The Hermit’s Cave — “The House of Purple Shadows”

The Hermit’s Cave aired “The House of Purple Shadows” on…no one knows for sure when it first aired. From 1930-1947 the show went through various name changes, formats, sponsors, and different runs. After doing a little research and armchair sleuthing, I will make my own educated guess and give it an air date of November 10, 1940, being broadcast from the West Coast Los Angeles radio station KMPC as an early episode of its 1940-44 run.

Out of some 800 shows over a 17-year time span very few, approx. 35-40+ by one count, have survived (though many aired more than once via different markets), and the show’s history is relatively sparse and convoluted, going by different names and without information surviving as to the writers and air dates; even show titles have been lost. The short version runs something like this: The show operated more like a franchise than a single, straight up syndicated show originating out of one radio station, even moving from its original station out of Detroit to California at one point. Below is a timeline of the show’s various incarnations, though “The Little Theater of the Air” was also appended as a subtitle under the primary title in some instances.

History of The Hermit’s Cave

  • 1930-1936 – The Mummers, 15 minute sketches, featuring a character called The Hermit; WJR, Detroit
  • 1936-1937 – Unsponsored, introductory run called In the Hermit’s Cave; WJR, Detroit; 19 episodes
  • 1937-1947 – Olga Coal sponsored run called The Hermit’s Cave; WJR, Detroit; 539 episodes
  • 1938-1939 – Don Lee-Mutual run called The Devil’s Scrapbook; 37 episodes
  • 1940-1944 – West Coast run called The Hermit’s Cave; KMPC, LA; 217 episodes

“The House of Purple Shadows” is the eerie, spooky, and dare I say frightening tale of a house haunted by, or inhabited by, something that can only be described as evil, and that casts spells on former (now deceased) inhabitants transforming them into living ghosts—ghosts who can see and feel everything in the real world, including themselves, but who are invisible to themselves, and of course from the eyes of the living. Trapped and able only to wander between ill-defined areas of purple shadow and not knowing how they came to be ghosts, they cry out in a silent panic no one can hear, hoping only that one of their relatives yet living in the house might free them from their tortured existence, from the unknown entity or force possessing an unbreakable grip on all those it has caged for eternity in “The House of Purple Shadows.” Narrated forcefully by one of the newly transformed ghosts, I recommend this fresh look at the ghost phenomenon unreservedly.

Play Time: 24:33

{With only a few candies still remaining in the bottom of the paper sacks they used for trick or treating over a week ago, the neighborhood gang were glad to have them, for it made reading their favorite magazines even more of a treat. This episode of The Hermit’s Cave kept them up late on a Sunday evening, but tired as they were after school the next day they made it to the corner newsstand to see what wonders or terrors awaited them inside the pages of any new offerings. They were in luck. Astounding Science Fiction (1930-present, now Analog) had been a for-certain purchase for a long time. Covers like the one shown below helped fuel imaginations eager for the awe-inspiring grandeur of futuristic machinery, hinting at the unknown wonders of space travel to faraway worlds. Astounding was a monthly in 1940. Thrilling Wonder Stories (1936-55) promised colorful action and adventure and delivered in spades for many years. What youngster could turn down an issue with a cover sporting dinosaurs come to life through magic? TWS was also a monthly in 1940. Weird Tales (1923-54) was a magazine made in heaven for those relishing stories of the macabre and supernatural, where many of the most popular, darkly imaginative, and skilled authors in the field would pen some of their best work, setting new genre standards that helped define the field. If you were into ghosts (and at least one of the neighborhood gang was after listening to “The House of Purple Shadows,” the chance to read a story about a waltzing ghost was bound to catch his eye. WT was a bi-monthly in 1940.}

[Left: Astounding, Nov. 1940 – Center: Thrilling Wonder, Nov. 1940 – Right: Weird Tales, Nov. 1940]


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