Serial killer and journalist

“The Hands of Mr. Ottermole,” a frequently anthologized classic murder mystery by Thomas Burke, was adapted for radio in the 1940s by the anthology series Suspense and Radio City Playhouse — each with its own twist on the tale.

Both versions involve a suspicious newspaper reporter and a policeman, each investigating a serial strangler and speculating about the murderer’s psychology and motivation. Prepare for some great radio screams by the victims.

Radio City even hesitated to give the title of the play at the start of the broadcast, to avoid giving anything away.

Suspense, 1948, with well-known film stars Claude Rains and Vincent Price, set the story in the London fog.

Radio City Playhouse, 1949, as “Attraction 35,” moved the story to New York, with the less famous — but very skillful — radio actors John Larkin and  Edwin Jerome.

The story also was adapted for television by Suspense and in 1957 by Alfred Hitchcock Presents (available via Hulu).

As DigitalDeli notes in its Radio City program guide, the radio versions are listed in some “old time radio” logs and MP3 collections as “Dr. Ottermole” instead of “Mr.” — apparently through an often-copied typographical error, perhaps inspired by other “Dr….” tales, such as “Dr. X” or “Dr. Clitterhouse.”

A third radio broadcast of “The Hands of Mr. Ottermole” preceded these two — on the Mollé Mystery Theatre in 1945 or 1946 (the date is given differently on collector websites), but it is not included in the Internet Archive collections that I tap for this site’s podcast. However, it is available from several online sources, including, and on disk from Radio Spirits and OTRcat.

Collector David Goldin’s “RadioGoldIndex”  gives the date as February 6, 1945, and says the broadcast was “A repeat broadcast of a story that ‘deserves to be ranked with the greatest classic mystery stories of all time.'” RadioEchoes and RadioSpirits give the Mollé broadcast date as 1946. Goldin identifies the cast as Arnold Moss, narrator, Bernard Lenrow as host “Geoffrey Barnes,” and Dan Seymour, announcer.

About Bob Stepno

mild-mannered reporter who found computers & the Web in grad school in the 1980s (Wesleyan) and '90s (UNC); taught journalism, media studies, Web production; retired to write, make music, photograph sunsets & walks in the woods.
This entry was posted in 1940s, 1950s, crime, detectives, reporters. Bookmark the permalink.

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