The Ephemeral Tale of The Television Ghost

In the 1930s, television was produced mechanically, which involved a lot of moving parts and very low resolution. But it was radio with pictures, so it was better than anything that had come before! Just not for many people. Television receivers (TV sets) were expensive, and few people wanted to drop a lot of money on something that might not catch on, particularly during the Great Depression. Besides, there were not that many stations actually sending out television broadcasts, and those that did had little to show us. In this setting, station W2XAB in New York, a CBS affiliate, came up with something really eerie: The Television Ghost

The Television Ghost consisted of 15-minute murder story episodes presented by George Kelting, and aired from 1931 to 1933. Kelting dressed as a ghost, with white makeup and a sheet draped over his head. The premise was that the ghost of the murder victim was the one telling the story! The stories were also broadcast on radio, where it was probably just as scary. But when you find out what the pictures looked like on mechanical TV, you can imagine that a guy in white makeup telling a story looked ultra weird indeed. Listen to the expanded story around The Television Ghost in this video.

The Television Ghost itself may as well be a ghost story today. There is little documentation about it, and no recordings were made, either of the television or radio broadcast. In another hundred years, it may be reduced to just an eerie rumor of early TV, a tale told around the campfire. -Thanks WTM!

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