February 1955 Popular Electronics
Table of Contents
Wax nostalgic about and learn from the history of early electronics. See articles
published October 1954 - April 1985. All copyrights are hereby acknowledged.
Just in time for Halloween,
John T. Frye's teenage sleuths Carl & Jerry unexpectedly recorded a late-night
conversation between two men where they plot how to dispose of the "body" when death
occurred as a result of prolonged choking. Employing their trademark technical prowess
and scheming ability, the pair sets a trap for the perpetrators and dutifully summon
the authorities as they complete their nefarious act of the night before. Halloween
comes into play because the recordings were made for use in creating sound effects
during the reading of Edgar Allen Poe's
The Pit and the Pendulum and
The Cask of Amontillado.
This story, which appeared in a 1955 issue of Popular Electronics magazine,
is a little dark compared to a typical story.
Carl & Jerry: Two Detectors
By John T. Frye
At Jerry's invitation, Carl had accompanied him to Carter's Feed Store on their
way home from school. Not until they were inside the store did the long and rangy
Carl learn that his chubby companion had a reason behind his invitation: he wanted
help in carrying home some of his recording equipment that was at the store. Jerry
thanked Mr. Carter profusely for something - Carl could not make out exactly for
what - and the two boys started home. By some chance Carl found himself carrying
the tape recorder that weighed a good thirty pounds, while Jerry padded along carrying
a timer clock whose weight could be measured in ounces.
"You know," Carl ruminated aloud, "I used to wonder why you didn't take up with
a good strong packhorse for a chum instead of me; but then I realized you would
have to feed a horse!"
"Let's not be bitter!" Jerry said as he delicately steadied the clock on top
of his flat-top crew cut with the right forefinger while, with his left hand on
his hip, he minced along with the exaggerated prance of a baton twirler beside the
trudging Carl. "You are a victim of what might be called muscle oblige, which is
French for, 'Them as has muscles have gotta use 'em.'"
"That's so nice to know," Carl observed sarcastically. "Why did you have this
recording junk down at the feed store, anyway?"
"I wanted to make a recording of rats squealing, and that store has got the rats.
I nailed a piece of meat to the floor just under the microphone and set this timer
clock to cut the recorder on for fifteen minutes around midnight. I figured that
by that time the rats would be having a real ball and I ought to get some dandy
"And why," Carl patiently pursued, "did you want a recording of rats squealing?"
"For the new party game tape I'm working out called Horror Story Sound Effects.
On this tape will be several sound effect strips, each one representing the sounds
that might have been heard in an important scene from a well-known horror story.
At a party this tape will be played in the darkness and the guests will try to guess
the title of the story represented by each sound effect. As an example, I rasp a
mason's trowel across a brick a few times, rattle a chain, and give a muffled crazy
laugh with the microphone shut up in my clothes closet. That represents the scene
where Fortunato is being walled up in The Cask of Amontillado, by Poe."
"Hey, that's keen," Carl applauded.
"For The Pit and the Pendulum, I want to use the sound effect for the
story's climax where the swinging crescent of sharp steel is just about to cut into
the victim while the rats are squealing and fighting as they gnaw at his food-smeared
bonds. Swishing a wood lath back and forth in front of the microphone takes care
of the sound of the swinging knife, but nothing sounds like a rat squealing but
a rat himself."
"Well," Carl observed as they reached the basement entrance of Jerry's laboratory,
"We'll soon know what we've got on the tape."
In a few minutes the recorder was set up and the boys were listening intently
to the faint rustling sounds coming from the speaker. At first, these were the only
sounds heard, but after a few minutes the rats apparently became accustomed to the
slight noise made by the running recorder and returned to their feast. As they did
so, their fighting and squealing rose to a crescendo which was all Jerry could want.
He reached over to switch off the recorder, but just as he did so a sound came from
the speaker that stopped his hand in mid-air. It was a man's gruff voice, faint
and muffled, but clearly understandable:
"You're late. How come?"
"The job took longer than I expected," a younger man's voice replied. "She took
an awful lot of choking before she finally died and I had to drag her into the garage."
"No one saw or heard you, did they?
Those Hollywood types get a lot of attention."
