Creeps By Night
Boris Karloff was the West coast host, narrator and star of Creeps By Night.
This series was introduced by several hosts. The West coast (Hollywood) was hosted by the series star, Boris Karloff. The East coast (New York) was hosted by an anonymous voice known as "Dr. X" (Dunning, 183), which some attribute to multiple talents (Digital Deli). Other stars occasionally appeared, including Peter Lorre, Bela Lugosi, Raymond Massey, and Basil Rathbone. But it was Karloff who regular listeners expected to hear as host to the proceedings. It was about the only part of the show that was predictable. Episodes like "The Hunt" featured typical horror gimmicks like werewolves, but with a twist ending that provided a new dimension to an otherwise common theme. As Karloff himself said, "There is no greater mystery than the mystery of the mind." True to his word, many of the shows dealt with psychological, rather than literal, horror. In the werewolf story, we're never quite certain if the monster was real or just a blood-thirsty persona the killer assumed. (It's a classic example of the sort of story that was perfect for radio and couldn't be realized as effectively in film or TV.) In another story, "The Final Reckoning," a victim turns the tables on a thug and plans to kill him. He (Karloff) actually manages to take the place of a barber who is giving the thug a shave. The audience waits on the edge of their seats as Karloff carefully circumnavigates the long, straight-edge razor around his victim's relaxed and extended throat. Just thinking about it now gives me the creeps (even by day). But it was a short lived series, lasting just 16 episodes. Less than half of those (7) are known to have survived. It's an ending that is all-to-common in the history of OTR.
The print ads for this series certainly go all out on the hyperbole. One reads: "WARNING! Persons suffering from heart trouble and those whose blood has a tendency to curdle and hair to uncurl under the stress of great excitement are urged NOT to listen... The station disclaims all responsibility for the health of those who insist on hearing this thriller." Well, at least you can't say you weren't warned!
Creeps By Night promised all this and more. They told listeners to expect Karloff each week, along with other well-known Hollywood stars. They also promised new, original stories that were going to be written by the leading writers in the industry. However, according to Digital Deli, the new Blue Network didn't' advertise properly and started failing to deliver on its goals. Neither the upcoming stories nor the upcoming stars were advertised in advance. To make matters worse, the writers didn't receive any on-air credit, either. Karloff stopped hosting after the 12th episode, and the unknown "Dr. X" hosted the final four episodes (voiced by at least two different people). It all unraveled from there. Yet the surviving episodes are quite solid and make fans regret the loss of such a promising series. It's a sober reminder that success in the entertainment business takes more than good scripts and good actors-- it also takes good promotion and a good deal of luck.
The Standard Intro:
Announcer: "We bring you... Creeps By Night."
Announcer: "The Blue Network presents the international star of stage and screen, the master of mystery, Boris Karloff, in Creeps By Night."
An Opening Narration:
Karloff: "How do you do? This is Boris Karloff joining with you once again for another exploration into the unknown darkness of the human mind. Tonight, our story illustrates in terrifying terms the oft repeated theme of this program: There is no mystery greater than the mystery of the mind. It is for you to decide if these weird and ghastly happenings were a figment of man's imagination or a tragic reality beyond man's understanding."
Announcer: "Creeps By Night presents Boris Karloff as Loomus Horton in 'The Hunt.' Our scene is the Horton Farm, fifty acres of rich, grazing pasture almost to the edge of the Louisiana bayous. The legendary swamp land that for centuries was the spawning ground for black magic and voodoo. The night is warm and dark. Its heavy silence broken only by the hum of insects... the chirping of crickets... and the occasional deep throated croak of a bull frog off in the swamp. Suddenly, the shadowed outline of a human figure appears at the edge of a cypress grove behind the weather-beaten Horton house. And a soft whistled signal rides the night air. For a long moment, there is no response. Then, a door at the rear of the house opens quietly and a girl crosses to the Cypress grove, her eyes, searching the darkness..."
An Alternate Intro (w/ Dr. X)
Announcer: "Tonight, once again, we introduce the man who has agreed to serve as your guide and companion, on these sometimes terrifying pilgrimages into the world beyond the realm of human understanding. The man who for reasons that cannot presently be explained, must keep his identity a secret. Creeps By Night brings you its anonymous master of mystery, Doctor X."
(Music: Dramatic music builds, then under.)
Doctor X: "Good evening. This is Dr. X, joining you for further research in to the shadowy darkness of the unexplored: the darkness of the human mind. I wish, however, to thank you for your letters commenting on last week's broadcast, 'The Walking Dead'. Many of you requested that I reveal my identity, and a few of you hazarded a guess as to who I am. In due time, perhaps, I will be able to step out from under my cloak of mystery. But for the present, I ask you to bear with me, since I shall have to be known only as Dr. X. Tonight, I have a rare treat in store for you. Mr. Edmond Quinn, the celebrated English actor, is our guest. The story I have chosen is drawn from the casebook of medical science, and concerns itself with the often ghastly power of fear. Yes, we are all slaves to fear in one form of another. But the fear that forms the basis for our dramatization tonight is undoubtedly the most horrible of them all. It is the fear of... but wait. Let me draw aside the curtain and bring you Mr. Edmond Quinn as Ramsey, in 'The Strange Burial of Alexander Jordon."
A Standard Closing:
Announcer: "Creeps By Night has just brought you Boris Karloff in ________. Be with us again next Tuesday night at this same time over many of these stations, when Mr. Karloff will present another mystery of the mind."
Boris Karloff went on to host an equally "creepy" TV show called Thriller!
Hear an Actual Episode!
(Care of Archive.org)
The Strange Burial of Alexander Jordon -
The Final Reckoning -
The Hunt -
The Walking Dead -
The Three Sisters -
Some Suggested Samples
"The Final Reckoning" - A man wrongly sent to prison gets the chance at revenge against the gangster who framed him.
"The Hunt" - The swamps of Louisiana become the hunting grounds of a wild beast. Some say a possessive brother is actually a werewolf.
"The Walking Dead" - Haitians avenge the death of a fellow worker by cursing the French overseer, until he dies of unknown causes. Later on, a man who looks like him is seen in the shadows, alive! (Dr. X replaces Karloff on this program.)
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