The Black Mass, 13 November 1964, Relic Radio July 2012
The Black Mass was a horror-fantasy radio drama produced by
Erik Bauersfeld, a leading West Coast radio dramatist in the United States. The series aired on KPFA (Berkeley) and KPFK (Los
Angeles) from 1960 to 1965 on an irregular schedule. Bauersfeld was the Director of Drama and Literature at KPFA from 1962
Bausersfeld's adaptation of The Jolly Corner focused on the story's
elements. Spencer Brydon (Bauersfeld) returns to New York City, and agrees to have
his old family home demolished in favour of a more modern property. Before the work begins, he roams the house at night. As
he does so, he begins to believe that his alter ego - the man that he might have been - is haunting the "Jolly Corner" (Brydon's
name for the house) at night. The ghost eventually advances on him and overpowers him. Brydon wakes up in the arms of his
close friend Alice (Pat Franklyn), who admits that she pitied the ghost, but decides to accept Brydon at face value.
The clear suggestion in Bauersfeld's production was that the ghost actually did not
exist, but represented that side of Brydon's personality that he wanted to suppress - "the other" as opposed to "the self."
Yet this was difficult, if not impossible to achieve - especially at night, when Brydon was plagued by bad dreams
and/or hallucinations. This is not to say that he was schizophrenic; rather he wanted to sustain a facade of respectability.
Alice agreed to accept him, but did so with little conviction in her voice; she knew what kind of man Brydon was. However
he was wealthy, and that made up for a lot.
Constructed largely as a soliloquy for Brydon, Bauersfeld's production emphasized
the central character's gradually disintegrating state of mind. By the end we knew that he had been destroyed by his alter
ago, even if he insisted otherwise.
Remarkably this programme did not show its age; it remains an unsettling listening
experience, but one well worth trying.