Mystery Writers in Old Time Radio

Although sometimes maligned for its pulp-magazine origins, Hard Boiled Detective fiction has become a fixture in romantic literature. The genre delights in emphasizing emotions of apprehension, terror, awe, and even horror while filtering the emotions through the cynicism of the protagonist. The cynicism results as a reaction to the violence that the protagonist faces.

The typical Hard Boiled Hero faces senseless violence on a daily basis, and the hero’s cynicism is a defense to help prevent him from going mad. In some cases,  it may be a manifestation of madness. In any case, it is this very cynicism that we enjoy in the Hard Boiled stories.

With this in mind, it is interesting to take a look at some of our favorite Hard Boiled authors. These are the minds that have given life to many of the stories which have delighted radio listeners, movie goers, and readers for decades. Were these minds as troubled as the characters they created suggest? Perhaps so, in some cases. In others, the writer seems to be having as much fun as we are.

James M Cain (1892-1977) personally hated labeling, but came to personify the Hard-Boiled novelist and screenwriter. Cain’s most famous novels, Double Indemnity and The Postman Always Rings Twice are tales of infidelity and murder. Both novels have been retold several times on the screen. The stories were apparently inspired by the true-life case of Ruth Synder, the New York housewife who plotted with her lover to murder her husband for the insurance money. Both were executed in Sing Sing’s electric chair.

John Dickson Carr (1906-1977) was a master of the plot driven “closed door mystery”. An American who spent time in Great Britain, Carr is often grouped with English Mystery authors. In addition to his novels, Carr penned a number of scripts for Suspense, and his radio play Cabin B-13 was expanded to an entire CBS series. During WWII, he wrote mystery and propaganda scripts for the BBC.

Frederic Brown (1906-1972) is best remembered as a Sci Fi author and a master of the “Short-short” form of storytelling (many of his best works are less than 1000, some less than 500 words long). Many of his stories have been adapted for popular Sci Fi television, including the Star Trek episode “Arena”. Brown’s crime novels are noteworthy for their tight plotting and riveting suspense, reminding us of the noir influences of Cornell Woolrich.

Patricia Highsmith (1921-1995) wrote crime fiction almost exclusively, but her work is considered to be artistic and thoughtful enough to rival mainstream fiction. European critics consider her to be an important psychological novelist, pretty good for someone whose writing career began by writing for comic books. Her novel, Strangers On A Train was first adapted for the screen by Alfred Hitchcock.

John Micheal Hayes (1919-2005) is remembered for his screenwriting collaboration with Alfred Hitchcock. He had missed much of his primaries schooling due to recurring ear infections, but while bed ridden he developed a passion for reading. Hayes began writing for radio while in college after winning a contest sponsored by the Crosley Corporation. After serving in WWII, he moved to California and continued his radio career, contributing scripts to The Adventures of Sam Spade, Inner Sanctum Mysteries, My Favorite Husband, Your’s Truly, Johnny Dollar, and others. Radio success led to a call from Universal, and eventually to collaboration with Hitchcock on four films, including Rear Window.

Dashiell Hammett (1894-1961) has been called “the dean of the ‘hard-boiled’ school of detective fiction”. Hammett was an agent for the Pinkerton Detective Agency before he began writing (he found the agency’s role in union busting distasteful, however). His best known stories include The Maltese Falcon, which introduced Sam Spade, The Thin Man with Nick and Nora Charles. Hammett’s nameless character, the Continental Op is considered the prototype for the most popular Hard Boiled characters, including Hammett’s own Sam Spade, Chandler’s Philip Marlowe, Spillane’s Mike Hammer, and several others.

Cornell Woolrich (1903-1968) has had more of his stories adapted to film noir scripts than any other author in the Hard Boiled Genre. He began writing Jazz Age romance novels, but turned to detective fiction, often writing under pseudonyms. Many of his stories were adapted for Suspense.

Raymond Chandler (1888-1959) turned to writing pulp fiction at the age or 44 after losing his job as an oil company executive. Chandler and his character Philip Marlowe had an enormous influence on the style of hard-boiled fiction. Indeed, Marlowe as portrayed by Humphrey Bogart, is considered the model for movie Hard Boiled Detectives.

Happy Birthday, Carol Channing! Enjoy her Old Time Radio Broadcast from 1955

Today we celebrate the 97th birthday of the actress, Carol Channing.  Dubbed “First Lady of Musical Comedy”, Carol Channing was primarily a comic stage actor.

