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

Weird Circle - "The House and the Brain" by Edward George Bulwer-Lytton

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Weird Circle aired "The House and the Brain" sometime in July of 1943 as the show's second episode. The show ran from July of 1943 to sometime in 1945 and produced 78 episodes, all in the paranormal or supernatural genre with stories adapted from well known authors' works. "The Haunted and the Haunters; Or, The House and the Brain" was a novelette written by Edward George Bulwer-Lytton (1803-1873) and first saw print in the August 1859 issue of Blackwood's Edinburgh Magazine.

This is one of those episodes enjoyed more for its hokeyness than anything else. A commentator I ran across while researching this episode had written that it was a cross between Ed Wood and a Scooby-Doo mystery. I agree. But it has a wonderful charm to it and I found myself emitting unforced laughter about twenty-three minutes in. The story itself centers on a man and wife viewing a 400 year-old painting of a notorious cutthroat and becoming enthralled with it. They learn that the cutthroat's former home in London is supposed to be haunted, so on a lark they rent the place for a week in order to meet the brigand's ghost. Suffice it to say that they are not disappointed, for there are evil spirits, a blue amorphous mass through which hands protrude in order to kill, long-range hypnotism and...you get the picture. It's as if Bulwer-Lytton threw the kitchen sink in here, but ghosts and blue ectoplasm and hypnotism (not even used correctly) was a bit much for him to work with and make a cohesive story out of. What we get is a fun half hour of wild nonsense, the unintentional humor making this loser a (possible) cult classic.

Bulwer-Lytton wrote many novels and stories, making quite a bit of money from them. In genre circles he is probably most infamously known for the opening lines "It was a dark and stormy night." What most readers are no doubt unaware of, however, is that Bulwer-Lytton also coined the following phrases: "the great unwashed," "pursuit of the almighty dollar," "the pen is mightier than the sword," and "dweller on the threshold." These phrases are taken from one of his plays and two of his many novels. Thank you wikipedia.

Of note here is that this radio adaptation strays from the original story in its opening scene, but more or less sticks to the original story arc:  that of the haunted house, its ghost, and all the rest of it. If you are in need of a few chuckles this week, you've found the right place.

(Cover top left: 1905 Gowan's & Gray edition of the collection The Haunted and the Haunters; Or, The House and the Brain)

Play Time: 25:45

{In the middle of World War II, families were glued to their radios like never before. More often than not the broadcasts were filled with war-related news, so anything not war-related was welcomed. Programs like Weird Circle and others of its ilk served to lighten the hardships brought on by food and gas shortages, and rationing. It was a hard time for most in America, but parents who could afford to do so tried to keep the horrors of war as much as they could from their youngsters, and gave them what little allowance they could afford--which wasn't always possible. For those lucky youngsters, however, who could still shuffle to the corner newsstand or drugstore with at least two small coins to rub together, they knew that what awaited them would help to brighten their entire week.

While a number of magazines closed shop due to the paper shortage during the war, many would survive, among them those shown below. Air War debuted in January of 1940 as a quarterly and remained so until it closed shop with its Winter 1945 issue. The Shadow ceased its long-running bi-weekly schedule in April of 1943, the issue below being the second of its now single monthly issues. Weird Tales (with a brief exception or two) went from its 1925 monthly schedule to a bi-monthly schedule in January of 1940 and would remain a bi-monthly publication until its demise in 1954. It would be resurrected on a spotty basis in 1973, as but the first of several attempts to revive the legendary magazine.}

[Left: Air War, Summer 1943 - Center: The Shadow, July 1943 - Right: Weird Tales, July 1943]


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