One of the premier drama programs of the Golden Age of Radio, was subtitled "radio's outstanding theater of thrills" and focused on suspense thriller-type scripts, usually featuring leading Hollywood actors of the era. Approximately 945 episodes were broadcast during its long run, and more than 900 are extant.
Suspense went through several major phases, characterized by different hosts, sponsors, and director/producers. Formula plot devices were followed for all but a handful of episodes: the protagonist was usually a normal person suddenly dropped into a threatening or bizarre situation; solutions were "withheld until the last possible second"; and evildoers were usually punished in the end.
In its early years, the program made only occasional forays into science fiction and fantasy. Notable exceptions include adaptations of Curt Siodmak's Donovan's Brain and H. P. Lovecraft's "The Dunwich Horror", but by the late 1950s, such material was regularly featured.
Alfred Hitchcock directed its audition show (for the CBS summer series Forecast). This was an adaptation of The Lodger, a story Hitchcock had filmed in 1926 with Ivor Novello. Martin Grams, Jr.
In the earliest years, the program was hosted by "The Man in Black" (played by Joseph Kearns or Ted Osborne) with many episodes written or adapted by the prominent mystery author John Dickson Carr.
One of the series' earliest successes and its single most popular episode is Lucille Fletcher's "Sorry, Wrong Number," about a bedridden woman (Agnes Moorehead) who panics after overhearing a murder plot on a crossed telephone connection but is unable to persuade anyone to investigate. First broadcast on May 25, 1943, it was restaged seven times (last on February 14, 1960) — each time with Moorehead.
Another notable early episode was Fletcher's "The Hitch Hiker," in which a motorist (Orson Welles) is stalked on a cross-country trip by a nondescript man who keeps appearing on the side of the road. This episode originally aired on September 2, 1942, and was later adapted for television by Rod Serling as a 1960 episode of The Twilight Zone.
The well-written Suspense radio dramas are easily some of my all-time favorite vintage radio programs. Below you'll find both of those tantalizing Suspense-ful tales along with others that I've picked for this chilly Halloween season. Though not Halloween themed necessarily, they have been chosen for their particular ability to keep you in....Suspense!
"Sorry, Wrong Number" originally aired on May 25th, 1943.
"The Hitch Hiker" originally aired on September 2nd, 1942.
"Ghost Hunt" originally aired June 23, 1949.
"The House in Cypress Canyon" originally aired on December 5th, 1946.
"On a Country Road" with Cary Grant, originally aired on November 16th, 1950.
"The Doll", originally aired on October 23, 1956.