Little Bits of History

Who Knows?

Posted in History by patriciahysell on July 31, 2013
The Shadow

The Shadow

July 31, 1930: A new show comes to radio. The program stayed on the air until December 26, 1954. Detective Story Magazine was put out by Street & Smith Publication. The New York City publishers began selling inexpensive paperbacks and magazines in 1855. They hired David Christman and William Sweets to develop a radio show adapted from stories in the magazine. The two men felt the stories should be narrated by a mysterious man with a “sinister” voice. They bandied about names for the unknown narrator. The Inspector and The Sleuth lost out to the man who knew. The Shadow.

Radio listeners began to ask newsstand attendants for “that Shadow detective magazine” which did not exist. Street & Smith weren’t “the nation’s oldest and largest publisher of pulp magazine” for nothing. They immediately filled the void. Magician and author Walter B. Gibson began writing under the pen name Maxwell Grant. He was not the only author to use the name as it was created for all The Shadow stories regardless of actual authorship.

Gibson was born in 1897 and wrote many non-fiction works under his own name. He wrote more than 100 books on magic, psychic phenomenon, true crime, and a variety of other subjects. He worked as a ghost writer for other magicians and spiritualists. He wrote 282 of the 325 Shadow novels, turning out two novels a month at his top speed. He also scripted The Shadow comic books and comic strip. He wrote young adults novels under the pen name Andy Adams.

The man called Shadow evolved over time. The vigilante hero wore a black slouch hat, obscuring his face. His crimson-lined black cloak with the upturned collar hid his identity. He lurked in the shadows. If that wasn’t enough, he hypnotized people and clouded their minds, rendering himself virtually invisible. His alter ego was real life World War I ace Ken Allard who took to a life of fighting crime after the war ended. Or else he was Lamont Cranston or maybe Henry Arnaud, Isaac Twambly or Fitz. Who knew who the Shadow really was?

“Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men? Heh-heh-heh-heh-heh-heh-heh! The Shadow knows … ” – Frank Readick Jr. at the beginning of each radio broadcast

“You turned on the radio and heard all kinds of things.” – Luc Ferrari

“I did radio back in the era when we did radio drama.” – Martin Milner

“TV gives everyone an image, but radio gives birth to a million images in a million brains.” – Peggy Noonan

This article first appeared at in 2009. Editor’s update: The Shadow’s Lamont Cranston was voiced by Orson Welles. He was born in Wisconsin in 1915 and became an actor, director of both films and live theater, a screenwriter and playwright, as well as a film producer. He was also a radio personality. He was active in his profession from 1931 until his death in 1985. His last television appearance was on The Merv Griffin Show. After leaving the show, he went home to work on his notes for a project that was to begin filming the next day at UCLA. He was found on the floor, having suffered a heart attack. He died on the same day as co-star from Battle of Neretva, Yul Brynner.

Also on this day: Mount Fuji – In 781, Mount Fuji erupts for the first time in recorded history.
First US Patent – In 1790, the first US patent was granted.
All Wet All-Stars – In 1961, the baseball game ended in a tie.

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