[November 28, 1933 Variety]
Chi NBC Figuring on 12M. Mystery Serial
Chicago, Nov. 27.
NBC locally discussing chances for a midnight mystery serial to catch the
attention of the listeners at the witching hour. It's an idea by Will Cooper,
NBC continuity chief.
Considered for the spot is a new script, just being turned out, labelled
[December 12, 1933 Variety]
... NBC is creeping up on the proposed plan for midnight mysteries. Has
auditioned one of the Bill Cooper old chillers, "Turn out the Lights," to get
a notion of the scheme. ...
[January 16, 1934 Variety]
Radio Chatter / Chicago ...
Bill Cooper finally set for his midnight mysteries over at NBC here. Starts
this Friday (19) over WENR for a beginner. ...
[January 24, 1934 Freeport (IL) Journal-Standard]
"Lights Out," and ghosts will walk at midnight to the wail of the banshee, all
for the benefit of such fearless radio listeners as can take it, in a new
program of ghost dramas to be broadcast weekly over WENR from midnight to
[January 24, 1934 Milwaukee Journal]
Lights Out, 12 m, WENR Dramatization of ghost story by Willis Cooper with
[February 2, 1934 Winnipeg Free Press]
"LISTEN -- if you dare!" is the enticing tag-line for radio's newest,
creepiest, hair-raisingest programme which emanates from WENR every Wednesday
night at midnight. Groans, screams, and the mysterious machinations of spirits
all blend crazily into the quarter-hour called "Midnight Mysteries." It's a
good thing the kids are in bed. Excellent presentation.
Advice for next Wednesday: listen with the lights out!
[February 7, 1934 Winnipeg Free Press - Radio Flashes column by Cliff McNeill]
Thanks are due Bill Cooper, who is the producer of those extraordinary
Midnight Mysteries heard from WENR every Wednesday at midnight. Lights out,
everybody, for a guaranteed thrill!
[April 4, 1934 Wisconsin State Journal]
12 p. m.--Ghost Story: "The Curse of the Brandons" (WENR).
[April 7, 1934 Winnipeg Free Press]
... Lights Out! Creepy, supernatural stuff, admirably done. Only 15 minutes,
but a hair-raiser! WENR, 12 midnight. ...
[April 24, 1934 Variety]
Schenck Quits NBC for Chi B-S-H Agency Post
Charles Schenck resigns from the local NBC program department to join the
Blackett-Sample-Hummert agency here as production man. Another resignation
from the NBC staff last week was Announcer George Watson, replaced by Norman
Barry of WBBM. Schenck and Watson were associated on the 'Lights Out' program,
NBC Wednesday midnight chiller.
[April 25, 1934 Wisconsin State Journal]
12 Midnight--Lights Out: "The Drums of Death" (WENR).
[May 9, 1934 Winnipeg Free Press]
LIGHTS OUT! -- Listen in the dark -- if you dare! -- to Bill Cooper's
supernatural drama -- Last time we mentioned it in this column, Lights Out was
scaring folks for only 15 minutes over WENR -- Now you can be scared for a
half-hour over a network of NBC stations! -- at 11 p.m.
[May 23, 1934 Winnipeg Free Press - You Will Hear ...]
... A CHALLENGE! "Do you dare turn out the lights and listen in the dark" to
Bill Cooper's Midnight Mystery? Go ahead -- try it once! (Recommended for two-
somes). WENR and NBC network, 11 p.m.
[June 20, 1934 Wisconsin State Journal]
11 p. m.--Lights Out: Ancient Chinese torture (WENR).
[June 30, 1934 Winnipeg Free Press - Radio Flashes column by Cliff McNeill]
A GOOD MANY readers of this column have become acquainted with Lights Out, the
intriguing supernatural stuff that has been emanating from WENR Wednesday
nights for several months past. If you haven't, you've been passing up one of
the most cleverly produced dramatic shows on the air today.
We tipped you off several times on when to hear Lights Out, and now we want to
warn you that the show is due for a large boost — twice a week over NBC. Bill
Cooper, an NBC writer in Chicago, whose energetic fingers have typed out
myriad horrors and weird doings for several moons, will turn out twice as much
Just got word that Lights Out will be spotted today at 6:30 p.m. over NBC.
Maybe KFYR will have it; maybe not. At any rate, the six-thirty hour is a bit
early for this stuff; instead of dousing lights, we'll have to pull down the
blinds. Or take the radio down in the coal bin.
A letter to Bill for details of Lights Out elicited the following concise
"As to the show: I write them all. We use Arthur Jacobson, well-known
juvenile, in practically all of them. Bernardine Flynn, Philip Lord, Sidney
Ellstrom and Don Briggs are also pretty regularly in the show. Sid Ellstrom,
by the way, is the guy to whom most of the terrible things happen. He does a
swell job of suffering, and to date he has been skinned alive, had his tongue
torn out, his hands smashed on an anvil, his ears nailed to a wall, his teeth
smashed with sledge-hammer, been burned alive, and had his head cut off. I
have been both writing and producing the shows, but occasionally Joe Ainley,
of our production staff, does the job of producing."
[June 30, 1934 radio listings in the New York Times, Hartford Courant, Chicago
Tribune, and Washington Post confirm the above item that an episode was
scheduled to air over WJZ-NBC at 8:30 p. m. in the east.]
[August 8, 1934 Wisconsin State Journal]
11 p. m.--Lights Out: Ghosts in a lonely house (WENR).
[August 22, 1934 Wisconsin State Journal]
11 p. m.--Lights Out: Machine turns calendar back (WENR).
[August 25, 1934 Winnipeg Free Press - Radio Flashes column by Cliff McNeill]
ANOTHER day and back to NBC to chat with Willis Cooper, continuity editor, who
made us feel right at home by revealing his several visits to Winnipeg. On one
occasion here, Bill made a friend in Inspector A. H. L. Mellor, of the
R.C.M.P., and, incidentally, picked up some valuable material for a radio
series he was writing for CBS at that time.
Bill's present occupation resolves itself mainly into scratching off, once a
week, one of those hair-raising supernatural dramas that emanate from WENR
each Wednesday around midnight. The series, which has been running for some
months now, is known as "Lights Out!" Bill sits up all night (from midnight to
8 a.m.) when he's polishing off his typewriter keys with weird whisperings,
groans and choice bits of skullduggery. If there's a good electrical storm in
progress, so much the better, for Cooper thrives on atmospheric rumblings,
clanking chains and dark-skinned sirens and juicy murders.
[August 29, 1934 Wisconsin State Journal]
11 p. m.--Lights Out: Gory deeds, spine-tickling shrieks (WENR).
[September 26, 1934 Wisconsin State Journal]
11 p. m.--Lights Out: "The Revolt of the Robots" (WENR).
[October 14, 1934 Chicago Tribune]
... Willis Cooper, author of those horrifying "Lights Out" ghost dramas at NBC
is writing a novel. An interested publisher has induced him to begin work on a
long promised opus. ...
[October 16, 1934 Variety column item]
... Willis Cooper back to work after serious attack of sickness. ...
[October 31, 1934 Wisconsin State Journal]
12 midnight--Lights Out: Hallowe'en drama (WENR).
[November 3, 1934 Winnipeg Free Press]
At last the the old order has been reversed. Radio plays are being adapted to
the stage. Willis Cooper, NBC central division continuity editor, is adapting
some of his "Lights Out" scripts for stage presentation. One of them will be
produced this winter by the Detroit Players club.
[January 23, 1935 Chicago Tribune]
"Lights Out," that Wednesday midnight horror series written by Willis Cooper,
NBC continuity ace, will be restored on Jan. 30.
[January 26, 1935 Winnipeg Free Press - Radio Flashes column]
"LIGHTS OUT" AGAIN
The crime-and-horror fans who haven't written or phoned me about Bill Cooper's
"Lights Out" feature on WENR at midnight on Wednesdays, have written direct to
WENR, with the result that "Lights Out," which broadcast its final play about
two Wednesdays ago, is immediately being resumed.
For myself I'm surprised that so many people can listen to more than one of
Cooper's hair-raisers. I sat through one, but the strain was too much. Loss of
several finger nails (which I chewed off in my anguish), loss of appetite and
sleep and the threatened loss of my hair, which wouldn't lie down for several
days afterward, forced me to steer clear of WENR on Wednesday nights, if I
valued my future peace of mind.
For those about to listen to "Lights Out" for the first time, I would
respectfully suggest that you invite about six or eight of your strongest and
most reliable friends over to listen also; friends whom you can trust. Pulling
down all the blinds in the room helps too -- it eliminates the possibility of
seeing gibbering gargoyles at the windows, if they happen to be there. I never
did get up enough courage to turn the lights out while I listened, as that
arch-fiend Bill Cooper suggests.
However, if in spite of all this you still like to hear horror stories and
supernatural dramas, and the weirdest, most heart-rending assortment of sighs,
sobs and moans, then by all means listen in to WENR at midnight next
Wednesday. The inarticulate mouthings of a disembodied spirit is something to
be remembered long after all the other folks in the house have dropped off to
[After the January 2, 1935 episode, judging by the Chicago Tribune's radio
listings, "Lights Out" is off the air for the rest of the month. The Trib
reports on January 23 that the series will return January 30 but doesn't
mention the program in its daily radio schedule until February 6. From then
until April 10 (the last local broadcast before switching to the network) the
paper lists some scheduled episode titles:]
02-06-1935 Lost in the Catacombs
02-13-1935 The Death Cell
02-20-1935 The Mine of Lost Skulls
03-06-1935 After Five O'Clock
03-13-1935 Sepulzeda's Revenge
03-20-1935 The Haunted Chair
04-10-1935 Play Without a Name
[February 9, 1935 Chicago Tribune]
Fifty members of Evanston's Lights Out club got more than they bargained for
the other midnight when they came to NBC studios to view Bill Cooper's macabre
"Lights Out" broadcast. This week's episode concerned a honeymooning couple
lost in the Roman catacombs. Studio lights are doused during the broadcast,
only two narrow beams playing on the actors themselves. The studio sound
experts gave Evanstonians a nice case of jitters.
[February 27, 1935 Winnipeg Free Press - You Will Hear ...]
... "The Mine of the Lost Skulls," an eerie episode dealing with a lost mine
in the southwest and the strange misadventures which befall two people who
discover it, presented during the Lights Out programme, over WENR at midnight.
The programme, written by Willis Cooper, continuity editor of the NBC Central
division, is produced for the special benefit of those stout-hearted persons
who are not afraid to turn out the lights when they tune in.
[March 13, 1935 Chicago Tribune]
Willis Cooper, NBC continuity chief and author of those gruesome "Lights Out"
productions heard at midnight Wednesdays over WENR, has spent a most unhappy
week. Hard boiled radio listeners have been kicking about last week's playlet,
"After Five O'Clock," saying it was too mild. Some have charged him with going
soft. Other gluttons for the macabre have gone so far as to brand him a sissy.
Cooper admits that last week's opus wasn't quite up to standard -- it
concerned a guy harassed by his subconscious mind and wound up mildly with
three suicides. Cooper's plea was that he was merely trying to mix them up a
bit. [A version of this episode survives from the 1945 revival season of
"Lights Out" under the title "Man in the Middle"]
Cooper brooded for several days and then resolved to give them something they
would remember him by. Tonight he will present his masterpiece of fiendishness
which he calls "Sepulzeda's Revenge." "It will satisfy all who insist on
HORROR with capital letters," Cooper said yesterday. In this one, Cooper warms
up on a cleaver and trunk murder and tops it off with an episode in which a
husband beheads his wife. Last Wednesday night Willis didn't rest well but
tonight he will sleep like a baby. ...
[March 20, 1935 Chicago Tribune]
"How do I die this time?" Sidney Ellstrom inquired yesterday of Willis Cooper,
author of the macabre "Lights Out" series heard Wednesday at midnight on WENR-
NBC. "A ghost strangles you in 'The Haunted Chair,'" Cooper replied. "Fine,"
said Ellstrom, returning to his business for the day.
He has been put to death in this show more than 100 times. And his endings
have all been grisly and gruesome. He's been skinned alive, boiled in oil,
devoured by a man eating jungle plant, strangled by a vampire. He has been
drowned, electrocuted, poisoned, buried alive, decapitated and dismembered.
But sometimes his work is sweet. Now and then Author Cooper turns the tables
and allows Ellstrom to get revenge on his persecutors, usually portrayed by
Art Jacobson, Don Briggs, Bernardine Flynn, Betty Lou Gerson, or Betty
Winkler, other members of the "Lights Out" cast. Once, for example, as a
Chinese madman, he was given a chance to inflict "death" through a thousand
slashes on Jacobson, usually one of his most fervid annihilators. ...
[March 23, 1935 Stand By]
NOT FOR SISSIES
Author Willis Cooper of the Lights Out program is very weary of being called a
sissy. Mr. Cooper is not a sissy, as his friends loyally attest. A sissy,
Cooper claims couldn't write those horrible Lights Out programs, which are
broadcast every Wednesday at midnight over WENR.
But some hard-boiled radio fans have been writing Cooper to call him, in
effect, just that. These cynical fellows have been casting aspersions at the
NBC Central Division continuity editor because one of his Lights Out dramas
ran to psychological horror rather than physical. Ordinary mortal men who
heard it pronounced the piece eerie enough to scare most people. But some
insatiable gluttons for the macabre called Cooper a sissy.
Therefore, from now on, Cooper promises his dramas will go from one awful
horror to another until even the author is afraid to listen. Having conceived
and originated this program, Cooper now knows how the creator of Frankenstein
must have felt.
[April 6, 1935 The Billboard review]
Reviewed Wednesday 12-12:30 a.m. Style--Melodrama. Sustaining on WEAF (NBC
With as much notice as a mob might give a bank prior to holding it up, NBC
unloaded this crisp script sandwiched in between a couple of dance orchestra
sustainings at a time when no listener expects to hear anything but music.
Which made this hunk of dramatics that much more effective and must leave the
dial twister thinking about the incident and dispel all taste for the
abounding night club music in question. For instead of just another band
coming on a mug began the story of a bank robbery in the first person, tersely
stating the facts until the succeeding episode was dramatized. Subsequently
there were both narrative and dramatic sketches, action and even a moral for
Briefly, the story concerns a gang moll who flits naturally from one gangster
to another. Thus after the bank robbery, in which some $375,000 was the haul,
her boy friend picks a fight with her just after the loot is counted up, and
the Swede member of the mob, unable to make the pal lay off, takes a shot at
him and knocks him off. The Swede and Marcella go to Europe and live a gay
life. He loses a quarter of a million dollars at Monte Carlo and it is not
long before he gets unduly suspicious of Marcella and a friend, whom he finds
together. The usual procedure of her boy friend beating her up takes place and
the newcomer is forced to knock the Swede off in order to save the gal. The
couple go to Santa Monica, Calif., to take things easy, and Marcella, in her
first bit of first person talk, tells of becoming friendly with their
physician. She is also allowed to go out on occasion with other gentlemen
friends, it seems. Her lord and master has returned from a stickup, as
indicated in reports that reach her, and since he has to lay low, he is
amenable to her going for a ride with the young doctor. In the meantime, she
gets a phone call that is surely suspicious, and he having been hitting the
bottle by way of diversion, Marcella is again in for a beating, this one
costing her her life. Her screams, however, attract the police, who may or may
not have already been on his trail.
Closing episodes find him in the death house conversing with a knowing keeper.
The killer doesn't want to die and he can't take it at all. In a sort of
reverie he "remembers a big cop taking" a shot at him, and then he woke up in
a jam for fair. And so he is dragged away to the chair or scaffold a meek,
yellow, broken-down gunman who might have been like any other man but for
certain circumstances that took him off the proverbial alley.
Technique in writing and producing this script is one of pure radio license
and can't even be compared to the flashback from the movies, since characters
dead at the close of the tale do considerable talking of their experiences.
This feat, combined with the terse, stark sock of the drama, is probably one
of the most realistic pieces radio has ever presented. Inquiry brings the info
that the author is Willis Cooper and that the program was an audition for a
potential sponsor. The right hour, sponsor and product and equally strong
scripts ought to click hands down. Program originated in Chicago NBC studios.
M. H. S.
[April 7, 1935 Chicago Tribune - the Trib's regular radio columnist writes a
few sentences about various Chicago-based radio series:]
CHICAGO SHOWS ARE CHOSEN FOR BRIEF COMMENT
by Larry Wolters
... LIGHTS OUT--Murder at midnight. Sound effects that freeze the blood. It
may only be a head of cabbage in the studio, but it's red with gore when you
hear its dull thud on the floor, by way of the loudspeaker. ...
[April 10, 1935 Chicago Tribune]
Willis Cooper's gristly [sic] "Lights Out" program, for many months heard
locally, on Wednesday at midnight will become a network feature next week. It
will be aired a half hour earlier locally in order to keep New Yorkers from
staying up most of the night to catch it. Tonight Cooper is presenting "Play
Without a Name." He couldn't think of a title that would do its horror
[April 12, 1935 Syracuse Herald - Contrary to the article, "Lights Out" was
actually off the air for several weeks circa January 1935.]
Horrors for Night Owls
NBC to Bring Dramatic Chillers From Chicago to Network
"Lights Out," a series of ghost and horror dramas which has thrilled and
chilled midnight listeners for more than a year, will come to an NBC-WEAF
network Wednesday night, as a regular feature.
Broadcast at the late hour of 12:30 A. M., "Lights Out" is distinctly not a
program for the children, nor for adults who are faint of heart. Critics have
declared that it achieves the ultimate in horror, not only in radio, but in
any form of dramatic presentation.
However, the [...?] Chicago, like it. When the program was off the air for two
weeks last fall because Willis Cooper, the author, was too busy to write it,
the station presenting the feature was overwhelmed with protests. Cooper says
that no matter how macabre are the dramas he writes, listeners always want
them more so.
[April 12, 1935 The Frederick (MD) Post; Syndicated column Radio Day by Day by
C. E. Butterfield]
New York, April 12.—Intended solely for that group described as "Hardy
Listeners" who thrill at thrillers at midnight or after, that's the prime
purpose of a new series of "Horror" and ghost dramatizations WEAF-NBC is to
bring out of Chicago starting next Wednesday night at 12:30.
Under the title of "Light's [sic] Out," the broadcasts have had nearly a
year's run on WENR, where their popularity led the chain to believe that
others might like to do some scarey [sic] tuning in. The author of the "real
radio thriller" is Willis Looper. [sic]
[April 13, 1935 Winnipeg Free Press]
... Petitions arrived from no less than 87 fan clubs in Chicago alone. Other
letters came from groups ranging from society folk to taxi drivers who each
Wednesday convened in all-night restaurants to hear the programme. One letter
came from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police here in Winnipeg. ...
[April 17, 1935 Winnipeg Free Press]
Willis Cooper['s] popular supernatural and horror dramas go National when his
"Lights Out!" programme goes on the NBC network a half hour earlier at 11.30
[April 17, 1935 The Lima News (Ohio) radio column headlined: Spooks To Branch
Out On Network Program Wednesday / "Lights Out" Series To Become Regular Eerie
Hour Feature Thru WEAF; ...]
"Lights Out," the series of ghost and horror dramas which has thrilled and
chilled midnight listeners of station WENR, Chicago, for more than a year,
will come to the WEAF network Wednesday and will be heard regularly thereafter
at 12:30 a. m. Originally planned as a spine-tickling novelty for those hardy
listeners who prefer something different in the way of late broadcasts,
"Lights Out" has proved enormously popular. It is distinctly not a program for
the children, nor for adults who are faint of heart. ...
[Paley Center for Media database entry for surviving recording of the series'
Red network premiere, a Cooper play entitled, "A Room for the Night."]
NETWORK: NBC Red
DATE: April 18, 1935 Thursday 12:30 AM
RUNNING TIME: 0:30:00
CATALOG ID: R89:0160
GENRE: Radio - Drama, mystery/suspense
SUBJECT HEADING: Drama, mystery/suspense
SERIES RUN: NBC - Radio series, 1935-1939
One in this series of supernatural dramas written by Arch Oboler. [sic] In
this episode, Dr. Paul Benjamin, a psychic researcher, offers shelter one
stormy night to Count and Countess von Drackenstein, who claim to have had car
trouble. Dr. Benjamin, who has recently moved to this remote and isolated
house with his daughter Esther, listens as the Count talks about his own
magnificent castle in Transylvania and his long absence from his homeland.
Esther is introduced to the guests that evening and quickly grows uneasy, as
she remembers reading a news report of the death in a car crash one week ago
of the Count and Countess von Drackenstein. The Count explains that the report
was a mistake, but Esther is shocked to notice, sometime later, that neither
the Count nor the Countess are reflected in the dining room mirror. Later that
night, the doctor and his daughter gather about them whatever protection they
can and await the dawn together in Esther's bedroom. But nothing can prevent
the grey mist from seeping under the bedroom door and only the crucifix which
Esther holds in her hand prevents the vampire couple from feeding on her after
wounding her father. In a selfless act to rid the world of this evil, Dr.
Benjamin instructs Esther to ignite the room and all four die in the
[April 19, 1935 Chicago Tribune]
... Mrs. Frank Bering, the former Joan Winters, is playing leading parts in
NBC's "Lights Out." She portrayed the countess in Wednesday evening's show.
[refers to the series' network premiere, which was April 17] ...
[April 20, 1935 Newsweek]
HORROR: Bedtime Blood-Curdlers With Realistic Sound Effects
For horror dramas, radio directors usually choose late hours. Scary children
are asleep. And many adults -- sick of crooning, Harlem jazz, and political
harangues -- welcome the change. Half an hour after midnight Wednesday, the
National Broadcasting Co. aired on WEAF the first of a series of blood-
curdlers, "Lights Out." Officials call it "the ultimate in horror."
Willis Cooper, 36-year-old script author, supervises NBC continuities in the
Chicago area. "Lights Out" has run over WENR there for a year. His theory:
"I think the horror slant is good in radio. On the stage there is little
difference between the horrible and the ludicrous. Radio hits ears only.
Listeners build their own pictures."
Cooper creates his horror-illusions by raiding the larder. Maple syrup
dripping on a plate suggests the plopping of blood from a wound. To split a
man's skull Cooper drives a cleaver through a head of cabbage. To crush bones
he pounds raw spareribs.
The program has violent effects on some listeners. Last month one fan
telephoned WENR that "Lights Out" made his mother faint. A suburban woman
called a police car to her home: "I was frightened out of my wits."
But many fans cry for "more cannibalism." Cooper reaches for another cabbage
head and gives it to them.
[April 20, 1935 Stand By]
Artists in the NBC Chicago studios have become camera shy, figuratively
playing hide and seek to evade the cameras of their photographically inclined
studio associates, whose hobby is the collection of unposed candid camera
It started when Basil Loughrane, who plays the role of a movie director, Bill
Gregory, in the Sunday Sally of the Talkies program over an NBC-WEAF network
at 3:00 p. m., E.S.T., decided that even a fictional movie director should
know something about moving pictures. He purchased a portable camera, brought
it to the studios and began shooting unposed pictures of his associates at odd
moments. He soon was joined in this endeavor by Everett Mitchell, announcer,
who is a veteran amateur movie cameraman.
The pictures Loughrane and Mitchell took, however, being unposed, were hardly
flattering. In retaliation, Willis Cooper, NBC central division continuity
editor, and Arthur Jacobson and Don Briggs, leading men of dramatic programs,
brought in their high-speed still cameras and began shooting pictures of the
amateur movie men shooting pictures. The thing came to an impasse when one of
the movie enthusiasts shot a picture of a still cameraman taking a picture of
a movie cameraman taking a picture of an artist. Other shots especially prized
are those of artists in the act of biting into a sandwich.
[April 24, 1935 Winnipeg Free Press]
"The Phantom Ship," a ghost drama of the sea done in the most realistic
"Lights Out" tradition, will be presented during the second network broadcast
of spooky stories at 11.30 p.m. (NBC, including KFYR). The story involves two
sailors, lone survivors of a ship which is torpedoed and sunk during the World
War. After drifting on the sea for a time they encounter and board a deserted
ship. Here the supernatural element enters the play, for the ship proves to be
anything but an ordinary craft.
[April 28, 1935 Chicago Tribune]
... "Lights Out," ... which was dropped because Author Willis Cooper had too
much other work to do, was restored on WENR at the insistence of thousands of
followers. Then it was piped to New York for a test. Eastern executives
thought it was too tough for Manhattan, but after uniformly favorable
criticism by New York critics they had a change of heart and are now trying it
out across the nation. But they're starting in easy -- using ghost and spook
stories. The gory yarns are out for the present. Incidentally, Ted Sherdeman
is producing the shows and doing a slick job of it at 11:30 now Wednesday. ...
[May 1, 1935 Winnipeg Free Press]
Willis Cooper, author of the Lights Out ghost series, has concocted a thriller
out of such a non-spooky subject as moving from one apartment to another for
the broadcast at 10.30 p.m., (NBC). In "Moving Day", however, the apartment is
[May 4, 1935 Stand By]
Willis Cooper, who writes the ghastly "Light Out" [sic] programs broadcast
over NBC networks each Wednesday, confesses to his most intimate friends that
he is without doubt the most timid fellow in the land. Only when he has the
lights turned on full blast can he write about wraiths, banshees, vampires,
cold and hot blooded murderers, etc. And what's more, he detests insects and
despite many requests has steadfastly refused to prepare a "Lights Out" script
about a man who dies after being bitten by a spider.
[May 29, 1935 Racine (WI) Journal-Times]
The story of a Civil War veteran, who realized the final wish of his long and
brave career.. .that he might die on Memorial Day...will be enacted on the
Lights Out proram over WENR tonight at 10:30. This script, written by Willis
Cooper, NBC Central Division Continuity Editor, is being repeated because of
[June 1, 1935 Winnipeg Free Press]
NBC'S GHOST DRAMA
Numerous protests have been registered to the effect that Willis Cooper's
"Lights Out" ghost dramas on NBC at 10.30 Wednesdays, have gone sort of Elsie
Dinsmore-ish since their debut on the network. Fans want them "awfuller and
awfuller." Seems like "Frankenstein" and his "Bride" and "Dracula" and the
"Werewolf of London" have sort of acclimatized listeners and left a taste for
more and more horror.
The "scene" of Cooper's latest is chronicled here below, candid fashion:
Wednesday night, 10.30 p.m. ... actors gather about a shaded floor lamp over
the microphone in studio B, NBC Chicago studios ... remainder of studio
control room and observation rooms are dark ... thirteen chimes sound, and
Lights Out, programme of ghost drama goes on the air ... Production Director
Ted Sherdeman and the engineer are in the control room ... a small desk lamp
enables them to see the script and the control panel ... Sherdeman insists
that studio be darkened in order that actors may feel they're really playing a
ghost drama ... result: members of cast frequently become as frightened as
their listeners ... no theme music ... only thirteen chimes ... scenes are
broken by sounding of a gong, which also closes broadcast ... it's one of the
few dramatic programmes without theme music ... makes production director's
task doubly difficult. ... he has to finish "on the nose" without filling in
with longer or shorter closing theme ... works with a script four minutes
short ... natural pauses for effect take up the four minutes during broadcast
... now two actors, Sidney Ellstrom and Bernardine Flynn, are at the mike,
their faces lighted by the lamp ... other members of cast sit in darkness
nearby ... Don Briggs steals up behind Bernardine and clutches her throat ...
she screams in real terror, for she's afraid of the dark ... Briggs is a ghost
... he laughs maniacally ... all a part of the script, but in the darkness it
seems real, and the actors feel it IS real ... especially the feminine actors
... they're usually Betty Winkler and Bernardine ... the programme continues,
building to a climax ... Briggs and Art Jacobson fight ... they really grapple
and finally go to the floor . . . it's all part of the realistic treatment of
the programme ... a gong sounds and the programme is off ... lights come on
... the actors relax, and laugh ... spectators in the observation room feel
safer now, too ... it's eleven; and the cast departs.
[June 5, 1935 Variety]
NBC May Divert Dance Music to One Chi Outlet
Chicago, June 4.
NBC locally becoming quite cramped for bands during its late hour remote
control pick-up sessions due to the Musicians Union situation in New York and
the heartbreaking competish for remote pickups in this city among the five
radio outlets. So much so that the network offices here have about decided to
step away from dance band pickups at night. Are now working on a plan whereby
only one of its two outlets will carry the dance orchestra remotes while the
other station will branch out into variety programming entirely away from
This move also follows the click of script sustainers at night, proving to the
satisfaction of the NBC moguls here that there is a goodly portion of the
listening audience which would rather listen to something other than
continuous dance music between the hours of 10 p.m. and 1 a.m. Shows which
have proved this to NBC are such as the 'Hoofinghams' and particularly 'Lights
Out,' the local mystery show which has spread out over the network.
NBC will likely delegate the straight dance music to WMAQ and will build-up
the variety shows on WENR. It [m]arks the first general move made by radio to
step away from the traditional dansapation in the late evening time. NBC also
has angles which may result in sponsorship at the late periods for those
variety shows where the straight dance pick-ups prevented any such
[June 6, 1935 Cleveland (OH) Plain Dealer radio column by Robert S. Stephan]
... Broadcasters rave over production work in that late Wednesday thriller
over WTAM called "Lights Out." Series uses no introductory music or chatter.
It also employs effective silences in building a situation, a production
matter the Plain Dealer Sunday Listener column suggested weeks ago. ...
[June 15, 1935 Winnipeg Free Press]
Here's one for Ripley: a radio press sheet recounts the story of a Chicago
police station captain who telephoned the studio following a "Lights Out"
broadcast and said that his men had been listening to it and were afraid to go
out afterwards and walk their beats. Don't that beat all.
[July 1935 Radio Stars magazine]
We watch the death in the studios!
Sidney Ellstrom, dramatic star with the NBC studios in Chicago, is standing
before the microphone, reading a script. Suddenly, he tears at his throat and
sinks to the floor. For a full minute, his screams and curses fill the air
from coast to coast. The mike is open!
But we aren't surprised. We expected him to die in all the agony a diabolic
mind could conceive--since he's been doing it every Wednesday night on the
"Lights Out" horror drama. To make our hair curl, Sidney has been skinned
alive, boiled in oil, devoured by man-eating plants, flogged to death by wire
fencing, and strangled by a vampire. He has had his eyes plucked from his head
and his tongue ripped out. He has been drowned, electrocuted, buried alive,
decapitated and dismembered.
He has, also, never been seriously ill.
[July 21, 1935 Chicago Tribune photo caption]
Things look bad -- but they'll be worse. Betty Winkler is the lady in distress
and Don Briggs (right) is plotting destruction for Sidney Ellstrom (center).
They are reaching the awful climax of a Lights Out episode, heard Wednesday
nights on NBC.
[August 10, 1935 Radio Guide]
They Must Be Scared!
Willis Cooper Knows Better Than to Give His Listeners Anything But Hair-
Raising, Blood-Curdling Thrills
By Meryl Dell
"LIGHTS OUT, Everybody." A deep voice speaks softly.
Thirteen chimes ... Evil omen.
Wind rising to a crescendo and fading ... ominous--foreboding.
By the time this much of the Lights Out program has gone out over the air,
hundreds of thousands of listeners, literally in the four corners of the
country, are sitting in the dark, nerves taut in anticipation.
Then the play. Whatever its story, it must be gory, blood-curdling,
terrifying. It had better be, or Willis Cooper, creator and author of the
program and Western NBC continuity editor, will be deluged with letters
calling him "sissy."
Lights Out fans want their horror undiluted. And they get what they want--or
else. Which means that by letter, phone and telegram they shout long and
loudly until they do get what they want. NBC found that out when the program
was taken off the air last Winter.
The program started as a novelty--an experiment. Its immediate, overwhelming
success probably will make it Exhibit A for all those who insist that
listeners do know what they want from their radios, and will emphatically
voice their approval when given an incentive.
About a year and a half ago it occurred to Willis Cooper that a great many
listeners might welcome a dramatic show late at night as relief from the
constant song of dance bands. Being an avid reader of mystery and horror
stories, especially as relaxation after a hard day's work, he decided quite
naturally that midnight and ghastly stories would make a grand combination for
Whereupon Mr. Cooper spent a few evenings giving himself the jitters by
writing tales of horror instead of reading them. That's no gag. With that
vivid imagination of his ... you know he has to have one to write those
chilling tales ... he sometimes scares himself so he has to stop writing in
the middle of a story, and finish it the next day. Especially is this so of
ghost stories. Bill is scared to death of ghosts; so much so that often he
refuses to listen when one of his ghost stories is being broadcast. "Just
can't take it," he admits.
He presented his scripts and suggestions for midnight dramas to NBC's program
board. Only mildly interested, the others on the board--Cooper himself is one
of them--bowed to their continuity editor's enthusiasm and decided the idea
was worth giving a trial.
Without ballyhoo of any kind, Lights Out was presented for the first time over
WENR on a Wednesday at midnight early in January, 1934.
The studio personnel, accustomed to all types of programs and therefore
generally indifferent to all, started staying up late on Wednesday nights. A
few radio editors paid tribute to something new on the air. Letters from
listeners started to come in, slowly but surely increasing in number each
week. It was evident that Lights Out was a successful experiment. But no one,
not even Willis Cooper, imagined that it was a sensation.
THAT amazing revelation came months later. As continuity editor, Bill has a
great deal of work to do. He decided he needed for his other work the time it
took to write Lights Out.
One night last January the announcer ended the program with a simple
announcement: "This is the last of the series of Lights Out programs."
Then came the deluge. From North, East, South and West came letters, phone
calls, telegrams, petitions--some signed by as many as 200 people. Radio
editors were swamped with protesting mail from their readers. The mailing room
was flooded. "Put Lights Out back on the air!" was the cry. It wasn't a plea.
It was a demand. "You can't take Lights Out away from us" was the ultimatum
laid down by the world's greatest dictator--the public.
Sweet music to an author's ears. Pleasant surprise for the network.
With such acclaim, Cooper didn't care how much extra work he had to do. What
THREE weeks later, Lights Out was back on WENR each Wednesday night at
midnight. And shortly afterward, yielding to the demands of station managers
whose listeners were clamoring for Lights Out, the program was scheduled for
the entire network. To save Eastern listeners the necessity of staying up all
night to hear the program--blase New York had been particularly emphatic in
demanding the thriller for its supposedly sated listeners--the program is now
being broadcast half an hour earlier, at 12:30 a. m. EDT.
Watching a Lights Out broadcast is an experience in itself. As the opening
words are spoken, all studio lights are extinguished. Working in utter
darkness excepting the pin point of light that enables the actors to see their
scripts, and another in the control room so they can watch the program's
producer, everyone becomes tense. A huge studio in almost total darkness and
silence is not the most cheerful place to be, even if you know it is just a
play going on.
At a sign from the production man, the play starts. You keep reminding
yourself that this is only a radio program, try to force yourself to be cool
and unconcerned. After all, it's only a play and there are the actors in front
of you; but so realistic is the acting--the atmosphere--the sounds--that cold
chills insist upon running up and down your spine.
The program is over. Lights go on. With a sigh of relief you silently breathe
thanks that no one was around to see you jitter. It seems silly to get so
scared watching a broadcast.
