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Inner Sanctum Mystery

Inner Sanctum Mystery
Other names Inner Sanctum
Genre Radio drama
Running time 24 minutes
Country US
Language(s) English
Home station Blue Network
Host(s) Raymond Edward Johnson,
Paul McGrath
Announcer Ed Herlihy
Creator(s) Himan Brown
Director(s) Himan Brown
Producer(s) Himan Brown
Air dates January 7, 1941 (1941-01-07) to October 5, 1952 (1952-10-05)
No. of episodes 511 (List of episodes)
Audio format Monaural sound
Sponsor(s) Carter's Little Liver Pills,
Lipton Tea

Inner Sanctum Mystery, also known as Inner Sanctum, a popular old-time radio program that aired from January 7, 1941 to October 5, 1952, was created by producer Himan Brown and was based on the generic title given to the mystery novels of Simon and Schuster.[1] In all, 526 episodes were broadcast.[2]


  • Horror hosts 1
  • The creaking door 2
  • Guest stars 3
  • Example program opening 4
  • Films 5
  • Television 6
  • "Pleasant dreeeeaaams, hmmmmm?" 7
  • Satires 8
  • See also 9
  • References 10
  • External links 11

Horror hosts

An advertisement for Inner Sanctum

The Ernest Chappell (on Wyllis Cooper's later series, Quiet, Please) and Maurice Tarplin (on The Mysterious Traveler).[3]

When Johnson left the series in May 1945 to serve in the Army, he was replaced by Paul McGrath, who did not keep the "Raymond" name and was known only as "Your Host" or "Mr. Host".[4] (Berry Kroeger had substituted earlier for a total of four episodes). McGrath was a Broadway actor who turned to radio for a regular income. Beginning in 1945, Lipton Tea sponsored the series, pairing first Raymond and then McGrath with cheery commercial spokeswoman Mary Bennett (aka the "Tea Lady"), whose blithesome pitches for Lipton Tea contrasted sharply with the macabre themes of the stories. She primly chided the host for his trademark dark humor and creepy manner.

The creaking door

The program's familiar and famed audio trademark was the eerie creaking door which opened and closed the broadcasts. Himan Brown got the idea from a door in the basement that "squeaked like Hell." The door sound was actually made by a rusty desk chair. The program did originally intend to use a door, but on its first use, the door did not creak. Undaunted, Brown grabbed a nearby chair, sat in it and turned, causing a hair-raising squeak. The chair was used from then on as the sound prop. On at least one memorable occasion, a staffer innocently repaired and oiled the chair, thus forcing the sound man to mimic the squeak orally.[5]

Guest stars

Its campy comedy notwithstanding, the stories were usually effective little chillers, mixing horror and humor in equal doses. Memorable episodes included "Terror by Night" (September 18, 1945) and an adaptation of "The Tell-Tale Heart" (August 3, 1941). The latter starred Boris Karloff, who was heard regularly in the first season, starring in more than 15 episodes and returning sporadically thereafter.

Other established stars in the early years included Mary Astor, Helen Hayes, Peter Lorre, Paul Lukas, Claude Rains, Frank Sinatra, and Orson Welles. Most of the lead and supporting players were stalwarts of New York radio. These included Santos Ortega, Larry Haines, Ted Osborne, Luis van Rooten, Stefan Schnabel, Ralph Bell, Mercedes McCambridge, Berry Kroeger, Lawson Zerbe, Arnold Moss, Leon Janney, Myron McCormick, Ian Martin, and Mason Adams. Players like Richard Widmark, Everett Sloane, Burgess Meredith, Agnes Moorehead, Ken Lynch, and Anne Seymour, also found fame or notability in film or television.[3]

Of more than 500 programs broadcast, only about 200 remain in circulation.

Example program opening

Sound effect: A door with squeaky hinges is slowly opened. Organ begins to play.

Raymond: Good evening, friends of the Inner Sanctum. This is Raymond, your host. I'm glad you came tonight, because we have a very special guest of horror with us. I'd like you to meet the late Johnny Gravestone, the most celebrated member of the Inner Sanctum Ghost Society. He's the best haunter of them all. Johnny's the tall figure in the white sheet wearing the blue ribbon. He's haunted everything from a palace to a telephone booth. And uh, if you're very nice to him, he'll be glad to consider giving your house the once-over. Who knows? He might even haunt you! Ha-ha-ha-ha!


