Escape – The Grove of Ashtaroth

Escape’s “The Grove of Ashtaroth” was closely adapted from the 1910 short story by John Buchan, First Baron Tweedsmuir (1875-1940). Buchan was a British novelist and politician who is best known for the book The Thirty-Nine Steps.

This is an episode that is helped along by reading the original work, which is available online at Feedbooks. The short story was written as one long narrative by a character who doesn’t give his name. So, in the radio version, Escape assigned the character the name of the author.

“The Grove of Ashtaroth” is not an environmentally-friendly story. It involves destroying an ancient grove of trees to undo the spell it has placed on one man. While this is being done, a goddess begs them to stop. Apparently, they think she is scary and evil, so they don’t stop until they have killed and destroyed absolutely every living thing in the grove.

As the episode opens, John Buchan and his friend Lawson are exploring Africa when they come to a place so perfect that Lawson decides to settle there. John is surprised by his friend’s reaction, but doesn’t believe his idea to be a bad one.

Three years later John returns to find Lawson in terrible condition and in bad humor. He appears to have arrived at a bad time, but Lawson won’t say why. His foreman, Mr. Jobson, knows that it has to do with the grove of trees on the property. The grove summons Lawson in the night…

Can the two of them find a way to release Lawson from the spell he is under? Or, will they destroy a beautiful thing forever?

“The Grove of Ashtaroth” was adapted for radio by Les Crutchfield. William N. Robson produced and Norman MacDonnell directed. Paul Frees played John Buchen and William Conrad played Lawson. Also appearing were Kay Brinker, Raymond Lawrence, and Eric Snowden. This episode aired on February 29, 1948.