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The Black Mass

featured tales about the macabre, the bizarre, the supernatural, and the generally discomforting from outstanding, established authors—many of whom were not generally known for writing in that genre. The series was the result of a successful collaboration between Erik Bauersfeld (producer, director, adaptor, actor) and John Whiting (Production Director), both at KPFA, Berkeley. The series ran irregularly from 1963 to 1970 and dramatized at least 43 stories. Remarkably high production quality, chilling tales, and excellent pacing, all combine to make this one of the best series around. There is not much action here: no chase scenes, no explosions, few screams. This is a cerebral series where mood is created through language, pacing, dialogue, and subtle music.

Keep in mind, this series dramatizes a wide range of writing styles; there is something here for everybody, which is really just another way of saying that everybody will be able to find something to love... and something to hate. Don't feel bad about skipping a story in the middle and moving on to the next one!

In a (possible) nod to The Witch's Tale, the first episode in the series opens at a witch's black mass... an organ plays in the background... and you, the listener, are invited into the inner circle—the circle of empathy—so that the number might equal thirteen. The candles are lit... the shadows flicker across the wall... the mood is set.

In 1985, 16 of these stories were exhumed from a dank and dusty grave, given a new intro and effects by James McKee and Ken Heller, and then rebroadcast as

Tales from the Shadows

on KCRW, Santa Monica.

Currently this archive contains 43 of 43 plotlines

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All Hallows

Year: 1963
Duration: 40 min
Genre: Supernatural
Available for Listening Booth: Y
Story by: Walter de la Mare, 1926

After a lengthy and tiresome journey a visitor finally arrives at the ancient, seaside cathedral of All Hallows. He is astonished, not by the age, austerity, or solitude of the cathedral, but by the sense of abandonment. Although visiting hours have just ended, the Verger agrees to give the visitor a brief tour through the gathering evening gloom. Brief, because there are, oddly, places where the cathedral seems to repairing itself.

With Erik Bauersfeld (the visitor and the Verger). Support by John Whiting (technical production).

Snippet: "I mean, sir, that there are devilish agencies at work here. Don't, I entreat you, dismiss what I'm saying as the wanderings of a foolish old man. I have heard them with these ears; I have seen them with these eyes. Though, whether they have any positive substance, sir, is beyond my small knowledge to declare. Devils are creatures made by God, and that, for vengeance." --- the Verger

Reviews:
A great introduction to this series! A very slow-moving tale in which practically nothing happens. If you're easily bored, you might want to give this one a miss. On the other hand, this is a masterpiece of mood. If you turn off the lights, close your eyes, sit back and listen, you will soon feel the oppressive gloom closing in on you. [8/10] --- zM

The Ash Tree

Year: 1963
Duration: 30 min
Genre: Supernatural
Available for Listening Booth: Y
Story by: M.R. James, 1904

Based largely on the testimony of Sir Matthew Fell of Castringham Hall, Mrs. Mothersole is convicted of witchcraft and hanged. He claims to have seen her at midnight, on three different occasions, gathering sprigs from the ash tree near his house. On each occasion Sir Matthew tried to capture her, but all he could see when he got down to the garden was a hare running across the park in the direction of the village. Her last words, repeated more than once in an undertone were, "There will be guests at the Hall".

With Erik Bauersfeld (voices). Support by John Whiting (sound production) and Maria Gilardin (production assistant).

Snippet: "A certain amount of interest was excited in the village, when it was known that the famous witch, still remembered by a few, was to be exhumed. And a feeling of surprise and, indeed, disquiet was very strong when it was found that though her coffin was fairly sound and unbroken, there was no trace whatever inside of it of body, bones, or dust." --- the narrator.

Reviews:
A loosely-tied string of events casually connect a strong beginning with an abrupt, unexpected ending. The 10-minute bridge, rather than creating suspense, causes confusion and sounds more like filler than serious writing. Which is a shame, because I rather liked the opening scenes. In the end I was left scratching my head and wondering what it was all about. [6/10] --- zM

Atrophy

Year: 1964
Duration: 27 min
Genre: Dark Humour
Available for Listening Booth: Y
Story by: J. Anthony West, 1961?

George and his wife are doing what they normally do in the evening—passively watching television—when George's foot falls asleep. He grunts and moans, boorishly bangs his foot on the ground, and hops up and down on it trying to wake it up. (George tends to exaggerate such things... much to the annoyance of his wife.) And then he loses all feeling in his foot and can't move it, as if it had been turned to stone! "A sleeping foot just doesn't go stiff!", he exclaims. "It does when it is very soundly asleep," his wife replies. She tries to comfort him as the atrophy continues upward.

Possibly based on a short story by John Anthony West called George, published in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, June 1961, but I won't know for sure until I can find a copy and read the original.

Adapted by Richard Rowland. With Bernard Mayes (George) and Pat Franklyn (Marjory). Support by Fred Seiden (technical production).

Snippet: "What DO you think you're doing?" "Can't I take off my shoes?" "Suppose someone comes?" "Well, suppose they do?" "You're sitting there with your shoe off." "Can't I take off my shoes in my own house?" "But you only took off one shoe." "I'm afraid I don't see the difference." "You're completely insensitive." "Alright, we'll watch the programme, then." ...bangs foot on floor again.

Reviews:
The horror is in the atrophy spreading throughout the man's body. The humour is in the affectionate bickering between the hypochondriac husband and the indulgent wife. Mayes and Franklyn have these parts down pat. I can easily imagine this as a Monty Python skit. [7/10] --- zM

Bartleby, The Scrivener

Year: 1965
Duration: 34 min
Genre: Psychological Study
Available for Listening Booth: Y
Story by: Herman Melville, 1853

Bartleby, a newly employed law copyist (scrivener), is extremely efficient, has a steady hand, a clear script, and is dedicated to his work. He seems a boon to his employer... except that he "prefers not" to do any work except copy law documents. His employer is quite taken aback and not sure how to handle him. Eventually, Bartleby "prefers not" to even copy documents and sits staring out the window at a brick wall, passively resisting all demands from the world around him.

With Erik Bauersfeld (Master of Chancery), Bernard Mayes (Bartleby), Ben Jaquepetti (Nippers) and Martin Ponch (officer). Support by John Whiting (technical production) and Lou Harrison & Douglas Leedy (music).

Snippet: "It was his passiveness that irritated me. Nothing so aggravates an earnest person as a passive resistance. I felt strangely goaded on to encounter him in ever new opposition." --- Master in Chancery

Reviews:
A tragic tale which starts off rather humorously. Bartleby has the passive-resistance thing down pat and I found myself grinning as he steadfastly refuses more work. 'I need,' I thought to myself, 'a bust of Bartleby on my desk at the office!' As the story wore on it became obvious there was more to Bartleby than ordinary contrariness... a deep-seated forlornness. Ah Bartleby! Ah humanity! [7/10] --- zM

The Boarded Window

Year: 1964
Duration: 20 min
Genre: Mystery
Available for Listening Booth: Y
Story by: Ambrose Bierce, 1891

A single, melancholy guitar sets the mood. A lonely wind fades in and out. A down-home voice begins a quiet narrative about two graves, an abandoned house, and the mystery of a boarded-up window. Murlock and his wife, Janice, had settled the place so long ago nobody remembers exactly when it was. She died shortly thereafter, but Murlock stayed and eked out a living through trapping. They lived in a small cabin—one door, one window. Now the door is gone, and nobody can remember a time when the window wasn't boarded up.

With Erik Bauersfeld (Murlock), Ben Jaquepetti (narrator), and Amanda Folger (Janice). Support by John Whiting (engineer), Carl Shrager (music).

