Currently this archive contains 57 of 72 plotlines
Jeff Dickson Recommends:
A well-travelled businessman, on a routine steamer trip from England to America, runs into a spot of trouble when his roommate (in the upper berth of state-room 105) screams, dashes through the doorway, and is never seen again. The captain and crew encourage him to change rooms, but the businessman can't believe there isn't a rational explanation for the whole thing, and he's determined to get to the bottom if it.
Reading Link: 'The Upper Berth', by F. Marion Crawford, available at The Project Gutenberg.
Opening: "I'm an old sailor. I cross the Atlantic pretty often. I have my favourite ships, you see, and I have a habit of waiting for certain vessels I favour. It may be prejudice, but I was only cheated out of a good passage once in my life. I remember it very well. It was one June, and the Kamtschatka was a ship I always loved to travel on. I say 'was' because she emphatically no longer is. She is uncommonly clean in the run aft. She has enough bluffing off in the bows to keep her dry and her lower berths are most of them double. She has a lot of advantages, but I won't cross that duck pond in her again. Why? You'll find out. You'll find out the terror that was curtained in the upper berth on the June crossing of the Atlantic that year, when all the drowned souls who ever were, endeavoured to drag me... Beyond Midnight." --- the narrator
The recording I have with this title is the actually "The Marble Knights".
Out beyond the church of Saint-Germain des Prés, a duel of honour pits Hector de Brissac against his first cousin, André. André the beautiful, André the fortunate, André the loved... André the slain. In his dying breath, André delivers his deathbed curse: "My shadow shall shut the sunlight from your life!"
Reading Link: 'Eveline's Visitant', by Mary Elizabeth Braddon, available at Arthur's Classic Novels.
Opening: "It was at the masked ball at the Palais Royal that Hector de Brissac's quarrel with his first cousin, André, began. The quarrel was about a woman. The women who followed the footsteps of Philip of Orleans, were the causes of many such disputes; and there was scarcely one fair head in all that glittering throng which might not have seemed bedabbled with blood. There were many beautiful vipers in those days, and she was one of them; there is no need to mention her name. The quarrel was a fierce one, and there could be but one result." --- the narrator
Richard Javelin, anthropologist, wanders into the Bonanza Department store looking for a water distilling outfit—a copper tank with coils of copper tubing used for distilling water—for a 10-man expedition up the Amazon. He takes the elevator to the 13th floor where he meets the most amazing sales woman and arranges to meet her after work. When she doesn't show up, he enquires at the store... but they have no record of an Elaine Carmichael working there.
Opening: " [loudspeaker] 'You are entering the Bonanza Department Store. Welcome. If the Bonanza hasn't got it, it isn't. You are entering the Bonanza Department Store. Welcome. If the Bonanza hasn't got it, it isn't.' ... [unintelligible women in background] ... [loudspeaker] 'You are entering the Bonanza Department Store. Welcome. If the Bonanza hasn't got it, it isn't.' ... [man] 'Eighteen stories high, hm? Anything from a spool of thread to complete equipment for an eight-month safari into the Congo. Ah, my last chance. The Bonanza. Well, if I can't get it here, then... oh. Which floor I wonder."
The relationship between two partners (Leopold Thring and Clifford Macy) on a small experimental estate in Borneo becomes quite strained when one of the partners returns from a trip to England with a young bride (Rhona)... and the other partner falls in love with her.
"The Caterpillar" was produced as a teleplay for Night Gallery in 1972.
Reading Link: 'Boomerang', by Oscar Cook, available at http://www.otrplotspot.com
Opening: "[Warwick] 'And a very good evening to you!' [man] 'Hello Warwick, well, well. What'll you have?' [Warwick] 'What'll you have?' [man] 'Okay, on you then, I don't mind.' [Warwick] 'Er... Fancy somewhere a bit quieter? Like over there in the corner. Got a story to tell you.' [man] 'Oh?' [Warwick] 'Hmm. Remember the story about Mendingham you told me? I've got as good a one to tell you. Been hoping I'd see you. Had it straight from the...eh... filly's mouth, so to speak. The usual? Ah, Frank, double Scotches, two please.' [man] 'There's something ghoulish in your manner this evening, Warwick. You going to try and scare me?' [Warwick] 'Heh-heh, listen and see. Ever been to... Borneo?' "
Clara explains to her lover that she cannot marry because she is cursed. He doesn't believe in curses. She tells the story of how, in Salem in 1692, an old woman named Joan Bathfield tried to befriend a young girl named Emily. Emily bit her and, out of spite, pretended that the old woman was turning her into a cat. Six magistrates and four ministers of the gospel arrested the old woman and tried her for witchcraft. Even though Emily confessed that she was making the whole thing up, Joan was executed. On her deathbed, Joan cursed Emily's family for seven generations. It is now 250 years later and Clara claims to be the 7th generation direct descendent of Emily...
Opening: "We are about to travel into a region of [threatening ego], the harsh world of reality and illusion, where [nameless ?] and phantoms live. A macabre world... beyond midnight." ... "Tonight you'll hear a strange tale of ancient beliefs, or misbeliefs if you will, projected into a twentieth century setting, of bizarre happenings with never a tangible foundation of fact on which to rest the bewildered mind of the observer. Believe it or not. Frankly I must tell you that the newspapers did not, but newspapers are like that. My story is called 'Cataclysm'. Cat-a-clysm." --- the narrator
Lilian has always looked good in her yellow dressing gown. But lately, she feels her husband slipping away... into the arms of her best friend. While cleaning one day, she discovers her old crystal ball and, gazing intently, witnesses events that have dire implications for her, her daughter, and her husband's mistress.
This story was announced the previous week as "The Yellow Dressing Gown", by Charles Birkin. "The Yellow Dressing Gown" was first published in Dark Menace, 1968.
Opening: "Lilian Hamilton sat at the writing table in her bedroom. She turned her head and looked out of the window at the garden in which she spent a lot of her time. The roses were blazing in the two long beds. Lilian Hamilton sat at the writing table and slowly, in a style that was not good, but colourful and evocative, penned the story of her married life in a thick [school] exercise book. The last chapter was not going to be written, of course, for the final chapter of any autobiography must remain unwritten. Poor Lilian." --- the narrator
A doctor becomes concerned for a friend who claims that his dreams are transporting him to another time and place, where savage horsemen are bearing down on him, swords drawn to kill him. The dreams, or rather the different parts of the same progressive dream, become more complete each night. The friend is concerned that in a few nights the dream may reach its final, terrifying conclusion.
Possibly based on the Basil Copper short story "The Janissaries of Emilion" first published in The Eighth Pan Book of Horror Stories, 1967. [Still waiting for a copy from the library.]
Opening: "He awoke for a third consecutive occasion at dawn, sweatin' and terrified, with the details of the dream vivid in his mind. His hands were clutching the simple iron frame of the bedstead above his head and the [dews] of his night terror had soaked the linen of the bedding. His name was Farlow. He was a genius in his line, that of higher physics. He was also a friend and acquaintance of mine, and I believe it my duty to tell his story, not that I know what it all means, but I do know that Farlow was not mad. And yet, why should a celebrated scientist be admitted at his own request as a private patient to [Green] Mansion for rest and observation. [Green] Mansion is, not to put too fine a point on it, a luxuriously appointed [mental] home. You see, my friend Farlow experienced a brand of mental torture that is perhaps greater than anything ever recorded. More terrible than anything dreamed up by the horror writers of the last two centuries. He travelled further than any other into the regions that lie... Beyond Midnight." --- the narrator
A suspicious and peevish man, fast-approaching his 40th birthday, becomes discontented with his flirtatious young wife, Eloise, and decides his only option is to murder her [of course!]. When he learns about a secret room beneath his garage that once was used by bootleggers he decides to move ahead with his plan. After all, it's the perfect place to bury his wife, isn't it?
