Sleep No More

was a short-lived series of readings by Nelson Olmsted, primarily focusing on suspense and the supernatural. Minimalist production with background music and character voices, but with all the parts performed by Olmsted. The shows were in half-hour format, though often included two stories per episode. Twenty-six episodes (thirty-four stories) aired between 1956-1957. Excellent audio quality.

Sources used to create my own log and double-check titles, dates and cast members: Digital Deli Too, RadioGOLDINdex, and Internet Speculative Fiction Database.

Currently this archive contains 34 of 34 plotlines and 8 reviews

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Annabel Lee

Year: 1956
Duration: 2 min
Genre: Fantasy
Available for Listening Booth: Y
Story by: Edgar Allan Poe, 1849

The last complete poem written by Edgar Allan Poe... a few months before his death. A tale of two lovers whose love is so strong and intense that it makes the winged Seraphs of heaven jealous and spiteful. The lover's union on Earth is ripped asunder... but not the love that binds their souls.

Snippet:
It was many and many a year ago
     in a kingdom by the sea,
That a maiden there lived whom you may know
     by the name of Annabel Lee.

Reviews:
I love this poem, Romantic that I am. But Nelson Olmsted's voice is just a bit too sing-songy and cheerful. This is a tragic tale, after all. Not bad, but Marianne Faithful does a much better job on the album "Closed on Account of Rabies: Poems and Tales of Edgar Allan Poe". [6/10] --- zM

August Heat

Year: 1956
Duration: 16 min
Genre: Horror
Available for Listening Booth: Y
Story by: William F. Harvey, 1910

During an oppressive heat-wave, an artist is inspired to create his finest work—a hurried sketch of a criminal in the dock immediately after a judge has pronounced sentence. He is somewhat startled, later that day, to meet a man who looks exactly like the man in his sketch.

Other versions were produced for Suspense (x2) and Hallmark Playhouse.

Reviews:

Aunt Cassie

Year: 1957
Duration: 15 min
Genre: Ghosts
Available for Listening Booth: Y
Story by: Virginia Swain, 1941

Aunt Cassie is a little odd; she has imaginary conversations with people who have been dead for years. The rest of the family politely ignore this, but sometimes it's a trifle annoying.

Reviews:

Banquo's Chair

Year: 1957
Duration: 15 min
Genre: Thriller
Available for Listening Booth: Y
Story by: Rupert Croft-Cooke, 1937

Sir William Brent—former head of the CID, now retired—pursues the only murderer who ever evaded the long reach of his arm. With a steely-minded determination, Sir Brent sets a trap involving a dinner party, a derelict mansion, and a charming actress pretending to be the ghost of the murdered victim.

Three versions were produced for Suspense. A teleplay was also produced for Alfred Hitchcock Presents (1959).

Reviews:

Bet, The

Year: 1957
Duration: 16 min
Genre: Speculative
Available for Listening Booth: Y
Story by: Anton Chekhov, 1889

At a party, one dark autumn night, a banker, a young lawyer, and several other guests discuss the relative merits of capital punishment versus life in prison. The young lawyer agrees with the others that both options are horrible, but claims he prefers life in prison as the more humane. The banker loses his temper and challenges the lawyer's wisdom by betting $2 million against the lawyer's ability to endure 15 years in solitary confinement.

Another version was produced for Favorite Story.

Reviews:

Bookshop, The

Year: 1957
Duration: 16 min
Genre: Supernatural
Available for Listening Booth: Y
Story by: Nelson S. Bond, 1941

A writer, taking a quick break from what's shaping up to be the best book he's ever written, stumbles upon a very strange bookshop—a bookshop with titles such as: Agamemnon by William Shakespeare, King Arthur of Britain by John Milton, Darkling Mills by Jane Austen, The Gargoyle's Eye by Edgar Allan Poe, and The Troglodytes by Jules Verne.

