The Weird Circle
A good story is a good story, whether it was written two weeks ago, two decades ago, or even two centuries ago. And nowhere is that truer than in The Weird Circle, a half-hour anthology series that was first aired back in 1943.
The stories offered by The Weird Circle were generally adapted from popular fiction - popular fiction of the 19th century, that is. And since the focus was on horror and suspense, the macabre, atmospheric, and often ironic tales of such writers as Edgar Allan Poe and Honore de Balzac were a staple of its success. Also included were such familiar chestnuts as "Wuthering Heights" by Emily Bronte, Charles Dickens' "The Queer Client", Charlotte Bronte's novel "Jane Eyre" (also a particular favorite of Orson Welles and his Mercury Theater company), and "The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde" by Robert Louis Stevenson. Stories of this vintage, rooted in the Victorian attitudes and morality of the 1800s, generally made for good radio drama; they were, after all, classics, familiar to anyone with a public school education. The primarily first-person narrative of most of the stories chosen made them relatively easy to convert into script form: introduce a narrator, establish the scene, and then carry on with the plot. And, of course, since they were out of copyright, there were no literary rights to be paid -- a sizeable cost savings for any producer looking to budget a weekly series, then or now.
The Weird Circle was produced in New York City by the National Broadcasting Company, under the auspices of its Radio-Recording Division. Though best known for live programs over its Red and Blue Networks, NBC produced and recorded a great many shows for syndication to local stations, including such diverse dramatic programs as Playhouse of Favorites, Five Minute Mysteries, Destiny Trails, and Betty and Bob (a five-a-week daily "soap opera" featuring Arlene Francis), as well as quarter-hour musical programs starring performers ranging from Carson Robison and his Buckaroos to Ferde Grofe and his Orchestra. The quality of these syndicated shows was, for the most part, consistent with NBC's regular prime-time fare and, a result, were often aired by local stations as either special features or programmed between other shows on the network at the time.
Compared with other syndicated thriller/mystery series produced at the same time, it's clear that the producers of The Weird Circle aimed a little higher than the norm. The budgets for the series, though no more generous than any similar series produced for the syndication market, benefitted greatly from the technical staff and state-of-the-art facilities which NBC maintained at their Rockefeller Center headquarters. The series featured no stars but, instead, drew upon the adept, adaptable, and professional performers who regularly appeared in supporting roles on live network broadcasts - actors like Audrey Totter, Lawson Zerbe, Chester Stratton, Walter Vaughn, Eleanor Audley, and Arnold Moss, to name just a few. And, rather than relying on contracted writers to grind out inexpensive "pulp" stories in a contemporary vein, this series relied instead upon tried and true material from well-known and well-read authors, giving The Weird Circle a definite touch of class.
Heard today, it's interesting to note how contemporary many of these stories still sound to modern listeners. Charles Dickens' 1866 story "The Signal-Man", heard here as "The Thing in the Tunnel", is a still-disturbing tale of a railroad signalman, driven to the brink of madness by a strange apparition at the mouth of a train tunnel. The vividness of Dickens' writing was due, in part, to his personal involvement in the Staplehurst rail crash in 1865; while passing over a viaduct, the train on which he was traveling jumped a gap in the line, causing the central and rear carriages to fall onto the riverbed below. Dickens was in the only first-class carriage to survive the disaster. Victor Hugo's "The Last Day of a Condemned Man," published in 1829, is a harrowing and heartbreaking case against the death penalty, offering a journal that the main character keeps of his every thought and feeling in the six weeks between his sentencing and the moment before he is taken to the guillotine. Lesser known stories by such diverse authors as Washington Irving, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Wilkie Collins, and Alexander Pushkin would later be adapted for radio by such popular anthology series as Suspense and Escape.
In this fourth Radio Archives collection, you'll hear eighteen additional broadcasts from The Weird Circle, just as originally aired in 1944 and 1945. As an extra bonus, we've uncovered the transcription disc containing the original openings and closings of the shows, allowing you to hear these programs in their original as-broadcast format for the first time in decades. If you're familiar with some or all of the stories offered in this series, Radio Archives is sure you'll enjoy revisiting your favorites in a different form. If you've read only a few of these stories - or, better still, if you've never read any of them - we promise that you're in for a real treat.
So, bell keeper! Toll the bell, so that all may know that we are gathered again in...the Weird Circle!
#47 The Burial of Roger Malvin
Sunday, October 22, 1944 - 30:00 - NBC Syndication
#57 The Diamond Lens
Sunday, December 31, 1944 - 30:00 - NBC Syndication
#64 The Oblong Box
Sunday, February 18, 1945 - 30:00 - NBC Syndication
#65 The Mysterious Bride
Sunday, February 25, 1945 - 30:00 - NBC Syndication
#66 The Thing in the Tunnel
Sunday, March 4, 1945 - 30:00 - NBC Syndication
#67 The Moonstone
Sunday, March 11, 1945 - 30:00 - NBC Syndication
#68 The Pistol Shot
Sunday, March 18, 1945 - 30:00 - NBC Syndication
#69 The Possessive Dead
Sunday, March 25, 1945 - 30:00 - NBC Syndication
#70 The Goblet
Sunday, April 1, 1945 - 30:00 - NBC Syndication
#71 The Case of Monsieur Valdemar
Sunday, April 8, 1945 - 30:00 - NBC Syndication
#72 The Shadow
Sunday, April 15, 1945 - 30:00 - NBC Syndication
#73 The Bride of Death
Sunday, April 22, 1945 - 30:00 - NBC Syndication
#74 Dr Jekyll & Mr Hyde
Sunday, April 29, 1945 - 30:00 - NBC Syndication
#75 The Red Hand
Sunday, May 6, 1945 - 30:00 - NBC Syndication
#76 The Haunted Hotel
Sunday, May 13, 1945 - 30:00 - NBC Syndication
Sunday, May 20, 1945 - 30:00 - NBC Syndication