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The Raft


When haunted by dreams of being castaway on a raft in the middle of the ocean, a wealthy man tries to connect his strange visions with the illogical demand of a stranger for the sum of one million dollars.



Air Dates

  • First Run - March 2, 1981
  • Repeat - April 21, 1981





75     12

21 Responses to Episode 1166

Debts come due 30 years after three men spent several days stranded on a raft floating in the ocean.

Errol Bigboy

(ahhh...what the heck, one more before I sign off for the night.) This one starts out as a flat out mystery, then the back half adds a "whodunit" alongside. Norman Rose plays a Mr. Ordway, a multimillionaire industrialist who lives on a James River plantation in Virginia, has a Mississippi accent, is secretly quite afraid of water and doesn't like to admit he ever gets cold. ("Who's cold? AH'M not cold...") His closest friends are his employees, a lady housekeeper and his longtime personal assistant. Ordway starts getting mysterious notes, in his bank statement, in the mail, by Western Union or by telephone, which simply say "One million dollars". He's quite unnerved by them. He's also secretly unnerved by flashbacks of being stranded on a raft on the Atlantic Ocean in early winter some time ago, a situation which apparently did not end pleasantly. Ordway finally confronts the mysterious caller over the phone and invites him to his plantation. Just as the visitor is about to come calling, Mr. Ordway sends his personal assistant away, who notices the older man has a loaded pistol at the ready...

Gualbert Mina

I really like 95% of the story. The ending (people tossed off the raft, yet clinging on unnoticed, a shark attack victim miraculously rescued immediately) left a little to be desired. I also couldn't figure out why the pilot waited 30 years to make his demand. Nice build-up, though.

Mr. Bixby

The script seemed like a promising first draft that needed to be polished. The scenes involving the raft, told in flashback, were the most interesting parts of the show but the tension largely evaporated when we jumped back to present time. The show would have benefited from devoting more time to their time on the raft. And what accent was Norman Rose adopting?


This is one I taped off the radio with my handy-dandy tape recorder (always being careful not to make any noise as I edited out the commercial breaks) when I was @ 13. A good little mystery drama. I really liked the music selection in this tale-- especially the music used during all the flashbacks (which as someone already observed was the most exciting part of this particular story). I really enjoyed Marian Seldes as Ms. Harper ("I'm afraid") as the amateur sleuth. Her performance elevates the present day part of the tale, creating a completely sympathetic character (Though somewhat clueless-- but endearing none-the-less). Someone mentioned why the pilot took 30 years to enact his revenge. With no leg, no money and apparently no family, he found himself stranded in South America and it may have taken him that long to get back into the States, anonymously (which he would have wanted to do-- what with Peter Ordway being so powerful-- with a huge, multi--national corporation at his disposal). Just a thought........ Good selection, at least from a nostalgic point of view.....Until Next Time................


A couple of things: 1. BOY, was there a lot of Biblical scripture in this story - which I don't have a problem with whatsoever. A. E. G. quotes from (I believe) Paul's letter to Timothy about love of money being the root of all evil. B. He also quotes at one of the breaks (saying it's from scripture) that: "Riches will not profit in the day of revenge." C. Marian Seldes, at show's end, quotes from Jesus' words to Peter in Matthew "Those who live by the sword will die by the sword". D. There's another Bible quote in this show somewhere. 2. The music during the flashbacks was great - the rolling piano backed by muted trumpets always suggested "trouble on the water" and was used extensively in the fine RMT "The captain of the Polestar" and "The great white shark". 3. Mandel Kramer so often played a detective: in fact, I think he was a detective on the TV show "The edge of night" which produced so many RMT alumni. It's great to hear him say: "Open up - it's the police!"


Got this one years ago in a "tape trade". One I've really come to enjoy. Especially how both men in the raft survive, and it shows just what an evil man Peter Ordway really is.


Indeed. I think in the original story, the woman he pushed off of the raft was pregnant.


I thought this was an excellent, compelling little mystery. It's one I'd never heard before and I really enjoyed it. The actors and production values were terrific. It kept me guessing all the way through, and the twist at the end was really good. Great choice.


This is an episode that I'd seen in my collection many times, but never listened to. I don't know why, but it was always passed over. I was happy to see it as the show of the week. The file itself was a bit on the sluggish side for me; not bad, but the voices were slowed a tad which made the entire episode ssoorrtt ooff lliikkee tthhiiss. Definitely listenable. Also, I did catch a "news hiccup" in there at one point. Just to note. The episode itself, in my opinion, was pure RMT. It represents everything I enjoy about these shows. Not way too deep, but certainly far from shallow. Mystery and intrigue; vengeance and old debts; betrayal and suspicion. A great, all-around choice. In particular, those pesky writers did it again. What I love more than anything is when an episode is so seamlessly put together in production, that you forget you are listening to actors and a show, but instead become immersed in the story, the characters, and the environment. The Raft captured me and did not let go. My favorite part of the whole episode was when Miss Harper was trying to calm Mr. Ordway. Instead of saying something common like, "Please sit down and let me fix you something to eat," the writers had her say, "Mr. Ordway, let me bring you a soft boiled egg and some toast - and what do you say to another cup o' coffee?" Brilliant. I love when a writer, in any format, "shows me" the details instead of "telling me." I could actually see the reminder cards that Mr. Ordway received, with the handwritten ONE MILLION DOLLARS on them. This again is why I treasure episodes like this one. While television creates the mental landscape for us, leaving us with nothing to brew on our own, shows like The Raft hurl us from the ravaging sea into the sterile vertical world of a wealthy man's office. You could smell the rich texture of Miss Harper's words when she said, "You were holding the smoking gun!" The show was somewhat predictable, so I wasn't aghast by the end. But it was neatly woven together in a non-linear timeline to deliver information piece-by-piece, creating a wonderful tension throughout the show. I rated it about a 4.5. Very nice selection! Thanks for choosing it.


