Suspense Resources

Links for fans and researchers into "Radio's Outstanding Theater of Thrills" that aired on CBS Radio from 1942 to 1962

Suspense may be the most recorded and listened to program of radio's golden and silver ages, first with its initial broadcasts, and then rebroadcasts for decades over the Armed Forces Radio Service, giving it an audience around the world. Through the efforts of fans, nearly all 900+ episodes have been saved in some way. There is still much work to be done to find improved recordings of the series, especially for the years 1957 to 1962. We are always seeking upgraded disc recordings, airchecks, home recordings, scripts, AFRS discs and recordings, and especially information about the few remaining missing episodes.

Contact us at suspenseOTR@gmail.com

The short URL that can be used for this page is https://tinyurl.com/DrJoeSuspense

This is a research site (c)2019, Joseph W. Webb, Ph.D. Please publicize this site to OTR fans far and wide to increase the interest and enjoyment of this legendary radio series and the golden age of radio era.

New, revised, and expanded!

Click here to buy at the Amazon product page

Updated with 33% more pages and 40% more content than the previous edition! There are new sections about...

  • William N. Robson era of the series, the challenges he faced in keeping Suspense alive, background on the use of repeated scripts for over half of the episodes and their origins, and the missing Robson-read openings to the six circulating episodes for which they are missing
  • A summary of the opening of the 60-min episode The Search, for which there is no recording, which now allows fans to finally enjoy one of the few good episodes of the hour-long era
  • The canceled John Garfield appearance as star of Concerto for Killer and Eyewitnesses because of Red Channels-related issues and how Concerto starring Elliott Lewis bumped Sorry, Wrong Number from the schedule after Garfield's untimely death
  • and much more!

Chapter List

IntroductionA Collector’s Brief History of Suspense REVISEDCollector Resources REVISEDThe Best Unfair and Superficial History of Suspense You’ll Ever Need NEWThe Missing Shows REVISED AND EXPANDEDThe 60-Minute Suspense Episodes: How Roma Left and Auto-Lite Saved the Day REVISED AND EXPANDEDThe Search: The Long-Sought Missing Segment of the Hour-Long Episode NEWWhat Kinds of Ratings did Suspense Have? NEWSuspense MagazineSuspense Facts You Never Knew REVISED AND EXPANDEDEast and West: When Did Suspense have Separate Live Performances for the Coasts? NEWSuspense in the Movies REVISED AND EXPANDEDThe First Summer of Suspense, 1942Fury and Sound, A Most Curious Missing Episode of Suspense REVISEDMysterious Authors: Who are They? REVISEDSorry, Wrong Number: The Famous Suspense Episode that Spanned the Media and the Generations REVISEDEpisodic Curiosities REVISED AND EXPANDEDSuspense and Escape Shared ScriptsThe Sad Case of John Garfield and the Concerto for Killer and Eyewitnesses NEWThe Robson Era NEWSuspense on Television NEWA Special Word to New OTR Collectors and Fans: Join in the Hunt!About the Author