BUT it isn't silly. It is a great tribute to those who are responsible for the
program--the production man, the actors, the engineer and the sound men. Under
the sensitive direction of Ted Sherdeman, the program's producer, the actors
actually live the experiences written in Cooper's lines; sound and action are
so real that one loses all sense of listening to a program; one seems actually
to be witnessing a living drama. So intensely real is the drama that it sends
shudders through thousands of people many miles away, and keeps the illusion
of reality even in the studio. Audiences are not permitted at Lights Out
broadcasts; but unlike many programs, it would spoil no listener's illusions
if they were.
Some of Chicago's finest actors and actresses take part in the Lights Out
shows. Betty Winkler and Bernardine Flynn share the feminine parts; Arthur
Jacobson, Don Briggs, Sidney Ellstrom, Phillip Lord, Ted Maxwell and Butler
Manderville are the stock group from which each week's male cast is chosen.
LIGHTS OUT mail is probably the most interesting received by any program. From
all walks of life, from nearly every state in the Union, and from half a dozen
countries, it pours in every week. So varied is its source, seemingly
encompassing every type and class of people, that one is struck by the thought
that if there is such a thing as a universal type of entertainment ... a type
to please all tastes ... Lights Out is it.
There are at least 200 Lights Out clubs, composed of from four to as many as
fifty members. They meet each Wednesday evening to play cards or dance until
time for the program's broadcast. Each of these, as well as hundreds of other
listeners, sends in a weekly comment. "And woe is me," says Bill, "if the
story has been even a little milder than usual. Those bloodthirsty fans pounce
on me like some of my characters do their victims. Gives me nightmares."
But don't take that too seriously. Actually, Bill gets a kick out of writing
his Lights Out--and a real thrill from those fan letters.
Lights Out may be heard Wednesday over an NBC-WEAF network at 12:30 a. m. EDT
(11:30 p. m. EST; 11:30 CDT; 10:30 CST; 9:30 MST; 8:30 PST).
[photo caption 1] To make sure of the chill, actors on this hour do their own
stuff as well as speak their lines. From left, Betty Winkler, Don Briggs,
[photo caption 2] Willis Cooper, who writes Lights Out
[photo caption 3] Ted Sherdeman, producer of the program
[August 24, 1935 Chicago Tribune]
Willis Cooper, who writes the macabre "Lights Out" show at NBC, will be a
special guest of the Belfry Players when they present one of his "Lights Out"
plays in the Belfry theater at Williams Bay, Wis., Monday evening. This
theater really is an old church, built by Mormons about 1850. It still
contains the original pews, oil lamps, and furnishings and is a point of
historical interest in the Lake Geneva district. ...
[August 29, 1935 Chicago Tribune]
Willis Cooper has turned in his resignation as continuity chief at local NBC
offices to devote his time to writing "Lights Out," chill and horror show, and
"Flying Time," a juvenile thriller. With other members of the "Flying Time"
cast Cooper left yesterday for Cleveland, where the program will be aired from
the airport during the national air races. Loretta Poynton, Willard Farnum,
Ted Maxwell, and Harold Perry made the trip with him. ...
[September 1935 Radio Mirror]
... RECENT visitors to Chicago radio studios:
Bebe Daniels and Ben Lyon to watch Bill Cooper's "Lights Out." ...
[September 4, 1935 Variety]
Willis Cooper Quits
Chicago, Sept. 3.
Willis Cooper quits as continuity chief of the local NBC offices on Sept. 15.
Will free lance his own shows on NBC such as 'Flying Time' and 'Lights Out,'
both of which have been clicks. It's strictly an amicable parting with Cooper
signaturing with the NBC Artists Bureau for representation.
Job will be taken over by Larry Holcomb, formerly with NBC continuity in New
York, and with the Fletcher & Ellis agency.
[September 14, 1935 Stand By]
Lights Out, NBC program of ghost and horror drama, had an especially realistic
significance for Detroit listeners Wednesday night (August 14), according to a
newspaper clipping sent to Willis Cooper, NBC central division continuity
editor, who writes the program.
The Lights Out Story involved a disappointed suitor who shot and killed his
former sweetheart and his successful rival before committing suicide. A few
hours before the program was broadcast over an NBC-WEAF network at 11:30 p.m.,
CST, an almost identical tragedy occurred in Detroit, in which the jealous and
disappointed suitor killed his rival, the girl and himself. News bulletins of
the triple killing were broadcast over Detroit stations only a short time
before Lights Out came on with a strikingly similar plot.
The drama, of course, was written by Cooper long before the Detroit killings.
[September 25, 1935 Racine (WI) Journal-Times]
"Sherwood Foresters," an original half-hour spook drama by Willis Cooper will
be the Lights Out presentation over WENR tonight at 10:30 oclock. The scene of
the drama is laid in France during the World war and the plot is based on
familiar British army legends.
[October 13, 1935 Racine (WI) Journal-Times]
Sidney Ellstrom, red-headed actor heard on Welcome Valley and Lights Out
programs, says the most horrible incident of his life occurred while he was in
the middle of the Atlantic ocean, en route home from a visit in Europe. Both
Ellstrom and the ship's doctor were stricken with appendicitis at the same
[October 24, 1935 Chicago Tribune]
... Willis Cooper, formerly continuity editor at NBC, gave up the job to do
free lancing with the view that he would have more time for recreation. But he
is finding little time for rest -- he is writing five episodes a week of
"Flying Time," an aviation serial; five of "Betty and Bob," another serial,
and also turning out a play a week for the macabre "Lights Out" series. On top
of that he journeys to Des Moines each Sunday to produce a show there.
[October 26, 1935 Racine (WI) Journal-Times]
Willis Cooper, former NBC coninuity head who resigned to do free-lance
writing, has been engaged to write the Betty and Bob shows. The program will
begin to use Bill's scripts on the Thursday, Oct. 31, broadcast. Cooper also
writes Flying Time and Lights Out drama.
[November 6, 1935 Chicago Tribune]
... Bill Cooper's goose pimpler "Lights Out," switches from WENR to WMAQ-NBC
at 11:30 tonight. Bill has turned out a spine chiller about a lady who comes
back to haunt succeeding generations of a family for tonight. Every time she
appears the youngest son dies. ...
[November 13, 1935 Chicago Tribune - episode title:]
"Three Lights from a Match"
[November 14, 1935 Oakland Tribune]
QUITS SEVEN SHOWS
BETTY LOU GERSON had to resign from the casts of seven shows to play First
Nighter leads. The script writer had her killed off the Girl Alone series, and
she bowed out of "Nickelodeon," "Lights Out," "Flying Time," "Kilmer Family,"
"Curtain Time" and "Princess Pat." Through a special NBC-client dispensation,
she is permitted to remain on the MARY MARLIN show heard over CBS ...
[November 16, 1935 Winnipeg Free Press]
WILLIS COOPER, author of the NBC Flying Time and Lights Out programmes, has
been named a judge in a national contest for radio script writing conducted by
the League of American Pen-women.
[December 13, 1935 Washington Post "On the Air Today" column by J. H. H.]
The old clock on the mantel had stopped. So I sat down at the radio, turned
the switch and waited for the first break which would indicate the hour. It
was, I figured, between 12:15 and 12:45 a. m.
In a few seconds, with the heating of the tubes, came a sudden crescendo of
agonized, screaming pleadings. "Don't keel me. I'll do anything ... but not
that ... I geeve you my money ... $2,000 in the mattress ..."
The blood-curdling dialog was doubly impressive because I had expected to find
a dance band playing at that early morning hour, whatever the station last
I was fascinated with the hair-raising awfulness of the script lines. Suddenly
it became apparent that the victim was protesting being dumped in a ladle of -
- liquid steel! And while I was dwelling on this gentle situation as a plot
for an air play -- the unfortunate gentleman was, in truth, thrown into the
white-hot cauldron, with his last earthly screams imposed on the throaty,
chuckling observations of his murderers.
The scene faded into a conversation between a steel-mill employe and a
visitor, in which it was explained that a man recently had lost his life in a
ladle of liquid metal -- but the process of fashioning steel rails, bridge
girders and so on had not been stopped. The jolly part of it all was (laugh,
laugh) that the victim even now was a fragmentary part (ho, ho, ha, ha) of the
finished pieces before them.
Again, a transition -- and the voices of the three slayers are heard, one week
or so later. One, named Sampson, set the plot. He was to be a victim of the
slain man through an overwhelming desire to work, to go down to the nearby
bridge under construction and work. From that point, the unfortunate mill
worker dealt out his revenge.
The manner in which the three assailants died is not appropriate for reporting
in a column that is scanned by many at the breakfast table. Let it be said
that this attempt to be baldly, deliberately revolting in details -- ghastly,
shocking in realism -- can be reported as notably successful. Finesse and
subtleness were eliminated in favor of gory, crude obviousness.
Sometimes the mass radio audience becomes a mystery to me. There can be no
doubt about it, many persons like this N.B.C. feature. It would not be
continued if it did not meet with the approval and pleasure of some listeners.
Yet -- many a bell-ringing idea, many a delightful bit of entertainment has
been refused with arched eyebrows because it was in bad taste, or too "in the
raw" or otherwise deemed offensive to the public mind. Many a capricious
alteration has been made in scripts and speeches by the same authorities who
put the stamp of approval on "Lights Out," thus putting a crimp in the
author's work and usually aiding the presentation in no way whatever.
"Lights Out," if I got a fair sample, is the most blatent [sic] evidence of
policy inconsistency coming to my attention in many a day. ...
[December 14, 1935 Washington Post "On the Air Today" column by J. H. H.]
... Shannon Allen, production manager of N.B.C., in Washington, has risen to
the defense of "Lights Out," which I took occasion to give space to yesterday.
Mr. Allen has nothing whatever to do with the production of "Lights Out" as
the midnight hour drama originates in the Chicago studios.
But Mr. Allen is first and foremost a production man and instinctively puts up
his mitts in behalf of any show which, as he calmly and smilingly maintains,
attracts the large audience as does "Lights Out." It seems, among other
things, that in missing the opening announcement last Wednesday night, I
missed the subtle tongue-in-the-cheek foreword explaining that the half-hour
is slightly on the burlesque side, somewhat inclined to be sly hokum. Further,
it is spotted at 12:30 a.m. for the express purpose of providing a "lights
out" shocker for those who wish to be "shocked."
No one has even faintly suggested I lack imagination or am intolerant of any
entertainment simply because I do not like it personally. As an example of
showmanship, "Lights Out" is tops. I still maintain, however, that it is at
fault in dealing with plot situations and climaxes that are stomach-turning.
Mr. Allen contends that a "thriller" is not intended to be successful on
finely drawn finesses.
After all, you, as the composite radio listener, are the judge. And I guess
the mass audience likes "Lights Out." ...
[December 25, 1935 Chicago Tribune]
... 11:30 p. m. - WMAQ - "Lights Out," a Christmas play about three men in
[January 1936 Radio Mirror]
Betty Lou Gerson, the NBC starlet who admits having a terrible complex about
ghosts and bogeymen, recently was cast in a Lights Out script which concerned
a girl who was killed in a taxi when a bridge went up with the car still on
it. After the show, Betty took a cab home and just as they reached Chicago's
famous Michigan Avenue bridge, it started lifting. Superstitious Betty
deserted the cab and hoofed it the rest of the way home. Half an hour later,
her cab driver was killed in a crash which occurred less than a half a mile
from her home.
[January 1936 Radio Mirror]
Bill Cooper who writes the Lights Out, nerve wracking dramas, is going to
cherish for a long time a telegram he got the other day:
PLEASE ACCEPT THIS UNSOLICITED CRITICISM OF LAST NIGHT'S SKETCH STOP IT WAS
BEST WRITTEN AND MOST NATURAL DIALOGUE I HAVE EVER HEARD ON THE AIR AND
MAINTAINED A WELL-NIGH PERFECT SUSPENSE STOP ACTING ESPECIALLY FINE STOP
REGARDS LEE TRACY
[February 1936 Radio Mirror photo captions]
Feel in the mood for murder? Then tune in Lights Out over NBC some evening. In
January this program celebrates its second anniversary, proving ghosts are
still popular. Above, Forrest Lewis, Betty Winkler, Sidney Ellstrom, Art
Jacobson, Ted Maxwell, Helen Fox and Harold Peary.
At right, Betty and Ted. The clutching hands make even actress Betty's screams
Above, the cast in another pose. The actors work in a studio that has but one
small light over the mike which casts grotesque shadows on the walls.
Art Jacobson (left) directing a hair-raising scene from Willis Cooper's pen.
[March 1936 Radio Mirror - A correction]
WE didn't mean to, but when we wrote the caption on the "Lights Out!" pictures
in the March [sic] issue of RADIO MIRROR, we gave the impression that the
program was directed by Art Jacobson. The "Lights Out!" director is really Ted
Sherdeman, and it's his work which has been responsible for building the
program into the colorful and entertaining feature it is.
[March 11, 1936 Racine (WI) Journal-Times]
Telephone operators at the NBC Chicago studios received several hundred calls
Wednesday night, March 4, due to the fact that the Lights Out program reached
Chicago listeners at 12:30 a. m. CDT, and they failed to find the listing in
Chicago papers at the old time, 11:30 p. m. Lights Out is heard over WMAQ at
11:30 p. m. CST, but under daylight saving time, now in effect in Chicago, the
program goes on the air at 12:30 a. m. CDT. For the program tonight, author
Willis Cooper has written a weird drama which begins with the disappearance of
two aviators in England during the World war, shifts with a mysterious
telescoping of time back to the year 17 B. C., when the Roman legions were
fighting natives of the British Isles, and ends in the present time with a
startling discovery by two archaeologists.
[March 17, 1936 Racine (WI) Journal-Times]
Bob Griffin's outstanding performance on a recent NBC "Lights Out" show, in
which he portrayed a man gradually losing his mind, resulted in a phone call
from a CBS production man asking who this bird was who had nearly driven crazy
in the half hour just passed. [sic]
[March 28, 1936 Chicago Tribune]
... Bill Cooper, who writes "Lights Out," "Flying Time," and "Betty and Bob,"
will leave for California for the summer, May 1. He will continue his writing
while in the west. ...
[April 18, 1936 Middletown (NY) Times Herald]
The Wandering Muse [radio column]
... LIGHTS OUT
One has to be a late stayer-upper or something, to hear the Lights Out
programs over WEAF every Wednesday, but they are certainly worth while
remaining awake an extra half-hour to hear. This is a radio drama series and
is heard at 12.30 every Wednesday night over WEAF. The sketches are timed for
half an hour and are written by one Willis Cooper of whom we have never heard.
The plays are by no means drawing room affairs. They deal with bizarre
mysteries and, unless you have a cast-iron nerve, will ruin your night's
sleep. They are splendidly acted and require some of the finest sound effects
that any radio program has offered. Some Wednesday night when you're up later
than usual and don't mind sacrificing the wave in your hair, tune in on Lights
[April 23, 1936 Chicago Tribune]
Willis Cooper will leave for Hollywood next Tuesday to write dialog for the
movies. He will continue to write the radio serial "Betty and Bob," and the
horror series, "Lights Out," on the coast.
[May 13, 1936 Chicago Tribune]
... Willis Cooper is still writing "Lights Out" and "Flying Time" for radio
production here, while turning out movie dialog in the west. ...
[May 23, 1936 Billboard]
Willis Cooper, NBC writer, got into town over last week-end with several film
studio deals on the fire. Cooper, author of the Flying Time period from
Chicago, is one of the few network scribes to get announcement credit. He's
about the fifth radio writer to entertain film offers in past several weeks.
[May 28, 1936 Chicago Tribune]
... Bill Cooper, who writes Flying Time and Lights Out, has been signed by the
20th Century-Fox pictures to write dialog. That's the same studio for which
Don Ameche is working. ...
[June 6, 1936 Chicago Tribune]
Arch Oboler, young Chicago playwright, is the new author of "The Lights Out"
[sic] horror series on NBC succeeding Willis Cooper who has gone to Hollywood.
Oboler also writes Irene Rich's "Lady Counselor" sketches. ...
[In the NBC papers at the Wisconsin Historical Society, there's an exchange of
letters between Cooper (in California) and his NBC boss Sidney Strotz (in
Chicago). On June 8, 1936, Cooper writes:]
"... will you please do something to make it clear to the listeners and to the
radio editors, etc., that I am not writing Lights Out, and why I am not? I'm
afraid I don't quite agree with the choice of Arch Oboler as the writer. I
don't want to stand in the way of anyone's success; but his contributions in
the past hardly, to my mind, warrant him as the unerring choice to carry on
Certainly I feel very strongly about this show. The idea of the type of show,
its treatment, and the idea of broadcasting it at midnight are all things I am
responsible for - not without some objection on the part of others. But I did
do something new in radio, and apparently did a goddam good job of it; and I
am not deliriously happy over the choice of a writer to start in where I left
off. I think I might have been consulted, because there are other boys around
who would have done better. However, that's done, and all I can ask is that
you publicize the fact that I no longer have anything to do with the show.
[On June 16, 1936, Strotz responds:]
... With reference to your feeling about the selection of Arch Oboler to write
"Lights Out" I do not know whether or not I agree with you but I will let the
matter ride along for a couple of weeks and see what if any results we get.
Oboler, as you know, has done some swell shows for Campana on "First Nighter"
and "Grand Hotel". If he does not work out you may rest assured that I will be
the first one to throw him off and put somebody on who can do a satisfactory
job on "Lights Out." ...
[June 12, 1936 Oakland Tribune]
HORROR SKETCH GETS THUMBS DOWN VERDICT
Burial of Live 'Corpse' Even Worse Theme for Dialers Than Pollyanna Drivel
By K. L. ECKSAN
This is one of those occasions when a radio editor feels like pouring out a
few vials of wrath ... So bear with me while I spill at least a thimbleful of
vitriol in a deserved direction ... Did you listen to that grisly "Lights Out"
thing Wednesday night? ... It was a Grand Guignol horror, except that, as far
as I could tell, it was pointless and utterly lacking in the macabre deftness
of the French school of morgue drama ... A young woman was being buried alive
... She was conscious ... She could hear, but could not move or open her eyes
... Horror was piled upon horror ... Listeners were permitted to hear her
shaping in her mind the words she was trying to say aloud ... They heard a
detailed word picture of the funeral obsequies for a live "corpse," apparently
a victim of catalepsy ... I prefer live talent, myself.
I am sincerely sorry for any sensitive children who may have been listening in
... What burns me up is that censors will hold up their hands in holy horror
if a casual "damn" happens to slip through the mike, and then permit a ghastly
thing like this to go wandering at large through the ether. ...
[June 16, 1936 Portland (OR) Oregonian - "Behind the Mike" column prints a
letter about Arch Oboler's episode "Burial Service."]
Dear Mike--May I add my bit to the flood of protest which KGW will undoubtedly
receive for the NBC production "Lights Out" which was broadcast Wednesday
night at 8:30? This play by comparison makes "Death Rides the Highway" seem
like comic relief and "Gloomy Sunday" a rollicking ballad.
I cannot conceive of any possible excuse for such a morbid and pointless
presentation. Possibly NBC thinks that everyone listens to George and Gracie
over CBS at that hour and it doesn't make any difference what sort of stuff
they put on the air. Unfortunately, before I could switch the dial after Town
Hall this program started and I just had to see if the poor girl got out.
I would certainly like to know whether the play received any favorable
comment, and if so, in what institution those who liked it are confined.
ROBERT A. LEEDY,
Lights Out, originated two years ago by Willis Cooper, is now being written by
Arch Oboler. Arch got his reputation writing dramas presented by Freddie
Bartholomew and other guest stars on [Rudy] Vallee's program as well as many
First Nighter and Grand Hotel dramas. No other kicks on Lights Out so far. B.
Mike for one enjoyed the show. Hooray for murder, ghosts and arson. ...
[June 24, 1936 Chicago Tribune]
11:30--WMAQ--Lights Out--"The Dictator--the Story of Emperor Caligula," by
[June 27, 1936 Radio Guide - "Plums and Prunes" column]
... Your new "Lights Out" author is Arch Oboler, of First Nighter fame . . .
He shudders at the responsibility of following Willis Cooper . . . Speaking of
Cooper, he writes from Hollywood: "Art Jacobson and I wear loud clothes and
Don Briggs conservative stuff--all of which is very confusing for in Chicago
it was just the reverse. Sometimes we get to thinking we are Briggs or he is
us and we sit for hours in a stupor (non-alcoholic)" . . . ...
[July 1936 Radio Mirror]
I'm afraid Chicago's Bill Cooper and the success of his ghost stories, Lights
Out, on NBC stations, was responsible for a sudden demand for that type of
radio entertainment this late winter. .... Cooper turned out one show so
horrifying that Mrs. Ted Weems, riding along the boulewards in a car, refused
to leave the machine after the show ended. She was afraid of the midnight
[July 4, 1936 Radio Guide - "Inside Stuff" column prints a letter about
IN THE MAIL: "I think I told you before how popular the Lights Out program is
here in Chicago. After hearing Wednesday night's half hour, I fear that it's
popularity is seriously endangered, because Arch Oboler is taking the place of
Willis Cooper in writing the script for the program.
"The program Wednesday night portrayed in minute and intimate detail, the most
tragic story in the realm of human imagination; A beautiful girl is dead. She
died on the very day she was to have been married. But the author leads one to
believe that she is not actually dead, and is about to be buried alive. The
program ended with the girl's screams fading as the casket is closed, the
final touch being the thud of dirt shoveled on top of the casket.
"It is my contention that this program was not entertainment. You will
remember my praise for the Lights Out series written by Willis Cooper. It has
been one of the most popular features in this section of the country. As a
matter of fact, that is the reason for this letter. I don't believe I could
get very far in writing to the persons concerned. I think from your position,
you might be better qualified to lodge a criticism."
What do other readers think? ...
[July 15, 1936 Chicago Tribune]
Arch Oboler deserves sharp reproof for offering an opus entitled "Flame" on
the ghostly "Lights Out" dramatic series at 11:30 tonight. The flame, Mr.
Oboler explains, is a living one that snuffs out the life of the man who
created it. If Mr. Oboler feels that he must stick to such grisley matters the
least he could do would be to title the piece, "Murder Under the Midnight
[August 15, 1936 Chicago Tribune]
Arch Oboler, author of "Lights Out" and the Irene Rich series, was summoned
from his home here to New York by plane last week to assist in a consultation
on improving Show Boat from the dramatic standpoint. All this concern over the
NBC Thursday evening show is due to the fact that Maj. Bowes is dragging his
amateurs to a spot opposite the radio vessel on CBS on Sept. 17. ...
Oboler is dramatizing one of the stories of John Buchan, who as Lord
Tweedsmuir is governor general of Canada, for Rudy Vallee who will present it
on his program from Toronto in September when he plays there at the
[August 19, 1936 Chicago Tribune]
... Best show emanating from Chicago in his [Rudy Vallee's] opinion is the
grisly "Lights Out" series, written by Arch Oboler. Why someone doesn't
sponsor this hour is more than Rudy can understand. ...
[August 19, 1936 Kokomo (IN) Tribune]
"Invitation to a Fly," the story of a human spider, will be the breath taking
Lights Out program to be broadcast at 10:30 o'clock this evening. The locale
is laid in a lonely Scotch inn.
[August 26, 1936 Wisconsin State Journal]
A dramatization of Saint-Saens' famous composition, "Danse Macabre," will be
presented during the Lights Out program over WIBA at 10:30 tonight. In the
drama, author Arch Oboler gives his idea of the weird events which led the
Frenchman to compose the eerie music.
[September 2, 1936 Dallas Morning News]
War to Be Fought.
"The Last War," a grim harbinger of tomorrow as it might be, likely will be
radio listeners' most striking experience Wednesday. Said exciting drama is to
be presented on the Lights Out program over WFAA from NBC at 10:30 p. m. Radio
darts into the realm of the future for this one, portraying dramatically a
world war of the years to come in which cities crumble before the onslaught of
aircraft, and astounded humanity meets wholesale death beneath a rain of gas
bombs, heavy artillery and whatever else imagination conjures up for the wars
just ahead. The upshot of the combat is to be the revenge which the dead
perpetrate upon the man responsible for the cataclysmic fray.
[September 9, 1936 Dallas Morning News]
Writing himself into the script is a horrible thing for an author and just to
prove it Arch Oboler gives himself a fit in "Lights Out" on WFAA at 10:30 p.m.
Wednesday. Searching until weary for an idea for an episode, the author dozes
as he sits at his typewriter, his hands idle in his lap. Somehow, maybe from
news of the day, thoughts turn to the Far East and to the dragon that shakes
the earth. The idea shapes itself into something awe-inspiring and a great
green monster assumes proportions from the curling smoke of a little
cigarette. Soon the gruesome animation grasps the dreamer by the shoulder and
shakes him into activity. "The Author and the Thing" proceed with the play,
mystery and adventure possess the listener, sleep is far away.
[September 9, 1936 Winnipeg Free Press - You Will Hear ...]
... The author of the play himself as the leading character in the "Lights
Out" drama, when a horror play titled "The Author and the Thing" is broadcast
over NBC at 10.30 p.m. Although the writer is the central character, Author
Arch Oboler will not play the role. He'll sit safely at home and hear himself
go through a very uncomfortable evening.
[September 11, 1936 Chicago Tribune]
"Lights Out," the midnight horror show written by Arch Oboler, put on a drama
Wednesday night in which Oboler cast himself, his mother, his brother, and a
girl friend. A monster enters his room (according to the script and Oboler's
imagination) and consumes his brother and mother and murders his girl friend.
"Oboler" summons the police, who can find no monster. So they hold "Oboler." A
sanity hearing ensues in which physicians bearing the surnames of the radio
editors of Chicago examine him. They pronounce him a lunatic. And then the
thing comes and consumes him!
At the conclusion of the broadcast your reporter made a telephone call to
Oboler's home and finding him in New York, apologized to his mother for
disturbing her at such a late hour.
"That's quite all right," she said. "Your call reassures me that I am still
alive. I heard the broadcast all alone here except for our dog!"
[September 16, 1936 Wisconsin State Journal]
A barren island off the coast of Ireland is the locale of "The Sea," which
will be presented during the Lights Out program at 10:30 o'clock this evening.
[September 23, 1936 Dallas Morning News]
A modern Bluebeard marries a beautiful girl with intent to kill her. That is
the basis for the mystery drama, Lights Out, at 10:30 p. m. Wednesday. "The
Harp" is entitlement. An eolian, ethereal harp plays important part in the
unrolling of the tale. The chief character is a man who commits murder for
profit. Romance enters this stirring revelation.
[October 1936 Radio Mirror - "Reflections in the Radio Mirror" column by
editor Fred R. Sammis]
My Hat's Off To: ...
The late at night Lights Out program over NBC from Chicago for the example it
sets in fine radio writing. If you can't sleep some night or are up past your
bedtime for some other reason, be sure to tune this in. ...
[October 3, 1936 Radio Guide]
Howard Keegan, director of "Lights Out," "Welcome Valley," etc., recuperating
in a Windy City hospital. ...
[October 3, 1936 Bismarck Tribune]
... [Patrick Howard] Murphy, who is starred in the NBC "Girl Alone" program
and also is heard on the "Forest Rangers" and "Lights Out" programs, has had a
brilliant radio career since his graduation from St. John's university,
Collegeville, Minn. ...
[October 7, 1936 (IL) Freeport Journal-Standard]
"The Eagle's Return," a melodramatic story of a world-famous flier's attempt
to make a non-stop flight around the world accompanied by his sponsor, will be
broadcast during the Lights Out program over WMAQ at 11:30.
[October 14, 1936 Kokomo (IN) Tribune]
"The Fast One," an eerie drama about an inexplainable crime wave which
descends on a great city, the menace being a man whose mental processes are
speeded up to thirty times the normal rate, will be broadcast on the Lights
Out program at 11:30 o'clock tonight.
[October 21, 1936 Winnipeg Free Press]
"The Thing That Crept," another spooky melodrama by Arch Oboler, will be
broadcast over WDAF at 11:30 o'clock Wednesday night. The mystery this time
concerns a new kind of monster -- a synthetic beast created by gem thieves
with vacuum cup feet -- which climbs up a forty-five story building to a
penthouse, where most of the action takes place. The characters are a gem
collector, a young girl, a reporter and the thief.
[October 28, 1936 Chicago Tribune]
... "Lights Out" ... is putting on an opus called "Halloween Horror" ... First
rehearsed with youngsters it proved too gruesome for the kids and so adults
[October 28, 1936 Wisconsin State Journal]
Harassed law enforcement officials who have more than their hands full on
Hallowe'en night are the object of Arch Oboler's sympathy in the script he has
prepared for the Lights Out program tonight at 11:30 on WIBA. It is entitled
[The same day's Kokomo Tribune calls it "Halloween Horror" and adds that "the
program deals with a neighborhood gang of small boys who go out on a mischief
excursion the last night of October and what they encounter."]
[November 1, 1936 Milwaukee Journal]
... Willis Cooper, author who used to turn out those "Lights Out" stories
before moving to Hollywood, wrote part of the new flicker, "Pigskin Parade."
[November 4, 1936 Winnipeg Free Press - You Will Hear ...]
... "Death Prayer," the story of an eminent British mining engineer whose
latent cruelty is brought out by heat and hardship in the bush country of
Australia, as the subject Arch Oboler has taken for his "Lights Out"
broadcast, at 11.30 p.m. (NBC). In revenge, the bushmen begin the horrible
"prayer ceremony," the results of which follow the scientist back to England.
[November 5, 1936 Chicago Tribune]
A few months ago when Rudy Vallee last visited here he disclosed that his
favorite program was the macabre Wednesday evening "Lights Out" show for which
Arch Oboler is responsible. Well, tonight, Vallee is putting on one of
Oboler's plays on his variety hour from New York. Oboler calls it "A Prelude
to Murder" and it was originally produced on "Lights Out" though it has been
redrafted for this presentation. Peter Lorre, the distinguished European
character actor, and Olivia de Havilland of Hollywood are to play the leads.
[November 5, 1936 Winnipeg Free Press]
The vehicle for Peter Lorre is a radio "original" specially written for Lorre
and the Vallee Hour by Arch Oboler. It is called "Prelude to Murder" and
utilizes the technique of "thoughts spoken aside" which was revived in
"Strange Interlude" on the stage. Oboler was the author of the one act play
"Rich Kid," in which Freddy Bartholomew made such a hit on the Vallee Hour
some months ago. Since then Oboler has written several dramas for the
programme. He also authors the Wednesday night "Lights Out!" series.
[November 11, 1936 Winnipeg Free Press]
Lester Jay, boy star of Sidney Kingsley's "Dead End," now playing an extended
engagement in Chicago, will take a leading role in "The Crime Clique of
Croesus," horror play written by Arch Oboler for the "Lights Out" programme at
11.30 p.m. (NBC). Jay appeared with Freddie Bartholomew recently in a skit,
"The Rich Kid," also authored by Oboler, which was heard on Rudy Vallee's
Royal Variety Hour. "The Crime Clique of Croesus" concerns a group of men who
join to commit perfect crimes for the thrill of it.
[November 11, 1936 Hammond Times]
Lester Jay, juve star of Chi cast of "Dead End," stars on Lights Out tonight
at half-past midnight. Appropriate, too, because most of the Lights Out cast
are dead in the end.
[November 18, 1936 Chicago Tribune]
"Alter Ego," a play about a woman with a dual personality.
[November 18, 1936 New Orleans (LA) Times-Picayune]
A woman with a dual personality, whose lifelong struggle with the negative
side in her character ends in defeat as she is lead by a strong inner force to
commit a horrible crime for which she is sentenced to be electrocuted, is the
central character in "Her Alter Ego," the Lights Out drama to be presented
over NBC-WSMB at 11:30 p. m.
[November 25, 1936 Winnipeg Free Press]
A big city racketeer decides to organize the laundries of his bailiwick into a
"protective association." He also decides to include Chinese hand laundries in
his organization. And thereby hangs a tale expounded in "Tong," the Lights Out
drama at 11.30 p.m. (NBC). Cruel murders of Chinese as gangsters attempt to
shove them "into line" are avenged by the orientals in their own way, with
some particularly horrible torture reserved for the gang leader himself.
Included are some little-known torture methods, according to Arch Oboler,
author of the series.
[December 2, 1936 Chicago Tribune]
For tonight's "Lights Out" broadcast Arch Oboler has written a drama around a
war horse getting revenge. The nag inspiring the story is Joan of Arc, 27
years old, belonging to the 122d Field Artillery lancers. Joan served in six
major world war engagements.
Don Mihan, young actor and production man at NBC, has been cast as Joan and
yesterday was tuning up his best neighs and whinnies. He also gets to trample
a man to death in the broadcast. Mihan's rôle must fill Mark Love, W-G-N
basso, with envy. He recently portrayed a cow in a Chicago opera presentation.
[December 2, 1936 Kokomo (IN) Tribune]
A drama in which an old war horse is one of the central figures will be
presented in the Lights Out program tonight at 11:30. Entitled "War Horse,"
the play draws its inspiration from a living steed named Jeanne d'Arc,
believed to be the only survivor of a score of army horses returned to the
United States from France following the World War.
[December 5, 1936 Carroll (IA) Daily Herald]
Arch Oboler, author of Lights Out, spookster melodrama heard over WHO, jots
down names of page boys . . says the hardest part of writing shows is to get
good names for the characters.
[December 6, 1936 Kansas City Star]
Everybody Lives In Murderless "Lights Out" Story Wednesday.
"Nobody Died" -- or will die, at least -- in the "Lights Out" drama by that
name to be heard over WDAF at 11:30 o'clock Wednesday night.
The murder-less "thriller" is a tale of a young scientist in a modern European
militaristic state who discovers a way to make the old young. War comes and
the dictator forces the scientist to turn over his secret process for use in
increasing the army. The climax of the play, as all "Lights Out" dramas do,
will be heard as the midnight hour nears.
[December 16, 1936 Kokomo (IN) Tribune]
In "Poltergeist," Arch Oboler has undertaken the feat of telling a story of
events which, in his own words, "are guaranteed to put goose-pimples on a
billiard ball," for the Lights Out broadcast at 11:30 o'clock tonight. Three
young girls who live in a small New England town go on a picnic and
unintentionally dance on the graves in an old deserted cemetery. What happens
is said to be based on an authenticated case and is something that can happen
again under similar circumstances, according to Oboler.
[December 23, 1936 Washington Post]
"Afternoon of a Faun"--Play suggested to Author Arch Obeler [sic] by Debussy's
"L'Apres Midi D'Un Faun," with musical accompaniment, in "Lights Out," WRC, at
12:30 a. m.
[December 23, 1936 Chicago Tribune]
11:30--WMAQ--Lights Out; Arch Oboler's version of "The Afternoon of a Faun."
[December 30, 1936 Chicago Tribune]
11:30--WMAQ--Lights Out--Arch Oboler's "Murder Below."
[December 30, 1936 Kokomo (IN) Tribune]
Arch Oboler swings back to the middle ages for the setting of his Lights Out
drama tonight at 11:30. Entitled "Sir Rat," the story concerns the demoniac
machinations of a nobleman who entombs the beautiful ladies of his court when
he tires of them. The way in which the ghosts of his victims obtain revenge on
the nobleman provides the horror for the play.
