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The Tell-Tale Heart


An unlucky family is forced to live with their perverted uncle, where they are forced to face endless chores, hunger, and even sexual harassment.



Air Dates

  • First Run - January 11, 1975
  • Repeat - March 16, 1975
  • Repeat - July 1, 1979





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29 Responses to Episode 0202

Dryden's portrayal of the uncle is one of the creepiest characters in radio history. Great episode.


just justified that uncle Jonas getd what he deserves.


I totally agree with you on "The Tell tale heart", Fred Gwynn's performance was very memorable. What did you think about the adaptation's of Poe's stories? Like the story and character changes and the modernization in stories like The pit and the pendulum, The black cat, the oblong box, and the masque of the red death?


A man and his wife ask an uncle if they can come to live and work with him. The uncle is very interested in the wife and interested in getting rid of the husband. The husband protects his wife and loses his mind in the process.

Rey Christian

A Poe adaptation which builds a whole new story around the bare bones of the original. Here we have a down-at-heels city family coming to live with grasping, nasty old "uncle Jonas" on his farm. The suffering family consist of Charlie who lost his job because of a... mental problem, his wife Dora and their little girl. Not content to work them to death, the malevolent old man also lusts after Dora. To make a long story short... The old man manages to provoke Charlie to the point where the mental instability, which is central to the story, seems irrelevant. I can't help thinking that the Poe story elements were grafted onto an existing plot outline the writer had to hand. Certainly the CBSRMT had to be written so hastily that this seems a reasonable explanation. It may not be a good Poe adaptation but it's not a bad episode.

Dr. Sadang

Fred Gwynn’s first appearance on the Radio Mystery Theatre. A brilliant adaptation of the Poe classic, “The Tell-Tale Heart”. An out of luck family seek assistance from a churlish and perverse old uncle who agrees to take them in on his isolated farm. He works them hard, feeds them little, makes advances on his nephew’s wife, and is unmoved when their daughter dies from the stress. Seems like not much happens in the story, but I never felt that the story was dragging. Packs a wallop at the end. Superb story.


With Fred Gwynne.

Dr. Sadang

"The Tell-Tale Heart" is one of the weaker RMT Poe adaptations, but it's still wonderfully creative and enjoyable. I think the basic problem here is that this script would have worked better without any reference to the Poe story at all; it really isn't needed--feels tossed-in, really, with those occasional references to the clock etc.--and without it, the script might have come to a more logical and satisfying conclusion. But then again, the whole story is pretty illogical. In Poe's original, the narrator is quite mad right from the start, and obsessed with the old man and his "vulture eye." In the adaptation we have a man who is perfectly rational, yet seems to crumble with unbelievable ease. It's never clear why he is so incredibly passive, even in the face of his daughter's death (which itself isn't terribly believable). And surely everybody knows that you can't just plant human corpses in a field, like trees! This is clearly not very well thought-out in script terms. Still, a lot of good menacing atmosphere, and a terrific, if one-dimensional, villain.


I think I hate the old guy in this episode more than any other RMT villain. He was dripping with evil. The only question was why he wasn't bumped off earlier. Didn't he also play a twisted codger who has a fortune in gold and won't give any to his poor nephew? This is an interesting adaptation of the Poe classic but not as good as "Berenice" or "The Oblong Box".


I love any episode with Fred Gwynne in it. He just has a great voice for radio. I just love those happy endings.... driven to madness in a completely different world. Love this stuff!!!


I hate to admit it but this was not one of my favorites. Seemed to lack realism to the extreme. I failed to see why they were "forced" to stay. Particularly after the death of their daughter. Well actually through the whole thing. It makes no sense that these people would endure this. Even if there was a logical reason to stay they would have shoved the old man on his rump and gone about their business. Who was rationing out the food? The old man? Again a quick shove and you get all the food you need. Lastly the ease at which the old man gets Gwynns character to go back to work after all that had happened was not effective for me at all. With all that said I still enjoyed listening to it. Just wouldn't choose this one as a favorite.


yeah, the scary and thriller episodes are the best. however, in all the shows there really are a limited number of scare-your- socks-off shows. in fact, i believe Himan Brown, the producer, had on his one- sheet an item called Number of Socks To Be Scared Off which he would rate similarly to how we vote on each episode. i could be wrong, of course.


