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Death Row: Executions and the Death Penalty in Old Time Radio

Capital punishment was the Law of the Land for centuries including the wild west.

29 old time radio show recordings
(total playtime 12 hours, 46 min)
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13 Audio CDs


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Play a sample episode from February 22, 1958:

"Suspense: Five Buck Tip"



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Text on OTRCAT.com ©2001-2019 OTRCAT INC All Rights Reserved. Reproduction is prohibited.

In ancient times, before the rise of the penitentiary system, death was the sentence imposed for most crimes against the state, often an ugly death involving torture. These methods could include impaling, drawing and quartering, stoning, keelhauling, or burning at the stake. The idea was to not simply kill the offender, he was made to suffer for his crimes. Often, the execution was as much a demonstration of the State's power as punishment.

Electric ChairThe United States was formed during the Enlightenment Period when States were adopting the concept of natural and legal rights. Influenced by the Pennsylvania Quakers, the penitentiary system was widely adopted in the new nation. The idea was that offenders should be allowed to endure a period of "penance" under State supervision; after they had paid their debt to society they would be released as reformed individuals. This follows the Constitutional restriction against "cruel and unusual punishment." However, there were still capital offenses, including the most serious crimes such as murder, rape, or treason against the Nation. The Supreme Court of the United States declared the death penalty unconstitutional in 1972 under the Eight Amendment restriction against cruel and unusual punishment but reversed the decision in 1976. 

For centuries, executions were often public, the spectacle adding to the humiliation of the condemned and perhaps acting to deter the populace against crimes against the state. The deterrent effect of capital punishment has since come into question. The invention of the guillotine during the French Revolution was part of a trend to make state executions more "humane" under the premise that an instantaneous death was painless and thereby more merciful. The practice of hanging typically resulted in a lingering death through strangulation but was modified in the 1870s to the "long drop" method which would ensure dislocation of the neck bones to sever the spinal cord to induce instantaneous death.

In the early Twentieth century, American inventors experimented with the use of electricity for execution. During the "Current Wars" between Edison Electric and Westinghouse, Thomas Edison promoted alternating current as the most efficient means of carrying out a death sentence. This had the added effect of stigmatizing the form of current proposed by his rival. Both electrocution and gas chamber executions fell out of favor aw it was evident that the condemned often suffered during the process. 

Most contemporary executions are conducted via the lethal injection method where a series of chemicals and poisons are injected into the condemned person's bloodstream, mitigating suffering by inducing unconsciousness before death. Lethal injection is a highly technical process that is often botched causing undue suffering. The ultimate finality of capital punishment makes it impractical for executioners to "practice" in order to attain proficiency in their art.

The Adventures of Superman, September 1945. A notorious conman, Dr. Bly, is taking advantage of Lois Lane's resemblance to Dixie LaMarr. The cops have an airtight case that Lois has been leading a double life as Dixie, and now Lois is facing the electric chair for murder. 

You Are There, December 19, 1948, "The Hanging of Captain Kidd". On May 23, 1701, Captain William Kidd is condemned to be hanged at Execution Dock at Wapping on the Thames. Prominent Members of the House of Commons are expected to seek clemency for the accused pirate from Lord Orford of the Admiralty. Kidd had sailed with letters of marque from the Admiralty but is accused of using his position to commit acts of piracy. It is believed that Kidd has information which will reflect badly on the Admiralty and possibly result in the dismissal of the First Lord.

GunsmokeGunsmoke, June 26, 1954, "Claustrophobia". Obie Ridgers prefers to be outside, being in town, stuck under a roof, would drive him crazy. After months of coaxing, he finally goes into Dodge City for a night of fun, but while he is away, the bad men who live in the cabin over the hill slaughter Obie's hogs, burn the pen and kill his mule. Before Marshall Dillon can stop him, Obie murders the bad men and Matt has to take him in. The Judge sentences Obie to life in prison, but Obie begs to be hung instead.

Suspense, February 23, 1958, "Five Buck Tip". Tommy Jardine will face the electric chair at midnight, and his girlfriend begs his identical twin brother, Mark, to be with him on his last night. However, Tommy has hatched a plan to have Mark take his place. The plan seems foolproof, only the wildest of circumstances can save Mark. Karl Swenson plays both brothers.