"I'm sure they didn't. Now I've got another problem. The boss says I've got to
get rid of the body right away. How about your helping me dump it tomorrow night?"
"Okay. Do you think we ought to cut it up first to make identification impossible?"
"That won't be necessary. We can just throw the body on your flatbed truck and
spread a canvas over it and then drive to that old abandoned stone quarry west of
town. Once it's at the bottom of that, no one is ever going to find it."
"All right, I'll be over at your place with the truck about twelve-thirty tomorrow
night; then we can-"
At this point the slapping of a freed end announced that the short tape had passed
through the machine.
"Holy cow!" Carl breathed softly, "What a time to run out of tape! We've been
listening to a couple of murderers."
"And the victim must have been a pretty Hollywood starlet," Jerry said, his staring
round eyes matching his round face. "That microphone was hanging just below a window
that opens out into an alley. Those killers must have been standing just outside
"Well, what are we waiting on?" Carl demanded as he jumped to his feet. "Let's
take this recording down to the police."
"Hold on," Jerry admonished. "Don't forget that since the police found we were
behind that starling-scaring business, we are not exactly the fair-haired boys with
them. If we take this down there now, they will think we cooked the whole thing
"Surely you're not going to just sit there and let those crooks get away with
choking that pretty little starlet to death, are you?" Carl demanded as he paced
impatiently up and down the laboratory.
"No, but we've got to go at this calmly," Jerry announced as he assumed his favorite
position on the couch with his head pillowed on his clasped hands. "After all, the
crime has already been committed, so we can't stop it from happening. What we want
to do is make sure the murderers are punished, right?"
"I guess so."
"We know they are going to try and dispose of the body tonight shortly after
midnight; and we are both familiar with the quarry where this is to take place.
All we have to do is let them try to carry out their plan and then arrange for the
police to catch them right in the act."
"And just how, if I may be so bold as to ask, are we going to manage this little
"Suppose tonight we ride our bicycles out to the west edge of town and take along
a couple of those two-meter walkie-talkies our radio club built up for Civilian
Defense work. One of us can station himself at the stone quarry, and the other can
stay close to that all-night drugstore at the edge of town. That means we'll only
be about a mile apart and can communicate with each other easily. Then when you
- I mean when the person at the quarry sees the truck turning into the quarry gate
he can flash the word to the fellow at the drugstore. This fellow can then telephone
the police to send a squad car to the stone quarry. After the squad car has arrived
and caught the cold-blooded killers right in the act of disposing of the body, we
can come forward and modestly admit we were the detectors - I mean the detectives
- who engineered the whole clever affair. Any questions?"
"Just one," Carl said slowly as he glowered suspiciously down at the reclining
figure of his chum. "Who stands watch at the quarry?"
"Why, Carl," Jerry said with round-eyed elaborate carelessness, "I hadn't even
thought about that, but I'd better take the job. Of course, since I'm short-legged
and a little inclined to be pleasingly plump, I couldn't run very fast if something
went wrong, and the men would be sure to catch me and send me down to the bottom
of the quarry too, but that's all the more reason why I wouldn't want my best friend
to take any chances, even though he is the fastest sprinter our high school has
ever had. After all-"
"All right, all right!" Carl interrupted.
"I'll go to the quarry; but don't think you suckered me into it. It's just that
I'd as soon be scared to death as talked
to death. I'll get the gear together and see you back in the alley about eleven
But Carl did not get out of the house at eleven. His folks were watching the
late TV show, and it was impossible for him to get out of the house without their
noticing until almost a quarter to twelve. The two boys rode their bicycles swiftly
to the edge of town and there they parted. Jerry took up his vigil in a dark shadow
beside the drugstore, while Carl bravely rode off into the darkness along the road
leading past the quarry.
It seemed a long time before Jerry suddenly heard Carl's welcome voice in the
earphone of the walkie-talkie pressed close against his ear: "W9CFI, this is W9EGV
calling. How do you copy?"
"Five by nine," Jerry said softly with his lips almost touching the mike of the
transceiver. "Where are you?"
