Mysteries of the Inner Sanctum
This horror series features probably the most
famous opening in the history of radio. After the greeting, “Good
Evening...” a door creaks slowly open and the listener is greeted by the
host, a gruesome joke and then the introduction to the story for the
evening. A strange mixture of horror and humor.
Sanctum Mysteries was a popular old-time radio
program that ran from January 7, 1941
to October 5, 1952.
Its creator was Himan Brown, who
later created the long-running CBS Radio Mystery
Theater. It featured stories of mystery, terror and
suspense told, in sharp contrast to shows like Suspense
and The Whistler,
with a broad tongue-in-cheek approach. A total of 526 episodes are known
to have been produced, a great many of which are lost today.
Each show opened with a jovial greeting from the
host, Raymond, played initially by Raymond Edward Johnson and then by
Paul McGrath beginning in 1945.
Speaking in an exaggeratedly “spooky” voice, Raymond would spout jokes
and puns over a melodramatic organ score that one can easily imagine
being played by a skeleton. As the series progressed, even the
advertisers would get into the act, trading banter with Raymond before
the story proper began.
Its campy comedy notwithstanding, the stories were
often effective little chillers, mixing horror and humor in equal doses.
Memorable episodes include “Terror by Night” (9/18/45) and “The
Tell-Tale Heart” (8/3/41) with Boris Karloff.
More than a few established stars appeared over the years, including Mary Astor, Helen Hayes, Peter Lorre, Burgess Meredith, Claude Rains
and Frank Sinatra.