The horror genre was very effective on radio because of the gruesome and frightening images that could be suggested by purely aural means. One of the earliest radio horrors was The Witch’s Tale, which debuted in May 1931 over WOR in New York and ran on the Mutual network starting in 1934. In that same year Lights Out, a true milestone in radio horror, was launched by producer-director Wyllis Cooper; in 1936 Cooper accepted a Hollywood screenwriting job and left the series to writer-director Arch Oboler. The show (which frequently aired at midnight so as not to be heard by the young and impressionable) became radio’s ultimate gore fest, filled with various grisly dismemberments accomplished by imaginative sound effects. Oboler tried to make some important points about society’s mores in his stories, balancing the gory with allegory.
A blend of the ghoulish and the murder mystery came with producer Himan Brown’s Inner Sanctum Mysteries (January 1941–October 1952), which almost always involved a murder and some supernatural element. An ironic finish was virtually a given; for example, in “”Elixer Number Four,”” an episode from 1945, a character played by Richard Widmark murders a scientist who has created a serum that gives immortality, only to be sentenced to prison for life. Weird characters abounded, their antics punctuated by the most uninhibited pipe-organ “stings” in the history of radio. The show’s best-remembered trademark was the ominous squeaking, creaking door that opened each episode and slammed shut at the episode’s conclusion.
Suspense (June 1942–September 1962) was certainly the longest-running horror-oriented show, as well as the most star-studded. As hinted by its title, the program was more suspenseful than horrific, and it was almost always rooted in contemporary everyday reality. The series’s best-remembered story, frequently reprised, was “”Sorry, Wrong Number, “” actress Agnes Moorehead’s tour-de-force portrayal of a bedridden woman who accidentally overhears a murder plot on her telephone, unaware that she is the intended victim. Despite shrinking budgets during its last years, Suspense continued to deliver first-rate programs until the final day of the series—and of network dramatic radio—on September 30, 1962.
Inner Sanctum Mysteries aired from January 7, 1941 to October 5, 1952
Inner Sanctum Mysteries, one of the many suspense and mystery Old Time Radio (OTR) shows playing on Dark Arts Horror Radio, aired on the Blue Network from January 7, 1941 to October 5, 1952 and 526 episodes were broadcast. The program’s familiar and famed audio trademark was the eerie creaking door which opened and closed the broadcasts. The creator and producer Himan Brown got the idea from a door in the basement that “squeaked like Hell.”
From the beginning until 1945 each episode opened with Raymond Edward Johnson introducing himself as “Your host, Raymond,” in a mocking sardonic voice. A spooky melodramatic organ score (played by Lew White) punctuated Raymond’s many morbid jokes and playful puns. Raymond’s closing was an elongated “Pleasant dreeeeaams, hmmmmm?”
When Johnson left to join the army in May 1945 he was replaced by Broadway actor Paul McGrath who was known only as “Your Host” or “Mr Host”. Beginning in 1945 the series was sponsored by Lipton Tea pairing first Raymond and then McGrath with cheery commercial spokeswoman Mary Bennett (aka the “Tea Lady”) whose blithesome pitches for Lipton Tea contrasted sharply with the macabre themes of the stories. She primly chided the host for his trademark dark humor and creepy manner.
Tune in and listen now to Dark Arts Horror Radio playing non-stop classic ghost stories, spine-tingling tales of terror and supernatural suspense mingled with a macabre medley of morose music for your melancholic meditation.
Himan Brown dies at 99; pioneer symbolizes ‘an entire era of dramatic radio entertainment’
Brown, whose career in the fledgling medium began in the late 1920s, may be best known for creating ‘Inner Sanctum Mysteries,’ which debuted in 1941, and ‘CBS Radio Mystery Theater’ decades later.
Himan Brown, the pioneer radio producer and director of “Grand Central Station,” “Inner Sanctum Mysteries” and other popular shows of the 1930s and ’40s who returned to the airwaves three decades later with ” CBS Radio Mystery Theater,” has died. He was 99.
Brown died Friday of age-related causes at his longtime apartment on Central Park West in Manhattan, said his granddaughter Melina Brown.
In a career in radio that began in the medium’s infancy in the late 1920s, the prolific Brown’s credits include “The Adventures of the Thin Man,” “Bulldog Drummond,” “Dick Tracy,” “Flash Gordon,” “The Adventures of Nero Wolfe,” “Terry and the Pirates” and many others.
Along the way, he directed stars such as Orson Welles, Helen Hayes, Edward G. Robinson, Mary Astor, Boris Karloff and Peter Lorre.
“He was one of the great storytellers of the heyday of the golden age of radio,” said Ron Simon, curator of television and radio at the Paley Center for Media in New York City. “He symbolized an entire era of dramatic radio entertainment.”
Brown may be best remembered for creating “Inner Sanctum Mysteries,” which debuted in 1941 and ran until 1952. The show’s opening featured one of the most famous sound effects in radio history: an eerie creaking door.
“That great sound effect just gave you a sense of mystery and suspense, symbolizing Hi Brown’s flair for the dramatic,” Simon said.
Long after the rise of television, Brown returned to radio to produce and direct the Peabody Award-winning “CBS Radio Mystery Theater,” which ran from 1974 to 1982.
“I knew that the kind of thing radio drama had, that one-to-one relationship with the listener, was always going to be there,” Brown told The Times in 1974. “It is the most personal form of the media arts, just you and the speaker. There’s imagination, a whole world of creation opening up. I believe a whole generation simply lost the ability to listen. We’re trying to get that back.”
The son of Jewish immigrants from the outskirts of Odessa in what is now Ukraine, Brown was born July 21, 1910, in the Brownsville section of Brooklyn.
Brown, whose father was a tailor, spoke only Yiddish until he entered public school. He joined a dramatic club at the Brooklyn Jewish Center as a child and appeared in revues at resorts in the Catskills as a teenager.
In a 2003 interview with the New York Times, Brown said he was a student at Boys High School when a shop teacher told him: “There’s a new thing now, radio.”
To be able to hear a Cincinnati radio station in Brooklyn over a crude crystal set, he said, was a “revelation.”
Brown entered Brooklyn College at 16 and had graduated from law school by the time he was 21. But, thanks to radio, he never practiced law.
While still a teenager, he began reading a humorist’s weekly newspaper essay over the air in a Yiddish dialect. Actress Gertrude Berg heard him and asked him to play husband Jake opposite her Molly Goldberg in a new radio show she was writing about a Jewish family in New York.
Brown became Berg’s partner and, he later said, it took him more than a year to sell “The Rise of the Goldbergs” to NBC, where it debuted in 1929. Later known as “The Goldbergs,” the classic show had a long run on radio before moving into television.
After several months, Brown later recalled, Berg gave him $200 and told him to “get lost.”
But that was just the beginning for Brown, who began selling other shows to advertising agencies, including “Little Italy,” a family show in which he played the father. He also began buying the rights to “Dick Tracy,” “The Gumps” and other popular comic strips.
Brown, who brought “Inner Sanctum” to television for a short run in 1954, also produced a couple of movies and bought an old movie studio in New York for television production in the ’50s.
But he never lost his love for radio, and he produced radio dramas that were broadcast from Brooklyn College’s small AM radio station into his 90s. He was inducted into the Radio Hall of Fame in 1990.
“For me, the imagination is always more powerful than any movie star or scenery,” he told the New York Daily News in 2000. “All I have to do is open a creaking door, and it’s the fear you hear!”
In addition to his granddaughter Melina, the twice-widowed Brown is survived by his children Barry Brown and Hilda Brown; another granddaughter, Barrie K. Brown; and four great-grandchildren.