Wireless is an early short story with a supernatural theme written by Agatha Christie which was first published in Mystery Magazine in March 1926 in the U.S. In the U.K. the story first came out in the Sunday Chronicle Annual in December 1926. The story was subsequently gathered and published in the anthology The Hound of Death and Other Stories which came out in the UK in October 1933. This anthology was however not published in the United States. The story did not appear there until 1948 with the release of the collection The Witness for the Prosecution and Other Stories.
The story has also been published under the title Where There's a Will. This should not be confused with another story The Case of the Missing Will which on some occasions has also been published as Where There's a Will.
(may contain spoilers - click on expand to read)
Mary Harter, an old lady in her seventies, has undergone a consultation by her doctor who advises her that she has something of a weak heart and to ensure many more years of life she should avoid undue exertion. Dr. Meynall also tells Mrs Harter's beloved resident nephew, Charles Ridgeway, of the advice that he has given, adding that she should be cheerfully distracted and avoid brooding. To this end, Charles persuades his aunt to have a radio installed. She resists at first but quickly comes to enjoy the programmes being broadcast. One evening, when Charles is out with friends, the radio suddenly emits the voice of her dead husband, Patrick, who tells her that he is coming for her soon. Although naturally shocked, Mrs Harter remains composed but thoughtful.
Some days later the radio set emits a similar message and the old lady decides to ensure that her affairs are in order. She makes sure that Elizabeth, her maid, knows where her burial requests are kept and decides to increase the amount she has left her in her will from fifty pounds to one hundred. To accomplish this, she writes to her lawyer and asks him to send her the will that he has in his possession. Mrs Harter is somewhat startled that day at lunch when Charles makes a comment that when he was coming up the drive of the house the previous evening, he thought he saw a face at an upstairs window and realised afterwards that it resembled a portrait in a little-used room that he has since found out is that of Patrick Harter. His widow looks on this as further proof that her time is near.
That evening, Mrs Harter again hears a message through the radio from Patrick, telling her that will be coming for her at half-past nine on Friday night. She writes a note detailing what she has heard as proof, should she die at that time, that it is possible to receive messages from the afterlife. She gives this to Elizabeth to pass onto the doctor in the event of her death. On the Friday night in question, she sits in her room with the radio switched on and the will in her hand as she peruses its contents, having had fifty pounds in cash withdrawn from the bank for Elizabeth to supplement the amount contained in the document. She hears the noise of a step outside her room and staggers to her feet, dropping something from her fingers as the door swings open and she sees her dead husband's bewhiskered figure stood before her. She collapses and is found an hour later by Elizabeth. Two days later the maid passes the note to the doctor who puts it down to hallucinations. Charles agrees, not wanting to spoil things now that his plan appears to be reaching fruition. Having safely disconnected the wire from the radio set to his bedroom and burnt the false whiskers he wore on the night of his aunt's death, he looks forward to the reading of the will and inheriting his aunt's money, a sum desperately needed to stave off possible imprisonment as a result of his business misdeeds.
He receives a shock when his aunt's lawyer calls and tells him that he posted the will onto the dead lady at her request. It can no longer be found among her papers and Charles realises that as she fell dying, the will she was holding in her fingers dropped into the fire. No other copy exists and therefore a former will becomes legal. This one left Harter's fortune to a niece and Charles' cousin, Miriam, who had proved unsatisfactory to her aunt for marrying a man of whom her aunt did not approve. He receives a second shock when the doctor telephones him to say that the results of the autopsy proves that his aunt's heart was in a worse condition than he thought and there is no way she could have lived more than two months at the outside. Charles angrily realises he need never have set up his elaborate stunt.
- Mary Harter
- Charles Ridgeway
- Patrick Harter, Mary Harter's deceased husband
- Elizabeth, Mary Harter's maid
- Dr Meynell
- Miriam Robinson
- Mr Hopkinson
Tropes and Themes
- 1926: Mystery Magazine, vol. 8 no.4, 1 Mar 1926.
- 1926: Sunday Chronicle Annual, December 1926.
- 1933: The Hound of Death and Other Stories, Odhams Press (London), October 1933
- 1936: The Grand Magazine, vol. 69, no. 376, Jun 1936.
- 1947: Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine vol. 10, no. 45, Aug 1947 as "Where There's a Will".
- 1948: The Witness for the Prosecution and Other Stories, Dodd Mead and Company (New York), 1948.