The greatest of all mysteries surrounding Carlton E. Morse’s “I Love A Mystery” is the mystery of where all the shows went to. There were perhaps 100 complete serials over the two runs of the shows, each made up of dozens of electrical transcription (ET) disks.
So where did they all go?
And where are all the original ETs that we have recordings from today?
This is what I have learned, a mixture of fact, rumor and speculation.
When I asked on the internet some years ago about the source of many of the complete ILAM stories, Don Aston, owner of AVPRO, was kind enough to write to me. In his reply, he said:
“As far as opening and closings are concerned on the existing mostly complete shows, Most of the stuff that has been around for a long time came from Carleton E. Morse. Most of the discs had the body of the shows on them only. Jim Harmon copied all that was there and those are the copies that ours came from. I have taken all of those shows and put openings and closings on them. I used opening and closings that were correct for the shows. I did this years ago and as far as I know, everything is as it should be.”
“The Hermit of San Felipe etc. was recorded off the air and who ever did it never checked his dial for accuracy. I am supposed to have the best copy around and it is not all that swift in the middle portions.”
Another visitor to this site, Ken Greenwald wrote,
"I work in Hollywood at the Pacific Pioneer Radio Archives. PPB is a privately run radio archives...They are made up of only professionals who have worked in the Radio and Television industry for at least 20 years...Years ago Carlton E. Morse left what remained of his collection in our radio archives. Unfortunately, he left only one 1942 15 minute episode of ILAM. It is on glass base and there's a crack in the glass disc, making it hard to listen to the episode. However, he left us the discs for the entire run of Adventures by Morse, starring Captain Friday. This is a long series of "pulp" like mysteries, not unsimilar to ILAM. All of the episodes have been released. You may even have them in your radio library. I don't, but I would like to. I simply haven't found the time to transfer the radio shows from disc to tape."
"All the runs of ILAM in circulation (such as Bury Your Dead, Temple of Vampires, etc.) were dubbed by radio engineer Dave Amaral. He lived in San Francisco and knew Carlton. At one point, back in the mid 1960s, Morse gave Amaral all his discs of his radio shows to dub to tape. Amaral did so then returned the discs to Morse. It was Amaral who released the dubs of ILAM to collectors everywhere.
According to other OTR collectors and historians, when they asked Mr. Carlton E. Morse, he said he didn’t have any more transcription discs, other than THE THING THAT CRIES IN THE NIGHT and BURY YOUR DEAD ARIZONA he had in his private possession (and likely now in the possession of the successor trustee for the Morse Estate).
The US Library of Congress has several of the ILAM transcription discs. From what I gather, they have two half episodes from the story THE MONSTER IN THE MANSION, and several other half chapters from TROPICS DON’T CALL IT MURDER. OTR collector and trader Ed Carr recently unearthed copies of these ILAM fragments, which are now starting to circulate just this year.
Ted Kneebone, an OTR collector from South Dakota, discovered the final episode of the ILAM story I AM THE DESTROYER OF WOMEN on a number of ETs salvaged from an abandoned radio station. I helped in a small way in identifying this as the final episode, number 15, from the Hollywood run of the show (the advertisements for CBS and Oxydol rather gave things away!). He has since donated this item to SPERDVAC for archival purposes.
Tom Brown, Director of the newly established First Generation Radio Archives (http://www.radioarchives.org) has informed me (January 30th, 2000) of the following :
"I know we have 1 uncirculated ILAM. It is terribly scratched and will take a lot of restoration. The current status is it has been dubbed from ET to DAT. We also own 6 ET's of Adventures By Morse. 5 consecutive episodes. A 3 parter You'll Be Dead In A Week and the 2 shows after that."
From a JPEG that Tom sent me (you can see it reproduced
at the top) this newly found ILAM ET would contain the entire 30 minute
episode of the final chapter of EIGHT KINDS OF
MURDER. Here's hoping that we will soon be able to listen
to a digitally re-mastered version of this episode!
The big question still remains. Where are all the ILAM ETs?.
1) John Dunning, author of “The Encyclopedia” of Old Time Radio” (his "second edition" to the now out of print, "Tune in Yesterday") repeats the rumor that there is a millionaire that is hoarding many of the discs, and plays them over and over for himself and a few select friends.
