Friday, June 16, 2006

Lights Out Everybody

People have always been entertained by being told creepy stories.

Think of the novel or screenplay writers who have made the hair stand up on the back of your neck. Are you thinking of Stephen King, Clive Barker, Rod Serling, or Alfred Hitchcock?

Before these masters there was another person you might not have heard of:

Arch Obler

Crazy Dog Audio Theater Masterpiece Gallery describes him thusly:

"American radio’s premier horror series Lights Out began in 1934 and was soon taken over by the legendary Arch Obler the following year. Arch Obler is widely recognised as one of the best writers for audio of all time. He once famously insisted that ‘I write about human beings, not special effects’.

Obler’s work with Lights Out makes this series the precursor of TV shows like Rod Serling’s ‘Twilight Zone’. Part of Obler’s strength was in writing one-to-one, on a personal level, always aiming directly at the individual listener. For example he would write: ‘In a horrific time, in a horrible world, I have been asked to try and horrify you---all in fun, of course. … Now I know that you're not a person who is easily frightened. Monsters, ghosts, the dead. Who gets scared of that sort of thing anymore? You don't. Or do you?…’ "

His show began with a bell sounding thirteen times. In between the tolls of the bell and starting with the fourth toll the following words are spoken in a deep sonorous voice:

"It – is – later – than – you – think,"

followed by Mr O himself saying,

"This is Arch Obler bringing you another of our series of tales of the unusual and once again we caution you these Lights Out stories are not for the timid soul so we tell you calmly and very sincerely, if you frighten easily, turn off the radio now."

A gong clashes and the story begins.

These stories are great. Okay, so not all of them hit the mark but neither did all of the Twilight Zone episodes or Alfred Hitchcock Presents. But most of them stand the test of time 60 and 70 years later.

I just received 6 CDs of old radio shows from Darryl Hawkins at Old Time Radio including all of the Arch Obler recordings. Fantastic.

Where will you find me in the next couple of weeks during my spare time?
Oh yes, I'll be thrilling to the tales of the supernatural and the supernormal.

With the lights out, everybody.

1 comment:

PJ said...

Great stuff!! I'm an old radio disc jockey/newsman turned dispatcher, so I'm very familiar with Arch Obler. How about "The Shadow"? I always wondered why a writer would name a super crime-fighter LaMont Cransdon. Enjoy your cd's.