Born on January 31, 1921, she debuted on stage in “No for an Answer” (1941), She made her Broadway debut in “Proof Through the Night” (1942) and appeared on the silver screen in the film “Paid in Full” (1950).

Channing went on to appear in additional films such as “The First Traveling Sales Lady” with Clint Eastwood.   She is best remembered as Muzzy Van Hossmere in “Thoroughly Modern Millie” for which she won a Golden Globe award.

Please enjoy this rare radio broadcast of Anthology from June 5, 1955: “The Lives and Times Of Archie and Mehitabel” in which she appears in the recording:

Country Music Parleyed Strong … Just Ask Johnny

Old Time radio never would have had the following it enjoyed if not for the music venues that were offered from coast to coast. Americans loved to tune-in and catch the hits and wonders of the day in various musical genre. One of the more prolific and popular trends was that of country music. Country music caught the attention of many listeners because it brought things down to the roots of the nation. Country music spoke at a time when people were needing to have heels kicked up with the heaviness of life; economically, foreign problems, family strife; hitting people where they lived.

Johnny Cash brought the “old time religion” back into America’s hearts and homes and inspired people to gather around their tables and pray. His brand of folk-tale “talk” worked well with the American working man, because he came from the dirt of the land and carried his homespun words of ‘wisdom’ to millions of listeners every week. Cash had the innate ability to warm a heart the moment he started to “speak’ a song.

Country music singers, like Johnny Cash, denied the critics that branded their musical repertoire as “fit for the simple”. If the music catered to the less intellectual, well then much of America must have been simple. People loved the Grand Ole Opry and they loved their night time visit around the radio to hear the songs that comfort and told a story.

Country style music…ah heck, call it what it is…country lovin’ music played to a need in the country on the airwaves. The need was to be be reminded of what this country meant to people. The need to be be brought home again. Finally, the need to know neighbor could count on neighbor. Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash knew that people loved God, country and family and used that as the theme to regain the consciousness of the American radio audience. “If the Circle be unbroken” then thank country music for keeping it secured.

Old Time Radio Christmas

The shopping and preparation for Christmas is when the retail industry makes their biggest haul of the year. It just wouldn’t seem right if Santa didn’t start showing up in the stores before the Halloween candy was put away. In the last few weeks before the Big Day, many of us are sticking the buds of our MP3 players in our ears just to drown-out those darn chipmunks and listen to some Christmas OTR.

Fibber and Molly had plenty of terrific Christmases in their long run as well. Fibber had more than his share of problems with the Wistful Vista Christmas salesman over the years. On different occasions,  he tried to cut down his own tree to trusting his haggling skills. Perhaps his finest Christmas Tree moment came in 1945 when he uses an attachment on Molly’s vacuum cleaner to paint the tree white!

Everyone loves to get into the Gift giving spirit, but Santa can be a positively dangerous job. In fact,  Santa manages to get “rubbed out” on Nero Wolfe, Rocky Fortune, and Casey, Crime Photographer. Murder and death don’t really fit into the joyous season, but Sgt Friday manages to use them in one of the most depressing Christmas episodes on radio, the “Rifle for Christmas” episode of Dragnet.

Dragnet also gives us one of the most uplifting Christmas episodes in “Big Little Jesus”. During the Los Angeles Christmas craziness, it seems like a senseless crime had been committed, when it turns out that a poor little boy who received a red wagon for Christmas is keeping a promise he made to the Baby Jesus.

Whether OTR keeps you company while you are driving from one seasonal errand to the next, or if a few episodes keep you smiling while you wait for the last batch of Holiday cookies cool, we hope that you will enjoy this Christmas Season.

Recommended Series For First Time OTR Listeners

There are so many facets to the world of Old Time Radio, it is hard to know where to start enjoying it. The truth is there is so much to enjoy in OTR, it is easy to imagine that almost anything you pick out will delight you.

But that still leaves you with the difficult job of choosing! Lets look at a few of the options: Most OTR fans get started by choosing a genre of shows they enjoy. There are Adventure programs for action fans, for those who enjoy a good puzzle there are a number of great Detective and Mystery shows. If your day isn’t complete without a few good laughs there are several comedy programs, ranging from sketch driven variety programs to character rich situation comedies.