2) Another rumor tells of the vice president of a major US oil corporation with the initials RB (who may be the same person mentioned above) was a contemporary collector of radio transcription disks, and that this person had obtained many ILAM ETs in his collection of thousands. This person’s widow is apparently holding out for some big bucks for this rare collection.
3) In Michael Ogden’s now defunct mimeographed ILAM fanzine, “The Thing Wouldn’t Die”, he mentioned a few letters that had been published in the late 1970s in the trade magazine AIRWAVES. The summary of the letters was that there was, “...a 98% certainty that the remainder of the “I Love A Mystery” ETs still existed.” However, in a follow up letter to this journal, we are told that, “...because of financial considerations and red tape, it would be unlikely for these shows to become commercially available.”
4) A New York City OTR DJ, Max Schmid, has mentioned to me that he was contacted by a private collector who claimed to own several lost episodes from STAIRWAY TO THE SUN, as well as the paper tape air check of THE HERMIT OF SAN FELIPE, ATABAPO. Alas, this person is not interested in sharing his collection with other OTR collectors and traders at this time (which makes me wonder, why is he gloating about having this material?). Their oblique reasoning is that the source of the original ETs still exists in some un-named US radio station, and that by circulating these shows he would jeopardize his opportunity to obtain further ILAM recordings.
5) I am also told by Travis Connor, another OTR collector of a notorious and widely hated collector (with the initials A.B.), who is referred to as many as that "MF'ing SOB" This man went down to his reward a few years ago...but had apparently even bragged about stealing some of the Oil executive’s ETs (see rumor #2), which were supposed to be including several “I Love A Mystery”. The widow of this man donated perhaps 90,000 ETs to Stanford.
6) This same OTR collector was recently in touch with the widow of the late Mr. Morse; he learned from her that the Morse Estate has authorized somebody (*not* Jim Harmon, who had previously produced the 1996 ILAM recreation "The Fear that Creeps Like a Cat") to produce a new ILAM recreation, which was to have come out this past Christmas. Alas, not a peep was heard (though this rumor was confirmed by another ILAM fan who happens to be an OTR DJ, but was honor bound not to reveal his sources).
7) Some of the "lost" shows may be simply lying around, unrecognized and misattributed. For example, Jim Farst, an OTR collector and friend of mine noticed that a public radio station had been airing over the Internet radio shows via streaming audio a broad assortment of OTR; much to his surprise and excitement, one of their shows was an ILAM fragment, one previously thought to have been a "lost" ILAM fragment (in fact, Episode 11 from the first Hollywood run of THE SNAKE WITH THE DIAMOND EYES). Who knows what other treasures public radio stations may have squirreled away in their attics and dusty basements?
8) Ken Greenwald (see
above) also told me that, "Morse doesn't remember
what happened to his discs, though it has been said that it was Morse's
agent to took them and moved them to England when he returned there to
retire. This bit of gossip has not been confirmed. So, no one knows what
happened to the original discs. I have also been told that a man named
Al Bloch eventually ended up with the original Morse discs. But Bloch died
a couple of years ago and no one knows what happened to his large collection
of original broadcast discs. This kind of news is unfortunate to hear as
it comes way to late to do any serious research on where the discs are
Apparently in the early days of radio, there was no Canadian law forbidding American broadcasting affiliates, and there in fact three MBS affiliates at one time (in Windsor Ontario, Vancouver BC, and Toronto Ontario). The Windsor CKLW station, across the river from Detroit, apparently broadcast episodes of “I Love A Mystery” in 1950, but in a different order and sequence than what the US logs of ILAM show.
Was Canada the end of the line for the ILAM transcription disks? I had to find out!
There’s a robust CKLW web site, and I contacted a few people and asked a few questions. Alas, when the station moved headquarters in the early 1970s, there were no mysterious stacks of ETs or crates marked “radio shows”. The current headquarters also lack such potential gold mines. I even contacted an engineer who worked at the CKLW transmitter site, but learned there was no dusty stacks of ILAM ETs for me to discover like Indiana Jones.
The fact I couldn’t find the disks in Windsor doesn’t rule out the possibility the ILAM ETs may not be still in Canada, perhaps at one of the two other MBS affiliates, or else in private Canadian hands. These disks are both heavy and fragile, prohibitively expensive to be shipped back to New York to be either archived or destroyed.
The mystery remains...
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