Written by Jonathan Wojcik
Four Monsters From Arch Obeler
Before there was internet, video games or television, the cutting edge of home entertainment was radio, and from 1934 to 1947 one of the most popular entertainment programs on the airwaves was Lights Out, presenting listeners with a new crime thriller, drama or supernatural tale of suspense every Wednesday at midnight for precisely thirteen years.
Originally created by writer Wyllis Cooper, Lights Out was eventually taken over by Arch Obeler, above, whose stories ranged in topic and realism but would soon be known best for his horror pieces, four of which I'm showcasing today for being his absolute weirdest, most outrageous ideas.
One of Obeler's nearly half-hour stories, the Meteor Man is a simple encounter between a couple of Earthlings and a bodiless being invader who hatches from a meteor. The story is nothing groundbreaking for its time, but it showcases Obeler's dreadful sense of pacing and amazing use of sound. Both the voice and actual dialog of the alien being feel truly unsettling to me even to this day!
THE METEOR MAN
You know what are one of the planet Earth's most common of all animals? Earthworms. You know what are one of popular cultures most common monsters? NOT earthworms! I can count the examples of earthworm horror I've encountered on one hand, including the terrible film "Squirm," the Goosebumps title "Go Eat Worms," and Arch Obeler's "Worms: A Revolt Thereof".
THE REVOLT OF THE WORMS
No offense to R.L. Stine, but Obeler's offering is the best of the three, by which I mean it is the unironically good one of the three.
An older, shorter piece is arguably tied with the next as Obeler's most famous work, and easily his most grotesque. The narration is even goofier than usual (who in the world would say half of these things out loud, for any reason?!) but the fate in store for this episode's victims and the horrid little noise accompanying that fate - actually the sound of a wet rubber glove - burned themselves into the nightmares of countless listeners for years to come, even inspiring the bizarre and hilarious final scenes of The Simpsons: Treehouse of Horror V several decades later.
Probably the single most remembered of Obeler's stories, The Chicken Heart was repopularized by the stand-up comedy of an awful old man nobody should care about anymore, but absolutely deserves that popularity for one of the most disturbingly novel "monsters" you'll hear about all day. Its premise is given away by its very first words, but it really is the sheer mood and audio atmosphere that makes it so memorable. It's seven minutes of people arguing over a chicken heart that won't stop growing and absorbing everything around it, all to the continuous sound of its horrible, horrible pulsing!
THE CHICKEN HEART
MORE HALLOWEEN FEATURES: