The Strange Dr. Weird — “The Secret Room”

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“Good evening. Come in, won’t you? Why, what’s the matter? You seem a bit nervous.”

The Strange Dr. Weird aired “The Secret Room” on February 13, 1945 as its 15th episode out of 29. It ran from November of 1944 through May of 1945 in short 15-minute episodes (a few minutes less without commercials), and was dubbed by some as a poor man’s Mysterious Traveler. Indeed, there are similarities between the shows, though MT had a much longer run of nine years (1943-52) and was a full half-hour program. Maurice Tarplin (photo at right, 1911-1975) was the host/narrator for both shows, and one of the writers for MT, Robert A. Arthur (photo lower right, 1909-1969), also penned the scripts for The Strange Dr. Weird. While MT‘s shows included tales of mystery and suspense along with SF and the supernatural, The Strange Dr. Weird concentrated mostly on the supernatural. Both shows opened with the narrator setting the stage with a tease for what was to follow, but where MT stories were told in conversation while on a train and ended with the narrator beginning another story only to stop when the unnamed passenger to whom the story was being told had to get off, The Strange Dr. Weird ends with a variation on the same gimmick, the narrator beginning a story just as his “guest” has to leave. As you might imagine, with actual story lengths running to around a scant 12 minutes, there’s not much room for characterization or extraneous detail, so only the essentials are conveyed–the idea or dilemma takes center stage and remains front and center. And there is always an unexpected twist at the end, providing the moral comeuppance knife in the heart for the bad guy or evil doer. Short and to the creepy point, there’s no lavish musical score or expensive production values here, the quintessential organ riffs manipulating and accentuating listener emotion at the proper moments in conjunction with the plights of the actors.

“The Secret Room” tells the tale of two escaped Nazi prisoners of war who have found their way through the woods to the secluded home of the father of one of them, said father an avowed anti-Nazi. They seek shelter, food, and a place to hide. What follows is a grim exercise in brutality and murder, and what they discover to their horror in “The Secret Room.”

“Perhaps you’ll drop in on me again soon?
I’m always home. Just look for the house on
the other side of the cemetery…the house of Dr. Weird!”

Play Time: 11.49

{Every so often found the neighborhood gang having already bought their usual monthly magazines, though it didn’t stop them from going back for something new or different outside their regular SF/F pulps. February of 1945 saw them gathered in overcoats perusing the local newsstand shelves for just something different enough to catch their eye, whether it be an unusual cover or a name they were familiar with appearing in other than the usual SF/F magazines. The February cover of Doc Savage (1933-49) showcased an eerie scene that virtually guaranteed a sale. From 1933 through early 1947 it was a solid monthly, then a bi-monthly until it petered out as a quarterly for its final few issues. In 1945 it was a monthly. Speed Adventure (1934-46), while not a regular choice, attracted one of the gang because of a popular name he was familiar with from the SF pulps–Hugh B. Cave (1910-2004). Appearing in many mystery and horror magazines of the time, notably Weird Tales, Dime Mystery Magazine, Horror Stories, Terror Tales, and Spicy Mystery Stories just to name a few, his name alone was enough for any pulp enthusiast to be guaranteed a good read. Speed Adventure was a monthly for most of its existence but switched to fewer issues during the war paper shortage and ended up a quarterly, which was the case with this January 1945 issue. Thrilling Detective (1931-53) was also not a regular choice, but with a name like Henry Kuttner on the cover it was a no-brainer for one of the gang to plunk a dime down on the counter. The magazine was a monthly through 1945 then went to a bi-monthly schedule.}

        [Left: Doc Savage, Feb. 1945 – Center: Speed Adventure, Jan. 1945 – Right: Thrilling Detective, Feb. 1945]


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