Listening to “The Thing That Cries in the Night”; (Chapter Thirteen): Terror Is an Intangible Presence

Well, it is a mild, sunny afternoon here in the asphalt jungle (even though the trees on the block I used to call my neighborhood suggest another kind of jungle altogether). I’ll be off on a shopping spree in a moment, hunting for movies, books, and a few clothing essentials I just can’t seem to get in the UK. I will report on my tour of local second-hand book shops and video stores before long; but before I venture out, I must first pay another visit to a certain LA mansion that has been in my mind’s eye these past two and a half weeks.

I mean, of course, the dark house featured in Carlton E. Morse’s I Love a Mystery serial “The Thing That Cries in the Night.” In the thirteenth installment, heard on this day, 16 November, in 1949, Morse’s mystery exposes listeners to what is as rare on the streets of Manhattan as it is in radio drama: the disconcerting din of silence.

In the previous chapter, private investigator Jack Packard claimed to have untangled the mysteries of the Martin mansion, but refuses to share his thoughts with anyone, including his two partners. Doc Long and Reggie York. Staying put, despite Grandmother Martin’s attempt to dismiss her inquisitive retainers, Jack provides his bewildered friends with a list of cryptic instructions (such as peeling off the three top layers of the wallpaper in the bedroom of Charity Martin), to be carried out in the case of his demise.

Having sent all to their rooms, Jack remains behind in the sepulchral stillness of the deserted library to confront the “Thing.” Knowing less than our guide—who, for the first time, is keeping a secret from the audience—we cannot but cling to his every words as we try to determine whether Jack is facing a deathly adversary or dead air, whether the verbal sparring in the library, the repository of words, spells reasonable maneuvering or hapless fumbling.  Is the “Thing”?

Delivering his speech, Jack is interrupted by Doc, who staggers into the room, stammers that he has been hit over the head, and then collapses. The “Thing” makes itself heard once again, and Jack cries out for Reggie.  Things are getting frantic again; but it is that confrontation with nothingness in the library that, to me, is the most disturbing moment in “The Thing That Cries in the Night.”

And now, from the Martin library to Manhattan’s bookstores.  Perhaps I’ll find a used copy of Martin Grams’s I Love a Mystery companion.

2 Replies to “Listening to “The Thing That Cries in the Night”; (Chapter Thirteen): Terror Is an Intangible Presence”

  1. I remember the scene you desribe vividly and you accurately described what I felt listening to it. I also think you would be hard put to find other moments where silence has been used in such startling ways. There is of course the dramatic pause, and the pause for comedic effect, but the above scene was unique in what it achieved. Perhaps you would find similar moments in the Quiet Please series. Perhaps in the \”The Thing on the Fourble Board.\”

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