Podcast: Play in new window
Join us and outstanding reader Heather Klinke as we creep on into The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman!
Special thanks to Innsmouth House Studios for graciously hosting Chris!
Next week: The Monkey’s Paw!
There is a fantastic reading of this story out on iTunes under the Old Time Horror Radio Podcast. Anna Massey does a terrific job with the reading. You can actually hear that poor woman’s mind crumble as the story progresses. I highly recommend it.
A most excellent story and show guys. Had never read this back in school. I am printing out the text of the story for my wife as back when our youngest was born she had post-partum depression then full blown post-partum anxiety, though from now on I will refer to it as post-partum psychoses as it sounds crazier. Its okay, she and I refer to it as her “year of being f’ing crazy”. Medication saved the day for us that did not exist back when the story was written and I can 100% sympathise with the protagonist’s husband for locking her in the attic and (my opinion) hiring a smoking hot “nanny”. good times…
I have to say I think HPL’s supernatural interpretation is a much more interesting story. A woman suffering form depression and going bonkers in a poorly-furnished room is just sad. A woman getting taken over by the ghost that hides in the wallpaper pattern is F***ING AWESOME!
Had never heard of this story but definitely loved it. So far we’ve been introduced to three Home Run short stories since switching to this format. This is a great path to have taken!
I did find it funny to look up Lovecraft’s take in “Supernatural Horror” and saw that he hadn’t really noticed any of the psychological subtext. Ironic, considering the madness that overtook both of his parents. On the other hand, I find rigid feminist power symbolism interpretation just as rigid and simplistic. It’s the fact that the story straddles both interpretations and holds perfectly together as a character study of a woman suffering from isolation and mental illness that makes the story so damned good.
As for the husband fainting, I felt we weren’t directly being told something. Specifically the fact that she might have injured herself biting the bedpost and removing all of the wallpaper.
I’ve always felt that there is a strong relationship between some Science Fiction tales and Schizophrenic delusions (i.e. The Matrix). In this case we have a great story that rests on the razors edge between psychological realism, ghost story, and feminist statement about the consequences of isolation and well meaning neglect. That’s some good stuff!
Please keep it up!
When I read this story, I began to wonder: is it possible to manufacture a wallpaper that would tend to infect digital devices with cameras with a computer virus, photographed at just the right distance?
Oh, and I forgot to mention, Chad, you said “ascared”…
One detail that the guys didn’t seem to notice is the way the wallpaper around the bed is stripped away “about as far as [the narrator] can reach.” I interpret that as meaning the madwoman previously confined in that room had clawed it down. Wasn’t there also something about gnaw marks on the bed post?
Anyway, even taking HPL’s interpretation, I still don’t know if it’s quite a “ghost story.” I don’t think the woman in the wallpaper is necessarily the ghost of the room’s previous inhabitant. Rather, I think it just shows “history repeating itself,” showing that yes, this room was a prison (not a gym), being locked in with that wallpaper will drive anyone bonkers, and it’s happened before.
Just my $0.02.
FYI.. its 9:20 pm and my dear (formerly crazy) wife has yet to comment on The Yellow Wallpaper. If I never post again, please call the police..
Great episode! Just wanted to share that this story was made into a film in 2011. It stars Juliet Landau as Charlotte (aka Drusilla from Buffy/Angel shows).
I’ve never read this story before, but the whole thing, the excerpts read by Heather (who you really need to get back to read, she was awesome!) were supremely creepy. It’s the whole sort of displaced, cheery tone Heather had in contrast with the severely depressing and unsettling content which makes it all the more creepy.
Whereas I can see the whole psychological and feminist subtext, I would much rather see it as the deeply unnerving psychological horror it comes off as. The image of a woman, and then women, creeping behind the pattern of the wallpaper…GODDAMN THAT’S MESSED UP.
Can’t wait for Monkey’s Paw now, I know the story, or the idea at least, well enough, but I’m curious to know the aspects of the original story.