[January 13, 1937 Winnipeg Free Press - You Will Hear ...]
... A doctor who has discovered [a] method of grafting human limbs from one
body onto another with some particularly weird and gruesome results as the
principal character in Arch Oboler's "The Devil in White," macabre drama
written for the Lights Out broadcast at 11.30 p.m. (NBC).
[January 20, 1937 Winnipeg Free Press]
Pain is the theme of "Beast of the Shamo," Arch Oboler's horror story for the
"Lights Out" broadcast, at 11.30 p.m. (NBC.) The monster which lives in the
mysterious vastness of Tibet, has developed an attitude toward physical pain
that leads him to inflict it on those who fall into his clutches with an
almost religious fanaticism. Some highly imaginative methods of torture are
[January 27, 1937 New Orleans Times-Picayune]
Lights Out - "Big Sock," a simple honest negro fighter who rises to the top of
his profession, will be the main character in the Lights Out drama over NBC-
WSMB at 11:30 p. m. Arch Oboler has written a story of the negro's revenge
when his manager decides to make a coup and arranges a fight in which Big Sock
[January 29, 1937 Chicago Tribune - review of a 90 minute Mutual Broadcasting
System special broadcast on January 28]
... For the dramatic portion, Blair Walliser presented a versatile crew of
young actors recruited from the Broadway stage, Hollywood, and radio, in an
oriental mystery play, "Chinese Gong," by Arch Oboler, young Chicago
This play lacked the macabre touch that some of Mr. Oboler's "Lights Out"
sketches have, but there was plenty of intrigue, mystery, evil and suspense.
Brett Morrison, young film actor, and Elizabeth Hines, formerly of the
Broadway stage, played the leads, with James Goss, Hugh Studebaker, Gene
Byron, John Goldsworthy, Clare Baum, Norman Gottschalk, and Betty Ito in
supporting rôles. Miss Ito, a Japanese, is a student at the University of
Her presence and the fact that the cast appeared in full costume helped to
give the production an added oriental touch so far as the studio audience was
[February 1, 1937 Carroll (IA) Daily Herald]
FOR STRONG-HEARTED LISTENERS ONLY
A rat which has been bred to human size in the course of experiments by a
physician is the latest creation of Arch Oboler, Lights Out author, as the
central figure for "Honeymoon," which will be broadcast over WHO, Wednesday,
Feb. 3, at 11:30 p. m. A newly married couple encounter the monster on their
Oboler says he got his inspiration for the story from a physician friend who
had been experimenting on rats
[February 6, 1937 Billboard]
Chi Air Notes
by F. LANGDON MORGAN
... Wednesday nights on the NBC red continue to be "sumpin'." It's the Lights
Out stanza, certainly the best of its kind of production in radio. Stories are
a hybrid, mystery, ghost and 10-20-30 stuff, but excellently done. ARCH
OBOLER, who succeeded WILLIS COOPER, as writer of the show, has done well.
Production and acting rate a bow, which make it unanimous. Commercially, the
show presents a problem. Time, obviously, is not easily salable. Move to an
earlier spot might take away some of the eerieness. But it still certainly
rates a gamble as a commercial venture, if properly handled. ...
[February 10, 1937 New Orleans Times-Picayune]
Lights Out - "You ask what is the most horrible thing in life - fire, flood,
famine? No, it is none of these - the most horrible is the disintegration of
the human mind." These are the opening words in Arch Oboler's "Acrophobia,"
the Lights Out drama to be heard over NBC-WSMB at 11:30 p. m.
[February 17, 1937 Carroll (IA) Daily Herald]
"THE BONES OF SAM LEE"
"The Bones of Sam Lee" is the title of the Lights Out play to be heard over
WHO, Wednesday, Feb. 17, at 11:30 p. m. Sam Lee has been murdered, his body
dismembered and the parts scattered far and wide.
The skull finds its way to the desk of an English novelist in London, where it
serves as an ash container, and the rib bones are used as the framework of a
weird musical instrument in a Singapore dive.
When a mysterious power acts to reassemble Sam Lee, the resulting events are
enough "to make a deaf man's scalp squirm," according to Author Arch Oboler.
[February 23, 1937 Carroll (IA) Daily Herald]
STRANGER THAN "LIGHTS OUT" FICTION
Arch Oboler, author of those ghoulish Lights Out dramas, over WHO, Wednesdays
at 11:30 p. m., says he hardly expects anyone to believe this, but he swears
it's true. He had his secretary stay down one night recently to type some
scripts which were due next morning, and when the work was completed at a late
hour, he offered to drive her home. He drove to the street to which she
directed him, only to discover that the address was a cemetery--the Bohemian
Cemetery of Chicago. Arch thought it was a joke, but the girl assured him she
lived there--and she does. Her father is caretaker and lives in the cemetery!
[February 24, 1937 Chicago Tribune]
Arch Oboler, author of the macabre "Lights Out" ... and Eleanor Helfand,
University of Chicago co-ed, yesterday admitted they had been married since
last week-end. They plan to leave Chicago Friday by motor for a tour of New
England. Oboler expects to visit a few haunted houses. After their wedding
tour they will live in New York.
[February 24, 1937 Kokomo (IN) Tribune]
"Buried 1826," the story of a young girl whose body, buried in 1826, through a
chemical freak has become a side-show exhibit in a wandering carnival ...
[March 3, 1937 Chicago Tribune]
The other day a report reached this desk that southern preachers are having to
switch prayer meeting nights because of the popularity of Maj. Bowes on
Thursdays. And now comes word from Evanston that Northwestern co-eds are
letting Wednesday, the traditional mid-week date night, fall into disfavor
because of the popularity of Lights Out, Arch Oboler's macabre plays. The
Daily Northwestern, student newspaper, reported the other day that a campus
survey indicated that at 11:30 Wednesday lights are out at dormitories and
fraternity houses while the collegians shudder and shiver.
Mr. Oboler has a delectable dish ready for tonight. It's a tale about
Sakhalin, the Siberian Devil's Island and recounts the commandant's use of
prisoners as clay pigeons in his private shooting gallery.
[March 3, 1937 Kokomo (IN) Tribune]
The terrible happenings during the Czarist days on the dread island of
Sakhalin, the Russian "Devil's Island," will be dramatized during Arch
Oboler's Lights Out drama tonight at 11:30 o'clock.
[March 10, 1937 Winnipeg Free Press - You Will Hear ...]
... "Chicken Heart," a fantastical and horrible story originating from the
fact that a bit of tissue from a chicken heart at the Rockefeller Institute in
New York has for years been rapidly growing as the title and theme of Arch
Oboler's Lights Out broadcast at 11.30 p.m. (WRC). In the drama, the heart
grows at a progressively increasing rate until the very existence of humanity
is threatened by this great throbbing mass of flesh.
[March 17, 1937 Kokomo (IN) Tribune]
What goes on in the mind of the man who releases the trigger that drops the
trap door and sends a man hurtling to his death at the end of a twisting rope?
What thoughts seethe through the consciousness of the individual who pulls the
switch that releases the volts of electricity into the body of a man in the
electric chair? The answer to these questions will be dramatized In Arch
Oboler's "State Executioner" at 11:30.
[March 21, 1937 Lincoln (NE) Sunday Journal and Star - syndicated column
"Behind the Mike" by Bruce Nicoll]
... Larry Holcomb, continuity director of the NBC central division, said last
week the middle west was producing most of radio's script writers. He says
"There is something about the people or the climate of the middle west which
enables the spirit of reality to be caught and retained in writing more
readily than elsewhere."
"For instance," Holcomb pointed out, "Lights Out" that NBC midnight thrill
show is written by Arch Oboler, a Chicagoan; Vic and Sade (Paul Rhymer), Girl
Alone (Fayette Krum), Today's Children (Irna Phillips), Mary Marlin (Jane
Crusinberry), Guiding Light (Irna Phillips), and Tale of Today (Gordon St.
Clair), Holcomb says 80 per cent of radio's script shows come from Chicago.
[March 24, 1937 Kokomo (IN) Tribune]
The gruesome tale of three medical students who accidentally run over a
Chinese-and then try to get rid of the body, even though the man is not dead,
will be the theme of "The Thirteenth Corpse," Arch Oboler's Lights Out drama
for tonight at 11:30.
[March 24, 1937 Daily Iowan]
Tuning In with Jean Thompson
... The studying, sleeping and "dating" habits of Northwestern university
students is being altered by NBC's "Lights Out" program Wednesday nights,
according to a recent issue of the Daily Northwestern, student paper. A
student reporter discovered that study lamps were switched off in many
fraternity and sorority houses on the dot at 11:30, and radios tuned to the
spook dramas over NBC. He found more "Lights Out" fans in the masculine north
campus than in the sorority quads and concluded that "the male of the species
is probably more courageous." ...
[March 31, 1937 Chicago Tribune]
The Chicago Mummers Theater group, an outgrowth of a Crane Junior college
theatrical organization, will be featured as guest performers on the W-G-N
Fireside Theater program at 9:30 tonight in the main studio. "The Luck of Mark
Street," a mystery drama will be presented by Arch Oboler, with Al Short,
Bernice Rea, Gertrude Berman, and Sam Malen in the leading roles. Milton
Kanter will direct the performance and the musical background will be provided
by Adrian and his orchestra.
[March 31, 1937 Kokomo (IN) Tribune]
"Homus Primus," the terrifying story of three persons of London's upper strata
who, by a weird twist of time, find themselves back in the Stone Age ...
[April 7, 1937 Kokomo (IN) Tribune]
An authentic story of the occurrences during that horrible time in Russia when
a madman ruled will be the theme of Arch Obler's [sic] Lights Out program at
11:30 o clock tonight.
[April 7, 1937 (Madison) Wisconsin State Journal]
... "Ivan, The Terrible," de guy wot wanted to put everybody on de spot. ...
[April 7, 1937 Carroll (IA) Daily Herald]
WHEN A MADMAN RULED RUSSIA
An authentic story of the occurrences during that horrible time in Russia when
a madman ruled will be the theme of "Ivan, the Terrible," Arch Oboler's Lights
Out program for Wednesday, April 7, at 11:30 p. m., over WHO. Oboler has
written his tale about the five weeks when Ivan, at some imagined slight,
avenged himself on the city of Novgorod by putting to the sword nearly every
man, woman and child within the walls of the place.
[April 8, 1937 Chicago Tribune]
... Henry Hull (of "Tobacco Road" fame) is to appear in "The Harp," a play by
Arch Oboler, Chicago playwright, on the Vallee Varieties tonight. ...
[April 8, 1937 Indiana Weekly Messenger]
Lights Out, a feature on KDKA has been moved from Thursday night to 7:45
[April 21, 1937 Radio Daily]
Arch Oboler, author of "Lights Out" and of Irene Rich's scripts, off to New
York to consult with publisher regarding "Lights Out" volume shortly to be
[April 21, 1937 Winnipeg Free Press - You Will Hear ...]
"Ghost Party," the story of Mr. and Mrs. Sam Hinckle, who prided themselves on
their original parties, as the theme of Arch Oboler's "Lights Out" drama, at
11.30 p.m. (NBC). But one night the Hinckles staged a fake seance—and the
result, rather than amusing, was work for the coroner.
[April 28, 1937 Wisconsin State Journal]
"The Ninth Life," story of a woman in death row ...
[April 28, 1937 New Orleans (LA) Times-Picayune]
"The Ninth Life," the story of a woman in the death cell will be the gruesome
subject of Arch Oboler's Lights Out dramatic program, at 10:30 p. m. over NBC-
WSMB. So much pressure is brought on the governor that he calls in a
psychologist to give the woman a final test.
[April 30, 1937 Radio Daily]
Chicago--NBC learned something about the size of its after midnight audience
when a one-time request for mail from listeners was made at the conclusion of
the "Lights Out" ghost-horror show at 12:59 EST. More than 4,000 listeners
wrote in letters and cards of appreciation despite the fact that it is a
sustaining show and nothing was offered free.
[May 4, 1937 Radio Daily - a version appeared in same day's The Film Daily]
"Lights Out" for Theaters
Chicago--Cooperating with Sid Strotz at NBC, Will Harris, theatrical producer,
is about ready to put "Lights Out," the Arch Oboler Wednesday night [radio]
thriller, into theaters. A one-hour performance to use at movie houses is in
prospect. Show is [about to be cast and] is [scheduled] to open in Milwaukee
in a few weeks.
Oboler is also bringing out a book on "Lights Out"--a collection of the better
scripts used to date.
[May 5, 1937 New Orleans (LA) Times-Picayune]
"I, Madman," the story of a man who, by some miracle, looks into the future
and sees his own destiny as a madman, will be the theme of Arch Oboler's
Lights Out thriller, at 10:30 p. m. over NBC-WSMB. The horror lies in the
futile attempts of the man to escape his fate.
[May 12, 1937 Winnipeg Free Press - You Will Hear ...]
... The Lights Out drama, at 10.30 p.m. (NBC), based on a real house at
Mamaroneck, N.Y., reputedly haunted and formerly the home of James Fenimore
Cooper, which Author Arch Oboler recently visited and in which he promises to
spend a night within the next two weeks, just to prove to himself that there
are no such things as the ghosts he constantly writes about. The title of the
drama will be "Organ", and a background of organ music will be heard
throughout the broadcast. The story concerns a couple who get a strange
bargain in a summer home--that is, a bargain until ghosts start playing non-
existent pipe organs. Debussy's "Clair de Lune" and Wagner's "Ride of the
Valkyrie" will be among the numbers favored by the ghosts.
[May 19, 1937 Kokomo (IN) Tribune]
"Mad World," the weird story of a mad dictator who decides that as he is aging
and must die, all mankind must die with him ...
[May 26, 1937 (Madison) Wisconsin State Journal]
... "Until Dead" tells the story of a revenge that went beyond the grave. ...
[June 2, 1937 New Orleans (LA) Times-Picayune]
... "Snake Woman," a Lights Out drama full of coiling reptiles, will be Arch
Oboler's choice for the broadcast over NBC-WSMB at 10:30 p. m. The story is of
a circus woman who has a strange power over reptiles. The woman, finding
herself scorned, plans a macabre revenge using the serpents.
[June 6, 1937 Lima News]
... The National Broadcasting Company originates 23 dramatic shows, involving
110 performances and nearly 25 hours of network time, each week from its
Chicago studios in the Merchandise Mart. ...
[June 6, 1937 Lima News]
Chicago is the home of the "Theater of the Airlanes." In the setting of
wailing saxophones and crashing cymbals that marks Chicago, radio has
discovered and developed the new form of microphone drama. And today Chicago,
rather than New York, is the dramatic headquarters for radio.
It is there then that we discover the man of many deaths. Willard Waterman is
his name. His life in the radio theater has been a dying one ever since he
started on the ether waves two years ago. Although he has been given up for
dead many times and is killed continually, he still remains very much alive on
the "Girl Alone" program, in which you hear him as "Leo Warner."
Waterman has been dying on the air ever since his first production, in which
he was killed off in the first chapter of a radio serial. His second role was
the most important part in the first sequence of another new serial. But the
last line also proved to be the last the character he was portraying spoke. It
was a death line.
His death role was in a flashback showing a character already dead, as of the
present. Most of his dying has taken place in Arch Oboler's midnight
thrillers, "Lights Out." But out of these deaths Waterman has been able to
make a very good living. ...
[June 9, 1937 Wisconsin State Journal]
"Forty-Seventh Street Precinct", a story suggested by the coming abandonment
of the famous West Forty-Seventh street police station in New York City, will
be the subject of Arch Oboler's Lights Out program, tonight ever WIBA at
10:30. The drama will concern the return of the public enemies of yesterday
who stalk through the scene of their final minutes in this world.
[June 10, 1937 The Indiana Weekly Messenger]
Arch Oboler ... has a dictaphone in his bedroom which he uses only at night.
He'll lie down on his bed with a package of cigarettes at hand, start the
dictaphone, and actually enact every line of his script. Sometimes he can do a
whole show in half an hour, but sometimes it takes him as long as three or
four hours. He plays the dictaphone rolls over afterwards to check on the
characterizations and effects. If they're satisfactory, Arch turns over on his
side, and goes to sleep.
In the morning, his stenographer types up the results of the previous night's
work, and there you have the finished product, another play by Arch Oboler. ...
[June 16, 1937 Kokomo (IN) Tribune]
"The Meteor Men," a story of the invasion of the earth by a strange breed of
supermen from interstellar spaces ...
[June 23, 1937 Wisconsin State Journal]
At the insistence of a listener to the Lights Out program, Arch Oboler has
written a script entitled "Happy Ending," for presentation over WIBA tonight
at 10:30. The listener threatened the author with one of his own macabre
endings unless he let the heroine live to the end of the broadcast.
[June 30, 1937 Wisconsin State Journal - "The Cave"]
The gripping, thrill-packed story of two college girls lost in the fearsome
depths of Carlsbad Caverns, fantastic cavities beneath the desert of New
Mexico, will make up the plot of Arch Oboler's "Lights Out" drama tonight over
WIBA at 10:30. Many new techniques in sound effects will be used during the
drama to reproduce weird noises of subterranean activity.
[July 2, 1937 San Antonio (TX) Light]
Dialers who are familiar with the Carlsbad Caverns got a real thrill out of
Arch Oboler's Lights Out drama this week. . . . The sound effects of dripping
water and distressed voices ringing out underground were excellent. . . .
Announcement has been made in response to numerous inquiries, that visitors
are not allowed in the studio during the Lights Out broadcasts.
[July 7, 1937 Wisconsin State Journal]
"Brain Wave," a strange story of a man who discovered the way to intensify
mental activity until it reached out like a living entity and influenced other
minds, will be Arch Oboler's spine-tickling Lights Out drama for tonight, over
WIBA at 10:30. The thriller is based on recent developments in brain research
which have definitely established the fact that the human brain creates
electrical impulses when in activity.
[July 9, 1937 Carroll (IA) Daily Herald]
WHO'S WHO AT WHO
Arch Oboler, author of the frightening Lights Out shows on WHO Wednesday
nights, received a fan letter from an astronomer recently thanking him for the
"relaxation" the program gives him.
[July 14, 1937 San Antonio (TX) Light]
Here's some advance dope on Arch Oboler's Lights Out drama for tonight
"Lord Marley's Guest," the story of "the most unusual swimming party since
time began," will be the title of the thilller.
The story was inspired by a recent experience of Author Oboler while on a deep
sea fishing trip. Reactions of his characters, he says, will be merely a
reflection of his own feelings when he saw the horrible thing his hook brought
[July 11, 1937 Los Angeles Times - RADIOPINIONS column by Dale Armstrong]
... and whatever became of Shaindel Kalish, the now 22-year-old actress
featured in N.B.C.'s "Lights Out." She was the one of the most beautiful radi-
actresses whose picture ever appeared in the paper. ...
[July 18, 1937 Los Angeles Times - RADIOPINIONS column by Dale Armstrong]
... Shaindel Kalish, who formally [sic] starred in N.B.C.'s "Lights Out," is
back in Chicago, with no definite radio plans. At Universal Pictures, she
started out as Ann Preston, then became Judith Blake for an opus called
"Parole." She's married to Charles K. Freeman. I still think she's one of the
most beautiful gals in radio. (Note that I said "one of the.") ...
[July 23, 1937 Chicago Tribune]
Lights Out, NBC's Wednesday night horror drama, has been withdrawn -- just to
see whether listeners are still faithful to it. If you want it back, write to
WMAQ. Arch Oboler writes the sketches.
[July 31, 1937 The Hammond Times]
Radio Short Circuits
By PAUL DAMAI
The announcer no longer says "Lights out, Everyone!" on Wednesday nights at
11:30. In fact, the whole program has vanished from the air, partly for a
vacation and partly because NBC wants to take soundings of the public desire
for its return. Complaints have been registered with us over its absence and
we publish the fact, hoping that NBC's programmers will take the hint.
People like to be frightened. There lies a morbid fascination in watching a
ghost floating in the moonlight under your castle window, if you happen to be
so fortunate as to be supplied with a floating ghost or a castle window.
"Lights Out" was a program designed to satiate this desire in humanity. In
this region, at least, it had become a ritual to band together in collectively
geared Lights Out parties and listen to the half hour in trembling awe.
We never listened to it unless we had to, because weird themes find a soft and
clinging bed in our impressionable mind, and we don't particularly care to
invite nightmares to a command performance in our bedroom. Bats and black cats
aren't exactly comforting bedfellows even to our zoophilic nature, and we
absolutely draw the line when a dark mauve Gila monster begins speaking with a
Spanish accent in a deep bass voice.
[September 25, 1937 Bismarck Tribune (Bismarck, North Dakota)]
'LIGHTS OUT' WILL BE BACK SEPT. 29
Scores of Petitions from Radio Fans Brings About Resumption of Ghost Program
Scores of petitions, bearing from five to 50 signatures, and hundreds of
letters from individual listeners, have resurrected the horror drama program,
"Lights Out," for the second time in its three year history.
After an absence of two months the program will return to the NBC-KFYR network
at 11:30 p.m. (CST), Wednesday, Sept. 29, and will be heard weekly thereafter.
"Lights Out," which first went on the air in 1934, was discontinued for a few
weeks in 1935, but had to be brought back because of the clamor set up by its
hardy, ghost story loving audience. And again during the past summer when it
was cancelled, listeners proved loyal as ever and vehemently demanded its
return, with the result that it is now being reinstated.
"Glacier Woman," a weird story of Russian Polar explorers, will be broadcast
Sept. 29. In this production, Author Arch Oboler uses the flashback device. As
the script opens, one of the explorers is on trial for treason; then the
action flashes back to events on a Polar glacier. Oboler heightens the
dramatic intensity by using the old "Lights Out" trick of presenting a
dramatic monologue against a background of sound effects importing the mood of
Oboler, youthful Chicago writer, is one of the best-known and one of the most
prolific of all radio authors. He has written "Lights Out" programs since June
1936, and has been author of many plays and playlets on Campana's First
Nighter, Grand Hotel and Rudy Vallee broadcasts. The Irene Rich dramatic
series, also on NBC, is from Oboler's pen.
[October 10, 1937 Lima News]
Irene Rich will play the role of a young girl who suddenly finds the peace and
quiet of the North Woods area alive with excitement in "Fugitive," her vehicle
for Sunday, at 9:45 p. m., over WJZ radio, [...?] the only connection with the
outside world warns of an escaped prisoner in the vicinity.
A breathless and insistent young man who suddenly appears out of the night
brings events to a stirring climax. Henry Hunter will enact the young man in
the drama which was written by Arch Oboler.
[October 20, 1937 (Uniontown, PA) Daily News Standard]
Those of you radio fans who enjoy a good ghost story, or thrilling yarn along
with your midnight cakes and coffee will have a dandy time shivering and
shaking tonight at one-half hour past midnight when NBC-WCAE present another
thrilling, super-guaranteed "Lights Out" drama. Tonight the mysteries of
mysterious Egypt will serve as a background for the horror radio sequences.
Arch Oboler, mystery author, is responsible.
[October 27, 1937 San Antonio (TX) Light]
You can tune in on Arch Oboler's Lights Out dramas, over station WLW at 11:30
p. m. Wednesdays ... "Pyramids" is the story for tonight, a tale of the
adventures which befall a tourist party in Egypt.
[October 29, 1937 The Hammond Times]
YDAL CLUB GIVES COSTUME PARTY
In attractive, gaudy costumes, members of the YDAL club and their guests were
a gay crowd when they arrived at the home of Miss Kathryn Dempsey in Bauer
street Wednesday evening for a Halloween party. Masks were removed after
everyone's identity had been guessed by the couples, who then enjoyed a series
of games and dances.
At 11:30 o'clock, the lights were dimmed for the "Lights Out" radio program
that was suitable entertainment for an eerie Halloween gathering.
The serving of a tempting lunch [sic] brought the party to an end.
Miss Gene Thompson of Harrison avenue will entertain the club next Wednesday.
[November 2, 1937 New Orleans (LA) Times-Picayune]
Lights Out -- "Four Husbands" is the title of Arch Oboler's drama of a female
Bluebeard for the Lights Out broadcast at 11:30 p. m. over NBC-WSMB. The story
is in the form of a monodramalogue, with the lady explaining the interesting
circumstances under which she got rid of her husbands.
[November 10, 1937 The Hammond Times]
Arch Oboler's hair-elevator tonight on Lights Out shall be "Compound Interest"
a tale of revenge.
[November 10, 1937 Dallas Morning News]
The Lights Out drama for WFAA at 11:30 p.m. Wednesday, penned by crack radio
playwright Arch Oboler is "Compound Interest," a yarn about revenge which
compounds through the years. It climaxes adventurously in a bank vault.
[November 11, 1937 Radio Daily]
"Lights Out" Moving
Chicago -- "Lights Out," the Arch Oboler horror series, has been moved from
WENR to WCFL because the RCA "Music As You Like It" series has been spotted on
WENR six nights a week from 11:15 to midnight.
[November 17, 1937 Kokomo (IN) Tribune]
"Little Old Lady" will be the title of Arch Oboler's Lights Out program
tonight at 11:30. The tale of horror tells of the fantastic adventure which
overtakes two college co-eds who pay an unexpected visit to a relative of one
of the girls.
[November 24, 1937 Dallas Morning News]
Not so playful as its title would suggest is "Tin Soldier," the dramatic
concoction from the prolific pen of radio playwright Arch Oboler which will be
presented during the Lights Out broadcast on WFAA at 11:30 p. m. Wednesday.
The macabre story concerns the visit of a general to the scene of his supposed
triumphs and the hauntingly sinister events which occur upon the battlefield.
[November 28, 1937 Cleveland (OH) Plain Dealer]
Bob Guilbert, N. B. C. actor, is proudly showing everyone a note he received
from Arch Oboler, Lights Out author now on the west coast, complimenting him
on the way he played the role of Joe Lorenz in "Compound Interest." "A
performance such as yours definitely proves there is a place for good
dramatics on the radio," wrote Arch.
[November 30, 1937 Chicago Tribune]
Statuettes for the best Chicago radio performances of the year were awarded at
the Radio ball Saturday at Medinah Athletic club. Ten awards were made and
there were citations for runners-up. ...
Best production: Fibber McGee and Molly handled by Cecil Underwood, with
[runners-up] First Nighter, by C. L. Menser and Tom Wallace, and Lights Out,
by Howard Keegan.
[December 1, 1937 Appleton (WI) Post-Crescent]
"Death Pit," a drama by Arthur [sic] Oboler, will thrill listeners on the
Lights Out program over WENR at 11:30 tonight. The drama is a story of what
might have happened to a human being trapped in the La Brea tar pits in Los
Angeles 12,000 years ago.
[December 3, 1937 Radio Daily]
Jack Light, ass't manager of WTAR, Norfolk, was in his apartment with the
lights turned out listening to the "Lights Out" NBC thriller--when a burst of
light streaked through the house as flames shot out of the wall--caused by
lightning. He was uninjured though the apartment was greatly damaged. ..
[December 4, 1937 Saturday Review of Literature, "Jingle Bells: Notes on
Christmas in American Literature" by E. Douglas Branch, professor of English
at the University of Pittsburgh. A favorable comment about Cooper's 1935 play,
"Three Men," which would be rebroadcast a few weeks later.]
... Since the dreadful days of the "Christmas in the Trenches" stories and
verse, there have been some memorable Christmas items in American letters. The
best of them — for instance, Heywood Broun's "The Shepherd" and Willis
Cooper's script for the radio program "Lights Out" in the holiday week of 1935
— hearken, for their locale as well as for the spiritual ingredient, back to
the stable at Bethlehem. The diminished place of the American scene in
American Christmas literature will become a reversed tendency when the scene
again deserves Christmas. ...
[December 4, 1937 Radio Guide]
"DEATH PIT" WILL TAKE "LIGHTS OUT" HORROR FANS BACK TO PREHISTORIC DAYS
TIME will turn backward in its flight, crossing twelve millennial mileposts,
when Arch Oboler's "Death Pit" is presented as the "Lights Out" horror drama
over NBC Wednesday night.
Dealing with the gruesome story of a human being who was trapped in the sticky
asphalt of the world-famous La Brea tar pits in Los Angeles 12,000 years ago,
"Death Pit" promises to bring greater chills and shudders to listeners than
any play yet concocted by the inventive and imaginative author, who is now in
Hollywood writing the Sunday night dramas for the Irene Rich show.
A spine-tickling novelty, "Death Pit" is especially written for those hardy
radio fans who prefer something different in late broadcasts. Both Willis O.
Cooper, former continuity editor of the NBC central division, originator of
the "Lights Out" idea, and Mr. Oboler, who is carrying on the tradition, have
been amazed at the response of the show's listening audience. Each week they
have thought the absolute peak in horror had been reached, only to receive
letters from murder-loving fans begging for more thrills and terror.
Consequently, "Death Pit" is decidedly not a program for children, or for
adults who are faint of heart. It is a story of revenge, showing how two men
of prehistoric California met, grappled on the edge of the ancient tar pits,
the greatest death traps in the world. Oboler received the idea for the
fantastic drama from an actual newspaper story reporting the discovery of a
lone human skeleton among the innumerable bones of dozens of mammoths and
saber-tooth tigers found in the pools of liquid asphalt. His mind, attuned to
horriferous situations after months of writing shudder pieces, immediately
seized upon the situation and attempted to reconstruct what might have been
the actual story of the prehistoric Californian's death. He will emphasize the
fact that the bones of only one human being were discovered. More than that
might be unfair to the strange, yet real, story.
Oboler, a Chicago-born playwright, is an erratic writer, writing where and
when an idea or inspiration comes to him. Before writing for radio, he wrote
and sold more than 200 short stories to magazines. Of these, some 150 were
based on horror and ghost themes. Married early this year to Eleanor Helfand,
University of Chicago co-ed, Arch and his bride went on a honeymoon of haunted
houses in New England.
"Death Pit" will be cast only a few hours before it goes on the air. After
each part has been carefully assigned to a competent NBC actor, Director
Howard Keegan will rehearse the play itself with the aid of practically all
the sound-effects equipment in the NBC central division.
Passers-by in the halls are frequently startled Wednesday nights by shrieks of
terror, moans of anguish, crashing sounds, thunder, or the like. One
uninitiated in the varied ways of radiodom might think that a murder was being
committed in the studio. Over and over Keegan rehearses the actors until they
are letter, snarl, scream and groan perfect. Weak, worn and with throats as
raw as those of football fans after a big game, the case [sic] goes into the
actual production on the air. To add to the effect, listeners are urged to dim
their lights and not hold hands. Br-r-r-r!
"Lights Out" first went on the air in 1934, was discontinued for a few weeks
in 1935, but had to be brought back because of the clamor set up by its hardy,
ghost-story-loving audience. And, again, during the past summer, when it was
cancelled, listeners proved loyal as ever -- deluged officials with scores of
petitions and hundreds of letters vehemently demanding the resurrection of the
horror-drama program for the second time in its three-year history.
[December 8, 1937 Hammond Times]
Sun beings infest the earth when Arch Oboler's Lights Out takes the air
tonight ... under title, "The Flame Men."
[December 8, 1937 Circleville (OH) Daily Herald]
"Flame Men" ... fantasy
"The Flame Men" is "Lights Out" thriller heard over NBC, Wednesday at 12:30
a. m. EST. A fantastic story of a visit to our earth by an incandescent being,
whose origin was in the torrid depths of the sun and who has entered our
atmosphere with catastrophic results to mankind, brings plenty of action to
horror-fans Wednesday evening.
[December 8, 1937 Wisconsin State Journal]
"Studio Apartment," tale of a "Thing" brought to life.
[December 15, 1937 New Orleans (LA) Times-Picayune]
Thriller--"Studio Apartment," an Arch Oboler thriller laid in the home of an
internationally known sculptor, will be the Lights Out drama at 11:30 p. m.
over NBC-WSMB. The artist inadvertantly brings to life a Thing, horrible
beyond all understanding, and the broadcast dramatizes a story of terrible
[NBC publicity for the December 22, 1937 episode. A rebroadcast of Wyllis
Cooper's "Three Men" script aired on that date instead.]
Arch Oboler, noted melodramatist of the air waves, enters the realm of the
thought-provokers this week with a new play called "Uninhabited"... Herein Mr.
Oboler deigns to suggest what would happen if all the war-minded dictators,
munitions makers and international profiteers were congregated on a small
island in the South Pacific and allowed to work out their own profit-seeking
[December 29, 1937 Kokomo (IN) Tribune]
A visit into a dimension beyond our own will be taken by listeners to "The
Dark," Arch Oboler's drama for presentation on Lights Out at 11:30 o'clock
[December 31, 1937 Cleveland (OH) Plain Dealer - Excerpt from column by radio
editor Robert S. Stephan]
"You should hear it," someone said. "Gee, but it's grewsome." It was. Radio
has some peculiar ideas concerning acceptable entertainment. One of the most
peculiar of them all is "Lights Out" over WTAM from Chicago in the wee hour.
From its production it is built to thrill. It probably does jangle some folks'
nerves in a horrid sort of manner. The one I listened to recently included
such little pleasantries as a fellow trying to talk with his jaw shot away
after which another bullet was smacked into him. To offset this horrible stuff
the play itself was carrying on a crusade against ruthless munitions makers.
The idea was okay but the grewsomeness of the script weakened the case. The
producers were asking dialers to write in asking this series be kept on the
air. I wonder if this is good radio policy. What certain dialers enjoy may not
always be good radio. The young man in your household, for example, might
enjoy eating three mince pies at one sitting but it's up to you to get him out
of the notion. Radio has the same obligation to the home. I couldn't recommend
"Lights Out" as a brilliant broadcasting achievement.
[January 23, 1938 Boston Globe]
GOING, GOING, GONE
"Lights Out," that eerie drama presented after midnight each Wednesday over
WNAC, was taken literally last week by Betty Winkler.
The pretty young actress plays the leading role in Arch Oboler's drama every
week and invariably memorizes one or two of the script passages. Which, as
things turned out, proved very helpful.
Just as the program reached the half-way mark last week the lights in the
studio flickered a moment and then went out. There was a wild scramble in the
control room and hurried orders were barked to engineers.
But through the turmoil, which lasted two or three minutes, Betty Winkler
carried on with her lines. She delivered one of Oboler's long speeches from
memory. Shortly before she finished the lights were on - and "Lights Out" came
to a smooth conclusion.
[January 26, 1938 Appleton (WI) Post-Crescent]
"Oxychloride X," a story of the world catastrophe which takes place when a
chemist concocts a destructive substance which eats away steel and glass, will
be heard on Lights Out program ...
[February 2, 1938 Appleton (WI) Post-Crescent]
"Front", a ghost story by Arch Oboler concerning the strange events which will
take place when supernatural forces take over a suite in a world famous hotel,
will be dramatized on Lights Out ...
[February 2, 1938 Hammond Times]
The bombing of a radio station by a maniac is the theme of Lights Out tonight,
11:30 WMAQ ...... say-yy-y! That's an idea! After all, we're getting tired of
Bei Mir Bistu Shein ennyho. [sic, refers to hit pop song "Bei Mir Bist Du
[February 2, 1938 Kokomo (IN) Tribune]
"Death Letter," an original thriller written for radio, will be the Lights Out
drama tonight at 11:30. The story is woven about a detective and a girl owner
of a radio station who become the targets for attacks by a maniac. The madman
bombs the radio station and the girl and man come back from death to frustrate
further outrages on the part of the bomber.
