As we get ready for Trick or Treating Saturday night, I am taking this week to look at a variety of spooky things. So I figured for today’s Way Back Wednesdays (hosted by A Well Read Woman), I’d look back on something from pop culture that chilled me in my younger days and left an impression on me.
I’m a big fan of old time radio, especially the old time comedies. I was introduced to old time radio by the Star Wars radio dramas. They used to air on my local NPR station Sunday evenings and that would lead into a show called the Big Broadcast. The Big Broadcast was a couple of hours of vintage radio shows that aired each Sunday night. Among those in the regular rotation were The Great Gildersleeve and Suspense.
The good thing about old time radio is that it allowed your imagination to fill in the gaps. The bad thing about old time radio was that it allowed your imagination to fill in the gaps. This is especially true when it came to scary or suspenseful shows since my imagination is far better than television or a movie could ever hope to be.
Which brings us to the episode of Suspense for today, “Dead Earnest.”
The set-up is fairly straight-forward. A guy named Earnest is a catalpetic. This means that he can appear to be dead even if he’s not. Earnest has a medical bracelet detailing his condition and carries a note in his pocket. But when he’s almost hit by a car and suffers an attack, he’s separated from both. What follows is an edge-of-your-seat story as various people find the note and other pieces of Earnest’s wardrobe and we wonder if Earnest will be actually killed when the people at the morgue go to embalm him.
This episode really got under my skin when I first heard it and listening to it years later, it’s still a good study in how to build tension and suspense.
Suspense broadcast the story several times with a variety of casts during its run.
If you want to hear the story, the good news is that most old time radio is in the public domain, so you can download and enjoy it. The Escape and Suspense web site has an entry on the episode and a couple of versions you can download and enjoy.