Snippet: "Grief is an artist of powers as various as the instruments upon which he plays his dirges for the dead, evoking from some the sharpest, shrillest notes, from others the low, grave chords that throb recurrent like the slow beating of a distant drum. Some natures it startles; some it stupefies. To one it comes like the stroke of an arrow, stinging all the sensibilities to a keener life; to another as the blow of a bludgeon, which in crushing, benumbs." --- from the intro

Reviews:
The guitar music is a masterpiece of simplicity. Jaquepetti is perfect as the down-home local, telling a tale of yesteryear. Bauersfeld does a great job with the part of Murlock. The only drawback is the ending, which is abrupt and nonsensical. At least it seemed that way upon first hearing. The clues are there, but they are easily missed, so listen carefully. And, for modern listeners, it will help to remember that the story takes place in a rural cabin, circa 1830. A "window" in such a cabin, was merely a hole in the wall. There was no glass; there was no screen. To blunt the cold there either would have been shutters that opened outward or a hinged set of boards that opened inward. But during warm weather these could have been left open for months at a time. [8/10] --- zM

The Burrow

Year: ?
Duration: 8 min
Genre: Psychological Study
Available for Listening Booth: Y
Story by: Franz Kafka, 1923

In this excerpt from Kafka's story, a creature (man-like? mole-like?) has just finished sealing his underground burrow... his underground fortress to isolate and protect himself from all that is outside. But danger still exists. There is one small weakness in the construction that could be exploited by an enemy with uncommon abilities. This vulnerability gnaws at his mind, reminding him that he can never be truly safe from his countless enemies.

With Erik Bauersfeld.

Snippet: "Still in all, someone could step on the moss covering by accident and break through it. And then the entrance to the burrow would be revealed and anybody, ANYBODY... anybody intelligent enough... could enter—could enter the burrow and destroy everything, EVERYTHING. Ach, Knowing that, I could NEVER rest! Not for a single hour! At that one spot in the layer of moss I am vulnerable." --- the burrower

Reviews:
Loved this story for its depiction of fear transformed into paranoia. No doubt I'm projecting more into this story than is actually there, but I couldn't help noticing the similarities between this rodent and those who stare blindly at world events and see enemies under every rock, burrowing ever closer, seeking to destroy all they hold dear... Well played by Bauersfeld. [8/10] --- zM

The Charm against Thirst

Year: 1964
Duration: 11 min
Genre: Speculative
See: Six Tales by Lord Dunsany
Available for Listening Booth: Y
Story by: Lord Dunsany, 1931

This story was originally published in The Travel Tales of Mr. Joseph Jorkens, a series of tall tales told at a London adventurer's club by Mr. Jorkens. Each tale typically began with a member of the club telling of an adventure. His memory jostled, Jorkens would then embark on a telling one of his adventures. In this adaptation, Jorkens is walking down the street when he is met by an old friend who enquires about the token Jorkens is idly caressing. Jorkens replies it is a charm against thirst, and that for a whiskey-and-soda he'll tell him the tragic tale.

With Erik Bauersfeld and Bernard Mayes. Support by John Whiting (technical production).

Snippet: "Well, there's one thing about Jorkens, and that is that he'll always tell you a story; whether you believe it or not it's your own affair, but he's always good for a story. And another thing about him is that he likes to be offered a drink." --- Jorken's drinking companion

Reviews:
A well-constructed tall tale. Or maybe it's a true story, how would I know? Jorkens is more solid in this story than in "The Witch of the Willows", and consequently this story is much more believable. Starts off slowly, gets you hooked, then reels you in! [7/10] --- zM

Charon

Year: 1964
Duration: 6 min
Genre: Speculative
See: Six Tales by Lord Dunsany
Available for Listening Booth: Y
Story by: Lord Dunsany, 1910

Charon, a daemon of the underworld, has been ferrying souls across the river Styx for longer than he can remember. He doesn't smile; he doesn't weep. He just rows. Sometimes the gods send him hundreds of spirits, sometimes thousands. It is neither Charon's duty nor his wont to question why. The gods know best.

With Erik Bauersfeld and Bernard Mayes. Support by John Whiting (technical production).

Snippet: "I... I lean forward and row... row... all things are one in my weariness... weariness not of years, not of centuries, but of wide floods of time... eons... eons... the heaviness... the pain in my arms... the part of the scheme made by the gods and all of a piece with Eternity."

Reviews:
A short, speculative, atmospheric tale with an abrupt ending... heh, heh, heh. [7/10] --- zM

A Country Doctor

Year: 1964
Duration: 24 min
Genre: Surrealism
Available for Listening Booth: Y
Story by: Franz Kafka, 1919

A surrealistic tale about a bitter doctor who must make an urgent house call to a patient 10 miles away during the middle of a blizzard. Full of incongruity and random events.

With Erik Bauersfeld (the doctor), Larry Madin (the patient), Pat Franklyn (Rose) and Bernard Mayes (the groom). Support by John Whiting (technical production) and Peter Winkler (music).

Snippet: "What a perplexity. What a perplexity. I-I should be starting on an urgent journey. A seriously ill patient is waiting for me in a village ten miles away. But, between him and me, a thick blizzard fills all the wide spaces. I have a gig—a light gig with big wheels, exactly right for our country roads. Muffled in furs. My bag of instruments in my hand. I am in the courtyard all ready for the journey, but there is no horse to be had. No horse! My own horse died in the night, worn out by the fatigues of this icy winter." the Doctor

Reviews:
Seriously? This was like listening to a kaleidoscope. In the intro, Erik Bauersfeld warns, "Do not expect quite to understand the story you are about to hear any more than you or your analyst quite understand your own nightmares." The doctor's maid has difficulty finding a horse for the journey, but a mysterious groom appears from the pigsty with a magnificent set of horses... a patient with no wounds begs the doctor to let him die, but when seemingly fatal wounds appear, begs the doctor to let him live... a school choir with the teacher at the head gathers outside and sings "strip his clothes off, then he'll heal us, if he doesn't, KILL him dead! Only a doctor. Only a doctor." Well, I was warned. If you are unclear what Surrealism is, this is a good introduction. Well produced... but I guess Surrealism just isn't my thing. [2/10] --- zM

The Death of Halpin Frayser

Year: 1964
Duration: 31 min
Genre: Ghosts
Available for Listening Booth: Y
Story by: Ambrose Bierce, 1893

A frame story in which the tale of a mother and her child are both told... Sheriff Holker and Detective Jaralson, while setting a trap for a murderer in a graveyard, discover the corpse of a strangled hunter... Alternately, a tale of a mother's devoted love for her favorite child and what happens when that child grows up and leaves the nest.

With Erik Bauersfeld (Halpin Frayser, Sheriff Holker), Pat Franklyn (Catharine Larue), Ben Jaquepetti (Detective Jaralson), and Bernard Mayes (narrator). Support by John Whiting (technical production) and Peter Winkler (music).

Snippet: "Whereas the spirit that removed itself cometh back upon occasion, and is sometimes seen as appearing in the form of the body it bore, yet it hath happened that the body without the spirit hath walked. And it is attested that a corpse so raised hath no natural love, nor remembrance thereof, but only hate. Also, it is known that some spirits which in life were benign become by death evil altogether." --- Hall

Reviews:
A woman, a boy, a man, a dream, another man, a grave, a murderer on-the-run, a widow, a dead hunter, a poet, a mother, a detective, another dream, a sheriff, another poet, and a vindictive spirit are some of the many threads woven together in this all-too-short story. The original story by Ambrose Bierce is a confusing tale full of mood and weak on plot. This adaptation straightens out the plot, somewhat, and maintains the mood, but still falls short of having a well-defined conclusion. A few details from the original have been omitted, adding to the confusion, but may be inferred by listening to this tale a second time. [6/10] --- zM

Diary of a Madman

Year: 1964
Duration: 30 min
Genre: Psychological Study
Available for Listening Booth: Y
Story by: Nikolai Gogol, 1835

A short story which follows the descent into madness of a middle-aged civil servant, Poprishchin, who yearns for the love of a high-ranking official's daughter, but despairs that she is outside his social class and will never notice him. Presented as a stream-of-consciousness dialogue between the servant and his alter ego.

