Inner Sanctum — “Hangman’s Island”

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Inner Sanctum (1941-52) aired “Hangman’s Island” on September 20, 1948 as its 389th episode. While Old Time Radio historians have given their best guesses that there were 500+ episodes produced, an exact figure remains elusive, with only 140 believed to be in circulation (i.e. known to exist at this time). Raymond Johnson was the show’s first host and he quickly became known to his late-night listening audience for his atrocious puns. Lipton Tea became the show’s sponsor beginning with the 1945 season (though the show’s ads have been excised from those episodes aired by the AFRS–Armed Forces Radio Services, one of the reasons being they didn’t want to play favorites with specific sponsors. Again, thanks to Old Time Radio historian Karl Schadow for this information). Host Johnson would leave the show in the middle of its 1945 season to join the military, and was ably replaced by Paul McGrath (photo at right) who continued Johnson’s popular shtick of horrible puns (some lousy, with others darkly droll and quite funny).

“Hangman’s Island” provides more than its fair share of terror, bloodshed, and a quirky storyline with a reveal at the end worthy of (and a definite precursor of, intentional or not) a specific element of Robert Bloch’s Psycho (which would not be published until 1959, 11 years after “Hangman’s Island”). Essentially, the story involves thieves, one who while dying gives his partner a map, supposedly giving the location of a lot of loot, said location being, of course, what the locals on this island in the Florida Keys have named “Hangman’s Island,” for it was once used for such official purposes. What our lone thief discovers the hard way is that the island is not what it’s cracked up to be, that the copy of the map he holds is but one of many, and that it is nothing but bait for the unwary, for the island is at once a trap and a fortress, booby-trapped with electrified barbed-wire, delayed bombs, camouflaged lye and quicksand pits, steel-traps made for large animals, and more. But who has transformed the island thus, and why? What dark secrets does the twisted mind of the perpetrator hold? Several revelations begin to unfold when a local coast guard official, following the trail of two other men known to have disappeared while heading for the island–with a copy of the same map–runs across our current naive thief and tries to dissuade him from running the gauntlet of horrors embedded at every conceivable place on the island. Greed overcomes his better judgment and the thief begins what will surely lead to his gruesome death march. There’s plenty of action and surprises left in this tense drama, not least of which are the reveals at the end, so listen now to the sordid tale played out on “Hangman’s Island.”

Play Time: 23:58

{When this Inter Sanctum episode aired in September of 1948, summer vacation had ended a few weeks prior and the neighborhood geniuses were looking for any excuse to put off the unaccustomed homework. And what better way than to pull out the SF magazines they’d recently purchased from the corner drugstore and lay the geography book aside–at least until they heard mom’s footsteps in the hallway heading their way. Of the many selections begging for their allowance the trio showcased below were the winners. Doc Savage‘s publishing history began in 1933 and would end in 1949. From its inception and through 1946 it was on a monthly schedule, but times were changing. 1947 saw it hit hard times with but 7 issues and a last-gasp name change to Doc Savage, Scientific Detective with its Sept./Oct. issue. 1948 arrived with only 5 issues–including the one below–and in 1949 it could manage only 3 issues before giving up the ghost, the final issue cover-dated Summer 1949. The Avon Fantasy Reader, edited by future DAW publisher Donald A. Wollheim, ran from 1947-52 with a final run totaling 18 issues. 1947 saw 4 issues, with 1948-51 each having 3 issues, and 1952 waving so long with the 18th and final issue. It ran reprints of dark fantasy and horror favorites along with some science fiction, mostly from the very early pulps, and contained some true classics. Debuting 10 years before Doc Savage‘s adventures would hit newsstands, but unlike Doc Savage in 1948, old, reliable Weird Tales, “the unique magazine,” stuck solidly to its bi-monthly schedule.}

[Left: Doc Savage, Sept./Oct. 1948 – Center: Avon Fantasy Reader, Sept. 1948 – Right: Weird Tales, Sept./Oct. 1948]


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