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The Dead House


In a visit with the evening caretaker of a morgue in a town in Germany, Twain hears a morbid story of how a man exacted revenge on the people who murdered his family.



Air Dates

  • First Run - December 29, 1978
  • Repeat - July 10, 1979





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16 Responses to Episode 0937

MARK TWAIN SERIES: CBS Radio Mystery Theater produced a total of eleven adaptations from Mark Twain's works for the show; nine were written by Sam Dann with Ian Martin writing only two. [0119] The Real Printer's Devil [0408] Tom Sawyer, Detective [0409] Is He Living or Is He Dead? [0410] The Belated Russian Passport [0411] A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court [0412] The Man that Corrupted Hadleyburg [0413] The Stolen White Elephant [0414] The Mysterious Stranger [0937] The Dead House [0984] A Curious Experience [1002] The Goddess Caper** The show always tried to kick off each new year of their Anniversary (in early January) with a weeklong series written by the same author, and so Sam Dann wrote episodes 408 through 414 to launch the start of their third season. **1002 was based on “The Legend of the Capitoline Venus”

Mark Main

This is a most excellent story. Well acted, and well adapted. Highly recommended!


(Semi spoiler) This is not a Mark Twain story that you want to listen to to be uplifted by (i.e. the Tom Sawyer / Huckleberry Finn tales.) In this last show of the fine 1978 season, Robert Dryden plays a middle-aged Twain who was in Munich, Germany on some kind of (U.S. government?) business. He speaks in slightly halted German (listening to Dryden playing Missourian Twain speaking this language was a treat as the man made the whole character sound quite authentic) and meets up with a woman who wants him to meet her dying lodger. Curiously, in this nation a third of a world away from where Samuel Clemens was then living (Connecticut) the man he meets asks him if he knows where Marianna, Arkansas is, and says that the two were "neighbors" of sorts (with only about 350 miles separating them "as the crow flies") when Twain was in Missouri. The dying man, between wheezes, wants to make sure that Twain will return to the Mississippi River which ran by both of their former hometowns, as he has a special favor to ask as a dying man. The tale he tells is quite sad, and eventually involves a "dead house", where corpses awaiting burial have a ring put on their finger which is tied to a bell to ring in the event they should somehow re-awaken. Very powerful double entendre in the story title.

Matthew Meatre

YEAH! What a great classic!

Papa Don

Thanks for this one - I had no idea than Clemens had written it.

Christine Moya

Yes, this is drawn from a single chapter in "Life on the Mississippi". Mark Twain wrote the book in late-middle age, when he was well known. The overall structure of the book is a tavelogue from the high reachs of the Mississippi all the way to New Orleans. In a sense, Twain is on a trip of nostalgia. But the book can (and does) serve just as well today as a guidebook to anyone who wants to trace the course of the river. (I've done it.) The chapter which has this tale is one of the many asides/digressions that he indulges in. You perhaps wouldn't know it from this story, but the book is also full of the wit and humor which is such a defining characteristic of most of Twain's work. Highly recommended!!

Dawn Elliot

I think this takes place in Marianna, Arkansas, county see of Lee County, which was at one point I believe the poorest county in the Mississippi Delta area of that state.


This was the first NPR Rebroadcast I ever heard. Top Notch all the way. A truly virtuoso performance by Bob Dryden. I think it's easy to under appreciate his performances as he is such a natural talent seamlessly transitioning from one character to another and creating so many powerful voices and invoking so many different images it's hard to believe it's just one actor. The ending to this tale has one of the all time best twists in the series (Thank You Mark Twain). The final confrontation between the two antagonists is absolutely chilling-- as is the mental image created by the not-yet-dead man struggling in his bandages. Very well done! Great Selection!!! Until Next Time.....................................

Lourd D.

I love the fact that this episode largely consisted of one character telling a story, which was very absorbing. A well constructed story. Mark Twain is in some ways the quintessential American celebrity/artist and it is interesting to see how often Twain pops up in books, films, radio dramas, Disney exhibits, etc. I can't think of another writer who occupies the same place in American culture, except for possibly Hemingway.