With Erik Bauersfeld (madman), Bernard Mayes (alter ego), and Pat Franklyn (Marva, dogs). Support by John Whiting (technical production).

Snippet: "Ah there's the mutt. There's the mutt.... Ow, you repulsive little creature, bite ME will you? Ah, ah there's your basket, there's your basket. Just what I'm looking for. Ha! And underneath, ah, underneath in the straw, what do I find, what do I find? Ahahaha. The letters. The letters! I knew it, I knew it, I knew it. Ah... ah, the letters, the letters, the letters.... Now at last, NOW at last, I'll find everything out, all about these intrigues and plots, oh plots, plots. I'll find all the little wheels and springs at the bottom of the [?]. These letters, these letters will explain everything. Everything. Oh dogs are a clever race. They know all about intrigues. Everything is bound to be in the letters." --- the madman

Reviews:
The incongruous ramblings of a madman. Not much of a plot (how much of a plot can descent into madness have?), but well presented, nevertheless. The best part is the character voice of the alter ego (Bernard Mayes), acting as instigator and luring the man down the path to insanity. [6/10] --- zM

Disillusionment

Year: 1964
Duration: 14 min
Genre: Psychological Study
Available for Listening Booth: Y
Story by: Thomas Mann, 1896

At Florian's Café on the Piazza de San Marco in Venice, Italy, a stranger strikes up a conversation with another patron, in which he details a lifetime of frustration, disappointment, and disillusion.

With Bernard Mayes (man 1) and Erik Bauersfeld (man 2).

Many of the lyrics of the popular song "Is That All There Is" by Peggy Lee, are drawn from this story. The song was arranged by Randy Newman and hit #1 on the U.S. Adult Contemporary chart in 1969.

Snippet: "I remember that I went rushing through the house shouting over and over: 'Fire! Fire! Fire!' I know exactly what I said and what feeling underlay the words, though at the time it could scarcely have come to the surface of my consciousness. 'So. So, this is a fire,' I thought. 'This is what it is like to have the house on fire. Is this all there is to it?'" --- man in the café

Reviews:
A real downer of a tale. I can't help but wonder... if that's all there is, why not just end it? I much prefer Peggy Lee's interpretation. [2/10] --- zM

"I know what you must be saying to yourselves.
If that's the way she feels about it why doesn't she just end it all?
Oh, no. Not me. I'm in no hurry for that final disappointment.
For I know just as well as I'm standing here talking to you,
When that final moment comes and I'm breathing my last breath,

I'll be saying to myself,
Is that all there is, is that all there is,
If that's all there is my friends, then let's keep dancing.
Let's break out the booze and have a ball,
If that's all there is." --- "Is That All There Is", Peggy Lee

The Dream of a Ridiculous Man

Year: ?
Duration: 28 min
Genre: Speculative
Available for Listening Booth: Y
Story by: Fyodor Dostoyevsky, 1877

A man who considers himself ridiculous and for whom nothing in life matters, decides to kill himself. He lights a candle, takes the gun out of a drawer and... falls asleep... and dreams. He is taken to another star, far out in space, where he finds a sister Earth which has evolved into a paradise. His despair, however, influences the paradise in unexpected ways... which in turn affects how he sees himself and his role in life.

With Erik Bauersfeld (ridiculous man), Nancy Ponch, Martin Ponch, Conlon Bradley, Chris Lighthill, Shirley Jones, and Toby Halpern. Support by Warren Van Orden (technical production), James McKee (additional sound production), Ian Underwood (horn improv).

Snippet: "I corrupted them! I destroyed them all. All! I like some horrible trichina, the plague germ, I infected with myself that entire happy, sinless planet. I can't remember how it happened, some joke, some innocent and playful laugh, the germ of it had penetrated their hearts, and they-they liked it! And then everything else followed. Voluptuousness, jealousy, cruelty, shame—oh, they made shame into a virtue—separation, the struggle for isolation." --- the dreamer

Reviews:
A morality play built on the theme that our lives are all interconnected—that we affect others, for good or ill, whether we choose to or not—so why not make the most of it and choose to be a positive influence on others? The message is somewhat dampened in the adaptation by the ambiguous ending. The original is more definite: "The chief thing is to love others like yourself, that's the chief thing, and that's everything; nothing else is wanted." [7/10] --- zM

The Dream of King Karna-Vootra

Year: 1964
Duration: 5 min
Genre: Speculative
See: Six Tales by Lord Dunsany
Available for Listening Booth: Y
Story by: Lord Dunsany, 1915

King Karna-Vootra recounts the dream of his queen, Vava-Nyria, in this short, beautiful tale of life... and death.

With Erik Bauersfeld and Bernard Mayes. Support by John Whiting (technical production).

Snippet: "I, Karna-Vootra, very clearly saw last night the queenly Vava-Nyria. Though partly she was hidden by great clouds that swept continually by her, rolling over and over, yet her face was unhidden and shone, being full of moonlight. Vava-Nyria. Walk with me."

Reviews:
A short, speculative story backed by some fine sitar music. The imagery is beautiful, but the vocals are quiet... dream-like... at times almost inaudible. This is good for the mood, but bad for the plot. Combining the restrained vocals with too many made-up words (Karna-Vootra, Vava-Nyria, Istrakhan, Sendara, Zoth, Sooma) yields a plot that is hard to follow. If you can find a copy of the text (freely available online) read along. It will make more sense. [4/10] --- zM

Esmé

Year: 1964
Duration: 9 min
Genre: Dark Humour
Available for Listening Booth: Y
Story by: Saki, 1911

Constance Broddle and the Baroness, while at a hunting meet, become separated from the others and stumble across a stray hyena which, because she can't determine its sex, the Baroness decides to name Esmé. The three travel together for a short while, with the Baroness becoming increasingly exasperated at Esmé's complete lack of obedience.

With Erik Bauersfeld (Esmé), Pat Franklyn (Baroness, Constance), and Bernard Mayes (motorist). Support by John Whiting (technical production).

Snippet: "There was a sequel to the adventure, though. I got through the post a charming little diamond broach, with the name Esmé set in a sprig of rosemary. Incidentally, too, I lost the friendship of Constance Broddle. You see, when I sold the brooch I quite properly refused to give her any share of the proceeds. I pointed out that the Esmé part of the affair was my own invention, and the hyena part of it belonged to Lord Pabham, if it really was his hyena, of which, of course, I've no proof." --- the Baroness

Reviews:
A witty satire contrasting Edwardian society with the brutalities of nature. Cracked me up. If I tell you a story is humorous, however, does that make it funnier when you listen to it? Or less? Part of what makes this story so funny is the unexpected nature of the humour... which I've just ruined for you. Sorry. But the wittiness is still there. In fact, it is even more pronounced in the written version. Worth reading even after you've listened to this dramatisation. [8/10] --- zM

Evening Primrose

Year: 1964
Duration: 34 min
Genre: Dark Fantasy
Available for Listening Booth: Y
Story by: John Collier, 1940

Charles Snell, a poet, turns his back on the bourgeois world that is contaminating his poetry. He hides himself away in Bracy's Giant Emporium, emerging each evening to write his poetry in peace and quiet, unhampered by such mundane problems as trying to earn a living. Food, clothing, furniture? All are close at hand. What he doesn't count on, however, is that others may have had a similar idea... and they may not want their secret revealed.