See also: "Three O'clock" (Sleep No More and Suspense).
Opening: "[Holmes muttering] ...seventeen short, swift days and you'll be forty, Robert Holmes. Forty years old. [interrupted] 'Yes? Oh, uh, leave it there please. No, no. No. On the table there. Thank you.' [continues muttering] Forty. Forty years old. [narrator] Generally, it is the so-called frailer or weaker sex who are so conscious of the passage of time, that they hear the knell of doom in the number Forty. Generally speaking, that is. To Robert Holmes, though, forty held all the terrors that modern man can imagine within its two crisp syllables. For-ty. Seventeen days short. Oddly, with each succeeding year, the age gap between him and Eloise, seemed to widen as if time were carrying him along and leaving her behind. In the beginning she had looked at him as being attractively mature, while now he felt she regarded him as growing old. It was no trick of the imagination the way he saw Eloise looking at the younger men in the club, and a number of them, young 'bucks' like Edward Mathes, were not above doing something about it. Poor Robert. He should have done something about it himself. Instead, he allowed it to prey on his mind, and that pathetic little number, the one that comes after thirty-nine, carried him... Beyond Midnight."
A writer with a special interest in Joan of Arc, spends a week at Hotel D'Avignon in Rouen, France. The hotel has a wonderful garden... wonderful for writing, that is. It is surrounded by brick walls and starved for sunlight, but it is deserted. At least until one evening when the writer glances out his window and sees a woman, face turned away, the very embodiment of dejection and despair. By the time he can walk to the garden, however, she has vanished. The hotel staff offer him a different room and warn him not to try to see her again.
Opening: "There are certain people, often well enough liked, genial souls whom one is always glad to meet, yet who have the faculty of disappearing without being missed. Crutchley was one of them. It wasn't until his name was mentioned casually that evening at the [stoorgetz] that most of us remembered that we hadn't seen him for the last year or two."
Fellini the Great (an ageing, dim-witted, muscle-bound escape artist) is obsessed with his fading popularity and proposes a death-defying attempt at the Water Trick—shackled, strait-jacketed and dumped in the ocean. His wife is tired of hearing about it and plans to sabotage his escape from a potentially watery grave.
"The Last Escape" was produced as a teleplay for Alfred Hitchcock Presents in 1961 and as a radio play for CBS Radio Mystery Theater in 1974.
Opening: "They lashed the heavy braided cord about Fellini's wrists and knotted it tightly. Then they put the leg irons on the magician and locked the catches. They stood over their victim and seemed smugly satisfied with their efforts. Then the woman put the screen in front of Fellini's bound body. In less than a minute the screen was thrown aside by Fellini, the Escape Artist Supreme...." "Fellini had done it again. But it is not with past triumphs that we're concerned. This is the story of Fellini's greatest, most baffling, escape... his Last escape." --- the narrator
Rusty Conners—recently released from prison—looks up Helen Krauss, the wife of his former cell-mate. Rusty's got a message for her. Seems before her old man died, he told Rusty where the loot was hidden. Sort of. It's with the body of the man he knocked off, but nobody could ever find. Now all Rusty and Helen need to do is figure out where the body is located. Sounds like the beginning of a beautiful, trusting relationship...
"Water's Edge" was also produced as a teleplay for The Alfred Hitchcock Hour in 1964.
Opening: "The fly-speckled lettering on the window read, 'The Bright Spot Restaurant'. Great. It was a counter joint, with a single row of hard-backed booths line one wall. Half-a-dozen customers squatted on the stools at the end of the counter near the door. He walked past them, slid into a stool at the far end. There he sat, staring at the three waitresses. None of them looked 'right' to him, but he had to take a chance. He waited until one of the women approached him." ... "She didn't look right to him either. But the lady said she was Helen and he guessed she ought to know, but she didn't look right. He looked her over. He had no time for women. Women try to make a monkey out of a man, all women. Women have to be treated rough, there's no other way to treat women. No woman, though, would ever make a monkey out of him. Not Rusty Conners. She went to get him something cool, and he sat and worked things out." --- the narrator
A man's world-wide search for his fiancée's lost ship brings him to a desolate isle in the South Atlantic. Even though her ship is found dismasted and void of life, it is meticulously clean, as if the crew had just departed with the life boats. The ropes are clean and neatly coiled, the calendar turned to the correct date. So where is everybody?
Reading Link: 'The Habitants of Middle Islet', by William Hope Hodgson, available at http://www.otrplotspot.com
Opening: "...we were in the South Atlantic. Far away to the north showed dimly the grim, weather-beaten peak of the island of Tristan, the largest of the da Cunha group; while on the horizon to the westward we could make out indistinctly Inaccessible Island. Both of these, however, held little interest for us. It was on Middle Islet, off the coast of Nightingale Island that our attention was fixed. We were looking for a boat, a long-lost boat called the "Happy Return". My friend Trenhern's fiancée had sailed for Tasmania on the "Happy Return", but the craft had never reached van Diemen's Land. It had been lost in the vastness of the ocean. Only Trenhern would never believe that the beautiful girl he had sworn to make his wife would never again smile at him and sing to him. He searched and searched and I accompanied him on a voyage over the edge of the world into the abyss that lies... Beyond Midnight." --- the narrator
A young, adopted girl with few friends compensates by talking and playing with an imaginary older brother.
"Harry" was first published in The Third Ghost Book in 1955.
Opening: "[Child singing] 'Rock-a-bye baby on the tree top, when the wind blows, the cradle will rock, when the bough breaks, the cradle will fall, down will come baby, cradle and all'. [child speaking] 'I'm Christine. [Where's] my mommy and daddy? Oh, but they are my mommy and daddy!' [child singing again] 'Rock-a-bye baby, on the tree top. When the... [fades]' [Woman] 'Such ordinary things make me afraid. Sunshine. Sharp shadows on grass. White roses. Children with red hair. And the name, Harry. Harry, such an ordinary name'."
A wife and her husband Arthur, dedicated to transforming their new house into a home, receive a disturbing letter in the post. Mr P. St. J. Hobart claims the house belongs to him by right of inheritance and aims to take possession. Mr Hobart dies in a plane crash en route from Australia... but he still means to take possession.
"The Claimant" was first published in The Third Ghost Book in 1955.
Snippet: "...we'd been in the house three weeks when the letter came. July. It was drowsy weather. There was so much to do, the new house, curtains and... we worked very hard. We went to bed before dark every day, tired out. By the same post, I got a letter from Mary. Forgetting Australia for the moment, I was deep in their everlasting news when something made me look up. I looked down again and then back once more at Arthur's face. I wasn't sure, then, what I saw there. I only knew that whatever it was, it wasn't good."
Two soldiers on furlough share a compartment on a train to Edinburgh and become fast friends. Alex invites Major Peter Buckel home to stay with him and his sister, Angela, for a few days. The three get along very well. Angela and Peter fall in love and marry... and all three head off to Brightons for a honeymoon.
