- The Library Massacre
- The Waning Towers
- The Heat of Okuma
It was only after The Three Mile Problem was realized to be an eerily faithful enumeration of the events that took place, in 1979, at a nuclear plant in Dauphin County, Pennsylvania – six years after the broadcasts – that listeners began to attempt to piece together the chronology presented by Cassandra.
While most of the episodes have now been linked (retroactively, skeptics argue,) with real life events, the fourteenth presentation, Finale, has yet to be solved out to an actual happening. The episode, remembered as fifteen minutes of a large group weeping and screaming, followed by a bassy rumble, then ten minutes of a lone child’s sobs, leaves few clues for those active in the forums and blogs that have sprung up around the mystery.