Lights Out debuted in 1934 and was radio’s premier horror series created by writer/director Wyllis Cooper, who later scripted Boris Karloff’s 1939 classic Son of Frankenstein. Wyllis Cooper was a innovative radio writer and worked on other notable shows such as The Empire Builders, Quiet Please, Campbell’s Playhouse, The Army Hour, and Whitehall 1212. Lights Out truly set the bar high for other radio dramas in the 1930’s due to ts gore and strangeness. It was one of the first old time radio shows that developed the medium of radio with distinct sound effects and dramas intended to be heard.
Lights Out Studio B, Chicago Adhesive tape, stuck together and pulled apart, simulated the sound of a man’s or woman’s skin being ripped off. Pulling the leg off a frozen chicken gave the illusion of an arm being torn out of its socket. A raw egg dropped on a plate stood in for an eye being gouged; poured corn syrup for flowing blood; cleavered cabbages and cantalopes for beheadings; snapped pencils and spareribs for broken fingers and bones. The sound of a hand crushed? A lemon, laid on an anvil, smashed with a hammer.
Cooper was succeeded by Arch Oboler, one of radio’s greatest dramatic talents. Oboler had scripted the Mae West’s infamous “Garden of Eden” sketch and brought a new level of psychological horror to radio in scripts like “Cat Wife,” “Sub-Basement,” and “Chicken Heart.” Though most famous for his film roles, Karloff was an ccomplished radio performer who hosted his own series Boris Karloff’s Treasure Chest and narrated Radio Reader’s Digest broadcasts during the final two decades of his life.