20 October 2013


"Two or Three" Book Club, Meeting 72

Once again, my crazy timetable meant I had to listen to another radio play in the office, at the end of my shift. This time, I waited until the "witching hour" was almost over . . . 

Listen to "Under the Hull Tree"
from Beyond Midnight

UPDATE: You can also try the recording in the Matinee Classics archive (Thanks, Brandon!)

Well, that was . . . surprisingly not scary. LOL! It's always a little creepy to think that you've met a ghost (Yes, Bat, really), but I'll bet that everyone saw the big reveal coming from a mile away.

It was also, at first, surprisingly sweet. The ghosts of Johannes and Jenny aren't causing any trouble or unsettling any people. Quite the opposite: they don't even impose on the memories of the people they meet. They just want to finish their wedding trip with a minimum of fuss for everyone else. It's just too bad that Jenny has to do it all in a bloody dress . . .

Of course, the bloody dress is our first clue that they are living a nightmare rather than a dream.

Ghosts aren't normally as mobile as Johannes and Jenny, are they? In the vast majority of stories, they are local entities with very specific haunts, overly attached to the traumas or passions of the past. But these two are constantly on the move, seeing all sorts of interesting places they have never been before and apparently never running out of funds. Quite an enviable lifestyle, if you don't mind the other limitations. Or until you realise that they may have been doing this for maybe a decade--that they may feel compelled to circle the world over and over again, getting no rest. For the curse to be a "fugitive and vagabond over the earth" also turns one into a kind of ghost.

Like all ghost stories, this one is a cautionary tale. Sometimes the unfinished business and the unrealised dreams really do have to be let go, however unfair the circumstances or reasons which set them out of reach. The tragedy of Johannes and Jenny's story may have been that they waited too long to start, but the horror is that they are now always waiting to finish.

One of my professors at uni once said to a roomful of students agonising over a final essay: "You never finish. You just stop." Ghosts, the poor things, can't stop.

What are your thoughts on Under the Hull Tree?

1) What do you think Johannes's nephew will take away from this experience?
2) If the only way you could fulfill your greatest dream were to do it as some kind of "monster," what would you prefer to be?

Next up is "The Undead" from Inner Sanctum Mystery. Listen to it at My Old Radio.

Those who are coming to this episode for the second time may want to check out the "remake" by the Riverside Township Radio Players.

Image Source: The Horror at Relic Radio


Brandon said...

I had some difficulty with the sound quality, but found a version that worked better with my speakers, and so I put it here in case anyone else had similar problems:


I had thought that I hadn't heard this one before, but I realized partway through that I had; I remember admiring the way the story was layered, but wishing there were a stronger payoff. I think possibly one thing that might contribute to my sense of the ending's being weak is related to your first question: I'm not sure we get enough sense of the nephew for him to be fully effective in mediating between us and Johannes, despite the strengths of the story.

I think one thing that does make the story effective is that it's not trying (much) for a scare factor -- it has moderate ambitions and is going for a light chill. I think it does that reasonably well -- although the chill, if it comes at all, doesn't need to come from the big reveal but from whenever you start to see where it is going. After that it just does a good job of tying up the strings.

On (2), I've always been partial to werewolves; they appeal to my lunatic side. Not at all a fan of the tame versions in contemporary YA fiction, though; I'd rather be almost any monster than one of those.

On to The Host and Mary the Lipton Tea Lady!

Enbrethiliel said...


Thanks for the alternative link, Brandon! =)

The nephew was actually quite annoying to me. He was insisting that everyone answer his questions, but ignoring all of theirs. I understand why this worked from a storytelling perspective, of course, but it's a pet peeve of mine when straightforward questions go unanswered for non-reasons. Maybe if he had had more of a personality, it wouldn't have been so irritating.

I'd pick werewolves, too! =D I wouldn't even mind being a werewolf who is completely savage during the full moon, because a reinforced cage built by my rational self would help me remain a responsible, if even more eccentric member of society.

So the philosopher-poet who writes Siris has a lunatic side . . . Who knew? ;-)

mrsdarwin said...

Thanks for the alternate link; we too had a lot of problems with the sound. I found myself wondering about The Yellow Dressing Gown, and I may have to go listen to that one as well.

You're right that this episode wasn't scary, though I did enjoy the atmosphere layered into the story. The nephew wasn't much of an entity; I was more interested, actually, in the lady selling the photographs and making necklaces. What a beautiful accent she had for Hawaii (at least, we thought that was where it was set; the sound was iffy at that point), and how odd that she sounded almost exactly like the nephew...

And if I were the nephew, I would stop traveling and stay at home, unless he's searching for the ghosts of Johannes and Jenny. After all, he knows their itinerary, and he's chosen to go to one of the places they'd planned to visit.

Having recently read about the djinn and the hobs (our bedtime readaloud is Hobberdy Dick), I'm fascinated by the idea of those who are able to live forever so as to evade the wrath of God, but I don't know that I'd want to be in that position myself.

mrsdarwin said...