Reviews:
So-so performance, but a well-written story; loved the whole 'bookshop' idea. I'd love to read some of the titles lurking on those dark shelves! [8/10] --- zM

Browdean Farm

Year: 1957
Duration: 16 min
Genre: Ghosts
Available for Listening Booth: Y
Story by: A.M. Burrage, 1927

Two men seeking a quiet retreat—one to finish writing a book and the other to while away his time fishing—rent a picturesque farm for an astonishing low rent. Astonishing, that is, until they learn the previous occupant died under mysterious circumstances...

Reviews:

Cask of Amontillado, The    *LOST*

Year: 1956
Duration: ?
Genre: Horror
Available for Listening Booth: N
Story by: Edgar Allan Poe

Clerk's Quest, The

Year: 1957
Duration: 13 min
Genre: Speculative
Available for Listening Booth: Y
Story by: George Moore, 1939

A dedicated and loyal bank clerk, with no desire other than to perform his job well, unexpectedly falls in love with a customer whom he has never met. A fantasy relationship ensues.

Reviews:

Conquerors' Isle

aka: "Conqueror's Isle"
Year: 1956
Duration: 30 min
Genre: Sci-Fi
Available for Listening Booth: Y
Story by: Nelson S. Bond, 1946

A WWII bomber crew in the Pacific is forced down and find themselves on a remote island populated by an advanced race of mutants planning to take over the world.

Two versions were also produced for Escape.

Reviews:

Coward, The

aka: "A Coward"
Year: 1957
Duration: 15 min
Genre: Psychological Thriller
Available for Listening Booth: Y
Story by: Guy de Maupassant, before 1892

Vicomte Gontran-Joseph de Signoles takes offence when a strange man rudely stares at his female companion. A cautionary word of advice triggers a sharp retort, followed by a slap across the face. Cards are exchanged and the conditions for a duel are agreed upon. And then... the Vicomte is left alone with his own thoughts as he contemplates for the first time his possible death at the hands of another.

Reviews:

Death Of Olivier Bécaille, The

aka: "La Mort d'Olivier Bécaille"
Year: 1956
Duration: 14 min
Genre: Horror
Available for Listening Booth: Y
Story by: Émile Zola, 1884

At six o'clock one Saturday morning, Olivier Bécaille suffers a form of temporary paralysis so severe he is pronounced dead and, to his horror, subsequently buried. He effects an escape, however, and after several weeks is able to witness his wife's behaviour now that she thinks he is dead.

Reviews:

Escape

Year: 1957
Duration: 10 min
Genre: Speculative
Available for Listening Booth: Y
Story by: Paul Ernst, 1938

Ever since Mr Gannett was admitted to the insane asylum over a year ago, he has been pantomiming an odd set movements—measuring, drilling, cutting, filing, and placing the resultant imaginary objects in the corner of his cell. He's fed up with the madness and despair of the world—the wars, famines, floods, social injustice, political and social brutalities. He's fed up... and he's getting out.

Reviews:

Escape of Mr Trimm, The

Year: 1957
Duration: 30 min
Genre: Supernatural
Available for Listening Booth: Y
Story by: Irvin S. Cobb, 1913

The train that was transporting Mr Trimm—former president of the 13th National Bank—to prison overturns in a grisly crash. Mr Trimm is thrown clear, and in the confusion escapes into the woods. Now, if he can only get those pesky handcuffs removed...

See also: "Present Tense" (Escape and Suspense).

Reviews:
I kept getting this story mixed up with "Present Tense" by James Poe which starts exactly the same way—a criminal in handcuffs on his way to prison narrowly escapes dying in a train wreck... The stories are quite different after that, however, with "Present Tense" being much more suspenseful. This story isn't bad, but not great either. ("Present Tense" is pretty darned good, though.) [6/10] --- zM

Evening

Year: 1957
Duration: 14 min
Genre: Speculative
Available for Listening Booth: Y
Story by: Zona Gale, 1926

Ernie Mendenhall: 42 years old. Alone. Works as a secretary for a writer and collects antique furniture. Rarely interacts with people. One bright summer weekend the writer for whom Ernie works holds a house party and Ernie Mendenhall meets the woman of his dreams. A fantasy relationship ensues.

