Stay Tuned for Terror may very well be as mysterious as it's author's fiction. Often referenced, and cited for it's famous author's scripts, Stay Tuned for Terror remains one of those elusive programs from The Golden Age of Radio which has yet to surface in circulation. Golden Age Radio collectors can be fairly certain that its recordings survived either as transcriptions or privately recorded episodes. Robert Bloch's early writing successes and wide popularity in the horror genre virtually guarantee that any number of his horror fiction fans would have at least recorded the run from Radio.
Stay Tuned for Terror arose during one of the more prolific early periods of Robert Bloch's writing career. Some friends and acting acquaintances had suggested that his short horror fiction pieces would likely be well received over Radio. Ultimately it was his friends Berle Adams, a theatrical and writer's agent, Johnny Neblett, a sportscaster and actor, and James Doolittle, an actor, that sat down with Bloch over a period of a few weeks in the Fall of 1944 to attempt to put together the radio program.
Bloch prepared 39 short stories with accompanying radioplay scripts, Johnny Neblett formed his first production company to produce it, and Bloch's friend Howard Keegan--director of many of the Lights Out productions--signed on to direct the program. Neblett and Berle Adams persuaded Weird Tales Magazine to provide a tie-in to the magazine and promoted the new program as Weird Tales' Stay Tuned for Terror, so as to leverage Bloch's considerable fame and popular success with that print publication.
The program was recorded at the WMAQ Studios in Chicago over a period of 13 weeks, recording three episodes per day, one day each week. Bloch reportedly attended all of the recording sessions, commuting from nearby Milwaukee. Accounts vary over when the program first aired. We have contemporary provenances from WMAQ's Summer 1945 Run which account for all 39 scripts. We are not aware of any other proof of the program airing any earlier.
From the December 21st 1945 edition of the Wisconsin Jewish Chronicle:
Mystery and horror story fans are currently enjoying "The Opener of the Way", by Robert Bloch, of this city.
The tales contained in this book collection were selected by the author from the 150 published in magazines of weird fiction during the past ten years. Since selling his first story at the age of 17, Robert Bloch has established a definite reputation in the field of the supernatural in literature.
"The Opener of the Way" contains 21 stories, ranging from pure horror in the tradition of Poe and Lovecraft to modern sophisticated fantasy, and the book has been well received by critics and reviewers in Chicago, New York and locally.
A number of Mr. Bloch's tales have been reprinted in other mystery anthologies and published abroad in England, Australia and New Zealand. One of the titles in his book -- "Yours Truly, Jack the Ripper," was dramatized over the radio on the Molle Mystery Theatre and the Kate Smith Program, starring the late Laird Cregar.
Bloch himself has authored a transcription series of 39 radio programs adapted from his own magazine stories. Entitled "Stay Tuned For Terror," the show was aired over WMAQ this summer, and has also been broadcast on the West Coast.
Mr. Bloch is continuing his magazine writing and is currently working on a first novel. Married, with one daughter, he is associated with the Gustav Marx Advertising Agency of Milwaukee.
His mother, the late Stella Loeb Bloch, was for many years a familiar figure in the community due to her work with the Abraham Lincoln House and the Jewish Center.
Bloch recalls in interviews that the radio productions were well received, but this was Bloch's only radio series under his control during his career. At least 50 of his short stories found their way to radio in various other thriller genre radio productions, and even more of Robert Bloch's fiction was produced throughout the Golden Age of Television.
Johnny Neblett also arranged for a Canadian distribution of Stay Tuned for Terror and the series was actively promoted there (see promotional flyer in sidebar below). One can surmise that if any more of the actual recordings ever do surface, they may very well come from Canada.
Canadian "Stay Tuned for
Terror" Promo, ca. 1945
(Click for larger image)
The Billboard notice of June 9th 1945 citing Berle Adams as Robert Bloch's personal manager.
Johnnie Neblett circa 1943
|Martin Grams' Radio Drama, The Wisconsin State Journal, The Sheboygan Press.
