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

Weird Circle -- "The Doll" by Fitz-James O'Brien

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[Editor's Note:  Originally posted here on March 1, 2014, the Weird Circle episode "The Doll" (airing in 1944) has been, on numerous Old Time Radio websites, attributed to Algernon Blackwood's 1946 novelette of the same name. Thus, we assumed this was correct. Further inquiry, however, has proved this not to be the case. Our rewritten correction and fuller explanation follows, with thanks to Mike Ashley.]

Weird Circle aired "The Doll" sometime during 1944. Adapted from the Fitz-James O'Brien (1828-1862) story first printed in the October 1859 issue of The Atlantic Monthly under the title "The Wondersmith," it relates the sorcerous story of a Wondersmith bent on murdering his step-daughter, a fortune teller who delves into the black arts, a doll -- a little wooden man made with the face of the devil, and an evil soul imprisoned in a bottle that, when released following a powerful incantation, inhabits the doll for a dark and deadly purpose.

Weird Circle aired 78 episodes during its run from July of 1943 to early 1945. "The Doll" was episode 56 and so ran in the second of the two 39-episode seasons. Weird Circle differed from other horror/supernatural radio shows in that it took its material exclusively from classic tales written by the likes of Algernon Blackwood, Ambrose Bierce, Charles Dickens, Charlotte Bronte, Daniel DeFoe, Edgar Allan Poe, Edward Bulwer-Lytton, Emily Bronte, George Elliot, Guy DeMaupassant, Hans Christian Andersen, Herman Melville, Honore De Balzac, Mary Shelley, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Robert Louis Stevenson, Samuel Johnson, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Victor Hugo, Sir Walter Scott, Washington Irving, Wilkie Collins and others.

While "The Doll" has been erroneously attributed as being the Algernon Blackwood story first published in the 1946 Arkham House collection The Doll and One Other, we therefore wondered how it could have become adapted for radio two years before it saw publication, and on several major Old Time Radio websites it is also listed as the Blackwood story.  I took this conundrum to noted SF/F/H historian and scholar Mike Ashley. After supplying Mike with several information sources, he consulted his own records (and sharp memory, Blackwood being but one of his areas of expertise), and it was deduced that many Old Time Radio sources simply have their facts wrong when giving Algernon Blackwood as the author of the original story adapted as "The Doll" for Weird Circle. Many sources have merely assumed that it was Blackwood's "The Doll" when in fact it was merely a re-titling of O'Brien's "The Wonder Smith" which also involves a doll. As the final nail in the coffin debunking this historical OTR mis-attribution, one has but to listen to the following adaptation of the re-titled "The Doll" to instantly become aware that it is Fitz-James O'Brien's "The Wonder Smith" and not Blackwood's "The Doll." Case closed. Much thanks are due Mike Ashley for his scholarship in this matter. For what good it might eventually do, I have notified several OTR websites of this much needed correction. (At least one of which, while a reputable and well known seller of Old Time Radio series' packaged in professionally crafted boxed sets, has Blackwood listed as the author on its Weird Circle collection.)

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