The Radio Art Hour: Scary Stories (Audio)

Oct 23, 2021
Produced by Wave Farm Radio Artist Fellows and Artistic Director Tom Roe.
The theme today is scary stories. First we hear a classic radio theatre work from the 1940s, and then a re-telling of the tale, from the point of view of a radio listener, from the 1960s. Then we finish with what Orson Welles called, "the greatest single radio script ever written." First, tune in for a 1940s episode of the "Lights Out" radio show. This episode is "Chicken Heart," and it comes from Arch Oboler, who took over "Lights Out" from Wyllis Cooper, who started the program in the 1930s. "Lights Out" was known as the goriest of the early radio horror shows, toned down a bit when it moved to NBC in 1935. The "Chicken Heart" episode features a simple but effective "thump-thump" of an ever-growing chicken heart which, thanks to a scientific experiment gone wrong, threatens to engulf the entire world. Oboler story was inspired by a Chicago Tribune article about scientists keeping a chicken heart alive for a considerable period of time after its having been removed from the chicken. The episode is probably so well known because of the second work featured today, Bill Cosby's "Chicken Heart." Cosby is a convicted sexual predator, who once released a comedy track called "Spanish Fly" about how funny it is to use a date-rape drug on women before having sex with them. Here, he recounts listening to this episode of "Lights Out" as a seven-year-old. So his story does not match the original script, and focuses more on his reaction to the radio show, and what his parents do when they walk in on his radio listening experience. The final work included here today is the "Sorry, Wrong Number" episode of the "Supense" radio show from 1943. It is virtually a one-woman show, with Agnes Moorehead as Mrs. Stevenson, an invalid who accidentally intercepts a phone call between two men plotting a murder. Moorehead's career ranged from playing the title character's mother in "Citizen Kane" to playing Endora on the TV show "Bewitched." In 2015, the original May 25, 1943 broadcast of "Sorry, Wrong Number" was deemed "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant" by the Library of Congress and selected for inclusion in the National Recording Registry.