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Radio / Quiet Please!

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Wyllis Cooper, creator and sole writer of Quiet, Please

"Quiet, Please... Quiet, Please."

Not many people today remember the golden age of radio horror. But those that do will never forget Quiet, Please.

Airing from 1947 to 1949, Quiet, Please was written and directed by Wyllis Cooper (who had previously worked on another radio horror program, Lights Out — best known today from a Bill Cosby routine where he reminisces about the infamous "Chicken Heart" episode — and written the screenplay for Son of Frankenstein), and starred Ernest Chappell. Nearly every episode took the form of Chappell's character narrating in the first person, recounting a story of something strange and horrifying that had happened to him (sometimes leading up to his demise). These tales would range from ghost stories to things that were... weirder.

Though it ran for barely over 100 episodes, the show left a lasting impact. Rod Serling credited it as an influence on The Twilight Zone, with both series sharing a mixture of science fiction and horror episodes and often containing relevant social messages. The 60th episode of the show, "The Thing on the Fourble Board", is often credited (and rightly so) as the scariest radio program ever broadcast.


The series is available for free here. Not to be confused with the Tom and Jerry cartoon short "Quiet Please!!".

The series provides examples of:

  • After the End: "Quiet, Please" (that being the title of a specific episode) is about the last Martian left alive after a series of devastating wars, contemplating the wreckage.
  • The All-Concealing "I": In a few stories, including We Were Here First", "Quiet, Please" and "Portrait of a Character", Chappell portrays a character who isn't human.
  • All Just a Dream: Most of "Baker's Dozen" turns out to be a dream in which the narrator dreams of his wife's trial for his murder. A prophetic dream.
  • Arc Number: In "Three" the narrator starts seeing the number three pop up everywhere. The #3 bus crashes...he wakes up at 3 a.m....his telephone rings three times...a voice says "Three"...
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  • Bizarrchitecture: The very first episode, "Nothing Behind the Door", is Exactly What It Says on the Tin. No, it's not an empty room. It's Nothing.
  • Boy Meets Ghoul: "The Room Where the Ghosts Live" has a guy find out that his house is haunted, only to fall in love with one of the ghosts, the ghost of a Revolutionary War-era servant girl.
  • Briefcase Full of Money: In "Nothing Behind the Door" three bank robbers with $54,000 in three suitcases enter a mysterious building on a hilltop in order to hide their money. It turns out to be a bad idea.
  • Christmas Episode:
    • "Berlin, 1945". A squad of soldiers celebrating the holiday in the ruined city get a special visitor.
    • Two weeks before that episode came "Rede Me This Riddle" (12-12-1948), in which a ragged wanderer bearing burden meets a second wanderer with a bag of gold, and eventually they run into a third man with a burden of his own. It turns out that they're the Magi of the Christmas story.
  • Continuity Nod: "Nothing Behind the Door" is about a mysterious shack next to the Mount Wilson Observatory that, somehow, contains an empty void like the void of deep space. In later episode "The Other Side of the Stars", about a mysterious well that turns out to be the home of a being from Alpha Centauri, the narrator mentions that prior episode. In "Nothing Behind the Door" the guy looking through the radio telescope at one point observes a "black cloud" in space; in "The Other Side of the Stars" the "black cloud" is described as the beings from Alpha Centauri coming to assimilate humanity.
    "I remember Mount Wilson and the hundred inch telescope. And I remember the astronomer Van Dyk and the little house of galvanized iron on the very edge of the summit. That was the house that had—nothing inside it."
  • Cute Monster Girl: "Mike", in "The Thing on the Fourble Board".
  • Cut His Heart Out with a Spoon: In "Dark Gray Magic", the Devil, aka "Boj", tries to get the narrator to cast a spell to make his buddy jump off the Empire State Building. But the narrator gets the spell backwards and his buddy jumps up to the top of the Empire State Building instead. The buddy gets a Hollywood movie deal, and Boj is very mad at the narrator for making him do something good.
    Boj: I'll cut your heart out...with a butter knife.
  • Cybernetics Eat Your Soul: The narrator of "Is This Murder?" says that man was not meant to meddle around with human life by putting brains in robots, and that doing so would leave only the "evil" part of one's personality behind. The ending reveals that in fact the man is a brain in a robot body, and he has in fact lost his morality, and he is about to murder the listener as well as the two people who left him in that state.
