Adventures by Morse, "The City of the Dead"

Saturday, 29 October 2016 15:00 Dave Truesdale

Adventures by Morse (1944-45) aired "The City of the Dead" as a 10-part weekly serial beginning on January 8, 1944. While reluctant to present multi-part stories here for obvious reasons (the exception being specific episodes of the 1930s Tarzan serials), I have chosen to experiment now with the first three installments of "The City of the Dead" to help celebrate Halloween, which is this coming Monday. This being Saturday, you can listen to one episode per day to culminate on Halloween--or, of course, listen to them in one sitting as is your preference.

Carlton E, Morse (1901-1993) was the creator, producer, director, and writer for "The City of the Dead," as he was all of his other "Adventure" series, some of which were "The Cobra Strikes Back," "Dead Men Prowl," and "Land of the Living Dead." He wrote many another early radio show dating back to the early 1930s, including one of the longest running and most popular day time soap operas (written primarily for women), One Man's Family (1932-59). Morse was so well respected for his body of work (which ranged all over the map, including the much beloved I Love a Mystery--1939-44, about three men who ran a detective agency and traveled the globe in search of adventure) that he even worked on early television shows, including bringing One Man's Family to tv, which aired from 1949-52 while it could still be heard on radio. Also the author of three novels, Morse was so integral to early radio and tv that he was given his own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6445 Hollywood Boulevard.

As to "City of the Dead," it is set 25 miles outside a city (probably San Francisco), and refers to a long filled-up and closed cemetery the caretaker of which refers to himself as "the mayor." He is a friend to the police, while his son (a detective) is brought in to help with this case, which begins with a young couple being carjacked and dropped near the cemetery. Seeking aid from "the mayor," the young man and woman soon find themselves in the middle of strange happenings and are "slightly" suspected of grave robbing. The plot thickens as even in these first three episodes we have a phantom church bell, a scary rummaging through crumbling ruins, a ghostly white, long-haired clawed creature resembling a human being, and a freshly dead corpse. So while more questions are posed than answered (10 episodes is much too long to run here, unfortunately), you will get a good idea of what this off-kilter series is all about, its spooky setting and rather nonchalant acceptance of same by the characters, and hopefully a desire to discover how it all works out by the final episode. Episodes 4 and 5 reveal more dark secrets, with teases concerning the young couple's holding back a mystery of their own to do with "The City of the Dead." The complete series--as well as both series' mentioned above--can be purchased very cheaply ($4.50) and on a single mp3 CD here.

Enjoy now the opening chapters of this story about a long-closed cemetery far from its living city, and the strange "caretaker" who looks after the people he once knew in life but is now known as the "mayor" the City of the Dead.

"The Adventure Begins" -- January 8, 1944

Play Time: 26:19

"I've Dug Up Something Ghastly" -- January 15, 1944

Play Time: 25:48

"The Body That Walked Off" -- January 22, 1944

Play Time: 25:46

{While "The City of the Dead" takes place fittingly in October, the series began in January of 1944. While most of the neighborhood gang went for their accustomed science fiction or fantasy magazines on their regular trek to the corner drugstore, one among them still felt the chill from "The City of the Dead" and wanted more, so chose Weird Tales (1923-54) to keep him shivering. As always, Astounding (1930-present, now as Analog) held to its monthly schedule, and fantastic Adventures (1939-53) was (for 1944, at least) quarterly, with its February issue already on the newsstands.}

[Left: Astounding, Jan. 1944 - Center: fantastic Adventures, Feb. 1944 - Right: Weird Tales, Jan. 1944]


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