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Listen to the land a profile of a nation in terms of its living language. This week. The film The fine art of murder. Listen to the land is produced by station W.H. y y Philadelphia under a grant from the National Educational Television and Radio Center in cooperation with the National Association of educational broadcasters. By sharing aloud the writings of our country past and present we can come to a fuller appreciation of those things which are meaningful to us as Americans and perhaps of the nature of our role in a contemporary world. Now with a ghoulish glint in his eye. Here is your host and narrator Richard S. Burdick to set the proper mood of this week's program with a ghost story entitled. Captain Santos leg. Of the film. You fellers wouldn't member. Oh and John Santos that had his leg get off
by a shock on the western banks you know once a man is jogged on by Shockey shock Jonah for the rest of his life. Some die a shock is going to get the rest of that feller if he keeps on going to see. I've gotten John kept on the captain's trawl other heavy day was 10 miles from the race when the Paul and Gale struck that was November 27 and the 28 she come crippling round the point under bare poles with a two foot a hobble water over early rail the crew said Gatton John was washed overboard. On with the other two men. The bodies of the other two drifted ashore. The captain was never found but a couple of days after Joe basi uh picked up the old man's wooden leg off the beach he took it home to marry Sanchez the widow married 30 years numb to when Joe Basia brought back the leg Mary took it into the house. She petted it and talked to it. I thought of it till the night of November 26 one year later
that night Mary said she sat up in bed and they asked Dan and straightest to you had to pump water on his one leg was old Captain John. He hopped over alongside the bad and counted over and he whispered around that has fallen Mary he said and the winds northeast we're in for thick weather a lot more Stalag to keep me steady when she strikes. He pinched her cheek and Mary let out a yell when she looked again. You've gotten of gone. Next morning Mary said she had a little red spot on her cheek and before she turned in that night she took the skipper's leg out of the spice cupboard and left it laid out in a corner under the fireplace. Also that night a breeze of wind come up and in a couple of hours it turned into a living gale from the northeast. There were a tree outside a hollow like the old bird of every dead sailor and Harold come there to
roost and all of a sudden Mary hears a thump thump thump across the floor down below and then the door shut too. She stayed in bed. Next morning she went to look if the captain's leg was still there. It was when she picked it up it was wet. Well it had rained bad enough to come in by the chimney but at Gallagher's other side of that leg with the water on it that she got sick and she called in Doc Atwood when he got to sound and I didn't find nothing unsprung. Doc said something was eaten on her and she told him the whole story. When the doc went over the leg he looked hard at the woulda. You say you left it by the fireplace all night and rain come in on it and he sets the leg down comes over the Weta and tells her straight out
as a sign to us. He says I'm going to ask you to have one of the men take this thing out to sea and wait it would not lads and he had all the Bawd. I'm a doctor he says and I don't listen to wild and wooly stories. But Mrs. Santo's is as I just put my tongue to that would it don't rain salt water. Oh. Ya. Oh now that wasn't a real ghost in the sky. A ghost story but as big a back end of the Library of Congress as written real ghost stories belong to psychic research in history rather than folklore. And I have fun with ghosts as with which is a storyteller and mustn't take them too seriously. Many of you may be familiar with the name of Ambrose Bierce a misanthropic writer of the early 1900s who specialized in
stories of cynicism horror and the supernatural. As an ironic climax to his career bears in 1913 disappeared into the revolutionary wilderness of Mexico and despite the rumors and the legends that have sprung up in the years following is not been heard of since. This short story The boarded window is Bierce. It is chilling best the story grips you with its tantalizing bait of plot but the whole thing is artfully constructed. With the one point of building to the final sentence which sort of smacks you between the eyes with the import of its horror and suggestion. Here is the boarded window by Ambrose Bierce. In 1830 only a few miles away from what is now the great city of Cincinnati lay an immense an almost unbroken forest. The whole region was sparsely settled by people of the frontier. Many of them had already
forsaken that region for the remoter settlements. But among those remaining was one would been of those first arriving. He lived alone in a house of Loggins surrounded on all sides by the great forest of whose gloom and silence he seemed apart. But no one had ever known him to smile or to speak a needless word. The little log house with its chimney of sticks its roof of warping clabbered weighted with traverse in pulls and its chinking of clay. Had a single door and directly opposite a window. The latter however was boarded up. Nobody could remember a time when it was not and none knew why it was so close. Certainly not because of the occupants dislike of light and air but on those rare occasions when a hunter had passed that lonely spot. The recluse had commonly been seen sunning himself on his doorstep if heaven had provided sunshine for his need. I fancy there are few