The great thing about enjoying OTR today is that there are so many ways and places you can enjoy it. For many of us there is nothing that makes a commute enjoyable than following an exciting adventure serial program. At the end of the day it helps to remove the stress of the work day by trying to solve a mystery along with a hard boiled detective during the drive home. Time spent working in front of the computer goes a lot better listening to the songs and jokes of a variety show. With a good set of noise-reducing earbud speakers attached to our pocket MP3 player or cellphone, some of us are even known to enjoy listening to the cowboys in Western programs while mowing the lawn!

Many purveyors of Old Time Radio try to sell their programs on the nostalgia appeal. Sadly, most of the people who are nostalgic for these shows are no longer with us. Most of the series and shows are very enjoyable in their own right, but we feel that knowing a little bit about the actors and the programs make them even more enjoyable. Hopefully they will whet your appetite to know more about these great shows.

Some of our favorite genres and and shows include:

Mystery and Horror:

These are the late-night shows that make you want to pull the bedsheets up over your eyes! Most will agree that the most blood-curdling ghost story is even more frightening on radio!

Mystery In The Air features one of the creepiest voices and personalities ever to grace the screen, Peter Lorre.

The Whistler is a collection crime stories where the justice always comes to the villain, but not a way that he or the listeners would expect!

Suspense will keep you on the edge of your seat with nearly a thousand episodes of “Radio’s Outstanding Theater of Thrills!”

Lights Out! was one of the original late night thrillers with stories written by two of radio’s greatest talents, Wyllis Cooper and Arch Oboler.

Inner Sanctum Mysteries is like having Halloween every week with creepy stories, dark jokes, and creepy thrills.

Weird Circle brings us a collection of classic ghost stories.

Adventure:

These shows will take our imaginations to the far corners of the world.

Escape! features some of the greatest stars Hollywood, Broadway and radio in some great original and adapted stories.

Cloak and Dagger is based on true stories of the Operatives of the OSS, predecessor of the CIA.

The Adventures of Superman. Much of the legend of the original comic book hero was actually developed on the radio.

 

Comedy:

There can never be enough things for us to laugh at, and Radio brings us some of the best!

You Bet Your Life, developed as a sort of game show, the program was really a chance for Groucho Marx to simply be Groucho!

Fibber McGee and Molly is nothing but good-hearted fun featuring a well meaning schemer who seems to have never held a steady job and his long suffering but happy wife along with his friends and neighbors.

The Jack Benny Program is a collection of music and skits built around a character who was everything that the real Jack Benny wasn’t, vain, cantankerous, and cheap!

Crime and Detective:

Whether we are following the wits and bravery of hard working policemen and brave private eye, or pitting our wits against one of the great detective, everyone enjoys Crime and Detective stories.

Dragnet starring Jack Webb is a series of exciting stories based on true cases of the Los Angeles Police Department.

Tales of the Texas Rangers brings us more true crime stories from the Oldest and Most Well known law enforcement agency in North America.

Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar is the story of an investigator for insurance companies with an “action-packed expense account”.

The Adventures of Nero Wolfe is a humorous collection of the cases of a rather eccentric but incredibly intelligent crime solver whose effectiveness isn’t hampered by his girth.

Drama:

More serious stories, but still greatly entertaining, our dramas include tales from literature, great movies, and even “serial dramas”.

Academy Award Theater, adaptations of Hollywood’s best movies, all Oscar Winners.

Dr Christian was one of the great wash-tub-weepers that kept house wives entertained with their continuing stories and weekly cliffhangers.

Lux Radio Theater brought the stories of the best movies to the radio, featuring a full orchestra, and usually the film’s original stars performing before a live audience.

 

Science Fiction:

Sometimes condemned as “kid stuff”, several radio programs treated Sci Fi as serious literature.

Dimension X and X Minus One had stories from the pages of great SciFi magazines and the best and most influential SciFi writers.

Space Patrol was meant for kids, but the space-opera was based on the best scientific knowledge of the time.

 

 

Westerns:

Some of these are kid shows, and others are serious adult drama, while others are treasures of great country music!

Gunsmoke and Have Gun, Will Travel were serious drama that never allowed the gritty reality of the rough and tumble West get in the way.

The Six Shooter featured the acting talent of the great James Stewart and some of the best written stories of any radio genre.

Melody Ranch featured the music of one of the screens great singing Cowboys, as well as a story or two of genuine ranch life.

 

Singin Sam “Barbasol Man”

When we study the personalities of Old Time Radio, every once in a while we encounter the story of what appears to be a very happy man. One such person was Harry Frankel, better known as Singin’ Sam.