I love this story and the fact that the author’s last name is Gilman… =:
1: Non-Euclidean Wallpaper would be an awesome band name.
2: Babies do care about wallpaper. When I was a kid and my sister was an infant, we lived for a short time in a house where my sister just loved the wallpaper in this one room. As best as I can recall, it was more of a gold than a yellow, and the pattern wasn’t all crazy, but still. If you held her up to it, she’d just laugh and laugh, every time. Perhaps babies are really entertained by creeping women?
3: If Lovecraft is correct and the wallpaper is sinister, then it is a good thing indeed the baby didn’t stay in that room. Can you image a baby creeping and creeping and creeping around that room?
Oh, and I’m surprised that you guys didn’t talk about the real reason Lovecraft liked this story: the man faints at his first sight of the unexplained and weird. We all know that’s the proper natural reaction.
When they mentioned this story as being in the paper HPL wrote and that they were covering it I was not at all surprised because it ends with a man fainting.
You know, some ladies like men who faint.
Also, it contains the phrase “fungous growths.”
I remember after reading this story in… Jr. High I think, I thought that the room had been previously used to keep some crazy person locked away based on the description of the room. Particularly where she talks about how the wall paper was torn away around the bead “As far as I could reach.” along with the bars on the windows, the nailed down bed and the rings in the walls. I mean if you’re shackled to the wall in a way where you can only sit or lay in bed and you want to lash out, ripping the paper off the wall is one way to do that.
I never thought that the husband was deliberately trying to kill her or drive her crazy. To me, the fact that he fainted when confronted with the full force of his wife’s insanity and hints of his own part in it (he had agreed to take down the wallpaper but didn’t and there must have been great piles of it in the center of the room) is evidence that his intentions were good.
It’s also interesting to note that rats tend to run along the the edges of rooms by the wall. If you have a a lot of rats, or have them over a long period of time or they’re very active, they will leave a “smooch” along the wall from the oils in their fur rubbing off as they brush along side it. (This is a way to know you have rats and how big they are without actually seeing the rats.)
So at first, I thought that long “smooch” on the wall indicated they had rats. But then at the end she says her shoulder fits the smooch and it’s very much like “All work and no play make Jack a dull boy.” Which is as non-spoilery a way I can say it for your younger fans who may not have yet seen you know what movie or read the story it’s based on.
Ha – listen to the show on The Monkey’s Paw later this week – we mentioned when recording that perhaps all of Supernatural Horror is a cover for what Lovecraft really likes in a story: fainting.
Dudes! This episode was fantastic! I have never read this story but I am rushing out to read it immediately. Heather did such an amazing job reading and I was so totally creeped out by it! Ahhh, all the creeping! Wonderfull, wonderfull job!I am loving this new stage of the show. Solid work you guys! Thanks!
Aloha Cthulhu Tribe!
Suspense did a version of The Yellow Wall-paper read by Agnes Moorehead. Dig it. Here’s the web address:
Great episode. I watched the 2011 film only about a couple weeks before you guys mentioned you would be covering the story (BONUS!). The only reason I watched it, was because Chad had off handedly mentioned the story during The Colour Out of Space.
The movie went the supernatural route and I thought that’s how the story was meant to be. After talking about it with someone they said it was nothing like that which made me angry. So I was very excited to hear you guys talk about it and give me the real deal.
As for the ending, maybe she tore her skin and not the wallpaper, but that is just wishful thinking on my part. I don’t think a man would faint at anything less that something gruesome or impossible.
Wow. I would love for the next full reading episode be this story, read by Heather. The way she sped up her narration in places and slowed it down in others was perfect for the slightly (at first) mad narrator.
Please, have her do a full reading?
I have always interpreted the ending as the narrator having hung herself. Her “creeping” over her fainted husband being her swinging body.