[February 9, 1938 Hammond Times]
"Screen Test" is the Lights Out drama tonight. A screen idol and seven
mysterious old ladies meet in a haunted room of a strange, out-of-the way
hotel ... and the screen idol has quite a time, let me tell you kid.
[February 9, 1938 Appleton (WI) Post-Crescent]
... "Screen Test", another play by Arch Oboler, will be presented on [the]
"Lights Out" program at 11:30 over WMAQ and WTMJ. It is a story concerning the
unbelievable events which take place in a Hollywood studio during the filming
of a super-special production. ...
[February 12, 1938 Stand By]
"Sounds easy," is a common expression, but to the 12 sound effects men at the
NBC Chicago studios who daily produce everything from mouse squeals to roaring
earthquakes for radio fans, it's a prety tough job.
In fact, it's become such a tough and technical job that radio listeners can
no longer believe their ears.
The scripts on a recent Lights Out broadcast, for example, called for a
torpedo to hit and sink a ship at sea. Two days' work convinced researchers on
the subject that the best technique would be to dabble their hands in water
while members of the Lights Out cast carried on a conversation "on deck," to
open a valve from an air tank to represent the speeding torpedo, to slam a
door against a padded casement to represent the impact, to get the entire cast
to yell bloody murder and finally to blow up the ship's boilers by hitting a
huge sheet of metal attached to a microphone with a bass drum stick. And that
did the trick.
In the room assigned to the NBC sound effects staff on the 19th floor of the
Merchandise Mart, it is estimated there is enough equipment to produce over
The "ears" of microphones are so sharp that in many instances the actual sound
cannot be used, but a vast number of sound effects are recorded on more than
1,500 phonograph records on file in the department.
Honking horns and the din of traffic which is attendant to the taking of
listeners "to the Little Theater Off Times Square" on Campana's First Nighter
broadcasts is actually the recording of traffic noises in the loop at Chicago.
[February 16, 1938 Appleton (WI) Post-Crescent]
"Murder Castle", an Arch Oboler drama, based on the story of the "Holmes
Murder Castle" in Chicago will be heard on Lights Out program ... "The Castle"
is the scene of 27 murders before the criminal is eventually captured and
[February 19, 1938 Billboard]
Current Program Content
... If last week's program in NBC's Lights Out series was a good specimen, the
program has fallen away sadly. Time was, as this column has frequently
mentioned, when the program was one of the very best--an unusual and entirely
different sort of production. Arch Obeler, [sic] who suceeded Willis Cooper as
author of the stories, had maintained Cooper's level, but last week's
offering, written by Obeler, was a mess.
Oddly enough, the program had to do with a radio station, blown up by a
crackpot. Station was owned by a woman, who with her boy friend killed in the
explosion, hung around in ghost form until they nailed the culprit and
prevented a second explosion. Lights Out, ever fantastic, has always had a
convincing air about it. Not this time. ...
[February 23, 1938 Appleton (WI) Post-Crescent]
... "Ogre Wall," a new play by Arch Obeler, [sic] will be heard on [the]
"Lights Out" program at 11:30 over WMAQ and WTMJ. It is a story of the
attempts by two adventurers to climb the famous "Sigerwand", a great mountain
wall in the Alps that has never been conquered. ...
[February 23, 1938 Freeport (IL) Journal-Standard]
"Chicken Heart," story of the vital organ of a chicken which has been given an
independent existence by Professor Alberts, scientist, will be repeated at the
request of listeners on the Lights Out program over WMAQ at 11:30.
[February 26, 1938 Stand By]
How nerve tingling some of Arch Oboler's Lights Out dramas, heard each
Wednesday at 11:30 p. m., CST over the NBC-Red network, really are was proved
recently when NBC Chicago studio officials received a long distance call from
Green Bay, Wis., during the broadcast of "Until Dead."
A jittery voice on the other end of the wire asked: "Has that play ever been
on the air before?" A checkup showed it had been. "Thank goodness," said the
jittery voice, on being informed, "I could have sworn I had heard the thing,
but thought maybe I was going crazy." Lights Out dramas are occasionally
repeated on popular demand.
[March 2, 1938 Chicago Tribune]
Here's an item that will make you Lights Out fans shudder for weeks to come.
Boris Karloff, who specializes in horror rôles in pictures, is coming here
March 23 and will remain for five weeks to be the headliner on this macabre
Wednesday night show on NBC. Arch Oboler, who arranged with Karloff to do the
guest appearances, will write a group of plays specially suited to his
He will be supported by Betty Winkler, Betty Caine, Helen Behmiller, Harold
Peary, Phil Lord, Macdonald Carey, Arthur Kohl, and others. G. P. Hughes
directs the show and Bill Joyce handles those awful sound effects.
[March 2, 1938 Appleton (WI) Post-Crescent]
Arch Oboler's play, "Mother-In-Law," will be dramatized on "Lights Out"
program at 11:30 over WMAQ and WTMJ. The story gives some ideas on how to
remove unwelcome visitors from the home.
[March 2, 1938 San Antonio (TX) Light]
Arch Oboler's Lights Out drama, "Mother-in-Law," deals with the thoughts of a
murderess about to commit suicide to escape her conscience—this on N. B. C.,
but not locally, at 11:30 o'clock tonight.
[March 13, 1938 Kansas City Star]
KARLOFF IN LIGHTS OUT
SCREEN ACTOR TO PLAY IN HORROR DRAMA FOR FIVE WEEKS.
Arch Oboler, Author of the Show, Will Write Five Special Programs for
Boris Karloff, famous horror actor of the screen, is going on the air in
radio's most famous horror dramatic series, Lights Out.
His first appearance on the program will be on the broadcast of Wednesday,
March 23 at 11:30 o'clock over WDAF and the red network.
His contract calls for his appearance on five of the Wednesday night Light Out
For Karloff, Arch Oboler, Lights Out author, is writing five original radio
melodramas, each designed to bring out the special talents of the noted actor.
Karloff. whose most famous role in the movies was that of "Frankenstein's
Monster," will broadcast from the Chicago studios.
Light Out recently marked its fourth anniversary on the air. A hit from its
beginning, it has increased in popularity until it is now one of the most
widely followed programs on the air. Once the program was dropped to make way
for another show. So insistent were the demands for its return that soon it
The technique of directing the program which has prevailed throughout its life
will not be changed. G. P. Hughes, director of the program, will rehearse the
cast in a darkened studio with shaded stand lamps providing enough light for
the actors at the microphone.
A recent audience poll of Lights Out brought thousands of letters from
listeners. Among the writers were astronomers from the Mt. Wilson Observatory,
faculty members of the universities as far apart, geographically, as Harvard
and the University of Texas; students, clerks and businessmen.
Karloff never misses a Lights Out broadcast if he can help it.
"I always have been interested in plays that deal in the supernatural," the
actor said in speaking of the program. "I am glad that my screen schedule
permits me to join the Lights Out cast for these five programs."
[March 14, 1938 Logansport (IN) Pharos-Tribune]
The struggle of two men to vanquish remorse forms the theme of "Super
Feature," the Lights Out thriller for Wednesday, March 16, at 11:30 p. m.
(CST) over the NBC-Red network. The story, written by Arch Oboler, dramatizes
the climax in the life of a ruthless killer and his ignorant, helpless dupe.
[March 16, 1938 The Lowell Sun]
Boris Karloff, who will star in a series of five "Lights Out" dramas over the
NBC Red network starting March 23, will leave Hollywood this week with Arch
Oboler, writer of the series. They will pick up Betty Winkler, feminine lead
opposite Karloff, in Wickenburg, Arizona, where she has been vacationing, and
will rehearse the opening show en route to Chicago from where the programs
[March 16, 1938 Hammond Times radio column]
... WWAE Program Director Del Obert sez: Watch out for our Saturday night
Jamboree at 11, followed by Adela Kay's Chamber of Horrors at 11:45. The
latter is better than Lights Out, but then who am I to say? Mlle. Mimi Kay is
basing her intimidations on the Wax Crimes she saw in Mme. Tussaud's as a
[March 22, 1938 Oshkosh Northwestern - syndicated Radio Around the Clock
column by C. E. Butterfield]
Boris Karloff, who by his screen roles has gained the title of "horror man" of
the movies, now is to become the "eerie man" of the radio. Starting Wednesday
night he is to make a series of appearances in the late-hour Lights Out
broadcast of WEAF-NBC at 11:30.
To start things off Karloff will do a revival of "Cat Wife," a favorite horror
drama of the Lights Out listeners. It seems they wrote in and wanted him to do
the piece, as full of shivers as anything that Lights Out has presented.
[March 23, 1938 Fresno (CA) Bee]
Boris Karloff Headlines New KMJ Broadcast ...
Boris Karloff, famous for his portrayal of so-called "horror" roles in motion
pictures, will make his debut tonight in a new series of Lights Out dramas,
which will be heard over KMJ, The Fresno Bee Radio, between 10:30 and 12 P. M.
The Lights Out series, which has been on the air in the East for a long
period, has won the distinction of being radio's most famous series of this
type of dramatic production, and Karloff was engaged for a special series of
five productions which will be broadcast over the coast to coast Red Network
Karloff's first vehicle is The Dream. It was written by Arch Obeler, [sic]
radio playwright, who also is the author of the other plays to be offered in
Obeler has included in this play many of the unusual techniques developed in
connection with the Lights Out programs.
Karloff portrays a murderer awaiting the verdict of the jury before which he
has just been tried. What takes place in his mind comprises most of the drama.
Mercedes McCambridge has been substituted in the chief feminine role for Betty
Winkler, who was originally announced as the female star. Others of the NBC
staff who will he in the supporting cast are Templeton Fox, Arthur Peterson,
Raymond Johnson and Bob Gilbert.
The series will be presented each Wednesday at the same hour.
[March 23, 1938 Lima News]
... Horror Drama Will Be Repeated With Karloff
... As the result of a flood of requests for the revival of "Cat Wife," a
horror drama heard before on the Lights Out program, this play will be the
vehicle for Boris Karloff, "horror" actor of the films, when he makes the
first of five appearances on the popular NBC melodrama on Wednesday night,
March 23, at 12:30 a. m. EST, over the NBC-Red Network.
"Cat Wife," the tale of a neurotic wife, was one of the most popular plays
ever offered on the program, and for months listeners have been writing in to
ask that it be repeated.
For the other four broadcasts in which Karloff will star, Arch Oboler is
writing original radio plays.
Karloff, most noted for his portrayal of the monster in the film,
"Frankenstein," will arrive in Chicago on Sunday, March 20, to start
rehearsals for his first Lights Out broadcast. ...
[March 24, 1938 New York Post]
Spine Chillers Aired for Late Radio Listeners
Boris Karloff Opens Special Series as Guest Star on "Lights Out"
By AARON STEIN
If the radio listeners, or at least those of them that stay at their radios
until 1 o'clock in the morning with the purpose of having their spines
chilled, are able to sleep soundly and peacefully of a Wednesday night, it is
not because Boris Karloff, Arch Oboler and the National Broadcasting Company
are not all trying. Last night Mr. Karloff did his first broadcast as guest
star of the "Lights Out" series which Mr. Oboler writes and which NBC
The sole purpose of the show is to do a job of blood curdling, and if you like
that feeling of ice water in your arteries, veins and capillaries, this is a
reliable way of achieving it. As a matter of fact, last night's broadcast was
not quite up to the hair raising standard the show has set for itself. In less
than half an hour we were able to smooth the goose flesh off the back of our
Mr. Oboler provided for the festivities a script which had just enough moments
of lull to allow time for reassuring thoughts about credibility. There were no
few frightening moments, but when Mr. Oboler is really in his stride he builds
a cumulative scare through the half-hour of broadcasting time and the
resultant goose flesh lasts for hours. Do not listen if you scare easily; but
if you enjoy being scared, there it is.
[March 26, 1938 Los Angeles Times radio column by Dale Armstrong]
... So far there hasn't been much of a fuss raised over the Boris Karloff
rendition of Arch Oboler's horror lines in the initial "Lights Out"
presentation this week. Though the program comes into the home at 10:30, after
most of the children are in bed, it's still too grewsome [sic] and bloody for
general public taste. A few more of these horrible chillers, a continued
degeneration of radio "comedy," the further air-use of "cleaned-up" burlesque
and smoking room jokes, and radio is going to get a spanking that will be well
deserved. It should be noted, on the credit side, that radio drama has
improved tremendously, while the variety shows and comedy programs and have
been sliding downhill. ...
[March 30, 1938 Variety]
'Lights Out' with Templeton Fox, Mercedes McCambridge, Arthur Peterson,
Raymond Johnson, Bob Guilbert
Wednesday, 11:30 p.m. CST
Midwest division of NBC brought in Karloff to inaugurate the fourth
anniversary for this midnight mystery show, with Karloff scheduled for a stay
of several weeks on Wednesday night chiller.
Strangely enough, despite the evident draw of program. NBC has not been able
to obtain a sponsor for it, with advertisers shying from the 'unorthodox'
program that appeals to people who will listen to a horror yarn, or who will
stay up until midnight for a spine-tingler.
Initial Karloff script was a solid piece of writing, displaying a novelty
approach in projecting the story in the first person, with only occasional
lapses into dramatization. Story of a man who hears voices telling him to
kill, and which finally drive him to murder the woman he loves.
Karloff does a good job of the helpless murderer, with the rest of the cast
being outstanding, especially the gal playing the part of the evil voice.
Production was tuned perfectly to the demands at the script and built each
sequence to full value.
[March 30, 1938 Fresno (CA) Bee]
... Another feature on the air over KMJ tonight is the second appearance of
Boris Karloff in the "horror" drama series entitled Lights Out.
On the air at 10:30 P. M., Karloff will appear in the role of an Englishman
unjustly imprisoned for life on Devils Island. His suffering and attempts to
escape to wreak vengeance on the person responsible for his imprisonment form
the subject matter for the drama.
The subject of the drama, Valse Triste, also will be used as theme music on
this occasion, one of the few in which music is heard during these programs.
This story, like the first of the series, was especially written for Lights
Out by Arch Obeler. [sic]
[March 30, 1938 Radio Daily]
A young lady purred up to Boris Karloff the other evening and inquired, "What
is the theme song of "Lights Out"? "Gong With the Wind Machine," Karloff
[April 2, 1938 The Lowell Sun]
A beautiful old cameo adorns the neck of Betty Winkler, "Lights Out" star.
It's a gift of an admirer in Pennsylvania who recently died. The woman, who
was 90, had been a faithful listener to all of Betty's broadcasts and in her
will she dictated that the cameo--more than a century old--be sent to her
favorite radio actress.
[April 2, 1938 Stand By]
How About It?
Arch Oboler, writer of the Lights Out thrillers heard each Wednesday night
over NBC-Red network, has received letters from several fans asking if he's a
syndicate. No one person, one fan wrote, could turn out a Lights Out show
every week without going mad.
[April 6, 1938 Winnipeg Free Press - You Will Hear ...]
. . . Cat Wife, the story of a neurotic wife, as the third Lights Out vehicle
for Boris Karloff, famed horror actor of the screen, when it is presented over
the NBC-Red network at 11.30 p.m. (WENR). Karloff believes the play, which is
being revived at the request of thousands of Lights Out listeners, is one of
[April 6, 1938 San Bernardino County Sun]
"Cat Wife," the story of a neurotic wife, will be the third Lights Out vehicle
for Boris Karloff, famed "horror" actor of the screen when it is presented
over KFI at 10:30 p.m.
[photo caption] Betty Winkler, who originated the title role in the drama,
which is being revived by popular request, again will play the role of the
[April 13, 1938 Fresno (CA) Bee]
The haunting memory of a girl he sent to her death will be told in tonight's
Lights Out drama staring Boris Karloff, with Mercedes McCambridge in the role
of the girl.
The girl returns to haunt Karloff in the flame on his match and of his
fireplace, and the way in which the flames of three matches serve to revenge
the wrong committed by the star gives the tale its title of Three Matches.
[April 13, 1938 Kokomo (IN) Tribune]
The flaming souls of three matches will reach out horrid fingers to exert a
just revenge on Boris Karloff in the "Three Matches" horror drama to be
presented in the Lights Out broadcast at 11:30.
[April 19, 1938 Christian Science Monitor]
Study in Contrast
"Trouper" is what Boris Karloff, the noted "horror" actor of the movies, is
called by his NBC associates in Chicago. Mr. Karloff is currently being heard
in the NBC's "Lights Out" drama which is radiocast at 12:30 a. m. This is high
praise in the theatrical world.
To C. L. Menser, production manager, Gordon T. Hughes, producer of "Lights
Out" and Maurice Lowell, who directed the presentation of "Cat Wife" recently,
Mr. Karloff is one of the greatest troupers with whom they have ever worked.
Prepared to rehearse with a possibly "temperamental" star, Mr. Hughes found
instead a most affable individual who, when he began reading his lines, proved
to be a fine microphone actor, most co-operative and personably likeable. An
agreeable contrast, indeed, to his movie characters.
[April 20, 1938 Appleton (WI) Post-Crescent]
"Night On the Mountain," starring Boris Karloff will be heard on Lights Out
program at 11:30 tonight over WMAQ and WTMJ. The story was inspired by
Moussorgsky's composition, "Night On Bald Mountain."
[April 20, 1938 Fresno (CA) Bee]
Karloff Closes As Star Of Air Dramatic Series
Fifth Drama Is Based Upon Musical Composition By Moussourgsky
The final appearance of Boris Karloff, star of the stage and screen, in the
leading role in the radio series of "horror" dramas, written by Arch Obeler,
[sic] will be one of the outstanding features of tonight's broadcasts by KMJ,
The Fresno Bee Radio.
The play, Night On The Mountain, opening at 10:30 P .M., was inspired by the
weird musical composition by Moussourgsky titled Night On Bald Mountain.
Karloff assisted Obeler in preparing the script, which tells the story of a
condemned murderer who escapes from the death cell an hour before the
appointed time for his execution.
The play also climaxes two years of effort by Obeler to write a Lights Out
thriller in harmony with the music, which he achieved after calling upon
Karloff for assistance.
[April 23, 1938 Billboard]
Chicago By HAROLD HUMPHREY
TOP-NOTCH sponsor has been talking things over with Arch Oboler with a view to
having him do a show for them patterned after Lights Out but minus the horror
stuff. If the deal pans, Arch will have to leave his present chore for NBC and
devote his time to the new account, which is in New York. ...
[April 23, 1938 The Bismarck Tribune]
Arch Oboler, Author of 'Lights Out' Can't Just Sit Down and Write Story
CREATOR OF HORROR SERIES MUST HAVE DAYS FOR THINKING
Abandons Typewriter in Favor of Dictaphone So That Dialogue Will Be Better
WRITES FOR VARIOUS TYPES
Has Prepared Work for Walter Huston, Rudy Vallee and Irene Rich, Among Others
Chicago, Apr 23 "Plots aren't to hard to find. It's the dressing of the plots
that takes thought and time."
Arch Oboler, author of the "Lights Out" thrillers in which Boris Karloff,
famed "horror" actor of the screen, is now starring, waves his hand and
dismisses the inquiry. Oboler is in Chicago at present writing the vehicles
through which Karloff brings spinal shivers to listeners each Wednesday night
at 11:30 p m (CST).
"Perhaps I'm Different"
"No," the author continues, "it's not the plots that are so hard. They seem to
come easy. But it takes a lot of work to get them all built up.
"Perhaps I am different from many writers" he explains. "You see, I can't
write with my finger tips. That is I can't just sit down and bat out a story.
I have to have it all built in my head first.
"Weeks before I write a play I begin to think about it. Often folks think I am
a loafer, because I just wander around picking up a magazine, then dropping it
without even looking through it, sitting, walking, watching people pass by.
But all that time the story is building.
"For 'Lights Out' I can often outline a dozen stories in advance. But I
couldn't just sit down and write them the moment the outline is done.
"Another belief of mine is that working on a typewriter makes me try to be
literary at the expense of my dialogue. So I use a dictaphone. Once the story
is complete in my mind I sit down and dictate it. Then a stenographer
transcribes it and I read it over. Sometimes it sounds so bad I just throw it
away and start all over again.
Writes Various Types
"It's all part of the game. But don't let anyone tell you writing isn't hard
work. If I wrote just one type of thing, maybe it would be easier. But the
thrillers for 'Lights Out' are just one type. I have written dozens of other
things. I have supplied scripts for Rudy Vallee and I wrote an Abraham Lincoln
play for Walter Huston. Then I have done lots of 'boy meets girl' pieces for
"When I start on a piece I get my mind set for the type of thing I intend to
do. Then I plan it, get it all straight and write it sounds easy, doesn't it.
But just that takes days sometimes."
Oboler intends to return to Hollywood when Karloff's present contract for
"Lights Out" is completed.
[April 27, 1938 Appleton (WI) Post-Crescent]
"They Died" is the title of tonight's "Lights Out" thiller at 10:30 over WMAQ
and WTMJ. It is the story of a young couple pursued by a strange malignant
[April 30, 1938 Stand By]
Arch War Foe
Arch Oboler is proudly displaying a note from the American Peace Society
thanking him for the recent anti-war Lights Out programs he's written. Recent
Lights Out thrillers with an anti-war basis were "The Last War," "Uninhabited"
and "Hero's Return."
[May 4, 1938 Winnipeg Free Press - You Will Hear ...]
... Devil's Island, as the Arch Oboler play to be presented on the Lights Out
programme, at 10.30 p.m. (NBC-CKY) on the initial Canadian broadcast. The play
is built around the theory that if there is no justice in life there may be
justice in death. The locale of the drama will be the French penal colony in
French Guiana. The story will deal with the fate of an English prisoner who
unjustly has been sentenced to the living death of the notorious prison. The
story is based upon a true incident which occurred in the early part of the
[May 8, 1938 Helena Daily Independent]
Q. How is the sound of an electrocution made in the Boris Karloff Lights Out
A. Radio Guide says that the electrocution of a criminal in the Karloff dramas
is achieved by radio technicians with a frying pan of bacon sizzling on an
electric grill plus the sound of flying sparks obtained from an ordinary
telegraph key and dry-cell battery.
[May 11, 1938 Kokomo (IN) Tribune]
The horrors of the labyrinths of the sewers of Paris will form the basis for
the thrills in Arch Oboler's "It Happened" on the Lights Out program at 10:30
[May 14, 1938 Radio Guide]
The title of tonight's drama by Arch Oboler is "It Happened." The thriller
concerns the plight of an American girl who gets lost in the sewers of Paris.
[May 13, 1938 Appleton (WI) Post-Crescent - Post Mortem column by "jonah-the-
... One of the more painful things about daylight saving time is the fact that
the "Lights Out" program (of super-collossal horrors) now comes on at ten
thirty, standard time, thereby giving more of us a chance to get all built up
for a dandy nightmare.
I often wonder whether Arch Obeler, [sic] author of these pieces, has much
At any rate, do not let your youngsters hear these blood curdlers, even if
your offspring stay up that late.
[May 18, 1938 Winnipeg Free Press - You Will Hear ...]
... Good, Bad, Indifferent, Arch Oboler's weird drama of the amazing events
which take place at an English house party, presented on the Lights Out
programme at 10.30 p.m. (NBC-CKY). The plot is based on a local superstition
that at a certain time of the year three persons die -- one good, one bad and
one indifferent. The dramatization of the deaths, unearthly in their
relationship to the superstition, will be heard from the NBC Chicago studios.
[May 25, 1938 Circleville (OH) Herald]
Mrs. Crazy . . . thriller
"Lights Out"—NBC, 11:30 p. m.
Wednesday night's thriller by Arch Oboler is the story of the strange revenge
an insane woman takes upon her accusers. The story is based upon an element of
truth, in that a similar incident did take place at a well-known state
institution [for the insane].
[May 28, 1938 Stand By]
Sees Pinch Hitter's Bats
William Joyce, sound technician at the NBC Chicago studios, ably demonstrated
the story of the motorman with a day off on the occasion of Boris Karloff's
final appearance on the Lights Out program. Regularly assigned as sound man on
the broadcast, he was given an earlier assignment on that day and relieved of
his late-at-night duties. When the show went on the air, however, one of the
interested spectators in the observation room was Bill Joyce. His visit was
repaid when he learned how to reproduce the sound of bats flying about. The
sound effect, never before attempted, was achieved by flapping leather gloves
in the air.
[June 1, 1938 Winnipeg Free Press - You Will Hear ...]
... Scoop, a newspaper drama to end all newspaper dramas, as the latest Arch
Oboler thriller booked for the Lights Out broadcast, at 10.30 p.m. (NBC-CKY).
Highlighting the programme, which is replete with horror, will be the sound of
a strange newspaper sheet -- printed, according to the script, on human skin.
[June 4, 1938 Bismarck Tribune]
... Ken Robinson, continuity editor of the NBC Central Division, ... sees
approximately 2,000 amateur radio scripts every year and listens to as many
ideas verbally presented. ...
... Chicago is the point of origin for a number of top-ranking scripts by
writers who learned to write for radio after specializing in something else.
For instance, Fibber McGee and Molly is written by a former cartoonist, Don
Quinn; the Woman in White and the Guiding Light are written by Irna Phillips,
one-time elocution teacher; the story of Mary Marlin is the brainchild of Jane
Crusinberry, once a singer; Girl Alone is the mental product of Fayette Krum,
ex-newspaper reporter; Lights Out is the work of Arch Oboler, erstwhile free
lance magazine writer. In addition to writing Dan Harding's Wife, Robinson
oversees all staff continuity prepared by his five assistants, four men and a
girl--Leslie Edgley, William Hodapp, J. L. Frazier, William Murphy and
[July 27, 1938 San Antonio (TX) Light]
The Light's [sic] Out drama over N. B. C. ended last Wednesday. They will be
resumed next fall. Dance music will be beard at the Lights Out spot on WOAI
at 10:30 tonight.
[August 17, 1938 Variety]
Oboler Script on BBC
London, Aug. 5.
BBC has taken Arch Oboler's 'Money, Money, Money,' for performance in early
September, and will spot it around 10:45 p.m. as first of series of 30-min.
chillers under general title of 'Lights Out.' Norman Shelley and Charles
Farrell reported in line for the leads.
It isn't [movie star Janet] Gaynor's ex-partner, incidentally, but a purely
local Farrell, who's pretty familiar with BBC's mikes.
Oboler is an American script writer.
[October 5, 1938 The (Connellsville, PA) Daily Courier]
... The scheduled fall premiere of "Lights Out" has been cancelled. ...
[October 12, 1938 Logansport Pharos-Tribune]
"Homecoming," the hair-raising tale of a suicide who lives in spirit and who
returns to his abode to kill his reincarnation 25 years later, will inaugurate
a weekly series of Lights Out dramas at 11:30 p. m. CST, Wednesday, October
12, over the NBC-Red network.
[October 14, 1938 Saskatoon Star-Phoenix]
"Homecoming," the hair-raising tale of a suicide who lives in spirit and who
returns to his abode to kill his reincarnation 25 years later, inaugurated a
weekly series of Lights Out dramas at 10.30 Wednesday, over the N.B.C.-red
The new Lights Out series, carrying on in the tradition of this famous N B.C.
horror broadcast, is being written henceforth by several experienced radio
writers instead of by Arch Oboler, radio playwright, who took over the series
in June, 1936. When Lights Out first came on the air in 1934, Willis Cooper
was author for the series. Oboler remained on the show until it went off the
air for the summer of 1938.
During the four years that Lights Out has been an N.B.C. feature, the program
has developed a great audience of chill seekers. The plots for the dramas have
dealt with mystery, horror, tragedy, madness and sudden death on the broad
[October 19, 1938 Nebraska State Journal]
... Lights Out returns with new series of horror and mystery plays.
[NBC publicity for the December 21, 1938 episode, another rebroadcast of
Wyllis Cooper's "Three Men" script.]
... a story of reincarnation, which has become a LIGHTS OUT Christmas
tradition. The play deals with the strange experience of three officers, a
Frenchman, an Australian and an American...
[January 1, 1939 Boston Globe]
Believing that screams are too precious to waste, Gordon Hughes, director of
the Lights Out horror dramas on N. B. C. permits an actress to make one full-
sized scream during rehearsal and no more. The single yell is to give the
engineer a chance to determine what the peak sound level will be. Other
screams written in the script are soft pedaled during rehearsal so that the
actress won't strain her vocal chords, and will be in fine trim for real ear-
splitting screeches when the show goes on the air.
[February 8, 1939 Variety - Cooper's new movie promoted on his old show.]
Oklahoma City -- That portion of the great American public addicted to horror
and supernatural thrills are weekly listeners to NBC's 'Lights Out' show,
aired at 11:30 p. m. CST, Wednesday nights. Standard theatre thought no better
spot could be secured for radio spot plug of 'Son of Frankenstein' than just
before this program on WKY.
[February 14, 1939 Logansport (IN) Pharos-Tribune]
"Jerico", an original radio drama by Katherine Persons, will be presented on
the Lights Out program, Wednesday, February 15, at 11:30 p. m. CST over the
NBC-Red network. The play, directed by Gordon T. Hughes, tells what happens
when a thief robs an inventor of a disintegrator which he had hoped would be a
boon to mankind.
[March 7, 1939 Logansport (IN) Pharos-Tribune]
"One Day It Rained Blood," a fantastic story of the last man on earth, written
especially for Lights Out by Charles Gussman, will be the Lights Out
presentation on Wednesday, March 8, at 11:30 p. m., CST, over the NBC-Red
[March 25, 1939 Lima News]
Boris Karloff, Frankenstein monster of the screen, was the inspiration for
"The Ugliest Man in the World," premiere production of Arch Oboler's Plays,
new series of original dramas of the fantastic and of the imagination to be
produced by NBC.
The play will be broadcast over WEAF Saturday at 10 p. m.
Two years ago [sic] Karloff and Oboler were drawn together in NBC's Midnight
thrillers, "Lights Out." Karloff was starring in the spine-tingling
productions and Oboler was then writing them. One day the two sat down at
lunch and discussed the many distorted-faced characters Karloff had portrayed
on the screen.
"That was the beginning of 'The Ugliest Man in the World'," Oboler explained.
"But don't misunderstand me. Boris himself is one of the handsomest men in the
world in a virile way, but these ugly monster roles set me thinking. What
would happen to the man who was so ugly that children would scream in fright
when they saw him, who was such a shocking spectacle that even his mother's
life became unbearably unhappy? How would such a man react to people and to
love? What childhood would he have?" ...
[March 29, 1939 Hammond Times - syndicated column Radio Short Circuits by Paul
ARCH OBOLER PLAYS (Sat 9 pm WCFL) Oboler is overrated -- or at least thus run
our sentiments. Occasionally he socks the carillon but even when he clicks his
writings have a monotony. A demi-moribund air pervades too thickly not only
the confines of his whole works but hangs heavy in the subdivisions comprising
the individual MSS. Such lack of versatility earns criticism.
The first in this new series "The Ugliest Man In The World," was one of
Oboler's better efforts. Not only that, it had a happy ending, which is
surprising for a psychological study where a suicide seemed to be the only
hackneyed but expected solution. Not romantic, but psychological said Author
Arch after the play, describing the aims and modus operandi of the series.
Oboler betrayed an excellent mike delivery, and displayed that which gave us a
vague notion that here might be better actor than playwright.
The series is of a very high type and decidedly an addition to the enrichment
of the air if the present form is maintained.
Oboler's Play for this week is "The Mirage," a drama with only two characters.
... these will be enacted by Joan Blaine (Mary Marlin) and Raymond Johnson
(who played to the hilt last Saturday's "Ugliest Man").
[April 25, 1939 Logansport Pharos-Tribune]
"Lights Out everybody!" Those shivery words, dripping with portentious
possibilities for every Lights Out melodrama fan, will be uttered before a
studio audience for the first time [sic] in five years when "The Devil's Due"
is presented on the fifth anniversary of the unique program at 11:30 p. m.,
CST, Wednesday, April 26, over the NBC-Red network.
[April 26, 1939 The (Madison, WI) Capital Times]
LIGHTS OUT ANNIVERSARY
Another headline attraction for WIBA listeners will be the special "Lights
Out" drama to he presented tonight at 11:30 on the fifth anniversary of this
popular ghost-hour series.
June Travis, glamour girl who deserted the movies for radio, will make her
debut in a feature role as the only girl in a cast of seven actors in "The
Devil's Due," an original drama. Miss Travis is the daughter of Harry
Grabiner, vice president of the Chicago While Sox.
Arthur Kohl will be heard as His Satanic Majesty, and others in the cast are
Sidney Ellstrom, Cliff Soubier, Robert Griffin, Phil Lord and Pat Murphy.
[April 29, 1939 Lima News]
... Because Arch Oboler considers her to be one of the most talented young
actresses in radio, Betty Winkler, of the National Broadcasting Co.'s Chicago
division, will make a special trip to New York to play the lead in Oboler's
"The Last Man," which is to be heard over WEAF Saturday, at 10 p. m.
Oboler wrote "The Last Man" some months ago but refused to broadcast it until
Miss Winkler could arrange to make the trip east. Betty played a number of
important roles when Oboler was writing the 'Lights Out' series in Chicago and
since then he has been highly enthusiastic about her talents. ...
[May 10, 1939 Variety]
'Lights Out, NBC's Wednesday midnight chiller from Chicago, is getting
grislier by the week and requires a substantial stomach to stand tbe 30 minute
dose. Even Tom Mix in his deadliest six-shooter days wasn't as active in
depopulation as one installment turned out by this program's scribbler. And
Mix did his jobs without the aid of neuresthenic sound effects. Idea of
Wednesday's (3) airing was the story of one gent's campaign to provide fresh
corpses for medical schools--when he couldn't get 'em fresh enough via grave
robbing he took to making his own. In the course of the 30 mins. such gentle
lines as 'I'll take your own axe and split you into two quivering halves,' the
sound of the blows, the noise made by gore running from a pair of smashed
skulls, and the top effect of all, that of a murderer being pulled apart on
the rack, bones cracking, etc., were included. 'Lights Out' and welsh rarebits
are on a par as pre-bedtime fare.
[May 13, 1939 Lima News]
Ireene Wicker, who has won world-wide recognition and many awards during the
nine years she has been presenting children's programs over National
Broadcasting Co. networks, will be starred in a highly dramatic adult role in
"Baby," Arch Oboler's play to be presented on WEAF Saturday at 9:00 p. m.
The story, which Oboler considers one of his best, will be told in the
author's striking stream-of-consciousness style. The star is to be supported
by Vicki Vola and Charlotte Munson, young NBC actress, and her ability as a
singer will be taken advantage of thru an original musical score written by
Jerry Moross, composer of such well known symphonies as "American Patterns"
and "Tall Story."
[May 17, 1939 Variety]
Herbert Lyon, in the ad department at Balaban & Katz, has turned out several
scripts which NBC has snapped up for the spooky 'Lights Out' program.
[May 20, 1939 Lima News]
"Crazytown," a stinging indictment of the present anarchic state of world
affairs, will be presented by Arch Oboler over WEAF Saturday at 9 p. m. The
contemporary fantasy is to star Edmund O'Brien, who scored a success this
season as Prince Hal in Maurice Evans' Broadway production of "Henry IV."
