When I first started listening to The Fourth Tower of Inverness, I felt sure that it had been produced within the last few years. It’s a radio drama that seems to campify the New Age movement, and all of the meditation/inspirational tapes that were produced in the 90’s.
But the story is from 1972 - long before self-help tapes became a Thing. It’s as if the writers have a prescient understanding of the hypnotic power of sound, and they use some classic guided meditation techniques to weave that power throughout their playful narrative.
The Fourth Tower of Inverness is a throwback to the days when families listened to the radio together in their living rooms, and their story is that of a man who returns to a castle that contains a mythical portal into a faraway land, where a jukebox plays clips of Ram Dass.
It’s over seven hours long, but you don’t need to listen to the whole thing in order to understand why I love it. Just get to the 32 minute mark or so, into the part where The Madonna Vampira begins seducing the protagonist.
If your sensitivity toward audio is anything like mine, you’ll feel yourself becoming hypnotized, even though none of it is serious... it’s as if someone jokingly says “your spirit is floating away from your body,” and you start to feel it happening in real life.
What’s up with that?
There’s some special power of audio; it gets into your head. During the sequence I mentioned above, the Moonlight Sonata plays beneath the Madonna Vampira’s voice, and her words take on a slower, meditative pace. “You can feel me entering your mind,” she says to Jack Flanders, and there’s a sense of relenting that can take place - “Go on,” she coaxes, “You can try it too,” she says to the listener, opening an extra wide door for you to become entranced. If you get really into it, this relenting might make it unsafe to drive.
And then they pull back, as with the snap of a hypnotist’s fingers. Another plot point takes the stage, while you’re left with a nice after-effect of having rested a little. The purpose of this audio drama is not to guide you like a self-help tape would - its purpose is to entertain you, and it uses short meditations as part of that entertainment.
Audio goes directly to your mind, and it can do all kinds of things once it gets there. What I love about the Fourth Tower is that it seems to say, “We have the power to control your thoughts, and we refuse to take that power too seriously.”
The producers of this story have a great time. When you listen, you’ll hear the actors breaking out of character at moments, and laughing. “This moment is all that you have,” the mood seems to suggest, “so you better loosen up and have a good time with it. Smile a little.”
Get hypnotized for the sake of quirky humor. And after the Madonna Vampira has taken hold of your mind, don’t be surprised if you find yourself wanting to tell everyone you know about the obscure radio drama you’ve started listening to.
The Fourth Tower of Inverness
(the first hour is called 1 THE FOURTH TOWER OF INVERNESS, and was released on 7/1/11)
ZBS Media, 1972
7.5 hours total (first half is better than the second half)