I like that interpretation, but I imagine John would have screamed in passed tense at the sight of her hanged body, ‘-What have you done?’ Gilman writes, “‘What is the matter?’ he cried. ‘For God’s sake, what are you doing!’” That doesn’t seem to fit a suicide scenario.
Wow! I always knew Heather Klinke is one damn funny lady, but I didn’t know she was such an outstanding dramatic actor. I’ve read this story several times over the years, and it’s usually included in supernatural anthologies, but never, ever had I made the connection to post-partum depression. Brilliant! And yet it still qualifies as a gold-standard weird tale.
Great show boys! I’m just catching up with my new membership.
“The Yellow Wall” has always given me an especially hollow pangs of dread, particularly that ending. What Gilman describes at the end is a rather common psychotic behavior that most caged animals, including human, exhibit after the stress of confinement has permanently damaged the psyche and nervous system. The sufferer compulsively engages in some physical repetitious pattern that often shows in wear marks on their body and or on there immediate environment. For example the polar bear at the Como Zoo that perpetually pushes off one wall of its tank to bump into the glass at the far side. It almost seems comical and cute until you make out the pink bald spot of his head where he has bumped it against the glass over and over countless times. That’s when you realize he is not playing. He’s insane, and it’s the physical of that madness that hits you, makes you sick to your stomach, and never leaves you once you’ve seen it. For another example lacerated toes are a somewhat common finding with the neglected elderly and demented. Upon debriding, the cuts are found to caused by hundreds of strands of the client’s own hair that they’ve plucked out and wound tightly around and around the base of the toes.
The first time I saw something like this I was dumbfounded. I couldn’t or wouldn’t think of how something like this could happen. It was explained to me later by a more experienced colleague that usually at night these poor unfortunates will do this to themselves compulsively as they languish in isolation and chronic insomnia. It’s a truth you wish you could unlearn, though you never will.
In “the Yellow Wallpaper” John faints as he realizes the origin of the ‘-long smooch around the wall’ and the full depth of his wife’s decent with palpable evidence and visceral clarity. She has been ‘creeping’ around the perimeter of the room, at night, apparently every night, until she has rubbed a continuous depressed track in the wall with her shoulder as it, ‘-just fits.’
So seriously boys, you’d faint too.
Loved your coverage of this story, and hope you guys have a full reading of it someday, because she just brought that character to life in the excerpts.
This show always makes Wednesdays a treat, looking forwards to the next one.
I haven’t read this story, but after hearing this episode will definitely be doing so soon.
I noticed a few comments above trying to interpret what it is that so upsets the husband at the end and makes him feint. I am inclined to agree with ProfMammoth’s suggestion that more is going on than we are told – that she has injured herself somehow and that is what the husband has reacted to.
I don’t know exactly what I am basing this on, but as I heard the reading of the final scene and the husband feinting I pictured her having gouged or ripped her skin from her own face. She constantly was going on about stripping away the wallpaper so they couldn’t lock her back behind it. This made me think she may have been referring instead to being imprisoned inside herself – her mask. Maybe the “wallpaper” imprisoning all those women is the polite face we wear to hide all the emotions, depression and other unseemly things that people feel. It also fits a little with the no woman sneaks about by day – in the day (in public) the wear a mask to hide everything, but by night are free to “sneak about”.
As I said, I haven’t read the book, so this is just the ideas that came to me listening to the auduio. But I have to say coming into the bedroom to see his wife having stripped away her face and constantly circling the room, leaving a bloody “smooch” about its perimeter would be enough to make anyone feint.
Wow, excellent job by Heather Klinke! I love her reading. I also love this story, despite being forced to read it in high school.
i was late jumping on the subscription wagon, and so have spent all day catching up on the fifty shades of Yellow that i’ve been missing. Was completely unfamiliar with this excellent story, or with the interesting-sounding author with the Innsmouth-sounding name. Please consider this another vote to have Heather Klinke do a full reading. (If y’all haven’t done so already; like i said, i’m still catching up…)
Keep up the great work, everyone!
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