Inner Sanctum

After three bars of organ music, "Inner Sanctum" opened with the sounds of Raymond Johnson turning a doorknob and the creaking of rusty hinges. "Good evening, friends," he would intone. "This is your host, inviting you through the gory portals of the squeaking door."

Then came a gruesome joke, bloodcurdling laughter, and finally an improbable episode featuring ghosts and ghoulish sound effects.

When the stories -- done with such actors as Boris Karloff, Paul Lukas, Peter Lorre, Claude Rains and Raymond Massey -- reached their climax, Raymond would offer another round of creepy laughter before concluding the show by wishing his listeners "pleasant dreams."

Johnson's creaky co-star on "Inner Sanctum" was not always a reliable presence, as soundman Terry Ross once recalled:

"We got the hinges and buried them in the dirt out back and watered them down like plants for a couple of weeks or so, till they got nice and rusty, then mounted them on the door a little bit askew, so they would squeak," Ross explained. "One of the setup boys came to me [just before showtime] and said: 'Terry, I fixed the door for you. I oiled the hinges.'"

[Ross's solution? He became the door, imitating its creak with his voice.]

["Inner Sanctum" fan mail was often accompanied by oil cans for the creaking door. Only two sounds in radio are trademarked: the NBC chimes, and that creaking door... In 1997 Johnson, who suffered from multiple sclerosis for many years, once appeared at a gathering of the "Friends of Old Time Radio" to deliver a reading -- from a portable bed.]

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