Harry was born in Ohio in 1888 to a men’s clothing merchant who soon took the family to Danville, Kentucky.  The family business would take them to Richmond, Indiana when Harry was nine, but by this time the “Old Kentucky Home” had a hold on the lad. For the rest of his life, Harry was a Son of the South. In 1908,  Harry joined Al G. Fields’ Minstrels and began his vaudeville apprenticeship.

In 1930,  an offer from the Great States Lawnmower Company allowed Harry to leave the hectic life of vaudeville, and he settled in Cincinnati, to sing over WLW as Singin’ Sam, The Lawnmower Man. Exposure on WLW led to an opportunity to move to New York to become Singin’ Sam, the Barbasol Man. Life in New York was not happy for the confirmed Son of the South, and he left after three years, but first he met and courted Helene “Smiles” Davis. Harry and Smiles settled in Richmond, and soon Harry was again singing for Barbasol on national broadcasts originating in Cincinnati. In 1937, Harry became a “Jet-Set entertainer in the pre-jet era, flying to New York twice a month to record a series of shows for Coca Cola, Refreshment Time With Singing Sam. The transcribed shows were distributed nationally while Harry got to spend his off time at home with his wife, Smiles.

Sadly, this happy man was cut down by a heart attack at the age of sixty. Much too young for someone who made his living happily singing “old songs”. For finding lasting success on his own terms, we have to tip our hat to Singin’ Sam.

Old Time Radio Crime Shows

 

Die hard fans of Old Time Radio would have us believe that there is something in the OTR world for everyone, and to a great extent they are correct. Many of us find that we have favorites in every OTR genre. However, there are three types of show which Old Time Radio does exceptionally well, arguably a superior storytelling medium than Movies or TV.

These are Horror, Science Fiction and Crime Drama. The first two are actually fairly obvious. To achieve the desired response from the audience, the creators of both these genre must create indelible images for the audience. Common sense would have us believe that the visual media should be better at this, but in actual practice even the best special effects men cannot create images as intense as those created in the minds of an attentive listener. In other words, the scary monster on the screen can never be as scary as the one we can conjure in our own imagination. At least, this is true if the writer, director, and actors in the drama have any more than mediocre talent. Many of the surviving examples of both Horror and Drama were produced by the best talents in the showbiz industry.

Crime Drama is a somewhat different case. Whereas Horror and Science Fiction are image driven, fans of Crime Drama are essentially enjoying a puzzle. Whether the audience is able to solve the puzzle themselves, or they have to wait for the Dashing Detective to solve it for them, makes little difference. The complexity and intricacy of the puzzle are as important as the solution.

The Puzzle Factor is especially important for the so-called Soft Boiled Detectives. These are the guys who specialize in the Whodunit story. Their archetype in both literature and on the Radio is Sherlock Holmes, who always got his man but took the listener through some plot twists that were positively neck snapping. Nero Wolfe, The Saint, Nick and Nora of The Thin Man and Hercule Poirot are also popular Soft Boiled Detectives.

The existence of Soft Boiled Detectives implies Hard Boiled Detectives, and Old Time Radio has them in droves. The came from between the covers of pulp magazines and Noir Detective Cinema, and they flooded the post War airwaves. Part of the reason for their abundance was that they were ideal listening for the target audience of the time, largely rugged veterans who were adapting to the new affluence of of civilian life. The hard boiled detective might taken a licking once in a while, but they were rugged individuals who answered injustice whether it was perpetrated against themselves or those they had taken into their protection.

The archetype of the Hard Boiled Detective is Philip Marlowe. Marlowe was developed in pulps of the 1930s, and even though he was a tough guy, he was a character you would introduce to your grandma; he enjoyed classical music, chess, and had a strong moral code. Other Hard Boiled regulars may have been more Neanderthal, but characters like Sam Spade, Pat Novak, Michael Shayne, Mike Hammer or Johnny Dollar may have had to take their lumps, but they always got their man.

Just because imagery was not as important to crime drama as it was to Horror of Science Fiction radio, it was far from ignored. Thanks to the great writing and production values, when a listener enjoys an episode of the classic Dragnet they are transported to post-War Los Angeles. Although it is a noticeably monochromatic Los Angeles (with occasional flashes of brown from a well behaved Mexican shop owner), Dragnet‘s Los Angeles is a city of lunch counters, War Factory workers, urban sprawl just beginning to spread, and even the junkies wore coats and ties.

