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.

Lurking Evil

Posted in History by patriciahysell on September 26, 2011

Orson Welles

September 26, 1937: Orson Welles becomes the title character as the old announcer for Detective Stories gets his own 30-minute radio show – The Shadow. The Shadow character was created by Walter B. Gibson in 1931. The Shadow’s creation was more accident than design. In 1930, the character’s name belonged to the announcer for Detective Stories. This radio broadcast drew its stories from the pulp fiction of the era. Pulp fiction being inexpensive magazines printed on cheap paper from the 1920s through 1940s.

Smith & Street, pulp magazine publishers, created a radio program in order to boost sales for their print media. However, the announcer proved to be a more compelling entity than the Detective Stories themselves. Smith & Street commissioned Gibson to write stories with the announcer as the hero. Gibson went on to write 282 of the 325 Shadow books.

The Shadow (had many alias identities but Lamont Cranston was the most frequently used) went skulking about in dark hat, cape, and often a black or red silk mask using nefarious skills to intimidate criminals. Eventually it was revealed that he had traveled to the mystical Far East and learned to cloud minds so as to be invisible. Orson Welles took the lead role when still an unknown radio personality. Two years later, Welles would produce his famous Halloween scare, The War of the Worlds.

A female contrast to Welles’ voice was added with Producer Clark Andrews naming The Shadow’s “friend and companion” after his girlfriend, Margo Lane. The Shadow became such a hit that a series of comic books were added and eventually over 300 novels were written. There were two attempts to bring The Shadow to the small screen and several full length movies were produced. In 1947, Welles hoped to produce his own version and commissioned Charles Lederer to pen a script. Welles could not secure the film right to the character he made famous a decade earlier.

“Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men? The Shadow knows!” – John Archer’s introduction to The Shadow

“Orson Welles was an actor, so he believed in it while he was doing it.” – John DiDonna

“Nobody who takes on anything big and tough can afford to be modest.” – Orson Welles

“I don’t say that we ought to all misbehave, but we ought to look as if we could.” – Orson Welles

Also on this day:
The Parthenon – In 1687, part of the Parthenon was destroyed during a bombing attack by the Ottoman Turks.
Apples – In 1774, Johnny Appleseed was born.