Have you heard The Whistler? Old time radio mystery and horror
March 6, 2014 10:00 AM   Subscribe

I am The Whistler, and I know many things, for I walk by night. I know many strange tales, hidden in the hearts of men and women who have stepped into the shadows. Yes... I know the nameless terrors of which they dare not speak. So tonight, I tell you this story.... If you lived near a west coast CBS radio affiliate between May 16, 1942 and September 22, 1955, you probably heard The Whistler, or at least knew of the radio mystery series that was somewhat in the style of the better-known franchise, The Shadow. If you missed it, you can catch up on Archive.org, with selections from 1942, 1943, 1944, 1945, 1946, 1947, 1948, 1949, 1950, 1951 and '52, or browse through a collection of 502 episodes.

If you're wary of just diving into the unknown, here are a few short plot summaries, sorting the episodes alphabetically by title.

If you want to these episodes in easier-to-download collections, Archive.org offers 30 CD-sized "certified" ZIP-compressed collections (certified that the episodes are properly identified and labeled).
posted by filthy light thief (16 comments total) 56 users marked this as a favorite
There were also eight b-grade films made in the mid-to-late 1940s, which might be a bit hard to dig up. Here's what I've found so far: The Whistler (1944); The Power Of The Whistler (1945); Mysterious Intruder (1946); and Return Of The Whistler (1948)
posted by filthy light thief at 10:07 AM on March 6, 2014 [6 favorites]

Brilliant, cheers.
posted by dng at 10:30 AM on March 6, 2014

I've always found the Whistler to be more uneven than a lot of other OTR shows of its genre (i.e., a really riveting episode would be followed by a boring or worse, a boringly strange one), but it occurs to me now that I probably didn't hear them in order, and that may be linked to different regimes. Hrm. I guess some reinvestigation is in order.
posted by julen at 10:40 AM on March 6, 2014

All these 40's era mystery/suspense audio shows are a treat, vast amounts are on line, but wait..... comedy too.

Check out Lum 'n' Abner. Bickersons. Lucy before Desi in My Favorite Husband.

Great to pop into iTunes for flights..
posted by Freedomboy at 11:06 AM on March 6, 2014

IIRC, Whistler isnt really in the style of The Shadow. At least, The Shadow started out as an anthology suspense/thriller show, but it morphed into pulp/heroic adventures with an invisible man theme.

And I think at least some of the Whistler movies show up on Turner Classic Movies every so often.
posted by Billiken at 11:26 AM on March 6, 2014 [1 favorite]

On a similar tip to The Whistler, I'd recommend The Clock and The Weird Circle.
posted by sonascope at 11:53 AM on March 6, 2014 [2 favorites]

...or if you lived anywhere near Los Angeles in the '60s and '70s, you heard The Whistler and other maybe-not-gold-quality Golden Age of Radio broadcasts on Sunday Nights on 50,000-watt KFI-AM, as well as a couple other stations (always on Sunday Night... a nice way to get in the mood to hear Dr. Demento play Spike Jones & Bennie Bell).
posted by oneswellfoop at 12:06 PM on March 6, 2014

Huh. I like to listen to The Jack Benny Program, and based on this episode, I just assumed The Whistler was a parody of The Shadow. Didn't realize it was a real show!
posted by Atom Eyes at 12:07 PM on March 6, 2014

The Whistler had the best theme song: always gave me chicken skin. The voice of the Whistler scared me. One interesting thing about the plots, the central characters were not always bad guys, and some of the endings were "happy." I can't think, off hand, of any other show that used the 2nd person narrative.

Back in those days I spent warm summer evenings lying on the grass next to our small porch, while my mother sat in a chair drinking tea and smoking: I looked up at the night sky and mapped the stars while I heard those stories...The Whistler, Gunsmoke, and any of several science-fiction programs. When I let my mind go back, I can drag another dozen shows into memory. Also, the weekends had "Monitor," and featured Bob and Ray in skits stuck in between legitimate news stories. Ah. Radio.

When Gunsmoke made its first TV appearance I was thrilled, until I got a good look at James Arness, and figured him to be far too wimpy to be Matt Dillon. It took me a while to get it through my head that Dennis Weaver wasn't Parley Baer. See, there was Chester Goode, and Chester Proudfoot, and they were actually the same character. Sometimes he was a deputy and sometimes he was just the sidekick guy.
posted by mule98J at 12:30 PM on March 6, 2014 [2 favorites]

I note that XM Radio, at least a couple years ago, had this show in regularly on their Radio Classics channel, which is basically all radio plays.

They even played the Superman shows against the KKK, and the Batman episode. Lots of stuff. Even Dragnet.
posted by mephron at 12:43 PM on March 6, 2014

You can listen to programs from the Golden Age of radio, including most of those described above, every Sunday night at 8 on WAMU FM's The Big Broadcast, whose current host, Ed Walker, is featured tonight on NPR's All Things Considered.

The previous week's episode is archived on the site in case you missed it. Episodes of The Whistler and The Shadow have not been broadcast recently but they show up from time to time; you can check upcoming playlists on the station's page.

I have been listening to The Big Broadcast ever since John Hickman was host. It's great that you don't have to be in broadcast range of DC area anymore to enjoy it.
posted by apartment dweller at 1:43 PM on March 6, 2014 [2 favorites]

The Radio Classics channel is the one channel on XM I miss. Johnny Dollar, the man with the action-packed expense account! Our Miss Brooks! Gildy! Broadway is My Beat! Boston Blackie! Burns and Allen!

I discovered so much good stuff on that channel. It's almost all online, but sometimes it's nice to have someone else programming it and telling you fun facts about the production or actors. And then you'd be listening along, and they'd scoot in a small Stan Freberg bit when they had a spare 5 minutes or so. Delightful.
posted by julen at 1:55 PM on March 6, 2014

The Mysterious Traveller is close to The Whistler. It took me a long time to like The Whistler - I hated his smugness, but my bird liked the whistling ;)

The Rawhide Coffin comes to mind as a particularly gruesome double cross. There's a great episode featuring a triple cross on train too that iis captivating.
posted by Calzephyr at 2:58 PM on March 6, 2014

My dad loved The Whistler. I'll go check these out.
posted by michellenoel at 3:10 PM on March 6, 2014

sometimes it's nice to have someone else programming it and telling you fun facts about the production or actors. And then you'd be listening along, and they'd scoot in a small Stan Freberg bit when they had a spare 5 minutes or so.

julen: that's exactly what Ed Walker does. I didn't make it clear enought in my post, but you can stream The Big Broadcast at wamu.org. All the programs you named are in rotation.
posted by apartment dweller at 4:09 PM on March 6, 2014

Not related to The Whistler, but an OTR episode that I continually think about is a Suspense featuring Jimmy Stewart as a veteran with PTSD. It's great and it's here.
posted by mwachs at 8:12 PM on March 6, 2014 [1 favorite]

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