I thought it was a good tale . . . in an ugly and revolting kind of way! That is, the abuse was "real" in its way and causes us to throughly hate the villian and root for his demise. But Poe? Really, not at all. In fact the only way anyone would or could connect this to Poe . . . is because E.G. and Himen tell us it is. That, and the little intro thingy about the narrator's being mad and a couple of allusions to his acute hearing. I wonder . . . if this tale might have been "pre-written" as it were . . . already in the can . . . and if Himen might have asked George Lowther to adapt for the special Poe week. ??? That would explain it in my book . . .


I am such a Fred Gwynne Dryden fan. I hope to run across more CMT with Fred Gwynne. He has such a perfect voice for radio. Robert Dryden played a good old man voice but he sounded a lot like the granpa from "Hey, Arnold." He just wasn't creepy enough and he didn't sound nearly as evil and sadistic as his character should have sounded. Well, maybe a bit fresh at times. All in all, it was a good, solid show. A very nice adaptation but I think it strayed a bit from the original plot line of EAP. There was too much drama/soap and not enough horror. It was, after all, based on a "horror story." I didn't "feel" the fear the way I do when I hear TTH read aloud during an EAP celebration/event.


I agree with others that this wasn't a very good adaptation of the original story, even if the acting was great. I understand adaptations from short stories to longer audio tales isn't always easy nor always with the best results. I doubt I could do any better than GL did.


Without a doubt this is my all time best. Gwynne and Dryden were just fantastic in their portrayals and both continue to be my radio favorites.


The "tell-tale heart" is my favorite one.


I love this series, and especially Fred Gwynne's roles... but this episode is quite unsatisfying to me. He and the always brilliant Robert Dryden are as good here as in any other show in the series, but the level of Gwynne's unrealistically stupid behavior from the outset is just too damned irritating to me to enjoy it fully. What kind of moronic pussywillow is Charlie? I understand his nervous disorder but good God, man, ACT. And even if I could accept that flaw, why would his otherwise smart and capable wife be just as weak? What kind of parents allow anyone to endanger their child, and then watch that child getting sick and sicker and not act, no matter the trouble? All the way around, there are ridiculous stressors and even more ridiculous non-reactions... to the point that as fantastic character actors as they are, the story itself (as related to Poe as flowers are related to accordions) betrays them. Too little, too late, and just unsatisfying.

Mike C

Mike C., desperate people do desperate things to the detriment of themselves and their families every day.


I enjoyed this one quite a bit. The epilogue really sold it.

Tim G.

I love the performances in this one, especially Dryden as the creepy/evil uncle, but there's so little connection to the Poe story that you wonder why they bother to tried to make it at all. It would've been a good episode without the Poe tie-in.


For the people who think it's not realistic for a family to be trapped in a situation like they are in this story, I really don't think it's unreal at all, especially during Poe's time. Many people were trapped on farms, and they didn't have the same kind of laws to protect children, or people in general back then. Even in modern times, there are people who are trapped in abusive situations and they basically can't do anything about it. (Just recently, there was a news story that came put about the children trapped in a house with cruel parents who kept them tied up and starved them, etc. Not to get off-topic, but I am just saying that real stories prove the realism of stories like this particular episode.) That's what makes this story so disturbing. It was very well done and the villain was excellent in his role....too good, if you ask me, lol! Even though the acting is superb, it is not a favorite episode of mine, due to the disturbing content. I believe that a situation like this could truly happen in real life, and in fact, they do happen. It gives me the shivers.


Just a follow up to my last post. Of course, I realize that this story doesn't have much to do with the original Poe story. (I have heard other adaptations that were closer to the original, although they weren't done as well.) Also, this story is set in more modern times because there are cars and other technology, etc. But my point was that this story is based on an old story, and abuses like this happens in modern times too. Not everyone can "fight back" or do anything about their situation right away.


Not a favorite of mine. Not much tie in to Poe's story at all. Storyline considering the times, yes there is abuse like what happened but I can't see many parents staying on after their child is killed by the person they are staying with no matter the reason. Or not just taking more food. A weak story not living up to more potential.


Very disturbing story. If you use RMT like I do, to help you fall asleep, you might want to avoid this episode.

Melanie C

As always, I enjoyed Fred's performance! And Robert makes for an unmistakably lecherously evil and vile man! I hoped Fred's character would pull himself together and get away with his righteous deed!

Jim K.

Please, where can I find the script of this one? I want my students to use it for a readers's theater activity.


Boy,the actor who is playing the uncle (the late Robert Dryden) IS .... DEFINITELY.... CREEPY!!! YikesUgghhh!!!

Robert W.Hudgins

Too much change from the original in my opinion.


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