Charlotte Manson, young and talented NBC actress, will have the leading
The story tells of two young aviators who make a forced landing in unknown
territory while returning from a successful bombing expedition against
civilians of a defenseless enemy city. They soon find they have cracked up in
Crazytown, a place where individual moral values have become us topsy-turvy as
are international moral values in the outside world. Hate, envy and suspicion
are cardinal virtues; pity, love and honor are considered unforgivable sins,
while murder is the only logical way of settling a quarrel.
[May 27, 1939 Lima News]
The reactions of a young honeymoon couple who come down from the eminence of
the Empire State Tower to find themselves the only ones in the world will be
revealed by Arch Oboler when he presents the next drama in his current series
over WEAF Saturday, from 9 to 9:30 p. m. For this week only the program will
originate in Chicago.
Titled "The Word," the original play carries on the Oboler tradition of stark
realistic drama enhanced by sound effects. Altho the characters move in an
imaginary and impossible situation, they behave as normal human beings.
[May 27, 1939 Oshkosh Daily Northwestern]
... Arch Oboler's Plays. "The Word," the story of a woman obsessed by the
desire to know the meaning of death, will be tonight's play. This play was
originally scheduled for last week. ...
[June 17, 1939 Lima News]
Edmund O'Brien, who played the tempestuous Prince Hal in Maurice Evans'
Broadway production of "Henry IV" last, season, and who had the part of the
overbearing young aviator in Arch Oboler's "Crazytown" on May 20, will he
starred in "The Immortal Gentlemen," Oboler's 13th production, to he presented
over WEAF Saturday, at 8:30 p. m.
The story was inspired by a line from Walt Whitman's "Reconciliation" and
deals with a youth who is so obsessed with the idea of death that he has no
time really to live. Projected by accident into a brave new world far in the
future where medical science has made immortality a reality, the hero
discovers the wonders, dangers and even horrors of such a condition.
[June 18, 1939 Hammond Times - Radio Short Circuits column by Richard Murray]
... "It's unfortunate that I must always be associated with great globs of
blood," chuckled Orson [Welles] when Rosemary Wayne, WJJD's movie reporter
with whom we shared the interview, asked him if he had ever written Lights
Out. He comforted Miss Wayne by telling her that many people had the same
mistaken impression, probably because he played the Shadow on Mutual at one
[June 18, 1939 The Capital Times (Madison, WI) - From article about Oboler]
... Then Willis Cooper, of NBC Chicago, called Oboler in and said, "We need
some more horror dramas--here's the chance for experimental radio writing."
"Horror," said Oboler to Cooper, "isn't quite up my alley, but I'll tackle
Cooper had heretofore written the "Lights Out" series, but he turned the job
over to Oboler in full faith that his successor would do justice to it. There
were about 100 "Lights Out" fan-listening clubs in the country. They raged and
fumed when the program was withdrawn about a year later. Under popular
pressure, Arch Oboler resumed with such spooky tales as "Glacier Woman,"
"Death Letter," "Screen Test," "Valse Triste," etc. ...
[June 23, 1939 Lima News item about Arch Oboler's Plays]
Due to the fact that the dramatic series has changed time and is now heard on
the West Coast before youngsters retire, Arch Oboler will tone down the chills
and horror in his weekly offerings.
[June 24, 1939 Lima News]
Raymond Edward Johnson and Betty Caine, NBC artists who have been heard
frequently in Arch Oboler's plays, will be co-starred in "The Luck of Mark
Street" which Oboler is to present over WEAF Saturday at 8:30 p. m. This drama
is a tragedy which shows how the inescapable consciousness of guilt haunts a
criminal until his eventual undoing. The plot was suggested by the old proverb
which runs: "Nothing is more common than for great thieves to ride in triumph
when small ones are punished. But let wickedness escape as it may, at the last
it never fails of doing itself justice; for every guilty person is his own
hangman." As interpreted by Oboler the proverb has considerable contemporary
[June 27, 1939 Cleveland (OH) Plain Dealer - Radio editor Robert S. Stephan's
"WHEN they cry for realism, we give it." A veteran Chicago N. B. C.
broadcaster gives this as the reason "Lights Out" goes grewsome occasionally.
If these tales get too soft, dialers tell N. B. C. plenty. You would think,
offhand, that a good tense murder mystery would keep any thrill seeker awake
around midnight. It is not so. If heads fall in this script, they have to fall
with nifty sound effects and all the little details.
[June 28, 1939 Hammond Times - Radio Short Circuits column by Richard Murray]
... If the [Joe Louis-Tony Galento] fight isn't gory enough for you, Lights
Out is bound to please because tonight they bring you the bloodiest work of
their brand new script writing discovery, William Shakespeare. "Macbeth" is
but the first of a new series of adaptations of the great bard's plays. I grow
pale and ponder over the fate of "Romeo and Juliet." (WMAQ, 11:30) ...
[July 8, 1939 Portland Oregonian - "Behind the Mike" column by William Moyes
reviews "Visitor from Hades" on "Arch Oboler's Plays"]
... Arch Oboler's horror thrillers, Lights Out, used to be oke. But somebody
pulled a boner when they told him to go easy on his Saturday plays as they
reached the west coast while kids were still up and they might get scared.
Last Sat. Arch stuck on a Visit from Hell, where the worse selves of a guy and
his wife flew into their window.
If Mister Oboler thinks he is fooling Oregon infants by going psycopathic
[sic] on 'em he is crazy. What they and Mike want is entrails hip deep all
over the place. (Ain't it, darlings.) If Mister O. wants to go nuts, leave him
crawl into a padded cell and get out of the NBC building. ...
[July 19, 1939 (Madison, WI) Capital Times]
LIGHTS OUT DRAMA
A college boy prank forms the basis of the weird Lights Out drama, "Murder
Mind," to be broadcast tonight on Station WIBA at 10:30.
Students kidnap one of their fellows, Grant Van Harvey, who believes himself
to be in the hands of desperate criminals. His mental state during the period
of his captivity is dramatically projected in this startling psychological
play, by Hobart Donovan, who studied at Marquette University.
Hugh Rowlands will play the part of Grant, and will be supported by Mercedes
McCambridge, Arthur Kohl and Hal Peary.
[July 22, 1939 Lima News]
Favorite Oboler Drama To Be Presented on Saturday
Repeat Performance By Popular Request ...
"The Ugliest Man in the World," which inaugurated Arch Oboler's present series
of plays [and] was, in fact, largely responsible for his having a series in
the first place, will be repeated by popular request over WEAF Saturday at
9:30 p. m.
Raymond Edward Johnson, who has scored repeated personal successes in Oboler's
dramas, will have the title role which he created during the first
presentation on March 25. The supporting cast includes Betty Caine and Ann
Shepherd, stage and radio actresses, who also have been heard repeatedly on
Boris Karloff, Frankenstein monster of the screen, was Oboler's inspiration
for "The Ugliest Man in the World." Two years ago Karloff and Oboler were
drawn together in NBC's midnight "Lights Out" thrillers. Karloff was starring
in the spine-tinglers which Oboler was then writing. One day the two sat down
at lunch and discussed the many hideous characters Karloff had portrayed on
the screen. ...
[July 26, 1939 The (Madison, WI) Capital Times]
ANOTHER Lights Out thriller ...
How a self-made, wealthy broker, driven insane by the snubs of society
leaders, gains revenge on five of those who refused to recognize him, is the
theme of the Lights Out drama, "The Giggler," to be heard on WIBA at 10:30
Possessed of a knowledge of surgery, the fanatic changes the characteristics
of five persons. The story was written by Bill Fifield, who authored the
recent adaptation of "Macbeth."
[July 30, 1939 San Antonio (TX) Light - "SHORT SHOTS" column item]
OTTO KOEHLER JR,, wanted a portable radio for the sole purpose of taking his
girl to the graveyard and letting her listen to the Lights Out program. He got
his radio, but she wouldn't go.
[August 11, 1939 Radio Guide]
Ken Robinson almost believed in spooks when he got through reading a stack of
manuscripts submitted for "Lights Out" consideration. The NBC continuity
editor counted an even two dozen scripts based on the same theme, a story that
has been going the oral rounds with many different versions. The same incident
is supposed to have happened to a number of different young men. The young man
meets a lovely girl at a dance, escorts her homeward. She insists on leaving
the car at a certain graveyard, and disappears. The young man later gets in
touch with the home address she has given and learns the young woman has been
dead two years. Sounds like "Lights Out," all right--boy meets girl; girl is
ghost; boy goes nuts.
[August 16, 1939 Appleton (WI) Post-Crescent]
"The Day of the Four" will be dramatized on "Lights Out" program at 10:30 over
WMAQ and WLW. This will be the last program of this series.
[August 19, 1939 Lima News]
"Efficiency Age" Effects To Be Studied In Oboler Drama
Betty Caine Will Carry Entire Burden Of Plot At 8:30 p. m. Broadcast On
Betty Caine, who has been co-starred with her husband, Raymond Edward Johnson,
in such striking Arch Oboler dramas as "The Ugliest Man in the World" and "The
Luck of Mark Street," will carry the entire burden of a plot for the first
time when she has the lead in "Efficiency Island" over WEAF Saturday at 8:30
This eerie tale is laid in the future when straight-line factory methods of
production have reached perfection and workmen, chained for generations to the
machine by their pay checks, seem to have lost the will to fight for better
The problem of what the assembly line will do to humanity in the long run has
vexed economists and sociologists since the start of the industrial era. It
will be given a a new and surprising twist by the young author-producer.
Miss Caine, who met her husband in Chicago at a rehearsal for one of Oboler's
early "Lights Out" thrillers, came to New York several months ago and since
has been heard frequently over NBC. A slim, dark-haired girl, she is equally
at home in character and in straight roles.
Oboler thinks she is one of the most talented members of the select group of
players from which he casts his dramas--and she thinks he's the best producer
in radio. When not playing a leading part in one of his productions she can
usually be found doing a bit role or just sitting in the studio studying his
[September 2, 1939 Fresno Bee]
Lew Danis a young Italian actor, will make his initial appearance in a network
radio drama when he plays the leading role in a play by Arch Oboler at 5.30
o'clock this evening. The play is entitled Love Story.
Two other plays by Oboler, The Valley, laid in the far West, and Mungahara, a
tale of the wild bush country of Australia, also will be presented.
[September 9, 1939 The Lima News]
50,000 Year Old Setting To Be Used In Drama Saturday
Oboler Play To Pose Problem Of Parenthood; ...
Three moderns — American, French, and English — who find themselves whirled
50,000 years thru time and two cavemen are the characters in Arch Oboler's
play, "And Adam Begot," which will be presented over WEAF Saturday, from 8:30
to 9:00 p.
The drama, presenting contemporary characters moving against a background of
Neanderthal men, poses a question old as time itself — that of parenthood.
Oboler's fantasy will show that parenthood is neither a duty nor an
obligation, but a rare privilege which is abused much too often. It also shows
the unending struggle between brute force and ethics.
The young dramatist expects to face his biggest casting problem in filling the
roles of the two Neanderthal men which he has written into "And Adam Begot."
He wants a voice, he explains, which will instantly suggest a cave-man to the
radio listener. With that in mind, he conducted a survey of what people expect
in a Neanderthal voice.
"A cross-section of the answers," Oboler says, "suggests a bass-voiced
prizefighter, talking double talk with his mouth full of hot potatoes."
[September 17, 1939 Port Arthur News - New York Reporter column by Jack Sher
in Screen & Radio Weekly]
Arch Oboler gave a party atop Radio City for Alla Nazimova. Most of the
attention was centered on Oboler's pretty, childish-looking, blond wife. She
came garbed in a bright colored peasant's costume, her hair in pigtails. She
looked about 14. Everyone remarked about this, but Arch explained that it was
sort of an optical illusion. "Eleanor is really not as young as she looks," he
said, "and she certainly isn't a child-bride, as one old fellow in the South
Oboler met his present wife while they were both attending the University of
Chicago. They were soon married and she stuck by him loyally during a very
tough year and a half, during which he was trying to break into radio writing.
Before Oboler took to using a dictaphone, she acted as his stenographer, and
Arch claims she is the fastest and best in the country.
[October 15, 1939 Screen & Radio Weekly - New York Reporter column by Jack
ARCH OBOLER is going to be able to write his own ticket in Hollywood. He's had
several offers from film studios already and will be even hotter when he's
broadcasting from the Coast.
The day before Oboler left, he had to put on a radio show. Show needed last-
minute rewriting and Oboler's dictaphone was packed along with all his books
and his recording machine. Oboler tried the typewriter, then turned to
longhand to get the stuff written. Oboler is the only producer who rehearses
his cast at his apartment. He makes a record of their readings and then they
play it back and criticize it. This week they had to rehearse in the studio.
More trouble came up when the car Arch just bought in which to drive to the
Coast couldn't be delivered on time. When we left him he was frantically
trying to get a fast train to Chicago. He explained he had to get a fast train
because slow train trips make his pet horned toad very sick. And where Oboler
goes so goes the toad.
[November 30, 1939 Brooklyn (NY) Eagle]
Arch Oboler, labeled the Eugene O'Neill of radio, and the fellow who can write
hour-long dramas, half-hour dramas and even 10-minute dramas for the ether,
will branch out with a short-story technique in radio drama as the piece de
resistance of his program over WEAF on Saturday at 9 p.m.
"The possibilities of reducing a story to its absolute essentials has always
intrigued me," says Oboler, "particularly because radio, in my opinion, is the
ideal medium for presenting concentrated doses of entertainment. 'The Circle'
is not a sketch. It is a complete play about a few moments in the day of a man
living amidst the turmoil of Middle Europe. I will be extremely interested in
finding out what my listeners think of this flashlight presentation."
Two other brief plays will round out October's [sic] broadcast. The first,
"Hometown," will star Ray Collins. It will deal with the experiences of a
successful international banker who returns, after many years, to the scenes
of his boyhood only to be faced with the suffering wrought among old friends
and neighbors by his financial machinations in far-away places. "The
Executioner," final drama in the group, is a macabre stream-of-consciousness
story, told through the medium of random thoughts which pass through the mind
of an Executioner for the Crown.
[December 16, 1939 Fresno Bee]
Lorre Is Star Of Oboler Play
One of the highlights of broadcasts over KMJ will be the appearance of Peter
Lorre, famous as Mr. Moto of motion pictures and currently appearing in
Strange Cargo, as the star of the Arch Oboler play at 5 o'clock this evening.
The play, Nobody Died, is Oboler's is answer to the question, "What would the
elixir of youth do to our modern situation if it were suddenly made
Lorre, who is well known to both radio and motion picture audiences as well as
on the legitimate stage, made his radio debut several years ago in a play by
Oboler. Tonight he will appear as the head of the propaganda bureau of a
foreign country who is confronted unexpectedly with the wonder of a great
[January 6, 1940 Nebraska State Journal]
Arch Oboler's Plays; tonight's drama is a ghost story entitled "Money, Money,
Money" and starring Edmund MacDonald.
[February 17, 1940 Lima News]
"Genghis Khan," which Arch Oboler considers the strangest story he has
written, will be presented during his series of plays over WEAF Saturday, at 8
p. m. The drama concerns a simple Harlem Negro who suddenly decides to become
dictator of the world. The plot is based on the theory that dictators of this
generation are reincarnations of ruthless power-seekers of the past.
[February 17, 1940 Nebraska State Journal]
... Arch Oboler's Plays, presenting "Genghis Khan," a drama about a Harlem
Negro who suddenly decides to become dictator of the world. ...
[March 5, 1941 Variety]
Wyllis Cooper, who scripted 'Lights Out' for three years, will tell Graham
McNamee how horror yarns are concocted for radio on 'Behind the Mike' next
Sunday (9) ...
[March 7, 1941 Brooklyn (NY) Daily Eagle - Jo Ranson's RADIO DIAL LOG]
Oboler Will Offer 'Ugliest Man' Again
Arch Oboler's production on "Everyman's Theater" at 9:30 tonight over WEAF is
a comedy entitled "Problem Papa", starring young Tommy Cook, a discovery of
that very able writer, Joseph Patrick McEvoy. The program will come from
Hollywood. It is next Friday's program, however, that we would like to tell
you a little more about. Oboler is reviving his magnificent thriller, "The
"Ugliest Man in the the World" with Raymond Edward Johnson in the lead.
Next Fridays airing of "The Ugliest Man in the World" means that it will have
been heard on the air for the third time with Johnson in the lead--which is
certainly something of a rarity in radio. The history of the production is
interesting, too. In the Spring of 1939 Oboler wrote the play, which is in the
stream-of-consciousness manner. The idea was given to him by Boris Karloff,
the great bogey man. Originally intended for the "Lights Out" series which he
was then writing and directing, the play proved to be a great deal more
artistic than the type of stuff "Lights Out" listeners were in the habit of
getting at the stroke of midnight.
The result was Oboler called Johnson in and had him do a phonograph recording
of the story which the playwright immediately rushed via plane to New York. At
Radio City Oboler played his home-made records for the exacting Lewis H.
Titterton, head of the NBC Script Division. It thrilled Titterton so much that
he signed Oboler on the spot for a series of original dramas "Arch Oboler's
Johnson came on from Chicago to play the character he had created when the
drama was aired on the network March 25, 1939, for the first time. On July 23
of the same year he repeated it and on March 14 it will be heard for the third
[June 2, 1941 Time Magazine article with photo of Cooper. The caption reads:
NBC's Cooper / This time he's serious.]
Month ago Merlin Hall ("Deac") Aylesworth acquired the title of DRAOCCCR-BAR,
New Deal for Director of Radio Activities in the Office for Coordination of
Commercial & Cultural Relations Between the American Republics. In plain
English: chief of the radio sector of the Hemisphere Solidarity campaign.
Deac Aylesworth's immediate job is to let as much light as possible into the
murk beclouding the average U.S. citizen's notion of life Down There; also to
see that southbound programs do not conflict, hurt anybody's feelings or
suffer from the dreary blight of what is known as "education" -- in general,
to make them make sense.
"The National Farm and Home Hour," ventured the Deacon, "would not make much
sense in Uruguay."
Meantime, while radio's pioneer ringmaster (ten years president of NBC) was
readying a comprehensive air program between the U.S. and Latin America, U.S.
broadcasters voluntarily came forth with two of their most impressive stunts
in ten years of more or less catch-as-catch-can short-waving back & forth
across the Rio Grande. Initiated by the two major networks were two series of
regular weekly half-hour shows.
CBS's Calling Pan-America (4 p.m. Saturday, E.D.S.T.) began with a broadcast
from Buenos Aires and will jump each week from Latin-American capital to
capital, featuring local talent which will be mostly musical but also
oratorical. Columbia's initial effort celebrated Argentina's 131-year-old
Independence Day. NBC for its 22 Good Neighbors shows (10:30 p.m. Thursday,
E.D.S.T.) threw in Dr. Frank Black and his 60-piece orchestra, a troop of some
20 actors and the gilt-edged intonings of Announcer Milton Cross. It will
broadcast from Manhattan with appropriate guest diplomats on duty in
Washington, and every week the program will be tailored to a different Latin-
It is safe to predict that neither program will be as sensational as the
career of Wyllis Cooper, veteran radio dramaturge who writes NBC's show. From
1933 to 1936 Radioman Cooper wrote and directed the silo-of-blood programs
called Lights Out. Late at night, so children couldn't hear them and have
their little livers scared out of them, they gushed from Chicago's WMAQ and
were beyond doubt the most goose-fleshing chiller-dillers in air history. At
each broadcast's opening a deep, dark, dank voice would instruct listeners to
put their lights out and settle back in their chairs, whereupon gore would
commence to flow, bones to snap, screams and groans to rowel the air.
Lights Out was a sound-effect's man's paradise. On one occasion the audible
illusion of a victim's hand being smashed on an anvil had to be achieved.
Everything was tried from slapping a pork chop with a cleaver to pounding wet
paper with a hammer. At last came triumph: a lemon was laid on an anvil and
struck with a small sledge.
Another time there was the problem of the exact noise of a man being skinned
alive: pulling apart stuck-together pieces of adhesive tape was the solution.
Beheading acoustics were attained by slicing cantaloupes with a cleaver.
Fingers were scissored off by substituting pencils for fingers. Dropping a raw
egg on a plate simulated perfectly the blup of an eye-gouging. Flowing corn
syrup furnished the voop-vulp of freely flowing blood. When a mechanical giant
pulled a wretch's arm off, the leg of a cold storage chicken was pulled off
beside the mike.
There were about 600 Lights Out clubs in the U.S. when Mr. Cooper stopped
writing the show to go to Hollywood to do picture scripts. A Kansas City, Mo.
chapter whose meeting he attended had officers and by-laws and fined any
member who spoke or lit a cigaret during broadcasts.
In appearance and character Cooper belies his ghastly army of brain children.
A short roly-poly of 42, resembling nothing so much as an amiable Alexander
Woollcott on a smaller scale, he is a dutiful husband,* an ardent dog-lover,
an amiable drinker, and loved by his friends. Despite Latin-American fondness
for the sanguine (bullfights, the annually-produced slaughter melodrama Don
Juan Tenorio, the "Day of the Dead," etc.), Cooper will not in his new job
employ his Lights Out talent. "This one's in earnest," he says.
* He changed his name from Willis to Wyllis to please his wife's
[September 8, 1941 Charleston Gazette]
George Barnes, exponent of the amplified guitar, and Wyllis Cooper, rotund
author and racontuer, [sic] will highlight the capers of the "Chamber Music
Society of Lower Basin Street" at 8:05 p. m. "Professor" Barnes, starred on
several NBC shows from Chicago, will be piped into the "Basin Street" session
from the Windy City. It marks the first time a guest act has been picked up
outside the studios. "Dr." Cooper, author of NBC's "Lights Out" horror tales
will appear as guest intermission commentator.
[August 26, 1942 Variety]
'Lights Out' Will Be 1st Horror Series on CBS
Sterling Products has bought 'Lights Out' to replace the current 'Board of
Missing Heirs' for Ironized Yeast. CBS has always banned horror stories, being
much stricter than NBC in that regard, but the network has relaxed its nix in
the case of the 'Lights Out' shudder opus. Continuity Department at CBS has
looked at and okayed scripts for the proposed series - show will start Oct. 6
in the same Tuesday night spot now occupied by 'Missing Heirs.' It will be
written and produced by Arch Oboler, who followed Wyllis Cooper as author of
the series on NBC some years ago in Chicago. At that time the program was
owned by NBC, but Oboler subsequently acquired the rights. It will be the
first time Oboler has ever had a regular series on CBS. The other Ionized
Yeast series, 'Good Will Court,' on WJZ-Blue (and WMCA, New York) Sunday
nights, will continue.
[October 10, 1942 Binghamton (NY) Press - "Walter Winchell On Broadway"
... Arch Oboler is using only radio actors (at the union scale) on his "Lights
Out" series via CBS--instead of name stars. "Radio actors," he explains, "are
best fitted for the thriller-diller type." ...
[October 14, 1942 Variety]
'LIGHTS OUT' (Ruthrauff & Ryan) 'Lights Out' is Arch Oboler's second
commercial series (his first was 'Everyman's Theatre' on NBC for Procter &
Gamble for 26 weeks during 1940-41). It is also his first on Columbia.
Ironized Yeast is the sponsor, having dropped 'Board of Missing Heirs' to
bankroll it. Package price for "Lights Out' is $1,325 a week, Oboler getting
by at that figure by being his own m.c, confining himself to small casts and
covering the absence of any music by elaborate sound effects. Whether Oboler
can get and keep an audience under those conditions remains to be seen. His
initial broadcast Tuesday night (6) was clearly aimed for commercial appeal,
being a pulp-mag type of psychological chiller. It was pure storytelling, with
eerie atmosphere and grizzly, supernatural climax. Yarn about a grasping
divorcee eloping with a rat-like draft-dodger maintained interest, on the
whole, although somewhat loosely written. Gloria Blondell's playing of the
divorcee was potent, particularly her hysteria scenes. Wally Maher was
acceptable as her vicious companion. Oboler's m.c. by-play with announcer Bob
LaMond was 'cute.' There were two major commercials, the first following
abruptly on a big emotional scene and the closer making a money-back guarantee
for the product. 'Lights Out' was originally an NBC sustainer out of Chicago,
with Oboler following Wyllis Cooper as author. Hobe.
[November 1, 1942 Washington Post]
Just when Uncle Sam is getting the citizens used to a speed limit of 35 miles
per hour, Arch Oboler comes up with a transportation idea that will make the
fastest airplane look like a dead pigeon. Be sure your easy chair is nailed
down if you plan to listen to Oboler's "Across the Gap" in the Lights Out
series Tuesday night at 8:00 p. m., over WJSV.
Even Mother Earth has nothing on the invention in this tale. The earth
carousels on its axis (pardon the pun) at a speed of more than 1000 miles per
hour. Which is not bad. But it might conceivably be bettered any year now by a
new stratoliner since at this very moment some planes are zooming at a 500-
To Oboler, however, that is terribly slow, practically stationary. Planes are
a thing of the past in this story. For "Across the Gap" is a flight of the
imagination into the future, especially the future of transportation.
Today, only radio and television travel with the speed of light or 186,000
miles per second. That's the speed at which Oboler wants to transport people
in Lights Out. Is it mad? Then so was Jules Verne's concept of a submarine
decades ago, or Bellamy's anticipation of what turned out to be radio. Want to
check up on Oboler? All you have to do is to live another hundred years.
[November 24, 1942 San Antonio (TX) Light]
Chicken Heart To Be Topic On Radio
Arch Oboler tells the story of "Chicken Heart" on "Lights Out" Tuesday.
(KTSA—7 to 7:30 p. m.)
The dead and unsung chicken whose famous heart continues to beat in a glass
case in New York's most esteemed research institute could not possibly have
foreseen some day it would be the inspiration for a "Lights Out" tale.
There, in its lonely case, the heart, minus the chicken that originally
housed it, has been quietly pulsating these last two decades, astounding
scientists and laymen alike, minding its own business, until Arch Oboler
decided to make a radio script out of it.
[December 15, 1942 San Antonio (TX) Light]
Lights Out Program Set
The next time you are sitting alone in your room, don't jump just because you
hear a knock at the door. That is, unless conscience bothers you the way it
did the murderess in Arch Oboler's "Knock At the Door" for Tuesday (KTSA 7:00-
7:30 p. m.)
In the old days, Benvenuto Cellini, sculptor and braggart, could run around
the city of Florence and get himself a Jovial audience by describing how he
murdered his enemy—"with a deft twist of the wrist, I severed his head from
his body". But times have changed. And Benvenuto had no conscience. Like him,
Lucrezia Borgia, the original Mickey Finn girl, made a name for herself, too.
It was worth your life to knock on her door.
After much research into case histories, Oboler in this Lights Out tale
develops a fine psychological portrait of a woman, not a historical character,
just a plain everyday woman, who is burning with jealousy and hate, commits
the worst of crimes against the object of her emotion, and comes to a
terrible, dramatically logical end.
[December 22, 1942 San Antonio (TX) Light]
... Arch Obler's [sic] postponed mystery tale, "The Mirror" is to be heard on
his "Lights Out" program. (KTSA—7 p. m.) Oboler says he has been trying to
complete this difficult play for the last five years and now that it has been
completed he guarantees that all those who hear it won't be able to look into
a mirror for quite some time. ...
[January 12, 1943 Gloversville and Johnstown (NY) Morning Herald]
Arch Oboler's Lights Out Series on CBS at 8 has been trying to put on the
story of "The Mirror," but it got postponed. It is listed again for Tuesday
night. It's about the disappearance of a movie star.
[February 2, 1943 San Antonio (TX) Light]
Arch Oboler Dramatizes 'Until Dead'
A spine-chilling story, "Until Dead," is dramatized on Arch Oboler's "Lights
Out" program Tuesday (KTSA—7 p. m.) Oboler has been in New York on a three-
weeks' visit from Hollywood. He returns to the film capital at the conclusion
of this broadcast.
[February 3, 1943 Cleveland (OH) Plain Dealer - Robert S. Stephan review of
LIGHTS OUT (WGAR) - Arch Oboler's horror tale last night was based on the
assumption that revenge carries on after death. The play included a killing, a
prison escape and a cemetery finale which should have satisfied the average
horror lover. Odd, the extremes in Oboler's radio writings. He's either
scaring one to death or moralizing at a top hat level.
[March 10, 1943 Cleveland (OH) Plain Dealer - Robert S. Stephan review of "The
LIGHTS OUT (WGAR) - Arch Oboler's weird tale of headless people was calculated
to terrify, and probably raised the pulses of the timid. It was totally
unconvincing and quite horrible.
[March 16, 1943 Brooklyn (NY) Eagle]
... Mr. Arch (Strindberg) Oboler's "Lights Out" offering for WABC will be "The
Dream," a surrealist bit about a dream within a dream employing a technique
never before used in his "weirdage" . . .
[May 18, 1943 Long Beach Independent]
Arch Oboler Strictly A Spook Writer
Arch Oboler's many years of writing stories of the supernatural seems to have
made a permanent impression on him. The prolific author-director of KNX's
"Lights Out" series seldom gets away from the imaginative concept even in his
more serious plays, which contain many similar touches of ghosts and haunts.
[July 31, 1943 Niagara Falls]
His fans always have plenty of suggestions for Arch Oboler's CBS "Lights Out"
series, and the latest is an invitation from a woman in Iowa. Her late mother,
the lady explains in a six-page letter, haunts her farmhouse every night when
shadows fall. She has invited Oboler to visit her and investigate. Oboler,
busy for the duration, has announced that, come victory, he'll accept the
challenge and write the story.
[August 24, 1943 Tucson (AZ) Daily Citizen]
"Sub-Basement," a delightful little bed-time story, Arch Oboler style, will
scare your nice old Aunt Tabitha so completely she won't go down to the cellar
to stoke the furnace next winter if she listens in to CBS' "Lights Out,"
tonight. The show has only two people, but what they go through in the weird
basement world below a department store could use a "This is the Army" cast.
KTUC, 6 o'clock.
[September 30, 1943 Portland Oregonian - William Moyes' "Behind the Mike"
column reviews of "The Author and the Thing," the final episode sponsored by
Arch Oboler's Exit
Arch Oboler signed off his Lights Out series Tues. night. His sponsor is
taking over a more down-to-earth series starting next week. Arch was the star
of his final aerial opus, which was not so much a drama as it was a continuous
sound effect consisting of Arch uttering screams. The shrieks started in tenor
and ended as feminine squeals, which Arch emitted by reducing the bore of his
throat to about the size of a pea. (Hope his neck hurts him.)
Each shrieking fugue was followed by exhausted huffings and puffings, then
protestations, "I am NOT insane" (which you can believe if you want to). What
Arch was scared at was a background of mumbling male voices dominated by one
voice, like a chairman. As Arch has lost his fat sponsor, the deliberating
voices could have been the Overseers of the Poor considering Arch's sad case.
A much cosier thought, however, is it was Mr. Oboler's draft board.
[October 16, 1943 The Billboard]
Reviewed Tuesday, 8-8:30 p.m. Style — Melodrama. Sponsor — Ironized Yeast Co.,
Inc. Agency — Ruthrauff & Ryan, Inc. Station — WABC (New York) and CBS.
Author Arch Oboler was probably trying to prove in The Author and the Thing
(he's writing those win-the-war dramas again, now that he's fortified himself
financially on Ironized Yeast) that his commercial ending could be as
auspicious as his beginning. His first mistake was telling his press agent.
Prior to Tuesday's show, every radio ed's desk received the news that Oboler
was planning to wind up Lights Out by bumping himself off and involving his
Hollywood enemies and friends as accomplices and victims (interchangeably, not
respectively). The only victims turned out to be Oboler's own defenseless
mother and brother, and Mercedes McCambridge, radio actress.
His second mistake was to try to kid the handiwork that feeds (or fed) him.
Oboler played himself in this one, the author of the Lights Out series,
dreaming up his final play.
Because he's been dwelling on evil thoughts for the past seven days and nights
(it says in a medieval tome he happens to have around the house), he conjures
up a super-monster, the embodiment of all evil, who knocks off mom, brother,
leading lady and finally Oboler, who winds up where he modestly claims to
belong — in hell. Before the final kick-off, however, Oboler, a good egg at
heart, informs the authorities about the murders and, since no one believes
the story about the monster (he's invisible to everyone but his conjurer),
Oboler comes up before the lunacy commission. He's pronounced insane on the
basis of his peculiar shirts and the plays he writes.
The farce isn't good or novel enough to be funny, but there's just enough of
it to take the edge off whatever chills of the obvious plot. Result,
therefore, wasn't even good Oboler.
Big Town filled the sponsor's half-hour spot starting October 5.
[Excerpt from Marguerite Lyon, _And So to Bedlam_ (Bobbs-Merrill, 1943), pp.
71-75. The author describes a visit to a 1930s Lights Out broadcast. She
appears to have mistaken Wyllis Cooper for Arch Oboler. The episode she
describes features a Cooper script, specifically the one known as "The Ring"
which survives as a half-episode from the 1947 Lights Out revival starring
... During the winter of the sore-hand incident, a particularly exciting radio
program was broadcast at midnight, on Wednesdays, I believe. It was an Arch
Oboler thriller, known as Lights Out. The name came from the fact that
everyone was supposed to turn out the lights and sit listening in pitch
blackness to blood-curdling "draymas" and sound effects that would have
chilled one's blood in brightest sunshine. I tried it a few times and found it
necessary to sit up the rest of the night with every light in the apartment
blazing, and a pot of hot tea at hand to quiet my shattered nerves.
Then, because sound effects have always interested me, I let it be known at
the office that I would like to witness one of these broadcasts. I wanted to
see for myself just what equipment a sound man would use to give the effect of
brains being dashed out, and how he could so realistically portray the
throbbing of a giant heart! (note: In case you're interested in sound effects
too, I might say that the bashed head was achieved by smashing a head of
cabbage. I presume a bellows gave the heart throb.)
The program did not admit spectators ordinarily, but through our agency
connections I was given tickets that would admit four of us to the clients'
booth that overlooked the broadcasting studio. They were good for the next
Lights Out performance. Of course I asked Marian as one of my guests. And then
to make our party complete, I invited a couple of co-workers in the art
department who didn't have anything else planned for that night. Since it was
not necessary to be at the studios until just a few minutes before midnight,
Marian suggested that the four of us have dinner at her apartment, and spend
the time there until midnight. That suited us fine. Marian could cook like a
On that night she really outdid herself. It was a dinner any homemaker would
have been proud to serve. And for a career girl who was a lawyer by training,
and an advertising woman by choice, it was terrific! We lingered over coffee,
talking the endless gossip of the advertising profession, until time to go to
the broadcasting studio.