  • Cyborg: In "Is This Murder?", a man's brain is implanted into a robot body.
  • Dead All Along:
    • It is obvious pretty early in "Baker's Dozen" that the narrator is a ghost at his own murder trial—he's the 13th person in the jury box, hence the title; no one can see him or hear him—but he takes a good long time to figure it out.
    • "The Little Morning" has Francis telling the man who gave him a ride that he's going to see his lost love Rosita, who died in a fire last year. The man driving the car is puzzled by this, until he realizes why Francis's name sounds familiar: he read a newspaper story about Francis dying in a fire.
  • Deal with the Devil: In "Kill Me Again", protagonist Mr. Davis sells his soul to the Devil for a million dollars. It works out about as well as selling your soul to the Devil usually does.
  • Detonation Moon: The scientist in "If I Should Wake Before I Die" shoots a nuclear bomb at the moon as an experiment. He winds up accidentally destroying the moon.
  • Did You Just Romance Cthulhu?: "The Thing on the Fourble Board" ends with this, revealing that the narrator's wife "Mike" is actually the Eldritch Abomination that he pulled out of the ground.
  • Diegetic Soundtrack Usage: "Come In, Eddie", "12 to 5", "The Evening and the Morning", and "Symphony in D Minor" feature the show's theme tune (Cesar Franck's Symphony in D Minor) in the story. In "The Evening and the Morning" it's the special song of a widow and her late husband.
  • Dreaming of Things to Come: Most of "Baker's Dozen" is the protagonist's dream, while passed out in a bar, of his wife on trial for his murder. Then when he comes home in real life and assaults his wife, it becomes clear that the dream will come true.
  • Druid: In "Not Responsible After Thirty Years", a man is transported from the 1940s back to Roman Britain after visiting a Druid circle.
  • Dug Too Deep: A Fourble board, for those who don't know, is part of an oil-drilling rig. How do you think the Thing of the title got up there?
  • Eerily Out-of-Place Object:
    • "The Thing on The Fourble Board". The oil drillers find a gold ring in the rock their oil drill has pulled out of the ground. The problem? That rock was a mile deep and had been a mile deep for a million years.
    • In "Whence Came You?", the narrator sees a beautiful woman in Cairo—then sees her portrait on a slab from a 2000-year-old tomb. Then he sees his own name, written by her, among the inscriptions in the tomb.
    • "Northern Lights" is about a teleportation and time travel experiment in which a lighter was transported to somewhere freezing cold. And it came back with a woolly bear caterpillar.
  • Eldritch Abomination:
    • The title character of "The Thing on the Fourble Board". What is it? It's invisible, but very heavy, with a human woman's face, with a body that is—not human, to the extent that it reminds the narrator of spiders. How did it get there? What was it doing underground for a million years?
    • The life form from Alpha Centauri that the narrator encounters in "The Other Side of the Stars". It's shaped like a ball, warm to the touch. It can communicate via musical screeches that are translated to English by a machine. And it somehow absorbed the narrator's friend Dorothy, who became part of a Hive Mind and speaks to the narrator.
  • Eldritch Location: the mysterious building in "Nothing Behind the Door" and the World of the Lights from "Northern Lights", among other places—whatever subterranean realm the oil derrick in "The Thing on the Fourble Board" reached down into probably counts, too.
  • Exact Words: When the guys in "Nothing Behind the Door" ask the creepy astronomer what is inside the mysterious building behind the fence, he tells them "nothing". What's really inside the mysterious building? Nothing—as in, the empty void of space.
  • Flashback: The bulk of "The Time of the Big Snow" is an extended flashback of a very strange moment in the lives of the two characters, when they were young children.
  • Foreshadowing: "Is This Murder?", an episode that eventually revolves around creating a robot Frankenstein, has the narrator saying that he needs to keep the lights down for his health, and declining to drink the sherry that he offers his guest. He also casually mentions "The Cask of Amontillado", a short story about a guy who lures his victim to an isolated place to murder him.
  • For Science!: "If I Should Wake Before I Die" has the scientist, who is conducting theoretical research that is leading to all sorts of horrifying, monstrous weapons, react in this way when a skeptic urges him to consider the moral implications of his research.
