Although the movies of the 1930s brought horror to mainstream America, with such classics as Dracula, Frankenstein, and King Kong . . . it was the fertile ground of radio drama that produced the most (and arguably some of the best) horror entertainment.
So pervasive were horror and suspense programs on the radio during the 1930s and 1940s, that the outcry of clergy and teachers often reached a fevered pitch. The sordid and gruesome radio fare, from shows like The Inner Sanctum and Lights Out, they feared was going to be the ruination of the country’s youth.
That, and swing music by Glenn Miller and Tommy Dorsey.
I’ve select 3 of my favorite horror/suspense OTR episodes, that will hopefully spur many of you on to explore the thousands of others that have been preserved and archived on the internet.
Unlike the movies, or TV, these episodes require your attention and mental participation. The use of your imagination to fill in the horrifying blanks.
So turn the lights down low, gather your family around the computer, and enjoy . . .
Tired of the everyday routine? Ever dream of a life of romantic adventure? Want to get away from it all?
We offer you... Escape! (cue dramatic music)
Escape. Designed to free you from the four walls of today for a half hour of high adventure.
With that famous opening (often intoned by William Conrad) one of the best anthology series of the late 1940’s and early 1950s brought us tales of ESCAPE!
Admittedly, this is one of my favorite series (you find another offering follows).
ESCAPE! was the little, low-budget show that could.
A summer replacement for the long-running SUSPENSE! - which attracted big name stars - Escape is well remembered for doing a lot with very little.
Nearly all of the episodes from its 7 year run are available for free download, including from.
http://www.otr.net/?p=esca (Real Player Episodes)
The episode Three Skeleton Key stars Vincent Price in a radio adaptation of the George G. Toudouze 1937 short story which is available online to read.
Three Skeleton Key is the first, March 1950 production of this story. It would end up being produced twice more by Suspense!, but this first one is considered to be the best.
Rats, Vincent Price, and an old light house . . . and almost no hope of ESCAPE!
Many of the radio scripts from ESCAPE! would end up being re-produced on ESCAPE! or SUSPENSE! a number of times, often with different casts.
Escape! had a thing for snakes, and in this case, the story revolves around a South American Bushmaster – perhaps the deadliest snake in the world – loose aboard a small passenger ship.
`Mute Fate’ comes from the Latin name for the snake, Lachesis Muta, which refers to the silent rattle the snake possesses. No warning for the careless trespasser onto the snake’s territory.
Aside from the suspenseful plot, and surprise ending, this is an opportunity to hear Jack Webb before he adopted his mono-toned Sgt. Friday persona.
Jumping now to Wyllis Cooper’s Quiet, Please, we get one of the most highly regarded horror scripts ever produced for radio.
Cooper, who had created Lights Out years earlier created Quiet, Please with Ernest E. Chappell, who had previously been a radio announcer.
He turned out, however, to be a terrific radio actor and used silence, and the dreaded `dead air’ to great effect.
It is said that Cooper’s scripts, read by anyone else, would have run only about 11 or 12 minutes. But the pauses that Chappell built in stretched them out to nearly 30 minutes.
You’ll find more than 100 episodes available at QuietPlease.org
In The Thing on the Fourble Board, we hear the story of a roughneck, working the oil fields, who discovers something remarkable up on the fourble board of his oil derrick.
If you like these, there are hundreds of other episodes from these two series, plus thousands more from Suspense, Lights Out, The Mysterious Traveler, Inner Sanctum, The Hermits Cave, and many, many more.
Some, today, would be considered camp, or even silly. A few, like The Hermits Cave, were admittedly over-the-top.
But before we’d been jaded by CGI movies, and had seen a thousand rip offs of these early plots on TV, these shows were very chilling indeed.