What episode is this guy talking about?

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Avatar Endof80
Posted Jun 20, 2014 - 7:52 PM:

I read the following excerpt of the book "An Edge in My Voice" by Harlan Ellison, on google books. (link below) I enjoyed it, thought you might to.. but there's just one problem..

...If it had not been for listening to radio drama, I would never have been able to write motion pictures: and the stories I've written would not be quiet so clearly veiwable on the screen of your mind.

Imagination is served wonderfully by sound. One can create in the theater of thoughts sets and artifcats that would cost Hollywood billions to actualize. And I was a child of radio dreams.

See then: this kid Harlan and Mom and Dad, driving down Mentor Avenue, on a Sunday afternoon early in the forties. And the radio spoke:
"Quiet, Please." A pause, heavy with expectation. Then again, "Quiet Please."

The voice of Ernest Chappell. One of the great radio voices. A sound combined urbanity with storytelling wisdom. And the show was on Mutual Network; it was, of course, the legendary Quiet, Please, created by Willis Cooper.

I begged my mother to leave it on, not to change over to one of the more popular Sunday comedy shows; and they left the dial where it was, and I heard something that I have never forgotten, something I will share with you now.

Ernest Chappel narrated Wyllis Cooper's scripts. The programs were backed up by sound effects and music (the theme was the 2nd movement of Franck's Symphony in D minor, a work I cannot listen to, even today, without being thrilled to my toenails), but essentially it was Chappell, just speaking softly. Quietly. Terrifyingly.

What I heard that Sunday afternoon, so long ago, that has never left my thoughts for even one week, through all these years, was this:

"There is a place just five miles from where you now stand that no human eye has ever seen. It is...five miles down!"

When I heard that, and even now when I say it at college lectures, even when I simply type it on a page, a chill takes possession of my spine.
And the story was wonderful. (I'm sure if I were to hear it now, forty years later, it might be woefully thin and unworthy of the weight I have put on it...but I've managed to obtain recordings of the five or six shows that are still extant, and they are superb...so memory, this once, probably serves me well.)....

It concerned a group of men working in the deepest coal mine in the world. (Coal mine? It's been forty years; it may have been a tin mine, or a diamond mine.) And they break through the floor of the mine and it turns out to be the ceiling, the roof, of the biggest cave in the world. I mean big! So gigantic that even the most powerful searchlights can't pentrate the darkness through that hole. Nothing can be seen down there. It just goes down and down. A stone dropped through the hole, keeps falling...there is no sound of its having landed.

So they rig up something like a bathyshpere, and a couple of guys are lowere in it... they're attacked by pterodactyls before they can reach the bottom!

Now that's all I remember of the plot; but I tell you something, troops: how many stories you heard or saw or read fifteen years ago, ten years ago, even five years ago...do you remember that clearly today? And I heard "Five Miles Down" at least forty years ago. And it's still with me.


Now I haven't heard that episode yet, but decided to listen to it next.. but the problem is.. as I'm sure you already know, there is no such episode! - What??

Edited by Endof80 on Jun 20, 2014 - 7:54 PM
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Posted Jun 20, 2014 - 8:37 PM:

Some time after Ellison wrote this, he found out he had actually remembered this episode from another series and misattributed it to QP. From Wikipedia's QP page:


Ellison's recollection is a little inaccurate: he relates the story being broadcast "early in the Forties" on Quiet, Please when it was in fact a late-1940s episode of another series, The Mysterious Traveler. In 2004, Ellison took part in a recreation of the "Five Miles Down" script (by Robert Arthur and David Kogan, not Wyllis Cooper) at a convention of the Society to Preserve and Encourage Radio Drama, Variety and Comedy. He "acted and helped direct the show" and recalled hearing the episode when he was growing up.
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Posted Jun 21, 2014 - 4:35 AM:

Ellison adds a footnote to his recollection:

The poet Owen Miller has told us, "Of all liars, the smoothest and most convincing is memory." It was not till years after I had written that heartfelt encomium to "Five Miles Down" that I obtained a copy of the November 1948 issue of Mysterious Traveler Comics. You may be old enough to remember hearing the radio show "The Mysterious Traveler," but it's not likely you ever saw the comic book. It only lasted that one issue. I had been looking for it for many years, because "The Mysterious Traveler" was one of my favorite radio shows when I was a kid, but primarily I wanted that comic because it featured the artwork of Bob Powell who--though reputedly an anti-semite--had a style that was most reminsicent of the great fantasy artist Edd Cartier, and so I collected as many examples of Powell's profusion as I could. You may well imagine the lub-dub of consternation I felt when, upon opening the package containing that long-sought comic, I was confronted by a title box at the bottom of the Powell cover that read: FIVE MILES DOWN. It was the story I'd been hunting forever.

I was, of course, wrong in ascribing to "Quiet, Please" the 1940s presentation of that story. My memory was, as Olin Miller noted, so smooth and convincing that I had made the integration and crossover without a seam or bump or flow. And just a few years ago--as I write this footnote in January of 1999--one of my good friends sent me the actual radioplay. It was written by Robert A. Arthur, one of the best storytellers of the golden '40s. And it was as terrific as I remembered it.

No, I still haven't found an actual recording of that show, even though Maggie Thompson and others devoted to radio drama have combed the boonies trying to turn up one. It may be lost forever. If so, what a loss. It was, and remains, even on the page, an absolutely riveting piece of fantasy. But keeping history straight demands that I correct one of my dearest memories. It wasn't a "Quiet, Please" episode, it was a tale introduced by the great radio voice of Maurice Tarplin, "The Mysterious Traveler."


And here are links to the comic book version of "Five Miles Down":


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Avatar Paul
Posted Jun 27, 2014 - 12:54 PM:

It is a bit like Quiet Please's "A Mile High and a Mile Deep" so perhaps he heard both and got elements of them confused.

I've never heard an episode of The Mysterious Traveller that was better than okay.
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