Good Night Debbie Reynolds

For all the glitz and glamour of Golden Age Hollywood, there is a definite sadness as the players from that time are leaving us. The sadness is compounded when we realize that even after a full life many of these celebrities will not be allowed to rest in peace because of the interest their lives generated by the tabloid press.

Few have generated as much interest in the tabloids as Debbie Reynolds. When her death was announced the day after her daughter Carrie Fisher passed away, the tabloids theorized that Ms. Reynolds died of a broken heart. She became a Star in through the studio system while the studio system itself was dying, but it was her personal life and relations to fame that truly caught attention. She was the heartbroken victim in an infamous infidelity scandal, helped breathe life into the Hollywood nostalgia craze both in film and by preserving artifacts of the Golden Era, stood bravely against network TV and sponsors who did not fit her principles, was blasted for her dysfunctional relationship with her daughter after Carrie had become a Star for her role in the cultural phenomenon Star Wars, and publicly reconciled when Carrie Fisher presented her mother with a lifetime achievement award from the Screen Actors Guild in 2015.

Reynolds was born in El Paso, Texas, 1932, to a ditch-digger trying to get his family through the Great Depression. Her mother took in laundry to help make ends meet, and the family moved to Southern California seeking greater opportunities. Debbie was active in the Girl Scouts. On a whim, she entered the 1948 Miss Burbank beauty contest and was as surprised as anyone when she won. Two of the judges in the contest were film scouts, both of whom wanted the newly discovered beauty for their studio. The Warner Bros scout won the toss and she stayed with the studio for two years. When Warner’s stopped making musicals, she moved to MGM. In 1952, she starred in Singing in the Rain with Gene Kelly, who she credited with making her a Star.

One of the biggest marriages in Hollywood was between Debbie and singer/heartthrob Eddie Fisher. In addition to Carrie, the couple had a son Todd Fisher, named for Eddie’s good friend producer Michael Todd. Michael was married to Debbie’s best friend, actress Elizabeth Taylor. When Liz was widowed after Michael died in a private airplane accident, Debbie and Eddie immediately went to console her, but Eddie’s consolation took a more intimate and physical form. Reynold’s and Fisher’s 1959 divorce was very public and painful, although Debbie admitted understanding being thrown over “for the most beautiful woman in the world”, she and Liz eventually reconciled. Liz dumped Eddie in 1964 after carrying on an affair with Richard Burton since 1962.

Debbie was nominated for Best Actress for starring in The Unsinkable Molly Brown (1964). The Debbie Reynolds Show was a hit for NBC-TV during the 1969-70 season, but she left the show because the network would not promise to disallow cigarette advertising for her show. Debbie’s second husband, shoe retailer Harry Karl, along with daughter Carrie that year in a revival of Irene, and Debbie went on to have a successful revue in Las Vegas.
Carrie Fisher starred as Princess Leia in
Star Wars (1977) as well as The Empire Strikes Back (1980) and Return of the Jedi (1983). Her semi-autobiographical novel, Postcards from the Edge, was published in 1987 and adapted to the big screen starring Meryl Streep and Shirley MacLaine in 1990. The story dealt with drug addiction and rehab, as well as relations with her self-absorbed mother. In 2001, Ms. Fisher wrote a television film, These Old Broads, which starred Shirley MacLaine, Joan Collins, Elizabeth Taylor, and Debbie Reynolds (the story includes scenes of Debbie and Liz’s characters taking shots at a common ex-husband). Fisher appeared in The Force Awakens (2015), the first installment in a new Star Wars trilogy, and had completed shooting her role in the second installment which is due for release in 2017. While returning from a European book tour on December 23, 2016, Carrie Fisher suffered a heart attack fifteen minutes before landing in Los Angeles. She died four days later, on December 27 at UCLA Medical Center at the age of 60.

Debbie Reynolds was at the home of son Todd Fisher discussing funeral arrangements for Carrie on December 28 when she suffered a severe stroke. She died that afternoon at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center at the age of 84. According to her son, her last words were “I want to be with Carrie”. A Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6654 Hollywood Blvd honors Debbie Reynolds’ work in Motion Pictures.

AFRTS: Armed Forces Network Radio

AFRTS_Logo
The Armed Forces Radio and Television Service (AFRTS, also going by the brand AFN, Armed Forces Network) operate one of the largest Satellite Television and Radio systems in the world. The service was and is considered vital to the morale of American Service Men and Women serving overseas, but is little known beyond those it serves. The services origins are shrouded in the mists of legend that develop as time passes.

