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February 01, 2007



This story can also be found in a collection called "LIGHTHOUSE HORRORS" Edited by Charles Waugh, ISBN: 0892723408

Amazon has it used for $.01

Great story and the adaptation is famous for a reason, it's brilliant!

the story

why did he like the island at the end?


In the short story, the narrator states several times that he finds his life as a lighthouse-keeper on Three Skeleton Key to be pleasant. So ultimately, his experience with the rats didn't prevent him from finishing out his service there. The radio version doesn't really go into how fond of the place he was. - Christine

Arnold Rothstein

Word is that this is being adapted for opera. Great potential.


Oh my, that would be something. Let me know if you hear more about that. - Christine

Bob Vito

The sounds are great. The shows so well remembered. I have been collecting since 1947. Very expensive then. Very affordable now. Thanks to people like you, old radio will stay alive for many a year.
Thank you
Bob V.


Thanks for your comment. We do our best! -Christine


I very much like this story but have heard it on another Old Radio show and it was much grittier and did have the lead character telling how much he enjoyed the place. I can't find it though. I've found a short 15 minute version on Sleep No More but that wasn't it. Anyone know what program this might have been or what they called. Something tells me they used a different title too.


My dad was a scoutmaster when I was a kid, and he used to tell this story around the campfire. Absolutely the best and creepiest radio tale ever.



Three Skeleton Key was done at a time when dramatic radio was at the peak of its technical proficiency. Sound effects, music, et al were excellent and there were plenty of people who knew how to integrate these things seamlessly into whatever program was being done. But the program owes most of its effectiveness to the script and performances, particularly the performance of the peerless Vincent Price as narrator and main character. There was a particular technique involved in doing all your acting with your voice, making it real without overdoing it, drawing your audience into the drama with sound alone. Somehow Price knew how to do all this instinctively, and he was never more effective in his radio performances than on this remarkable program. His work stands up perfectly 60 years later!


I agree with your comments. "Three Skeleton Key" is Escape's masterpiece, and it is perfection in storytelling. Of the 400 or so episodes that I have posted on this website so far, "Three Skeleton Key" is still the most popular. (Suspense's "The Hitch-hiker" is second.)

Just read about this modern re-dramatization. I haven't listened to this yet, but there was a heads up at SFF Audio.


Thanks for letting us know! I'm impressed that they recorded it on location at a lighthouse in Maine. - Christine


the story waz stupid. i had 2 read it 4 skool and it waz sooo lame.

sooo not lame

@ abby- Tired of the everyday grind? Then pay more attention in school homie. Your spelling is more horrifying than some of these stories...

Awesome blog. I never knew so many Escape! episodes existed.


Fantastic version and one of the best OTR episodes ever. Just thought I'd point out that the old link-rot has set in with your wonderful writeup.

"You can read more about it at the One Act Virtual Museum" new link:

"The One Act Players have posted Toudouze's original short story" new link:

"a detailed article by B.A. Peterson at" the link has gone the way of the Dodo, please also note that the domain has now been acquired by others.

The last capture of the original link to the article can however be accessed via the internet archive:


Hi DCDayDreamer,
Thanks for letting me know. (The larger this blog gets, the harder it is to keep up with all of the maintenance.) I'll update the links soon. Thanks again! Best, -- Christine


That sucks


The Vincent Price version will be on Old Time Radio at 6:00 PDT on Sunday Oct. 30 along with two Lights Out shows, "Chicken Hart" and "The Dark". They also have Suspense's "Sorry Wrong Number". A good Halloween line-up. non-commercial community radio streaming from Port Townsend, WA.

Max Reiner

The full cast in Suspense's Three Skeleton Key were lead Vincent Price and his three buddies on the island, who were Bill Conrad (Matt Dillon on radio), Ben Wright (very many radio shows) and Ray Novello.

Max Reiner

Gosh I'm so delighted to post on a board that doesn't require a family background, fingerprints and a credit card! :) So I'll post another comment about the Suspense program in general. Joseph Kearn was "The Man in Black narrator. But never-credited for some add reason was Hy Averback, who later narrated the series. Hy was Bob Hope's announcer and later directed MASH TV episodes. He was one of the creators of Armed Forces Radio during WW2, when he was in the Army.


Hi Max,
Thanks for your comments. We are here to please!--Best, Christine

Doug Barclay

Great site! "Theater of the mind" was never more in evidence than in "Three Skeleton Key" which remains a favorite. Leininger and the Ants has the same uncomfortable feel of the "lower creatures" having their way. I look foward to revisiting Escape and Suspense again...

Marianne Parker

i really dont think this story is very scary, and that dissapoints me cuz thats wut i thought this story was all about.

Sophie Armstead

My husband and I, when we were in our early twenties, heard this several times on Ed Walker's "The Big Broadcast" on WAMU. Ed used to play it annually for Halloween. Nearly twenty years later, we still get the creeps when we think about it! An amazing program!

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