12 Stories They Wouldn't Let Me Do on TV

Alfred Hitchcock Presents
12 Stories They Wouldn't Let Me Do on TV
    specially for
    Good evening, ladies and gentlemen, this is Alfred Hitchcock speaking.
    Being what is probably one of the most obtrusive producers on television has spoiled me. I cannot conceive of giving people stories without adding my own comments. The publishers of this book, being far wiser than the television authorities, have limited my interference to this short preface.
    First of all I should make it absolutely clear to you that these stories will not be interspersed with commercials. You may enjoy them while facing in any direction in any room in the house. Or outside, if you like. Furthermore, you may read them at any time and if you take longer than half an hour for one of them, you will not be penalized. Of course, this information is for those of you with poor memories and good television sets who may have forgotten some of the freedom allowed a reader.
    An anthology of stories, like a souffle, reflects the taste of the person who selects and mixes the ingredients. It matters a great deal, for example, whether onions or garlic are used and when the arsenic is added. I doubt if you will find much garlic or onions in this volume but I am certain you will find more than a little arsenic. I only hope that, like me, you have developed a taste for it.
    This particular selection of tales is primarily aimed at those of you who find television fare too bland. You may not care for some of these stories because you think them too shocking, macabre or grotesque but I am confident you will not find any of them bland or dull.
    The reason why some of these stories cannot be produced on the home screen will be obvious on reading. After all, actors are only human. (Debatable, but true.) And this quality is a severe limitation for anyone attempting to produce Edward Lucas White's "Lukundoo," William Hope Hodgson's "The Voice in the Night," or John Collier's "The Lady on the Grey."
    These and several other eerie tales of the supernatural make up a part of the book but the chief staple is that ever popular crime-murder. But you will look in vain for a story of an underworld killing-homicide as practiced by hoodlums. I have nothing against gangsters, you understand. Some very delightful murders have been committed by professional criminals. By and large, however, the more interesting work in this field is done by amateurs. Highly gifted amateurs, but still amateurs. They are people who perform their work with dignity, good taste and originality, leavened with a sense of the grotesque. Furthermore, they do not bore you afterwards by telling you how they get the way they are. Here is polite and wholesome mayhem as practiced by civilized people and I think it makes good reading.
    I was Johnny-come-lately to television, and some persons have claimed I was waiting for the screens to become wide enough to accommodate me. (An allegation which I stoutly deny.) However, I have become quite fond of the medium and I trust that this book will not be interpreted as a criticism but merely an admission that there are a number of taboos and that there are some stories to which TV cannot do justice.
    But now I had better fade away while you select the first story to read. Good night and good hunting.
Alfred Hitchcock
    Being a murderer myself, I was very interested in the statement recently made by a well-known reviewer of murder stories that "the best and most stimulating detective stories being written today are those that stress the puzzle of 'why' at least co-equally with 'who' and 'how.' "
    It is gratifying to see, even if it is only in the field of fiction, that the character of a murderer is at last being considered worthy of more detailed analysis. In the past too much importance has been attached to discovering the identity of a murderer and the means of apprehending him. On the other hand, I do not consider wasted the time spent on the puzzle of "how," since after all, the method adopted is an indication of the type of man employing it; furthermore, it often decides whether the killer is to become famous, as a failure-or unknown, as a success.
    I would also like to mention that we murderers do not always make a mistake. That fallacy has arisen because only those murderers who have made mistakes ever come to the notice of the police. On the whole, we are very efficient, and taking the number of known cases only, it is evident that we have got away with many murders, in spite of the very large organizations directed against us.
    But the most common misconception held by most people is that a murderer is different from the ordinary man. Too often he is described in exaggerated terms such as "an insane monster" or "a cold-blooded brute." Such melodramatic ideas are far from the truth.
    Actually, a murderer is quite normal, merely possessing greater courage to act on the universal conviction that the true golden rule is "Every man for himself."
    It is for this reason, therefore-to provide authentic data for the detective-story writer-that I have decided to make public my experience of murder. I have been fortunate in being so clever that I am able to relate this experience without fear of unpleasant consequences.
    I felt no animosity toward Susan Braithwaite, personally, when I killed her, though some might consider that I had reason to hate her. I had been very fond of her once and would have married her if she had not been so stupid as to choose Stanley Braithwaite for a husband. Still, as I consider myself a civilized man of the world, I had felt that if she wanted to marry money-bags, that was her own funeral.
    I suppose it was the feminine in her which had attracted me, that was in turn more attracted to the obvious maleness of Braithwaite-a great lout of a fellow, but with the right sort of brains to make his way in the world. He had inherited a little money, and being a city man he was able to make the best use of it. He had made a fair income by dealing on the Stock Exchange, not by the haphazard methods of a gambler, but with the unspectacular method of the investor. It was typical of him that during the record boom on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange, brought about by the discovery of gold in the Orange Free State, he continued his phlegmatic way of taking a profit as soon as a deal showed any, in spite of the fever of optimism that raged on the Exchange. He was thus able to build up and consolidate a small fortune, and when the inevitable recession came, his funds were mostly liquid. Then, instead of being affected by the pervading depression, he quietly bought shares which had dropped to next to nothing and so almost doubled his already swollen fortune when the equally inevitable recovery took place. An infuriating man!