Reviews:

Fishhead

Year: 1956
Duration: 16 min
Genre: Murder
Available for Listening Booth: Y
Story by: Irvin S. Cobb, 1913

Fishhead, a native of Reelfoot Lake is a human monstrosity with a deformed head resembling that of a great catfish. The Baxter brothers, Jake and Joel, accuse him of running their trout line and stripping it of the hooked catch. When Fishhead refuses to deny the accusation, the brothers plan his murder.

[Aside: Reelfoot Lake is a shallow, swamp-like lake in N.W. Tennessee. In the early 1900s, a group of landowners purchased the entire shoreline in an attempt to control fishing rights on the lake. Many families, who for generations had survived by fishing the lake, were forced out and retaliated by forming various vigilante groups. So, the story-idea of 'murder to defend one's fishing rights', has some basis in historical fact.]

Another version was produced for Dr Demento. No, wait... I think that was something else.

Reviews:

Flowering of the Strange Orchid, The

Year: 1957
Duration: 15 min
Genre: Speculative
Available for Listening Booth: Y
Story by: H.G. Wells, 1894

Shy, lonely, ineffectual Winter Wedderburn spends most of his time pursuing his one passion—growing orchids. He recently had the good fortune to purchase an unidentified shrivelled rhizome from the Andamans or, possibly, the Indies. It might be a Palaeonophis... or it might not. It was one of the last specimens collected by poor old Batten before he was found dead in a mangrove swamp, every drop of blood let out of him by jungle leeches.

Reviews:

Friend to Alexander, A    *LOST*

Year: 1957
Duration: 15 min
Genre: Occult
Available for Listening Booth: N
Story by: James Thurber, 1942

A man has vivid dreams of his friendship with Alexander Hamilton, and of his upcoming duel with Aaron Burr.

Three versions were produced for Suspense.

Reviews:

Homecoming

aka: "The Homecoming"
Year: 1957
Duration: 15 min
Genre: Murder
Available for Listening Booth: Y
Story by: Dorothy B. Hughes, 1946

Ben has had it with Nan and Jim—Nan (his girlfriend) and Jim (his ex-friend who came home from Korea as a war hero and stole her away). For two years she'd been Benny's girl. Not anymore. But she will be again. She will be... if Benny has anything to say about it.

Reviews:

Horsehair Trunk, The

aka: "Marius"
aka: "The Secret Darkness"
aka: "The Last Laurel"
Year: 1957
Duration: 13 min
Genre: Horror
Available for Listening Booth: Y
Story by: Davis Grubb, 1946

Eight days of severe fever push Marius Lindsay to the brink of death and result in his first out-of-body experience. Experimenting with the phenomenon, Marius discovers his wife, Mary Ann, is having an affair and is about to run off with her lover. Incensed, Marius concocts a plan to murder his wife's lover in his sleep.

"The Horsehair Trunk" also aired as a teleplay on Night Gallery, 1971 (as "The Last Laurel").

Reviews:

I Am Waiting

Year: 1957
Duration: 14 min
Genre: Supernatural
Available for Listening Booth: Y
Story by: Christopher Isherwood, 1939

A sixty-seven year old man with no career, no outstanding achievements, never married, and never in love—by his own standards, a complete failure—develops the ability to glimpse future events.

Reviews:

Jilting of Granny Weatherall, The

Year: 1957
Duration: 19 min
Genre: Speculative
Available for Listening Booth: Y
Story by: Katherine Anne Porter, 1930

A stream-of-consciousness tale in which a fiercely independent octogenarian, deathly ill, relives the events that forged her character... events she appears to have weathered despite suffering their psychological toll.

Reviews:
A simple story that presents Granny's thoughts while on her deathbed. Very powerful... although I don't think the power is inherent in the story. Rather, the power rests in the conjured memories of my own life—memories of sitting with and caring for my mom during the final weeks of her life... the seemingly random thoughts... the hallucinations... the disjointed timelines... the love and affection... the urgency of tasks not yet finished... (you'll be sure to paint behind the refrigerator, now, won't you?)... As I said, powerful memories. Very well written. [7/10] --- zM

Man and the Snake, The

Year: 1957
Duration: 14 min
Genre: Horror
Available for Listening Booth: Y
Story by: Ambrose Bierce, 1890

Harker Brayton—a bachelor of thirty-five, a scholar, idler, and something of an athlete, rich, popular, and of sound health—has returned to San Francisco after travelling throughout the world and has gladly accepted the hospitality of his friend, Dr. Druring, the distinguished scientist. Settling down to an evening's reading and musing, Brayton scoffs at what he has just read—a passage from Morryster's Marvells of Science, in which Morryster alleges that snakes have hypnotic powers...

