The Television Ghost (lost early television series; 1931-1933)
The Television Ghost was a very early television program, broadcast on W2XAB New York City (an experimental branch of the Columbia Broadcasting System and predecessor of the current WCBS-TV affiliate), in the early 1930s. Premiering on August 17, 1931, it is often considered to be the first dramatic television anthology ever made. No footage is known to have survived.
The show centered on the idea of ghosts telling the stories of how they were murdered. Each episode featured a different story, but the ghost was always played by George Kelting, whose costume involved having his face painted white and a sheet wrapped around him. Due to the technical limitations of the time, the format was closer to that of a radio show, as the video footage only consisted of a continuous shot of Kelting’s head and shoulders as he talked.
Each broadcast lasted 15 minutes. The series ran for two years until it was ended in 1933, presumably at the same time the W2XAB station suspended operations due to economic turmoil from the Great Depression.
Given the early nature of television technology, the series had to be broadcasted live and was not able to be recorded by the network. In addition, the few people who even owned a television receiver at the time found that the screen was so dim it was barely visible to the naked eye, let alone a film recording. Because of this, the series is unanimously considered to be lost for good, with no chance of it ever resurfacing.
The series was also broadcast via radio on W2XE New York City and WABC New York, but no audio recordings have surfaced either, as this was also before radio broadcasts started being regularly preserved. The only elements of the series that exist are a single photograph and a couple of newspaper mentions from the time.
- Google Books excerpt of the Encyclopedia of Television Shows, 1925 through 2010, 2d ed. Retrieved 24 Sept '16.
- Wikipedia page for the series Retrieved 24 Sept '16.
- IMDb page for the series Retrieved 24 Sept '16.
- Blog post about the show Retrieved 24 Sept '16.