Opening: "The Flying Scotsman was two hours late, [as ? happened] frequently during the war, especially when the [? had been over during] the night. The train was blacked out, lights were dim. I was sharing a compartment with another officer, [Major, of about 35]. He was reading The Idiot. He smoked continuously. We spoke hardly at all, just a word or two now and again. Above each of our seats was a notice which stated "Idle chatter helps Hitler." But that wasn't why our conversation was so sporadic. Just had no curiosity about one another, that's all. I [was going to Edinburgh] where my sister kept house for me."
A young student of divinity, rambling the countryside near Medford, stumbles upon and seems drawn toward an abandoned house. The door is locked and barred, but hearing someone approach, he hides himself and witnesses an odd spectacle—a little old man pauses before the door, bows to it, produces a key and inserts it into the lock, then presses against one of the door panels and enters as the door swings open. When the man leaves, he again bows to the door and hobbles away without a backward glance. Intrigued, the young man visits the house again and again and discovers that the old man visits the house on the last day of every quarter, precisely at sunset....
Reading Link: 'The Ghostly Rental', by Henry James, available at The University of Adelaide Library.
Opening: "I was in my twenty-second year, and had just left college. I was free to choose a career, and I chose it too quickly. Afterwards I abandoned it with great speed, but I've never regretted the two years I spent in Cambridge as a student of divinity. Cambridge, for the lovers of woods and trees, has changed for the worse since those days, of course, but I remember the Cambridge I want to remember. One grey December afternoon, I went to the town of Medford. I was late in starting back for my lodgings, and as dusk was falling I came to a narrow road I did not recognize. I was about three miles away from home, and I reckoned the road offered me as good a shortcut as any. The road was obviously seldom used. The wheel ruts looked old and after ten minutes walking, I came to... The House. And so began one of the strangest, and for a time, one of the most terrifying episodes in the whole of my life." --- the narrator
Handsome and penniless David Snowden marries a young and innocent heiress, Bonnie Daniels. Bonnie's wealthy mother seeks to have their marriage annulled. Davey and Bonnie concoct a plan to get mom off their backs... and all the while there's that locked door on the 4th floor of the run-down mansion that preys on Davey's mind. What's behind it?
"Behind the Locked Door" was produced as a teleplay for The Alfred Hitchcock Hour in 1964 and as a radio play for CBS Radio Mystery Theater in 1974 (as "The Locked Room").
Opening: "Curiosity allegedly kills cats. Why this fate should befall our feline friends in particular, is beyond me. I do know, though, that if a bedroom door is locked, I cannot rest until it is opened. Perhaps you feel like that too. Davey Snowden did. He had a few ideas about what might lie on the other side a certain locked door, but he could never have guessed with any accuracy. You see, a mere turn of the handle sent him on a journey into and... Beyond Midnight." --- the narrator
"The house was a sphinx, squatting on the hillside. It had the dark, sullen look of all empty houses..."
Charles Woodley flees to the highlands of Ethiopia to escape a curse that has been laid upon him for killing a sacred bull elephant—a curse which would cause him to die horribly, trampled beneath the feet of the God of All Elephants, if he were to stay in Tanganyika. There are no elephants in the Ethiopian highlands...
Another version was produced for Nightfall (as "Mkara"). See also: "The Thirteenth Elephant".
Opening: "[man and woman talking, then]... 1943. The mountains of the Arussi country, Ethiopia. The Woodley's lived in a six-room cabin, fashioned from a wood known locally as [asala]. The trees that provide this wood grow at a high altitude, on the mountain slopes of that beautiful country that was once Abyssinia. Charles Woodley was devoting what he believed to be the last months of his life to correlating all there was to discover about the Abyssinian Bushbuck or 'Mountain Nyala' known in Arussi [credentia]. The Edinburgh-born doctor was not quite honest when he told the wife that there was nothing wrong with her husband. He had met men before who were determined to die. Beyond Midnight." --- the narrator
A tycoon, William Tinsley, obsessed with the notion that all insects are the agents of the Devil on Earth and are watching—always watching—him, devotes all his resources to wiping them out... but he must keep his actions secret, for if they learn his plans they shall surely destroy him.
Reading Link: 'The Watchers', by Ray Bradbury, available at http://www.unz.org.
Opening: "In this room the sound of the tapping of the typewriter keys is like knuckles on wood, and my perspiration falls down upon the keys that are being punched by my trembling fingers. A mosquito circles above my bent head. There are flies buzzing and colliding with the wire screen, around the naked yellow bulb in the ceiling. A bit of torn paper, that is a moth, flutters. An ant crawls up the wall. I watch it, the ant, with bitterness. How mistaken we three were: Susan and I and William Tinsley. Whoever you are, wherever you are, if you hear this, do not ever again crush the ants upon the sidewalk, do not smash the bumblebee that thunders by your window, do not annihilate the cricket upon your hearth. You see, that's where Tinsley made his colossal error. You remember Tinsley. You must do. He was the man who threw away a million dollars on fly-sprays and insecticides and ant killers. I was this man's secretary just after the second World War. I was with him when he wandered into a web and became lost forever from human eyes... Beyond Midnight." --- the narrator
Too many jokes played on too many people lead to unexpected consequences for Bradley, a boorish reporter on the Police Beat who finds it amusing to play practical jokes on anybody he can, including the night attendant at the morgue.
"The Jokester" was also produced as a teleplay for Alfred Hitchcock Presents in 1958.
Opening: "It was Bradley's idea. It was a dull night, [?] in a dingy little room at headquarters where the reporters on the Police Beat gathered. Bradley, of 'The Express', tired of playing three-handed stud and waiting for something to happen." ... "Let's play a joke on old pop. Pop Henderson was the night attendant on duty at the morgue, in the basement of the building. Funny place to play a joke. Funny person to play a joke on, Pop Henderson, watchman of the morgue. But Bradley was like that, you see, he was a jokester, and that's how it all began. The hour had gone long... Beyond Midnight." --- the narrator
A writer seeking solitude so he can finish his novel buys a remote house so he can have some peace and quite! What he discovers however, is mystery: a locked attic room... a piece of paper warning that a certain green vase should not be moved... rumours of previous owners dying horrible deaths...
"The Green Vase" was first published in Dark Mind, Dark Heart, 1962.
Opening: "I came into possession of the Lanceford House through the accident of my uncle's death. My inheritance from him enabled me to buy it, for it was the isolated kind of dwelling I'd been looking for in order to finish a novel I was working on. I've always found it impossible to create anything worthwhile in the noise of the city. The house was fully furnished, but since it had been empty for many years, it was extremely dusty and I spent my first day cleaning away the dust in the few rooms I intended to use. Lanceford House. I remember the place as if it were only yesterday I discovered the green vase, learnt it's terrible secret, and passed so nearly through the veil that separates sanity and the madness that lies... Beyond Midnight." --- the narrator
A young, ambitious medical student is approached by a wrinkled old man with a yellow face who claims he is looking for someone to leave his fortune to upon his death. There are conditions, though: the young man must be in fine health and have strong personal morals... he must be of sound mind... and he must agree to take the old man's name, Egbert Elvesham, when the time comes.
Reading Link: 'The Story of the Late Mr Elvesham', by H.G. Wells, available at The University of Adelaide Library.