persons living today who ever knew the secret of that boarded window. But I am one. As usual see the man's name was said to be Murdoch when Murdoch built his cabin and began laying sturdily about with his axe to hew out a farm. The rifle Meanwhile his means of support. He was young strong and full of hope in that eastern country whence he came. He had married as was the fashion. A young woman always worthy of his honest devotion who shared the dangers and privations of his lot with a willing spirit and a light heart. There is no known record of her name or her charms of mind and person. Tradition is silent and the doubter is at liberty to entertain his doubt. But God forbid that I should share it of their affection and happiness. There is abundant assurance in every added day of the man's widowed life. But what but the magnetism of a busted memory
could have chained that venturesome spirit to a lock like that. One day Murlak returned from a gunning in a distant part of the forest to find his wife prostrate with fever and delirious. There was no physician within miles no neighbor nor was she in a condition to be left to summon help. So he set about the task of nursing her back to help. But at the end of the third day she fell into one consciousness and so passed away apparently with never a gleam of returning reason from what we know of a nature like this we may venture to sketch in some of the details of the outline picture when convinced that she was dead. Murdock had sense enough to remember that the dead must be prepared for burial and performance of his sacred duty. He blundered now and again did certain things incorrectly and others which he did correctly were done over and over. His occasional failures to accomplish some simple and ordinary act filled him with astonishment like that of a drunken man who wonders at the suspicion of familiar natural laws.
He stood over the body in the fading light adjusting the hair and putting the finishing touches to the simple toilet doing all mechanically with soulless care. And still to his consciousness ran under sense of conviction that all was right that he should have again as before. And everything explained. No sooner had he finished his pious work than sinking into a chair by the side of the table upon which the body lay and noting how white the profile showed in the deepening gloom he laid his arms upon the table's edge and dropped his face into them tearless. And yet on the terribly wary at that moment came in through the open window a long wailing sound like the cry of a lost child in the heart of the darkness. But the man did not move again. The sound of that however high upon his failing senses. Perhaps it was a wild beast.
Perhaps it was a dream or Murlak was asleep. Some hours later it afterward appeared this unfaithful watch your awoke and lifting his head from his arms intently listen. He knew not why they're in the black darkness by the side of the dead. Recalling all without a shock he strained his eyes to see. He knew not what his senses were alert. His breath was suspended his blood had stilled its tide as if to assist the silence who had wakened him. And where was it. Suddenly the table shook beneath his arms and at the same moment he heard or fancied that he heard a light soft step. Another sounds as of bare feet upon the floor. He was terrified beyond the power to cry out or to move perforce. He waited waited there in the darkness to seeming centuries of such dread as one may know yet lived to tell. He tried vainly to speak the dead woman's name
vainly to stretch forth his hand across the table to learn if she were still there. His throat was powerless. His arms and hands were like lead. Then occurred something most frightful. Some heavy body seemed hurled against the table with an impetus that pushed it against his breath so sharply as to nearly overthrow him. And at the same instant he heard and felt the fall of something upon the floor with so violent a thump that the whole house was shaken by the impact. A scuffling ensued and a confusion of sounds impossible to describe. Murlak had risen to his feet. Vere had my access for her to the control of his faculties. He flung his hands upon the table. Nothing was there. There was a point at which terror may turn to madness and madness and cites to action with no definite intent from no motive but the wayward impulse of a mad man Murlak sprang to the wall the little groping seized his loaded rifle and without aim just by the flash
which lit up the room with a vivid illumination. He saw an enormous Panther dragging the dead woman toward the window its teeth fixed in her throat. Then there were darkness blacker than before and silence. And when he returned to consciousness the sun was high and the wood vocal with the song of birds. The body lay near the window where the beast had left it when frightened away by the flash and report of the rifle the clothing was deranged. The long hair in disorder the limbs lay akimbo from the throat read fully lacerated it issued a pool of blood not yet entirely coagulated the ribbon with which he had bound the wrists was broken. The hands were tightly clenched and between the teeth was a fragment of the animal's
ear. Oh whoa that oh say what I mean about that last sentence above. One of the great classics of. Suspense writings is Edgar Allen Poe's The Tell-Tale Heart. Pode tells what might have happened by the laws of probability of necessity to a mentally unbalanced person in an imagined situation here with very slight editing for the purposes of time is practically in its entirety The Tell-Tale Heart by Edgar Allen Poe. True nervous very very dreadfully nervous I had been and am. But why would you say that I am mad. The disease had sharpened my senses not destroyed not dulled them. Above all was the sense of hearing acute. I heard all things in the
