[This post was written by Patton Oswalt in 2013 and is reposted for the occasion]
I was tooling around Los Angeles listening to the Radio Classics channel on XM (XM 082) and they had an all-day horror marathon going on. They played episodes of Quiet, Please and Lights Out and The Whistler and, of course, Orson Welles’ War of the Worlds broadcast.
Anyway, this Quiet, Please episode called “The Thing on the Fourble Board” started and I only got to hear the first 10 minutes before I got to a meeting I was going to and headed inside. When I came back out the episode was over. But the first ten minutes were sufficiently creepy. I kept thinking about it.
The next day I visited Harlan Ellison at his house. As we were talking I mentioned listening to all of these old-time radio shows the day before. I know he’s a fan of them and I mentioned Quiet, Please. I mentioned how I heard episodes called “Five Miles Down” and “Good Ghost” and “Come In, Eddie.” And then I mentioned how I heard only the first ten minutes of “The Thing on the Fourble Board.”
“Did you hear the whole thing?” asked Harlan.
Harlan said, “Well, I first heard that episode when I was 14 and I never fucking need to hear it again. Go listen to the whole thing and think about being a fourteen year-old kid and that comes on the radio one night. No disclaimer, no warning, just boom!”
I listened to the whole thing. It’s only 25 minutes long. And it’s one of the creepiest things I’ve ever heard.
Harlan went on to tell me how every horror writer (or writer who’s dabbled in horror) he’s ever known — King, Matheson, Bradbury — all of them share the experience of being royally fucked up by “The Thing on the Fourble Board.” King didn’t even hear it until he was in his late twenties — so this was after he’d seen Night of the Living Dead and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre — and it still fucked him up.
Listen and you’ll see what I mean.