Opening: "My name is Edward George Eden. I was born at Trentham, in Staffordshire. I was orphaned soon after my birth, and was brought up by my uncle George Eden. He educated me generously and fired my ambition to succeed in the world. At his death, four years ago, he left me his entire fortune, the sum of five hundred pounds. In that year of grace, 1886, a not inconsiderable sum. I became a medical student at University College, London. I lodged at 11A University Street. At the time of the beginning of my story, I was taking a pair of shoes to be mended at a shop in the Tottenham Court Road..." --- Edward Eden
A writer stays with his cousin at a rural vicarage while he finishes writing his book: "The Epistemological Implications of Practical Psychiatry" [riveting, I'm sure], but gradually becomes more interested in the practical implications of his cousin's sturdy, but shapely, housekeeper who provocatively wears thins muslin frocks... and who happens to cast no shadow.
Possibly based on the Collin Brooks short story "Mrs Smiff" first published in The Third Ghost Book, 1955. [Still waiting for a copy from the library.]
Opening: "It was not until the third morning of my visit that I noticed a peculiarity about her. Until then, I mean apart from her quite striking natural beauty, she had seemed as common place a rural-type as one would expect a young widow named Mrs Bert Smiff to be. Yes, I said Mrs Bert Smiff. Two F's. A score of villagers, dozens of hamlets, could no doubt have matched her with more than comely young matronly women of just her kind of breeding. Mrs Smiff. How could I know when first I arrived at the parsonage of Little Happenthatch that this lady would provide me with the strangest, most inexplicable experience of my entire life? The happenings of that summer are still unexplained. There is no answer, at least not one that would satisfy a gentleman of science. Three summer weeks I intended to spend at Little Happenthatch. On the third day, the mystery of Mrs Smiff began, and the events did not reach their frightening conclusion until twenty days had passed. And on that twentieth day it was long... Beyond Midnight." --- the narrator
Down-and-out Mr Robinson, with less than a shilling in his pocket, hires on as a clerk at the Sailor's Rest, a decrepit inn run by the expansive Mrs Ambrose Manifold. But there's something odd about Mrs Manifold. Rumour has it she once ran a highly successful inn in Singapore before she skipped out. Nobody knows why. Well... perhaps one person knows why.
Note: Title not provided by Springbok Radio and as yet unverified.
Opening: "I don't know whether I'd have gone to the Sailor's Rest if I'd seen its proprietor before I saw the grimy card with its scrawled [?] in the window. But, perhaps I would. A man with less than a shilling in his pocket and little chance to [enter] that can't hesitate too much. Still, there was something about Mrs [Manifold], something you could 'feel' but hardly put into words. I never saw anyone so fat. Though she was a short woman, she weighed over 300 pounds. It was easy to understand why she preferred to keep to her own room on the fourth floor. A gable room. Mrs [Manifold]. Oh, I can see her now... her fat fingers, her little tiny eyes... and I'm still frightened, just by the memory of her. And to this day I cannot abide the smell of Madeira wine." --- the narrator
An oft-hated, up-and-coming executive in the food market business, Burton Grunzer, aged 35, is approached by the secretary of a voluntary-service group called Society for United Action. The members of this organization are engaged in a spot of coordinated 'anthropological psychiatry'... that is to say, Voodoo, and would like to know if Mr Grunzer is interested? Has he ever, for example, personally wished someone dead? Membership? £50 a year.
Reading Link: 'The Candidate', by Henry Slesar, available at http://www.otrplotspot.com
Opening: 'A man's worth can be judged by the calibre of his enemies'. A man's worth can be judged by the calibre of his enemies. Burton Grunzer had encountered the phrase in a pocket-sized biography purchased at a newstand just before the train left the station. 'A man's worth can be judged by the calibre of his enemies.' Burton Grunzer stared reflectively from the murky compartment window. Darkness silvered the glass and gave him nothing to look at but his own image. How many people were enemies of that face, of the eyes narrowed by a myopic squint denied by vanity the correction of spectacles, of the nose, he secretly called patrician, of the mouth, it was hard, unrelenting... cruel even. 'How many enemies have I got? Heh-heh, how many? Oh, I've got a lot of enemies. I'm rich in enemies. Some of them are twenty-four-carat.' This is the story of a man with enemies, this is a tale of a man with foes, this is a story of Burton Grunzer, who collects opponents like spent matches wherever he goes. Heh-heh-heh-heh." --- the narrator
Newlyweds Laura and Harry—writer and painter—move to a secluded cottage in the country. Their housekeeper, well-versed in local folklore, tells them the grey marble knights stretched out beside the altar in a nearby Norman church had once been fierce, wicked men—marauders by land and sea—who now come to life each All Saints' Eve and roam the land. Folklore, of course.
Other versions were produced for CBS Radio Mystery Theater and The Hall of Fantasy.
Reading Link: 'Man-Size in Marble', by E. Nesbit, available at Project Gutenberg, Australia.
Opening: "Although every word of this story is as true as despair, I do not expect people to believe it. Nowadays, a rational explanation is required before belief is possible. Let me at once, then, offer a rational explanation. It is held that Harry and Laura Inness were under a delusion on that 31st of October, and that this supposition places the whole matter on a satisfactory and believable basis. But there were three who took part in the events of the 31st. The other man still lives and can speak to the truth of the least credible part of Harry's story. October the 31st; it began like any other last day of the month, and progressed into terror, as it moved... Beyond Midnight." --- the narrator.
An Indian Fakir, a very holy man, put a spell on a desiccated monkey's paw many years ago to show that Fate rules our lives and those who interfere with it do so to their sorrow. The spell allows three separate men to each have three wishes from it. The monkey's paw has now come into the possession of Mr White and his family. They've been warned...
A classic tale which has been produced many times. See the Famous Authors on Radio page for more details.
Reading Link: 'The Monkey's Paw', by W.W. Jacobs, available at Project Gutenberg.
Opening: "Outside, the night was cold and wet. But in the small parlour of Lakesnam Villa the blinds were drawn and the fire burned brightly. Father and son were playing chess. The former, who played a revolutionary game was putting his king into such sharp and unnecessary perils that it even provoked comment from the white-haired old lady knitting placidly by the fire. Father and son. They were the principle actors in this drama of The Monkey's Paw. As were the already mentioned lady and a certain Sergeant-Major Morris who was due to visit Lakesnam Villa on this darkest of nights, when the gods showed their displeasure with the world by drenching it with the cold rain of winter. And with the Sergeant-Major's visit the three inhabitants of the villa moved forward into the terrors that lie... Beyond Midnight." --- the narrator
It was ruled self-defence. Stoney Likens swung a beer bottle at Riley McGraw, and Mr McGraw shot him dead. Nobody liked it, but everybody agreed it was self-defence. Everybody except Stoney's eldest son, Verge. Verge thinks it was cold-blooded murder and he aims to get revenge... no matter how long it takes.
"Return of Verge Likens" was also produced as a teleplay for The Alfred Hitchcock Hour in 1964.
Reading Link: 'Return of Verge Likens', by Davis Grubb, available at http://www.otrplotspot.com
Opening: "Whatever fear or awe or envy the people of Tygarts County felt for Riley McGraw, self-elected emperor of the state, they knew that he had no right to shoot old Stoney Likens that night, outside the Airport Inn. As Verge Likens, Stoney's eldest boy said, 'Daddy didn't have no gun on him. So I just can't see no fair reason for Mr McGraw shooting him'. Beyond Midnight." --- the narrator
An aspiring journalist, Raymond Hewson, seeks to make a name for himself by successfully spending the night amongst the wax murderer's at Mariner's Waxworks and publishing the account.