With Erik Bauersfeld and Jan Dawson (Ella). Support by John Whiting (technical production).

Three earlier versions were produced for Escape [1947, 1948, 1949].

Snippet: "I was looking straight into another pair of eyes, human eyes. But large. Flat. Luminous. I-I had seen such eyes among the nocturnal creatures which creep out under the artificial red moonlight in the zoo. The owner was only a dozen feet away from me.... He was as pale as a creature found under a stone. His long thin arms ended in hands that hung flowingly more like trailing transparent fins, or wisps of chiffon... than ordinary hands."

Reviews:
Poor sound quality makes this episode very difficult to understand. The Escape versions are more audible (the circulating 1947 version, at 64 kbps, has excellent sound quality), but the Black Mass version has richer language and is closer to the original Collier story. [1/10] --- zM

An Evening's Entertainment

Year: 1964
Duration: 31 min
Genre: Horror
Available for Listening Booth: Y
Story by: M.R. James, 1925

On a dark and stormy night, children gather around a large stone fireplace and listen to Granny tells ghostly tales... tales intended to scare the bejesus out of them and encourage adolescent obedience.

Based, more or less, on the Montague Rhodes James story.

With Pat Franklyn (Granny), Arlene Sagen and Marion Winch (children), Don le Page (Mr. Davis), and Bernard Mayes (narrator). Support by John Whiting (technical production).

Snippet: "Beside one of those rocks... no one believed me when I told the story later, or made out they didn't believe me... well, what I saw was a hand... a whole arm, reaching up from out of the Earth. Now, they say that the hill had once been a burial place in ancient times and that a skeleton arm could very well be unearthed by the rain. Humph. But that was no skeleton arm. There was flesh on it, dark and old, and long nails, more like claws. Now you can believe me or not, but I say I saw that arm reaching up out of the Earth..." --- Granny telling a bedtime story

Reviews:
Wow. I'm stunned. This story is very different from other M.R. James stories I've heard—"The Ash Tree" [The Black Mass], "Casting the Runes" [Escape]. It starts off as a very good supernatural ghost story and then evolves into a story with some pagan ritual and kinky sexual innuendo, followed by torture and murder. We don't actually witness any of these events, we simply hear the aftermath. Not at all what I was expecting for a story written in 1925! That is partly due, no doubt, to Bauersfeld's interpretation rather than the original. Definitely not a story for the kiddies. Pat Franklyn is brilliant as Granny! [9/10] --- zM

The Feeder

Year: 1964
Duration: 12 min
Genre: Surrealism
Available for Listening Booth: Y
Story by: Carl Linder, 1964

A surrealistic, stream-of-consciousness montage of thoughts, fears, dreams, madness and despair, from a man who is being kept artificially alive. Written especially for The Black Mass.

With With Erik Bauersfeld (man). Support by Christine Stone (technical production).

Snippet: "I've been dead for quite a while, but my cognisance of it comes in little clumps. A day or two together, a year of dead feeling, or no feeling. Time is associated with events. Heh. Associated. The skin on my fingers has turned rubbery. I think about my impatience [?] to come alive. When will it be? When will it be? Yeah, seeps under the door, rakes over my chest, plays with my legs. Will it be gradual? The coming. [Creeping] Filling? Replacing the bones with [tallow]. I-I have those things to wonder about." --- the man

Reviews:
Annoying. Bauersfeld alternates between incoherent mumbling and cacophonous ranting. Appropriate? Under the circumstances, yes, but surrealism is difficult enough to understand without missing whole sentences at a time. Wish I had a script so I could read along. [4/10] --- zM

The Flies

aka: "Flies"
Year: 1964
Duration: 28 min
Genre: Horror
Available for Listening Booth: Y
Story by: Anthony Vercoe, 1932

A starving old tramp breaks into an abandoned house to escape a gathering storm. He discovers the house has been lived in fairly recently... in a style 300 years out of date. Worried that he might disturb the inhabitants, he cautiously explores the ground floor... and becomes rather disturbed, himself, at what he finds.

With Erik Bauersfeld. Support by Fred Seiden (sound effects and technical production) and Maria Gilardin (production assistant).

Snippet: "And then... then I first heard it. It-it seemed to come from within my brain... a low-pitched buzzing. And I began to wonder what new trick my failing strength was playing me. But the sound droned on, sometimes increasing, sometimes decreasing. I-I became conscious that the room was growing warmer. I-I swayed a little and stretched out my hand to the door. It opened easily. And a moment later I stood in the hall. Almost immediately I realized that the buzzing had stopped." --- the old tramp

Reviews:
A gruesome tale that will make your skin crawl—heh, heh, heh. Wonderfully nauseating. The quiet, intermittent buzzing of the flies hit just the right tone—menacing, but not in-your-face... a yet-to-be-realized threat that may, or may not, materialize. Bauersfeld is best when he portrays old men, as he does in this story. Quiet, yet unassumingly insistent... earnestly telling his tale before a sceptical audience. There is a 16 kbps version in circulation that has extremely poor quality, but a much better version can be found (in .mov format) at Erik Bauersfeld's site. [9/10] --- zM

A Haunted House

Year: 1964
Duration: 10 min
Genre: Ghosts / Prose Poetry
Available for Listening Booth: Y
Story by: Virginia Woolf, 1921

A short, impressionistic tale of two ghosts who haunt a house, not with fear or hatred, but with love. They wander the house remembering their most treasured moments together.

With Erik Bauersfeld (the house), Pat Franklyn (she) and Bernard Mayes (he). Support by John Whiting (technical production) and Peter Winkler (music).

Snippet: "Whatever hour you woke there was a door shutting. From room to room they went, hand in hand, lifting here, opening there, making sure—a ghostly couple."

Reviews:
A riveting story about personal pronouns. You, he, she, it, they, we, and I are introduced within the first couple of paragraphs. Followed shortly thereafter by them, us, ours, yours, her, him, its, they, his, and their. It is unclear if 'he' is a part of 'us' or if 'you' are a part of 'them'. Nor is it even clear how many distinct pronouns are in this story. If you like poetry, particularly the type of poetry that is vague and substitutes beauty for truth, you'll like this story, with such charming phrases as "The trees spun darkness", "Moonbeams splash and spill wildly in the rain", and "Yet, the moment after, if the door was opened, spread about the floor, hung upon the walls, pendant from the ceiling—what?" This is one of the few Black Mass episodes that is better as a written story. [1/10] --- zM

How the Enemy Came upon Thlunrana

Year: 1964
Duration: 6 min
Genre: Speculative
See: Six Tales by Lord Dunsany
Available for Listening Booth: Y
Story by: Lord Dunsany, 1915

The magicians, the deputy-magicians, and the great arch-wizard of the secret lamaserai, that chief cathedral of wizardry, have waited for centuries for their doom. It has arrived.

With Erik Bauersfeld and Bernard Mayes. Support by John Whiting (technical production).

