Hear 230 Episodes of Escape: Classic Radio Dramas of Stories by Ray Bradbury, Edgar Allan Poe, H.G. Wells & More (1947–1954)

“Wor­ried about the price of but­ter and eggs? Fed up with the hous­ing short­age? Want to get away from it all? CBS offers you Escape!” These words open Octo­ber 1st, 1947’s broad­cast adap­ta­tion of “The Most Dan­ger­ous Game,” Richard Con­nel­l’s safari cul­ture-sat­i­riz­ing short thriller about a New York big-game hunter en route to Rio who falls off his yacht, swims to shore, and soon finds him­self evad­ing an eccen­tric Cos­sack aris­to­crat who hunts human beings for sport on his own pri­vate island. Not exact­ly the sort of mate­r­i­al that takes all one’s cares away, but Escape, it seems, had its own def­i­n­i­tion of escapism.

Orig­i­nal­ly air­ing on CBS radio between 1947 and 1954 — time that, with­out a reg­u­lar spon­sor, it spent in eigh­teen dif­fer­ent time slots — the pro­gram’s 230 episodes took mate­r­i­al from all over the lit­er­ary land­scape: Ray Brad­bury’s “Mars Is Heav­en,” Daphne du Mau­ri­er’s “The Birds,” H.G. Wells’ “The Time Machine” (among sev­er­al oth­er of his tales), F. Scott Fitzger­ald’s “A Dia­mond as Big as the Ritz,” Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s “The Lost Spe­cial,” and Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Fall of the House of Ush­er.” You can lis­ten to almost all its broad­casts, which mix then-new writ­ers in with the estab­lished or already can­on­ized ones, at the Inter­net Archive. (Stream all the episodes right above or find them here.“Escape brings togeth­er every­thing that was good about old-time radio dra­ma rolled into one,” say the notes there, call­ing each episode “a micro dra­ma care­ful­ly planned to cap­ture the lis­ten­er’s atten­tion for thir­ty min­utes.”

“Many of the sto­ries were lat­er reused by more high pro­file shows such as Sus­pense, but on the whole the Escape ver­sions were of equal qual­i­ty and some­times more dra­mat­i­cal­ly focused and atmos­pher­ic. When Radio Life wrote ‘These sto­ries all pos­sess many times the real­i­ty that most radio writ­ing con­veys,’ it hit the nail on the head.” At the time, the show’s cre­ators must have con­stant­ly wor­ried that all their spon­sor­ship trou­bles and time-slot changes would keep the show from last­ing, but even lis­ten­ers now, more than six­ty years after the Gold­en Age of radio and with our own con­cerns about egg prices and hous­ing short­ages, can find in it a qual­i­ty of escapism still unmatched by most pop­u­lar cul­ture.

Find oth­er vin­tage radio dra­mas in our col­lec­tion, 1,000 Free Audio Books: Down­load Great Books for Free.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Hear 90+ Episodes of Sus­pense, the Icon­ic Gold­en Age Radio Show Launched by Alfred Hitch­cock

Hear 22-Year-Old Orson Welles Star in The Shad­ow, the Icon­ic 1930s Super Crime­fight­er Radio Show

Dimen­sion X: The 1950s Sci­Fi Radio Show That Dra­ma­tized Sto­ries by Asi­mov, Brad­bury, Von­negut & More

X Minus One: More Clas­sic 1950s Sci-Fi Radio from Asi­mov, Hein­lein, Brad­bury & Dick

Hear Ray Bradbury’s Beloved Sci-Fi Sto­ries as Clas­sic Radio Dra­mas

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities and cul­ture. He’s at work on a book about Los Ange­les, A Los Ange­les Primer, the video series The City in Cin­e­ma, the crowd­fund­ed jour­nal­ism project Where Is the City of the Future?, and the Los Ange­les Review of Books’ Korea Blog. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

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