“Chicken Heart” first aired on Lights Out! , a Chicago-based radio horror series created by Wyllis Cooper, on March 10th, 1937. A repeat followed the next year, and again in 1942. The episode’s author and later host of the series, Arch Oboler, is said to have accidentally dropped the master transcription disc — the method used for preserving live programs in those days — and the original “Chicken Heart” was lost forever.
Twenty-five years after it first aired, Oboler revived “Chicken Heart” as part of "Drop Dead: An Experiment in Horror", an LP of newly-recorded, but abbreviated, selections from the best episodes of Lights Out! In this 7-minute production, Oboler cast one of Hollywood’s most famous character actors, Hans Conreid, in the role of Dr. Alberts. Over the years the Drop Dead version has created some confusion, leading a few inexperienced Old Time Radio collectors to believe they’d found the fabled “Lost Episode of Lights Out!”.
Though not the Holy Grail of Old Time Radio, the "Drop Dead" release did have a very special effect on an up-and-coming young comedian named Bill Cosby. It reminded him of listening to scary radio shows as a child and sparked one of the most famous comedy routines of all time. His tale of being frightened to death as a child by a "Lights Out!" episode about “a Chicken Heart that ate up New York City” — and how he spread Jell-O on the floor and set fire to the family sofa to drive off the pulsing, bloodthirsty monster waiting outside his front door — was an instant and memorable sensation.
Cosby’s routine gave “Chicken Heart” a kind of immortality that no other radio drama from the Golden Age — with the possible exception of Orson Welles’ “War of the Worlds” panic broadcast of 1938 — has ever enjoyed. The Post-Meridian Radio Players are proud to bring you this re-creation of a long-lost piece of radio history.
— Neil Marsh, March 2006
Original Story Written by Arch Oboler
Produced & Directed by Neil Marsh
Rob Noyes as Dr. Alberts
Michael McAfee as Mr. Lewis
Tom Arena as the Police Captain
Dante Blando as Dr. Atkins & the Civil Defense Radio Announcer
Alex Feinman as Mr. Rosen, the Mayor & the Fire Chief
Renée Johnson as the Secretary
Neil Marsh as Arch Oboler
Jason McIntosh as the Street Cop & the Army Lieutenant
Matt McIrvin as the Lab Assistant & the Fireman
James ‘Kibo’ Parry as Frank Martin & the Army Captain
Jennifer Pelland as Mrs. Halop & the Busybody Woman
Masha Sten-Clanton as Sam
ADDITIONAL VOICEWORK BY
Samantha Wilkinson & Renni Boy
CROWD SCENE EXTRAS
Joseph Averett, Rebecca Dowgiert, Rebecca Hunter, Shava Nerad, Hy Richman, Gilly Rosenthol, Jude Shabry, Albert Sten-Clanton
FoleyFX Team: Tom Arena, Chris DeKalb & Rebecca Dowgiert
FoleyFX Construction—Wood & Metal Devices: Ron Brian
FoleyFX Construction—Electronic Devices: Rich Macchi
THE PRODUCTION TEAM
Audio Engineer: Darren Ottaviani (THE MOONTOWER RECORDING STUDIO, CAMBRIDGE, MA)
Sound Design, Post-Production & CD Packaging Design: Neil Marsh
“Chicken Heart” Image Design: Alida Saxon (ALIDASAXON.COM)
Many thanks to the Arisia Convention Committee, Lindsay Ellison, the First Congregational Church of Somerville MA, Mare Freed, Ari Herzog, Rebecca Hunter, Jamie Lawson, Steve Lewis, Josh Mahler, Joe Medina, Austin Moss at SweetWater Sound, Tony Palermo, Max Schmid, Brenda Shaw, Chelsea Spear, Andie Stabler, and the folks of Theater@First.
Special thanks to CBC Radio Drama producer Joe Mahoney for his enthusiastic technical advice, and to former CBC Radio Drama producer Bill Gray for his support and encouragement.
Closing music: “The Chicken Experiment” by Alan Mason
PRODUCED IN MEMORY OF ARCH OBOLER AND WYLLIS COOPER:
FOR THE INSPIRATION AND THE LEGACY THEY LEFT BEHIND
ABOUT THE PMRP
Founded in 2005 and based in the Boston area, The POst-Meridian RadiO Players are a group of actors, writers, FoleyFX artists, composers, sound designers and other interested people dedicated to the preservation of radio drama, and the development of audio theater, as unique art forms. The PMRP offer live performances and studio productions of both classic tales from the Golden Age of Radio and original works by new and experienced writers, with a special emphasis on science-fiction, fantasy, and horror.