Three Skeleton Key: By Sea Or By Fear
0 comment Monday, April 14, 2014 |
Greeting, readers. Pull your overstuffed armchairs close to the glowing dial of the radio, because we have another terror tale from yesteryear to listen to in tonight's edition of "Horror On The Airwaves."
Our story is set in the sickly wet heat of French New Guinea, on a small rocky reef that bears the macabre name of Three Skeleton Key. Three men man the lighthouse that accommodates the reef, the heavenly lamp shining through the treacherous fog in order to guide all passing ships to safety. Our narrator is Jean, a complacent fellow who lets us in on all the proceedings. He is accompanied by Louis, a very Bluto-esque sailor who has just about as much patience as he has words. Auguste, on the other hand, is a chatty hunchback who is constantly sharing stories with his companions of the days when he acted on the stage at the Grand Guignol. All three of them share no close bonds, but they get along fine enough to get through the day.
But one day something happens that puts their very lives on the line. Spotting a vessel being tossed about by the tumultuous waves outside, Jean calls the other two over to observe the spectacle. It soon becomes apparent that the ship is a derelict, not a living soul to be seen on board. But as the ship washes up ever closer to the jagged rocks on the coast, Jean sees a horrifying sight through his binoculars. The ship is infested with rats, a special breed that has adapted to living on vessels. They are venomous, flesh-hungry vermin, the reason for the absence of any humans on board becoming cryptically clear. What's worst of all, the ship crashes against the shore, allowing the entire army of plague-carriers to swarm the lighthouse.
The three men work with all haste to ensure that every opening is sealed tight, running frantically up and down the spiral staircase as the rats ferociously tear at the doors and windows with a million pairs of yellow fangs and claws. Jean and his partners have now become prisoners in their own lighthouse, the animals outside a sure sign of impending death. As the rats press in on them inch by inch, the lighthouse keepers begin to lose their grip on sanity and slowly give in to the hungry maw of tangible fear...
"Three Skeleton Key" was adapted to radio from a story written by French writer George Toudouze which originally appeared in the magazine Esquire. The most famous broadcast of this harrowing story was the March 17, 1950 version that starred Vincent Price as Jean. "Three Skeleton Key" is one of the most famous broadcasts in all of old time radio history. Airing on the the spectacular series Escape!, it remains a fantastic example of the powers of auditory suggestion and suspense.
During the duration of the thrilling story, the listener becomes completely immersed in the time and setting (a facet that I always found Escape! to really excel in). You can feel the hot, humid air sticking to your skin and imagine yourself squinting through the thick fog that encloses you. Jean's narration of the lighthouse paints a clear image of its bony structure jutting up through the sharp rocks. And, perhaps best of all, the invasion of the rats becomes something as real as your own flesh and blood. The effects used to create the sounds of the vermin's advance are bone-chilling in their horror. Every squeak, scratch, and scuttle of the rats makes you feel as if there are critters running in the same room as you. It's hair-raising scares at their most effective, the swarming of the beasts the perfect apocalyptic symbol for this fight of man against Mother Nature's creations.
If you'd like to give this chiller a listen, curl up with some warm hot chocolate and tune in HERE. If you find yourself with a case of goosebumps before going to bed, don't worry your little head about the creepy crawlies in the dark. I'll keep a light burning for you.

Labels: , , , , ,