The impressively creepy supernatural stories of the comedy legend.
Dave Allen was one of the great Irish comedians, reaching the peak of his popularity in the 1970s where he stood out from the glut of stand-ups – not only by sitting down for much of his career, but also for being an urbane, stylish raconteur. While he was best known for his puncturing of religious – mainly Catholic – pomposity and for pointing out the hypocrisies and contradictions of religion (never, it must be said, with any sense of maliciousness or anger), Allen also had a taste for horror.
His sketches – one of which you’ll find below – would often touch on horror tropes, and while sketches mocking horror were found across comedy shows, Allen’s were different – they were made with a genuine affection for and understanding of the genre, usually only stepping away from an authentic straight-faced gothic approach for the punchline. As Allen himself admitted, he was a fan of horror films and supernatural fiction, and this love shone through his work.
Even more impressive were the ghost stories that sometimes ended his shows. In a world where gurning, shouting and short-attention-span gags are king, Allen would dim the lights and tell a long, moody and genuinely creepy ghost story. Some of them would end with a twist; some were more ambiguous. Although still designed to score laughs at the end, sometimes they were as much nervous releases of tension than belly-laughs.
In 1974, Allen actually edited a collection of classic horror fiction, A Little Night Reading. It’s a shame that no one thought to hire Allen to read a straight horror story for an audiobook or radio broadcast. He had the voice and the presence to pull it off. Here are a few of his ghost stories to enjoy.