Raymond: Well, we're about to begin our story. Oh, I forgot to warn you about the Trembliens. They're those pesky, invisible cousins of the gremlins. They uh, saddle up to [sic] you, give quick little shoves, and give the false impression that you're trembling. If you're being troubled by a Tremblien, just grab him by his invisible little horns and stick him into the nearest pin cushion.[3]


A series of six low-budget Universal Horror movies starring Lon Chaney, Jr. and based on the radio show was produced in the 1940s: Calling Dr. Death (1943), Weird Woman (1944), Dead Man's Eyes (1944), The Frozen Ghost (1945), Strange Confession (1945) and Pillow of Death (1945).[6] A Film Classics release Inner Sanctum was made in 1948.


The 1954 syndicated television series featured Paul McGrath as the off-camera host/narrator. The TV shows were produced at the Himan Brown Production Center (now Chelsea Studios) at 221 West 26th Street in Manhattan.[7]

"Pleasant dreeeeaaams, hmmmmm?"

In the 1970s, with his CBS Radio Mystery Theater series, Himan Brown recycled both the creaking door opening, and to a lesser extent, the manner of Raymond. The hosts were E. G. Marshall and Tammy Grimes. In later repeats during the 1990s, Brown himself mimicked Raymond's "Pleasant dreeeeaaams, hmmmmm?" for the familiar closing.[2]


Harvey Kurtzman and Will Elder satirized the series in Mad's fifth issue (June–July 1953) with "Outer Sanctum!" In the opening panels, host Ramon greets the reader: "Come in, I've been waiting for you! I've been waiting for you to fix my squeaking door!... What?... You say you're not the carpenter?... You have come to hear a story?... Very well!"

In the Three Stooges short The Ghost Talks, a creaking door prompts Shemp to parody the opening narration of the program, naming it "The Outer Sanctorum."

The opening of an Inner Sanctum episode was used to open one side of The Whole Burbank Catalog, a 1972 compilation album in the Warner/Reprise Loss Leaders series from Warner Bros. Records. The announcer's jokey pun in this case concerned an author friend, specializing in best-sellers, who "tried to bury [him] in one, because all the very best sellers (cellars) have corpses in them." A backwards version of the creaking door sound effect led directly into "Get It On" by T. Rex.

The 1946 Warner Brothers Bugs Bunny cartoon, Racketeer Rabbit had Bugs enter an abandoned Victorian house (which was actually the gangsters' hideout) that had a squeaky door. Bugs said as he was entering the house, "Huh? Sounds like Inner Sanctum!"

Bill Cosby spoofs Inner Sanctum on his Wonderfulness album on the "Chicken Heart" sketch, where he spoofs the organ intro, the opening narration, and the sound effect of a creaking door.

See also


  1. ^ p. 246, Backer, Ron (2010), Mystery Movie Series of 1940s Hollywood, ISBN 978-0-7864-4864-7 (softcover), McFarland & Co., Inc. (publisher), 06/05/2010
  2. ^ a b c Brown, Himan (2002). "On accepting his American Broadcast Pioneer Award". Himan and Melina Brown. Archived from the original on January 18, 2006. Retrieved March 25, 2012. 
  3. ^ a b c Kuersteiner, Kurt (2008). "Radio history of Raymond Edward Johnson and Inner Sactum Mysteries". Monsterwax Sci-fi & Horror Monster Cards. Retrieved March 25, 2012. 
  4. ^ "(untitled brief)". The Mason City Globe-Gazette. January 22, 1946. p. 2. Retrieved August 8, 2015 – via  
  5. ^ "Inner Sanctum Mysteries – Vintage Horror<". Vintage Horror & Old Time Radio. 2007. Archived from the original on December 29, 2007. Retrieved March 25, 2012. 
  6. ^ "The Astounding B Monster – Reviews". The Astounding B Monster. 2012. Retrieved March 25, 2012. 
  7. ^ Alleman, Richard (2005). New York: the movie lover's guide : the ultimate insider tour of movie New York. New York City, US:  
Further reading
  • Ohmart, Ben. It's That Time Again. (2002) (Albany: BearManor Media) ISBN 0-9714570-2-6
  • Grams, Martin. Inner Sanctum Mysteries: Behind the Creaking Door (2002) (Churchville: OTR Publishing) ISBN 0-9703310-3-7

External links

  • Inner Sanctum MysteriesJerry Haendiges Vintage Radio Logs:
  • " by Martin Grams, Jr.Inner Sanctum Mysteries"Existing Episodes of
  • (106 episodes)Inner Sanctum MysteriesOTR Network Library:
  • – OTR Researchers Certified SetInner Sanctum Mysteries at the Internet Archive
  • – Single EpisodesInner Sanctum Mysteries at the Internet Archive
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