Column: Cthulhu Eats the World: Dark Adventure Radio Theater: The Case of Charles Dexter Ward


Hot off the heels of their last radio drama, the exceptionally well-done The Call of Cthulhu, which I covered here, the devoted Lovecraft lovers over at The H.P. Lovecraft Historical Society are at it again with another audio treat to tickle and tantalize your ear holes. This time, they tackle H.P. Lovecraft’s largest work, “The Case of Charles Dexter Ward,” and to do it justice. They have produced their longest audio play yet, one so big that they needed two CDs to hold it all. So, it gets points for giving you plenty bang for your buck, but is it any good?

Of course it’s good. No, check that – it’s great. If you have read any of my previous reviews of the old-timey radio play adaptations of HPL’s stories by the HPLHS, then you know I am gaga for them. Even if you’ve already read the story – and come on, you really, really should have – they are just loads of fun to listen to. These aren’t just audio books; they are fully acted-out productions with a cast of actors, music, sound effects, the whole shebang. Such shows are sadly almost a lost art form, these days. Ss a fan of them, I love that someone is still bringing them out. The fact that they are based off of some of Lovecraft’s best stories is just eldritch icing on the creepy cake.

As for the story, well, I would bet you’ve already read “The Case of Charles Dexter Ward”, but, just in case you have yet to do so, I won’t ruin it here for you. I will say it’s a great tale of curiosity-gone-wrong, the blackest of magic, secrets from beyond the grave, and a neat little mystery, to boot. Go now. Give it a read. When you’re done, come on back here. Don’t worry. I can wait.

So, you’ve either just finished the HPL story, or you’ve already read it. Good, now let’s talk about this shiny new two-CD set. While some things have been abridged for the sake of time, this take on the lengthy story is still remarkably faithful to the original. And as per the norm with the HPLHS, what new bits they have added, usually just a sly joke here or there, only make the story even better and more listener-friendly.

As for the quality of the production, once more, it is top-notch. The actors all sound like people who know what they’re doing, as in old pros and not just well-meaning amateurs. The music that accompanies the narrative is very well-done, going from moody to lighthearted as needed and not missing a beat in the transition. This time around, the musical credit goes to Reber Clark. Last but not least, to round out the great production, there are some good sound effects that go a long way in helping you see the story unfold in your mind’s eye. When the story moves “underground” (and that’s all I’ll say about that), the believable actors, creepy music, and disturbing sound effects really come together to make one hell of an eerie experience.

In addition to a great radio play, the HPLHS always loves to go one step beyond and add some extras to their releases like little props and artifacts to draw you deeper into the story. Such goodies and knickknacks are suitable for framing, or, if you happen to roll the bones in a game of Call of Cthulhu, they could easily be utilized as Grade-A handouts the next time you and your buddies are fearfully flinging dice. In here, you get a postcard picture from the inside of the old Curwen house, a handwritten letter by a notorious occultist, a page from a book of black magic, and a torn-out newspaper article.


Final Verdict: HPLHS’ Dark Adventure Radio Theater presents “The Case of Charles Dexter Ward” is another great adaptation of a classic Lovecraft story. If you’re a fan of the weird world HPL created, then you owe it to yourself to get this and give it a listen. You can get it either as a two-CD set or an MP3 download directly from the creators from the website here: