Honeymoon shocker: Lucille fletcher's psychological sound effects and wartime radio drama

Neil Verma*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


This paper describes a change in how American radio dramatists used sound effects around the time of Pearl Harbor, particularly on Suspense, one of the signature shocker anthologies of the 1940s. In Suspense dramas by writers such as Lucille Fletcher, sound effects no longer merely described settings and action, as had been the custom previously. Instead, effects swept away interpersonal forms of colloquy and coded character psychology, often to the detriment of the populist spatial aesthetics that had prevailed during the Depression. Using accounts of studio technique, as well as a close reading of Fletcher's The Hitch-hiker, I argue that when radio told tales of characters under the sway of sound effects, it helped to promulgate the idea that minds are available to penetrating and persuasive signal-based communicative acts, just the sort of language required to make works of propaganda meaningful. In a larger way, this paper tries to rediscover the American radio play of the 1940s by treating it as not only theater of the mind, but also a theater about the mind.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)137-153
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of American Studies
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 2010

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities(all)
  • Social Sciences(all)


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