Snippet: "It had been prophesied of old and foreseen from the ancient days that its enemy would come upon Thlunrana. And the date of its doom was known and the gate by which it would enter, yet none had prophesied of the enemy who he was, save that he was of the gods though he dwelt with men." --- from the intro

Reviews:
A short, speculative tale, told in a tortuously slow manner with an abrupt conclusion. The buildup added mood, but didn't really move the plot along. In fact, it felt like the entire plot was just sitting about waiting for the conclusion to arrive. The entire story could be summarized by that final sentence. It's a good sentence... worth the wait... but the 6 minutes seemed to drag a bit. [6/10] --- zM

The Imp of the Perverse

Year: 1964
Duration: 14 min
Genre: Psychological Study
Available for Listening Booth: Y
Story by: Edgar Allan Poe, 1845

A man explains how, after committing the perfect murder and leaving absolutely no evidence linking himself to the crime, he finds himself in chains awaiting execution.

See also: The Tell-Tale Heart

With Erik Bauersfeld (man). Support by John Whiting (technical production).

Snippet: "We have a task before us which must be speedily performed. We know that it will be ruinous to make delay. The most important crisis of our life calls, trumpet-tongued, for immediate energy and action. We glow, we are consumed with eagerness to commence the work. It must, it shall be undertaken to-day, and yet we put it off until to-morrow, and why? There is no answer, except that we feel perverse. Tomorrow arrives, and with it a more impatient anxiety to do our duty, but with this very increase of anxiety arrives, also, a nameless, a positively fearful, because unfathomable, craving for delay. This craving gathers strength as the moments fly. The last hour for action is at hand. We tremble with the violence of the conflict before us—of the definite with the indefinite—of the substance with the shadow. But it is the shadow which prevails—we struggle in vain. The clock strikes, and is the knell of our welfare. And the ghost that so long overawed us flies—ah, it disappears—we are free. The old energy returns. Ah we will labour now! Alas. Alas, it is too late!" --- the man in chains

Reviews:
The nature of the conflict—man versus the imp—requires high-power histrionics... Bauersfeld delivers. It sounds as though he had a lot of fun working himself into a froth during this monologue! Masterful. The opening "lecture" format of the story seems a bit odd, but it is actually quite restrained when compared with the original written story, of which it comprises almost 40%; the resulting story is much improved by Bauersfeld's editing. [9/10] --- zM

The Jolly Corner

Year: 1964
Duration: 38 min
Genre: Supernatural
Available for Listening Booth: Y
Story by: Henry James, 1908

Spencer Brydon returns to America after 33 years abroad to handle some family business—renovating an apartment house and looking in on his childhood home on the "jolly corner". Over the next fortnight, Brydon feels compelled to visit his old home frequently, sometimes in the company of his friend, Alice Staverton, sometimes not. Increasingly he has the feeling that the house might be haunted... by the spectre of what he might have become had he stayed in America.

With Erik Bauersfeld (Spencer Brydon), and Pat Franklyn (Alice Staverton, Mrs. Muldoon). Support by John Whiting (technical production), Peter Winkler (music), and Bill Kaufmann (bassoon).

Snippet: "I sometimes came twice in the twenty-four hours.... The moments I liked best were those of gathering dusk, of the short autumn twilight; the time which, again and again, I found myself hoping most. Listening. Feeling my attention, never before so fine on the pulse of the great vague place." --- Spencer

Reviews:
Henry James is well-regarded and this is considered one of his best ghost stories... but it really didn't do much for me. I found it dry and wordy... without the richness of language characteristic of Poe or Lovecraft. The story involves a very simple plot which could have evoked horror or suspense under the guidance of a better writer, but doesn't. Boring and uninspired. Nice bassoon music, though. [4/10] --- zM

The Judgement

Year: 196?
Duration: 24 min
Genre: Psychological Study
Available for Listening Booth: Y
Story by: Franz Kafka, 1912

A young man working in his father's business writes a letter to his friend, absent these past three years in Russia, with news from home and an invitation to his wedding. Upon discussing the letter with his father, much is revealed about the recursive relationships between son-father, father-friend, and friend-son.

With Erik Bauersfeld (the father), Don Le Page (Georg), Pat Franklyn (Frieda), and Bernard Mayes (the friend). Support by John Whiting (technical production).

Snippet: "Georg. Georg, listen to me, you've come to talk this business over with me and that certainly does you honour. But it's nothing. It's less than nothing if you don't tell me the whole truth. Now, I don't want to start up matters that shouldn't be mentioned here. Since the death of your dear mother certain things have been done that, that really aren't right. Maybe the time will come for mentioning them, maybe sooner than we think. Many a thing in the business I'm not aware of. Maybe it's not done behind my back. I'm not going to say that it's done behind my back." --- father to Georg

Reviews:
In part, this is a coming-of-age story, but it is more than that. It is a story filled with symbolism which illustrates the need, when overshadowed and repressed by one's father, to break away and establish oneself as a real person with goals, values, and achievements of one's own. Well played by the entire cast, but the changing relationship between father and son is complex enough that I think a one-hour production would have been warranted. [5/10] --- zM

The Legend of the Island of Falles    *LOST*

Year: ?
Duration: 35 min
Genre: Supernatural
Available for Listening Booth: N
Story by: Betty Sandbrook

"Long long ago there was an Island that disappeared into the mists of the sea. Some say it never existed at all. Some say it was witchcraft that did it." --- Bay Area Radio Drama

With Audrey Robinson (Meg), Bill Wilson (Pedraic Killane), Pat Franklyn (Ellen Killane), Cyril Clayton (Uncle Dooley), Beryl Grafton (Mrs. Ryan), Marsha Frendel (Mary Dougherty) and Gary Goren (Father Kullen). Support by John Whiting (producer) and Warren Van Orden (technical production).

Reviews:

Lobster Salad

Year: 1964
Duration: 6 min
Genre: Speculative
See: Six Tales by Lord Dunsany
Available for Listening Booth: Y
Story by: Lord Dunsany, 1915

A man struggles to climb the shear face of the Palace of Colquonhombros, pursued by sable apes that have been bred on the wall specifically to thwart such attempts. It is a dream brought on by eating lobster salad, but if the possibility of death is real, then the fear and pain are real, too, and must be dealt with.

With Erik Bauersfeld and Bernard Mayes. Support by John Whiting (technical production). An entirely new performance with sound design and original music composed by Ken Heller was later produced for the series Tales from the Shadows.

Snippet: "That the thing was all in a dream is beside the point. We have fallen in dreams before, but it is well known that if in one of those falls you ever hit the ground... you die. I-I had looked at those menacing mountaintops below me and knew well that such a fall as the one I feared would have such a termination. Then I went on." --- the dreamer

Reviews:
A short speculative story, barely 500 words long, packed with rich language and a sense of impending doom. Well produced. The Tales from the Shadows version has the better acting, but worse audio quality. [7/10] --- zM

The Man in the Crowd

aka: "The Man of the Crowd"
Year: 1964
Duration: 11 min
Genre: Mystery
Available for Listening Booth: Y
Story by: Edgar Allan Poe, 1840

A 'people watcher' in a London coffee house eyes the throng of humanity rushing past the smoky bay window and finds his attention drawn to one man in particular. Suddenly, he is overcome by a craving to keep the man in sight and learn as much as he can about him! He races out of the coffee house and spends the rest of the night in pursuit...

"The writer Henry James at first dismissed Poe's work, but later his interest grew. He based several of his own stories on Poe's originals; this one may be a source for his story The Private Life, in which an accomplished raconteur ceases to exist once he loses his listeners." --- Bay Area Radio Drama

With Bernard Mayes (man). Support by John Whiting (technical production).