Mr. LeMay

A good story all the way through, very enjoyable; and the acting is very good as well.


This is by far one of the TOP TEN very best CBSRMT episodes! An exceptional adaptation of a Mark Twain tale! Also, this story has one of the greatest "twists" at the end, that no listener would EVER guess? Sit back, listen and ENJOY!!!

Eric Templeton

Thanks Mark Twain. Thanks CBSRMT. Lastly, thanks to those who bring this series to us. People don’t know what they’re missing if they’ve never listened to radio drama.


I rate this episode ★★★★★ for EXCELLENT. I’d like to start off by saying…WOW!!! If you thought Ep. #0389-PROMISE TO KILL was a dark episode, wait until you hear this one! At first, I thought Ian Martin’s adaptation of a Mark Twain tale was going to be an amusing adventure. But to my surprise, Mark Twain’s story is a dark adventure. Really, really dark. I do feel bad about the dying man who went through hell to seek revenge for his murdered family and ended up in an actual “Dead House” in Munich. I also feel bad for Mark Twain who had to listen to it, perform a “favor” for him, and received a shocking discovery about the money. I won’t give away the ending, but the finale is definitely an eye-opener. The episode’s title is perfect and another way to name it, would be “Confession Of A Dying Man” or “Ring, Dead Bell, Ring.” In our Host’s Prologue, E.G. Marshall speaks about Samuel Longhorne Clemens a.k.a. Mark Twain. In ACT-1, what to do with the dying man and his request. In ACT-2, the Host's important tip: “Avoid the confession of a dying man, unless you’re a priest/doctor because he’s only trying to transfer the cross from his shoulders to yours.” In ACT-3, Mark Twain’s outcome of the dying man’s favor was a lot to bear during his return trip to the Mississippi River. In his Epilogue, E.G. Marshall notes that Mark Twain (Samuel Longhorne Clemens) is some-what immortal because of his work. Fans of this American Writer would agree. The sound effects of boat noises, crying infant, the club of the dying man's family (at the 20-minute mark), clock chiming at 4 o'clock, river flow, birds chirping, horses' hooves and neighs, ambush of gunfire, ringing of the dead bell, and writings on paper were extremely supportive in this episode. The music, that included tunes from THE TWILIGHT ZONE series, were helpful and pulls you in to know how dark this story is going to get. And best of all, is the cast: Leon Janney (as Karl Ritter), Bryna Raeburn (as The Old Lady and Nell Ritter), Robert Dryden (as Mark Twain/Samuel Longhorne Clemens and Krueger), and Ian Martin (as Boat Captain and Frantz Adler). I'd give big props to Ian Martin who wrote this dark adaptation and played a dark Antagonist. Bryna Raeburn was great in her roles, both playing with a thick accent and playing the anxious wife. Robert Dryden's performance as the American writer Mark Twain was convincing with a Southern accent. And bravo to Leon Janney for playing Karl Ritter: the dying man. My favorite line from him was at the 27:27 mark when he said, "I promise you, you will die…I have read it in your palm." The way he spoke those words to the character Kruger, sounded like he was really into his role and really wanted his character to get his revenge claimed. This is definitely one of Leon Janney's best roles on CBSRMT. Those that love Mark Twain's works would get a kick out of this one. But be warned; this story isn't adventurous like "Huckleberry Finn" or "Tom Sawyer" or "A Connecticut Yankee In King Arthur's Court." It's a dark story that will leave you with chills. Until next time…pleasant dreams. =^D


This is another hidden gem of CBSMRT & Mark Twain. Who would have ever thought that Twain had a story about München.

Scooter D and no greens

In my opinion, no American writer understood America better than Mark Twain. Read the chapters in Huckleberry Finn about the Duke and the Dauphin and look about. We are surrounded by Dukes and Dauphins.


The regular CBSRMT writers wrote the scripts for the adaptations. They always say at the beginning of every CBSRMT episode who the writer is, even when it's an adaptation of a classic, (such as Mark Twain).


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