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November 09, 2006
January 11, 2007
"The Voice of Doom" is a fairly
common phrase, or at least used I've used it as a college radio
to be. DJ handle, and I've heard tell
of other DJs independently
"I don't want to be the picking the same handle.
'Voice of Doom' about this,
but I just don't think But if you do a web search these
that will work." days on "The Voice of Doom"
you'll find my radio show pages
I thought I knew the source: are at the top of the list.
Clearly "The Voice of Doom"
must have been a villain of It just goes to show,
the radio age, who used it's who you know...
anonymous broadcasts to make
I thought I could hear that
voice in my head, doing it's You know what I mean?
deep, ominous, intonations --
If you don't,
the Shadow does.
So what story, what broadcast? (I think that other people
can hear the same voice.
I haven't been able to find out. They say things like:
"Repeat this in your best
Voice of Doom intonation")
When you ask some WWII-era
geezers about the phrase "The
Voice of Doom", they tend to
tell you that it was a nickname And in Canada, at least
given to the guy who broadcast (broadcasting on the CBC),
the (rather bleak) war news. that person was the young
Lorne Greene, who later
With all due respect to became an actor (of a sort):
the people who were Bonaza, Battlestar Galactica.
actually alive back then,
this has never sounded
quite right to me.
I think that this sarcastic joke
has to be a reference to something To me, the idea that this nickname
else that has now been forgotten. "The Voice of Doom" appeared out of
nowhere, without reference to
something else seems like a deep
violation of what you might call
the Rules of Humor.
"The 'Voice of Canada'?
More like the Voice of
Doom, if you ask me.' "
If you want evidence, I would call That's a pretty funny joke,
this my primary piece of evidence: provided there was already
the movie "The Philadelphia some other "Voice of Doom".
Story", from 1940. The Jimmy
Stewart character makes a prank
phone call, and near the end of ref
it he switches to a kind of
Bela Lugosi voice, and says: This line doesn't appear in
the printed version of the
"This is the Voice of Doom, Philip Barry play, so I
and your days are numbered presume it wasn't used in
from the seventh son to the the stage production: first
seventh son!" performed on March 28, 1939.
Now, to my ear, this is The play was a hit in the
a *clear* reference to spring and they cranked
the radio adventure out a movie version over
stories of the day, from the summer of 1940 and
the villainous voice, to released it before year's
the vaguely oriental end: December 1st, 1940.
"seventh son" babble.
Eight weeks of
Think "Charlie shooting: They
Chan", "Fu Manchu". worked fast in
So: this narrows down the
advent of doom to late
1939, *or* early 1940.
It *could* be from
some related genre
morning (But why
movie no web By around 1937,
serials? search Columbia, Universal,
hits?) and Republic were all
making "talkie" serials.
I've also found the phrase in
a P.G. Wodehouse novel from 1939:
And that was indeed published in
"It seemed to Pongo, as he 1939, in both Britain and the US.
withdrew into the farthest
corner of the room and ran a And *this* pushes
finger round the inside of his the date of origin
collar, that if ever he had back even further.
heard the voice of doom speak,
he had heard it then. To him I doubt that Wodehouse
there was something so was a particularly slow
menacing in the secretary's writer, but given the
manner that he marvelled at usual publication lags,
his uncle's lack of emotion." it's unlikely this was
written later than mid-1939.
-- "Uncle Fred in the Springtime",
p. 112, Penguin edition
So this was a phrase that was
going around, it was on people's
minds; and I take it as significant
that all three of these references
are from adult culture.
Whatever the source, it
can't be something that This alone
appealed solely to kids. raises doubts One point in it's favor:
in my mind movies are a *global* art
about the form, that might explain
movie serial the two references on each
theory. side of the Atlantic.
But then, perhaps
One oblique reference that
needs to be dealt with is the Yes, quite a bit: he
Sherlock Holmes movie from 1942, was essentially a
"The Voice of Terror". resident of New York,
Hollywood and France
According to my theory, as well as England.
this "Voice of Terror"
is a knock-off of There is another way [ref]
something else. of taking it though:
It could be that I've That could account
confused my memory of for my memory of
The history of popular "Doom" with "Terror", having heard a
culture is full of and conflated two villain recite
cases of similar quite separate things. "This is the
invention by imitation Voice of Doom"
(or rather, mutation).
