Mystery in the Air — “The Mask of Medusa”

Mystery in the Air (July 3-Sept. 25, 1947) aired “The Mask of Medusa” on September 4, 1947 as the 10th of its 13 episodes. The show was a summer replacement for The Abbott and Costello Show (1940-49). It featured stories of mystery, horror, and suspense and starred famed horror film actor Peter Lorre (1904-1964), who had always desired to star in a show of his own. Mystery in the Air was just the show for him and he made the best of it, playing his characters to the hilt while turning in some of his most memorable radio performances, “The Mask of Medusa” being one of them.

“The Mask of Medusa” first appeared as a short story by noted SF author Nelson S. Bond (1908-2006, photo top right) in the December 1945 issue of The Blue Book Magazine. Bond had such a lengthy and well regarded career that he was honored as SFWA Author Emeritus in 1998.

Of interest is that Harry Morgan (1915-2011) was the narrator of the show, Morgan being the much respected and beloved actor best known for his TV roles as officer Bill Gannon, the third and final partner of Sergeant Joe Friday (Jack Webb) on Dragnet, and Colonel Sherman Potter on M.A.S.H.

“The Mask of Medusa” provides a chilling variation on the Wax Museum theme. It is also one of the scariest I can remember, whether written, on radio or in a movie (due primarily to Lorre’s excellent interpretation of the fine script). I think the less I say about this twisted dramatization the better, but I can’t resist observing that this is one of Peter Lorre’s most intensely emotional efforts, easily carrying this grisly tale over the finish line into true horror story territory, making it a perfect selection for Halloween. Boo! 🙂

(Left: Peter Lorre – Center: Peter Lorre at mic, Harry Morgan standing 2nd from right. – Right: Harry Morgan)


And for good measure and in keeping with “The Mask of Medusa,” below is a mask of Peter Lorre, circa 1959.

Play Time: 29:03

{When this episode aired, summer vacation had ended and the neighborhood gang had just returned to school. It was a Thursday. Come Saturday morning the first item on their agenda was a trip to the corner newsstand. This time they were looking for more dark crime and evil enshrouded fare, stories as close to the twisted goings on they still remembered from “The Mask of Medusa.” Crack Detective Stories (1938-57), as we’ve mentioned before when showcasing one of its covers, had no fewer than 8 title changes in its long run. It displayed its current title from 1943-1949 and was a bi-monthly in 1947. Dime Mystery Magazine (1932-1950) served its customers (both young and old) with enough bloody murder to satisfy even jaded readers, keeping them coming back for more for almost 20 years. It managed 8 issues in 1947. New Detective Magazine (1941-53) promised a new kind of detective story within its pages but ended up relying in good measure on the tried and true police procedural for many of its stories. And it didn’t hurt to have top shelf authors like Carroll John Daly to catch the eye of discerning detective story fans on its covers, either.  It was bi-monthly in 1947.}

[Left: Crack Detective, Oct. 1947 – Center: Dime Mystery, Sept. 1947 – Right: New Detective, Sept. 1947]


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