The reporter and “The Signalman”

Sorting out a stack of CDs of podcasts I downloaded more than a decade ago, I discovered this reporter-centric episode of “Lights Out,” a suspenseful 1940s series.

This copy is playable or downloadable from the Old Time Radio Researchers Group’s (It opens with almost a minute of static, disk or tape noise, but gradually becomes listenable.)

The plot: A new London Times reporter is assigned a story on “little-known occupations” and comes upon a railroad tunnel and its veteran signal operator.

“This is a world here different from other men’s worlds,” he says. And we’re off. The new reporter asks good questions, and gradually gets some very strange answers

The story “The Signal-Man” is much older than this 1946 broadcast. The author is Charles Dickens, more famous for his novels and his “Christmas Carol” ghost story. Although there is no holiday theme, this one also was first published in a Christmas season magazine, in 1866, in keeping with an even older tradition of telling ghost stories at Christmas.

According to Wikipedia, the Dickens story was adapted for broadcast in England, Canada and the U.S.

American versions included the Columbia Workshop in 1937, The Weird Circle (“The Thing in the Tunnel,” 1945), this Lights Out production, Hall of Fantasy in 1950, Suspense in 1953, 1956 and 1959, and Beyond Midnight (as “The Signalman”) in 1970.
I’m off to track down recordings of the others, and the original Dickens, to see if the inquiring reporter is the storyteller in all versions, then add it to one of my overview pages.
(Note: this post is partly an experiment in creating a WordPress item from my new cell phone. It worked!)

About Bob Stepno

mild-mannered reporter who found computers & the Web in grad school in the 1980s (Wesleyan) and '90s (UNC); taught journalism, media studies, Web production; retired to write, make music, photograph sunsets & walks in the woods.
This entry was posted in 1940s, adaptations, Drama, podcast, reporters, suspense. Bookmark the permalink.

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