Notes on Provenances:
The Martin Grams' Radio Drama references are in error as to dates and history. The most reliable references were from the various WMAQ Radio listings from Wisconsin newspapers.
According to interviews with Robert Bloch, the writer for all 39 scripts associated with this production, the following facts outline all that is currently known about this series:
- The series was produced at the WMAQ Studios in Chicago during either the Winter of 1944 or 1945 (see following).
- Robert Bloch personally supervised the productions one night each week, commuting between Milwaukee, WI and the WMAQ Studios forty miles south in Chicago.
- Three episodes were produced during each one-day recording session (which coincides neatly with the intended airing of the productions--Mon.-Wed.-Fri. of each week).
Robert Bloch reminisces in separate interviews that he attended the recording sessions for Stay Tuned for Terror during "the Winter of 1945", but we know from contemporaneous WMAQ Radio and The Billboard listings that the series first aired in May 1945. Given his extraordinarily busy career, Mr. Bloch can be forgiven if mistaking the Winter of 1944 for the Winter of 1945--if that's what actually occurred. In any case, only one of two possible conclusions can be reached:
- Either Bloch was mistaken about the year he commuted to Chicago to supervise the production recordings (e.g., the late winter of 1944, between January and March of 1945) , or
- There was some sort of elaborate conspiracy on the part of the newspapers throughout Chicago and Wisconsin, which produced weekly listings of Stay Tuned for Terror, continuously between May 1945 and August 1945. We're more inclined to conclude that Mr. Bloch's memory of that facet of his career was simply off by one year, Q.E.D.
We know that Johnny Neblett, the producer of the series, with his Neblett Radio Productions company tragically died in a plane crash in 1946, at the age of only 33. Contemporaneous accounts of the plane crash state that he'd only "recently" begun his Neblett Radio Productions company, which would coincide well with Robert Bloch's interview comments. Bloch had stated that his friend, Johnny Neblett helped him put together the concept for Stay Tuned for Terror, by forming his own production company--Neblett Radio Productions. We also know that Angeline Orr, one of the actresses for the series, married Mr. Neblett during the course of the recording sessions for Stay Tuned for Terror, thus experiencing a tragically brief marriage to Mr. Neblett.
Herein lies the disconnect between the Grams Radio Drama book and all other 'logs' for this series. Grams provides a very neat, 39-episode log of the series, beginning January 15, 1945 and ending October 8, 1945. Since Grams' Radio Drama never provides citations or references for its logs, one can only surmise from what or whom he constructed the erroneous log he produced. There are no provenances, footnotes or references. There is no reference to the source of the script titles. Stay Tuned for Terror was replaced over WMAQ by Man Hunt
The Billboard article of September 20th 1947 citing Rush Hughes assuming sales duties for Stay Tuned for Terror.
Given this odd combination of circumstances--and circulating misinformation--the log below describes the series in two parts: the actual published air dates for the Summer Run of 1945 over WMAQ, and a separate list of alleged scripts from Grams' Radio Drama, only two of which can be substantiated from contemporaneous Radio Listings.
Grams' Radio Drama cites Berle Adams--an agent and acquaintance of Robert Bloch--as the producer of the series. This is inaccurate--both from Robert Bloch's interviews and from the promotional provenance illustrated in the sidebar to the left. Giving credit where credit is due, Mr. Bloch cites Ms. Adams as one of the three people who huddled with him while conceptualizing the series, but she was simply an initial collaborator, not the producer.
Grams' Radio Drama is replete with Grams' fanciful musings and misinformation offered up as facts. In our experience Radio Drama remains one of the most inaccurate publications regarding the history of programming from the Golden Age of Radio that we've ever read.
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[Date, title, and episode column annotations in red refer to either details we have yet to fully provenance or other unverifiable information as of this writing. Red highlights in the text of the 'Notes' columns refer to information upon which we relied in citing scheduled broadcast dates, date or time changes, or titles.]