Lights Out was created in Chicago by Willis Cooper, who later left to write movies for Hollywood including the third of the Frankenstein movies, Son of Frankenstein (it starred Boris Karloff, Bela Lugosi and Basil Rathbone). The series started out as a local 15-minute radio series in Chicago on 1-1-34, going to 30-minutes on NBC the following year.
Wyllis Cooper stayed on awhile as writer, along with Arch Oboler & Ferrin N. Fraser. Intended as a scary suspense-drama, Lights really hit its stride when Arch Oboler was promoted to director/host. He started each episode by doing a live disclaimer of sorts (actually intended to tantalize more than warn) in the opening:
Announcer: Arch Oboler's Lights Out, everybody (gong or old temple bell sound)
It (gong) Is (gong) Later (gong) Than (gong) You (gong) Think (gong)
Oboler: This is Arch Oboler bringing you another of our series of stories of the unusual. And once again we caution you, these Lights Out stories are definitely not for the timid soul. So we tell you calmly, and very sincerely, if you frighten easily, turn off your radio now. (gong)
The program aired as late as 10:30 pm, sometimes even Midnight, and soon rivaled Inner Sanctum (a radio version of tv's Tales From The Crypt) as the scariest series on the airwaves. Some sample episodes:
"What The Devil" (1942), A man driving on a lonely road is menaced for no apparent reason by a truck that seems to be playing a deadly game of cat and mouse. When he pulls alongside, he can't see the driver (different ending than Spielberg's similar movie, Duel. Police find the wrecked car the next day)
"Fast One" (1943), A man goes on a crime spree using a serum that temporarily speeds up every atom in his body 20X. He walks 60mph, can run even faster. When he kills someone to rob them, they look like they were hit by a car. But there are side-effects... This episode was later adapted by Gene L. Coon as an episode of Wild Wild West and as an ep of Star Trek
"Murder in the Script Dept." (1944), 2 typists (Bea Benedaret, Mercedes McCambridge) are typing a Lights Out script late at night, all alone in the big dark building
"A Day At The Dentist," The new patient looks familiar - it's the man who ran off with the dentist's wife. Now let's start up that drill...
"Meteor Man" (1942), As an astronomer & his wife watch a meteor shower, she speculates that each one could contain invading life-forms. She realizes too late that...
"Taking Papa Home," A girl is driving drunk Dad home from the bar when the car stalls on a railroad track, and he's no hope getting it restarted
"Organ" (1943), A young couple is suspicious when they get a big old house cheap, from a nervous estate agent, but it's all they can afford. Then the pipe organ starts playing itself...
"The Story of Mr. Mags" (1942), A wimpy little man buys an old chest at auction, not knowing it contains a murderer's soul (later rewritten by Robert Bloch of Psycho as Star Trek episode "Wolf In The Fold")
"Money Money Money" 3-30-43, A discussion by 2 immigrants about money ends in death for one over a $3000 sweepstakes ticket, and for the other while diving for haunted gold bars
"They Met At Dorset" 2-23-43, Two Nazi spies parachute into England & spend the night in a house that turns out to be haunted (End: one goes nuts and pulls the pin on a grenade)
In a radio episode later adapted as a less-effective episode of the tv-series, 3 people are driving through a primitive-looking part of France when they find a fossilized neanderthal skull. Then they're in an accident, driving off the road into a deep valley...where they're surrounded by cavemen that they try to hold off with a gun...
Oboler's only non-horror/scifi broadcasting job was as one of the writers of "First Nighter," a 1929-53 series that broadcast radio versions of popular Broadcast plays. Mr. First Nighter (the host) was played for a time by Brett Morrision, better known later as The Shadow. Oddly enough, "First Nighter" was never broadcast from Broadway (New York), only Chicago or Hollywood.
Asked where the phrase "It's later than you think" came from, Arch Oboler said in one radio episode that it's a motto that's been printed on sundials for centuries.
No episodes of Lights Out have been scheduled recently on the Sci-Fi channel, here were the Fall 1999 episodes:
FOR RELEASE TODAY
THE SILENT SUPPER
THE MARTIAN EYES: a bar patron (Burgess Meredith) says his prescription glasses allow him to see Martians who are invading, and who now are following him...(remade as the movie They Live)
THE FACELESS MAN: in another TZ - like episode, a man demands experimental new plastic surgery, but then...
PERCHANCE TO DREAM