    When I introduced him to Susan, she became greatly attracted by his masterful manner and the success which it spelled. In fact, she was carried away to such an extent that she flew to Europe with him-thus terminating our engagement.
    I had hoped never to see her again.
    Eighteen months later, on answering a knock at the back door of my house, I found Susan on the step, suitcase in hand. When she had comfortably settled herself on the Chesterfield couch in my study, she told me her story. I was not surprised at what she revealed. I could well imagine that Braithwaite's self-assured dominant maleness, which she had preferred to my modest intellectual qualities, would develop into a complacent egoism, ruling with efficient tyranny. When she could bear his insensitiveness no longer, she had walked out on him and had come to me, for she felt that I would help her for old times' sake.
    She did not notice, however, that I was not enthusiastic at the prospect of helping her. Actually, I was highly displeased. After she had jilted me, I had worked her out of my system, at the same time making extensive improvements on my poultry farm. I had made the whole farm self-supporting, and with labor-saving devices and processes was able to run the whole place singlehanded, for I liked fowls and preferred to do all the work among them myself.
    But with Susan there it would have been difficult to continue in the same satisfying way. I knew I would have to entertain her, which meant that I would have had to shelve some of the less important, yet essential work. My routine would probably have got interfered with, and the three thousand chickens, which were at the most awkward age, might have caught cold or contracted some other ailment they are susceptible to.
    Unfortunately, I could not think of any valid-sounding excuse for refusing to help her. Also, she had timed her arrival well: she would have had to stay the night at least, for there was no place in the village where she could have found accommodation and there were no trains back to Johannesburg till the following morning. I knew that once the ice had been broken by letting her stay the night, it would have been even more difficult to send her away the next day. After all, I had once been very fond of her and during the delirium of that time I had told her that no matter what ultimately happened between us, if she was ever in trouble she was to count on my,help; and as I pride myself on being a man of my word, I could not bear to think of her telling our common friends that in an emergency I proved to be a broken reed.
    All this passed through my mind while she chattered away about the cruel things her husband had done to her; but under the pretense of listening I followed the trend of my own thoughts till I became annoyed at the calm way she took my sympathy for granted. From the bits of her conversation I did listen to, I guessed in what manner she wished me to help her, and my annoyance mounted.
    I saw my little bit of money being spent on lawyers; my comfortable and satisfying life being disturbed; my future peace being threatened by complicated emotions; in short, the whole of my nicely settled life being completely upset. I became so enraged that I thought, "Really, I could wring her neck!"
    The actual strangling was more difficult than one would have thought. But the inability to face her, which had led me to go round the back of the couch to get my hands round her throat, turned out to be an advantage. For by crouching behind the back of the couch I was able to press her neck and head firmly against it, and so, by hanging on like grim death, avoid my hands becoming dislodged by her violent kicking, hitting, and threshing for air. Also, when she went limp, I was in a comfortable enough position not to need to relax till I was sure she was dead.
    Her face-dark blue with grotesquely protruding tongue-was rather shocking when contrasted with the pretty animated expression it had had a few minutes before; and her once glossy hair seemed to have lost its blue tints and had become a lifeless-looking black. Otherwise, the sight of Susan's body did not affect me much.
    After making sure that Susan was dead, I pushed her tongue back into her mouth and proceeded to dispose of the body in the manner I had been stimulated to devise when reading of the difficulties other murderers had experienced in this respect. I started the process that night, for though there was no urgency, as it would be days or even weeks before there would be any serious inquiry as to Susan's whereabouts, I was keen on putting my idea to the test. The following morning I was up early as usual and busy at my farm routine.
    One afternoon, about three weeks later, Sergeant Theron of the local police turned up at my place and wanted to know if I knew anything about a Mrs. Braithwaite.
    Sergeant John Theron on duty was a different man from the off-duty Johnny Theron who occasionally, when suitably warmed, entertained us in the back yard of Wiggins' pub by giving a demonstration of Wild West six-shooting. He was a crack shot and crouching slightly, he would fire two guns from the hip with amazing accuracy, at the same time looking from side to side with melodramatic belligerency; then after each salvo he would spit on the muzzles of the revolvers to "cool" them, giving a thigh-slappingly funny impression of a cowboy hero surrounded by dastardly villains.
    But Sergeant John Theron of the South African Police was an alert and intelligent policeman who took his work seriously, and I knew by the way his question was worded that he was sure I did know something about Mrs. Braithwaite.
    I guessed that she had been reported missing and had been traced to my farm. I decided, therefore, to take Theron into my confidence. I told him briefly all about my association with Susan in the past, winding up by telling him that she had been to see me one evening about three weeks before, but that she had left again the same night.

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