There in a darkened room hanging like a southern-mansion gallery over the
studio below we saw the performance of Lights Out. No brains were bashed out
that night. But the plot was particularly eerie. One Russell Sumners, or some
such name, and his sweetheart Carol had worn identical rings. Then Russell had
discovered that Carol was untrue to him, and had forthwith drowned himself. As
the broadcast opened, Carol was enjoying life with her very-much-alive husband
and their friends, without a thought of the man who had drowned himself. In
another instant, the lugubrious Russell, who somehow achieved the dank, blank,
dripping look of the drowned, although he was bone-dry and alive as you are,
came on the scene. He had come back from the grave, he let it be known, to get
that other ring. Carol refused to give it to him. There was a struggle and, so
the story ran, he cut off her hand. The actress who played the part of Carol
was a good one. From the instant of the struggle, she drew her hand inside her
coat sleeve and showed only the smooth rounded white wrist throughout the
remainder of the performance.
The four of us, sitting on the edge of uncomfortable, hard, gold chairs in the
client's darkened booth, stared down at this drama in fascinated horror. It
was like watching from an upstairs window something going on in our neighbor's
living room. With no audience to distract us or dilute the spell cast by
superb actors, the program became an incident in our very own experience,
fantastic as it was. The grim, back-from-the-grave Russell, with a voice like
Boris Karloff's, might have been washed up on Montrose Beach the day before.
The gay, insouciant Carol, who staunchly protested to her husband and friends
that she didn't know what had happened to her hand and that they should not
worry because it didn't hurt a bit, might have been one of us. Finally, if
memory serves me right, Carol, with hand still concealed in sleeve, went away
with Russell. The rings, and the two who wore them, were all united in death.
We four dazed spectators wrenched ourselves out of the world of make-believe
and stumbled in silence to the elevators that took us back to earth,
literally, if not figuratively.
I doubt if a horror play on the stage could have held us so spellbound! At the
theater the drop of the final curtain, the curtain calls, the gay, good-
natured crowding and slow shuffling down the aisle, the remarks on all sides,
"Wasn't it warvelous!" "She's better than ever tonight!"-- all tend to make
one realize that it is just a play. But a radio horror show, well played, does
not have its illusion spoiled. There's no final curtain—somehow the actors
just seem to dissolve into mist or the great unknown, to go on living out
their troubled lives.
On that night particularly we needed a chatty homeward-bound audience to bring
us back to the world of reality; not one word was said all the way home. I
tried to tell myself that those trouble-ridden characters there in the studio
were simply the creations of the superb writing of Arch Oboler, who had
looked, that time I met him, like a nice substantial chap from whom one might
borrow a lawn mower or a bicycle pump. After all, I'm a writer, too, I
reminded myself. But I had to admit I couldn't write that well! I dreamed of
those harassed people all night. The next day I moved about still groggy with
the horror of Carol's gaiety in spite of that cut-off hand. ...
[October 29, 1944 Atlanta Daily World - This actor likely played the American
army officer in the 1930s Lights Out Christmas episode, "Three Men."]
... Prior to his entry into the field of motion picture production,
Mr. [J. Richardson] Jones was widely known on the dramatic concert, stage, and
in radio. For several years he was identified with the National Broadcasting
company's Chicago studios, where he was the only Negro member of the artists'
and writers' staff.
With the poet-philosopher Edgar A. Guest, the dramatist was a member of the
cast of "Welcome Valley," a network broadcast for more than a year, and also
appeared on numerous "Lights Out" broadcasts. In addition to these coast-to-
coast air shows he produced his own program, "Life of Uncle Ned," and thru
this medium brought to the air waves the now famous "Four Vagabonds," heard
regularly on the "Breakfast Club." ...
[_Oboler Omnibus_ by Arch Oboler (Duell, Sloane & Pierce, 1945)]
Wyllis Cooper ... is the unsung pioneer of radio dramatic techniques; his was
the first mind in American radio broadcasting which sought, in a sustained
series of plays, to make use of the spoken word and the subtlety of sound
effects, not in imitation of the theatre, but with the wonderful intimacy of
approach that is unique to "blind" broadcasting.
To follow Mr. Cooper was a challenge ...
[July 13, 1945 Dixon Evening Telegraph -- Day by Day On the Air by C. E.
BUTTERFIELD, Associated Press column]
New York, July 13-- With three of its ordinarily sponsored series taking
vacations from Saturday night radio, NBC has decided it's a good time to fill
one of them with an eight-weeks revival of part of the old "Lights Out". This
was the eerie series of nearly a decade ago which tried to scare listeners in
the last half-hour of a mid-week night through the writing efforts of Arch
Oboler, Willys [sic] Cooper and others.
In the revival, to run through Sept. 1 and to have the time of Truth or
Consequences at 7:30, only those Cooper scripts which stressed fantasy rather
than horror will be used. Because of the earlier time it was thought best not
to stir things up too much. ...
[July 21, 1945 The Billboard]
WCFL's Keegan To NBC Staff; To Meg "Lights"
CHICAGO. July 14. — Howard Keegan, for years one of Chicago's most prominent
figures and presently manager of WCFL, American Federation of Labor Indie
station, will leave here in a few weeks to take a position as a staff producer
at NBC in New York. Keegan will report to New York August 6. After that date
he will take over production of NBC's Lights Out series, which starts today as
the eight-week summer replacement for Truth or Consequences. Keegan will also
handle production on many other New York-originated NBC shows, some of them
top commercial programs for the net. His successor at WCFL has not been named.
Keegan produced the original Lights Out series for NBC when it was started
here in 1934, with Willis Cooper scripting the series. In a situation
resembling a reunion of the clan, Cooper will also script this year's Lights
NBC, it is said, is slating Keegan to fill in the spot left vacant by Tony
Leader, who recently resigned from tha net's production staff to do free-lance
[July 25, 1945 Variety]
With Alex Scourby, William Griffis, Sarah Burton, Joan Alexander, Arthur Kohl
Writer: Wyllis Cooper
Producer-Director: Garnet Garrison
30 Mins.; Sat., 8:30 p. m.
WEAF-NBC, N. Y.
"Lights Out," as a title for whodunits, has a hoary, and somewhat gory
history. NBC had a series by that name on the air 10 years ago; Boris Karloff
seems to have earned somewhat of a blood-curdling rep on an air show with the
moniker; and Arch Oboler is remembered as having done some of his fanciest
spine-tingling under the "Lights Out" name for CBS. Now NBC has dug up some of
its decade-old scripts, done by Wyllis Cooper, and put them on the Saturday
night slot for eight weeks while "Truth and [sic] Consequences" takes its
It may be that radio audiences of 10 years ago tingled more easily. From the
sample heard on the second stanza (21) of this revival, one must accuse the
1935 listeners of being rather prissy, not to say unsophisticated. Story
concerned the spirit of a dame who kept returning nightly to see her live
husband at a spot near the cemetery where her earthly remains were interred.
In the end, the husband's ghost joined hers. Only the show stayed unburied.
Unexciting yarn was acted heavily, directed with the smoothness of a jeep
going cross-country, and aided by indiscriminate use of sound effects making
out they were howling dogs, screeching winds, and eerie bells. The whole thing
was eerie, but only as radio. Insomniacs should hurry and listen, this may not
go on for very long.
[August 4, 1945 (Madison) Wisconsin State Journal (printed a week early)]
7:30 p. m.--Lights Out (WIBA): "Did the Murder Happen?", with newly-weds
stalled on a lonely road at midnight.
The Radio Daily Lights Out Brouhaha of 1946
[May 7, 1946 Radio Daily - "Radio Main Street" column]
With neither of the two shows they piped in from the coast being accepted
(Arch Oboler's "Lights Out" and Dashiell Hammett's "Sam Spade"), it looks as
though Schick will be auditioning right up to the wire, May 18th, when they're
due to preem on CBS. Tonite they listen to a quizzer with Warren Hull calling
the plays. . . .
[May 20, 1946 Radio Daily - "Radio Main Street" column]
THE MORNING MAIL: "Dear Sid," writes Arch Oboler, "I would appreciate it if
you would correct your item regarding me and 'Lights Out.' When Biow asked me
to do the record, I told him that I believed that type of extreme horror
program to be very harmful to present-day radio broadcasting. I told Milt to
so inform his client Schick Razors, but he apparently decided to ignore my
good sense. The audition record has absolutely nothing to do with me. On the
last of the commercial 'Lights Out' series a few years ago for Ironized Yeast,
I thought I had killed off 'Lights Out,' once and for all, as I believe it bad
business for sponsor and network."
[May 28, 1946 Radio Daily - "Radio Main Street" column]
The Morning Mail: Writes Clarence L. Menser, veepee in charge of programs at
NBC: "I was very much interested in your printed quotation from a letter of
Arch Oboler's about 'Lights Out.' My first reaction was that we seem to have
hit a new low in radio broadcasting when a writer admits afterwards that,
during the course of a commercial series for which he was paid, he did
everything possible to sabotage the series so completely as to make it
valueless for the future. In order to keep the records straight, 'Lights Out'
is the sole property of NBC. It was created and first produced in Chicago by
Wyllis Cooper and myself. During the course of its history it has had a number
of writers. Wyllis Cooper was the first—Oboler was among the others. Some time
ago we gave Mr. Oboler permission to produce a series of 'Lights Out' as a
commercial. When that series was discontinued, all rights reverted to NBC.
That is the situation as of this date. Last year we used the series as a
summer replacement and found considerable acceptance. If present plans
materialize, it will be on the air again this summer. There is no reason to
believe either that the audience will not accept it or that the listener has
changed so much as to make 'Lights Out' unsuitable for broadcast."
[June 18, 1946 Radio Daily - "Radio Main Street" column]
The Morning Mail: "Dear Sid," writes Arch Oboler, "Your print of Clarence
Menser's comments regarding my LIGHTS OUT letter to you are at hand. Dear
Clarence, whom I view with awe as the radio industry's best-loved character,
must have read your quotes of my letter after a hard night with a commercial.
As Clarence very well knows, when I spoke of 'killing off' LIGHTS OUT in my
last broadcast, I was discussing LIGHTS OUT only in relation to myself: in
that final broadcast I carefully had my career as LIGHTS OUT author amputated
as part of the final script. As to my value to that commercial series, the
records prove that the program neither before nor after has ever had such a
happy Hooper. When I say that LIGHTS OUT is an unfortunate venture, at this
time, for a network or a sponsor, I speak as one who feels that at this point
in broadcast history to cater to the extreme horror addict is not a choice in
the best public interest. Incidentally, Sid, Metro has been discussing with me
possibility of my putting 'The Hucksters' on the screen, as director.
[June 26, 1946 Radio Daily - "Radio Main Street" column]
The Morning Mail: "Dear Sid," writes Jack Ryan, manager of NBC's Chicago Press
Dep't. "Much as I object to continuing a family argument in your Main Street
col'm, there are a couple of elements connected with this argument between
Arch Oboler and C. L. Menser which move me to observe that there are a number
of us around here who are still convinced that Arch's education in the field
of script writing was completed the day he finished reading a copy of Bram
Stoker's 'Dracula' and a couple of old Wyllis Cooper scripts."
[July 23, 1946 Radio Daily - "Radio Main Street" column]
The Morning Mail: "Regarding a letter in your col'm of June 26th written by
Mr. Ryan, of Chicago," writes Beth Barnes, CBS staff writer, "I feel moved to
comment that there are many of us who make our living at writing for radio who
think that Arch Oboler's radio playwriting record turns into nonsense any such
ridiculous personal attacks. In a medium as ephemeral as radio, Mr. Oboler's
many published books of radio plays are a printed record of original,
imaginative, meaningful work. By the way, does Mr. Ryan know who won the
Peabody Award for radio dramatic writing this year?"
[April 26, 1946 Variety]
...Oboler directs an audition of "Lights Out" with Boris Karloff for Milton
[April 29, 1946 Variety]
Arch Oboler may not be commercial but you've certainly got to admire the man's
honesty. Few days ago a story was given out that he would direct Boris Karloff
in an audition of "Lights Out" for Milton Biow. When Oboler heard about it he
blew a fuse. He immediately contacted NBC's Niles Trammell and Biow and told
them they would be suckers to buy it or put it on the network. And don't
forget, "Lights" is owned jointly by Oboler and NBC. "It's not a healthy
program for broadcasting because it attracts only warped minds and semi-
psychopathics," he belittled. He was also mindful that the show at one time
was rated at 15 and that's pretty fancy for a program that cost only $1,500.
"But it won't sell merchandise so what good is it?" he offered by way of a
clincher and flipped the switch for "Lights Out."
[July 3, 1946 Variety review]
With Carl Frank, Mary Wilsey, Eva Condon, Russell Morrison, Bob Lieb. Gene
O'Donnell, Vaughn Taylor, W. O. McWatters, Thomas Healphy, Paul Keyes, Bob
Davis, Harold Grou, Bill Woodson, narrator.
Producer: Fred Coe
Tech. Director: Bill States
Writer: Wyllis Cooper
Sets: Bob Wade
25 Mins.; Sun. (30) 8:45 p.m.
It's usually considered in bad taste for a reviewer to use superlatives in
describing a show. Sometimes, however, such a course of action cannot be
helped, as in this first televised version of the w.k. "Lights Out" radio
spine-tingler. Utilizing a new device in which the camera itself is the
murderer, the program was tops from start to finish and undoubtedly one of the
best dramatic shows yet seen on a television screen.
Credit for the show's all-around excellence belongs jointly to scripter Wyllis
Cooper and producer Fred Coe. Cooper was the last writer of the radio version
with an eight week series on the NBC net last summer. (Show returns for eight
weeks Sat. (6) as replacement for Judy Canova). He followed Arch Oboler at the
task and has made the switch from radio to tele without a single letdown in
the program's eerie quality. Coe, whose light on NBC television has been
partly hidden in the past by Ed Sobol and Ernie Colling, both of whom won ATS
awards this last year, has come into his own with this show and should now
rank right at the top of the heap.
Story, titled "First Person Singular," concerned a psychopathic killer whose
wife's constant nagging, extreme sloppiness, etc., led him to strangle her in
their apartment on one of those blistering summer evenings. Killer was never
seen, with the camera following the action and taking in just what the eyes of
the murderer would see. Thoughts in the killer's subconscious, meanwhile, told
what might go on in the mind of such a person as he contemplates his crime, is
convicted in court and then hanged.
Coe achieved some admirable effects with the camera, drawing the viewer both
into the killer's mind and into the action. Use of a spiral montage effect
bridged the gap between scenes very well and the integration of film to point
up the killer's dream of a cool, placid existence and to heighten the shock
effect as the hangman ended his life was excellent. Technical director Bill
States was on the beam with the controls in following Coe's direction.
Actors furnished an example of near-perfect casting. Carl Frank, as the
murderer, though never seen, injected the right touches with his restrained
reading of the script. Mary Wilsey was excellent as the wife. Her whining
voice and little side-touches such as picking her teeth with her finger, all
heightened by ultra-realistic makeup, brought forth a woman that even a sane
husband might have wanted to kill. Supporting cast was uniformly good. Bob
Wade's sets, though not as spectacular as in other shows, fit the program
Announcer Bill Woodson at the end of the show asked viewers to send in their
reactions and advice on whether they wanted the series to be a regular weekly
feature. Response should be unanimous in the affirmative.
[July 5, 1946 Fresno Bee]
A long time favorite among dramatic suspense programs will make its debut
tomorrow night at 6:00 on KMJ. "Light's Out" was first heard about 11 years
ago and was a regular feature for many years.
A Wyllis Cooper fantasy built around the legendary superstition that the young
Jew who jeered at Christ at the crucifixion was doomed to wander the world
forever will be the opening presentation.
[July 6, 1946 The Billboard]
Lights Out / Reviewed Sunday (30), 8:50-9:10 p.m. Style -- Drama. Sustaining
over WNBT (NBC), New York.
NBC tried the most difficult job in video today. It took a radio script, which
was supposed to depend entirely upon the listener using his imagination to
reconstruct what was being aired, and gave the listener eyes. The odds were 10
to 1 that it wouldn't come off.
It came off. Fred Coe, the producer-adapter, did a terrific job, the best he's
done to date, and, frankly, as good as anything that NBC's cameras have
scanned since they've been using channel four.
Coe handled the cameras so that they were you--the murderer of your wife, a
slut. When you were hung the screen went black, but as you were dying you saw
the coolness of the waves breaking on the beach. He used a kaleidoscopic
circle every time your, the murderer's, mind went blank.
Actually, the play, it was called _First Person Singular_, one of the first
_Lights Out_ that Wyllis Cooper did when the series was miked from Chicago,
was a monolog in your brain, with a word added here and a picture there. It
grabbed a mood with its opening credits by simply having a hand pull the chain
on a table lamp ... and put out the lights. You felt the heat, a slow-moving
electric fan accomplished that, and you saw the thing, your wife, you were to
There were no errors, no slips, no bad performances. The play wasn't dragged
out to a full half hour just because that was a normal time segment. It took
20 minutes to tell, and the cameras used just 20 minutes.
Credit a perfect assist from Bill States, technical director, and the usual
adequate scenery job of Bob Wade as back-stopping Fred Coe's first completely
NBC aired [the radio] _Lights Out_ series at midnight, and that's when it
should have been [m]iked. This was no production to present to half pints. And
one further rave note, the performance of Mary Wilsey deserves deep, sweeping
bows. Katherine, the wife, was supposed to be a first-rate bitch and slattern,
and Wilsey didn't for once try to pretty her up. She was Katherine and she
deserved to die. To Wilsey's performance add a perfect miking of the husband's
mind by Carl Frank. Of course, Frank's was strictly a radio job, which he's
acustomed to handling with great regularity. But it's one thing to broadcast
the wheels going around in a man's head when there's no vision to correlate
with the spoken thoughts. It's another when the audience is there seeing just
what the wheels are saying. So double-check Frank's monolog, like Fred Coe's
direction and Mary Wilsey's wife, as terrific.
[July 6, 1946 Cleveland (OH) Plain Dealer - Radio editor Robert S. Stephan's column]
... LIGHTS OUT returns to N.B.C. and WTAM at 9 tonight. Arch Oboler, who once
wrote some weird material for this series, has been quoted as saying the show
is outmoded. Clarence L. Menser, N.B.C. program director thinks otherwise. As
I recall the show some seasons ago, many of the sketches were utterly
fantastic and chilling. WTAM carried it around 11:30 p. m. (with most of the
children in bed). If the new "Lights Out" series follows the same pattern of
plays, I suspect N.B.C. could have used the 9 p. m. Saturday period to better
advantage. But we will wait and see what Menser has in store. ...
[July 10, 1946 Variety]
With Boris Aplon, John Barclay, Wilms Herbert; George Stone, announcer
Director: Albert Crews
Writer: Wyllis Cooper
30 Mins., Sat., 10 p.m.
NBC's oldtime thriller, first heard 11 years ago and a regular feature for
several years thereafter, is back again as a summer replacement, this time for
Judy Canova. (Last year it subbed for "Truth or Consequences.") Opening
session of the eight-week revival Saturday (6), though interest, wasn't quite
Show, which was a sort of modern version of the "Wandering Jew" theme, was a
little too serious in content for a thriller. Religious background,
philosophical discussion, and dream diagnosis gave program a slow, heavy pace
from the start, and the whole thing, though it did pick up sharply in interest
towards the close, was too talky and action-less. Sometimes plot was a little
confusing, and one of the character's accent made the play that much more
difficult to get. It's doubtful if this stuff suits for hot-weather escapist
[July 10, 1946 Variety]
Inside Stuff--Radio ...
Although Wyllis Cooper is credited as the writer of the new "Lights Out"
summer replacement show for Judy Canova on Saturday nights over NBC, he claims
he has nothing to do with it. Cooper, presently chief of the motion picture
and television department of the Compton ad agency, asserts NBC is following
the same procedure it used last year by digging up a batch of his old scripts
for the revival.
Cooper is also considerably miffed at reports that he scripted the televised
version of "Lights," which NBC produced over WNBT, its N. Y. tele outlet, on
June 30. Fred Coe, NBC video producer, adapted the script from one of Cooper's
old radio shows, he claims. "I discovered by purest accident--meeting a guy on
the street--that it was to be broadcast," Cooper said. "It was an adaptation
of, as I said, an original radio show I did 12 years ago."
Reason for Cooper's ire at the tele show lies in the fact that, ever since
he's taken over the Compton post, he's been plugging for all-film shows, as
compared to live programming. Film, and its system of retakes to correct an
error, would assure the broadcaster of a perfect program, according to Cooper.
[July 13, 1946 Portland (OR) Oregonian]
A mystery sequence centered around the rehearsal of a radio broadcast will be
dramatized in the episode entitled "Coffin Studio D" [sic] on Lights Out, KGW
The story opens with an eccentric coffin salesman going through the routine of
measuring one of the members of the radio cast for his final resting place.
The preliminary selling points of the salesman appear to be a gag, but tragedy
[July 20, 1946 Portland (OR) Oregonian]
A murderer's cringing fear of the supernatural will wring out a confession of
guilt after a frightening night in "The Haunted Cell" on Lights Out, KGW at 6.
The spine-chilling Wyllis Arpee [sic] story deals with a simple but effective
method police often use to make reluctant but conscious-stricken [sic]
criminals talk. Boris Aplon will be heard as narrator.
[July 27, 1946 New Orleans (LA) Times-Picayune]
Two dealers in the supernatural who fight a grim battle for remote control of
a speeding aircraft is the eerie tale of "The Battle of the Magicians" on
WSMB's "Lights Out" at 9 p. m.
[August 3, 1946 Portland (OR) Oregonian]
The weird story of how a Britisher, trained in a mysterious Hindu cult,
travels across the world to exact a fearful vengeance on the gangsters who
murdered his brother, will be told in "Hindu Revenge" on Lights Out, KGW at 6.
Boris Aplon will be heard as narrator. The scripts are by Wyllis Cooper and
Albert Crews will direct.
[August 10, 1946 Portland (OR) Oregonian]
Two motion picture cameramen will almost lose their sanity as well as their
jobs because of "The Ghost in the Newsreels" on Lights Out, KGW at 6.
The men are sent to photograph a ghost at a haunted farmhouse, but only find
an evil-appearing old man whom they use to fake the ghost sequence. The
developed film will be full of surprises.
[August 17, 1946 New Orleans (LA) Times-Picayune]
A nagging sense of guilt, fear and an overactive imagination seals the doom of
a hunted criminal on "Lights Out," heard over WSMB at 9 p. m.
[August 17, 1946 (Madison) Wisconsin State Journal]
8 p. m.--Lights Out (WMAQ): "A Case of Self-Conviction," story of a fugitive
who seals his own doom.
[August 23, 1946 Portland (OR) Oregonian - excerpts of letter to radio column]
Teen Ager's Analysis ...
First of all, most kids my age (14) are rabid listeners to all forms of
mysteries. ... Worst thing is that only a very small majority [sic] are even
worth listening to. Bill Lance, Ellery Queen and Lights Out are about the
best, although Ellery Queen is becoming a bit too "sopkiss-ticated" and the
dialogue is just plain silly at times. ... ERNESTINE SEXTON, Vancouver,
[August 24, 1946 New Orleans (LA) Times-Picayune]
Mystery fans will receive a real treat when WSMB's "Lights Out" presents the
story of a fiction writer who finds that the characters he has created come to
life to help him pen the climax to his story of horror on "An Author Writes
His Execution," heard at 9 p. m.
[August 24, 1946 Portland (OR) Oregonian]
A murder mystery writer will suddenly discover that his characters of fiction
have come to life to help him pen a grim climax to his story of horror in "An
Author Writes His Execution," on Lights Out, KGW at 6.
The script is by Wyllis Cooper and Boris Aplon will be heard as narrator.
Albert Crews will direct.
[September 14, 1946 The Billboard]
'Lights Out' Nixing Blamed on Policy
NEW YORK, Sept. 7.--Spokesman at Biow agency this week explained agency's
point of view with regard to CBS' recent nixing of the whodunit, Lights Out,
which the agency intended to place on the web's Monday, 10:30 p.m. time slot.
"There is strong pressure by the major webs," he stated, "to keep such segs
off--otherwise their nighttime periods would become filled with whodunits." He
futher pointed out that modest cost of mysteries particularly appealed to
agencies and sponsors, who thru experience have come to regard such segs as
"safe buys" in that they generally turn in medium ratings--whereas the
sponsors get "burned" on variety and comedy shows. "Some of the so-called
comedy shows turn out to be something different altogether," he pointed out,
"and they cost plenty."
Report that Milton Biow, now on the coast would sue CBS for refusing the
Lights Out show was denied by Biow attorneys.
[September 21, 1946 The Billboard]
... Only last week, rep of the Biow Agency explained that CBS nixed Lights
Out, bought by Biow from Music Corporation of America, for the reason that
they did not want to clutter the nighttime hours with horror segs. But the
point of view of the agency, and the client--explained the Biow rep--was that
horror segs, for a reasonable production cost, assured a medium rating, and
were therefore a "safer" investment than expensive comedy or variety shows.
[May 28, 1947 Dixon Evening Telegraph, syndicated column item]
DAY by DAY ON THE AIR by C. E. Butterfield
... MBS, from June 8, "Quiet Please", a variation of the former Lights Out
stories [is the summer replacement] for Juvenile Jury. The change in title
apparently is due to the fact that the program will be in the afternoon
instead of at night. ...
[June 8, 1947 Kansas City Star]
Quiet Please, the daytime version of Lights Out, nighttime thriller of a
decade ago, will take over the Juvenile Jury time at 1:30 o'clock today on
WHB. The unusual stories will be written by Wyllis Cooper, who gained fame for
his Lights Out series. The stories will outline a psychological plot theme,
pointing up aspects of human behavior.
[July 10, 1947 New York Daily Post Magazine Section]
RADIO AND TELEVISION ... By Paul Denis ...
... Comedy: Henry Morgan, in his last broadcast of the season, speculated
about his summer replacement, Arch Oboler's "Lights Out." "Maybe it's about
two people who eat in the dark because they can't stand the sight of each
other. Or it could be a travel program: John lights out for Bessarabia . . .
Or a quiz program: 'Take It or Lights Out.'" Morgan, completing his first
season of half-hour, studio audience broadcasting, will be sorely missed
during his eight week lay-off. (He returns September 10th.) He was by far the
brightest development in radio during the past year. (WJZ, Wed., 10:30 p. m.)
And he should certainly be spotted at a better broadcasting time next season.
[July 11, 1947 Dixon Evening Telegraph (Dixon, IL) DAY by DAY ON THE AIR column]
Henry Morgan's ABC sponsor, in making a rather drastic change from his
satirical comedy to the eerie type of Lights Out dramas for a nine-week
vacation period, will start next Wednesday night with Boris Karloff as guest.
It is planned to revive outstanding scripts of past broadcasts by this decade-
old series. ...
[July 14, 1947 Sheboygan Press (Sheboygan, WI)]
Boris Karloff on "Lights Out" Radio Program
Boris Karloff, Gauleiter of the Goose Pimple, will be starred on the premiere
broadcast of Lights Out, summer replacement for the Henry Morgan show, on
Wednesday, July 16, at 9:30 p. m., (CDT) over the American Broadcasting
company, and WHBL.
By general agreement one of radio's most chilling programs, Lights Out is a
perfectly balanced compound of terror, mystery and mayhem. In the decade in
which it has been on the air, it has won a large following of fans who regard
it as an effective antidote for heat waves.
In the current series, which will run until Henry Morgan's return in
September, some of the most popular scripts of previous years will be revived.
The summer series will open with a thriller about a doctor who is a deft hand
at bringing dead people back to life. After his wife is killed in an
automobile accident, he uses his mysterious powers to bring her back to life.
Questioning her about the trip, he learns that she has lost her soul,
whereupon he decides to kill her in a way that he hopes will be permanent.
[July 15, 1947 Dixon Evening Telegraph (Dixon, IL) DAY by DAY ON THE AIR
... Chilling thought for a July evening: Boris Karloff will star in the 10
year old "Lights Out" when the series succeeds the Henry Morgan show at 10:30
tomorrow night on ABC. ...
[July 17, 1947 Variety]
SCHICK SHOULD HAVE LET LIGHTS REMAIN OUT
Grisliest of the flesh-creepers, "Lights Out" has been revived as Henry
Morgan's summer standby on ABC after lying dormant for a dozen years. Those
who caught last night's opener may have reasoned it should have been left that
way. To say that it qualifies ...
[July 18, 1947 Niagara Falls (NY) Gazette - "Hollywood Sights and Sounds"
column by Gene Handsaker]
HOLLYWOOD - "How on earth," I asked Macdonald Carey, "do you play a headless
Chinese? . . . on the radio especially!"
"A good question," said Mac, whose striking facial characteristic is a relaxed
half-embarassed, entirely unforced grin. "You go around saying" - Mac's accent
became shallow and Oriental - "Where is my head? Where is my head?"
Mac was playing the headless Chinese on a radio horror show, "Lights Out,"
from Chicago a decade ago. He has come a long way since then ...
[July 22, 1947 The Billboard]
Reviewed July 16, 1947
E. S. Felton, Adv. Mgr.
Thru the Biow Company
Milton Biow, Account Exec.
Wednesday, 10:30-11 p.m.
Estimated Talent Cost: $4,500; producer, Larry Robertson; director, Bill
Lawrence; music director, Leith Stevens; announcer, Ken Niles; writers, Willis
Cooper and Paul Pierce; cast, Boris Karloff. ...
Boris Karloff plus the heat plus the characters who put together Lights Out
are guaranteed to disrupt any listener's blood chemistry and endocrinology.
There's no doubt about it. And for those who like to indulge in this sort of
thing, this program fills the bill. It's an expertly done thriller backed by a
long successful tradition. Now it's got the sepulchral Karloff in the lead,
and if you'll take my advice you won't extinguish those lights--just dim 'em
Series, which replaces Henry Morgan for the summer, debuted with a blood-
thickening opus about a scientist who thinks he can bring dead people back to
life. He's done it with monkeys, you see. But as his assistant reminds him,
there's a moral issue involved in such experimentation with humans. The fears
of the assistant prove very true, as the scientist finds when he resuscitates
his wife who had been killed in an auto accident.
There are a couple of unearthly screams and two murders, for the resuscitated
woman gets handy with a scapel [sic] and must be silenced once again. It's all
effectively done, and those ghoulish actors led by Karloff, and the writers
and directorial talent, deserve kudos.
Plugs for Eversharp were generally fair, altho the closing phrase of the
blurb, "push-pull, click click," grows very annoying.
[July 23, 1947 Variety]
With Boris Karloff, Tom Collins, Lurene Tuttle; Ken Niles, announcer; Leith
Writers: Willis Cooper, Paul Pierce
Director: Bill Lawrence
Producer: Larry Robertson
30 Mins.; Wed., 10:30 p.m.
WJZ-ABC, N. Y.
Henry Morgan hoped, in his closing minutes on the air this season, that nobody
would buy any Eversharp-Schick razors while he was vacationing during the next
eight weeks. He ought to get his wish, if his summer replacement has any
influence on listeners' buying habits. Mystery, detective and crime shows seem
like good clean fun alongside this horror of horrors. Why anyone without a
barely latent thirst for blood would care to inflict these ghoulish goings-on
on themselves of a hot summer night is hard to understand.
Chillers, under the heading of "Lights Out," were originally aired more than a
decade ago. The current series will revive some of the blood curdlers "most
popular" on previous airings. Boris Karloff, guestaring [sic] in the opener
(16), was right in his element as a doctor who conspired with a medic friend
to experiment on the corpse of his wife, killed in an auto crash, and bring
her back to life with a secret formula. The formula works, but the wife has
lost her soul while on "the other side," and she runs amok, killing one of the
medics, before she's put away for good. Thing is fraught with a lot of screams
and fiendish fol-de-rol.
Karloff did justice to his role. In fact, aside from question of whether such
grisliness is good entertainment, the stanza was well-tailored and effectively
Commercials are standard.
[July 25, 1947 Cleveland (OH) Plain Dealer - Radio editor Robert S. Stephan
reviews a lost Wyllis Cooper episode]
LIGHTS OUT is the kind of dramatic series the American living room could
easily do without. It deals in horrible stuff. This week's "sketch" (WJW,
Wednesdays) concerned the doings of vampires (the living dead). These are the
folk who are supposed to go about at night feeding on their victim's blood
until someone is fortunate enough to drive iron stakes through their hearts.
Most vampire tales follow a pattern. There is the innocent victim, the
relentless chase, the final blackout of the vampire. In this tale, a young
wife (played as I caught the credits by Lurene Tuttle, an actress who has the
ability for much better roles) is being bled to death by one Mellodoff. The
play reveals he's a fellow whose attentions once proved unwelcome to the
heroine. He's been killed in a traffic accident.
The action is based on the efforts of the young husband and a physician to
thwart Mellodoff. They're unsuccessful. The wife dies to become a vampire
herself. Then the husband visits the wife's vault, drives a stake through her
heart and then shoots himself to death. What happens to Mellodoff I'll
probably never know. What possible entertainment value for the average family
circle can be found in such morbid material?
[July 30, 1947 Dallas Morning News]
... Boris Karloff, the only living human who could scare the wind out of a
ghost, will be involved in a ghastly drama about a gold ring disappearing from
the hand of a beautiful lady . . . and the lady's hand vanishes also. The ring
is discovered later in the eye of a dead man, who has fantastically escaped
from the grave to be found lying on a cold slab in the morgue. ...
[August 1, 1947 New York Daily Post Magazine Section - Arch Oboler responds to
July 10 column item]
RADIO AND TELEVISION ... By Paul Denis ...
The Light That Failed: "No, no, not 'Arch Oboler's Lights Out,'" writes Arch
Oboler from Cornell, California. Oboler was mistakenly identified as the
author of Lights Out (WJZ, Wed., 10:30 p.m.), summer replacement for Henry
Morgan, in this column recently. The fact is, Oboler did write the scripts for
the show a few years back, but that was only temporary, and the idea didn't
originate with him. About the current version of Lights Out, he writes, it is
being put on "sans good sense, sans imagination, so that when poor Henry
Morgan returns all built up from his vacation, he can tear himself down again
trying to build up a new audience." [Oboler's renunciation comes just in time
--for Lights Out is being dropped, and a variety show will fill in for the
remainder of the summer, effective tomorrow night.]
[August 6, 1947 Variety]
Eversharp Yanks 'Lights Out' Switch
Eversharp yanked the switch on "Lights Out" after last Wednesday's (30)
broadcast, dousing the series after only three of a scheduled eight-week
summer run. The sponsor is committed to the show's owner, Wyllis Cooper, for
the contractual period, but is understood to have worked out a compromise
payoff covering the cost of the scripts. Deal is also getting worked out with
the ABC network, which will fill the unexpired weeks with a sustainer, for the
time charges. This is believed to be part of negotiations with Mark Woods, ABC
prez, and Martin Strauss, boss of the pen and razor firm, involving a
reshuffle of the net's whole Wednesday night schedule for the coming fall-
"Lights Out," horror series with a long and spotty history on both ABC and
NBC, stumbled as a summer replacement from its first broadcast July 16.
Although it was a minimum budget production, using old scripts originally
written by Cooper when the series was launched a decade ago as a late-evening
sustainer out of Chicago, it aroused the ire of Strauss, who ordered the Biow
agency to yank it after the third installment. ...
[August 9, 1947 The Billboard]
Karloff May Blow "Lights" Because It's "Too Bloody"
NEW YORK, Aug. 2--Boris Karloff this week reportedly notified the Biow Agency
that he intends to bow out of his starring role in Lights Out as soon as a
suitable replacement can be obtained for him.