The Shadow => The Batman => Spider-man Jimmy Stewart
and that Bela
Gladiator => Superman => Ultraman => Inframan Lugosi tone.
What radio shows
could it possibly be? And having just watched
"The Voice of Terror"
Everyone's first again, I find that The
thought is "The Voice there is a Nazi
Shadow", and that's villain voice, with
a strong contender. hokey German accent.
It fits the time period, If that's the
and it's a show that was source, it's a
popular with adults as *very* confused
well as children. memory.
But the original "Shadow"
was from 1931: the familar GHOSTS_OF_THE_SHADOW
series of stories about
the Lamont Cranston/Margot
Lane duo didn't start (There *could* have been a
until 1937. "Voice of Doom" in the old
anthology version of the show,
That leaves a few years perhaps in 1936? But the timing
to catch people's there looks like a stretch.
attention with a "Voice Dropping references to a 2 or 3
of Doom" story. year old radio show seems unlikely,
even granting a slower pace for
The only trouble with the 1930s.)
this is that a lot of
the post-1937 episodes
have actually survived
enough), and at this All the way back to the
point I've heard a first Cranston/Lane story
hell of a lot of them. ("The Death House Rescue",
Sep 26, 1937, with Orson Welles).
really, after Why is the coverage
going over the so good? Surviving
checklists recordings of 30s
carefully, I radio shows are
see there are not that plentiful.
a number I haven't
heard, including Perhaps it's because
the intriguingly Orson Welles was
titled "Village involved at that
of Doom". point: he was always
ahead of the curve.
But the more I look
into it, the less Or it might just be
plausible it seems a reflection of the
that "The Voice of success of the show.
Doom" was a Shadow
Most (though not quite
all) of the Shadow But there were some
radio shows had a war time sabotage
relatively small scale plots, later in the
focus: small gangs of 40s, at least.
criminals and a handful Combine that with an
of killings. anonymous threat
schtick, and you've
And the Shadow did not got The Voice.
have recurring villains
ala Moriarty. If "The But esthetically this
Voice of Doom" were a would also have been
Shadow villain, he would quite awkward...
have appeared in just a The Shadow himself
single episode. already has a rather
How likely that this voice: another
would be enough to character like that
lodge in the minds of would seem crowded.
If not the Shadow,
Back in 1938/9 there Radio plays began in the 30s,
weren't *all* that but a lot of them were really
many big radio adventure done in the 40s and 50s
This was *in parallel* with
Though perusing one the rise of television, a
of my references, I point a lot of people forget
see some more these days -- they think
candidates than I someone flipped a switch in
expected... but 1950 and everyone threw out
few of these look their radios.
candidates: Much of the "old time
radio" you're likely
From Frank Buxton and Bill to have heard is from
Owen's book "The Big the '40s, if not later.
(1966), I can get what
looks like a reasonably
complete listing of radio
shows, and it includes the
beginning dates for most of
them (though strangely, it
skips the ending dates, as
though one could still tune
in to the Blue network and
hear the "Spelling Bee"). (Now that's
It is unfortunately Age, eh?)
and lacks a date index, but
with a little work we can
still use it to get a
listing of most
shows of the 1930s:
True-Detective Mysteries (1929, CBS) based on true incidents
Sherlock Holmes (1930, NBC)
Eno Crime Club (1931, CBS) later called "Crime Clues"
Street and Smith Detective (1931) narrated by "The Shadow"
Fu Manchu (1932, CBS)
Thurston, the Magician (1932, NBC)
Charlie Chan (1932, Blue)
The Adventures of (1932, Blue) the captain spins a tale
Jack Armstrong, (1933, CBS) side-kick to an explorer
the All-American Boy (Johnny Quest with bad acting)
The Witches Tale (1934, Mutual)
Omar the Mystic (1935, Mutual)
The Bishop and (1936, Blue) bishop and ex-con solve crimes
The Shadow (1937, Mutual) Lamont Cranston, Margot Lane
Alias Jimmy Valentine (1937, NBC Blue) the O'Henry safecracker
Attorney-at-Law (1937, NBC Blue)
Big Town (1937, CBS) news editor: Edward G. Robinson
Don Winslow of the Navy (1937, Blue) based on comic strip
Mr. Keen, (1937, NBC Blue)
Tracer of Lost Persons
Under Arrest (1938, Mutual)
The Green Hornet (1938, Mutual)
Silver Theater (1938, CBS) star vehicle. more dramatic?
