The Thunder Child

Science Fiction and Fantasy
Web Magazine and Sourcebooks

Radio Drama
Science Faction

"Stand By For Mars!"

The Thunder Child: Radio Sourcebook
The American radio anthology show Suspense made its debut on June 17, 1942, and ended with its 945th episode, on September 30, 1962. Your's Truly, Johnny Dollar also aired its last broadcast on that day.

The stars came out on Suspense: Jack Benny as a Martian. William Holden as a hysterical astronaut trying to prevent the end of the world. Orson Welles fighting against Donovan's Brain...

The first episode, "The Burning Court," was adapted from a novel by John Dickson Carr, and had trace elements of fantasy. Had a woman who died in the 17th century been reincarnated and started committing murder today?

Up until the early 1950s, Suspense, was devoted to crime and mystery shows, with only the very occasional fantasy (with a crime or mystery theme) or horror program (H.P. Lovecraft's "The Dunwich Horror").

In the 1950s, with the rise of science fiction movies, more and more science fiction episodes appeared on Suspense. Most of this program's episodes still exist and are available from a variety of sources on the web.

Several episodes of Suspense were adaptions from published short stories, for example those of Ray Bradbury. Other classics, such as "The Hitchhiker" made their way onto the television version of the show.

At the height of its fame, Suspense (like its companion anthology program, Escape) was able to secure the services of big stars, such as William Holden, Richard Widmark, Orson Welles, Agnes Moorehead, and William Powell.

Science Fiction and Fantasy on Suspense

The Hitchhiker. September 2, 1942
Written by Lucille Fletcher. Originally performed on The Mercury Theatre on the Air, which starred Orson Welles. This Suspense also starred Orson Welles.

Ronald Adams is driving alone from Brooklyn to California. He keeps passing a hitch-hiker on the side of the road. The same hitch-hiker.

Orson Welles


Lazarus Walks. October 19, 1943
Based on a story by J. M. Speed and adapted for Suspense by Robert L. Richard. Starred Orson Welles and Hans Conried.
After being legally dead for four minutes, a man is brought back to life. However, he is not the same. Not only does he now have the ability to read minds, but he also cannot tell a lie.

Science Fiction:

Hans Conried, character actor
"Donovan's Brain". Part one May 18, 1944.
Adapted for Suspense from the 1943 novel by Curt Siodmak by Robert L. Richards. Starred Orson Welles, along with Hans Conried, Jerry Hausner, John McIntire and Jeanette Nolan.
A small private plane crashes in the mountains near a scientist's home-cum-laboratory. Dr. Patrick Corey removes the brain from the dying millionaire, Donovan, and keeps it alive in a glass tank. After a few days...Donovan's brain starts to communicate with Corey...and attempts to take over his mind.

Part two May 25, 1944
Donovan's brain commands Dr. Corey to kill his own son, and transplant Donovan's brain into that body.

This was the first two-part episode of Suspense, and the last episode to star Orson Welles. It is also the first science fiction episode.

Not until four years later did Suspense air another science fiction episode, and indeed the same one.

"Donovan's Brain," February 7, 1948
For the 1948 season, Suspense was an hour long. They re-did "Donovan's Brain," with John McIntire starring as Dr. Corey. William Johnstone, Wally Maher and Jeanette Nolan also appear.

"The Screaming Woman," November 25, 1948
The first Ray Bradbury short story adapted for Suspense, adapted by Sylvia Richards. It starred Ted de Corsia, John McIntire, Agnes Moorehead, Margaret O'Brien, and Lurene Tuttle.

At Thanksgiving, little Margaret can hear a woman screaming from beneath the Earth. But when she tries to convince her parents of what she hears, they don't' believe her.

Lurene Tuttle, character actress

"Experiment 6-R" was aired on September 22, 1949.
Starred John Lund, William Conrad and Joseph Kearns.
More of a mystery/suspense story than science fiction. Morris Brent is an assistant manager at a 4-star hotel. His manager is the 'cruelest manager in town.' Morris acquires an experimental power known as 6R, which apparently rots away one's internal organs. Morris decides to slip some into his boss's tea.

Richard Widmark
"How Long is the Night," aired on October 13, 1952
Starred Richard Widmark with Herbert Butterfield, Joseph Kearns, and Jack Kruschen.
The Army has just tested a nuclear-bomb explosion on an island. A photographer assigned to cover the story is stranded on the island overnight. He starts to hear a creature moaning and following him, although there is supposed to be no one on the island.
This is not a science fiction story per-se, but it's a pre-cursor of the atomic bomb sci fi stories.

"Frankenstein" aired on November 3, 1952
It was adapted by Antony Ellis from the novel by Mary Shelley, and starred Herbert Marshall with Paul Frees, Joseph Kearns, and Paula Winslowe. This version is not based on the famous Karloff movies, but on the actual novel, with an articulate creature.

