Himan Brown produced many different programs during the age of radio drama. One of his most successful, and best remembered, was The Inner Sanctum Mysteries. The The Inner Sanctum Mysteries took great advantage of radio’s ability to be even scarier than movies or television.
Of course it is all good fun, really little more than a Halloween prank. And that is part of the charm of the Inner Sanctum; the stories are very creepy, but there is a charm to them that can’t be denied.
One of the somewhat whimsical features of the Inner Sanctum was the Host. In the first years of the show the host was Raymond, played by Raymond Edward Johnson. Raymond plays a sort of Crypt Keeper character. He enjoys his bad jokes and puns, even though many of them are almost bad enough to make the listener change the station. Raymond also mocks the listener, like the barker in a circus side show. This mocking is a challenge to the listener, and he has to test his bravery by sitting close by the radio for the whole program. Johnson left the program in 1945, and was replaced by Paul McGrath. McGrath dropped the “Raymond” title, but his jokes and mocking challenge remained the same.
Playing against the host was the “Tea Lady”, Mary Bennett, representing the sponsor, Lipton Tea. The Tea Lady provides sunny counterpoint to the host’s dark mocking, and actually chides him for his creepy humor and macabre manner. She works in her pitch for tea in a subtle manner, not unlike Harlow Wilcox did for Johnson Wax on Fibber McGee and Molly, but on Inner Sanctum the sunny ads make the terror of the stories just that much scarier.
Brown took many of the elements of Inner Sanctum to his later project, CBS Radio Mystery Theater. Some of these elements included the Creaking Door which opened and closed each episode, and the host’s mocking wish for the listener to have “Pleasant… dreams, Hmmm?”
The hosts were very different, however. Instead of Raymond’s mocking challenge, host E.G. Marshall (Tammy Grimes in the was content to simply introduce the story, and return during the commercial breaks to bridge between the commercial and the story. This may be a reflection of the scope of the two shows. While Inner Sanctum was a horror show, and took great delight in that role, CBSRMT went further afield, presenting adaptations of great literary works, stories of historical figures, even comedies. There were episodes of CBSRMT where no one even died.
That would have been a great disappointment to Raymond’s ghoulish tastes.