heaven and in the earth. I heard many things in hell. How then in my math I can observe. How helpful. How calmly I can tell you the whole story. It is impossible to tell how first the idea entered my brain but once conceived it haunted me day and night. Object there was none. Passion there was none. I love the old man. He had never wronged me he had never given me insult but his gold I had no desire. I think it was his I. Yes one of his eyes resembled that of a vulture of pale blue eye with a film over it whenever it fell upon me my blood ran cold. And so by degrees very gradually I made up my mind to take a life of the old man and rid myself of that I forever. Now this is the point. You fancy me mad mad men know nothing. But you should have seen me. You should have
seen how wisely I proceeded with caution with what foresight with what dissimulation I went to work. I was never kinder to the old man than during the whole week before I killed him and every night about midnight I turned the latch of his door and opened it so gently. And then when I had made an opening sufficient for my head I put in a dark lantern all closed closed so that no light shone out and then I thrust in my head. Or you would have laughed to see how cunningly I thrust it in. I moved in slow Parry very slowly so that I might not disturb the old man sleep. It took me an hour to place my whole head within the opening so far that I could see him as he lay upon his bed. What a what a mad man had been as wise as this. And then when my head was well in the room I undead the law and I had turned cautiously so cautiously
cautiously for the hinges creak. I did it just so much that a single thin rain fell upon the vulture eye. And this I did by seven long nights every night just at midnight. And I found the I always closed. And so it was impossible to do the work. What was not the old man who vexed me. Oh no it was his evil eye upon the eighth night. I was more than usually cautious in opening the door. A watch is minute hand moves more quickly than mine did. Never before that night and I felt the extent of my own powers of my sagacity. I could scarcely contain my feelings of triumph. To think that there I was opening the door little by little and he not even to dream of my secret deeds or thoughts. I fairly chuckled at the idea and perhaps he heard me very moved on the bed suddenly as a startled.
Now you may think that I drew back but no. His room was as black as pitch with a thick darkness but the shutters were close fastened to fear of robbers and so I knew that he could not see the opening of the door and I kept pushing it on and steadily steadily. I had my head in and was about to open the lantern when my thumb slipped upon the tin fastening and the old man sprang up in bed crying out there. I kept still and said nothing for a whole hour. I did not move a muscle. In the meantime I did not hear him lie down. He was still sitting up in the bed listening. Presently I heard a groan and I knew it was the groan of mortal terror. It was not a groan of pain or grief Oh no it was a low stifled sound that arises from the bottom of the soul and overcharged with awe. I knew the sound well many and I just at midnight when all the world slept and as welled up from my own bosom deepening with its
dreadful echo the terrors that distracted me. I say I know it well. I knew what the old man felt and pitied him although I chuckled at heart. I knew that he had been a lying awake ever since the first slight noise when he had turned in the bed. His fears had been ever since growing upon him. He had been trying to fancy them causeless but could not he had been saying to himself. It is nothing but the wind in the chimney. It is only a mouse crossing the floor or it is merely a cricket which is made a single church. Yes he had been trying to comfort himself with these suppositions but he had found all in vain. When I had waited a long time very patiently without hearing him lie down I resolved to open a little a very very little crevice in the lantern. So I opened it. You cannot imagine how stealthily stealthily until at length a single dim arrayed like a thread
of the spider shot from the crevice and fell upon the vulture eye. It was open wide wide open and I grew furious as I gazed upon it. I saw it with perfect distinctness all a dull blue with a hideous veil over at the very marrow of my bones. But I could see nothing else of the old man's face or person where I had directed the ray as if by instinct. Precisely upon the downward spot. Now have I not told you that what you mistake for madness is but over a cuteness of the senses now I say that came to my ears a low dull quick sound such as a watch makes when enveloped in cotton. I knew that sound well to it was the beating of the old man's heart and increased my fury at the beating of a drum stimulates the soldier in the courage. But even yet I refrained and kept still I scarcely breathed. I held the lantern motionless. I tried how steadily I could
maintain the ray upon the eye. Meanwhile the hellish tattoo of the heart increased. It grew quicker quicker Louder louder every second. The old man's terror must have been extreme. It grew louder I saida louder every moment do you mark me well. I have told you that I am nervous. So I am now at the dead hour of night amid the dreadful silence of that old house. So strange a noise as this excited me to uncontrollable terror. Yet for some minutes longer I refrained and stood still. But the beating were louder louder. I thought my heart must burst. And now a new anxiety seized me. The sound would be heard by a neighbor. The old man's already come with a loud yell. I threw open the laird only better the room. He shrieked once once only in an instant I dragged him to the floor and pulled a heavy bet over him. I then smiled gaily to find the deed so far done.