"Plan X," aired on February 2, 1953
Starred Jack Benny as the Martian with William Conrad, Mary Jane Croft, Joe Kearns, Jack Kruschen, Truda Marsden, John McIntire, Howard McNear, Stuffy Singer and Norma Varden.
It's the year 2053. A spaceship from Earth lands on Mars. The friendly Martians have a spokesperson who looks and sounds a lot like the famed radio comedian, Jack Benny.

Jack Benny

William Holden
"The Outer Limit," aired on February 15, 1954
Starred William Holden with Hy Averback, Edgar Barrier, Charles Calvert, Jerry Hausner, William Johnstone, Joseph Kearns and Jack Kruschen.
Based on the 1949 short story by Graham Doar. Originally adapted by Morton Fine and David Friedkin for Escape
An experimental rocketship is launched into Earth's outer atmosphere and loses contact with Earth. When the ship returns a few hours later the pilot is in hysterics, claiming that the Earth will be destroyed in the next few hours.

"The Barking Death," aired on March 1, 1954
Starred William Powell, with Hy Averback, Dick Beals, Ted Bliss, Joseph Kearns, Jack Kruschen, Junius Matthews, Paula Winslowe and Jean Wood.
Written for Suspense by Morton Fine and David Friedkin.
An experimental dog escapes from a lab, and is found by a young boy who takes it home. Unfortunately, the dog's bite is death.

William Powell

"Zero Hour," aired on April 5, 1955
Starred Parley Baer, John Dehner, Beverly Hanley, Eve McVey, and Paula Winslowe. It was adapted by Antony Ellis from Ray Bradbury's 1947 short story, and first performed on Escape.
All around the world, children under the age of eleven are playing a new game called "Invasion." The parents of one particular child learn to their cost that they should pay more attention to their children's activities when "Zero Hour" arrives.

"Kaleidoscope," aired on July 12, 1955
Starred Parley Baer, William Conrad, John Dehner, Sam Edwards, Georgia Ellis, Jonathan Ellis, Stacy Harris and Howard McNear.
Antony Ellis adapted the Ray Bradbury short story for Suspense.
A spaceship explodes. The six crew members survive in their spacesuits, but they have each been blown in a separate direction and are drifting helplessly through space. There is no way to survive, and one by one the men lose contact with each other until there is only one left alive.

Howard McNear as Floyd on The Andy Griffith Show
"Heavens to Betsy," aired on October 11, 1955
Starred Hy Averback, Dick Beals, Barbara Eiler, Byron Kane, Truda Marsden, Howard McNear, Vic Perrin, and Barney Phillips.
A UFO lands in the backyard of the house of the Doyle family. Doyle immediately turns the saucer into a tourist attraction, over the objections of the government.

"Two Platinum Capsules", aired on January 10, 1956
Starred Edgar Barrier, Dick Beals and Stacy Harris
Two radioactive capsules have disappeared from a local hospital. Officials launch an immediate search. Meanwhile, the son of the man with the geiger counter has already found the capsules at the local dump.

"Man From Tomorrow," aired on September 1, 1957
Starred Norm Alden, Joan Banks, John Hoyt, Peter Leeds and Frank Lovejoy
Originally written for Escape by Irving Reis.
A former jet pilot volunteers to be a test subject for some scientists, who place him in a dark room. The test subject soon develops a sixth sense, and his moral values begin to change.

John Hoyt as a Martian on The Twilight Zone

"The Invisible Ape," aired on June 8, 1958
Starred Laurence Dobkin, Byron Kane, Ellen Morgan, Jack Moyles, Larry Parks and Sam Pierce.
Written for Suspense by Michael Frost.
Lab technician Joe uses the reactor table to become invisible so that he'll be able to capture an escaped lab specimen - which is also invisible. However, he learns that there is no way for him to become visible again.

"The Voice of Company A", aired on August 3, 1958
Starred Lillian Buyeff, John Dehner, Jack Kruschen, Barney Phillips, Sam Pierce and Everett Sloane
Written for Suspense by Michael Frost. Bible quote Exodus Ch. 20, v. 13.
A lieutenant is ordered to launch a satellite that will jam all radio communication across the world, and instead for 50 years will broadcast a single message. When a ghost from a previous war starts to talk to the lieutenant about the "good ol' days," he suggests that the message be "Thou Shalt Not Kill."

"The Thirty-Second of December," aired on December 28, 1958
Starred Norm Alden, Joan Banks, Frank Lovejoy, Barney Phillips and Sam Pierce
Written for Suspense by Morris Lee Green and William Walker
A gambler enters a pawn ship to pawn an engagement ring. Instead of taking the money, he sees an unusual watch sitting in a case. It turns out this watch controls time - he can transport himself to any time he wants in the past or present.

