Thursday, February 19, 2015

Through the Creaking Door into the Inner Sanctum

Somewhere around 1982 I was turned on to the magic of old time radio by my Grandfather and WCAU-AM. On nights the station wasn’t broadcasting Phillies games they would fill the 8-10 slot with rebroadcasts of shows from radio’s golden age. 

Upon first listen I was hooked. Every night the great 80s fightins’ weren’t playing I was glued to the radio. This carried through to the fall and the winter and over the course of the next 5 or 6 years.

The program list was quite eclectic. They played comedies (‘The Aldrich Family’, ‘Fibber McGee & Molly’), costumed crime-fighters (‘Superman’, ‘The Shadow’), detectives (‘Dragnet’, ‘Sam Spade’, ‘Nightbeat’) and Variety shows (‘The Jack Benny Show’, ‘The First Nighter’).

But the ones that really captured my imagination were the horror series.  The standard template for a horror series is much like the horror movie host template on Television, which followed a short time later in pop-culture history. A colorful host with a great big personality would introduce the tale, sometimes with a few bad puns, or deadly serious and then show up at the end to remind (or threaten) you to tune in next week.

Some shows were monsters and vampires and werewolves (‘TheHermit’s Cave’, ‘The Witch’s Tale’, ‘Dark Fantasy’) some were jet-black noirs (‘The Whistler’, ‘The Mysterious Traveller’). But my favorite contained elements of both style shows and the best host (‘Raymond’).

From 1941 to 1952, over the course of 500 episodes, Inner Sanctum escorted us through the creaking door to all manner of terror and chills. Serial Killers, demons, reincarnated animals, murderous spouses, just plain hard luck Joes and many many more poured out of the speaker and into your unsuspecting living room. Scary guys like Boris Karloff, Peter Lorre and Claude Rains regularly stopped by.

It was also a series of films in the 40's for Universal starring Lon Chaney, Jr. All six of which are great fun and well worth your time. 

Although 500 episodes were broadcast, only 200 survive, all of which I now have on file. Contact me if you’d like to hear more.

My favorite episode of them all was ‘Only the Dead Die Twice’. It tells the story of Johnny Brice, a hapless hearse driver whose longing for a better life and the sexy Vera Craig lead him through a downward spiral that ends in a midnight graveyard.

Enjoy and pleasant dreams….hmmm?

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