The New Adventures (1939) Rathbone/Bruce
of Sherlock Holmes
Against the Storm (1939, NBC) serial drama
Sky Blazers (1939, CBS) aviation adventure
Not many good candidates here.
Many of them have the wrong sort of focus
("Attorney-at-Law"), and many seem I still need
unlikely to get much of an adult to look into But the
listenership (e.g. "Sky Blazers"). "Fu Manchu". "anonymous"
Perhaps schtick is
"The unlikely with
Green Fu Manchu,
Hornet?" where the
But then... why not Sherlock Holmes itself?
I had a mental block on that at first,
because I knew it wasn't "The Voice of
Terror". But there's no logical reason
that there couldn't have been a Holmes
radio script about "The Voice of Doom",
which they later changed to "Terror" To avoid
for some reason. confusion with
Holmes was one of
radio's first big hits, Or perhaps
beginning in 1930. "The Black Bat".
After they had run out (See below.)
of Doyle to adapt, they
might have done a "Voice
of Doom" story...
But then... much like
the Shadow, there are
many of these Holmes And it seems that there
episodes available on were various different
tape or mp3, and once series of Holmes shows,
again, I've heard many with a gap between them
of them, but found no from 1936 to 1939:
"The New Adventures of" series with
Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce
starts up in *late* 1939: October 2nd.
And the titles for the
first few years all
look like original
Conan Doyle stories. In later years,
Considering when the Bruce team show
"Philadelphia Story" their chops by
film was released, the doing great
Sherlock Holmes theory performances of
is doomed. some lame-ass
Dennis Green and
How about an *actual*
There's some stuff out there about
"Lord Haw-Haw" that's interesting... This is a name
I've seen before (In a Corto
"Haw-Haw" was a Brit that at least once, Maltese story.
went over to the Nazi's and but I didn't An anachronism,
broadcast reports "predicting" understand it. come to think of
accurately where the next it: those were
bombing would occur. In the States I set before WWII.)
think we mostly
Presuming you remember "Tokyo
I've seen the don't need to Rose" as the
barest of hints worry about canonical
that this anti-aircraft propaganda
"Haw-Haw" fire, that broadcast, but But I see that
broadcast may sounds like it seems that in "Lord Haw-Haw" is
have been called a great trick Europe it was popular with a
"the voice of for a "Lord Haw-Haw". certain kind of
doom" (a remark propaganda right-wing
from a guy in an broadcast: commentator -- if
imdb comment on How could you you say anything
"The Voice of *not* listen? negative about Our
Terror".) Glorious Leader
you're a modern
My take: "Haw-Haw".
Would Wodehouse be
about him in 1939? Though it could be that the joke was
that Lorne Greene's broadcasts were
Jimmy Stewart in 1940? so scary that he might as well have
been doing propaganda for the enemy.
But what about that "seventh son"
business? That's an absurd
malapropism, of course, but it
sounds a lot like a parody of
mystic mumbo-jumbo from radio or
pulp or *possibly* something like
a Republic serial.
One odd piece of
there's an obscure
Robert E. Howard
story titled "The
Voice of Doom"
Apparently this went
unpublished until the If this article is to be believed:
1980s (?!), but it's
difficult to find an
Howard (?!), however
it's notable that
Robert E. Howard
died in 1936.
This could be
a very early This was a boxing story (!)
sighting. and it is only available in
"Crypt of Cthulhu #39".
