Aug 18, 2010

Lights Out

NBC's Studio B, at Chicago's Merchandise Mart

Saturday, August 18, 1945: “Didn't do anything today. Went down 63rd & Halsted, fooled around. In the evening, Mom and Dad went out, so I sat around and wrote a letter; also read the Sunday paper, put up my hair, and listened to the radio. Went to bed at 12:15.”

On Dot's radio that Saturday night was the eerie and chilling program, Lights Out. You can listen to “Rocket from Manhattan”--a Lights Out episode from just a few weeks later (September 20, 1945), here.

As you can see in the photo below, the cast really threw themselves into their work. From

Sidney Ellstrom---who died a thousand violent deaths during the run of this show---is at the microphone, about to be done in by an-about-to-expire cast member.
The male corpse on the top of the heap appears to be Harold Peary who, several years after this photo was snapped, assumed the role of the "Great Gildersleeve" on the Fibber McGee and Molly show (with such success that he was, in the early 1940's, able to spin the role off to his own show which became one of the genuine classics of radio's Golden Age).
Lights Out! was the malformed brainchild of NBC-Chicago producer Wyllis Cooper; Arch Oboler, one of radio's great writer-directors, assumed responsibility for the series after Cooper went to Hollywood in 1936 to pursue a career in film writing.
(From Old Time Radio):
Lights Out debuted in 1934 and was radio's premier horror series created by writer/director Wyllis Cooper, who later scripted Boris Karloff's 1939 classic Son of Frankenstein. Wyllis Cooper was a innovative radio writer and worked on other notable shows such as The Empire Builders, Quiet Please, Campbell's Playhouse, The Army Hour, and Whitehall 1212. Lights Out truly set the bar high for other radio dramas in the 1930's due to its gore and strangeness. It was one of the first old time radio shows that developed the medium of radio with distinct sound effects and dramas intended to be heard.

Adhesive tape, stuck together and pulled apart, simulated the sound of a man's or woman's skin being ripped off. Pulling the leg off a frozen chicken gave the illusion of an arm being torn out of its socket. A raw egg dropped on a plate stood in for an eye being gouged; poured corn syrup for flowing blood; cleavered cabbages and cantalopes for beheadings; snapped pencils and spareribs for broken fingers and bones. The sound of a hand crushed? A lemon, laid on an anvil, smashed with a hammer.

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