[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
[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. ...
[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 7, 1934 Winnipeg Free Press]
... Lights Out! Creepy, supernatural stuff, admirably done. Only 15 minutes,
but a hair-raiser! WENR, 12 midnight. ...
[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 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."
[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.
[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. ...
[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 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. ...
[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. ...
[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 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
[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 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. ...
[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.
[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
[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 genuine.
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 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 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. ...
[June 24, 1936 Chicago Tribune]
11:30--WMAQ--Lights Out--"The Dictator--the Story of Emperor Caligula," by
[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 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.
[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 14, 1936 Kokomo (IN) Tribune]
"The Fast One," an eerie drama about an inexplalnable 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 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 Kokomo (IN) Tribune]
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 the Lights Out drama for tonight, broadcast at 11:30
[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 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 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 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 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 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 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 Kokomo (IN) Tribune]
"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.
[May 5, 1937 Wisconsin State Journal]
"I, Madman," the story of a man who, by some miracle, looks into the future
and sees his own destiny as a madman ...
[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 San Antonio (TX) Light]
... "Snake Woman," a drama about snakes and a woman with a strange power over
[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 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 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 3, 1937 Kokomo (IN) Tribune]
"Four Husbands" ... Arch Oboler's drama of a female Bluebeard ...
[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 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.
[December 1, 1937 Appleton 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 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 Kokomo (IN) Tribune]
"Studio Apartment," an Arch Oboler thriller laid in the home of an
internationally known sculptor, will be the Lights Out drama for tonight at
[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
[January 26, 1938 Appleton 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 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 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 16, 1938 Appleton 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 23, 1938 Appleton 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. ...
[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 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 be offered in the
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 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 jojes, 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 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]
[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 6, 1938 Winnipeg Free Press - You Will Hear ...]
. . . Cat Wife, the story of a neurotic wife, as the third Lights Out vehicle
for Boris Korloff, 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 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 20, 1938 Appleton 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 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 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
[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 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].
[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.
[October 5, 1938 The (Connellsville, PA) Daily Courier]
... The scheduled fall premiere of "Lights Out" has been cancelled. ...
[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...
[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 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 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 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 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 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 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."
[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.
[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." ...
[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 institue 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 clilcken 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. ...
[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.
[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.
[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.
[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.
[_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
[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.
[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, [sic] 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 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
[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.
[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 spnsors, 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 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 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.
[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. ...
[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.
[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 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.
[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." ...
[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.
[May 1, 1966 Appleton Post-Crescent article by former NBC sound man Fred W.
... 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 '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
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).
[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. [sic] 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: 23 May 2009