The Devil'S Number: From The Pulp Returned
0 comment Thursday, May 15, 2014 |

Everyone knows that Friday the 13th is an unlucky day, but just why is that anyhow? The Olivers are a couple who are willing to find out, and Mr. Rockwell, their eloquent host for the evening, gives them a ghostly history lesson on the dark beginnings of that most despised calendar day. It�s in his brooding 16th century mansion that Rockwell explains that Friday was the day of Christ�s crucifixion and, as he puts it, was the one occasion when the Devil had won over God. Fear and superstition of the dreaded 13th day has plagued mankind ever since.
After the mood is set, it only comes natural for the trio to journey deep into the family crypt for a little midnight tour. Peters the butler warns them not to enter the cobwebbed chambers and gives Rockwell a revolver loaded with "dum-dum bullets," a weapon guaranteed to work against any hostile supernatural force they might meet along the way. And from the looks of it they�re gonna need them: the Olivers are paying a little visit to one of their host�s ancestors, Erick Rockwell, alchemist extraordinaire! The old bloke gained infamy since he had a bad habit of murdering young girls, collecting 13 drops of blood from their bodies in order to fix up a mean cocktail that had the power to rejuvenate!
As crazy as the old wizard might have appeared, it seems his elixir actually worked, being that he was over 100 years old at the time of his execution in 1623 and didn�t look a day over 40! Not appreciating Rockwell�s recipe for health shakes, the courts saw it fit to burn the devil at the stake for his odious crimes. But apparently even that wasn�t enough, as a few choice bones from Erick�s body made it through the inferno and are now being held within the family vault. Harry Oliver�s none too thrilled with the human artifacts, but his wife Judith can�t help but be entranced by Senor Erick�s grinning skull. So much so that she cuts her finger on the iron chest that house the bones and an exact thirteen drops of plasma smack against ol� Erick�s parched teeth. Uh oh.
Later in their bedroom, Harry and Judith discuss the possibility that Rockwell is two rungs short of a full ladder after the host goes into a frightful fit at the sight of Judith�s blood soaking in his ancestor�s crusty maw. But that doesn�t explain how there is no sign of Judith�s injury anywhere on her hand or how the hankie used to bind her wound is now completely clean. As the blaze from the bonfires set by neighboring countryside farmers light up the dark night in order to drive away evil spirits, a hideous stepping and dragging is heard in the hallway. Rockwell recalls with horror that his ancestor suffered from a lame foot (he was a lousy dancer too) and the men soon barrel out into the corridors to seek out the terror.
Of course they leave Judith completely defenseless, making it an ample opportunity for Erick to make his grand entrance. The skull-faced fiend cackles deliriously as he closes in on the heroine, promising to make her his zombie slave and regain his full form by stealing an additional 13 drops of the red stuff from her. Ever the gentleman, Erick takes his snack away with him kicking and screaming to the Forbidden Tower of Horrible Death in the Castle�s Keep. Returning from their fruitless search, Rockwell and Harry realize the terrible truth when they see a skeletal footprint (!) in the dusty floor. So the two dum-dums barrel through the mansion Scooby Doo-style to reach Erick�s wretched laboratory in the tower before it�s too late.
Meanwhile, Erick uses his mystical powers to control the helpless Judith as she prepares for her own sacrificial ceremony. In a doubly sadistic and kinky moment, the breathless ghoul urges the gal to light the ceremonial black candles and pour a delectable mixture of melted newborn baby fat and the "holy oil of Hell" while he laments over his stiff, bony appendages. Hmm. Just when things are reaching the boiling point, Rockwell and Harry come pounding on the door in typical heroic fashion. Erick mercilessly taunts them and compels Judith to acquaint her entrails with the blade of a sacrificial dagger, but the sorcerer�s hypnotic hold is broken when the two dunces crash into the room.
They try to ruin the revenant�s fun by knocking over the candles and oil, instantly setting the entire tower ablaze, but Erick isn�t one to be hampered so easily. He takes Judith up into his scrawny arms and goes merrily snickering away before Rockwell guns the fool down with the revolver. Turns out the bullets were fashioned with the symbol of the cross carved into them and the holy slugs have reduced Erick to the immobile pile of bones he was before. Soon the entire mansion is consumed in flames (when are they not?) and the chiming of midnight summons the end of one helluva Friday the 13th�

"The Devil�s Number" is pure pulpy fun from one of the very first pioneers in audio terror, kiddies! This May 2nd, 1938 broadcast comes to us by way of The Witch�s Tale, the demented brainchild of Alonzo Dean Cole who invited his regular listeners to the howling hut of Ol� Nancy the witchy-poo her ownself and her incessantly yowling black cat Satan, voiced by Cole himself! Every week Nancy would ask us to stare into the glowing embers of her fire as she wove another ghastly play for our eerie ears. "The Devil�s Number" is a deliciously grotesque episode (and I say that with love!) that puts you in just the right frame of mind for the type of putrid programming to be expected from our hostess with the mostest.
Seeming to have taken inspiration from the countless pulp magazines and "weird menace" titles that stared lividly out at salivating young readers with their luridly painted covers of beautiful bound maidens and sweating, yellow-toothed fiends from the drug store racks of 1930�s America, "The Devil�s Number" throws all the insidious ingredients of those stories into one bubbling cauldron to create 30 minutes worth of auditory unpleasantries just dripping with foggy atmosphere and dusty antiquity. The heroes are daring, the damsel is modest, and the villain is so wickedly evil that you won�t be able to keep yourself from cracking a twisted grin at the sound of his guffawing skull. Radio fans shouldn�t miss this one for the world; it�s that classically spooky type of yarn that we relish more than all the rabbits feet and horseshoes in the whole world.
Give it a listen (along with a plethora of Ol' Nancy's other yarns) here.

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