The first time I heard it the plot twist completely blindsided me. A few thoughts: - This play was based upon "The tragedy of the life raft" by Jacques Futrelle. Futrelle's play was another one which featured his character "the thinking machine" (I believe that guy was in the RMT's "The great brain" and maybe "The secret of the fifth bell"), but I thought it was wise of the scriptwriter not to put him in this one, and instead focus on Miss Harper as the detective. - If anything, Norman Rose was almost too nice in this role. The tidbits of the story I linked to above made Peter Ordway seem more fiendish than he was in the play. - What's that RMT play from 1982 you reviewed which was an absolutely sordid story with Rose playing an older Louisiana plantation owner who tries to forcibly win the heart of his stepdaughter or something like that? Rose's performance in that play was similar to this one, though his accent might have passed for northern Louisiana. In "The raft", I called his and Marian Seldes' accents "Brookly-sippian". (I love it when Rose says: "Uh, Walpole, leave me will ya?") Still, that's forgivable. - The music...this play and an RMT play called "The captain of the Polestar" have an interlude that could be called "trouble on the water". You hear it every time Rose's character has a flashback, and at the very end of Act 3. I heard it once used on the RMT play "The gratitude of the serpent". I like it a lot...piano with muted trumpets and muted trombones. - As I've said before, I wonder if CBS would produce a play today that had no less than four pieces of scripture referred to as done in this one: Mark 8:34-38 ("What doth it profit a man to gain the world and lose his soul"), Proverbs 11:4 ("Riches shall not profit in the day of revenge"), Timothy 6:10 ("Love of money is the root of all evil"), and Matthew 10:52 ("Those who live by the sword die by the sword"). - Mandel Kramer is always fun to listen to as a detective. (I think he played one in "The edge of night", a TV show that many RMT cast members were culled from. He was fun to listen to as the Jack Webb-esque detective in the RMT's "Cool Killer Carl".)

Brad Dolph

it was lucky guesswork. When information is presented piecemeal, sometimes the visual details lend themselves to solving the riddle. For example, When the first evidence of the old man having one leg was presented, I thought, "ah, I'll bet it was bitten off by a shark!" When it was made clear that Walpole was on the raft, I thought, "He is somehow in on this." When he was awarded one million from the will, it all made sense. The plot twist was terrific, and it was far from obvious at the beginning. But again, once the pieces trickle in, the paths to solution begin to lessen. By the way, fabulous observation about the Biblical references. I didn't notice them readily until you made mention of them. Something I will start listen for in future shows!


Scriptural references seem to be peppered throughout the RMT, particularly before the 1982 episodes. Funny how even in his darkest moments Peter Ordway (Rose) also makes references to God, such as in one of his flashbacks when he says people were "sayin' they wanted coffee when they should have been sayin' their prayers". (Obviously, his god (the appropriate term would actually be "false idol") is $$$$, for all the good it gets him.) Speaking of the flashbacks, I forgot that the aforementioned piano/muted trumpet/muted trombone music bed was also used quite a bit in the RMT's "The great white shark". I love it...listening to the dark, rolling piano melody one can visualize water on the ocean glimmering in the sun or moonlight, with added tension provided by the brass instruments.

D. Dave

I gave this one a 4. In my own rating system, I gave it an 8.5 and highly recommended it. It twisted and turned quite a bit and was well paced. What I'm noticing in many of the 1982 shows is that they are heavy on dialogue and short on action. They are paced WAY to slow. Acting is about the same, but there are too many historical recreations. It's been awhile since i've heard a good horror story, or suspense story such as the Raft. Jacques Futrell died on the Titanic for those who don't know about the brief, but highly creative life that was ended too soon.

Jill Brenda D.

I thought the show to be enertaining enough. I have a bias about mysteries such as these being performed on the radio, as I prefer to read them. 'Escape' did this show with the action on the was very good.


I love the cbsrmt. Loved it as a teen and love it now. This is my first post in this website and like the idea. Good Job. Anyways. I really liked this story and would have given it a 5 out of 5 if there could have been one thing different. The piliot should have been promised a million bucks if he would give up a leg for them to eat. Better than a shark? I dunno. But the episods are what they are, great!


This is an excellent episode that has a Mystery Theater classic elements - "The Raft" is very mysterious, it has great characters and sound effects, and the story unfolds through flashbacks with cool piano background music. Another episode that intertwined flashbacks to advance the story very effectively was "the Long Blue Line".


EXCELLENT storyline indeed! But being a native Southerner, I detected some wobbly dialects from multiple regions across my beloved Dixie--VaGinya, South Karaline, Jawja, and even some Alabam! Lol.. That said, a most riveting, succinct and cohesive program for any CBSRMT listener!


Peter Ordway, a millionaire many times over, suddenly begins receiving strange messages that say only “one million dollars.” His staff, thinking it’s the work of a crackpot, is mystified when Ordway buys a gun. What they don’t know is that Ordway made a million-dollar deal many years ago -- and now someone wants to collect.


What a great show !!!


Good story, but why didn't Ordway immediately suspect his assistant of sending the messages? They both acted as if they had forgot the experience on the raft.


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