Alfred McLelland Burrage was born in 1889, in Middlesex, England. His father and uncle were both successful writers, which may account for his early writing skill. He published his first story at the age 15. Later he fought for his country during World War I, joining in 1917. He was evacuated in April of 1918, due to trench foot. Burrage wrote a book about his experiences in the war titled, WAR IS WAR (1930). He published it under the name ‘Ex-Private X’ because he said “were it otherwise I could not tell the truth about myself and others”. He used the pseudonym for some of his other works as well. He also published some young adult books under the name Frank Lelland. A few of his stories were adapted for television and radio. His most famous tale ‘The Waxworks” was adapted for the television series Alfred Hitchcock Presents (1959). The radio program Suspense aired three versions of it, and The Price of Fear also used it, featuring the legendary actor Vincent Price. His short story “Playmates” appeared in the TV show The Schaefer Century Theater in 1952, which featured the television debut of actress Natalie Wood. Burrage died in 1956.
1. “The Green Bungalow” (1919) – A man tells his boss he needs time away somewhere peaceful and quiet due to medical concerns. The boss insists he use a green bungalow he owns. When the man and some friends arrive there, odd things begin to occur. A door keeps blowing open exerting a powerful force of some kind. Sounds of a struggle are heard, and two men are seen engaged in a violent struggle before vanishing. The place was the scene of a murder, and something which remains wants the killer brought to justice.
2. “Playmates” (1927) – A wealthy man adopts a girl from someone he didn’t like. Normally he didn’t care for children but viewed the adoption as an experiment. There is no love between the two. He allows her to teach herself from his vast library of books, choosing not to send her off to school. With no one her own age to play with, she lacked social skills and never displayed any enthusiasm about anything until they move to an old house in the country. At the new place several ‘invisible’ playmates began playing with and changing her. When others start to see them too, things change for everyone in the house.
3. “The Waxwork” (1931) – A freelance journalist stays overnight alone in a wax museum’s ‘Murderers’ Den’ to write an article about the experience. He believes he’ll be fine, as he’s not superstitious. The night proves an eventful one. The effigy of a French mass murderer Dr. Bourdette begins to speak to him. Bourdette was never found but was believed dead. Bourdette was said to be a master mesmerist who could use those abilities to paralyze his victims while cutting their throat with a shaving blade.
4. “The Sweeper” (1931) – A young lady takes a job working as an attendant to a rich, older woman. The elderly woman is viewed by most as difficult but shows a propensity to give generously to beggars. After some time, the younger lady befriends her boss. The older woman grows nervous when the season changes to fall, telling her she believes she will die during the season, either that year or one soon after. She’s more disturbed when she hears someone sweeping the leaves on a path near her house. It’s peculiar because of the lateness of the hour and the fact that none of the servants admit to doing it. When the attendant goes to see who is sweeping the path the next evening, she encounters a gaunt, semi-transparent man with a malicious stare.
5. “Smee” (1931) – A group plays a game on Christmas Eve. It’s similar to hide and seek but without knowing who they’re seeking. Each participant is given a folded piece of paper. Most are blank, but one has the word “Smee” on it. That person will be the hider sought by the other players. The lights are turned off, and the one designated Smee sneaks away to hide. When the signal is given, the search begins. Whenever another player is encountered they ask if they’re Smee. If they aren’t, they say so. If they are, they don’t answer, and the one that found them joins Smee while others seek them out. In this story it’s played in a darkened house, and they seem to have acquired an unknown extra player.
6. “I’m Sure It Was No. 31” (1955) – An 18 yr. old boy is invited into a house for tea while trying to locate a new house for his mother and him. There are two women inside. One is “less than 40”, and the other 17. He stays for a while and falls in love with the younger girl. When he returns to the house a few days later, he finds a different family living there who say they’ve been there for many years.
Article by Matt Cowan