  • Halloween Episode: "Don't Tell Me About Halloween", broadcast October 29, 1947, has the speaker relating how he met Candace, a witch who survived the Salem trials. She comes to visit him once a year at Halloween. As part of their deal, he gets to live forever.
  • Hive Mind: In "The Other Side of the Stars" the alien creature assimilates the narrator's friend Dorothy, and speaks with Dorothy's voice.
  • Invisible Monsters: "The Thing on the Fourble Board", which is as heavy as stone, and feels like stone, but is invisible. The narrator only confirms its presence by throwing red paint at it.
  • Jackass Genie: "Kill Me Again" has the narrator sell his soul to the Devil for a million bucks. The narrator gets his million, and is shot and killed immediately after.
  • Last of His Kind: "Quiet, Please" (that being the title of a specific episode) is a monologue by the last Martian left alive, after all the other Martians were killed off in devastating wars.
  • Living Shadow: "There Are Shadows Here" has the narrator haunted by the shadow of a woman named Esther, a shadow that moves around by itself—and is following the narrator and calling for him.
    • Casts No Shadow: The man's fate, after Esther's shadow leads his shadow away. (This has also happened to the living woman Esther, whom he meets at the end.)
  • Never Grew Up: In "Clarissa", the narrator finally discovers at the end what the deal is with his landlord's mysterious unseen daughter Clarissa. She never grew up, but she aged—she is the size of a 10-year-old girl and she wears a little girl's dress and her hair is done up in pigtails, but she is white-haired and old.
  • New Year Has Come: "Rain on New Year's Eve"
  • No Fourth Wall: Some of the less serious episodes played merry hell with the fourth wall, sometimes implying that the characters knew they were fictional or could see the radio audience, or having Chappell's character speak directly to a specific person who his character knew would be listening to Quiet, Please.
    • In at least two episodes, the characters can hear the music score and wind up asking the performer (addressing him by name, in fact) to play louder or quieter.
    • In "The Other Side of the Stars" Chappell plays—the narrator of Quiet, Please, who is broadcasting the show when a guy named Steve enters the studio and starts asking him questions about what happened to Steve's sister Dorothy.
  • Non-Actor Vehicle: Until Quiet, Please went on the air, Ernest Chappell was better known as an announcer and newsreader. Most episodes of the series have him carrying most of the running time as a narrator or raconteur. After Quiet, Please Chappell went back to being a radio announcer and never acted again.
  • No Ontological Inertia: "Don't Tell Me About Halloween" has Craig killing the witch that has kept him immortal for over 250 years, leading to him dying as well. When the cops show up all they find is a dry dusty skeleton.
  • Nothing Is Scarier: In some cases, quite literally.
  • Physical God: In "The Time of the Big Snow" two little children get lost in a blinding snowstorm. Just when things are looking dire, they stumble into the home of—the goddess Demeter.
  • Questioning Title?: "Is This Murder?"
  • Reality Changing Miniature: The silver globe in "The Man Who Stole A Planet". It might be the actual Earth, somehow, but if it isn't it's a Reality Changing Miniature—dropping a little water on it causes Biblical rainstorms in the real world, tapping it causes massive earthquakes in the real world. See also Recursive Reality below.
  • Recursive Reality: "The Man Who Stole A Planet" has an archaeologist finding an old Mayan underground chamber with an inscription saying "The place where the world lives." Inside he finds a little silver globe the size of a baseball, which is an accurate rendition of the Earth. Only it turns out that it is the Earth. When the man flicks a little bit of water on the northern Africa part of the globe, the radio broadcasts a report of cataclysmic rainfall and flooding in the Sahara Desert. When the man pokes Minnesota on the globe with a needle, the radio broadcasts a second report of a massive earthquake in Minnesota. This raises the question of whether there's a very very very tiny man somewhere on the baseball-sized globe, possibly with a little silver globe of his own.
  • Rule of Three: The episode appropriately titled "Three". He hears a voice whisper the word "three". Then the elevator crashes from the third floor of his office building. His phone rings three times even though he picked it up after the first ring. Three strange men appear in his office...and more and more instances of the number three, as the man starts going insane.