But there's no
reason to assume "Crypt of Cthulhu" was a
that this was small fanzine, or rather
his own choice "A Pulp Thriller and
for title; and Theological Journal",
for all I know edited by Robert M. Price.
it may have been
assigned Issue #39 was dated
posthumously. "Roodmas 1986".
UNDESERVED_TITLES That may have been the
only publication of that
This raises Howard story. I infer
another that he was not a big
association success in the ring.
could "The I see I could order
Voice of a copy online if I
Doom" have were willing to pay
been a $100 or so...
"Description: 1986. 8.5 x 5.35",
Or even a stapled wraps, covers yellowed
fighter/ with cigarette smoke odor."
Now *that's* salesmanship.
on the phrase It just needs some
show that it's touches of green
alive and well slime, unidentified
on the sports gray ash and a
pages. leather strap of
Late breaking news:
I've acquired a copy
of this (priced more
reasonably): The story
itself is straightforward
boxing tale (written
in the style of H.P.
Lovecraft) where a boxer
is haunted by the voice
of a man he killed in
a boxing match.
Let's try reasoning backwards,
from later uses of the phrase. In 1948, there was
a Superman radio
After 1939, "voice of serial titled
doom" sightings are "The Voice of Doom".
not that unusual.
In November 1941 there was a
novel featured on the cover of "Black Book": stories
"Black Book Detective", titled about Tony Quinn, aka
"The Voice of Doom". "The Black Bat".
Now: consider that while Written by a
the world of pulp fiction G. Wayman
and pop culture in general Jones, (a He was also
is not noted for radical pen name for the author of
breaks of creativity, they Norman A. "The Phantom
do not usually make their Daniels... Detective",
thefts grossly apparent by not that which had a
using a precisely that helps.) run almost as
identical name. long as Doc
are the rule: if Though...
one thing seems The Batman: May 1939
to work, they try The Black Bat: July 1939
something else MUTATION
that's similar. This one hardly counts
as "minor variation".
For example, to my
eye, "Chandu The It's such a
Magician" (1949) is So, if there was dead-heat it Connecting
an obvious some memorable might be a the Lugosi
descendant of "Omar pulp/movie/radio spontaneous Dracula
the Mystic" (1935), villain named parallel. from 1931
but they didn't want "The Voice of with the
that to be *too* Doom", how is it Shadow's
obvious, hence the that only a few cloak was
rather awkward years later the enough to
(re-)naming. "Black Bat" gang put bats
had the nerve to in your
recycle the name? belfry.
the "Black Book"
vs. "Black Mask"
Maybe they were
an outfit with
a lot of nerve...
For some reason the
original -- despite it's
widespread influence --
was not so memorable (?!)
Somewhere, sometime in the
late 1930s, a stone dropped
into the water, generating
many ripples... and then
rapidly sank out of sight.
And so, we're
nearing the end
of my knowledge I've heard it suggested
of doom... that I should apply for
a research grant.
"Doom Research Labs" ?
One last point: a friend at
Stanford -- with a Jewish
background I think --
suggested to me that "the
voice of doom" might be a
If you're wrinkling your
brow at that notion, it
is probably because the
version of the Bible you're There is a little
familiar with has very (but only a little)
little of that sort of "doom" in the versions But then,
stuff -- available at these bible
I gather that the engines
King James is always
actually a rather seem to
restrained British be really
translation. "I say, good man, weak.
I believe that
This friend was the end is near." Once, I was
familiar with a coming up
version used in a empty on
bible study class "love" in
when he was a kid, the bible
which had some gateway.
heavier stuff in it. "DOOM! Doom
is at hand!" (I should
When you start thinking
about the *meaning* of
the word "doom" and the
various synonyms you
might associate with it
in translation, the Consider "The Doom Book"
list starts getting of Alfred the Great
pretty wide: (reign: 871 - 899).
Doom dooms = laws, judgements
Destiny And apparently
Fate "deemings" and "deeds"
Judgement are related to "dooms":
"The Domesday Book"
The Lord? of William the
It's hard to avoid a list of real estate
"The Voice of The Lord" holdings in 1086.
in the bible.
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