Reason for Karloff's departure is said to be his dissatisfaction with the
scripting, which he claims is too much on the gruesome and frightening side.
Lights Out is Eversharp's replacement for the Henry Morgan show, aired
Wednesdays over American Broadcasting Company (ABC).
[August 14, 1947 Portland (ME) Press Herald syndicated column item]
INSIDE RADIO by Paul Luther
Set as an eight week replacement for vacationing Henry Morgan, Lights Out has
disappeared from the kilocycles without ceremony or notice. It seems that the
big boss of the pen and razor company sponsoring the chiller-diller just
couldn't take any more and ordered the fuses blown after only three
performances, thereby setting some kind of a record for the shortest series in
network radio. ...
[August 20, 1947 Kansas City Star column Behind the Radio Dial]
....Lights Out folded because Boris Karloff and the sponsor believed the
stories were too grisly....
[September 8, 1947 The Agitator (Wellsboro, PA) STAR DUST STAGE SCREEN RADIO
column released by Western Newspaper Union and written by Inez Gerhard]
... It's said Boris Karloff wants to leave ABC's "Lights Out" because his
roles are too grisly. ...
[December 11, 1947 The Bridgeport Post]
FAIRFIELD PREP DRAMA
"The Three Men," an original Christmas production by Willis Cooper, will be
broadcast Sunday at 2:30 by WICC in cooperation with Fairfield Prep. The drama
will be directed by the Rev. J. Joseph Ryan and the Rev. David Commiskey, with
Ken Rapleff as producer. In the cast are Roy Daly, John Gonzalez, George
Thomas, Geoffrey Ryan, Judson Bump and Anthony Pellegrino.
[July 7, 1949 New York Times]
The psychological mystery series, "Lights Out," which was seen on NBC
television three years ago, will be revived by the network next Tuesday
evening from 9 to 9:30 o'clock.
[July 9, 1949 The Billboard]
"Lights Out" Revived For TV on July 22
NEW YORK, July 2.--Lights Out, one of radio's top psychological shows, will be
revived for video starting July 22. The National Broadcasting Company (NBC),
which owns the title and many of the scripts, will spot the show Fridays at
9:30 p.m., currently occupied by Lucky Strike. Should Luckies keep the time
spot, Lights will shine elsewhere.
Lights was written by Wullis [sic] Cooper and Arch Oboler and helped launch
them both on their careers. The web did a few TV versions of the show about
two years ago. Cooper now has the click [V]olume [O]ne series on WJZ-TV.
[July 17, 1949 Washington Post]
New 'Lights Out' Series to Start
A new series of "Lights Out," the ghost and horror dramas, will return to the
NBC television network beginning Tuesday (WNBW, 9 p. m.)
The premiere show, "Episode One," a murder mystery, was written for the new
series by Wilson Lehr. Subsequent episodes will consist of adaptations of
short stories and original plays.
[July 24, 1949 New York Times]
FRED COE, manager of new program development for NBC television, has worked
out a system to minimize or eliminate the first-night jitters usually
associated with the premiere of a new video show.
Mr. Coe's plan of operations is to assemble his cast, rehearse the show and
then, a week before the premiere, put the program on kinescope recording. The
film then is studied for "weak" spots and whatever changes thought necessary
are made. Finally, the revised show is given its first formal presentation on
the network as a "live" performance.
In applying the principal to the "Lights Out" series -- which made its debut
last week -- perusal of the kinescope recording resulted, among other things,
in the cutting of two whole scenes, a rewriting of the ending and a change in
the opening shot, since the first one was considered to leave the viewer "not
properly oriented" for what was to come. The incidental music was also
DECISION: Incidentally, Kingman T. Moore, director of "Lights Out," is
awaiting word from the NBC continuity acceptance department as to whether they
will approve the story, "Two Bottles of Relish." It is a classic horror short
story by Lord Dunsany dealing with cannibalism, wherein a man eats his wife.
[July 30, 1949 The Billboard]
Reviewed Tuesday 9-9:30 p.m. on NBC TV network. Style--Drama. Producer Fred
Coe; director Kingman Moore; sets, Paul Barnes; music, Billy Nalle. Cast: Phil
Arthur, Anita Anton.
The radio Lights Out series, written by Wyllis Cooper originally and later
Arch Oboler, holds a rare and hallowed place among psychological air shows. It
produced some of the top writing and acting the field has enjoyed. It was
continually inventive, setting up an unmatched mood. Above all, it was a
program written for one specific medium--radio, one of the rather limited
number of which this may be said. Cat Wife and Ugliest Man in the World, for
example, could have been offered only on radio, relying almost solely on the
listener's imagination. But the only relationship between the AM and TV Lights
Out is the similarity in name.
NBC had an admirable idea when it set out to adapt the series to the new
medium, but the trouble is that adaptations, in such an instance, aren't
sufficient. Generally speaking, this is one of TV's troubles--its program men
concentrate on adapting from another medium; what is needed is not
appropriating from another branch of of show business, but creating for video.
It will take more than a hand dripping blood on the opening title shot, or a
filter mike, or mood music to give Lights Out TV value. It will require the
same imagination, the same escape from formal and routine stories which
characterized Lights in AM, and which Cooper brought so admirably to his
recent ABC TV series, Volume One--classics in their own rights as were his
The initial TV offering was a drab and obvious story, bereft of mood and
reasonable characters, outlining the attempts of a psychotic wife to commit
suicide and making it appear she had been murdered by her husband. The final
scene, rather than productive of mood or tension--it attempted to show the
wife talking after her death, by using an offscreen voice against a shot of
her casket--was almost ludicrous. A competent cast struggled but couldn't
surmount the flaccid story or production; an effort hardly worthy of Producer
[July 31, 1949 New York Times]
EQUIPMENT newly perfected by NBC engineers will be used on Tuesday to tell an
unusual story in "Episode Three" of the "Lights Out" series on the NBC
television network at 9 P. M. The new development, it is said, makes it
possible for the first time to maintain continuity of action, including scene
changes, on both sides of the screen in a "split screen" television show.
The story will be a video adaptation of a script ["Long Distance" by Harry
Junkin] previously heard on Radio City Playhouse in which Mrs. Leon Jackson --
to be played by actress Jan Miner -- works against time to reach the Governor
of a state by telephone with new evidence to postpone the execution of her
husband. One half of the picture will show her attempts to put through the
call while the other half will show the succession of people with whom she is
[August 7, 1949 New York Times]
The first television adaptation of the radio play "Long Distance" was telecast
last week by NBC with memorable effect.
The play was the third episode in NBC's new psychological drama series under
the title "Lights Out." It is aired Tuesdays at 9 P. M.
The network's use of split screen technique plus a sterling performance by Jan
Miner underscored anew video's possibilities when motivated by imagination
tempered with common sense.
Miss Miner made her television debut as the wife frantically telephoning
around the country to locate a judge who could save her husband from the
gallows. In the original radio play written by Harry Junkin, the wife had
twenty-four hours in which to reach the judge. To heighten the dramatic effect
for television, this period was cut to a half-hour and a clock which was
visible in the background could be seen ticking away the minutes.
NBC has used the split screen technique previously but not for an entire half-
hour program. By this method, used to show simultaneous action at separated
points, two different pictures are transmitted at the same time, each taking
one-half of the television screen. In last week's "Lights Out" program, both
ends of the half-dozen or so different telephone conversations were both
audible and visible. The only fault here in the brilliant technical staging
was the lack of contrast in some of the paired pictures. And at one point the
judge's wife, while talking to the doomed man's wife, had her arm chopped off
by the split screen.
Producer Fred Coe, director Kingman T. Moore and Technical director Don Pike
did an inspiring job in fitting the play into the split screen groove. The
adaptation of the script was done by Douglas Gilbert. For psychological
purposes, the original ending, where the wife was successful in saving her
husband, was changed to permit the viewer to judge for himself. The indication
seemed to be, however, that the gallows was not denied.
[September 15, 1949 New York Times]
In the 9:30 period on Friday evenings, NBC television intends to alternate two
productions -- the video version of "The Big Story" and "Lights Out." The
latter program has been a Tuesday attraction. The new schedule is effective
[September 22, 1949 New York Times]
Tomorrow's edition of "Lights Out" (9:30 P. M. on NBC video) will find Paul
Winchell, ventriloquist, portraying a straight dramatic role. He will appear
in "The Whisper," based on Gerald Kersch's story about a ventriloquist who
adopts the personality of his dummy. The adaptation has been prepared by
Douglas Wood Gibson.
[October 4, 1949 New York Times]
Following its decision not to renew the full-hour "Broadway Revue" on NBC
television, the Admiral Corporation is expected to assume sponsorship of
"Lights Out," the psychological drama series, on the same network Oct. 17.
"Lights Out" is telecast by NBC every other Thursday night but will be carried
each Monday evening when Admiral begins sponsorship. The hour of broadcast has
not been officially determined.
[October 22, 1949 New York Times]
"Lights Out," the psychological suspense series of dramatic shows will return
to the NBC television network on Mondays at 9 P. M. under the sponsorship of
the Admiral Corporation, which last year put on the "Broadway Revue." The
starting date will be either Oct. 31 or Nov. 7. "The Black Robe," currently
occupying that spot on the schedule will be reassigned.
The "Lights Out" series will offer plays adapted for television from short
stories and radio scripts. Kingman T. Moore will direct and Ernest Walling
will be the producer. Although a "no star" casting policy will be in force, a
name player occasionally will appear in a leading role. The first show, the
third for which Helmut Dantine has been signed to appear, will be Edgar Allen
[sic] Poe's "The Fall of the House of Usher."
[November 3, 1949 New York Times]
Jack LaRue, the movie villain, has been assigned as regular host for the
"Lights Out" television series, which resumes over NBC Monday at 9 P. M. He
will introduce each play and set the mood.
[November 6, 1949 New York Times photo caption]
Jack LaRue will be the narrator on the new series of "Lights Out" mystery
plays coming to NBC-TV on Monday nights at 9.
[November 26, 1949 The Billboard]
Reviewed Monday 9-9:30 p.m. on NBC TV network. Sponsor--Admiral Radio
Corporation, via Kudner Agency, Inc. Producer: Ernest Walling. Director:
Kingman T. Moore. Writer: Sumner Licke-Elliott. Cast, Jack LaRue, Neva
Patterson, Allan Frank, Grant Gordon, Zalya Talma, Al Patterson.
Admiral Radio and Television is now sponsoring this National Broadcasting
Company (NBC)-built video package, which bears only a nomenclative
relationship to its classic radio predecessor. Lights Out didn't have it as a
tele sustainer, and it still doesn't as a commercial. Basically, the fault, as
evidenced in the program caught Monday (14), is that of script and concept.
But there is also a serious inconsistency in the treatment accorded Jack
LaRue, film heavy, who plays the part of a narrator, even tho he appears only
at the open and close. In a good, moody and atmospheric opening, he sets the
scene for the show, his face marked by good lighting which seemingly comes
only from a flickering candle. Under this treatment, LaRue and the program,
both, assume the character sought after. A moment later, tho, this entire mood
is disrupted as LaRue cues in the commercial, pointing out that by so doing,
there'll be no middle break to interrupt the story.
Well, it listens good on paper but does it matter where the break comes? It's
still there. The character of the show would be greatly enhanced were the the
switch handled the other way, commercial credits preceding LaRue. When the
show opens, he's in a heavy, moody role. A minute later, he's smiling, to cue
in the commercial announcer. A minute later, he's back in the mood again. The
greater impact of television as against radio's is in itself one of the
reasons this doesn't stand up.
Error in Concept
More important, tho, is the error in the Lights Out concept. In radio, there
was no limit to the macabre story it could tell, for radio places no limit on
imagination. That doesn't go for tele. The minute tele shows an actual set and
an actual character, it establishes confines. Thus, the idea, on this show, of
having a spectre walk out of the the ocean to destroy the woman who's just
murdered her husband is faced with a physical and visual limit which does not
exist in radio. And so far, all Lights Out has tried to do is to move the
camera in on radio scripts, rather than seeking and establishing its own
purely video techniques.
Casting, acting and script were awkward and unprofessional on this, and the
payoff, when Neva Patterson is face to face with the briny spectre was almost
ludicrous and certainly not tense.
Admiral commercials are straight forward and hard hitting, plugging the tele
sets primarily and easy installment buying.
[January 15, 1950 New York Times]
In one of the key scenes in last Monday's "Lights Out" show on NBC-TV at 9
P. M., the camera focused on a series of newspapers whose headlines explained
part of the dramatic action. Clearly visible during the scene was the word
"Philco" thereby giving that company a free plug. "Lights Out" is sponsored by
the Admiral Corporation, a competing manufacturer.
[January 15, 1950 New York Times]
IN DUPLICATE: NBC's television program "Lights Out" has discovered that "there
ain't no such animal." For more than a week a casting call had been circulated
in all likely places for the services of twin actresses to play the leading
roles in tomorrow's show, entitled "The Green Dress." Many pairs responded,
but all were models or dancers and no twins with adequate histrionic ability
could be found. Finally selected for the roles -- those of two wives, one dead
and one living -- were Lynn Salisbury and Candy Montgomery, both blondes, both
with the same configuration and not even remotely related.
Undismayed by their failure to find twin actresses, casting officials now are
searching for male twins for the program of Feb. 13. That week's offering will
be "The Cat's Paw," a story of the devil taking a soul by turning a man into a
cat. The change is gradual -- a little each night -- and will require a
complicated make-up job necessitating the use of two actors so one can be "on
stage" while the metamorphosis takes place.
[February 16, 1950 Winnipeg Free Press radio listings]
Another drama tonight deals with social problems and is guaranteed to prove
that even they can be entertaining. Arch Oboler's play Profits Unlimited will
be heard from Winnipeg over CBW at 11.
[February 23, 1950 New York Times]
The top ten television programs for January, all commercially sponsored in
evening time periods, are rated as follows by the audience measurement firm of
C. E. Hooper, Inc.
"Texaco Star Theatre," "Talent Scouts," "Arthur Godfrey and His Friends,"
"Toast of the Town," "Stop the Music," "Lone Ranger," "Cavalcade of Sports,"
"Cavalcade of Stars," "Fireside Theatre" and "Lights Out."
[March 5, 1950 New York Times]
... on Monday night, the "Lights Out" show at 9 calls for a supernatural
character with six fingers on each hand. The effect will be gotten by casting
the little finger in plastic and then joining the extra digit by a liquid
adhesive. Richard Purdy, who will play the part of the man from the unknown,
will be on the stage throughout the entire performance but won't have a single
line to say.
[March 6, 1950 New York Times]
... a survey [of 447 students] conducted by the Burdick Junior High School of
Stamford [Connecticut] ...
... Asked to name the [television] program they most enjoyed, they listed
preference[s] in this order:
1. Milton Berle
2. Ed Sullivan's "Toast of the Town"
3. Six-Gun Playhouse
5. Captain Video
6. Arthur Godfrey and His Friends [and] Roller Derby (tie)
7. Lights Out [and] Paul Whiteman (tie)
The total number of shows mentioned was forty-seven. Of these, nine are
designed primarily for a children's audience, thirty-eight for an adult
[March 18, 1950 New York Times]
The rapid growth of television in the New York area was illustrated yesterday
in the first Hooper report to correlate in one listing the popularity of both
television and radio programs. Nine video shows finished among the first
fifteen in the local report, according to the Hooper organization, as against
only six radio shows.
The programs finished in the following order: Milton Berle-TV, Arthur
Godfrey's Talent Scouts-TV, Toast of the Town-TV, Godfrey's Talent Scouts-
radio, [Lux] Radio Theatre-radio, The Goldbergs-TV, My Friend Irma-radio,
Arthur Godfrey and His Friends-TV, Studio One-TV, Jack Benny-radio, Philco
Playhouse-TV, Walter Winchell-radio, Lights Out-TV and Suspense-TV. ...
[April 21, 1950 New York Times]
Frank Gallop has been named as a permanent replacement for Jack La Rue as host
on N. B. C. television's "Lights Out" series. Gallop had been serving on a
temporary basis during the last few weeks.
[May 14, 1950 New York Times]
... The fees paid to writers tend to parallel the pay rates in radio, even
though more work is involved in TV. Here are some examples cited in the [Ross
Reports on Television Programming] survey for both original works and
Ford Theatre, adapta. $500.
Kraft Theatre, orig. and adapta. $350.
Philco Playhouse, adapta. $500.
Play's the Thing, adapta. $425.
Studio One, orig. $700; adapta. $300-$400.
Chevrolet Tele-Theatre, orig. and adapta. $400-$500.
The Clock, orig. and adapta. $350 appr.
Colgate Theatre, orig. $500, adapta. $400.
Lights Out, orig. and adapta. $350.
Silver Theatre, orig. $500, adapta. $400.
Suspense, orig. $300-$400, adapta. $200-$250.
Plainclothesman, orig. $200. ...
[May 27, 1950 The Billboard]
Lights on Again
NEW YORK, May 20.--Admiral this week canceled its Lights Out video show on NBC
following a botch on the Monday (15) show, but three hours later changed its
mind and renewed thru the summer. During a commercial calling for rear-screen
projection, three lights blew in succession, virtually killing the plug.
After a brief cooling - off period the sponsor decided that it was just one of
those things and that nobody was to blame.
[June 2, 1950 Washington Post version of syndicated Radio in Review column by
... "Lights Out," which, I guess, is NBC television's answer to CBS'
"Suspence," [sic] appears to have settled permanently in the realm of the
supernatural. This is a happy device for the writers, because you don't have
to explain how old Cyrus McFlint was pushed out the window of a locked room.
He was pushed by the ghost of old Horace Pruneface, his former business
partner, who was discontented with the way Cyrus was handling his estate.
Convenient as this is for the writer, I find it totally exasperating to the
listener. [sic] The writing of ghost stories requires more skill than the
invention of hants [sic] who can walk through locked doors two minutes before
the half hour is up to wreak vengeance on the guilty. The writers of "Lights
Out" also have a great addiction to water. At various times, I've seen a
murdered husband rise out of the deep, blue sea to strangle his murderous wife
and another murdered husband, festooned with seaweed, haul himself out of a
river to inflict justice on his wife and her lover. Every time a stretch of
water appears on "Lights Out," a specter crawls out of it. It's enough to
frighten a man away from his own bathtub.
Level Even Lower
Last Monday's "Lights Out" touched a level even lower than seaweed. In this
little horror, a nuclear physicist was pursued about his own house by a ghost
which he described as "a soft, shapeless, mindless lump of undulating flesh."
This soft, shapeless, mindless lump of undulating flesh had, it developed,
fallen in love with the nuclear physicist. It kept fondling him, caressing him
even when he was delivering lectures before the institute. The scientist found
the whole thing revolting. So did I.
"Lights Out" used to be a pretty good show back when Wyllis Cooper was writing
it for radio. It was full of imaginative little strategems to make your flesh
crawl, but it was also written in a vein of sardonic humor and it contained
some pretty interesting, if spooky, characters. It has retained nothing except
[October 1950 "Radio In Review" column by John Crosby]
On Lights Out, the N.B.C.-TV show, a couple of weeks ago, a disfigured
playwright locked himself in a tenement of an office to write a play. He
created a couple of characters, as playwrights do, but these characters,
unlike those of, say, Robert E. Sherwood, instantly sprang into existence in
his dirty little office. One was a blind girl. The playwright had deliberately
created her that way so she couldn't see his maimed face. Love ensued. The
other character was her brother, a reptilian individual, who was the
playwright's self or Inner Self, or something like that. I forget how it
The other day on Stars Over Hollywood, a TV show filmed in Hollywood, another
author set himself down in an old New England town to write a novel about the
Puritans and was immediately confronted by a Puritan girl who had been dead
for 289 years. She wanted her diary back. The author, as authors will, was
shamefully pilfering ideas from it. He kissed her, her first kiss since 1668,
and all sorts of complications arose.
I bring it all up now because the device of authors creating characters who
suddenly loom up in front of the typewriter had better be given a rest for a
while. Years ago, Wyllis Cooper did the same thing on the old Lights Out, the
radio version. On this one, a radio writer created a bunch of pirates who
chased him all over the house. And, of course, Pirandello experimented with
the same thing in Six Characters in Search of an Author. (Nowadays they find
the author.) ...
[October 29, 1950 The Billboard]
L&M Considered For Kudner Sub Of Admiral Biz
CHICAGO, Oct 21. -- Lennen & Mitchell this week was under consideration by
Admiral to handle its TV billings. While the account is still with Kudner
agency, both the client and agency have been mutually dissatisfied with each
other for some time.
The Admiral has been unhappy with Lights Out, its NBC-TV show. Kudner has
solidly backed the mystery series because of its low cost and comparatively
high rating. No decision has been made by the sponsor on whether to retain the
NBC-TV package. ...
[October 29, 1950 Syracuse Post Standard]
A Chittenango viewer asks us how the ghoulish effect of a "bodiless" Frank
Gallop is achieved on "Lights Out." (Mondays, 9 p. m. WSYR-TV). Here's how
it's done. One powerful pin light, in front of Gallop on a table, points
directly into the outside corner of his right eye. This causes his eyes to
glitter unnaturally. Another "baby klieg" light is placed about three feet to
his left, swathing his head in light from the chin up. Gallop wears a black
Incidentally, this lighting literally blinds Gallop during his on-the-air
sequences. In order to receive his cue from the floor manager, whom he can't
see, he listens for a barely audible finger snap. And what's more, Gallop
doesn't recover the complete use of his eyes until about an hour after the
[October 29, 1950 New York Times]
FROM THE RADIO-TV MAILBAG ...
To the Radio-Television Editor:
I am sick and tired of hearing television critics such as you criticize
programs for presenting stories with horror as their themes. What do you
expect to see on a Suspense story, a thrilling love story?
Suspense, Lights Out, etc., are programs meant for people like me. People who
enjoy seeing on television horror and death in all its gruesome details.
If watching it was such a horrible ordeal, why force yourself? Turn the dial!
Or shut up!
Brooklyn, N. Y.
[March 7, 1952 Long Beach (CA) Press-Telegram]
ON TV TONIGHT
The television version of Arch Oboler's "Come to the Bank" is to be presented
on KTLA's "Chevron Theater" at 9. The story is based on a series of flashbacks
when Ada Moss, played by Anne Tyrell, tells her story to a newspaper reporter.
Ada, a mental patient, has been unable to tell the story of how a psychology
teacher has been trying to prove the power of mind over matter.
[March 24, 1951 The Billboard]
TV Producer Gets 200 Rohmer Yarns
NEW YORK, March 17.— Herb Swope, National Broadcasting Company-TV producer -
director, this week acquired production rights to more than 200 short stories,
novels and plays by Sax Rohmer, including the Fu Manchu stories. Swope's
affiliation with NBC gives that web first refusal on any shows he develops
from the Rohmer material. Two series are already in preparation. One is Fu
Manchu; the other, Sax Rohmer Presents. Rohmer probably will act as narrator
on the latter.
Wyllis Cooper, veteran radio and TV writer, is working with Swope on the
Rohmer material. Lester Shurr will represent the series.
[March 30, 1951 - LA Times - "Drama" column by Edwin Schallert]
... FU MANCHU DUE FOR RETURN TO SCREEN
Herbert Bayard Swope Jr., who produces "Lights Out" for TV in New York and who
expects to enter picturemaking, has acquired the rights to Sax Rohmer stories
for the video medium as well as the screen. He intends to inaugurate a new
series of Fu Manchu features, these having been very popular in the past, and
has Writer Wyllis Cooper working on both the TV and film features. ...
[April 11, 1951 Variety]
WYLLIS COOPER SIGNED FOR NBC 'LIGHTS OUT'
Wyllis Cooper, originator of the "Lights Out" series on radio, has been signed
by NBC-TV producer Herbert B. Swope, Jr., to script one show a month for the
video version, now aired Monday nights on that web under Admiral sponsorship.
Cooper will write either an original story or adapt one of his radio scripts.
Writer-producer was signed recently to pen the upcoming Sax Rohmer series for
NBC-TV, which Swope is also producing. Swope, incidentally, is planning to
base next Monday night's (16) stanza of "Lights Out" on the recently-concluded
Kefauver crime committee hearings. Show, titled "The Witness," will star Dane
Clark as the committee counsel, a la Rudolph Halley.
[May 14, 1951 Syracuse Post-Standard]
Basil Rathbone visits Lights Out at 9 p. m. today, WSYR-TV, when he stars in
"Dead Man's Coat," an original TV drama by Wyllis Cooper. Sounds like one
weird tale coming up. It's about a man who believes that he will become
invisible if he puts on a dead man's coat. His belief comes true.
[May 19, 1951 Statesville Daily Record]
Super Duper Thrillers Needed To Give TV Ghost Stories 'Life'
NEW YORK --(UP)-- A plain ordinary ghost story doesn't scare anybody anymore,
according to a man who produces a supernatural thriller for television
"You have to be very ingenious to carry your audience with you," Herbert
Bayard Swope Jr. said. "With all the things going on in the world today we've
been forced to accept a state of horror, and you just can't expect people to
be frightened easily."
Swope and his director, Laurence Schwab Jr. worry over elaborate lighting and
sound effects to add chilling realism to the weekly plots of "Lights Out." And
for every letter of complaint that they were scaring the family right out of
the living room, Swope said they had a matching one complaining that the show
wasn't scarey enough.
One of their early problems was photographing a scene in which the script
called for "a ghost shimmering in the background."
"We tried a bale of tinsel, but that didn't look right, so we finally got
ourselves a pale blue sheet and used changing lighting effects to give it the
appearance of movement," the producer recalled. Ghosts can't be white on
television, because of the glare caused by lights reflected from anything
Another script called for an actor to fly through a window. When they
rehearsed this one, Swope recalled with a grin, they kept Richard Purdy
suspended so long from overhead wires that a floor manager finally had to go
over and help him prop up his head. Finally the problem was solved by trick
photography, and moving a wall with a window in toward the suspended actor.
"We've never had an actor complain about any of the complicated routine you
have to go through on a mystery drama," the youthful red-haired producer said.
"In fact, every now and then one of the cast comes up with a suggestion to
make the thing even more complicated and more blood curdling."
When Burgess Meredith made his first appearance on the show, he had a final
scene in which he appeared as a man from Mars with a third eye in the middle
of his forehead. "We had the eye made to match his own exactly and he loved
[it]," Swope said.
The sound effect the producer recalled with the most satisfaction was that of
a hoard [sic] of rats gnawing away at a bomb shelter housing the last two
people left on earth.
"The sound effects man tried chewing celery and carrots, but it wasn't quite
right. Finally we recorded him crunching a mouthful of peanuts, shells and
all, then we re-recorded it until we multiplied the sound hundreds of times,"
This all sounds as if it would make for nerve-wracking Monday evenings for the
audience, but Swope claimed it wasn't as sinister as it sounded.
"Right always triumphs in the end," he said reassuringly.
[May 20, 1951 New York Times photo caption]
Martha Scott and Murvyn Vye will be the principal players in "Cat's Cradle" to
be seen tomorrow night as the featured attraction on the "Lights Out" series
over Channel 4 from 9 to 9:30 o'clock.
[May 23, 1951 Variety]
'LIGHTS' OBOLER OLDIES SET FOR REVIVAL ON TV
Herbert B. Swope, Jr., producer of NBC-TV's "Lights Out," has purchased four
scripts penned by Arch Oboler for the original "Lights" radio series to add to
those previously purchased from Wyllis Cooper. Oboler succeeded Cooper as
writer-producer on the radio series, which is no longer on the air. With
Admiral Corp. having picked up the show for another 52-week ride effective
July 2, which means it will continue through the summer, Swope plans to
utilize the Cooper and Oboler stories within the next several months. Oboler
scripts are titled "Money, Money, Money," "Projective Mr. Drogan," "And Adam
Begot" and "The Chinese Gong." Swope, incidentally, plans to continue spotting
name stars in the Monday night series, the system he inaugurated for "Lights"
[June 7, 1951 Swing - From "The Cream of Crosby" by radio and TV critic John
... Who's Deceased?
YOU never quite know who is or who isn't deceased on "Lights Out" but I can
give you a couple of hints, if you care to hear them. The dead, almost without
exception, have a wise, all-knowing air about them; when threatened with death
or injury, a small inscrutable smile flickers across their lips. They feel
sorry for us poor dopes, the living. ...
[July 1, 1951 New York Times]
TELEVISION IN CUBA ...
... Among the [drama] favorites are the Cuban versions of "Grand Hotel" and
"Lights Out." ...
[July 15, 1951 New York Times]
... "Author Meets the Critics" will depart from its usual custom of discussing
a book over Channel 4 at 11 o'clock tonight and will take for its subject-
matter the "Lights Out" television program. Herbert Bayard Swope, Jr.,
producer of the mystery series, will appear as the "author." Ben Grauer will
defend the show and Leo Gurko, Associate Professor of English at Hunter
College will attack.
[July 1951 Theatre Arts article "Windy Kilocycles" by Arch Oboler]
Radio drama (as distinguished from theatre plays boiled down to kilocycle
size) began at midnight, in the middle thirties, on one of the upper floors of
Chicago's Merchandise Mart. The pappy was a rotund writer by the name of
Willis Cooper, and the godfathers were an ex-instructor for a small Indiana
university by the name of [Sidney] Strotz, and an ex-salesman by the name of
[Niles] Trammell. ...
... it was in the play especially written for radio that Chicago had its
greatest national influence-- there was created, by trial and many errors, a
new art form that began with Don Ameche and the frothy First Nighters, and
went through the horrific Lights Out until it had matured to the point where,
as a radio playwright, I was given the precious network time to produce,
write, and direct this new type of play written for the ear and the listener's
imagination alone. ...
[August 5, 1951 New York Times]
HE AIMS TO PLEASE NOT TERRORIZE
By URSULA HALLORAN
IN devising a weekly TV drama series which frequently dabbles in the occult
and the supernatural, Herbert Bayard Swope Jr., producer of "Lights Out"
(Channel 4, Monday, 9 p. m.) tries to take people out of themselves without
scaring them out of their wits.
The fact that more often than not he succeeds is the result of two things: a
sense of responsibility to the viewing public and a precept which he inherited
from his father, who once told him, "I can't give you a formula for success,
but I can give you a formula for failure: try to please everyone."
For every two letters from viewers praising "Lights Out," Swope says, there is
at least one letter accusing him of all kinds of awful things. Frequently,
letters complain that the show wasn't terrifying enough.
"It's not my aim to terrorize people," he declares, "nor to suggest methods of
In dealing with the supernatural, Swope steers clear of gory murders. The old
radio version of "Lights Out," he feels, would have been too horrible with the
added dimension of sight.
Responsible for most of the editing and censoring which keep the "Lights Out"
scripts within the bounds of good taste, Swope concerns himself with more than
the mere elimination of gore.
"Television," he avers, "thrusts itself right into a person's home before he
has a chance to make a choice. A story that may make a fine movie might be
disastrous on TV. After all, people can pick and choose before going to a
As an instance he cites the editing necessary for the performance of "The
Heart of Jonathan Rourke." The original script dealt with a man who had a
painful heart disease; the man seemingly died, but a doctor kept the heart
alive, and eventually the man came back to life. After Swope's pruning --
which was dictated by a desire to avoid bringing grief to heart-disease
sufferers in the TV audience -- the central character became a condemned
killer, and the question of keeping his heart alive became a moral one:
whether or not it was right to keep alive an evil heart.
Swope feels that he owes much of the success of "Lights Out" to the fact that
the program does deal with the supernatural.
"It's not limited in scope," he said. "Logic, however, always prevails. You
may not be able to explain the story rationally, but it's generally made
His feeling of responsibility to the TV audience makes him more than a little
disturbed about children and television. He does not deny that television,
which he calls the "Twentieth Century Pied Piper," is currently offering
children's entertainment that is more escapist and gun-conscious than
Swope graduated from Princeton in 1936, and divided the first decade of his
professional life between advertising copywriting and the Navy. The fact that
he had always been interested in the drama and that his advertising job was
with the C. B. S. radio network decided him, after World War II, to go into
He directed and produced a number of different types of TV shows for C. B. S.
-- sports, remote pick-ups, among others -- but really hit his stride when he
came to N. B. C. two years ago. He directed "The Black Robe," "Broadway
Spotlight," and the City Service Band of America simulcast. He took over the
production of "Lights Out" in March of 1950.
[October 10, 1951 Variety]
NBC's "Lights Out" marks its 100th video presentation Oct. 22, for which
occasion producer Herb Swope, Jr., has selected an Arch Oboler original, "The
Projective Mr. Drogan".
[October 14, 1951 New York Times photo caption]
Henry Hull and Dorothy Stickney play an eccentric couple in "I Spy!" on
"Lights Out" over N. B. C.-TV tomorrow at 9 P. M.
[October 29, 1951 New York Times commentary by Jack Gould on the National
Association of Radio and Television Broadcasters' Code of Ethics]
... Matrimony must be treated with respect under the code, which, of course,
explains why only recently "Lights Out" had a neurotic tidbit on a man trying
to sell his wife for $50,000. ...
[November 5, 1951 The Syracuse Post-Standard]
Lights Out at 9 p. m. on WSYR-TV uses the "mysterious" East as a setting for
"The Chamber of Gloom." Geraldine Brooks will be seen as the American traveler
who becomes enthralled with an Indian seaport town. Its another supernatural
drama that Lights Out specializes in. Last week Arlene Francis and Lee J. Cobb
were starred in another supernatural tale -- a story that was worth little
except to show that the two stars made a terrific team. They'd be perfect in a
[January 1952 syndicated Radio and TV Comments column by John Crosby]
Back in June, Herbert Bayard Swope, jr., was awarded a citation of merit by
the Delta Sigma Theta sorority for "his pioneering efforts in the fields of
intercultural art designed to integrate the talents of all people as expressed
in the television production 'Lights Out'" -- a real jawful of a citation if
ever I read one.
I'm an avid collector of the starchy prose on citations and I've even been
known to write a citation from time to time for the Peabody Award committee.
"Intercultural art," though, never occurred to me. Neither did "integrate."
Wait till next year. The citations I have in mind will rattle the back teeth
of the Delta Sigma Theta sorority, them and their intercultural art.
The particular intercultural art of "Lights Out" has been the subject of
considerable scrutiny by me and some alarmed concern by parents. I have a
whole basketful of interculture here, most of it lurid enough to integrate the
wits out of the more timorous members of the audience.
Just a week or so ago on that program, a trio of lunatics were conducting a
Black Mass. Or at least they were trying to initiate a smallish boy into the
society of the Devil over his (the boy's) strenuous objections. It was a
lovely scene. The boy was writhing on the ground. The lunatics stood over him,
alternately slavering for his blood and wheedling. "Join up, Sedgewick, give
your soul to the Devil." "Mustn't keep the Devil waiting."
Eventually, through the intercession of another lunatic who was also a ghost
(as were the three Devil-worshippers), the boy escaped into the protective
custody of a more proper Deity. I'm not going to raise a clamor over such
goings-on on television. The worship of the Devil was celebrated much more
persuasively in George Bernard Shaw's "Don Juan in Hell," an entirely
respectable operation on Broadway, and there's no reason why Mr. Swope
shouldn't explore the subject, too.