Snippet: "With my brow to the glass, I was thus occupied in scrutinizing the mob, when suddenly there came into view a countenance (that of a decrepit old man, some sixty-five or seventy years of age)—a countenance which at once arrested and absorbed my whole attention. There arose within my mind, the ideas of vast mental power, of caution, of penuriousness, of avarice, coolness, malice, of blood-thirstiness, of triumph, of merriment, of excess terror, of intense-of extreme despair. I felt singularly aroused and fascinated. Then came a craving desire to keep the man in view." --- the watcher

Reviews:
There is more going on here than meets the eye... er... ear. Poe definitely manages to create a feeling of mystery, but fails to resolve that mystery in the end, which leads me to think there is a deeper story here with a deeper meaning. An Internet search yields plenty of interpretations, all of which disagree with each other and none of which ring true. I enjoyed the mood and the mystery, but I was left scratching my head. [5/10] --- zM

Manuscript Found in a Bottle

Year: 1964
Duration: 21 min
Genre: Supernatural / Adventure
Available for Listening Booth: Y
Story by: Edgar Allan Poe, 1831

A bored, well-to-do traveller books passage on a merchant ship ferrying cargo from Batavia [Jakarta] along the archipelago to the Sunda Islands. The ship is overcome by a supernatural storm which destroys everyone on-board except the narrator and one crew member. After that, the situation takes a turn for the worse...

With Erik Bauersfeld (traveller). Support by John Whiting (technical production).

Snippet: "The swell surpassed anything I had imagined possible, the swelling of the black stupendous seas became more dismally appalling. At times we gasped for breath at an elevation beyond the Albatross—at times became dizzy with the velocity of our descent into some watery hell. We were at the bottom of one of these abysses, when... a dull, sullen glare of red light streamed down the sides of the vast chasm where we lay... at a terrific height above us, and on the very verge of the precipitous descent, hovered a gigantic ship... Her huge hull was of a deep dingy black... and she bore up under a press of sail in the very teeth of that supernatural sea. For a moment of intense terror she paused upon the giddy pinnacle, as if in contemplation of our own sublimity, then, then trembled and tottered, and came dooooooown, Ahhhhhh." --- the traveller

Reviews:
A milieux story—a story with a fairly simple plot and weak character development which focuses instead on describing the environment in which the story takes place. Poe is a master of mood, and this story is no exception. From the sudden and absolute stillness of the ocean presaging a coming storm... to waves furiously crashing over the bow... to enormous swells... to stupendous ramparts of ice, Poe creates a mood that puts you there... on the ship... ready to experience the final horror alongside the narrator. Top marks for mood with subtractors for weak plot and little character development. Good sound effects (music, wind, waves, rigging). [7/10] --- zM

The Moonlit Road

Year: 1965
Duration: 32 min
Genre: Murder Mystery / Ghosts
Available for Listening Booth: Y
Story by: Ambrose Bierce, 1891

The murder mystery of a devoted wife, Julia Hetman, told in three mini-tales from the perspectives of ghost Julia, her husband Joel, and their son Stephen. [In the book, the son's name is Joel Hetman, Jr.] None of the three know the entire story, but taking their tales together, the truth emerges.

With Erik Bauersfeld (Joel), Norma Jean Wanvig (Julia), Martin Ponch (Stephen), and Nancy Ponch (Ellen). Support by John Whiting (technical production) and James McKee (additional sound design).

Snippet: "Murdered. Barbarously murdered.... I had gone to Nashville. I didn't expect to be back before the following afternoon. There was a complication, and I returned home the same night. It was late, nearly dawn. I found I had no latchkey. I didn't want to wake the servants, so I walked around to the back. I don't know why, the doors are always locked, but to my surprise, the backdoor was open. It was standing open as if someone had just used it. I entered and went upstairs to your mother's room. In the darkness, I stumbled over her. I'll spare you the details, save to say that she was already dead. Strangulation." --- Joel Hetman

Reviews:
A simple murder mystery with a supernatural element. The victim returns as a ghost to... seek vengeance?... offer forgiveness?... provide comfort and understanding?... find out who murdered her? Having each person tell a part of the story was a nice touch. [7/10] --- zM

Nightmare

Year: 1964
Duration: 28 min
Genre: Psychological Study
Available for Listening Booth: Y
Story by: Alan Wykes, 1950s ?

A tale of madness told from the point of view of a timid man tormented by paranoia. The man tells of his lifelong persecution... of the derisive cruelty he has endured... of his mental collapse... and of his cure at the hands of Dr. Fraser. He finds, however, that being cured requires a different type of endurance. While the old paranoia is gone, new challenges arise which must be overcome. This time, Dr. Fraser might not be able to help.

With Erik Bauersfeld. Support by John Whiting (technical production).

Snippet: "That, then, was how it was with me. I was slowly edging forward over the borderline of insanity. I dared not go out, but it came to the point where it was not sufficient to lock my door—they would get in. They would get in somehow. Barricades were useless. Indeed, they proved so. For finally I was taken... taken, cringing in a corner of the room that was my last retreat from the world."

Reviews:
Bauersfeld's stunning performance transforms a mediocre tale into a gripping psychological study. In a quivering voice, full of emotional uncertainty, Bauersfeld takes us from the torment of paranoia, to the calmness of a cure—albeit, one which lacks the sustaining power of torment—and beyond, to when persecution returns as a nightmare. This is one of few stories that is much better as a dramatization than a short story. [8/10] --- zM

O, Mirror, Mirror

aka: "Oh, Mirror, Mirror"
Year: 1964
Duration: 15 min
Genre: Speculative
Available for Listening Booth: Y
Story by: Nigel Kneale, 1949

"Auntie" gives little Judith an interminable, guilt-ridden lecture about proper behaviour around the house and garden. Judy is orphaned and hideously deformed, but Auntie takes special care of her... spending hours each day doing anything she can for her little girl.

With Erik Bauersfeld (auntie). Support by John Whiting (technical production).

Snippet: "I'm going to talk to you dear. Yes, it's about what happened yesterday afternoon. Won't you tell me why you did it, Judith? You may as well, because I know anyway. More than you do! No, no. Don't hide your face like that. It hurts your Auntie more than you can tell when her little girl won't speak to her." --- Auntie

Reviews:
I was slightly bewildered by this odd little story. I kept expecting it to branch off into directions that never came. And then when it was over... I understood how twisted it all was. Auntie is a thoroughly unlikeable person, made more so by Bauersfeld's characterization. We never hear from Judith, this is just Auntie yakking on and on. [5/10] --- zM

Oil of Dog

Year: 1964
Duration: 13 min
Genre: Dark Humour
Available for Listening Booth: Y
Story by: Ambrose Bierce, 1911

Boffer Bings has helped out with the family businesses for many years—procuring raw material for his father's business and discarding the waste from his mother's. One day, purely by accident, he discovers a way to merge the two businesses and inadvertently brings ruin upon them all.

With Erik Bauersfeld (all voices). Support by John Whiting (technical production).

Snippet: "My name is Boffer Bings. I was born of honest parents in one of the humbler walks of life, my father being a manufacturer of dog-oil and my mother having a small studio in the shadow of the village church, where she disposed of unwelcome babies. In my boyhood I was trained to habits of industry; I not only assisted my father in procuring dogs for his vats, but was frequently employed by my mother to carry away the debris of her work in the studio. In performance of this duty I sometimes had need of all my natural intelligence for all the law officers of the vicinity were opposed to my mother's business. They were not elected on an opposition ticket, and the matter had never been made a political issue; it just happened so." --- Boffer Bings

Reviews:
This would have been a downright disturbing tale if it weren't so obviously satire. As it was, I found it quite enjoyable. I find that most Bierce tales sound much better than they read. The sentences are long and the syntax is unfamiliar to my modern ears. It is hard to know which words and phrases to stress without reading each sentence several times. Hearing it performed, or read, however, makes the story flow much easier... Or maybe I'm just lazy. [7/10] --- zM

On the Harmful Effects of Tobacco

Year: ?
Duration: 18 min
Genre: Humour
Available for Listening Booth: Y
Story by: Anton Chekhov, 1886

A nervous, hen-pecked smoker is ordered by his wife to give a charity lecture on the harmfulness of tobacco, which he does. Except he never quite gets around to the subject, repeatedly digressing to his less-than-perfect relationship with his wife and children...