Snippet:
It is of veritabyll report, and attested of so many that there be nowe of wyse and learned none to gaynsaye it, that ye serpente hys eye hath a magnetick propertie that whosoe falleth into its svasion is drawn forwards in despyte of his wille, and perisheth miserabyll by ye creature hys byte. --- Morryster's Marvells of Science

Reviews:

Man in the Black Hat

aka: "The Man in the Black Hat"
Year: 1956
Duration: 12 min
Genre: Supernatural
Available for Listening Booth: Y
Story by: Michael Fessier, 1934

A man, down on his luck, passes a used car lot and notices a sign on a brand new $4,000 car which reads: "This Car Free! Enquire Upstairs." Enquiring upstairs, he meets a man in a black hat with a white goatee and grey, expressionless, eyes who informs him that, yes, the car is absolutely free...

Reviews:

Mask of the Red Death, The    *LOST*

Year: 1956
Duration: ?
Genre:
Available for Listening Booth: N
Story by: Edgar Allan Poe

Mr Mergenthwirker's Lobblies

Year: 1956
Duration: 12 min
Genre: Speculative
Available for Listening Booth: Y
Story by: Nelson S. Bond, 1937

A newspaper reporter is startled when a prospective informant, Mr Mergenthwirker, tells him the source of all his information is actually an invisible pair of 'lobblies' named Jakepeth and Henry.

Snippet:
The other night upon the stair
     I saw a man who wasn't there,
He wasn't there again today;
     How I wish he'd go away.

Reviews:

Occasion at Owl Creek    *LOST*

aka: "An Occurence at Owl Creek Bridge"
Year: 1956
Duration: ?
Genre:
Available for Listening Booth: N
Story by: Ambrose Bierce

Over the Hill

Year: 1956
Duration: 12 min
Genre: Horror
Available for Listening Booth: Y
Story by: Michael Fessier, 1937

A man, trying to escape his endlessly nagging wife, lets his imagination run wild and ends up living in a fantasy world of his own making for three full days.

Reviews:

Passenger to Bali, A

Year: 1957
Duration: 30 min
Genre: Adventure
Available for Listening Booth: Y
Story by: Ellis St. Joseph, 1937?

As the good ship Roundabout readies for departure from Shanghai to Bali, a stranger approaches Captain English and asks for passage. The stranger claims to be a Dutch missionary bringing Bibles and religion to the natives; he presents his passport, character references, and offers a healthy 'fee' to alleviate any misgivings the captain might have. The captain agrees... but once underway soon regrets his decision.

Versions were produced for Escape, Mercury Theatre on the Air, Mercury Summer Theatre of the Air and Sleep No More.

Reviews:
Very good story with excellent audio quality. Olmsted does a creditable job in this fast-paced adaptation, but the half-hour time limit severely restricts the detail that can be presented. Markedly inferior to the hour-long 1938 Mercury Theatre on the Air production which starred Orson Welles (which unfortunately has poor, but tolerable, audio quality). [6/10] --- zM

Pit and the Pendulum, The    *LOST*

Year: 1956
Duration: ?
Genre: Horror
Available for Listening Booth: N
Story by: Edgar Allan Poe

Signal-Man, The    *LOST*

Year: 1956
Duration: ?
Genre: Ghosts
Available for Listening Booth: N
Story by: Charles Dickens

Storm, The

Year: 1956
Duration: 26 min
Genre: Horror
Available for Listening Booth: Y
Story by: McKnight Malmar, 1944

A storm rages. A woman unexpectedly returns home a week early from a visit to her sister's and finds her house cold and dark. Her husband is not home from work even though it is late, but when she tries to call him she discovers the phone lines are down. The storm continues to rage... and then she thinks she sees a face looking in the window...

