31 Monsters #24: The Thing on the Fourble Board
Normally, I don’t worry too much about giving away spoilers in these retrospectives. I figure that after two to six decades, any reasonable limitation on spoilers has long since passed. However, for this post–about one of the all-time great horror radio broadcasts–I wanted to at least offer you a heads-up, and a chance to listen to the show itself without me giving the whole damned thing away. Which I will do below.
So, if you have any interest in hearing a spooky classic from the Golden Age of Radio, I encourage you to follow the link before reading on. The drama starts a bit slow, but has a killer finish. Oh, and don’t forget to turn out the lights.
In the late ’40s, network television was in its early years, and families still huddled around the radio to listen to comedies, dramas, adventure serials and suspense thrillers. One of the latter was Quiet, Please, which ran for two years on the Mutual Broadcasting System. This weekly dose of horror was the brainchild of Wyllis Cooper, who had originated the classic Lights Out a decade or so earlier. The announcer was Ernest Chappell, who also voiced many of the characters.
The most famous episode of Quiet, Please was a shuddery little number entitled “The Thing on the Fourble Board,” which first aired in August 1948. Chappell played a former oil-field worker who invited the listener into his home in order to recount a story from his days on the drill crew.
**LAST CHANCE** Spoilers ahoy!
One night, the company’s geologist thought he’d heard something up on the derrick’s fourble board. According to the narrator, the fourble board was “the little platform that runs around the outside of the derrick about halfway up.” They didn’t find anything up on the rig, but the geologist was soon startled by what he dug out of one of the core samples: a golden ring, and what appeared to be a stone finger. Curiously, when he rubbed the mud off the severed digit, it was no longer visible, yet still there.
The narrator soon fell asleep and was awakened by a horrible scream. The geologist lay there with a broken neck, as if he’d fallen from the fourble board. And the ring which he’d placed on his own hand was gone…along with his finger.
Police investigated the mysterious death, but eventually work resumed. The narrator himself was up on the fourble board as a huge block of machinery was being lowered into place. He witnessed the cable snap as if pinched, the weight falling eighty feet to crush his coworker.
A couple of days later, the narrator returned to the abandoned rig. And as he stood at the base of the derrick, a gold ring fell to the ground beside him. He “heard a little sound, the sound of a kid crying.”
Climbing up to the fourble board, he realized that he was not alone. An invisible, mewling something was there. He threw a can of paint at it, and revealed…
“The face of a little girl, frightened. Crying with hunger and terror. Hands like a human being. And a finger… missing from the left hand. And a body… Well, I’ll tell you about that. I told you how I’m scared of spiders. But I knew where it came from. It’d come from the bowels of the earth, come riding up on the drill pipe as we yanked it out of the well. Come to an alien world. And was lost. It stood there dripping with red paint, blood-red from head to foot, like some horrible dream. And it put its hand on my arm. Its hand was stone. Living, moving stone. And it looked into my eyes. And mewed like a lost kitten.”
As his wife continued to putter away in the kitchen, the narrator concluded his story. Over the previous two decades, he “discovered many things about it: what it used for food; that it was deaf; that it was invisible and couldn’t see people when it was invisible; that if you sprayed it with mud or paint or greasepaint — make-up — then it could see people.”
“And, believe me, I didn’t want to see its body — I can see that in my nightmares. But its face… I can’t help wanting to see that pathetic, little girl face. I’m afraid maybe I’ve fallen– Ah, but it’s very beautiful. And when it’s well made-up, it’s… But making it up, rubbing greasepaint on a stone face that looks at ya and smiles and it makes sounds like a lost kitten yet. I can disguise the body in long dresses. She can’t hear very well and when she’s hungry, I have to stay out of her way. I found out what she likes to eat, remember?”
He then threatened the listener to sit still or risk being shot. “I want you to meet my wife. Or rather… my wife wants to meet you.” He called out to his companion, who emerged from the kitchen with a soft, mewling sound, coming closer…
You can read the full script and listen to the original broadcast courtesy of a fan tribute to Quiet, Please. And if you ever happen to find yourself on a fourble board and hear someone crying, don’t try to help.