Stay Tuned For Terror


Robert Bloch was the writer to this mysterious series. (Click image for his 1989 photo.) James Doolittle was the host.

Stay Tuned For Terror was penned by veteran horror writer Robert Bloch. According to Richard Hand's OTR book, Terror On The Air, it was a 15 minute series starring Boris Karloff (Hand, 10, 15). However, Karloff's involvement is unlikely. Even though no recordings of the show are in circulation to hear, Bloch has discussed the series and provided numerous details in several interviews. He makes no mention of Karloff in any of them. Here's what he told Graeme Flanagan about the series, as it appeared in Robert Bloch: A Bio-Bibliography (July, 1979):

"An announcer and radio actor friend brought my work to the attention of John Neblett, a sportscaster, and his friend, agent Berle Adams. Neblett produced the show, Adams bought into it and marketed it, and my friend, James Doolittle, took the lead. Other performers were his brother Donald, an actor named Wilms Herbert (now deceased) and Angeline Orr, who later married Neblett. They did all the roles - as was customary in those days. The director, Howard Keegan, had previously directed Lights Out and gave us excellent assistance.

"The shows were recorded in Chicago, at the Wrigley Building studios, one night a week, three shows per session. I attended and made suggestions at the rehearsals. I never rewrote a script - but I should have, as they were dreadful by today's standards, I'm sure. Doolittle used a pseudonym ('Craig Dennis') but I believe the rest of the cast were listed by their own names.

"The shows sold, here and in Hawaii, and to the entire Canadian Broadcasting Network. A second series of thirty nine was about to be ordered when John Neblett died in the crash of his private plane which he was piloting either to or from a football game down South. The series died with him."

If Bloch attended the rehearsals, he would have certainly noticed and remembered if Karloff was present. He remembers the other actors, who he said played all the parts each week. He names the lead's real name, James Doolittle (aka Craig Dennis). Radio's Golden Years adds Frances Spencer to the cast, but again, there's no mention of Karloff (Terrace, 250). An ad in Weird Tales credits Dennis as the series narrator.

Bloch also explains the involvement of the magazine in issue #300 of Weird Tales (Spring, 1991), during an interview with Bradley H. Sinor.

"During my years of incarceration at the advertising agency I wrote well over a hundred stories and a radio series, Stay Tuned For Terror. Many of the thirty-nine shows I scripted were adapted from the yarns I'd written for Weird Tales. The magazine generously advertised and promoted this program, which was terminated abruptly at the end of the first season when the producer died in a tragic crash of his private plane."

Bloch mentioned earlier that Angeline Orr married John Neblett, the sportscaster. They met doing the show. Sadly, his fatal plane crash ended their marriage not long after it began.

Stay Tuned For Terror has become a missing "Holy Grail" show for OTR archivists who dream of finding lost treasures. It certainly had the ingredients to be something exceptional, with one of horror's best known writers behind it (even if he joked about the quality decades later). Some speculate that recordings are likely, because it was never aired live. It was recorded in WMAQ in Chicago, and transcriptions were sent to various stations, including ones in Canada and Hawaii (Digital Deli Too). There was also talk about "a partnership with Mercury Records that would have made episodes available on record" (The unofficial Robert Bloch website). Unfortunately, that never panned out. If someone has been sitting on the recordings all these years waiting for the right time, he or she may have waited too long-- and expired as well! But there is a still a chance some could surface one day.

Here's a list of those 39 "lost" episodes (courtesy of the OTRR Group):  

Fortunately, many of the printed versions of the same stories exist in older issues of Weird Tales. Others appeared on television. In fact, Waxworks and Yours Truly, Jack the Ripper were both featured on Thriller, a TV series hosted by Boris Karloff. (Perhaps that's the Bloch/ Karloff connection Hand was thinking of?)

Oddball Trivia: The series aired Monday, Wednesday and Friday night at 10:45 pm in Wisconsin* in June of 1945. The network was NBC.

*Wisconsin State Journal, June 13, 15, 18, 20, 22 , 1945. See Digital Deli Too)

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