Resources by Dr. Joe Webb

The most recent list of the recordings in this Suspense research effort.
  • AFRS disc number spreadsheet resource (click here)
Recordings of Suspense from Armed Forces Radio Service transcriptions have played a critical role in the preserving of the series, and in providing improved sound recordings for many episodes that existed as sub-par home recordings. There are still AFRS transcriptions around the world in record shops and warehouses still waiting to be discovered. Suspense was a popular offering on the Armed Forces networks through the 1980s, years after it left the air in 1962. Each AFRS disc has a number on its label that can help identify the episode. This spreadsheet is very helpful in that it lists all of the found and/or documented AFRS programs by their assigned number; a separate page lists the AFRS numbers (documented and "calculated") of selected missing programs.Suspense was a popular TV program from 1949 to 1954. About a third of the episodes have survived, with many posted online at YouTube. This spreadsheet links to those episodes on YouTube and also identifies which of the programs were adapted from radio scripts. There is a collection of more than 60 videos at archive.org
  • Suspense Fall 1958 show date correction research (click here)
For many years, dates of programs from September through November 1958 were uncertain. This spreadsheet documents various resources and verifies the research done in the mid-1990s by late collectors Randy Eidemiller and Chris Lambesis.
  • Roma Wines 2x/week log (December 1943 to September 1944) (click here)
When Roma Wines began its sponsorship of Suspense, there was no broadcast time available on a single day for the new east and west coast broadcasts. For a few months, the East (East and Central time zones) had their broadcasts on Thursdays and the West (Mountain and Pacific) had theirs on Mondays. There are only a few presentations for which both recordings exist.
  • The same day Suspense East and West Coast broadcasts (click here)
Suspense had separate East and West broadcasts only during its sponsorship by Roma Wines. The early Roma Wines broadcasts were on Thursday for the East and Monday for the West. Those are documented in a separate spreadsheet noted above. Beginning in September 1944, there were broadcasts on a single day. In some cases, recordings are labeled as to their East or West origin because the transcription discs were labeled so and that information was carried into the file names of the recordings. For others, recordings were not labeled as to their East or West origin. In other cases, the mention of the upcoming broadcast of The FBI in Peace and War identifies the East version (details are noted below -- scroll down to a special section about it). There are also programs with differences in their closing announcements or the pace of their reading. Most single recordings, however, have no identifiers. There are many cases where we have identified two different broadcasts but do not have any means of identifying which recording was intended for which coast.
  • William N. Robson era had more repeats than new productions
Click here to see the image of the table that explains it. There were 147 productions, with 74 repeats. 51 were from Suspense, 19 from Escape, 2 from Romance, 1 from On Stage, and 1 from a show Robson produced for Mutual, Modern Adventures of Casanova.
  • How many performances of Sorry, Wrong Number were there?... and more!
The number's not what you might think! Click here to see the detailed list and learn about the east and west coast performances, the Philco Radio Hall of Fame, and the Decca Records release of SWN. The missing 1952 performance has some intriguing aspects about the series and its production that can be seen from the script cover page and a news report of the performance.
  • There was not a "correct" Sorry, Wrong Number west coast broadcast in 1943
This "urban legend" has persisted among radio program collectors for decades. Suspense did not have east and west productions until Roma Wines sponsored the series later that year (free PDF at Scribd.com)

Suspense-specific resources

  • Suspense Magazine PDFs at archive.org (click here)
Suspense Magazine only lasted four issues. Scans saved as PDFs of each short story, adapted from the show scripts, and dated with the first performance of those scripts, are available for online viewing or download. One of the stories, Fury and Sound, is of a missing episode.Christine has not posted new items in a while, but the site is still up. The work she did to identify original works in short stories, novels, articles, and other source materials used to create Suspense scripts inspired much of the research here, especially for missing episodes.These are reviews by a UK fan of the series, arranged alphabetically. About one-third of the episodes are reviewed. Though I may disagree with some of the comments, I always find them fascinating, thought-provoking, and worth pondering. A highly recommended site, especially for new Suspense fans.
  • American Radio Theater recreations of missing recordings (click here)
ART is a fine group of radio drama enthusiasts who recreate new and old radio plays. This links to their Suspense recreations, some of which have been from scripts of missing shows.
  • Radio Spirits currently available CD sets of Suspense (click here)
Radio Spirits has issued many CD sets of Suspense that are high quality audio that have been processed using today's digital audio technologies from the original transcription discs recordings. Many sets, especially earlier releases, can be found in public libraries or as used copies for sale at Amazon or eBay. It is essential that our hobby support Radio Spirits in their quest for missing episodes, their efforts to improve the sound quality of existing recordings, and their interest in conducting research about this series and many others. Their efforts, through their sets, syndicated radio program, and SiriusXM satellite channel, draw new fans and listeners to become old time radio enthusiasts.
  • Old Time Radio Researchers 2015 Certified Suspense Set at archive.org
This is a set of the series as the collection was in early 2015. The collection is out of date, but is still a good set for the series. Since then, many better sounding programs have been found or released, as have some new versions. If you're just interested in streaming shows online, go to the individual episodes link and start there. If you're new to the series, this is a good place to start. Individual episodes (click here) 36 .zip files, each .zip file has the amount of files that fills a single CD-ROM. The link is on the right hand side of the page (click here)
  • Martin Grams' Suspense: Twenty Years of Thrills and Chills (Amazon)
Now more than 20 years old, this favorite collectors book is back in print. Written in 1997 when Martin was a senior in high school, it is a great resource, especially for newcomers to the series. Please note that it was written years ago and did not have the benefit of new research available since that time. This book has not been updated since its original release, but it is still a very worthwhile investment.