"Under the bridge that leads off the road into the quarry," Carl reported. "This
ditch is dry and deep enough for me and my bike both to get under here. What time
Jerry cautiously peered around the corner of the building at the clock hanging
in the front window before he announced, "Twelve forty-five. See anything of the
"Don't use that word!" Carl said hoarsely. "I hope this doesn't take long. It's
not exactly cosy under this bridge."
"I believe that," Jerry said, "because I can hear your teeth chattering."
"Hey, I see a pair of lights coming down the road," Carl announced excitedly.
"I'm going to duck back under the bridge, and if you hear the truck pass over, get
ready to make that phone call muy pronto. It's getting closer; now it's slowing
down-" his voice trailed off at this point, but he kept the transmit switch held
down, and Jerry could distinctly hear the hollow rumble as a heavy vehicle passed
over the wooden bridge.
"It's them," Carl said in a hoarse whisper with a reckless disregard for his
English. "Make that call and ride out here as fast as your fat little legs will
carry you. I may need help."
Waiting to hear no more, Jerry tossed the transceiver into the basket of his
bicycle and slipped into the phone booth of the drugstore. He dialed the already-memorized
police number and tucked his chin down so as to make his voice come from his chest,
rendering it - he hoped- deeper and more mature. As soon as a man's voice
answered, he carefully intoned: "Listen carefully. Two murderers are disposing of
the body of a victim at this very moment at the old stone quarry a mile west of
town. If you send a squad car immediately, you can catch them in the act."
Then, without waiting for an answer, he quietly hung up the receiver and slid
out of the drugstore. Now, ordinarily Jerry had an almost pathological aversion
to exercise in any form, but let it be said to his credit that this once he did
not spare the horse power as he pedaled swiftly down the road toward his friend
in danger. The night was dark, and he kept his bicycle light turned off. This made
it very difficult to tell exactly where he was, especially since his eyes were still
not completely accustomed to the darkness. Just as he was thinking that he must
be nearing the quarry, there was a sudden pinging sound. His bicycle rose beneath
him like a bucking bronco, and he sailed over the handlebars to make a perfect three-point
landing on his knees and nose in the frozen gravel of the roadway.
Before he could gather his scattered senses, Carl was dragging him by an elbow
toward the deep ditch at the side of the road and hissing into his ear, "Get down
here in the ditch before they see us. I crawled up a few yards to wait for you,
but you came along so fast I didn't have time to flag you down. I was, afraid to
call out, so I just grabbed up a stick and ran it through your front spokes. That
"Oh fine!" Jerry muttered as he tenderly felt his scraped nose. "Here I am rushing
to help you, and you try to murder me."
"Quit griping," Carl hissed. "With all that natural padding you've got, a little
bump isn't going to do any damage. Let's get back under the bridge until the squad
They had barely reached this sanctuary before they heard the wailing of a siren,
and a few seconds later the flashing red light of a squad car rapidly approached
down the road. With a great screeching of brakes and showering of gravel the car
slowed down and turned abruptly across the bridge. The boys immediately popped out
of their hiding place to see a truck and two men standing in the glare of the squad-car
"All right, you two; don't move!" one of the officers commanded as he stepped
from the car with a drawn gun. "What are you up to?"
"Why we were just getting ready to dump a body-" one of the men began.
"Ha! So you admit it," the officer said menacingly. "Mack, you cover me while
I examine the body."
With his gun still drawn, the policeman stepped forward cautiously, taking care
not to come between the gun of his fellow officer and the two men, and jerked the
canvas from the object on the truck. The two boys had stolen out of the ditch and
were standing right at the rear fender of the squad car. The simultaneous gasp they
gave as the canvas slipped to the ground so unnerved the policeman standing beside
the car that he tried to point his gun in all four directions at the same time and
came very close to shooting a hole in the squad car itself.
"It's a car body!" the boys said in chorus.
"And what did you think it was?" demanded one of the men in the spotlight. "Hey,
where did you kids come from?
Did one of you call us?" the officer near the car demanded.
"Ye-yes, I did," Jerry quavered. Then he told the whole story of the tape recording.