CBS Radio Mystery Theatre, November 21, 1975, "The Hanging Judgement". Mrs. Barbara Grant was killed by a .38 slug. A .32 revolver was found next to the body. Dr. Grant, who was separated from his wife, had been in Las Vegas with Cheryl Stafford, his former receptionist. The doctor previously owned a .38 Police Special revolver but had reported the piece stolen several months ago. Mr. Marshal claims that the story is based on an actual case.

Text on OTRCAT.com ©2001-2019 OTRCAT INC All Rights Reserved. Reproduction is prohibited.

These classic recordings are available in the following formats:

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  • MP3 CDs are delivered by mail. These archival quality MP3 CDs are playable in your computer and many MP3 player devices.



    29 recordings on 1 MP3 CD for just $5.00
    total playtime 12 hours, 46 min
    Add MP3 CD Collection to Cart

    Click here to see disc contents


      29 shows - total playtime 12 hours 46 minutes
      1. Bb 4803315 Tom Walton Escapes.mp3
      2. Cbs Radio Mystery Theater 751121 Hanging Judgement.mp3
      3. Challenge Of Yukon 430918 Kings Ransom.mp3
      4. Defense Attorney 510831 08 Client Mike Tully.mp3
      5. Dr Sixgun 00 Judge Parsons 12 Man Gallows.mp3
      6. Famous Escapes 450000 03 Confederate Soldier Escapes Hanging.mp3
      7. Gunsmoke 530502 Tacetta.mp3
      8. Gunsmoke 540626 Claustrophobia.mp3
      9. Gunsmoke 550212 Chesters Hanging.mp3
      10. Hall Of Fantasy 470403 03 Judges House.mp3
      11. Inner Sanctum Mysteries 450501 Girl And Gallows.mp3
      12. Lightning Jim Disorder In Court.mp3
      13. Lone Ranger 410827 1341 Escape.mp3
      14. Lone Ranger 421116 1532 Devils Sink.mp3
      15. Lone Ranger 460712 2102 Dawn Hanging.mp3
      16. Lone Ranger 520507 3013 Turning Point.mp3
      17. Lux Radio Theater 400909 272 Manhattan Melodrama.mp3
      18. March Of Time 350405 Behind Closed Doors.mp3
      19. Molle Mystery Theater 470117 Corpus Delicti.mp3
      20. On Stage 530528 21 Hanging At Four Oaks.mp3
      21. Richard Diamond Private Detective 490827 Eddie Garrett Case.mp3
      22. Silver Theater 390507 045 Train Ride.mp3
      23. Superman 411119 0278 Panam Highway Pt 03.mp3
      24. Superman 450905 1111 Dr. Blys Confidence Gang Pt 01.mp3
      25. Superman 450913 1117 Dr. Blys Confidence Gang Pt 07.mp3
      26. Superman 470318 1508 Man Without Face Pt 01.mp3
      27. Suspense 580223 Five Buck Tip.mp3
      28. You Are There 481121 51 Hanging Of Robert Emmett.mp3
      29. You Are There 481219 55 Hanging Of Captain Kidd.mp3
  • MP3 downloads are available instantly after purchase!



    29 recordings on 1 MP3 Collection Download for just $5.00
    total playtime 12 hours, 46 min
    Add MP3 CD Collection to Cart