Versions were produced for Beyond Midnight, The Price of Fear, Sleep No More and Suspense (x3). A teleplay was also produced for Alfred Hitchcock Presents (1959).
Reading Link: 'The Waxwork', by A.M. Burrage, available at http://www.otrplotspot.com
Opening: "The last stragglers were leaving Marriner's Waxworks. The uniformed attendants, glad that another day's work was over, were locking up. On the second floor of the old grey building, the manager, a stout blonde man of smart appearance, was talking to one Raymond Hewson who looked anything but smart. His clothes, although good once, were showing distinct signs of their owner's losing battle with the world." --- the narrator
Alice is convinced that her newborn baby is trying to kill her: the baby lies awake all day long, staring at her and plotting against her, and at night he cries constantly, depriving her of sleep and rest. Day after day this goes on. Sometimes Alice can hear him moving about the house, but when she looks in on him, he is always in his crib staring... staring... staring. It's enough to drive anyone mad.
Reading Link: 'The Small Assassin', by Ray Bradbury, available at Tales of Mystery and Imagination
Opening: [woman] 'David. David?' [narrator] A room floated around her. Sharp instruments hovered, and there were voices and people in sterile, white masks. [woman] 'David? David, I'm being... Why didn't you come, David? I'm dying. Why didn't you come?' [narrator] Beyond Midnight. [baby] 'Try and kill me. Try! I won't die. I won't! Try, try, try, I won't die. I won't.'
Opening night. After seven long years, actress Laura Laine has finally made it—she is a now a star to be followed. The press are downstairs, the music is thumping, and the party is in full swing, yet 35-year old Laura lingers in her dressing room, pausing to gather the strength needed to face the reporters... reporters who have relentlessly sought to uncover the past which Laura is desperate to keep hidden. Enter, stage left, Laura Laine's thought-to-be-dead husband, who just happens to know her secret.
Note: Title not provided by Springbok Radio and as yet unverified.
Opening: "Laura [Laine], star of Star-Crossed Love, premiered that night, the night of the party. Laura Lane: star, public property. She didn't know (how could she?) that as she sat down in front of her mirror and regarded her lovely (expensive) face, events were beginning which would carry her and one other swiftly... Beyond Midnight." --- the narrator
The episode I have with this title is the actually "Vulture People". Since I don't have a copy of "The Paul Henry Expedition", I don't know if "A Smile to Drive You Mad" is an alternate name for it or "Vulture People".
A pair of sisters accompany their father, the Reverend Maydew, to a rural parsonage, where they become enamoured of an old brick house located in a narrow glen named Brickett Bottom. The house has been occupied by Colonel Paxton and his wife for many years. When Alice (the younger daughter) hurts her ankle, Maggie (the elder) visits the Paxtons and strikes up a friendship with the very charming Mrs Paxton. The only problem is that none of the locals have ever seen the house or heard of the Paxtons.
Reading Link: 'Brickett Bottom', by Amyas Northcote, available at Project Gutenberg, Australia.
Opening: "The Reverend Arthur Maydew worked very hard in a large parish for eleven months of the year. He was also a student and a man of no strong physique. So that when an opportunity was presented to him to take a holiday by exchanging his parsonage in a sprawling, dark industrial town, with the country living of another clergyman in the sunlit south, he was very glad to avail himself of it. Arthur Maydew had two daughters: the heroines of this story set in an English county, shortly after the first World War. Both these girls rejoiced at the prospect of a period of quiet and rest in the pleasant country neighbourhood of Overbury. But their dreams were shattered. From the gentle green acres, the Maydew sisters passed into the dark regions of terror that lie... Beyond Midnight." --- the narrator
Lost on the lonely moors of Northern England, a hunter seeks shelter in the manor of an eccentric recluse. The recluse, a long-forgotten scientist, grudgingly welcomes the hunter for supper and then embarks on an evening of philosophical ramblings. Eager to reach his wife waiting at home though, the hunter interrupts the evening and seeks the Crossroads where he might catch a lift on the mail coach.
Reading Link: 'The Phantom Coach', by Amelia B. Edwards, available at Project Gutenberg, Australia.
Opening: "In the year of 1864, in the December of that year to be more exact, James Murray, Barrister-at-Law, did a lot of grouse shooting. During the last few days of the season he made several trips across the northern moors, after the elusive and soon-to-be-prohibited birds. December, the wind was due east; the moors were bleak and wild. On his last expedition, the very day before the ending of the season, James Murray became hopelessly lost. The first feathery flakes of the coming snow storm fluttered down upon the heather and a leaden evening was closing in all around. The purple moorland melted into a range of low hills. There was not the faintest smoke-wreath. Not the smallest cultivated patch, or fence, or sheep-track. The world had changed. Become hostile. Alien. Murray shouldered his gun and pushed wearily forward on and beyond... Midnight." --- the narrator
The episode I have with this title is the actually "The Phantom Coach".
Jane Brooks is startled when her dustbin lid flies off and lands a couple of metres away. But surprise gradually gives way to alarm, fright and, eventually, terror when neither Jane nor her husband, James, can find evidence of natural causes—no people hanging about... no animal spoor... no wind or earthquakes. Whatever it is, is very, very fast. Eventually a hunter friend hits on the idea of rigging up cameras and trip wires to take some photographs.
Opening: "[James and Jane talking excitedly, then] ...James Brooks was his name. He had been in South Africa for three years. Leaving England on an impulse, England and the girl-friend, he had come to seek his fortune in a city called Johannesburg that was said to be made of gold. Within a month he had decided he might as well have stayed in Sheffield, for there was nothing 'African' about Johannesburg. Then the city got under his skin and he saved and bought a small car and began to go on weekend safaris to the Hartebeestpoort Dam, and once he even drove to Durban. He wrote four times a week to a girl called Jane, and when she finally left Southampton University with an upper Second or a lower First or something in History, she flew from a grey United Kingdom into the hard, bright sunlight of Jan Smuts Airport. By this time, he had rented a cottage at a place called Kyalami, where they race motorcars. And so began in earnest, James Brooks' African adventure, 'The Picture'." --- the narrator
Livermore National Laboratory, California. An accident involving a highly-classified project results in serious radiation poisoning of a civilian truck driver. Secret notes are read and passed about... experts are consulted... the truck driver is detained. It's all very hush-hush, and I really can't say any more about it.
Opening: "[phone rings, Ellison answers] 'Hello?' [McIntyre replies] 'Is this Commander [Ellison]? Permanent Officer-of-the-Day?' [Ellison] 'Yeah, yeah... Quarter to Four!' [McIntyre] 'Lieutenant McIntyre, sir, temporary OD. I'm in the administration building. There are two security officers here with a patient. A civilian. Huh? Oh, just a minute, sir.' [Ellison] 'I don't believe it, not at quarter-to-four in the morning. Nobody, but nobody...' [Captain] 'Captain Blankenship here, Naval intelligence. We have a highly classified emergency on our hands and we need you, Commander, immediately!' [Ellison] 'Give me ten minutes.' "
Socialite Rupert Orange lived with his aunt in New York till he was twenty-four years old, and when she died, leaving her entire estate to him, a furious contest arose over her will. The Court declared that the old lady had died lunatic; that she had been unduly influenced; and, that consequently her testament was void. So began the fall of Rupert Orange from opulence to poverty... followed by an unexpected rise.