But for many minutes the heart beat on with a muffled sound. This however did not vex me. It would not be heard through the wall and at length it ceased. The old man was dead. He was stone dead as I would trouble me no more. If you still think me mad he will think so no longer When I describe the wise precautions I took for the concealment of the body. First of all I dismembered the corpse I cut off the head and the arms and the legs. I then took up three planks from the flooring of the chamber and deposited all between the scantlings. I replaced the boards so cleverly so cunning that no human eye not even his could have detected anything wrong. There was nothing to wash out no stain of any kind no blood spot whatever. I had been too wary of that a tub had caught all.
When I had made an end of these labors it was four o'clock still dark as midnight as the bells sounded the hour. Came a knocking at the street door. I went down to open it with a light heart for what I now to fear. There entered three men who introduced themselves with perfect suavity as officers of the police. A shriek unheard by a neighbor during the night. Suspicion of foul play had been aroused. I smiled for what had I to fear. I by the gentlemen welcome the shriek I said was my own in a dream. The old man I mentioned was absent in the country. I took my visitors all over the house about them searched such well and the enthusiasm of my confidence I brought chairs into the room I desired them here to rest from their fatigues while I myself in the wild audacity of my perfect triumph placed my own seat upon the very spot beneath which reposed the corpse of the victim.
The officers was satisfied my manner had convinced them I was singularly at ease. They sacked me while I answered cheerily. They chatted from the get things but ere long I felt myself getting pale and wished them gone. My head ached and I fancied her a ringing in my ears but still I sat and chatted. The ringing became more distinct. It continued and became more distinct. I talked more freely to get rid of the feeling but it continued and gained definiteness until at length I found that the noise was not within my ears. No doubt I now grew very pale. But I talked more fluently and with a heightened voice at the sound increased and what could I do with it. It was a low dull sound much such a sound as a watch makes when enveloped in cotton. I gasped for breath and then the officers heard it not. I talk more quickly more
vehemently but the noise steadily increased. Why was I not big. On I paced the floor to and fro of happy surprise as if excited to fury by the observation of a man but the noise steadily increased. Oh God what can I do. I phoned. I raved I swore I swung the chair upon which I had been sitting and grated up on the boards but the noise arose over all and continually increased. It grew louder louder louder and still the men chatted pleasantly and smiled. Was it possible I heard my God. No no they hurt. I suspected they knew they were making a mockery of my horror this I thought and this I think but anything was better than this agony. Anything was more tolerable than this derision. I could bear these hypocritical smiles no longer. I felt I must scream or die.
And now I can't get out or. Thanks PD. Yes. The term. Not. Gone. I wish you wasn't dreams. Up the next week for an abrupt change of pace. We're going to listen to the eye and laughing. The programme will be subtitled The Great American funny bone. As a matter of fact you have two successive programs of the things that Americans laugh at in print folk human or tombstone
inscriptions tall tales anecdotes poems short stories etc. all calculated to tickle your visibility. It's all dust off your laughing cap and plan to be with me one week from this time. Until then this is Dec Burdick saying thanks for listening and so on. Go. Listen to the land was produced and recorded at station W.H. y y Philadelphia under a grant from the National Educational Television and Radio Center. And is being distributed by the National Association of educational broadcasters. This is James Keeler inviting you to be with us next week for part one of the great American funny bone with your host and narrator Richard S. Brady. This is the ne Radio Network.
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Listen to the land
The fine art of murder
Producing Organization
WHYY (Radio station : Philadelphia, Pa.)
Contributing Organization
University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
If you have more information about this item than what is given here, or if you have concerns about this record, we want to know! Contact us, indicating the AAPB ID (cpb-aacip/500-7s7hv644).
Episode Description
This program focuses on macabre tales of murder.
Series Description
America's literary heritage is explored through readings of short stories, poems, folklore, journalism and legends. The series is narrated by Richard S. Burdick.
Broadcast Date
Media type
Announcer: Keeler, James
Host: Burdick, Richard S.
Producing Organization: WHYY (Radio station : Philadelphia, Pa.)
Writer: Poe, Edgar Allan, 1809-1849
Writer: Bierce, Ambrose, 1842-1914?
AAPB Contributor Holdings
University of Maryland
Identifier: 60-54-5 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
Duration: 00:29:45
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Chicago: “Listen to the land; The fine art of murder,” 1960-01-29, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed June 21, 2024,
MLA: “Listen to the land; The fine art of murder.” 1960-01-29. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. June 21, 2024. <>.
APA: Listen to the land; The fine art of murder. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from