COVID Cramping Your Halloween? The Public Domain Comes to the Rescue (Festival of Dread Special)

Welcome back to the Festival of Dread, The Splintering‘s month-long celebration of all things dark and disturbing!

Let’s face it – there’s sadly fewer Halloween activities to enjoy in 2020. Some venues are completely shut down, and many people are still not working at the levels that they are used to. It therefore goes without saying that “recreational spending” is bound to be exponentially lower this year.

Are your typical Halloween haunts out of commission this year? Have the “Bat-Soup Sniffles” put you in a financial bind? Fortunately, Archive.org has you covered- as long as you still have an internet connection, of course!

If you’re not familiar with Archive.org, the website is a repository of all manner of communication and entertainment, including old web pages, music, books, movies, and much more. Most of what they host is in the public domain, which means that there is no longer any copyright claim to the materials. Maybe best of all, for those who doesn’t want to financially support certain creators for political reasons, nearly everyone involved with these films, books and recordings are long since dead! You are therefore free to enjoy them in their entirety without that knot in your stomach tearing you inside out.

How is this helpful to you this Hallow’s Eve? There is a virtual treasure-trove of horror, mystery and otherwise spooky content to discover, all free of advertisements, to boot!

We’ve sampled quite a bit of it, and here is just some of our favorite picks to enjoy this Halloween.

An etching from an early printing of “Frankenstein”

Are you a fan of the classics (and maybe have a bit more time to kill)? Not only does Archive.org have books to read, but there are also audiobook options of the quintessential horror tales such as Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, Bram Stoker’s Dracula, and many more. Much of these audiobooks are courtesy of the LibraVox project, which is a non-profit endeavor that has recorded readings of hundreds of public domain works of literature for free consumption, so big kudos to them.

If you are a movie buff, there’s a host of great films to check out, too. While there’s still a few years before the Universal Studios Monster films enter the public domain, there are plenty of silent horror classics at the ready, including The Bat, The Golem, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, F.W. Murnau’s Nosferatu, and the great Lon Chaney’s rendition of The Phantom of the Opera.

If you simply must have spoken dialogue in your movies, there’s also plenty of “talkies”, too, including Pharoah’s Curse, Carnival of Souls, Francis Ford Coppola’s Dementia 13, House on Haunted Hill starring Vincent Price, and George Romero’s horror classic Night of the Living Dead.

The cinematography in “Nosferatu” was groundbreaking

One of the most impressive collections on Archive.org is their “old time radio” recordings. There were countless radio dramas broadcast in the years before television took over American households. While not all of them survived, there’s still plenty left to enjoy, and if you’ve never listened before, the performances and production quality are remarkably good.

To start, there are radio dramatizations of a number of literary works, including Leiningen Vs The Ants, H.P. Lovecraft’s The Dunwich Horror, Peter Lorre’s telling of my personal favorite Edgar Allan Poe story The Cask of Amontillado, and of course, the infamous Orsen Welles and the Mercury Theater’s rendition of War of the Worlds. If you prefer completely original works of drama, there are plenty of made-for-radio plays that will scratch that horror itch, including Hall of Fantasy’s The Hand of Botor, Haunting Hour’s The Lonesome Corpse, and pretty much anything broadcast by the experts in radio horror at The Devil and Mr. O (aka Lights Out).

That “War of the Worlds” mass panic? The media grossly exaggerated it. Shocking, right?

We’ve just provided links to a few samples, but if you poke around the pages of Archive.org, you’ll certainly you’ll find something that you like. If you’re stuck at home with no parties, haunted houses, or trick-or-treating to enjoy this Halloween season, take heart that Archive.org has you covered if you want to start a new October tradition. Happy hunting and happy haunting!

Thanks for reading! To check out more of The Splintering‘s Festival of Dread content, go here!


The Splintering’s Teespring store has new items celebrating October’s Festival of Dread! If you like what we do & want to help keep our site 100% free of paid ads, go here!

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