Reading Link: 'The Bargain of Rupert Orange', by Vincent O'Sullivan, available at Project Gutenberg, Australia.
See also: "Sir Derminic's Bargain".
Opening: "...Whatever became of Rupert Orange? At every society party in London, in New York, anywhere, such a question was once asked frequently, now not so often. Soon it will never be asked again, because people forget people. Public figures fade into insignificance, great stars of the stage and screen are forgotten all to easily, and heroes we might owe our lives to could die in rags for all we care, within a few short years of their exploits. Rupert Orange. Rupert Orange was no hero, of course, he starred on no stage, although he was at one time a familiar figure at London first nights, and would never have dreamt of attending if a box had not been available. A box meant a beautiful woman, and whether the play was good or bad, the evening required food and wine at its end. Rupert Orange blazed like a comet for a few short, brilliant years, but when his name slipped from memory in the early 30s, there were precious few to mourn a man who had gone forever... Beyond Midnight."
A sheriff, fed up with hanging innocent people and disgusted at the unfair trial a young artist is receiving, swears he will never hang another man. Instead, he slips the accused six hacksaw blades and provides a foolproof plan of escape. Sometimes, however, things don't go according to plan.
Note: Title not provided by Springbok Radio and as yet unverified.
Opening: "[attorney] 'I only ask you to bear in mind... I only ask you to bear in mind that this creature, Burke, is on trial, charged with the most brutal murder ever committed in this county, the most brutal it has ever been my duty to present to a jury. Now, I'm not going to keep you much longer, but whenever possible, I prefer to present my cases... [fades] [narrator] The perspiring prosecutor loosened his tie and continued his summation. His voice rose and fell like an old-fashioned Shakespearean actor's. Burke's skin itched. The little courtroom, sweltering and airless in the July heat had taken on the unreal blur of something experienced in a nightmare, or seen through the walls of an aquarium. He knew now that he would hang."
A reclusive millionaire builds an isolated mansion to secure his privacy and keep the world out... complete with laminated steel floors, ceilings, and walls; polarized glass windows with steel shutters which can repel armour-piercing bullets; sealed fuses; and a self-contained, emergency backup generator... but his high-tech security backfires when he himself becomes trapped within.
Possibly based on the short story "Short Circuit" by Charles Eric Maine, first published in Tales of Unease, 1966 [still waiting for a copy from the library].
Opening: "It isn't only the ghoul, the vampire, the un-dead dead, the scream in the night, or similar shafts of fear selected from the quiver of horror that spell-bind the listener and fascinate the casual turner-on of the radio switch. In this tale, there is nothing outwardly ghostly. It is a story of unease, and we challenge you to make your radio set silent without listening all the way to 'Short Circuit'." --- the narrator
Sir Dominick Sarsfield inherits an estate—one of the finest in Ireland—but spends much of his time drinking, dicing, racing, and playing cards. In a few short years the estate is in debt and Sir Dominick is a distressed man on the brink of suicide. There doesn't seem to be a viable alternative, until he receives an offer...
Reading Link: 'Sir Dominick's Bargain', by J. Sheridan Le Fanu, available at http://www.otrplotspot.com
See also: "Rupert Orange".
Opening: "Oh yes. Oh. Oh, that's beautiful... Lovely... [It's] only lovely because it's in ruins... Looks so lonely. Forgotten. Dunoran. After all this time the name's still there. Could a place like this ever be built up again, I wonder? No, never. Too far gone. So still..."
Christmas season—a season for large gatherings and childish games in sprawling country houses. Fourteen young adults decide to play a game of smee (a variation on hide-and-seek, played in the dark) with unexpected results. The house is large; the hiding places, obscure. Has everyone been found?
Reading Link: 'Smee', by A.M. Burrage, available at http://www.otrplotspot.com
Snippet: "...Smee. It's a game, something like go-hide-and-seek. They played it that night at the Sangston's. Just an ordinary game, Smee. Great fun at Christmas. An ordinary Christmas, that is. But there was nothing ordinary about that Christmas night." --- the narrator
Newlyweds Dobbin [?] and Kate [?] return from their honeymoon in high spirits, giggling, laughing and having a grand old time. Their delight with their new home wanes, however, and tensions rise as Kate becomes convinced that someone—or something—is watching her... or stalking her.
Returning home late one night, Justus Ancorwen is confronted by his worst nightmare—a huge spider lurking beside his drawing-room door. He makes a run for it and barely escapes to the corridor outside his flat, but doesn't know where to turn for help in the middle of the night. He chooses Isabel Bishop—a woman who lives just upstairs... a woman with whom he had a relationship, but has been ignoring for the past several months... Bad idea.
"The Spider" was also produced as a teleplay for Night Gallery in 1971, (as "A Fear of Spiders").
Reading Link: 'The Spider', by Elizabeth Walter, available at http://www.otrplotspot.com
Opening: "Justus Ancorwen, age thirty-five, bachelor. Plump. A magazine writer specializing in cozy chats, preferably with titled persons. Conceited. Lived in a flat. An expensive flat, directly below a lady by the name of Isabel Bishop. Used to pay court to Isabel. Tired of her. Cut her out of his life. Justus Ancorwen, self-satisfied, a glutton for good food. Always avoided bread and potatoes because of his figure. Justus Ancorwen, all his life an unreasoning fear of... spiders. Since childhood, Justus had dreaded that a spider might get on him, it's eight legs running up his flesh. He was convinced that he would die if one of the bent-legged brutes should as much as touch him. The very thought of the spider was enough to plunge Justus into the abyss... Beyond Midnight." --- the narrator
The romance of a log fire entices an old man to reminisce with his grandson about a ball he once attended... and the woman he met there. It was long ago and life was simpler then. And the ball was held at Campion's. Ah. Campion's. An invitation to a ball at Campion's and you were set for the whole year... tennis, the Bishop's garden-party and no end of other little beanos.
"Take Your Partners" was first published in The Third Ghost Book in 1955.
Reading Link: 'Take Your Partners', by Ronald Blythe, available at http://www.otrplotspot.com
Opening: "There is the kind of story where the listener is aware all the time of an impending doom, a gradual buildup of terror towards a grand climax. Then again, there is the tale which seems gentle enough, a story of normal happy people, recognizable scenes and not until the very end, indeed not until the last minute or so, does it become apparent that something is very, very wrong. My play tonight falls into this later category. We present "Take Your Partners" by Ronald Blythe, the forty-fifth consecutive production in Beyond Midnight."
Young Alexander Tavert, visiting his uncle in the Shetland Isles, discovers strange symbols in a disused passageway and begins to fear for the lives of himself and a female visitor when evidence suggests his uncle's allegiances might have a dark undertone.