Reviews:

Suspicious Gift, A

Year: 1957
Duration: 15 min
Genre: Murder
Available for Listening Booth: Y
Story by: Algernon Blackwood, 1906

Blake, a down-and-out reporter at a disreputable newspaper, is contemplating his misfortune when a mysterious late-night visitor knocks at his boarding-room door. The visitor claims to be acting as an agent for one of Blake's friends and has come to deliver $10,000 cash. Blake is suspicious... but not suspicious enough.

Reviews:

Tell-Tale Heart, The    *LOST*

Year: 1956
Duration: ?
Genre:
Available for Listening Booth: N
Story by: Edgar Allan Poe

Three O'Clock

Year: 1956
Duration: 30 min
Genre: Horror / Suspense
Available for Listening Booth: Y
Story by: Cornell Woolrich (as William Irish), 1946

A husband, convinced of his wife's infidelity, decides to murder her by planting a bomb in their basement, but an unexpected home burglary turns the tables and now it looks like the husband will be the one to die...

Another version was produced for Suspense.

Reviews:
A very good character-driven story, the success of which depends strongly on the actor cast in the leading role. Olmsted does a tolerable job, but is not nearly as good as Van Heflin in the 1949 Suspense version. [7/10] --- zM

Three Skeleton Key

Year: 1957
Duration: 13 min
Genre: Adventure
Available for Listening Booth: Y
Story by: George G. Toudouze, 1937

Three men tending a lighthouse off the coast of French Guiana are besieged when a ship wrecks on the shoal and releases a horde of starving rats.

Other versions were produced for Escape (x2), The Grip of Terror, and Suspense (x3). Also, a modern version was recently produced for One Act Audio.

Reviews:
This script is different from the Escape and Suspense versions you may be familiar with and results in a slightly different ending... along the lines of "do I get out of this through an act of nature or does someone come along and rescue me?" Worth listening to if you want to compare the scripts but inferior to the other productions. [6/10] --- zM

Thus I Refute Beelzy

Year: 1957
Duration: 13 min
Genre: Creatures
Available for Listening Booth: Y
Story by: John Collier, 1940

A little boy, Small Simon, refuses to acknowledge to his father, Big Simon, that Mr Beelzy is nothing more than a daydream. The father attempts to reason with his son, laying forth his arguments in a logical and straight-forward manner, but then resorts to threats of violence when his son fails to heed him. Small Simon seems unconcerned—he claims that Mr Beelzy won't let anyone hurt him...

Reviews:

To Build a Fire

Year: 1957
Duration: 15 min
Genre: Adventure
Available for Listening Booth: Y
Story by: Jack London, 1908

A classic man-versus-nature story by Jack London, recounting the adventures of a chechaquo (a Yukon-territory back-country greenhorn) who unwisely decides to travel solo during an extreme cold snap. Old-timers warn "He travels fastest who travels alone . . . but not after the frost has dropped below zero fifty degrees or more."

Reading Link: 'To Build a Fire', by Jack London, available at The World of Jack London.

Reviews:

Waxwork

aka: "The Waxwork"
Year: 1957
Duration: 16 min
Genre: Horror
Available for Listening Booth: Y
Story by: A.M. Burrage, 1931

An aspiring journalist, Raymond Hewson, seeks to make a name for himself by successfully spending the night amongst the wax murderer's at Mariner's Waxworks and publishing the account.

Versions were produced for Beyond Midnight, The Price of Fear, Sleep No More and Suspense (x3). A teleplay was also produced for Alfred Hitchcock Presents (1959).

See also: "The Mask of Medusa" (Mystery in the Air).

Reviews:

Woman in Gray, The

Year: 1957
Duration: 14 min
Genre: Supernatural
Available for Listening Booth: Y
Story by: Walker G. Everett, 1935

A man at a frightfully boring dinner party invents an invisible companion—a woman in grey—who he claims 'gets after' troublesome people he doesn't like, so he needn't to bother with them.

Reviews:
A story about how hate becomes all-consuming. Well written; slightly humorous. One of the better episodes in the series. [7/10] --- zM