May 1937 Radio-Craft
Wax nostalgic about and learn from the history of early electronics.
See articles from Radio-Craft,
published 1929 - 1953. All copyrights are hereby acknowledged.
Mystery stories were broadcast on radio stations in the days before television - and for quite a while after TV was available for that matter. During that era, it was common also for electronics magazines, which focused largely on radio communications, to experiment with printed dramas that had a radio-centric theme. Here is the first of a series tried by Radio-Craft in the late 1930s. A couple decades later the Carl & Jerry adventures were run in Popular Electronics, but other than that I don't recall seeing a lot of these things. If you're a mystery fan, then here you go.
Clairvoyant Dr. Fox
Do you like radio fiction stories? If so, write and tell us how you like this one, and maybe we'll print more!
My school friend Jessner is back again. He has bushels of money, and spends his time traveling from one resort to another, and appears to have nothing else to do than to enjoy the thirty or forty years that still remain to him before old age settles on him.
Little by little I got his story cross-examining him. "You must have worked very hard in America, to be able to retire at so early an age," I said to him casually one day.
"Don't talk nonsense," answered Jessner. "I washed a hundred thousand dishes, heaved sacks of coal on my shoulders, and did all kinds of hard work, without ever managing to save even a hundred dollars. Over there in America you can only get hold of money if you are a bigger thief than all the others. But as for me, I am engaged in business. I am a partner in a large commercial undertaking."
"Wouldn't it be more partner-like for you to stay there and take care of the business?"
"No - in fact my presence here and my absence from the business is the principal condition of my silent partnership. I am the very model of a very silent partner."
Then he made a complete confession to me.
"One day, I was again on the hunt for a job. With my last dollar in my pocket, I was strolling through 74th Street in New York. A wet snow was falling, and the streets were slippery, so that one slid at every step. I was just going to cross the street and stood at the curb when an automobile turned the corner going at a good speed. The car skidded, and I watched with interest the traffic jam and accident. The car skidded broadside, continued sliding backwards, hit a nail, and blew out a tire. I jumped to one side, but not far enough, and I was bounced in the air and then rolled like a frog in a muddy pool of snow and water. I was ready to get up and start a fight with somebody, but instead I lay still and began to groan loudly. My artistic sense told me that the car that had skidded up on the curb was worth at least $10,000.
The driver of the runaway car lifted me, with the help of a few bystanders, into his car. 'A thousand dollars,' said the man, taking his place next to me at the wheel, 'a thousand dollars if you agree not to make any further demands.'"
"Two thousand," I groaned.
"You are a robber, my dear friend," observed my neighbor, stepping on the gas. "Fifteen hundred, and not another penny."
He stuck under my nose a piece of paper which I was to sign as a receipt. It was a prescription blank, by which I could see that I was dealing with Dr. Sanford, president of the Medical Association. I signed, got his check for $1,000 and $500 in cash, and that's how I got rich and happy. A sudden impulse struck me - and I gave the cash back to the doctor, saying, "The check is enough to pay me for my fright. There isn't anything the matter with me."
"Hmmm," grunted Dr. Sanford, and put the bills back in his pocket. "You either have concussion of the brain, or else you are no American. I take back a third of the robber I called you."
"I am a European," I answered modestly.
The doctor took me under his care, to treat my scratches. Then I cashed the check at the bank, and turned into a gentleman. I had to do something with my $1,000. I talked it over with Dr. Sanford the next time he treated my scratches.
"I jumped to one side, but not far enough, and I was bounced in the air .... "
"Hmmm," said the doctor thoughtfully, "you might be just the right man for the job I have on hand. You could earn some money, and enjoy a good rest at a first-class sanitorium, at the same time. You aren't nervous, are you?"
I denied it vehemently, whereupon the doctor explained the position to me. It concerned the sanitorium of Dr. Fox - sanitorium for melancholia and other nervous ailments. His patients were all of the upper ten thousand. Within two years Dr. Fox had killed all medical competition as far as rich patients were concerned. People told such remarkable things about the powers of this doctor, that medical circles became suspicious.
"I'm going to send you to Dr. Fox as a patient," said Dr. Sanford. "As soon as there is room in his sanitorium, you are to go there and act like a rich patient. Our Medical Association will of course bear all the expenses. All you have to do is to keep your eyes and ears open, and give me a report when you come home."
I promised my help in the conspiracy.
A few days later everything was arranged. I had the necessary instructions, and started out on the trip, and on the evening of January 23rd, I arrived at the sanitorium. It was a large estate, in a lonely neighborhood.
Dr. Fox was a man of medium height, and his eyes were far apart, like those of a hippopotamus. He spoke to me briefly when I entered. Then a nurse came into my room, and made me swallow a few drops of some liquid, before her eyes. To quiet my nerves, she said. I slept like a log. When I awoke, it was late in the morning, and I was starving. I ate three breakfasts. Then I was called to Dr. Fox, and told him the terrible story of how I was supposed to have become melancholy: unhappy love, two unsuccessful attempts at suicide. At the end of my story, the doctor gazed at me and then he spoke:
"You will be healed spiritually, Mr. Jessner, if you believe in me. And you will believe!" But my soul was as strong as an ox's, and I didn't believe a thing.
Later I met my fellow-patients, all terribly nice people, but they thought Dr. Fox was more than an earthly being. One man explained to me, when I expressed doubt about this opinion: "From him comes all salvation, for he alone knows the future. You will soon be convinced of it yourself."
