The Black Museum - Single Episodes


(4.8 stars; 65 reviews)

THE BLACK MUSEUM

Opening in 1875, the Crime Museum at Scotland Yard is the oldest museum in the world purely for recording crime. The name "Black Museum" was coined in 1877 by a reporter from "The Observer", a London newspaper, although the museum is still referred to as the Crime Museum. It is this museum that inspired The Black Museum radio series, produced in London by Harry Alan Towers. From Jay Hickerson's "The Ultimate History of Network Radio Programming and Guide To All Circulating Shows", the earliest US broadcast date was January 1, 1952. Thirty nine shows, from the full syndication of fifty two shows, aired over Mutual stations from January 1, 1952 through June 24, 1952 and September 30, 1952 through December 30, 1952. This may be the earliest broadcast of the series worldwide. It was later broadcast over Radio Luxembourg starting May 7, 1953. Radio Luxembourg broadcast sponsored programs at night to England (the BBC was state-owned and had no commercials). The shows were sponsored by Dreft and Mirro (cleaning products). The series continued to be offered in syndication and was heard on AFRTS broadcasts and in the US on NPR stations through the 1960's, 70's and 80's. Some shows were broadcast by the BBC in England in 1994. This murder mystery series was based on true life cases from Scotland Yard's files. Each episode was based on an item or items of evidence in the museum. Orsen Welles hosted and narrated the shows. Mr. Welles opened each show slightly differently but followed a standard format. For example, the show, "The Bathtub", open as follows:
"This is Orson Welles speaking from London." (Big Ben starts himing in the background). "The Black Museum, repository of death... Here, in this grim stone structure on the Thames which houses Scotland Yard, is a warehouse of homocide, where everyday objects, a piece of wire, a chemist's flask, a silver shilling, all are touched by murder." (dramatic music)
Following the opening, Mr. Welles would introduce the museum's item or items of evidence that was central to the case, leading into the dramatization. He also provided narration during the show and ended each show with his characteristic closing from the days of his Mercury Theater of the Air, remaining "obediently yours". Harry Alan Towers produced the series from scripts written by Ira Marion. Music was composed and conducted by Sidney Torch. The museum was not open to the general public. It's purpose was then, and still is, for police training, although it did receive a considerable number of famous people, including Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. It is currently used as a lecture theater for the police and like bodies in various subjects of Criminology. But, thanks to Mr. Towers and Mr. Welles, we can still get a glimpse of what secrets are housed in The Black Museum. From the Old Time Radio Researcher's Group. See "Note" Section below for more information on the OTRR.

This recording is part of the Old Time Radio collection.

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Reviews

Classic series

(5 stars)

When I first encountered this series on an OTR web site, the sound was poor and I didn't listen to the full show. My mistake. The episodes are not necessarily mysteries - often more just crime stories gradually laid out. It's Orson Welles' role as the narrator that makes the show. It's like going to your local coffee shop to listen to some music and having Bob Dylan doing an acoustic set. These aren't convoluted whodunits, but they are classic "theatre of the mind" shows.

Black Museum

(5 stars)

Having found no successor to Gunsmoke and Fort Laramie on the western entertainment,I found this gem. I used to listen to True Crime stories years ago and forgotten how enjoyable they are, if end badly for the victims... A nice if macabre touch was a couple of episodes featured Rayleigh and Eastwood in Essex,not too far from where I live. Good acting from the cast,the superb Orson Wells as narrator,interesting cases what's not to like here? Five stars and a big thumbs up to OTR and Librivox for making this available. Cheers!

BBC is not state-owned

(4 stars)

Thank you for this wonderful series. It is always great to hear Orson Welles. However, there is an incorrect sentence in the introductory episode: "Radio Luxembourg broadcast sponsored programs at night to England (the BBC was state-owned and had no commercials)." It is true that Radio Luxembourg was a commercial radio station and that its programmes were supported by advertising. It is also true that the BBC (which at that time included the Home Service, the Light Programme and the Third Programme) had no adverts whatsoever. It is NOT true that the BBC is, or has ever been, "state-owned", despite frequent allegations in US media that it is a "government broadcaster", "government-owned", "state broadcaster", etc.. The BBC is a public corporation, independent of the state, and supported by a licence fee paid by listeners. (That fee is now only paid by people with televisions, no longer for radio, which would now be impossible to enforce.) The only state involvement is support from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (what in other countries is called the Foreign Ministry) for the BBC World Service, which is nevertheless run independently and is relied upon worldwide by billions of people for verifiable up-to-date information, as opposed to the propaganda and "fake news" or "alternative facts" supplied by some other national radio and TV broadcasters.

Orson Welles and the real Scotland Yard Murder Museum

(5 stars)

The writing and direction are just things of beauty. Ikebana school of writing...minimal verbiage, tightens the nerves. I love the ad lib-style tour Orson Welles gives us each episode of the Scotland Yard Murder Museum exhibits until he reaches the one featured in that night's show. The interaction between the host and the actors can be unusual in a good way, make you run the audio back to savor it again and maybe even make a note of it so you can come back to it later (one hopes not in a plagiaristic way, ahem, lol). There's an example in THE CLAW HAMMER, just around 25min30sec in.

The Black Museum for Young and Old

(5 stars)

This is such a joy to listen to these original episodes. Really, it's like the first time all over again, as the last time I heard these I was a young boy with a home-built AM radio staying up too late on school nights. That was over 40 years ago. I also listened back then to the Lives of Harry Lime, which I noticed is also here on the archives.

Amazing

(5 stars)

this is so entertaining! one of my favorites! I love the fact that the stories are based on REAL cases! the scripts are great as well the music fits so well to the time periods plus u don't have thee same commercial to listen to over and over like in so many other shows!

favourite otr show

(5 stars)

This is my favourite of otr shows. Orson Wells narration adds to y joy of listening. some of the shows are a little quiet but this is not a hindrance. for anyone with an interest in true crime I recommend it.

Program radio

(5 stars)

This radio was just as good today as it was at the time of being on the air. I enjoyed it years ago and even more, I love the whole idea of old radio programs as as ever Orsen Wells was wonderful.