"Re-entry," aired on November 1, 1959
Starred Mason Adams, Jim Boles, Frank Butler, Whitfield Connor, Lester Damon, Bob Donley, Margaret Draper, Robert Readick, Lyle Sudrow and Frank Thomas, Jr.
Written for Suspense by George Bamber
An experimental rocket ship called the X-15 carries the first man into space. In space he finds "a little slice of heaven." The astronaut decides that a return to Earth would ruin his opportunity to go to heaven. But...has he already returned to Earth?

Frank Thomas, Jr. gained fame as Tom Corbett

"Tonight at 5:55," aired on April 17, 1960
Starred Ralph Camargo, Whitfield Connor, John Gibson, Francine Meyeres, Robert Readick, Larry Robinson and Luis Van Rooten
Written for Suspense by George Bamber
The United States and "the Enemy" have been fighting for years. On this day, the Enemy sends the United States an ultimatum. "Surrender now, or be wiped out by a nuclear warhead." The government has 20 minutes to decide if they surrender, or should launch their own missiles.

"Report From a Dead Planet," aired on July 10, 1960
Starred Lester Damon, John Larkin, William Mason and Phil Meader
Written for Suspense by George Bamber
A four-man crew lands on a newly discovered, dead planet - which once held life. They find a dead city where once a civilization stood.

"Time On My Hands," aired on September 25, 1960
Starred Vera Allen, Robert Dryden, Bill Lipton, Santos Ortega, Ted Osborne and Marian Russell
Originally written for The Mysterious Traveler by Walter Black
In 1939, John Driscoll receives a visit from a friend who claims that he has built a time machine. The two plan a trip to 1908 in order to assassinate Hitler before he rises to power. But things don't work out as he planned.

"The Juvenile Rebellion," aired on September 3, 1961
Starred Court Benson, Joe Bollard, Patricia Hosley, Ronald Liss and Jimsey Summers
Written for Suspense by Robert Cenedella
An English teacher visits the home of one of his students. He discovers not only that she is a mutant child, with telekinesis powers, but that there are more like her, who intend to take over the world.

"The Black Door," aired on November 19, 1961
Starred Ralph Camargo and Robert Readick
Originally written for The Mystery Traveler by Robert Allen Arthur
An archaeologist and his guide enters the Lost City of the Fire God. They discover evidence that this culture had seen the dark side of the moon. Then they are trapped in the temple, with hundreds of statues of men with the heads of jackals, which start to come alive.

"Twenty-Four Sixty-Two," aired on January 21, 1962
Starred Robert Dryden, William Mason, Robert Randall, Rosemary Rice and Lawson Zerbe
Written for Suspense by George Bamber
Frank Smith - Number 108303715, is on trial for writing non-productive literature which he calls poems. He is found guilty by the state and sentenced to death. He is then given a chance to escape by an old man who believes that literature is still needed in the society.

"You Died Last Night," aired on April 1, 1962
Starred Santos Ortega and Robert Readick
Joe is an average human being...who meets up with an average Martian, Tony. The Martians have become concerned that Earthlings have reached the Atomic Age, and intend to destroy them before they can extend outward and bring such destruction to Mars.

"That Real Crazy Infinity," aired on May 27, 1961.
Starred Court Benson, Robert Dryden, Jack Grimes, Richard Holland, Athena Lord, and Robert Readick
Two young musicians in need of money, accept a job delivering equipment to a scientist who lives deep in the woods. Once there, they learn that his invention is a machine that pick up sounds, speeches and music from the past. They decide to cash in by recording some lost music.

"A Strange Day In May," aired on September 9, 1962
Starred Toni Darnay, Herbert Duncan, Bill Lipton, William Mason, Reynold Osborne, Bill Smith and Maurice Tarpin
Written for Suspense by Michael Healy
Thomas Manning, astronaut, ventures into space in an attempt to discover what has happened to two missing astronauts. He passes out and, on return to Earth, finds everyone acting a little strangely; asking lots of odd questions. Is he being tested by his own people?

Where to Get Suspense

Radio Showcase is only one site of many to obtain old time radio programs.

Suspense: Twenty Years of Thrills and Chills. Martin Grams, Jr. Morris Publishing. 1997.

Click on the icons for new features in The Thunder Child.
Radiation Theater: 1950s Sci Fi Movies Discussion Boards
The Sand Rock Sentinel: Ripped From the Headlines of 1950s Sci Fi Films

Recommended Reading

All text © 2006 The Thunder Child unless otherwise credited.
All illustrations retain original copyright.
Please contact us with any concerns as to correct attribution.
Any questions, comments or concerns contact The Thunder Child.