Suspense (1942-1962) is often cited as one of the best series of the Golden Age of radio. Subtitled "radio's outstanding theater of thrills," Suspense provided an anthology of crime tales and occasionally adventure, science fiction, or the supernatural and featured leading Hollywood actors and directors. Suspense is significant for its diverse, broad-based episodes which often dealt with life or death situations, each heightened by a sense of doom. One episode, "Sorry, Wrong Number" is known as radio's ultimate murder show.
Total Episodes: 947 (approximate)
Surviving Episodes: 895 (approximate)
Sorry, Wrong Number
Episode 043, 25 May 1943 (and others)
The best known episode of the Suspense series. Written by Lucille Fletcher and starring Agnes Moorehead. Radio historian John Dunning says "Sorry, Wrong Number" transcended Suspense and was "widely perceived to be the most effective radio show ever" (On the Air: The Encyclopedia of Old-Time Radio. New York: Oxford University Press, 1998, p. 648).
Mrs. Elbert Stevenson, bedridden at home, depends on the telephone for a lifeline to the outside world. While calling her husband, she is connected into a conversation between two men. She can hear the two men, but they cannot hear her. Apparently, they are plotting to murder a woman at 11:15 that night, just as a train passes outside. Mrs. Stevenson realizes she may be the murder victim. It is nearly 11:15 PM. How will she convince anyone that she is in danger? Everyone she calls refuses to take her fears seriously. The drama becomes a critical examination of the telephone, a device, which although it allows people to connect, does not necessarily allow them to communicate.
"The Hitchhiker" is, essentially, a ghost story. Ronald Adams sets out to drive from New York City to California. He sees a strange man, hitchhiking on the Brooklyn Bridge, and again and again as he continues driving cross-country. There is no logical way this hitchhiker could have gotten ahead of him, and Adams becomes obsessed with the hitchhiker, even determines to run him over with his automobile. Calling home from New Mexico, Adams learns his mother is distraught over his death on The Brooklyn Bridge, six days prior. Could this hitchhiker be an Angel of Death, sent to guide him to the other side? Adams starts actively searching for the hitchhiker.
Welles performed "The Hitchhiker" four times on radio. First for The Orson Welles Show in 1941, then for Suspense and The Phillip Morris Show, both in 1942, and The Mercury Summer Theatre on the Air, 22 June 1946. Many versions and adaptations followed, including a television adaptation by Rod Sterling in 1960 for his anthology series The Twilight Zone
Listen to the 2 September 1942 episode (episode #11) of Suspense as Welles performs "The Hitchhiker."
Welles reprised his performance on 22 June 1946 for Episode 3, of The Mercury Summer Theatre on the Air. In his introduction, Welles called "The Hitchhiker" a classic among radio thrillers and went on to say, "It's author is one of the most gifted of all the writers who ever worked for this medium, Lucille Fletcher who wrote 'Sorry, Wrong Number,' the greatest single radio script ever written."
Episode 92, Part 1, 18 May 1944
Episode 93, Part 2, 25 May 1944
Orson Welles; a classic of science fiction.
Episode 143, 31 May 1945
Ronald Coleman; a date with fate and a madman with a knife, all foretold by a tombstone inscription.
The Dunwich Horror
Episode 165, 1 November 1945
H.P. Lovecraft's tale of an ancient race returned.
Episode 205, 8 August 1946
An auto accident survivor races with time against an embalmer's knife.
House in Cypress Canyon
Episode 222, 5 December 1946
A young couple find a werewolf in their newly rented home.
Suspense, was initially produced and directed by William Spier. Scripts were performed more than once over the years, often with different Hollywood actors. For example, Burt Lancaster made his radio premier in an episode called "The Big Shot." Fibber McGee and Molly appeared out of character as they took a ride with a killer in "Back Seat Driver."
Episodes were broadcast on Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS), 17 June 1942-30 September 1962. The last episode, "The Devil Stone," was the last radio drama broadcast with its roots in The Golden Age of Radio (or Old Time Radio, OTR).
The cast included notable actors like, Cary Grant, Fredric March, Charles Laughton, Humphrey Bogart, Lucille Ball, Olivia De Havilland, Gregory Peck, Peter Lorre, Henry Fonda, and Orson Welles.
OTRR certified episodes at Internet Archive
Single episodes at Internet Archive
Suspense Radio Logs at Jerry Haendiges Vintage Radio Logs website
Plot summaries and credits at Radio Gold Index website
Escape and Suspense website.