With Erik Bauersfeld. Support by Yan Paul Vent (sound production) and Jim McKey (additional technical production).

Snippet: "I am miserable. I have become a fool, a non-entity. But after all, you hear before you the happiest of fathers. After all, it ought to be like that and I dare say it is not, but if only you knew. If only you knew, I've lived with my wife for thirty-three years. And I can say those were the best years of my life. I mean, not precisely the best, but generally speaking." --- the lecturer

Reviews:
This is a dry, hesitant, rambling lecture, similar in some ways to "Proof Positive", except that Chekhov's writing is much funnier than Greene's. And so, rather than dismissing the lecturer, I empathize with him... and am grateful that I'm not him! [7/10] --- zM

The Outsider

Year: 1965
Duration: 22 min
Genre: Horror
Available for Listening Booth: Y
Story by: H.P. Lovecraft, 1926

He grew up in an isolated castle, surrounded by an impenetrable forest, everything a uniform, dull grey. No sunshine. No moonlight. A single black tower extended through the trees into the unknown outer sky, but was partly ruined and could only be ascended by a nearly impossible climb up the sheer wall, stone by stone. At last, he resolves to scale the wall, thinking it best to glimpse the sky and perish, than to live without ever beholding day.

With Erik Bauersfeld. Support by John Whiting (technical support).

Snippet: "My first conception of a living person was of something distorted... shrivelled... decaying. I remember there was such a corpse. I often went to it with a feeling of reverence and attachment. It was a woman... ancient... lying as she had died, partly eaten around the throat and chest... the terrible gesture of horror in her sprawled position and opened mouth. I would sometimes roam the passage where she lay. I seem to be drawn there. I wanted to kneel before it. To lie my head against it." --- the narrator

Reviews:
A cheerful and uplifting tale full of goodness and sunshine. Er... no, not really. This is a cynical tale about loneliness, told from the point of view of someone who cannot recall ever having had contact with another human. He lives in a castle surrounded by books... but longs to experience a different world. Wonderful descriptive language by Lovecraft, backed by a strong performance by Bauersfeld. [9/10] --- zM

A Predicament

aka: "The Scythe of Time"
Year: 1964
Duration: 14 min
Genre: Humour
Available for Listening Booth: Y
Story by: Edgar Allan Poe, 1838

Signora Psyche Zenobia visits a Gothic cathedral in the city of Edina (Edinburgh) and feels an uncontrollable urge to ascend the clock tower and survey the city. Accompanied by Diana, her poodle, and Pompey, her dwarf Negro, Psyche climbs the seemingly endless stairway, contemplates it as a metaphor for human life, and eventually pops her head through a small opening in the clock face so she can appreciate the view... an opening disconcertingly between the hands of the giant clock.

A later production of A Predicament was produced by Erik Bauersfeld at radio station KQED-FM with the same cast and additional technical production by Clay Grillo, with assistance by Wayne Wagner. It can be heard in the series Tales from the Shadows.

With Erik Bauersfeld (Pompey) and Pat Franklyn (Signora Psyche Zenobia). Support by John Whiting (technical production).

Snippet: "Why did I rush upon my fate? I was seized with an uncontrollable desire to ascend the giddy pinnacle. The door of the cathedral stood invitingly open. My destiny prevailed. I entered the ominous archway.... One step remained. One step! One little step. Upon one such little step in the great staircase of human life how vast a sum of human happiness or misery depends!" --- Signora Psyche Zenobia

Reviews:
In many types of humour, it is important to be able to hear the voice of the narrator in your head. Timing, pace, and inflection are all very important elements. The language of Poe, written almost 175 years ago, seems stilted to many modern ears. Struggling with unfamiliar syntax and unconventionally long sentences breaks the humour. You can repair the humour by reading the story many times. Or you can listen to Pat Franklyn's marvellous interpretation and hear the humour! The performance of Pat Franklyn is what makes this adaptation work. [8/10] --- zM

Proof Positive

Year: 1964
Duration: 8 min
Genre: Supernatural
Available for Listening Booth: Y
Story by: Graham Greene, 1930

Major Philip Weaver, Indian Army, retired, gives an urgent talk before the Psychical Society proving, with absolute certainty, that the spirit does not die when the body dies.

With Erik Bauersfeld (Major Philip Weaver), Pat Franklyn (Doctor Brown) and Bernard Mayes (Mr. Crashaw). Support by John Whiting (technical production).

See also: "The Case of Monsieur Valdemar" (The Weird Circle).

Snippet: "As president of the local Psychical Society, I had received a note from our speaker a little more than a week before. Written by a hand which trembled with sickness, age or drunkenness, it asked urgently for a special meeting of the society. An extraordinary, a really impressive experience, was to be described while still fresh in the mind, though what the experience had been was left vague." --- Colonel Crashaw

Reviews:
Major Weaver is portrayed as an elderly man with vast experience, but whose mind wanders randomly—jumping from point to point—and who has difficulty engaging his audience. Bauersfeld's characterization is true to the original story, but I've sat through too many painful presentations like this to enjoy it. [3/10] --- zM

The Rats in the Walls

Year: 1964
Duration: 32 min
Genre: Horror
Available for Listening Booth: Y
Story by: H.P. Lovecraft, 1924

Delapoer returns to his ancestral home of Exham Priory, purchases the ruins from the current owner, and rebuilds the estate which was last inhabited by his ancestor, the Eleventh Baron, Walter de la Poer. During the renovation Delapoer discovers from the locals many disconcerting facts regarding his family history and the priory, but presses on. Later, while inhabiting the estate, Delapoer follows the sound of ghostly rats into the deepest levels and uncovers the horrifying truth about his family.

With Erik Bauersfeld (Delapoer) and Bernard Mayes (Captain Edward Norrys). Support by John Whiting (technical production).

Snippet: "One of the foremost writers of pure horror and the supernatural is H.P. Lovecraft. He regarded all his work as based on the idea that the world was inhabited at one time by another race which, in practising black magic, lost its foothold and was expelled, yet lives on, outside, ever ready to take possession of this Earth again." --- from the intro

Reviews:
A convoluted and confusing tale made worse by adaptation into a mere half-hour presentation. The first half unfolds at a leisurely pace, but the second half crams improbable event after improbable event. I'm not sure what was more annoying, people saying "It was terrifying", "Oh, the horror", "Horrifying", "Horror upon horror", "Nightmare", "Hideous"—saying it was hideous doesn't make it so, SHOW me—or the spot of instant forensic pathology that determined the skeletons had "horrified expressions"—er... they're SKELETONS, they don't have expressions! Overall well produced, but I found the story disappointing. [4/10] --- zM

The Renegade    *LOST*

Year: ?
Duration: 38 min
Genre: Supernatural
Available for Listening Booth: N
Story by: Albert Camus

"It was the cruelty of the savages that struck him: "I dreamed about the House of the Fetish—the tortures—could anything more barbarous, more exciting be imagined?" Tongue-less and imprisoned in the salt, he awaits the coming of his master, the Sorcerer." --- Bay Area Radio Drama

With Erik Bauersfeld. Support by John Whiting (technical production) and Maria Gilardin (production assistant).