Collector online gathering places

A free online forum where collectors post OTR research and programs, and where Suspense is updated or researched nearly every day; a great place for veteran collectors, and an even better place for new collectors to deepen their interests; free registration.The Suspense upgrades and episode information is at http://cobaltclubannex.forumotion.com/t180-suspense-upgrades; just go to the highest numbered page for the latest postings.Free to join after answering simple screening questions. Very active group, posting of rare recordings, discussions of history, personalities, recording technology, and more.Many interviews with fellow collectors and researchers about the hobby, Suspense, and other series
  • Mid-Atlantic Nostalgia Convention, Hunt Valley, MD (click here)
Annual Fall convention of general nostalgia, with Saturday morning usually devoted to OTR recreations and panel discussions.

GENERAL OTR RESEARCH RESOURCES

Downloadable logs of many series. Look especially for the logs prepared by researcher Stewart Wright which provide much background information about the radio era and its production processes; his logs are done with exceptional care with sturdy, reliable, hands-on research.When OTR collecting's digital age began, there were many sets of mislabeled, misdated, and miscategorized recordings. This site notes those errors. The efforts of OTRR to organize and document collections have made the need for this site less urgent, but it's still a worthwhile visit because many of those old sets still linger.Links to many resources such as magazines, fanzines, scripts, and more, and the OTRR's own publicationOutdated, incomplete, still extraordinarily useful for many series with unannounced episode titles
  • OTRR radio magazines and fanzines collection (click here)
PDF scans of many magazines from the radio era, and a collection of scanned OTR fanzinesAn easy and convenient way to listen to radio programs. The completeness and quality of programs can be a little erratic as it is volunteer-based is not subject to regular maintenance. This is a good way to take a test-listen to different series, and if a series piques one's interest, fans can pursue programs from any of the many collector-dealers and especially sources like Radio Spirits or their download site Radio Vault.
  • Search industry magazines with the Lantern search engine
The site is maintained developed by the University of Wisconsin (click here) Thom served in Korea and Panama and worked in AFRTS in the 1970s. While he's most interested in 1970s and 1980s AFRTS programs and history, he has been a great friend of OTR and has shared many recordings he has found in his efforts.
  • Harry MacKenzie The Directory of the Armed Forces Radio Service Series (click here)
This directory about AFRS radio series was published in 1999 by Greenwood Publishing. The link goes to a searchable Google Books version of the document. It has brief descriptions of the series and lists some of the program numbers and episodes that were known at the time of publishing.
  • Newspaper timetables as Acrobat PDF files (mainly WI State Journal) (click here)
  • Timetables for NY Times, Chicago Tribune, LA Times, Washington Post (click here)
  • John Dunning's Tune In Yesterday PDF download
This book was published in 1975 and changed the nature of collecting, especially for young collectors who were born after the radio era. His later book, On the Air, is more complete, but TiY is still a favorite. A PDF copy can be downloaded at the American Radio History site (click here).A website with hundreds of plot summaries of radio programs, including Suspense, as well as fan commentsA compendium of Hooper and Nielsen ratings of radio programs as researched and published in 1958; compiled by Harrison B. Summers; download is from the American Radio History siteThe American Radio History website has many scanned out-of-print books about the era for free download, all in Adobe Acrobat PDF format.

