(the 2 1/2 minute version)
(Note: There's also an unrelated 30 minute series called Nightmare)
Artist depiction courtesy of Tune In For Terror © 1992
If brevity is the soul of wit, than this is the wittiest mystery-horror-suspense drama ever devised for radio! The host delivers an entire story in less than minutes-- and they're good too! Yet practically nothing is known about this series with any degree of certainty. Some believe it was an advertisement for the 30 minute series of the same name which starred Peter Lorre, but there is no evidence supporting that theory, nor does it make much sense. The two and a half minute stories are really too long to be ads, they never mention any other show, and Peter Lorre is not heard or referenced. They do mention that the series is "A John Norman Production", which doesn't seem to have any connection to the Lorre version of Nightmare either. From there on out, it's all conjecture and hearsay.
So who is John Norman? One could assume he is not only the producer, but also the writer and performer of these short dramas delivered in rapid machine-gun style. The budget appears to be quite modest. A short monologue is delivered in the voice of the second person as internal thoughts needle the conscience of the killer. An old style Hammond organ accompanies the voice, and provides mood to key statements. (It also suggests the series was made in the 1940s or 1950s, when such organs commonly accompanied radio dramas.) There are only five episodes I've ever heard or know to still exist. Each is about a murderer who meets his comeuppance in the last few moments. A brief pause (time provided to stop the recording and insert an ad?) is followed by a resolution delivered in another voice, usually that of a cop. The policeman summarizes to his unseen partner what happened and often provides an ironic twist. The End!
While rumors are more often false than true, in the absence of any other information, it's all we have to work with. In my course of searching for more episodes, I encountered an OTR dealer who professed to have many episodes from this series, but he never got around to digging them out for me. He said John Norman had had problems with the law, but the details were so inflammatory, I would rather not repeat them. (Like they say South of the border, "the mouth can say anything", and OTR is filled with widely believed rumors that turn out to be completely false.) Besides, you would think a man who wrote as many episodes as John Norman did, where the bad guy always pays the the price for his misdeeds, well, you would certainly hope someone like that would know that crime doesn't pay.
In my imagination, John Norman was a clever artist who cranked out hundreds of these short shock stories. He never was recognized for his genius in writing and performing, so he finally gave up and began something mundane like manufacturing match sticks. Then his artistic outlook provided him with some clever marketing gimmick that made him the king of his profession, and eventually, he bought his own island in the Caribbean and built a mansion on it. In the boredom of his retirement, he took out the old typewriter and blew off the dust, and starting pounding out more of his devilishly delightful two and half minute stories. He then rolled them up, and one by one, corked them inside separate beer bottles that he drank empty while dreaming up his terror tales. Then he tossed them out in the surf, where many of them still float around to this day, waiting to be rescued by the likes of you and me. It may not be the most likely theory of what happened, but it's as possible as anything else. And besides, it fits neatly inside a 2:30 minute episode. The End!
The Sample Intro:
(Hammond organ plays in background and emphasizes action.)
Narrator: "You hate her, don't you? You'd like to see her die, wouldn't you? Well come on then, don't be a milquetoast, kill her! You ought to be able to think of a way! Surely all the reading you've done, all those fine mystery stories ought to suggest something. The only trouble is that those people always got caught! They were bunglers though, you're not. You're smart. Just pick a method and eliminate all the mistakes..."
A Closing Narration:
Host: "This has been Nightmare, a bedtime story for folks who like to dream... violently. Be with us tomorrow for another tale of horror, mystery or suspense. A tale as short and terrifying as... (with echo effect:) a Nightmare!"
(Organ plays finale)
Announcer: "Nightmare is a John Norman Production."
(Courtesy of OTRcat.com)
"Animal Army" - A mad scientist plots to rule the world by creating giant animals, starting first with his lab rats.
"Boa Constrictor" - A murderer plots to kill someone in the jungle, but meets his maker in an unexpected twist.
"Drown The Wife" - A husband kills his rich wife and throws her overboard their yacht, but her body causes problems.
"Electrocute The Wife" - A husband decides to electrocute his wife, but he may not be the only one with evil plans.
"Die To Music" - Unknown plot
"Chopped Up" - Unknown plot
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