I only bring it up as the sort of interculture that hovers over "Lights Out."
They're looney over lunatics on that show, especially if the lunatics are also
ghosts. I've collected a lot of "Lights Out" plots for you to hand on to the
children who may have got to bed too early to see them. There was the one, for
instance, about a newspaper columnist who hounded a politician to suicide in
his column and somehow wound up in possession of the politician's ouija board.
The ouija board spilled [sic] out some wonderful tips on who would be next
president, next supreme court justice and so on, and ultimately lured the
columnist into the stock market and catastrophe.
As ghost stories go, on "Lights Out," that was a rather mild one. Having made
a pretty thorough study of the situation, I've concluded that the most
vengeful, vindictive and menacing spirits are not men but women. My favorite
was a young lady who appeared only as an image in a mirror. Scared hell out of
a young bride who kept expecting to find her own reflection in the mirror and
got this sinister babe instead. Interesting dilemma, though not entirely an
unhappy one. (Many's the time I've wished to find some more presentable phiz
in the mirror than the one that's there). The favorite hobby of another female
spectre on "Lights Out" was leading engineers off cliffs so their little
brains would be bashed out on the rocks below.
If this sort of ghostly interculture gets too pallid for you, you might switch
to "Suspense," where they go in more for live people. Just the other night, on
that show, a young female scientist got lost in a Florida swamp and came upon
a cabin inhabited by a male scientist whose particular passion was head-
hunting. Hers was a splendid specimen.
Oh, yes, girls still meet boys in this form of literature. Object: mayhem.
[January 26, 1952 The Billboard]
Lights Out. NBC. Mon. 42 (No. of Cities). 2.227 (Homes Reached, OOO's).
20.1 (Videomax Rating)
(Sponsored by Admiral, thru Erwin, Wasey; weekly cost, $9000)
Bruce Brighton's "The Silent Supper" was all about superstition in the
Louisiana bayou country in the 1890's. It was full of mists and dark shadows.
As the orphaned heroine on the make for a husband, Vanysa Brown gave a
scintillating performance with Southern drawl. The point of it all was that a
dark, young, bayou bumpkin is out for her body at any price; yes, even murder.
At the end, he was on the verge of slitting Miss Brown's throat, when a nice
boy friend of the girl happened along and shot him down. The supper of the
title is a hen party the girl attends involving a dumb ritual to attract a
"Lights Out" specializes in horror and the supernatural, in the creaking door
tradition. It follows "Voice of Firestone" and bucks "I Love Lucy" and a
strong CBS line-up.
[February 10, 1952 New York Times commentary by Jack Gould on TV drama]
... Week after week the set owner is treated to the spectacle of some of the
most accomplished artists available -- Raymond Massey on "Lights Out" and
Beatrice Straight on "Circle Theatre" were two of last week's victims -- being
wasted on implausible or incredibly trite plots. ...
[February 16, 1952 The Billboard]
Public Reaction Cues Axing of "Lights Out"
Admiral Corporation's cancellation of its sponsorship of "Lights Out" on the
National Broadcasting Company Friday (8) was partly because of the heavy load
of special events Admiral has scheduled, and partly due to public reaction
against crime shows. Admiral execs had been increasingly conscious of public
ill will that was coming with the show, along with its creditable ratings.
The decision to cancel came the same day that Chicago's police commissioner,
Timothy O'Connor, sounded off against crime shows on TV. O'Connor, who is not
a reformer and rarely gives interviews, on Tuesday night watched three network
crime shows in a row. Wednesday he called in reporters and said that TV should
put the damper on its crime shows because they are going into such detail that
youngsters are bound imitate them. O'Connor said he is imposing strict
regulations on his own three children as the result of watching the Tuesday
Whether O'Connor's pronouncement had anything to do with Admiral's decision
wasn't stated but it is the sort of thing that built up to the decision to
cancel. Admiral's scheduled special events include the political conventions
over the American Broadcasting Company, radio and TV nets, and The Chicago
Tribune's Golden Gloves finals and all-star football game, both over Du Mont
[February 18, 1952 Syracuse Post-Standard]
At 9 p. m. on WSYR-TV Lights Out will depart from its usual supernatural
mystery format to present a documentary drama on the work of the Eye-Bank for
Sight Restoration. The special program, called "The Eyes from San Francisco"
will star Thomas J. Mitchell.
[Excerpts from _Television and Education in the United States_ (UNESCO, 1960)]
... But we are persuading sponsors to take their _whole_ programme and devote
it to enlightenment. Whenever possible, the programme does not warn the viewer
in advance that he is to be educated, nor does it tell him afterwards that he
has been. It is an entertainment which uses the materials of fact. Since
October of 1951, we have done about 40 such programmes. About seven of them
were sustaining, including certain NBC operas in English, Charles Laughton's
readings of classics on Christmas Eve, a showing of the American painters'
annual exhibition at the Whitney Museum and the like. Examples of sponsored
[American television] programmes ... [include] 'Lights Out', doing a story
about the Eye Bank, which resulted in over 2000 letters of commendation and 34
people willing their eyes to help some blind person regain sight. ...
[March 19, 1952 New York Times]
"Lights Out," presented over Channel 4 on Mondays at 9 P. M., will change to
an alternate week schedule when its sponsor, the Admiral Corporation,
discontinues sponsorship next Monday. Herbert Bayard Swope Jr. will resign as
producer to work on the proposed "Fu Manchu" TV film series and will be
replaced by Caroline Burke.
[March 30, 1952 Washington Post article excerpts]
'Lights Out' on Television
How Does a Girl Get to Be a Creep's Creep?
By Sonia Stein
The vision of pure delight in the accompanying picture has elected to become
"the creep's creep." Newly assigned to produce NBC-TV's eerie "Lights Out"
series when it goes sustaining April 7 (Mondays, 9 p. m., WNBW), Caroline
Burke wants to be as creepy as the next guy or maybe a little more so. ...
[Photo shows attractive smiling woman, caption: MISS BURKE]
... For her latest venture -- this eerie series -- Caroline leans toward the
classical and expects to open with Edgar Allen Poe's "The Pit and the
Pendulum." Caroline credits Poe with writing all the camera and audio
directions, since the story has such minute detail of sound and movement. For
noises, Caroline hopes to try tympani, and for atmosphere some Goya drawings.
"It may not come out at all -- it's really not a drama" but a study of
apprehension and agony, admits Caroline, but she's willing to try for
something different. She's already lined up a new Arch Oboler TV drama about a
dog and some murders in which the camera is the dog.
Because -- as a sustainer -- this show must now operate on a low budget,
Caroline isn't sure she can afford to keep Narrator Frank Gallop to speak
spookily from the candlelight's flickering shadows. "The only real gimmick we
need is quality," she consoles herself. But then she gets an idea. "I wish we
could afford Peter Lorre: I'd have him introduce the shows like a creepy
[April 3, 1952 New York Times]
... "Lights Out," televised over Channel 4, has obtained a new sponsor, the
Pearson Pharmacal Company, effective Monday at 9 P. M.
[April 5, 1952 New York Times]
... Pearson Pharmacal Company will take over sponsorship on Monday of "Lights
Out," television program, for its Ennds Chlorophyll Tablets. Advertising in
color in several national magazines also begins this month. ...
[April 28, 1952 The Syracuse Post-Standard]
'Lights Out' Show Being Darkened By 'I Love Lucy'
BY PEG SIMPSON
Lights Out, one of last season's top-rated mystery shows, is still producing
those thrillers with the same skill but the viewers just ain't viewing!
The show, which deals with supernatural themes and enacts such play-chilling
results, is unfortunately facing an almost sure death against its companion
show on WHEN, I Love Lucy.
Working with such an illusive theme as the supernatural, Lights Out has been
able to harness its tales into real spine-tingling dramas. Its plays are
inclined to irritate some by the "unfinished" ending quality often closing a
drama but still the tense, thrilling mystery of the supernatural is there--and
there is no set answer to it, after all.
Lights Out uses lighting effects and varied camera technics to hold its
viewers in high tension. Only occasionally has it overshot on these methods,
the results being absorption in technic rather than in content.
All in all, it has the stuff mystery fans go for. It's not based on fact, or
taken from the official files of law enforcement agencies, but when a hot
Monday comes along, a cooling breeze can be felt from this chiller.
It's at 9 p. m. on WSYR-TV.
[Excerpt from James L. Baughman, _Same Time, Same Station: Creating American
Television, 1948-1961_ (The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2007)]
... As was so often the case with success in television, I Love Lucy benefited
from its place on the schedule, Mondays at nine. The previous season, viewers
had favored NBC's Lights Out, a suspense anthology. But Lights Out's
popularity owed much to Columbia's inability to offer an effective
alternative. Lights Out, an NBC audience analyst wrote several years later,
"was bucking a very weak show on CBS. We were aware that if and when CBS ever
changed its programming that Lights Out was vulnerable....As soon as CBS
programmed I Love Lucy, Lights Out dropped out of the first ten, out of the
first twenty, out of the first eighty in one fell swoop." ...
[May 1952 Kiplinger's Personal Finance]
IS TV BAD FOR THE KIDS?
... When Xavier University in Cincinatti asked 12 and 13-yearolds to list
their favorite shows, the answers included such dead giveaways as "Six Gun
Playhouse," "Lights Out" and "Man Against Crime." ...
[May 7, 1952 New York Times - Jack Gould's Radio nd Television column]
Mind Reading, Gin Rummy, Mental Telepathy and Hypnotism on 'Lights Out' Strain
"Lights Out." the N. B. C. program that has the unenviable assignment of
trying to compete with Lucille Ball, fell on its supernatural this week
(9 P. M. Monday). It tried to put mind over matter and found itself only
holding a jar of chlorophyll tablets.
Monday's tidbit was a job called "A Journey Into the Shadows" and, as the
title suggests, the organist on the show had a whale of a workout. In rapid
succession there was mind reading, a gin rummy game, a miraculous cure, a
thwarted suicide. mental telepathy, hypnotism, a talk on world peace, a
disappearing dame, a fatal heart attack and a babe with a secret power.
Something, in short, for all the kiddies.
For the benefit of those who went to the movies or listened to WQXR Monday
evening, the head man on Channel 4 was an erstwhile juvenile with a jutting
jaw and two eyes who said he was the Amazing Anthony. Without ceremony he
walks up to Gloria, who is sitting with her fiance, Philip.
The Amazing Anthony looks into Gloria's eyes and announces that she wants him
to come up and see her sometime. Philip makes a gesture of protest, but then
meekly succumbs, which from this distance would seem to be carrying
nonchalance pretty far.
Anyway, the Amazing Anthony does show up in schedule and right off tells
Gloria's aunt to draw a jack of hearts from the face-down deck if she wants to
gin in the least possible time. Thereafter he gives auntie the eye.
Auntie rises from her wheel chair, admits that she has been against a wedding
for Gloria and Philip, reaches for her gun end is restrained by the Amazing
Anthony. Then she fades out of the picture so that viewers even those who take
a bath and brush their teeth, can receive some timely advice from the
Now it is Gloria's turn to do a favor for the Amazing Anthony. She has, he
says, the mind he is looking for, which at least is a new approach. In any
event, he envisions a Utopia where persons won't need jet planes but can buzz
around on thought planes. Everybody will know everybody else's thoughts;
there'll only be peace and no more war. Obviously, the United Nations has been
asleep at the switch.
But the Amazing Anthony has heart trouble, and fears he'll kick the bucket.
Gloria agrees to be hypnotized, lies flat on a table and, with the co-
operation of Cameraman No. 2, is whisked off into space. The Amazing Anthony
crumples to the floor, true to the "Lights Out" tradition. Philip and the aunt
decide that, all things considered, they had better look for Gloria. Gloria
shows up as a new woman, the Amazing Anthony's power has been transferred to
her. Yippee, the Amazing Cleopatra!
If the Russians want to claim credit for inventing television, let 'em have
[June 1, 1952 Washington Post]
Foolish Tops Ghoulish In Monday TV Battle
By Sonia Stein
IT'S A battle -- the foolish vs. the ghoulish, with the foolish 'way out
front. "I Love Lucy," CBS-TV comedy series (WTOP-TV, Monday at 9 p. m.) now
enters 30 million homes every week and is America's No. 1 TV show according to
all four national TV surveys. Star Lucille Ball is Time's cover girl (May 26)
and subject of an admiring biography. Look takes a peak (June 3).
'Way in arrears as far as viewers go, is the NBC-TV (WNBW) show opposing it at
that hour. "Lights Out," the eerie series, used to have a highly respectable
rating itself. But it had lost its supernatural hex appeal. And Lucy was too
much for it. Resigned to second best in that spot, Producer Lawrence Schwab,
jr., knows he has to fight a bloody fight just to give Lucy a good run for the
"Lights Out" had gradually run down hill in audience until it lost its sponsor
in April. Then Schwab was assigned to take over for a new sponsor, and
immediately set about luring back such audience as he could. Studying the
situation dispassionately, Schwab reasoned that he couldn't hope to get an
audience with any such watered-down series as "Lights Out" had become. He wuld
have to offer the genuine blood-curdling, timber-shivering, goose-pimpling
"Lights Out" had become "luke-warm tea," says Schwab. When the horror was
diminished "it vitiated the punch," he figures.
No sissy pants he, Schwab got right to work finding stories which are more
witches' brew than tea.
The first story of his selection was about a house which drank blood from its
unknowing occupants, until they became weaker and weaker while the house began
to pulsate with blood. Throbbing sounds filled the rooms and cracks, like
veins, began to stand out on the walls. The young hero and heroine of the
piece finally put a spike through one of these "veins" and were greeted with a
gush of blood. Ugh!
Last week's story showed a death mask which came alive and opened its eyes and
spoke from the living room shelf where it had been placed. Ugh!
IN BETWEEN we've had comparatively tender stories -- each one guaranteed to
bring back to the clammy bosom of "Lights Out" any bloodthirsty soul whose
attention may have wandered during the winter months when "Lights Out" had
become a rather thin drama series, paying little more than lip service to its
Curiously, one must say in defense of Schwab that his productions are not so
much grisly as they are shocking in the best dramatic sense of the word. He
knows how to build to a ghastly climax just the way rival Lucille Ball knows
how to build to a comedy climax. Schwab, who has directed comedy and musical
comedy as well as suspense shows, says the techniques are not substantially
different and refers interested parties to Veblen's "Art of Laughter."
The sets for "Light Out" are important to the task at hand, and Schwab has
Dick Sylbert chained to his desk for that purpose. Sylbert and his twin
brother, Paul, who has designed sets for "Suspense" and "Studio One," won the
top marks ever given in the exam conducted by the scenic designers union.
Schwab, a 30-year-old bachelor, doesn't worry about what his show will do to
children. "It's up to the parents to decide if their children should be
allowed to look," he figures. As far as he's concerned the kids can watch
Lucy. He just wants to win back those inveterate ghouls who wandered away from
"Lights Out" during its luke-warm tea era. Schwab has a chill brew of hemlock,
nightshade and batsclaws waiting. ...
[June 9, 1952 Council Bluffs (IA) Nonpareil - TV Chatter column]
Still 'Fluffs' After 5-day Rehearsals
By Richard Kleiner
NEW YORK -- Watching television drama, it's amazing how many technical
"fluffs" there are. But when you watch behind the scenes while a TV drama is
put together, it's amazing that there should be any at all.
The time and money and effort that are poured into a half-hour program, like
NBC's "Lights Out," is unbelievable. To see for myself how a TV drama is
produced, I joined the cast of "Lights Out" for one show. I was a Paris
gendarme, a non-speaking role that required all sorts of talent -- like
knowing how to use a flashlight, salute and nod my head.
It costs between $7500 and $12,500 to produce this show. There are dozens of
technicians needed, expensive costuming, lighting, set building. The cast
rehearsed five days, running through the words and action over and over.
Laurence Schwab, jr., the producer-director, and his assistant, Sutton Roley,
first meet the cast on the Thursday before the Monday the show goes on.
Our seven-person cast started that Thursday by "blocking out" the action.
Reading from the script, we walked through the play, with Schwab and Roley
figuring out camera angles and the acting treatment.
Cuts and More Cuts
"Do it the way you feel it," Schwab would tell us actors. The others would say
"I don't feel this speech," and proceed to change it.
All Thursday afternoon and most of Friday, we blocked. Late Friday, we had our
first complete run-through, for timing. It took 24 minutes. A half-hour drama
program has about 21 or 22 minutes of drama, so we made cuts.
On Saturday came more run throughs, more cuts. One whole scene was killed.
Sunday, the cast was joined by the technical and stage directors and the
lighting and sound engineers.
Monday, the day of the production, we held our run-throughs in the studio,
working with sets and props for the first time. Then, in costume, we held one
more run-through and the dress rehearsal an hour before we went on the air.
The actors embraced each other emotionally in the final seconds before air
time, and we were on. I wasn't nervous. We'd done the play so often, I could
do it in my sleep. In fact, I've been doing it in my sleep ever since. ...
[September 16, 1952 New York Times]
"Hollywood Opening Night," a new dramatic television series originating "live"
in Hollywood, will make its debut over Channel 4 on Monday, Oct. 6, from 9 to
9:30 P. M., replacing "Lights Out." William Bendix will be starred in the
initial drama as "Terrible Tempered Tolliver," a baseball umpire who never
reversed a decision.
Bill Corrigan will be the producer-director for the new series, which will be
sponsored by the Pearson Pharmacal Company.
[March 30, 1964 "The Reviewing Stand" radio series. Excerpt from radio panel
interview with actor Willard Waterman]
WATERMAN: Another thing that was wonderful about radio, you could do things
that -- in dramatic radio -- that would be impossible of a production in, for
instance, television. ... I'm thinking of primarily of-- of the old "Lights
Out" show. Now this was a show originated by Wyllis Cooper as a writer, and
then Arch Oboler later wrote it, and it was on for many, many years, and it
was always on at midnight on Wednesday night. And I can remember when I was at
the University of Wisconsin before I came to Chicago, we walked down
fraternity row on Wednesday night at twelve o'clock-- To explain, the show
always began, [deep voice] "Lights out, everybody!" And at twelve o'clock on
Wednesday night on fraternity row, every light in the place went out, and
everybody was listening to "Lights Out." They were horror dramas--
Q: You mean the boys in those days were listening to radio on the college
Q: No girls in those days?
WATERMAN: Mmm, I didn't notice the sorority houses myself. [panelists laugh]
But, at any rate, this show -- with good acting, with mood-- playing for mood,
with sound effects, music -- you could create a mood, an impression, that it
would take now the equivalent of a full-length Hitchcock motion picture. ...
To do the equivalent -- to build the same mood and make the same impression on
television, I say, it would-- It can't be done cheaply. Because you see
things, you see sets. Whereas in a show like "Lights Out," in a radio show,
you built them in your imagination. You saw those dark corners and doors. But
to do it, it would have to be done -- to get the same effect -- it would have
to be done very well. And I say a Hitchcock full-length motion picture with a
budget in the millions, of course, achieves that. But you couldn't achieve it
cheaply on television. ...
[May 1, 1966 Appleton (WI) Post-Crescent article by former NBC sound man Fred
... On such programs as the always gruesome "Lights Out," which sometimes
employed as many as three sound men, we learned that chopping a cabbage is
perfect for the sound of the guillotine; that chopping the way to a man's
heart can best be done with a pound of calf's liver. ...
[December 20, 1966 Chicago Tribune column]
TOWER TICKER by Herb Lyon
... Bob Brown, Leo Burnett ad exec, is piqued over what he calls "the
inference" here and elsewhere that visiting Arch Oboler originated the old,
macabre Lights Out network radio show. Oboler, promoting the Wed. opening of
his weird new flicker, "The Bubble" at the Woods, is first to admit the show
was the brain-child of the late, talented Chicago scripter, Willis Cooper.
Arch took over later. ...
[December 30, 1966 Chicago Tribune columnist talks to Oboler]
... A somewhat comparable program [to Lights Out] to come along later on
television was Rod Serling's Twilight Zone, which [Arch] Oboler regarded as
"most interesting. But Serling unfortunately didn't write all the shows, and
many of them tended to end on a nonsequitur. I don't mind nonexplanations, but
there was nothing leading up to them. The producers of science fiction
programs today, such a[s] Outer Limits and Star Trek, seem to be entranced by
special effects. They get carried away by the wonder of it all." ...
[December 22, 1969 Broadcasting magazine letter column]
Disagrees on 'Lights Out' credit
EDITOR: Your Nov. 17 BROADCASTING carries the story of _Lights Out_ and its
re-issue as a syndicated radio feature by some Hollywood show peddlers. Your
yarn states that Arch Obler [sic] was the show's original creator ...
Lights Out was the brainchild of the late Wyllis Cooper. It came into being in
the late [sic] '30's in Chicago. It was performed there by some of the fine
radio names that made Chicago the hub of broadcasting in the '30's ...
Raymond Johnson, Betty Winkler, Bernadine Flynn, Sid Ellstrom, Art Jacobson to
name a few.
As an NBC property _Lights Out_ was ultimately moved to New York. On the death
[sic] of Cooper the direction of the show was taken over by Obler [sic]
adopted Coop's format and added few if any touches of his own, except name
Robert Brown, Lexington, Ky. (NBC Chicago announcer, 1932-1946; now intructs
in broadcast advertising, University of Kentucky).
[January 1970 Broadcasting magazine letter column]
The Oboler-Cooper tie-in
Editor: In answer to Robert Brown who appears to be generally unhappy
regarding Lights Out credits (BROADCASTING, Dec. 22, 1969):
Since we are syndicating Arch Oboler's radio plays, permit us to set the
record straight. At no time in our news release did we state that Mr. Oboler
was the original creator of Lights Out. To our knowledge neither has Mr.
Oboler ever made such a statement. Arch Oboler's position in international
radio history, as the originator of numerous dramatic techniques plus his
having been the first radio playwright to have his own network show (Arch
Oboler's Plays-NBC) plus the numerous awards he has won in the broadcasting
field, are record enough.
Mr. Brown makes other errors. A very living Wyllis Cooper turned over Lights
Out to Mr. Oboler in Chicago in 1936 and from then on Mr. Oboler did the show
exclusively from Chicago, to New York, and finally commercially in Hollywood
on CBS. If Mr. Brown would refer to Erik Barnouw's recent definitive book on
radio-broadcasting, he will find accolades for Mr. Cooper, long deceased, as
furnished to Mr. Barnouw by Mr. Oboler. — Robert L. Niemann, president,
Manzell & Associates Inc., Hollywood.
[April 12, 1970 Fresno (CA) Bee Republican]
Station KMJ Will Air Suspense Drama Of 1930s Radio Era
If you are of the over-40 set and enjoy wallowing in nostalgia, Radio Station
KMJ will attempt to bring back the "golden days of radio" tonight at 8
The station will air "The Devil and Mr. O," a segment of "Lights Out" suspense
series which was highly popular on radio in the 1930s and the early '40s. The
broadcast will be replayed from a tape made of the original radio broadcast in
the late '30s. The play is by Peabody Award-winning writer-producer Arch
Jeff Nagle, manager of KMJ said that if public response warrants, the entire
"Lights Out" series will be aired on the station at a later date. Nagle added
that although the tape of the suspense drama is more than 30 years old, the
technical quality is high.
Nagle said that the rebroadcast of old radio dramas is being tried in various
cities around the nation and the response of the public has been "little short
The radio drama, of the type aired 30 to 40 years ago on such series as "Inner
Sanctum," "Suspense," "Lights Out" and "The Whistler," will offer a whole new
experience to the youngsters of today who are steeped in the visual drama of
TV rather than the drama of the ear or mind offered on radio in the 1930s.
[January 20, 1972 Oakland Tribune]
Bob MacKenzie - On Television
Lights Out Time
Sometimes nostalgia is something we feel for things that happened so long ago
we've forgotten how dumb they were.
Old radio programs, for instance. We can remember enjoying "The Shadow," but
can anyone remember why?
Gene Nelson, on KSFO, is currently running a series of old radio shows weekday
evenings from 10 to 11. You might enjoy these, but probably not for the same
reasons you used to.
If television doesn't seem very sophisticated to you, wait until you hear an
episode of "Tom Mix."
The "Tom Mix" episode last Wednesday night had Tom battling the Nazis. This
program was one aired on VE Day in 1944, and Tom added a closer: "You know
we've taken care of Germany, kids, but we've still got to think about Japan."
This was followed by an old "Suspense" episode, with Cary Grant as a man who
wakes up on the sidewalk and finds he's accused of murder. He was finally
sprung by a paralyzed witness who described the murder by blinking his eyes.
Cary came on at the end to close "with just seven words: buy more war bonds
and keep them."
Thursday offered a Mercury Theater production of "The Count of Monte Cristo"
with Orson Welles as the count. In the past few days Nelson has run episodes
of "Captain Midnight" and "Superman," and dramas starring Clark Gable, Peter
Lorre and Robert Taylor.
Tonight's revivals included a "The Whistler" episode and a 1945 "Dick Tracy"
program that has an unusual moment: it is interrupted by the news bulletin of
Friday's schedule calls for one of the old "Lights Out" dramas, written and
produced by Arch Oboler in 1948. [sic]
This is a coincidence, as television tried a revival of "Lights Out" this
week: an hour story titled "When Widows Weep," with Joan Hackett as a doll
maker haunted by her dolls.
I also have a letter, dated a few days before the program aired, from Arch
Oboler himself. He is burned about NBC's treatment of "Lights Out."
Oboler created [sic] the old radio show, and apparently supplied the idea for
the television version. His letter gives a clue to the way things are done in
Hollywood, or at least the way disappointed writers think they are done.
"Two years ago I brought to 20th-century Fox the idea of a "theater of the
mind" Lights Out series which was to be my debut on TV. [sic]
"20th sold my idea to NBC, but from that day to this I have never been
consulted on any element of the pilot, in spite of the fact that
contracturally [sic] I was supposed to be the writer, director, producer.
"In plain words, for better or worse, I have had absolutely nothing to do with
the present Lights Out pilot, either in its format, or its content.
"My ideas and plays still remain happily virginal in their Santa Monica
Mountain cave, awaiting the executive genius who will realize that an
outstanding television drama series comes about, not through any executive
committee's wheeling (or through the use of an old radio title) but out of the
creative heart and mind of a playwright.
"Cordially, Arch Oboler."
My memory of Monday's "Lights Out" tells me Oboler is wise to make it clear he
had nothing to do with it. From a rather compelling idea (dolls are spooky,
after all) and a good cast (Luckinbill and Hackett were fine) NBC managed to
get a choppy, confusing drama that fell to pieces at the end. The cutting was
so abrupt and the sense of time and place so hazy that perhaps it was a 90-
minute film chopped to an hour. At any rate, it limped.
The script was probably, as Oboler hinted, written by a committee. But that's
hardly unusual. By the time a television script passes through the hands of
producers, executive producers, story directors, and the studio owner's wife's
astrologer, it has become the kind of succotash considered suitable for
feeding to the TV audience.
But those old radio plays weren't so hot, either.
[January 7, 1973 Washington Post "Radio: The Lost Medium" by Michael Kernan]
... True radio technique was pioneered by Wyllis Cooper, whose midnight horror
show, "Lights Out," was taken over in 1935 [sic] by Arch Oboler. ...
Reached last week at his home in Malibu, Oboler said he now works in TV and
radio -- he has just completed work on a 3-D film -- but still [misses] the
"It was a great art form, and we didn't know it at the time," he said, "I
think Cooper was the first to realize this. ... "
[October-November 1983 Nostalgia Digest - Chuck Schaden interviews Arch
CHUCK SCHADEN: [Oboler sold his first script to NBC in 1933.] Did you start
working regularly with writing scripts for NBC at that time then, or shortly
ARCH OBOLER: No. You know, Charles, nothing goes that easily. It was quite a
bit of time later that a chap named Wyllis Cooper got ill. He had started a
program called "Lights Out." It was kind of a revolutionary program because it
was an opportunity to write radio drama for radio.
You see, up to that time, radio was an imitation of the theatre and motion
pictures. Lux Radio Theatre, the Screen Guild, they really were three act
plays done in the manner that one would do a play, but not look at it. And
"Lights Out" - when it was offered to me — I saw an opportunity. So, I started
. . .and although it was a horror series (one out of three was a horror play
and the other two were idea plays) [sic] ... I had fun because, you see, I
started to do radio for radio . . .for the ear. It wasn't an imitation of
anything. I took a few words, a bit of music, a sound effect and suddenly you
were transported where I wanted to take you. ...
[February 23, 1986 article from the Chicago Tribune SUNDAY MAGAZINE in FINAL
EDITION, section C, pg. 7, headlined "Way We Were / A look at Chicago's past /
'30S 'LIGHTS OUT' WAS A SHINING HALF HOUR IN RADIO HORROR" by Bob Hughes. For
some reason, Arch Oboler's name is spelled incorrectly throughout.]
Turn off the lights. Turn on the radio. Now sit with your back to the radio,
alone in the dark. And listen to a sinister voice tell you that something ...
something ... is creeping up behind you ... reaching for your neck ... but
don't turn around ....
And then, suddenly ... .
But that would give away one of the terrifying taped episodes of "Lights Out,"
a radio show that originated in Chicago and chilled the blood of listeners for
several years. "Lights Out" debuted on April 17, 1935, as a 15-minute show
[sic] on NBC's Red Network out of Chicago but was so popular that it was
expanded to a half hour. It ran until Aug. 16, 1939, according to Chuck
Schaden, host of WNIB-FM radio's "Those Were the Days" show and WBBM-AM's
Willis Cooper was the writer who originated the show, but he left for
Hollywood in 1936. Arch Obeler took it over "and made it his," according to
Schaden. "Lights out, everybody," was the announcer's greeting during the
show's Chicago run.
The spirits, ghouls and other minions of evil on "Lights Out" were very real
to the regular fans, who often literally turned out their lights and sat close
to each other in the dark to listen. Such masters of the macabre as
Hollywood's Boris Karloff and Peter Lorre appeared in episodes, as did a whole
host of talented shrieking and screaming local dramatic personnel.
A column about radio in The Tribune in 1936 notes that one local star of the
show, Sidney Ellstrom, "has been put to death in the show more than 100 times.
And his endings have all been grisly and gruesome. He's been skinned alive,
boiled in oil, devoured by a man-eating jungle plant, strangled by a vampire.
He has been drowned, electrocuted, poisoned, buried alive, decapitated and
Another column notes that hard-boiled fans after one episode accused Cooper of
"going soft." The previous night's episode had been too tame, they charged.
The episode "concerned a guy harassed by his subconscious mind and wound up
mildly with three suicides," the columnist related, noting that Cooper
admitted it was not quite up to standard. Cooper "brooded for several days,"
then cooked up a "masterpiece of fiendishness" which he called, "Sepulzeda's
"It will satisfy all who insist on HORROR with capital letters," Cooper said.
"In this one," the columnist recounted, "Cooper warms up on a cleaver and
trunk murder and tops it off with an episode in which a husband beheads his
Jules Herbuveaux, 88, former vice president of the National Broadcasting
Company and first general manager of radio station WMAQ, remembers "Lights
Out" as "a good, scary show." He notes that radio writing can sound somewhat
stylistic and stilted, compared with television drama. In a radio show, a
character might have to say, "Hand me that wrench over there. I've got to get
this bolt loose." (GRUNT!) (SCREECH). On television, there's no need for such
a monologue. The viewer sees the wrench and the bolt and the effort it takes
to loosen it ... and thereby gains realism but loses what can only be created
by personal imagination, Herbuveaux says.
No picture can convey the horror expressed by the doctor who enters a room to
find a man turned inside out by "The Dark," while a crazed hag laughs in the
background, or his scream of terror when the creeping dark engulfs him.
The sound-effects man played a more important role on "Lights Out" than on
most radio shows. Herbuveaux chuckles as he recalls one "who was the first man
to drop a pumpkin off a 12-foot stepladder onto a concrete slab to simulate a
body hitting the pavement."
Probably one of the sound man's triumphs on "Lights Out" came when a dentist
strapped down a patient and drilled his teeth away--without anesthetic --in
revenge for some atrocity the miscreant had visited upon a young wife named
Mary. The sound of the drill was most compelling.
In 1942 Obeler revived the show in New York, over CBS. It went off the air in
1946 [sic] but returned adapted for television from 1949 to 1952, Schaden
The most famous of all "Lights Out" programs -- the one most listeners recall
-- had overtones of Orson Welles' "War of the Worlds." It involved a chicken
heart that ran amok in a scientist's laboratory ... beating ... beating ...
and doubling in size every hour until the pulsating organ burst out of its
building, engulfed the town and threatened to engulf the world. Efforts to
stop it were too little and too late.
[October 1986 United Press International article excerpts]
Writer believes in the magic of radio
by Vernon Scott
HOLLYWOOD - Radio drama hardly exists these days, but there was an era when it
commanded millions of listeners. That's because of a man named Arch Oboler.
Oboler, 76, produced a variety of radio series and dramatic shows for the
various networks between 1940-45 before television became the country's prime
entertainment medium. ...
"In the '30s radio was as big as TV is today," said Oboler ... "The big
difference was that movie stars found radio compatible with their screen
careers. They were more than happy to make guest appearances or even star in a
weekly radio show. We paid them $21 for appearing on the air, which pleased
them because we plugged their new movies.
"Today most superstars want no part of TV. And can you imagine any of them
working for $21?
"In many ways radio was more effective for drama than television. The impact
on the listener's mind was greater. The monsters a person can invent in his
own mind are far more sinister and horrifying than anything a playwright or a
special effects person can dream up.
"ALSO, NO woman is as beautiful nor any man as handsome as a member of the
audience can imagine."
Oboler said old radio shows are a rich vein of plots for today's movie and TV
writers and producers.
"One of my radio shows was titled 'What The Devil,'" he said. "It was remade
into a movie titled 'Duel' by Steven Spielberg with Dennis Weaver playing a
motorist who was stalked by a truck.
"When that picture came out I received no money or screen credit. But I
reached for a lawyer and got paid off by Universal Studios. I still hold the
copyrights on all my shows.
"I would like to see more drama and comedy shows on radio. For the most part
radio has regressed to pop music and a little news."
In the years between his ventures into movies and his current project with
audio cassettes, Oboler — short, stocky and bursting with energy — has busied
himself writing novels. He has lived in the same house, built for him by Frank
Lloyd Wright, for 46 years.
"I keep writing and putting my work aside," Oboler said, grinning.
"Eventually, I would like to get into television production. In TV, a world of
the completely blind, I at least have one good eye."
[September 4, 1995 The Press-Enterprise (Riverside, CA) - TV and radio column
by Bob Sokolsky]
... Same but different
Veteran viewers and listeners may recognize the title, but that is a new
"Lights Out" NBC is developing as a movie and potential miniseries.
According to network spokeswoman Rebecca Marks, this will be a new concept and
is not being adapted from the radio series Wyllis Cooper and Arch Oboler
created for NBC in 1934.
It was later converted into two TV shows, one a syndicated [sic] affair that
ran in 1946, the other, an NBC project, that appeared from 1949 to 1952.
Marks says this latest version is going in a totally different direction by
focusing on a family telling "haunting tales."
Last updated: 24 May 2017