  • Satan: The narrator gets a book of black magic and accidentally summons the Devil in "Dark Gray Magic". It's played (mostly) for laughs, as "Boj" the devil gets all giddy about murdering people and committing evil deeds.
  • Science Is Bad: Well, it's bad in "If I Should Wake Before I Die", when a scientist with no conscience conducts research that leads to increasingly terrifying weapons, until he blows up the moon.
  • Second-Person Narration: Many episodes. If the narrator addressing the audience doesn't count, there are still episodes like "The Thing on the Fourble Board" and "Is This Murder?" where the narrator is telling the story to another character in-universe.
  • Seductive Mummy: The gorgeous woman that intrigues the narrator in "Whence Came You?" turns out to be the daughter of Osiris, entombed 16,000 years.
  • Shout-Out: The title of Episode 59, "It's Later Than You Think", about a magic time-travelling watch, is a reference to the Tag Line of Lights Out.
  • Shown Their Work: Most episodes revolved around Chappell's character doing a job of some kind, many of which had lots of interesting information about it.
  • Sibling Triangle: "The Low Road", one of the episodes that survives only in transcript, has a man named Robert coming back to Scotland from America, and meeting his brother Patrick who stayed in the old country. Robert falls in love with a village girl, Janet, only to find out that Janet and Patrick are engaged. Tragedy follows.
  • Significant Name: The demon who buys Mr. Davis's soul in "Kill Me Again" is called "Hellman".
  • Signing-Off Catchphrase:
    "And so, until next week at this same time, I am quietly yours, Ernest Chappell."
  • Spooky Photographs: Inverted in "Thirteen and Eight", where a news photographer keeps seeing a man who never shows up in the pictures.
  • Square-Cube Law: In "Tanglefoot", the narrator's buddy breeds a two-foot-long housefly.
  • Through the Eyes of Madness:
    • It's implied in "Three" that the narrator might just be going insane. In one scene the narrator keeps trying to call different people, only to keep getting the funeral parlor at number 3333. However, the next scene has the funeral parlor director calling the telephone company and complaining about the weird guy that keeps calling his number. It's implied with the "Last 3 Days" sign on the theater marquee and the days being X'd off of his calendar that the man will die at 3 am on the third day—but instead, the man kills The Bartender after finding out his last name is "Drei".
    • The Wham Line at the end of "The Hat, the Bed, and John J. Catherine" implies this. John gets drunk after Miss Pierce leaves her apartment. John, who has been getting more and more freaked out over finding a hat on his bed (an omen of death), then notices that Miss Pierce left her hat on her bed. Then he says "Why Miss Pierce, you left your head inside your hat." So...did he decapitate her? Why? Because he worked for her as a stagehand at the theater but she wouldn't give him an acting part?
  • Time Travel:
    • In "Not Responsible After Thirty Years", a man goes to an ancient Druid circle at midnight on the summer solstice, and is swept back in time to AD 410 and the end of Roman Britain.
    • In "The Vale of Glencoe", the narrator and his girlfriend, driving through the mountains of Southern California, find themselves in the eponymous Scottish valley at the time of the 1694 Massacre of Glencoe.
  • Title Drop Chapter: Two different episodes—or rather, one episode that was done twice, the second time being the series finale—were titled "Quiet, Please".
  • Wham Line: In "The Hat, the Bed, and John J. Catherine", the eponymous John J. Catherine finds a hat on his bed and takes it as an omen of death. He quits his job on the spot, but later goes to the home of his former boss Miss Pierce, in a state of high agitation. He starts freaking out even more when he says he saw her hat on her bed. Miss Pierce thinks he's drunk and tells him to sleep it off in her house. She then leaves—or seems to. John naps for a while and then finds some liquor in her house and drinks it. He looks over and notes that her hat is still on her bed. Then he mutters,
    John: Why Miss Pierce, you left your head inside your hat.
  • What's a Henway?: In "The Vale of Glencoe", Iona tells Alan about her father, who had a boat that he also named "Iona". It seems that his father's partner would, in front of a third party, ask the name of the boat. Her father would say "Iona", and the third party would say "Well, keep 'er, but what's the boat's name?"
  • Writers Cannot Do Math: In "Don't Tell Me About Halloween", aired in 1947, Craig says that he has lived 253 years, since he met a witch in Salem in 1694 who granted him immortality. Except that he was already thirty-ish when he met Candace the witch 253 years earlier, so he should be in the 280 range.