rand’s esoteric otr

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Suspense - The Lost Special, Sept 30, 1943, AFRS Pgm 24

May 3rd, 2008

Update, August 8, 2009: I've posted a new version of the mp3 file for this notable broadcast.  David Kiner graciously agreed to run CEDAR sound reduction software on the original .wav file of my transfer, so the original unaltered mp3 file has been retired.  In addition, a full quality version of the CEDAR restored mp3 has been made available through the Old Time Radio Researchers Group distribution of "Suspense" at archive.org.

On this blog and podcast, I've focused on presenting original transcription discs from my collection, most all of programs that are not in circulation among collectors or are very uncommon. Thanks to an estate auction on ebay, I'm pleased to offer a "world premiere" of sorts for the Web of an elusive and highly sought-after program.

Unheard publicly since September 30, 1943, we bring you Orson Welles starring in "The Lost Special" a "tale well calculated to keep you in ... Suspense!". Originally broadcast on the CBS radio network, but now lost, the version heard here was distributed by the Armed Forces Radio Service as program 24 in the "Suspense" series.

"The Lost Special" is based on a Sir Arthur Conan Doyle story and concerns a train that mysteriously disappears. The story was also used on the series "Escape" on February 12, 1949, so it may seem familiar. (You can give it a listen here.) However, in the "Suspense" version, the story is told by the main character and framed as a broadcast by a condemned man that will reveal the identity of persons responsible for certain crimes.

The opening of the show is rather odd.  It sounds like Howard Duff, who was a staff announcer at AFRS at the time and would do custom openings and closings for some shows like this.  However, Duff sounds a bit "out of it", either bored after reading so many show openings one day or thinking this was a rehearsal instead of a real "take".*

On the disc itself, someone made grease pencil marks just after the opening and just before the close of the show and there's a typewritten note glued to the original sleeve:

29'30" Programme 24 Pt. 1 & 2 SUSPENSE The Lost Special Pt. 1 Open at mark on yellow line and play to end. Pt. 2 Fade quickly at line after words "... tale of Suspense." The Lost Special by Arthur Conan Doyle starring Orson Welles

The grease pencil mark near the opening is on the music cue just after the "Suspense" announcer says "... anything, however strange, that will hold our listeners in ... Suspense!" Strange, since this cuts out the entire opening that sets up the "show within the show" format.

Orson Welles appeared in the series "Suspense" eight times between 1942 and 1944 in such classics as "The Hitchiker and "Donovan's Brain". One of Welles's performances, "The Lost Special", was thought to be one of about thirty-five "Suspense" programs missing out of over 900 broadcast during the run of the series.

Welles appeared on "Suspense" in a run of four episodes during September and October 1943. The others, including "The Most Dangerous Game", "Philomel Cottage" and "Lazarus Walks" are available for download from archive.org, which has a collection of all of Welles's other existing appearances on the show. (Included in this collection is a funny parody Welles did of "Donovan's Brain" on his program "Orson Welles Radio Almanac".)

If you're a member of the otr mailing list, you've heard about my finding "The Lost Special" in an ebay auction a few days ago. If you're wondering if I'm going to be selling the disc, I'm not. I collect for the enjoyment of the shows and discovering something new. The disc is a unique find that needs to find its way to an archives someday.

I'm offering "The Lost Special" as part of my podcast in an unrestored medium-quality MP3 that's optimized for downloading or listening on the website. I'm investigating the best way to offer it to the OTR community on a CD or high quality .WAV file and to get the sound restored with more advanced tools than I have, so stayed tuned for more info.

Hope you enjoy the show. In the mean time, if you know of some old transcriptions scurried away somewhere, send me an email. You never know what might turn up in an old stack of records!

*Entry corrected, 6 May 08 - Inserted corrected info on Howard Duff.


  • Night Listener

    A thousand thanks for making this available. I’ve notified the Orson Welles fans and scholars at www.wellesnet.com that this long-lost gem is finally available. A lot of people will be very excited to have a “new” example of Welles’ radio work to enjoy.

    Thanks again for your generosity. It is much appreciated.

    May 3, 2008 at 9:16 pm
  • P. Nussbaum

    Oops–I did the same thing. Sorry, Night Listener. Should have checked the comments first. Anyway, thanks again to Rand from all the Welles fans I know. Any surfacing of his work is eagerly sought. Best, Nussbaum

    May 4, 2008 at 2:14 am
  • S Jansen

    Thanks so much for sharing this! Not much good can come from hoarding shows (it’s like knowledge: no good unless it’s shared!) - sign me up on the list when you offer this show restored and for sale. I’ll be more than happy to purchase it, and help you recoup your investment. I can’t wait to listen. THANKS AGAIN!

    May 4, 2008 at 11:37 am
  • Chloe

    This is great! I really appreciate you putting this up and sharing it freely with us! :)

    May 4, 2008 at 12:50 pm
  • Mouse

    Thanks very much for your generousity in sharing this gem with us. It’s individuals such as yourself that are a great benefit to the Old Time Radio community and ensure that shows such as Suspense remain a vital part of our cultural heritage to enjoy. You set a fine example to other collectors by understanding that we’re all in this together and radio shows should be heard and enjoyed by all, rather than locked away in some vault. My thanks again.

    May 4, 2008 at 1:25 pm
  • Sharon

    Thanks so much! I love your site! Believe me when I say all the hard work you put into it shows!

    Sharon (bestpbx-otrplus)

    May 4, 2008 at 1:29 pm
  • Grimaud

    I just wanted to add my thanks to those already posted! What a great find and what a generous soul you are to offer it for free download. Thanks again!!!