Reviews:

Shiddah and Kuziba

Year: 1964
Duration: 14 min
Genre: Supernatural
Available for Listening Booth: Y
Story by: Isaac Bashevis Singer, 1961

Shiddah and her little boy, Kuziba, live safely underground with 9 yards of solid rock protecting them from the light and noise of the surface. They like it dark. They like it quiet. And most of all, they like it where there are no human beings—those evil mixtures of flesh, love, dung, and lust. Shiddah and Kuziba are demons, or, perhaps, spirits, whose lives change when a drill bit from above rips through their sanctuary and they must escape to the surface.

With Erik Bauersfeld (Kuziba), Pat Franklyn (Shiddah) and Bernard Mayes (narrator). Support by John Whiting (technical production).

Snippet: "Little Kuziba. Ah, getting to look so much like your mother. Our bodies made entirely of cobwebs. Hair already nearly to your ankle bones. Lovely, yellow, chicken-claw feet, and your wings, dear... Oh... they're going to be great, beautiful bat wings, just like mine! Of course, you do have your father's donkey ears and wax horns, but then..." --- Shiddah

Reviews:
A tale of human-demon conflict told from the point of view of the demon. Wonderful use of irony. This story is about characterization and viewpoint—what little action there is, is unimportant to the story. Pat Franklyn does a great job as Shiddah (portraying at the same time, disdain for humans and deep-rooted fear of them), but Bauersfeld's depiction of Kuziba is rough. [7/10] --- zM

Six Tales by Lord Dunsany

Year: 1964
Duration: 42 min
Genre: Speculative
Available for Listening Booth: Y
Story by: Lord Dunsany

With Erik Bauersfeld and Bernard Mayes. Support by John Whiting (technical production).

The Squaw

Year: 1964
Duration: 30 min
Genre: Horror
Available for Listening Booth: Y
Story by: Bram Stoker, 1893

When Elias P. Hutcheson visits Nurnberg's famous Torture Tower to view an exhibit of the Iron Virgin, he inadvertently kills a small black kitten. The kitten's mother is not amused; in fact, she feels downright murderous. As Hutcheson walks from room to room, captivated by the torture devices, the cat stalks quietly, barely out of sight, appearing and disappearing, waiting... and waiting... and waiting.

With Erik Bauersfeld and Jan Dawson (Amelia). Support by John Whiting (technical production).

Snippet: "It may be that there is some attractive force which draws lesser matters to greater, or more probably that the wall was not straight but sloped to its base, and that we could not see the inclination from above. But the stone fell with a sickening thud, that came up to us through the hot air, right on the kitten's head, and shattered out its little brains then and there." --- the narrator

Reviews:
A grim tale with sickening descriptive imagery. From the death of the kitten in the opening scenes, to the ancient torture devices found in the Tower, to the nauseating conclusion, this tale abounds in horrific images that are not for the squeamish. But it's not just a tale of horror, it is also a tale of love, courage... and revenge. Jan Dawson's acting is a little stiff, but as usual, Bauersfeld's command of accents and voices carries the day. Well, that and Bram Stoker's marvellous writing. [8/10] --- zM

The Tell-Tale Heart

Year: 1964
Duration: 15 min
Genre: Horror
Available for Listening Booth: Y
Story by: Edgar Allan Poe, 1843

A psychological tale of guilt. A servant becomes obsessed with his master's "vulture" eye and decides, calmly and deliberately, to murder the old man. When the police come to visit, he confidently invites them in, for he knows they will never find the body. As he sits chatting with the officers, however, he hears the heart of the corpse begin beating... It grows louder and louder.

With Erik Bauersfeld (man). Support by Fred Seiden (technical production).

One of the most popular horror stories ever told. Other versions were produced by BBC, CBC Mystery Theater, CBS Radio Mystery Theater, Columbia Workshop, The Hall of Fantasy, Inner Sanctum Mysteries, Mercury Summer Theatre of the Air, Mystery in the Air, NBC Presents: Short Story, Nightfall, Seeing Ear Theatre, Tales from the Shadows, and The Weird Circle.

Snippet: "How, then, am I mad? Harken and observe how healthily... how calmly I can tell you the whole story. It is impossible to say how first the idea entered my brain, but, once conceived, it haunted me day and night. Object there was none. Passion there was none. I loved the old man. He had never wronged me; he had never given me insult. For his gold, I had no desire. I... think it was his eye. Yes. It was this: one of his eyes resembled that of a vulture, a pale blue eye with a film over it. Whenever it fell upon me, my blood ran cold. And so, by degrees, very gradually, I made up my mind to take the life of the old man and thus rid myself of the eye forever." --- the servant

Reviews:
Both versions [Black Mass—Tales from the Shadows] are quite good, but the Black Mass version suffers slightly from aggressive acting, especially in the early scenes when the narrator should be calmly telling his story. Other than that minor flaw, Bauersfeld does a fine job. These are two of the best versions around, surpassed only by the Iggy Pop version on the album "Closed on Account of Rabies". Black Mass [8/10], Tales from the Shadows [9/10] --- zM

The Witch of the Willows

Year: 1964
Duration: 21 min
Genre: Fantasy
Available for Listening Booth: Y
Story by: Lord Dunsany, 1931

A man (Jorkens), seeking mystery and magic, stumbles upon marshland bordered by a willow forest. The witch that is haunting the willows comes forth and warns Jorkens "if there is a warning put on a place, it is for folks to heed the warning, not to go bothering those that have other things to do, with the Way, and the Why, and the Wherefore. A Warning's a Warning! And that's all there is to it." This seems to be what Jorkens is looking for. Or is it?

With Erik Bauersfeld (Major Weaver), Pat Franklyn (the witch) and Bernard Mayes (Mr. Jorkens). Support by John Whiting (technical production) and Peter Winkler (music).

Snippet: "I wandered about the country, always alone. Not caring, really, where I went. One day, I came to the Willow Wood, a haunted sort of place—marsh floating all through it. Ideal for a lonely and aimless man. I was tired of ordinary things and ordinary people... what they said and did, the everyday things. Everything lacking in wonder, surprise, magic. Mystery. And there was a mystery in the woods." --- Jorkens

Reviews:
I never really warmed to the character of Jorkens. He struck me as a member of the idle rich who is bored with his wealth and wants adventure, mystery and magic, but doesn't really know what those are, so he fumbles along, aimlessly. I have nothing against the rich. And the only thing I have against the idle rich, is that I'm not one of them. But to be aimless... to have no purpose, or goals, or direction in life... seems decadent somehow. And rather a shame, really. Here we have Jorkens wishing for magic, for mystery. And when he comes face-to-face with it, he hesitates and can't decide if that's what he wants or not. It's an aimless wish, with no substance behind it. Pat Franklyn is very good as the witch; Bernard Mayes seems a bit hesitant as Jorkens. [5/10] --- zM

The Workman

Year: 1964
Duration: 3 min
Genre: Speculative
See: Six Tales by Lord Dunsany
Available for Listening Booth: Y
Story by: Lord Dunsany, 1910

A short story about Futility with a broader meaning for us all. A workman falls to his death, and in the few seconds available to him, tries to carve his name on a scaffold pole falling with him.

With Erik Bauersfeld and Bernard Mayes. Support by John Whiting (technical production).

Snippet: "I saw the workman fall with his scaffolding right from the summit of that hotel. As he came down I saw him holding a knife and trying to cut his name on the scaffold. He had time to try and do this for he must have had nearly three hundred feet to fall." --- a witness

Reviews:
Flash fiction, a century before it's time! Another short, speculative story, this time under 300 words, packed with meaning. Well produced. [7/10] --- zM


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