Before he finished the two men with the truck were slapping each other on the back
and laughing so hard they could scarcely stand up. Finally the younger one wiped
his eyes and started to explain:
"I do some dirt track racing. Jack here, who works at a machine shop from 4 p.m.
until midnight, helps me fix up my cars. I often talk with him after he eats a midnight
snack at the restaurant right across the alley from the feed store. Last night I
was telling him about a beat-up racecar I had bought in a neighboring town and had
managed to drive home. The heap was in such sad shape that I had to keep choking
the motor to make it run. It finally died completely right in front of the house
and I had to tow it into my garage. We weren't going to use the old body and my
wife said I had to get rid of it. I call my wife 'The Boss' - just kidding, of course."
"We're both married; we understand," one of the policemen said.
"In this race business, every driver likes to keep the other drivers guessing
about a new rod he intends to use. That's why we didn't want anyone to see the car
we were rebuilding. Leaving the old body lying around would be a giveaway, so we
were going to drop it into the quarry."
"What was that about 'the Hollywood type attracting a lot of attention,''' Carl
"The jalop had a Hollywood muffler on it that made a lot of noise when you gunned
the motor," Jack explained promptly.
The older policeman studied the dejected faces of the two boys for a few seconds
and then said kindly, "Don't take it so hard, fellows. Even without hearing that
tape, I can imagine how convincing it must have sounded. And if it had been a serious
affair, you did a good job of detecting."
Jerry looked up with a sudden expression of resolution. "From now on," he announced,
"'detection' is going to be just a radio term as far as I am concerned."
"I'm with you," Carl said fervently as he started toward his bicycle.
Carl Anderson and Jerry Bishop were two teenage boys whose
love of electronics, Ham radio, and all things technical afforded them ample opportunities
to satisfy their own curiosities, assist law enforcement and neighbors with solving
problems, and impressing – and sometimes toying with - friends based on their proclivity
for serious undertakings as well as fun.
- The Black Beast - May 1960
Vox Electronik, September 1958
- Pi in
the Sky and Big Twist, February 1964
Bell Bull Session, December 1961
Boogie, August 1958
- TV Picture,
Electronic Eraser, August 1962
Trap, March 1956
at Work, June 1956
Aweigh, July 1956
Bosco Has His Day, August 1956
Hand of Selene, November 1960
or Not?, October 1956
Electronic Beach Buggy, September 1956
Extra Sensory Perception, December 1956
in a Chimney, January 1956
Performance, November 1958
of Judas, July 1961
- The Sucker,
New Year, January 1963
Snow Machine, December 1960
Extracurricular Education, July 1963
Slow Motion for Quick Action, April 1963
Sleuthing, August 1963
- TV Antennas,
a Soroban, March 1963
Fair --", September 1963
Worm Warming, May 1961
Joking and Jeopardy - December 1963
Santa's Little Helpers - December 1955
Two Tough Customers - June 1960
Pocket Radio, TV Receivers
Yagi Antennas, May 1955
Stomping, March 1962
Blubber Banisher, July 1959
- The Sparkling
Light, May 1962
Research Rewarded, June 1962
- A Hot Idea, March
- The Hot
Dog Case, December 1954
A New Company is Launched, October 1956
Under the Mistletoe, December 1958
Electronic Eraser, August 1962
- "BBI", May 1959
Sound Waves, July 1955
- The River
Sniffer, July 1962
- Ham Radio,
Torero Electronico, April 1960
Wireless, January 1962
Electronic Shadow, September 1957
Elementary Induction, June 1963
- He Went
Electronic Detective, February 1958
Aiding an Instinct, December 1962
- Two Detectors,
with a Tachometer, July 1960
and the Pirates, April 1961
The Crazy Clock Caper, October 1960
Carl & Jerry: Their Complete Adventures is
now available. "From 1954 through 1964, Popular Electronics published 119 adventures
of Carl Anderson and Jerry Bishop, two teen boys with a passion for electronics
and a knack for getting into and out of trouble with haywire lash-ups built in Jerry's
basement. Better still, the boys explained how it all worked, and in doing so, launched
countless young people into careers in science and technology. Now, for the first
time ever, the full run of Carl and Jerry yarns by John T. Frye are available again,
in five authorized anthologies that include the full text and all illustrations."
Posted October 30, 2020
(updated from original post on 10/21/2014)