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the genre's premiere review magazine for short SF & Fantasy since 1993

Hall of Fantasy -- "The Masks of Ashor"

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Hall of Fantasy aired "The Masks of Ashor" on March 9, 1953. Hall of Fantasy (1946-47 from station KALL in Utah, and 1949-53 from station WGN in Chicago) aired an estimated 200+ scripts or (combined) broadcasts, yet only between 40-45 are known to still exist, which is a shame, for creator, writer, director, and sometimes Hall of Fantasy actor Richard Thorne (1925-2007*, photo at right) was an extremely talented individual, and those episodes still surviving are held in high regard by OTR fans. The first two years airing in Utah (on those stations on the Intermountain Network) the show concentrated on straight mysteries or murder plots, but when the show ended up in Chicago and was subsequntly revived due to a fortunate turn of fate, it shifted focus to the supernatural or straight horror story format for which it became famous, all but adaptations of the classics being written by Thorne. The show went national on the syndicated Mutual Network in 1952.

[*I would like to express my thanks to Old Time Radio historian Karl Schadow for supplying the birth and death dates for Richard Thorne after my own search came up empty.]

"The Masks of Ashor" uses the somewhat timeworn formula of a world traveler finding a rare artifact and mailing it home to relatives. Of course it is cursed and just what the curse is, how it manifests, and who gets murdered are the interesting elements of any such tale. This time around the legend of the masks of Ashor anchors the plotline. Ashor was the Messenger of the Underworld. Sometime in the past his masks were stolen and now he stalks the earth trying to regain them and punish whomever now possesses them, for they are essential to his office. The owner of the masks is doomed to a horrible death should Ashor find him or her. Ashor is always accompanied by a large, ferocious dog who presages the god's presence with his frightful howling. Without going into specifics, the masks end up in the house of a young couple, relatives of the older adventurer who bought the almost solid gold masks from a little shop in Istanbul, the nervous shopkeeper apparently happy to be rid of them, selling them "for a song." What happens next is our story. A few twists and turns of discovery, and some fine acting lead to a most ...well, you'll have to listen to "The Masks of Ashor" to find out who lives or dies (and how), or if Ashor gets his masks back or is somehow ingeniously thwarted by the young couple.

Play Time: 23:29

{Though always loving a good horror story, after listening to "The Masks of Ashor" the neighborhood SF gang headed the next afternoon after school to the local newsstand for more issues of their favorite magazines, a few examples of which are shown below. Astounding (1930--present, now Analog) was always a reliable favorite. One of the two relatively new magazines on the block was The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction (Fall 1949--present), with the other beginning to make waves with stories dealing with more social and political concerns being Galaxy (1950-1980, though an amateurish attempt to revive it began in 1994 and quickly folded in 1995 after 9 embarrassing issues. In March of 1953 all three magazines were monthlies}

[Left: Astounding SF, March 1953 -- Center: F&SF, March 1953 -- Right: Galaxy, March 1953]

                     

To view the entire list of weekly Old Time Radio episodes at Tangent Online, click here.