No communication was permitted with the outside world. But we could read all the newspapers we wanted to, and the radio was turned on for one hour each day. at noon.
We all ate our meals at one large table. When Dr. Fox entered, I noticed at once the deep respect that his patients felt for him. After the meal, a deathly silence fell, everyone looked at the doctor, who appeared to stare into the distance, with wide-opened eyes. The strained silence began to become intolerable. Finally the doctor passed his hands across his eyes and got up.
"How are things today, Doctor?" asked the thin, frightened voice of an elderly lady.
"Ah, my friends," said Dr. Fox, seriously, "tonight there will be a railroad accident in Canada. Seven persons will be killed and twenty-three injured. Tonight the French cabinet will be overthrown. In Boston, the eleven-year-old son of the banker Smith is being kidnaped, and in New York, a drunken man will kill a policeman at midnight." With lowered head, Dr. Fox left the dining room.
"Tonight there will be a railroad accident in Canada. Seven persons will be killed ... "
"What kind of ridiculous nonsense is this?," I said, breaking the intense silence.
"Good heavens, man, don't talk that way - it's a sin !" answered my neighbor, and angrily walked away from me. All this happened the day after my arrival: - that is, the 24th of January. It was the next afternoon. The doctor had treated me psychically and had wasted his powers of suggestion on me. I was terribly bored. The morning papers did not arrive from New York until afternoon, so I went into the library and dozed over a learned book. A gong sounded to notify the patients that the hour of radio broadcasting was about to begin. When I entered the room. in which the radio was, the other patients had already assembled there. The familiar voice of a New York announcer identified itself, and began the noon news report.
"Last night, there occurred a serious railroad accident. The Montreal Express collided with a freight train at Winnipeg. Seven dead and twenty-three injured were, found in the wreckage."
"Last night the Montreal Express collided with a freight train. Seven dead ... "
I wiped the cold sweat from my forehead. "The French cabinet resigned last evening," continued, "the voice of the announcer, and then one after the other, all the prophecies were fulfilled:
"Doctor," I said later, meeting the doctor in the hallway, perhaps you could tell me who will win today's baseball game in New York?"
"You should not ask that kind of question," answered the doctor. "These things are too serious for you to apply to such frivolous subjects. You must believe in me, Mr. Jessner! But this time, I will make an exception and tell you: The Philadelphia team will win, with a score of eleven to one."
The, next day, I heard it over the radio, and read it in the papers. Philadelphia had actually won, eleven to one!
And so, quite often, the doctor would utter his prophecies while we all sat at the table, and always the prophecies were fulfilled. Once I asked him: "Why don't you warn people if you foresee their catastrophes with your unbelievable powers?"
"God does not will it so," sighed the doctor. It does not lie in any man's power to interfere with destiny."
One day I wanted to telephone to New York, but I was not permitted to. They reminded me of the rule of the establishment, which I had committed myself in writing to obey.
"You have made good progress;" Dr. "Fox said to me one evening. "Now we come to the end of your cure. I shall give you another injection. You will sleep long and soundly, and when you awake, go back to New York, and you will find yourself cured of your psychic suffering."
I went to the laboratory, where the injections were made, just as the doctor was filling a hypodermic syringe with a clear fluid. At that moment, the doctor was called to the telephone and left the room. He came back a minute later, but I had time enough to put water in place of the liquid in the syringe.
"Go right to bed," said" Dr. Fox, after injecting the water. "You will sleep very soundly."
I went to my room, put my watch on the table, and sat up all night, without sleeping a single minute. I did not lie down in the bed until 8 o'clock in the morning, and when the doctor came into the room, I pretended to be very sleepy. I let him shake me a long time to wake me, and made the stupid face of a person just waking up, rubbed my eyes at the same time. The doctor spoke to me, and I let him have his say and acted astonished. Then I jumped out of bed and said, "That's enough, you old thief. Either you give me half of the profits, or that's the end of your swindle. I've been in need of a secure income."
Jessner interrupted his story at this point and emptied his glass.
"A swindle, I suppose," I said, "but still, how was it possible, and how did you find out about it?"
"Very simple," explained Jessner. "When the doctor came to wake me up that morning, he said to me, 'Do you know how long you slept?' "
"I have no idea," was my answer.
"Almost 36 hours," said Dr. Fox, "the sleeping potion worked well."
"Naturally this made the whole thing clear.
When I came into the place I had been given a sleeping potion, and I had really slept 36 hours then, without knowing it. That's why I was so terribly hungry when I woke up. That's how all the patients were handled, and even the servants, except the old housekeeper and one nurse, who know the scheme. The servants were well paid, but they could not leave the premises or get visitors while they were employed there. By means of this sleep of 36 hours, a whole day was stolen from us, and we knew nothing of it. That's how the doctor had a 24 hour advantage over us and when we got the newspapers they were a day old."
"And what about the radio?" I interrupted Jessner.
"Very simple. Each day, Dr. Fox would record an hour's broadcast on a phonograph record, and we got the canned news dished up to us 24 hours later. The loudspeaker was connected with the suitable apparatus in the next room, by means of wiring. And when the cure was at an end, the patients would be given a light dose of sleeping potion, so that they would be slightly drugged when they awoke, and willingly believed that they had slept 36 hours. That adjusted them to the correct date; and the patient was then brought directly to the station, without giving him the opportunity to see or speak to any of the other patients, who were remaining. Since then the clairvoyance of Dr. Fox has been giving me an income of $500 a month," concluded Jessner, and looked quite pleased about it.
Posted September 14, 2015