Status of the missing Suspense episodes: latest news

This chart identifies the 14 missing single performance episodes. There are other missing broadcasts, but those scripts were used at other times in the series. The reason some dates are stricken is that those items were previously believed to be single performances, and have now been documented to have been performed at other times, sometimes with different titles.

Scripts have been acquired through the dedicated work of researchers such as Don Ramlow, Martin Grams, OTR clubs, and various archives. They give us an opportunity to study and appreciate those episodes even if we cannot hear them. It is hoped that some of the missing episodes will be recreated.

The many eras of Suspense

Suspense went through many discernible and different periods that reflected the visions of its producers and directors, the needs of advertisers, the production technologies available, and the tastes and preferences of the radio audience. Because the program lasted 20 years, the changing nature of radio's role in the entertainment industry can also be understood in a grander media context.

It was not until the show moved to Hollywood under the full direction of William Spier that it became a star-driven powerhouse. When Roma discontinued its sponsorship at the end of 1947, the show was cancelled, but some CBS executives thought an hour-long format would work and also fill open air time on Saturday evening. It was a disaster, but William Paley was negotiating behind the scenes with Auto-Lite for a triumphant return to the half-hour format that summer under Tony Leader, followed by a return of Spier for one season. Elliott Lewis would take over the production, and then give way to Norman Macdonnell, followed by Antony Ellis. Radio legend Bill Robson led the series at a time when budgets were cut and over half of the broadcasts were new (and very good) productions of prior scripts. The big Hollywood stars were gone, for the most part, but some marvelous and highly skilled radio veterans took their place. Fans came to enjoy Robson's introductory comments for each episode. The show returned to New York, where it had started, for the Fall 1959 season until its final cancellation in September 1962 for some good shows mixed with some rather pedestrian others.

Identified recordings in circulation to date that are verified East Coast performances because of the mention to listeners to stay tuned for The FBI in Peace and War.


1946-10-31 Lazurus Walks EC (mentions FBIiP&W)1946-11-07 Easy Money EC (mentions FBIiP&W)1946-12-19 Thing In The Window EC (mentions FBIiP&W)1946-12-26 Philomel Cottage EC (mentions FBIiP&W)1947-01-09 Will to Power (mentions FBIiP&W) EC1947-01-16 Overture In Two Keys EC (mentions FBIiP&W)1947-02-20 Always Room At The Top EC (mentions FBIiP&W) 1947-02-27 Three Faces At Midnight EC (mentions FBIiP&W) 1947-04-03 Swift Rise Of Eddie Albright EC (mentions FBIiP&W)1947-04-24 Win Place and Murder EC (mentions FBIiP&W)1947-05-01 Lady In Distress EC (mentions FBIiP&W)1947-05-15 Death At Live Oak (EC mentions FBIiP&W)1947-05-22 Knight Comes Riding EC (mentions FBIiP&W)1947-06-19 Dead Of Night EC (mentions FBIiP&W)1947-07-24 Murder By An Expert EC (mentions FBIiP&W)


How to detect some East and West Coast Performances

From August 23, 1945 through August 7, 1947, FBI in Peace and War followed Suspense in the East and Central time zones. FBIiP&W did not have a repeat performance. Many Suspense broadcasts, if there was still time in the program, urged listeners to stay tuned for FBIiP&W. Hearing this indicates that this was an East broadcast, definitively. If there is no mention, it can be either East or West, because the announcement could be left out if the director believed time was running out. The image shows how it appeared in the script.

Note how it's referred to as the "early show," with no mention of geography affected. The announcement usually was made in the very last moments of the broadcast, but it has been heard earlier depending on where the concluding Roma Wines commercial was in the script. When you listen to Suspense in that August 1945 to August 1947 period, please keep an ear out for the announcement, and let us know if it's an addition to what we have found so far. The list of recordings we have identified so far with FBIiP&W mentions is supplied for your convenience.

Without an in-show identifier of some kind, the only other way to identify East and West is by having the transcriptions with their original labels for verification. There are many shows in circulation that were recorded from transcriptions and the E/W status is noted in the file names. We appreciate the thoroughness of those collectors in documenting that source.