OTR Tuesday – The Hermit’s Cave (1930s-1947)

The short intro: For those who are unfamiliar with the concept, Old Time Radio is the phrase generally used to refer to the time when radio was (mostly) live, and was full of a variety of different shows, as opposed to simply being a means for record labels to use robots to promote the top records of the day. OTR  Tuesday is my chance to explore some of those old radio shows, their connections (both old and new) to movies, and hopefully to encourage some of the rest of you to take a look at a probably unfamiliar source of entertainment that I truly love. If you want more info on OTR, and some examples of the variety of shows that were made, be sure to check out this introductory post.

“Hee, hee, hee, hee, hee, hee, hee, hee, hee . . . Gho-o-o-o-st stories,we-i-i-i-i-rd stories . . . murders, too! Hee, hee, hee, hee, hee, hee, hee. The Hermit knows of them all! Turn our y’er lights. Tu-r-r-r-n them out . . . ahhhh . . . ‘ave you heard the story, [insert story name]? ‘Eh? Then listen while The Hermit tells you the story . . . Hee, hee, hee, hee, hee, hee, hee!”…

Today we take kind off a deep dive into the radio archives for a show that unfortunately has very few surviving episodes.

The Hermit’s Cave originally began at station WJR in Detroit with a group of local actors who called themselves “The Mummers”. The group began appearing on WJR in 1930 in a series of 15 minute dramatic sketches. Around 1935 the players began calling their sketches “The Mummers’ Little Theater of the Air” and that.is a phrase you will hear often at the beginning of these shows.

Among the recurring sketches The Mummers would.present was “The Hermit’s Cave” which would feature eerie stories of the supernatural presented in an over-the-top manner by an old hermit who lived in a cave on a lonely hill, complete with wind blowing and wolves howling in the background. These sketches drew the attention of the Carter Coal Company which agreed to sponsor a weekly series featuring the character of the Hermit and his tales.

The show was an immediate hit and was soon being transmitted via electrical transmission throughout the midwest. Eventually the program was brought to the west coast by WJR owner Dick Richards and Don Lee who was part of the Mutual Broadcast Network.

In this iteration, the show was at first known as The Devil’s Scrapbook with the host being transformed to the devil, who read stories from his scrapbook. The rest of the show was mostly the same, and when radio station KMPC – which was part of Lee’s network -expanded its operations to  twenty-four hours., they finally managed to secure the rights to produce their own version of The Hermit’s Cave.

One of the interesting things Lee did was to hire William Conrad as producer, director, and even, at times, writer of this version of Cave.

Between the Midwest and West Coast versions of the show, it appears there were over 800 episodes of the show produced, but unfortunately only somewhere around 40 episodes are known to survive.

Let’s listen to a few, shall we?

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