Opening: [man] "...delighted to meet you, too uncle. I-I hope you'll not mind me calling you 'uncle'. After all, I know it's only by marriage." [uncle] "Uncle will do. Uncle will do. They all called [me] uncle—your father's full brother, Elsie, Norma, Matilda, Edna, and all their sisters, all called me uncle. Well, take yer bag, pick up yer feet, we've a fair walk. The house is set well back. I built every brick of her with my own hands, and I completed the whole building and the barn without another man's hands to help me, inside of three years." [man]
"Alexander [Tavert's] my name. I was 27 when I went to stay with my uncle [Foylan] in the [Shetland Isles]. He was a recluse, a one-time minister of the old kirk. A man who had become disillusioned with his god for some reason. A man who'd had three wives and never an heir to his name. My first impressions when the launch had dumped me on that desolate shore full of seagull cryings, [bladderweed], shells, and my father's half-brother as big as a barn, are difficult to recall after the passage of years, but I do know that for some strange reason I couldn't fathom, I felt a kind of awe that was not far removed from fear. I turned and watched the launch, but she was already a quarter of a mile out towards the mainland again. I shook uncle [Foylan's] great hand, and so began the most terrifying weeks of my life." --- the narrator
"In our series, Beyond Midnight, we present 'The Tangled Way' written and produced by Michael McCabe."
Local headmen complain to the Kenyan government in Nairobi that a renegade herd of elephants (jumbos) is destroying their crops and damaging their shambas. Two young hunters are hired to thin the herd, but they cannot find it—it seems to be hiding. Desperate, they ask a local witch doctor for help. He agrees to tell them where the herd is... as long as they promise to kill no more than twelve elephants.
See also: "Impala".
Opening: "...Africa where many believe man had his very beginnings. Africa, where the most unbelievable but true stories originate. Tonight, in Beyond Midnight, we present "The Thirteenth Elephant" ... "Beyond Midnight" ... "Robert [Bryant] and John [Younger] were hunters, or so they were pleased to style themselves. The year was '28. Europe and North America were swamped in Jazz, racketeering, money, breadlines, and starvation. It was, as always, an unfair world where the poor rub shoulders with the rich in the hope that something would 'rub off' on them. To [Bryant and Younger] though, beginning their careers as hunters of elephant in Kenya, the not-so-gay '20s and the big, bright cities of the world might just as well have been on the moon." --- the narrator
During the holidays, a man visits his life-long friends on their centuries-old estate and falls in love with the portrait of a long-dead woman. Later that night, a strange thunderstorm transports him back in time, to 1737, where he has a chance to meet her.
Opening: "[Christmas reunion of old friends, followed by...] They were my dearest friends, always had been, always will be. [Petal] and Christopher [Farringford]. I once proposed to her, but she told me she loved me far too much to marry me. A month later, she went to the altar with my best friend. And I spent the next five years puzzling out how a beautiful girl could possibly love someone 'too much' to marry them. I went abroad. China, Australia, East Africa. I enjoyed good times, experienced the ebb and flow of fortune. Never married. Never forgot Petal. Then one day, I grew sick of travelling. I'd made money, but I didn't have much I wanted to do with it, so I sent a telegram to [Seapoint], Bembridge, the Isle of Wight, on the off-chance that the Farringfords still lived there. They did... with four children. She was lovelier than ever. It was Christmastime. December the 19th, as a matter of fact. The strangest Christmas I've ever known. My story doesn't directly concern the gorgeous Petal, or her husband Chris, it concerns... another. In all my days, my memory, I shall never, never forget her." --- the narrator
"In our series, Beyond Midnight, we present 'A Time for Thunder', written and produced by Michael McCabe." --- the announcer
Yet another rendition of that classic horror tale "The Signal-Man", by
A very faithful re-telling of Charles Dickens' classic tale. In times past, Signal-men manned outposts (signal boxes) along railways. Telegraph lines connected these signal boxes and provided a means of transmitting warnings up and down the line. Upon receipt of a warning, the signal-man would light a lantern and alert passing trains. Interestingly, one of the jobs of the signal-man was to verify that each passing train still had its caboose attached. If the caboose didn't arrive with the rest of the train, the signal-man knew the intervening section of track was NOT clear and he would sound the alarm.
Reading Link: 'The Signal-Man', by Charles Dickens, available at The University of Adelaide Library.
Opening: "'Halloa! Below there!' When the Signal-Man heard my voice thus calling to him, he was standing at the door of his box, with a flag in his hand, furled around its short pole. One would have thought he could not have doubted from what quarter the voice came; but instead of looking up to where I stood on the top of a steep cutting over the railway line, he turned himself about, and looked down the line. There was something remarkable about the man, about the way he stood, something strange, perhaps uncanny, but certainly I would have turned such a though mere imagination, then. I know now what was remarkable about that man, and even though years have passed I still see his figure foreshortened and shadowed, down in the deep trench, my figure high above him, so steeped in the glow of an angry sunset, that I shaded my eyes with my hand before I saw him at all." --- the narrator
Sevastopol Terrace, Crome Stratford. A writer staying at the widow Mrs Wane's house, finds himself the unwitting vehicle for her dead husband, Sidney, to reach back from the grave and deliver a final, parting message.
"Dear Ghost..." was first published in The Fourth Ghost Book, 1965
Opening: "Dear ghost. Dear ghost... Dear ghost. This is a true story. There's not much point in inventing ghost stories. Anyone can do it. It is rather like playing a game whose rules one has made up without telling anyone else what they are. The events I am going to report took place in the glorious blaze in the most marvellous summer in living memory. England. The summer of 1921. Good, it was, that summer to be alive, but to be young was very heaven. I was as old as the century, 21." --- the narrator
Sculptor Boris Yvain discovers a chemical solution that that turns living objects to marble—lilies, goldfish, rabbits—a curiosity he has no intention of exploiting, for doing so could destroy sculpture the same way that photography has destroyed painting. He shares this discovery, however, with his long-time painter friend, Alec, but the conversation becomes strained when Geneviève arrives... a woman both men love.
Reading Link: 'The Mask', by Robert W. Chambers, available at The Project Gutenberg, as a short story within a collection called 'The King in Yellow'.
Opening: "[Boris] 'There is no danger, if you choose the right moment. That golden ray is the signal. Now. There, you see? Without a flaw. Oh, what sculptor could reproduce that? The Easter lily which Geneviève brought to me this morning from Notre Dame? Turned to stone, to the purest marble!' [Man] 'I know nothing of chemistry, Boris, but how? I mean...' [Boris] 'Ah, don't ask me the reasons. It never fails though. Yesterday, I tried one of Geneviève's goldfish. There it is.' [Narrator] 'The other man looked to where Boris' hand pointed. The goldfish that once had floated in a glass bowl, now lay upon a small antique table, sculptured in marble. The stone was beautifully veined with a feint blue, and from somewhere within came a rosy light, like the tint which slumbers in an opal. When the Russian-born sculptor had dropped the lily into the basin, the liquid it held had lost its crystalline clearness. For a second, the flower was enveloped in a milk-white foam, which disappeared leaving the fluid opalescent. Changing tints of orange and crimson played over the surface, and then, what seemed to be a ray of pure sunlight, struck through from the bottom where the lily was resting. It was at that precise moment, Boris had plunged a hand into the basin and drawn out a marble flower." --- the narrator
Snippet: "The mask of self-deception was no longer a mask for me, it was a part of me. Night lifted it, laying bare the stifled truth below; but there was no one to see except myself, and when the day broke the mask fell back again of its own accord."
A mysterious travelling couple are difficult to trace, as their names are forgotten by everyone they encounter and even disappear from the hotel registry!
Based on the Katherine Yates short story "Under the Hau Tree", first published in Weird Tales, 1925.
