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Agnes Moorehead: Queen of Horror, Suspense, and the Supernatural

Agnes Moorehead

Agnes Moorehead. Photo on cover of I Love the Illusion, by Charles Tranberg.

While researching materials for the Halloween display from the Mass Media and Culture collections, one name kept popping up: Agnes Moorehead (1900 – 1974). Her repertoire extends from the golden years of radio to popular television, from movies to the stage. She also had a special flair for horror, suspense, and the supernatural. Her work in radio drama included participation in Mercury Theater on the Air and a role as Margo Lane on The Shadow, co-starring with Orson Welles. In the CBS show Suspense, Moorehead’s greatest success was her incredible performance as Mrs. Stevenson in the quintessential horror, Lucille Fletcher’s “Sorry, Wrong Number.”

Spooky Special Collections Display, containing a feature of Agnes Moorehead's work in the realm of suspense and supernatural.

Spooky Special Collections Display, containing a feature of Agnes Moorehead’s work in the realm of suspense and supernatural.

Her role as Mrs. Stevenson later inspired director Douglas Heyes to cast Moorehead in an episode of The Twilight Zone, where she played an old woman attacked by miniature aliens. On stage, Moorehead played Donna Ana in Don Juan in Hell. Later, Moorehead was recruited to play Endora on the television comedy Bewitched. A versatile and respected actress, Moorehead succeeded across genres and performing-arts mediums, and especially made her mark on the world of the strange and supernatural.

Moorehead is just one of the many actresses and actors featured in the Mass Media and Culture collections. There are a lot of resources pertaining to spooky and otherworldly subjects; if you ever feel like researching terror in radio, television, or movies, or if you just want to revisit the history of your favorite shows, this is a great place to start!

Collage of films, radio, and television

What is your favorite horror or fantasy movie, radio program, or television show? Leave us a comment below!

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About hornbakelibrary

The Special Collections at the University of Maryland, located in Hornbake Library North, is one of the foremost centers to study all aspects of Maryland - past and present - and also serves as a gateway to many valuable resources: Historical Manuscripts, Literary Manuscripts, Maryland Collection, National Trust for Historic Preservation Library Collection, Rare Book Collection, Broadcasting Archives, and University Archives. For information, call us at 301-405-9212 or visit http://lib.guides.umd.edu/MdRmRef for Special Collections Links.

2 comments on “Agnes Moorehead: Queen of Horror, Suspense, and the Supernatural

  1. Moorehead’s signature performance as the bedridden wife in “Sorry, Wrong Number” was actually the catalyst for her casting in the TWILIGHT ZONE EPISODE “The Invaders.” Like “Sorry, Wrong Number,” “The Invaders” is practically a one woman show. Rod Serling remembered Moorehead’s radio tour de force and thought she’d be perfect for this TWILIGHT ZONE story. No one had actually stopped to realize that in the radio broadcast, Moorehead’s voice carried the broadcast, while her role in “The Invaders” was (apart from grunts and cries of fear and pain) pantomime… and thus completely wordless. Fortunately, Moorehead was not just a radio actor, she was an accomplished stage and film performer as well, easily creating one of the most memorable episodes of a very memorable series.

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