After further consideration of question 2: I find myself rather envious of Dorian Gray and his portrait, not simply as a matter of vanity (though sure, that too) but as someone whose body increasingly bears the ravages and at times almost debilitating effects of essentially virtuous choices.

love the girls said...

The actress's melodic voice is amazingly lovely.

I really liked how hidden and inconsequential the ghosts were because that is how they typically are, or at least the ones I know of have been. They almost never make a spectacle of themselves to where you're not sure what you've actually experienced is.

Enbrethiliel said...


Mrs. Darwin -- This story is indeed set in Hawaii! I had to trim down a long draft in which I wonder why Beyond Midnight set most of its plays in other countries, and to take down a discussion question about fantastic vs. ordinary settings in Horror. Your comment on the atmosphere reminds me of all the Philippine-set Hollywood movies I watched last June, for this play's atmosphere is definitely tied to its "exotic" settings. I wonder if Hawaiian residents will have a similar reaction to this play.

The woman and the nephew sound so much alike that I initially thought they were old friends! =P

Would you believe that I haven't read The Portrait of Dorian Gray yet? Dorian isn't a conventional "monster" but he'd make an interesting case study.

I wasn't impressed enough by "Under the Hull Tree" (and something else I listened to on my own, "The Paxtons' House") to want to feature a second Beyond Midnight play; but I wouldn't mind listening to another one without the pressure to write about it. "The Yellow Dressing Gown" was on my shortlist, so I'll try to catch it tonight as well. =)

LTG -- After two comments on the actress's voice, I had to listen to the play again--because I had completely forgotten how she sounded! =P

With the exception of poltergeists, I think most ghosts just want to go about their business with a minimum of fuss. I just wouldn't want to run into a malicious one!

love the girls said...

Miss E. writes : "Ghosts aren't normally as mobile as Johannes and Jenny, are they? In the vast majority of stories, they are local entities with very specific haunts, overly attached to the traumas or passions of the past."

Do we know that Ghosts are somehow attached to trauma's and passions of the past? Or is that just speculation, and a good story writing, because past trauma is frightening to us?

Enbrethiliel said...


With respect to real ghosts whose behaviour we've observed, I think we are making reasonable inferences, even if we also project a lot of our own fears on them. Of course, now that I've written that, two exceptions immediately come to mind . . . The ghosts in my house, who left us alone if we left them alone: introverted at best, reclusive at worse. And the very pleasant ghost named Maggie in Colorado Grande Casino. =)

But I'll agree that ghosts we put in stories may be purely emblematic. Perhaps they roll their eyes over how they are portrayed in Horror stories the way I roll my eyes over the way the Philippines is portrayed in some Roger Corman movies. =P

mrsdarwin said...

Our current favorite ghost story: The Canterville Ghost, by Oscar Wilde. Here, being a ghost is a full-time job and can be thwarted if your old manor house is bought by, say, clueless, pragmatic Americans.

Enbrethiliel said...


No matter how many Oscar Wilde texts I read, they're never the ones which others bring up in conversation! ;-)

It would be nice to read about non-tortured ghosts for a change, though . . .

Sheila said...

Took me several days to get the time to listen to this. And then I was disappointed at its slow pace and overall non-scariness. It's just a sweet, sad story. Nothing at all bad about it, as I can see .... though one wishes they had just gotten married and kept saving as they could so at least they could have been together. Though who knows, maybe they never would have gone at that rate, like the couple in UP! (In fact they remind me greatly of that movie!)

You know, it never occurred to me that "the man" and "the woman" described weren't necessarily man and wife ... I just assumed they were! In retrospect, I suppose they're just acquaintances, and that would be why they don't know much about each other. On the other hand, sort of funny that two random guests at a Hawaiian hotel -- plus a mysterious couple -- would all be from South Africa, with no remark on this.

1. What can Johannes take from it? Stay home? Apparently he hasn't. I had the notion he was on this trip as a way to honor his uncle -- the way my aunt climbed a mountain that her father had died before he could climb.

2. Honestly I can't imagine enjoying anything if I were anything but human. I love being human. I'd take an animal, or maybe an elf, but no monsters, I don't think. Definitely not dead. I wouldn't get much out of a trip if I were dead.

What else to say, but ....


Enbrethiliel said...


I think that the nephew's first takeaway, from the tragic deaths of his relatives, was to travel whenever he could--because if he waited too long, he might not be able to! But now that he knows that Johannes and Jenny have been able to travel after all, though at a much higher price than either of them had imagined they'd pay, do you suppose the nephew will want to stay home?

I think your comparison to Up is great! There's a sense in which it was sad that Ellie never got to be an explorer, but as she herself figured out, her life with Carl was just as beautiful an adventure as any trip around the world would have been.

And being human is great. =) That's partly why I picked werewolf. I'd still get to be human for most of the month. I'd sacrifice some lovely walks under the full moon, though . . .

We're not even halfway through the listen-along and I already predict that the Biotex ad will be everyone's least favourite. =P