    May 4, 2008 at 1:34 pm
  • Mike Stevens

    Thanks a ton for this. I love Suspense

    May 4, 2008 at 1:44 pm
  • gycon

    Very generous. Thank You.

    May 4, 2008 at 1:56 pm
  • Charles

    Thank you for sharing this “lost” episode of Suspense with us. It is nice to have a complete series whenever possible. As a collector, I appreciate your efforts in finding and then posting this episode.

    May 4, 2008 at 2:06 pm
  • Jim


    Thank you for finding and sharing this lost gem. This was a really good episode with an ending that holds up today. Thank you again.

    May 4, 2008 at 2:20 pm
  • Veela

    Thank you very much for posting this; it was generous of you to share your find with the rest of the OTR community. This is the first time I’ve seen your blog and I think it’s great.

    May 4, 2008 at 3:51 pm
  • Dan

    Wow, this is great! Thank you for you generosity.

    May 4, 2008 at 3:57 pm
  • Stewart

    Thanks for making these shows available, especially “The Lost Special.”

    Randy mentions: “Interestingly, the open and close of this AFRS “Suspense” program is rather odd and unlike others I’ve heard before. Rather than using the host of the series, it seems to be a staff AFRS announcer.”

    The “staff AFRS announcer” at the beginning of “The Lost Special” sounds like actor Howard Duff. In a couple interviews, Duff mentioned doing this type of work for AFRS.

    Signing off for now,

    May 4, 2008 at 3:58 pm
  • Sherlock

    Thank you for you generosity.

    May 4, 2008 at 4:09 pm
  • jim

    Thanks so much for the lost episode of Suspense……a very nice surprise. I’ll listen to it when I’m sure I’ll not be interrupted Now if we could only get Hiram Brown to open his vaults…..

    May 4, 2008 at 5:37 pm
  • Deep Stuff

    Excellent job! Thank you very much for sharing this with the OTR community. Very nice site you have here.

    May 5, 2008 at 1:00 pm
  • Ghemrats

    At the risk of sounding redundant, may showers of blessings fall on you for your generosity. This sampling of shows is just terrific, and heaven knows afficiandoes of OTR will take delight in these offerings. Stop by the Cobalt Club and we’ll treat you to your choice of complimentary beverage. . . . Cheers and keep up the good work!

    May 5, 2008 at 1:40 pm
  • frankenstein1887

    Just wanted to add my own thanks, Thank you so much

    May 5, 2008 at 2:47 pm
  • Dr. OTR

    Thanks again, Randy! As I mentioned in the OTR Digest, it’s striking how different the Welles version is from the Escape version that aired a few years later. The Suspense version sticks quite closely to the original short story (with the obvious modern device of incorporating a radio broadcast into the storyline), and is told from the criminal’s point of view, whereas the Escape version (and presumably the lost radio Holmes adaptations) retell the story from the investigator’s point of view. As others have said, if you can get a cleaned up copy, I’d be happy to chip in a few bucks!

    May 5, 2008 at 7:46 pm
  • d

    What a find! I downloaded this for my OTR listening group on Sunday.

    Thank you very much!

    May 5, 2008 at 8:23 pm
  • artatoldotr

    Thank You for your generous consideration of other OTR lovers.

    To find and purchase an item like this is rare, and it’s rarer still to turn right around and share it with others.

    Thanks again


    May 6, 2008 at 11:27 am
  • Glenn Anders

    Thank you so much, Rand.

    As I’ve suggested at wellesnet, the basic format of this tale has haunted me for over sixty years. I go so far as to suggest that Welles’ notoriety regarding “The War of the Worlds” may have engendered some high level editing, which resulted in the “lost” quality of “The Lost Special.”

    Today, I know only that I invariably recall the show on November 22nd, each year.


    May 6, 2008 at 12:46 pm
  • LaCorelli

    Let me add my thanks for your generosity in sharing these gems of old time radio. It’s very much appreciated.

    May 6, 2008 at 7:03 pm
  • Allan

    Thanks for this and the other shows you’ve posted. I love listening to episodes that have been made from the original transcription disks, and hope you’re able to continue to add to your collection.


    May 6, 2008 at 11:55 pm
  • Bix Biro

    ZOUNDS !


    Thanks for sharing.

    May 11, 2008 at 7:01 pm
  • airlanes

    This was a super find and thanks go much for sharing with the otr community.

    May 19, 2008 at 7:43 pm
  • Walt Santner

    Script is online! http://www.geocities.com/emruf8/suspense14.html

    MAN IN BLACK: … The producer of “Suspense” asks you to ALMOST believe that the following is true. Very well. Standing beside me, surrounded by two guards, is a man who in a few short hours is to be put to death in the electric chair. His last request to the warden was that he be allowed to speak on this program and reveal what he calls some “startling” information. The warden naturally turned to us and we at once complied, anxious at all times to do anything — however strange — that will hold our listeners in …


    MAN IN BLACK: … suspense! Best, Walt S

    Jun 5, 2008 at 8:41 pm
  • Mrs. Ross

    WOW. Thank you for making this available! Your listener was indeed, held in SUSPENSE!!! I am sad to admit I did not pay the least mind to OTR before Feb 2008. Now I am and Orson Welles is just about the best there is. Apparently there are others who concur.

    Yours, Mrs. Ross

    Apr 12, 2009 at 5:41 pm
  • hillfolk

    Thanks ever so much for sharing the original transcription and also for sharing the cleaned version as well. It truely is appreciated by Suspense fans everywhere.

    Aug 11, 2009 at 3:04 am