Opening: "The woman was stringing scarlet wiliwili seeds into a barbaric necklace. The man was idly looking through a basket of unmounted photographic prints. The drooping branches of the Hau tree shut out the glare of the late-afternoon sun, and the fluttering leaves were backgrounded by a purple-blue horizon, from which long lines of white surf came rolling in, curling nearer and nearer, until they washed softly up the sand to the line of rocks. The man continued to toss the prints over idly. Suddenly he stopped and bent forward. He bent forward over one of them. His expression was at first one of amazement, [is] changed into fear, and then disbelief illumined his face as he turned to the woman. 'Where did you get this one?' This is a true story. I shall not name the person who recounted it to me. I have no proof of its authenticity. I merely offer it to you as something quiet unbelievable, and yet, it happened. Hawaii. Under the Hau Tree." --- the narrator
"The Uninvited Face" was first published in The Third Ghost Book in 1955.
Colin Hunt, a plantation owner in Sierra Leone, is relaxing on his stoop early one evening when a self-assured young man (Philip Milton) arrives and starts acting as if he owns the place! Soon, friends of Philip (Ann and David Stewart) arrive and start demanding what Colin is doing in their home...
Opening: "I'm a cocoa man. Took over a rice plantation back in the '20s, rolled up my sleeves, reorganized the soil, got it to do what I wanted it to do, and put in cocoa. Rice erodes the soil, you see, in the uplands. The Southeastern province is the richest in Sierra Leone. Lovely crop, cocoa. Harvest it and you don't feel bad. Not wicked like you do when you put a chopper or a saw against a tree. I'm soft about trees; I prefer them to people if the truth were known. Anyway, that's enough about cocoa and trees. I've got a story to tell and it's one of the most impossible you've ever heard. One of the most impossible anyone ever heard. I wouldn't believe it at all if I were you. Won't make any difference to me. Unfortunately, I'm stuck with it, because you see it all happened to me. The oddest night of my life. The night of... The Visitors." --- the narrator
The injured leader of an archaeological expedition into the Amazon waxes jealous when his wife and their amorous Brazilian guide depart for help—so jealous that he sports truck with murderous natives known as the 'Vulture People' to retrieve her.
This episode is sometimes mislabelled as 'The Paul Henry Expedition'.
Opening: "Sir Cedric [Harbin], the archeologist, had been lying in his confined canvas cot for eight days and nights. A young Xavante native fanned him constantly to keep away the mosquitoes and the tiny vicious [hyeim] flies. Occasionally, Sir Cedric tried to sit up, despite the adhesive strapped over his bare chest like a cocoon. But it was always the same, he sank back with a groan. The Mato Grosso interior. Harbin. Three broken ribs. Harbin? Sir Cedric Harbin. But boa constrictors are no respecters of titles. What's a knight of the realm to a great reptile disturbed from its slumber? It acted in the only way possible. It whipped its coils around the blundering human and squeezed and squeezed and Sir Cedric, archeologist, passed from the dimming light of the jungle into and beyond, midnight" --- the narrator
To everyone's surprise, beautiful and flighty Mae Foster suddenly agrees to marry geeky, yet persistent, John Charrington. Friends speculate that Charrington has unduly influenced Miss Foster, but when the wedding date is set and invitations are sent it is obvious the betrothed are committed to spending eternity together.
Snippet: "It was true. There wasn't a man in Barkham that wasn't in love with Mae Foster. Oh, I remember her so well, the picture of her is imprinted on my mind. I had asked her twice myself. She laughed, of course, she always laughed, as if the whole idea of matrimony was the funniest joke in the world. I have to confess that we all secretly believed that Charrington had used something other than persuasion with her. The queer thing about it was that when we congratulated Miss Foster, she blushed and smiled and dimpled for all the world as though she were in love with the man, as if she'd been in love with him all the time. Upon my word, I think she had been. Women are strange, impossible creatures. We were all asked to the wedding. September the 19th, 1893. The date is engraven upon my mind." --- the narrator
Kyra Vaughan and her husband meet Lewis Banning while vacationing at Zweibergen, a small village in the Carpathian Mountains, during the Summer of 1926. Two local men have vanished during the past week and the townspeople are convinced a werewolf is responsible. Vaughan and Banning take turns acting as bait to lure the werewolf out so the other can kill it.
Based on the Geoffrey Household short story "Taboo", first published in The Salvation of Pisco Gabar, 1939. Another version was produced for Escape.
Snippet: "...Bright sun. The song of the birds. High and remote. The year, 1926. Europe. Zweibergen. Those are the facts—facts that just a few people can never forget, and would give anything to forget. They were happy that day, very happy. The Vaughans, Eric and his American wife, and their visitor, Lewis Banning. Three civilized people had met together in a remote place. It was natural that they should wish to spend longer in one another's company. They were happy, that day. But, terror killed the laughter." --- the narrator
Sixteen year-old Angela Peters is raped and murdered on Wimbledon common. Evidence points to the family chauffeur, George Yarrow, but there is not enough evidence to convict him of the crime. Thinking release from the police means he won't suffer the consequences for the murder he committed, Yarrow accepts his old job as chauffeur. Angela's father, however, is a noted scientist who has some interesting experiments in mind for his loyal employee.
Based on the Charles Birkin short story "An Eye for an Eye", first published in Shivers, 1932.
Jimmy - Well, take that horrible murder, for instance. Nothing anyone can do about the beggar.
Woman - Jimmy, if the police know who's done it, why on Earth can't they arrest him?
Jimmy - Because, darling, the evidence is inconclusive.
Man - You see, Mrs Clinton, a man can only be tried once for any murder, and the police are reasonably certain that sooner or later, he'll give himself away.
Jimmy - Or the missing link in the chain will be filled in.
Enticed by an eccentric, yet wealthy widow's substantial reward, a sceptic accepts an offer to spend a night locked in a supposedly haunted room in her mansion... despite the fact that previous volunteers have all gone insane or committed suicide.
This story was announced the previous week as 'The Room'. It is based on the H.G. Wells story 'The Red Room'. See also 'The Room', Nightfall.
Reading Link: 'The Red Room', by H.G. Wells, available at The Project Gutenberg.
Watts - 'Do you like ice Mr Todd?'
Todd - 'Ah, ice? Tha... thank you, Miss Watts'
Watts - 'Mrs Watts, Mr Todd'
Todd - Oh, I'm sorry.
Watts - That's all right... There. Gives me great pleasure to see a man drink whiskey, Mr Todd. My late husband was partial to it.
Todd - Oh, lovely. Thank you Miss... Mrs Watts.
Watts - Do I look like a spinster?
Todd - No. Not at all. No.
Watts - Well, you seem determined to make me one. I'm a widow. I have been one for twenty-two years.
Todd - Cheers... It's lovely whiskey.
Watts - Atlas Whiskey. One of the first ever produced in Scotland. Not available in the general run of [?].
Todd - Well. I'm honoured
Watts - Oh, this is nice. So long since I've been able to offer my whiskey. I've had that bottle for nearly a quarter of a century. Poor Alfred was the last to drink from it. He died the next day... Shall we discuss the matter in hand?
Todd - Hm. Rather.
Narrator - They began to discuss the matter in hand, and Ronald Todd, bachelor, aged 33 of Landsdown Private Hotel, began his journey into the land that lies... Beyond Midnight.