    Click here to see disc contents


      29 shows - total playtime 12 hours 46 minutes
      1. Bb 4803315 Tom Walton Escapes.mp3
      2. Cbs Radio Mystery Theater 751121 Hanging Judgement.mp3
      3. Challenge Of Yukon 430918 Kings Ransom.mp3
      4. Defense Attorney 510831 08 Client Mike Tully.mp3
      5. Dr Sixgun 00 Judge Parsons 12 Man Gallows.mp3
      6. Famous Escapes 450000 03 Confederate Soldier Escapes Hanging.mp3
      7. Gunsmoke 530502 Tacetta.mp3
      8. Gunsmoke 540626 Claustrophobia.mp3
      9. Gunsmoke 550212 Chesters Hanging.mp3
      10. Hall Of Fantasy 470403 03 Judges House.mp3
      11. Inner Sanctum Mysteries 450501 Girl And Gallows.mp3
      12. Lightning Jim Disorder In Court.mp3
      13. Lone Ranger 410827 1341 Escape.mp3
      14. Lone Ranger 421116 1532 Devils Sink.mp3
      15. Lone Ranger 460712 2102 Dawn Hanging.mp3
      16. Lone Ranger 520507 3013 Turning Point.mp3
      17. Lux Radio Theater 400909 272 Manhattan Melodrama.mp3
      18. March Of Time 350405 Behind Closed Doors.mp3
      19. Molle Mystery Theater 470117 Corpus Delicti.mp3
      20. On Stage 530528 21 Hanging At Four Oaks.mp3
      21. Richard Diamond Private Detective 490827 Eddie Garrett Case.mp3
      22. Silver Theater 390507 045 Train Ride.mp3
      23. Superman 411119 0278 Panam Highway Pt 03.mp3
      24. Superman 450905 1111 Dr. Blys Confidence Gang Pt 01.mp3
      25. Superman 450913 1117 Dr. Blys Confidence Gang Pt 07.mp3
      26. Superman 470318 1508 Man Without Face Pt 01.mp3
      27. Suspense 580223 Five Buck Tip.mp3
      28. You Are There 481121 51 Hanging Of Robert Emmett.mp3
      29. You Are There 481219 55 Hanging Of Captain Kidd.mp3
  • Standard Audio CDs are delivered by mail on archival quality media with up to 60 minutes on each CD and play in all CD players



    29 recordings on 13 Audio CDs
    total playtime 12 hours, 46 min

    Death Row Disc A001

    1. Dr Sixgun 00 Judge Parsons 12 Man Gallows
    2. Lightning Jim Disorder In Court

    Add Audio CD to Cart - $5.00
    Death Row Disc A002

    1. March Of Time 350405 Behind Closed Doors
    2. Silver Theater 390507 045 Train Ride

    Add Audio CD to Cart - $5.00
    Death Row Disc A003

    1. Lux Radio Theater 400909 272 Manhattan Melodrama

    Add Audio CD to Cart - $5.00
    Death Row Disc A004

    1. Lone Ranger 410827 1341 Escape
    2. Superman 411119 0278 Panam Highway Pt 03
    3. Lone Ranger 421116 1532 Devils Sink

    Add Audio CD to Cart - $5.00
    Death Row Disc A005

    1. Challenge Of Yukon 430918 Kings Ransom
    2. Famous Escapes 450000 03 Confederate Soldier Escapes Hanging
    3. Inner Sanctum Mysteries 450501 Girl And Gallows
    4. Superman 450905 1111 Dr. Blys Confidence Gang Pt 01

    Add Audio CD to Cart - $5.00
    Death Row Disc A006

    1. Superman 450913 1117 Dr. Blys Confidence Gang Pt 07
    2. Lone Ranger 460712 2102 Dawn Hanging
    3. Molle Mystery Theater 470117 Corpus Delicti

    Add Audio CD to Cart - $5.00
    Death Row Disc A007

    1. Superman 470318 1508 Man Without Face Pt 01
    2. Hall Of Fantasy 470403 03 Judges House
    3. Bb 4803315 Tom Walton Escapes

    Add Audio CD to Cart - $5.00
    Death Row Disc A008

    1. You Are There 481121 51 Hanging Of Robert Emmett
    2. You Are There 481219 55 Hanging Of Captain Kidd

    Add Audio CD to Cart - $5.00
    Death Row Disc A009

    1. Richard Diamond Private Detective 490827 Eddie Garrett Case
    2. Defense Attorney 510831 08 Client Mike Tully

    Add Audio CD to Cart - $5.00
    Death Row Disc A010

    1. Lone Ranger 520507 3013 Turning Point
    2. Gunsmoke 530502 Tacetta

    Add Audio CD to Cart - $5.00
    Death Row Disc A011

    1. On Stage 530528 21 Hanging At Four Oaks
    2. Gunsmoke 540626 Claustrophobia

    Add Audio CD to Cart - $5.00
    Death Row Disc A012

    1. Gunsmoke 550212 Chesters Hanging
    2. Suspense 580223 Five Buck Tip

    Add Audio CD to Cart - $5.00
    Death Row Disc A013

    1. Cbs Radio Mystery Theater 751121 Hanging Judgement

    Add Audio CD to Cart - $5.00
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