The need for troop recreation in order to maintain morale was well recognized by the end of WWI. Several organizations, often religiously based, had stepped in to fill the gap, but it became obvious that the military itself could do a better and more effective job. In the years after the First World War the US Military experienced a drastic draw-down, and there were very few areas where Army personnel would have an overseas posting. These included Hawaii, the Panama Canal Zone, and the Philippine Islands.

In the Canal Zone there was a problem communicating with the Coastal Artillery Installations from the Central Command Post. Distribution of radio receivers seemed a simple and inexpensive solution. However the soldiers on post had little reason to keep their radios turned on if there was nothing to listen too, so they were not effective as a warning device. It was theorized that if popular music and other programming were offered the radios would remain turned on. The NCO in charge of the broadcast began humbly corresponding with radio personalities seeking programming, sending letters to Jack Benny, Bob Hope, and Bing Crosby. The response was as immediate as it could be at the time. Benny sent an autographed subscription disk to the Canal Zone and offered further transcriptions of his shows free of charge. NBC send 2000 pounds of transcription material, literally a ton of programming, to the Troops in Panama.

Free or extremely low-cost programming is still provided to AFN. The Dept of Defense takes no control over the content other than removing all commercials. This is to insure that the DoD will not be seen as endorsing products. DoD internal messages and Public Service Announcements replace the commercials.

In some areas, such as the Philippines, servicemen could listen to English Language programming directed at Western Civilians working in the area. In the Philippines much of this was from Japanese Radio Tokyo, which blanketed much of Asia. Shortwave Broadcasts were received in Manila from San Francisco’s KGEI and rebroadcast on commercial bands. After the Japanese invasion General MacArthur has the 1000 watt broadcast facility moved to Bataan and later Corregidor. The KGEI rebroadcasts became an important source of information and entertainment. Warnings were also passed to the Philippine people using this service. One was warning of counterfeit currency being used by the occupying Japanese. Radio Tokyo responded by warning that Philippine shopkeepers were required to accept currency provided by Japanese personnel or the shopkeeper could be shot.

Whistler 7

Arch Oboler’s Sounds

It we consider radio drama as an art form, three great names stand out as masters; Orson Welles, Norman Corwin, and Arch Oboler. Of the three, Arch Oboler could almost be counted as a forgotten or over-looked genius.

Oboler was the child of impoverished Latvian Jews in Chicago; his childhood was poor but highly cultured, surrounded with books and classical music. He had a tough time at university were his confrontational personality led to expulsion. He turned to writing pulp fiction to pay the bills.

Oboler entered radio, a medium that he felt was being wasted on soap operas, because he thought radio plays had terrific potential to tell stories with ideas. His gain experience and recognition writing short plays for Rudy Vallee and Don Ameche with The Chase and Sanborn Hour.

In 1936 Oboler was offered the reins of Wylis Cooper‘s Lights Out. At first he was unenthusiastic about being stuck with a horror show that played at midnight on Tuesdays (“not my idea of a writing Shangri-La”) but soon realized that the lack of sponsorship and full artistic control gave him a chance to experiment with content and style. Although NBC had a policy of strict neutrality in the pre-War years, Oboler still managed to smuggle in some anti-Facist messages.

Oboler was considered a minimalist who never used a sound effect or piece of music when a spoken word could create a better image in the listener’s mind. When he did use a sound effect, you can be sure that the image would be built in such a way heighten the effect of an often simple effect.

Some of the best are featured in the episode “Drop Dead”. Oboler explains that he has accepted a challenge to frighten his audience, even though he knows that his audience is not “easily horrified”. This episode features retelling of some of Oboler’s most famous radio horror plays.

One of the most creepy is “The Dark” were a greasy black fog escapes its confinement with a power to turn human bodies inside out. This is one of those stories that is best told on radio where the story teller has the best opportunity to manipulate the images in the listener’s mind

Lights Out: Drop Dead

The set up dialog is very well done, but the payoff is the actual sound of a person being turned inside-out. The story begins at 8 minutes and 10 seconds into the broadcast. Between 11 minutes and 11 minutes, 30 seconds we discover a body that has been turned inside-out, and from 14:30 to 14:45 we actually hear the sickening sounds as flesh is brutalized as a body is turned inside-out. We here this frightening sound twice more in the story.

How could the producer create the effect of a body abused in such a way without reaching down an actor’s throat and yanking? Here’s the spoiler: the sound effects man wore a surgeon’s rubber glove, and noisily removed it with his hand near the microphone!