Weird Circle — “The Terribly Strange Bed” by Wilkie Collins

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Weird Circle (1943-45) aired “The Terribly Strange Bed” on July 29, 1943 as the 6th of its 78 episodes. Weird Circle was produced and transcribed in the New York City studios of RCA with enough scripts for two seasons, each season comprised of 39 episodes for a total of 78 shows. It was then licensed for syndication to NBC and the Mutual Broadcasting Network for use in their markets across the country and in Canada, to air at a time of each station’s choosing. Thus, it has been almost impossible to trace the very first-ever airing of any given episode (and many were re-aired into the 1950s). Weird Circle is considered a fine example of the paranormal and supernatural horror genres. Most of the radio scripts were adapted from the works of Poe, de Balzac, Wilkie Collins, Goethe, Hawthorne, Charlotte Bronte, Daniel DeFoe and many others.

Wilkie Collins’ (1824-1889, photo top right) “The Terribly Strange Bed” first appeared in the April 24, 1852 edition of Household Words, a weekly magazine that ran from March 27, 1850 to May 28, 1859 and which was edited by none other than Charles Dickens. Collins and Dickens became good friends, with each influenced in different ways by the other’s work. “The Terribly Strange Bed” is the story of a young man in Paris who has finished his college education and is out on the town for his own amusement. He decides to visit a low-class gambling house where he wins a large amount of money and has drunk quite a bit, whereupon a stranger, an old soldier, convinces him it would not be wise to leave the establishment in his present state (and with thieves about) and convinces our now rich young man to stay the night in a room within the confines of the gambling house. And it is at this point that things turn creepy and downright frightening. Flashback to the opening scene in this radio adaptation, which has a body (one of several recently) dragged ashore from the river, gruesomely flattened like a human pancake. What is the source, or mechanism of these grisly murders? Is it a single demented soul or several–a cult perhaps? And why? What could be the motive behind such a vile method of what appears to be carefully planned and executed murders? To help discover the answers to these questions, flashforward now to our drunken young scholar convinced to take his rest in a well-appointed room in a lowbrow gambling house in Paris. For things are definitely not as they seem as the tension mounts, and against our will we place ourselves in the main character’s shoes as he tries to fall asleep in “The Terribly Strange Bed.” Happy Halloween!

Play Time: 25:14

{July of 1943 saw the United States in the middle of WWII and the country was saturated with news of the war. For relief from news on the radio, newspapers, magazines, and the topic being discussed incessantly by their parents, the neighborhood gang sought respite and relief where they knew they could always find it, at the corner newsstand and the row upon row of their favorite pulp magazines just begging to be rescued and taken home. As always, Astounding (1930-present, now Analog) was a reliable friend, keeping to its monthly schedule when other pulps had cut their schedules or folded altogether. Startling Stories (1939-55) had been a reliable bi-monthly until 1943, when it cut back to only 5 issues, though its garish covers still promised wild adventures for creative young minds. Likewise with Thrilling Wonder Stories (1936-55) which began as a bi-monthly and flirted with a monthly schedule in 1940. But then the war and the paper shortage took its toll and by 1943 it was down to only 5 issues a year. It took until 1947 to regain its bi-monthly schedule, which it held through 1952. From 1953 until its final lone issue in 1955 it would run but 10 issues. Looking closely at all three issues one can see promotional banners for the war effort, exhorting those on the home front to invest in war bonds or stamps, or to give blood to the Red Cross.}

       [Left: Astounding, July 1943 – Center: Startling Stories, June 1943 – Right: Thrilling Wonder, June 1943]


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