Lights Out, Everybody!

Curator's note: You can now enjoy streaming audio of "Lights Out" broadcasts from December 22nd, 1937 and July 13th, 1946. Both originated in the NBC Chicago studios in the Merchandise Mart.

Right: The Lights Out! cast in the mid-1930's. Sidney Ellstrom---who died a thousand violent deaths during the run of this show---is at the microphone, about to be done in by an-about-to-expire cast member.
The male corpse on the top of the heap appears to be Harold Peary who, several years after this photo was snapped, assumed the role of the "Great Gildersleeve" on the Fibber McGee and Molly show (with such success that he was, in the early 1940's, able to spin the role off to his own show which became one of the genuine classics of radio's Golden Age).
Lights Out! was the malformed brainchild of NBC-Chicago producer Wyllis Cooper; Arch Oboler, one of radio's great writer-directors, assumed responsibility for the series after Cooper went to Hollywood in 1936 to pursue a career in film writing.

"Lights Out" epitomized the unique style of radio drama developed in the Merchandise Mart studios. Its maccabre plots were enhanced by creative sound-effects that reproduced the crushing of skulls, the severing of digits and the eating of flesh.

"Lights Out" first aired locally in Chicago (over NBC's owned-and-operated WENR) from January 1st to April 10th of 1934 as a fifteen-minue program. Thereafter the program was expanded to a half-hour.

From April 17th of 1935 until August 16th, 1939 "Lights Out" was carried by the NBC network. Supplementing Chicago's skilled corps of radio actors in the spring of 1938 was Boris Karloff, who journeyed to the Windy City to appear on five episodes of the show.

CBS revived "Lights Out" in 1942-43 (originating in New York and Hollywood); NBC brought the series back as a New York-based summer replacement in 1945. NBC-Chicago produced "Lights Out" as a summer replacement series in 1946, making use of the original Cooper-Oboler scripts that popularized the show a decade earlier.

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Radio Hall of Fame |The NBC News Night Report: 23 February, 1967
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