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Mercury Theater (on the Air) Old Time Radio Program

Mercury Theater
1 hour drama
Mercury Theater, also called Mercury Theater on the Air, was the creation of Orson Welles and John Houseman. Welles and Houseman created a theater group in New York in 1937, shortly after that, CBS wanted Welles to created a radio program for them. Somewhat surprisingly for such a young director, Welles was given complete creative control over the operation. Two key decisions he made were to keep his theater group, including such actors as Joseph Cotten, Martin Gabel, Alice Frost, Ray Collins, Paul Stewart, Virginia Welles, George Coulouris, Agnes Moorehead and Everett Sloane, and of course, Orson Welles.This same cast also played prominent roles in Welles' movies like Citizen Kane and the The Magnificent Ambersons. (Considered by many critics to be two of the best movies in American cinema.) His second decision was to create dramas specifically for the radio, not to simply record plays they already had in production. Radio has many shortcomings for presenting a story (no visuals), but Welles made sure fully utilize the strengths of radio and engage the audience's imagination more than a play or movie can.

Mercury Theater adapted works of classic literature to the radio, their first program was Dracula. The scripts were written by Houseman, then Howard Koch took over the scriptwriting. Other adaptations include The Man Who Was Thursday, The Count of Monte Cristo, Around the World in 80 Days, and others.

Their most famous show, and indeed a show that has entered American Pop Culture History is their broadcast in 1937 of “War of the Worlds.” Orson Welles and writer Howard Koch converted the well know H.G. Wells story into a seemingly live news broadcast; this episode of Mercury Theater terrified the nation into believing that the Martians were attacking Earth. Previous to the “War of the Worlds” broadcast, Mercury Theater was critically accalaimed, but ratings poor. After the broadcast, the country was hooked, and Mercury Theater's future was assured, it picked up sponsorship of Campbell's Soup, and changed its name to “The Campbell Playhouse.” Welles left the show in 1940, but briefly revived it in 1946.

Two of the most known aspects of Old Time Radio, even after 60-70 years are the character of The Shadow (first played by Orson Welles), and the “War of the Worlds” broadcast, created by Orson Welles. The guy knew what he was doing, and he was given the freedom to do it in Mercury Theater (later in his later career, the freedom was not quite there.)


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All of our Old Time Radio Programs are in MP3 format. You can play them on your computer, you can transfer them to MP3 players (like the IPod), but, by and large, you cannot play them on stereos, walkmen, or car radios.

The sound quality of Old Time Radio Programs can vary greatly. Some episodes are excellent, others you have to turn up the volume a little and ignore the static. All of the episodes can be listened to and enjoyed. You can listen to our free samples to get a feel for how the programs sound.
You can purchase these episodes on CD or you can download them.
To purchase on CD: To download:

Click on the Buy on CD button. A few dollars will be added for shipping depending on your zip code and how many CDs you order. Pay with Paypal (you can use a credit card even if you do not have a Paypal account). You will receive a receipt from Paypal. We will mail you the CD(s) within a few days. Usually we get the CDs in the mail the next day. Shipping usually takes 2-3 days via USPS. The episodes will be in mp3 format.



  • You save money on the cost of the episodes and you don't pay any shipping.
  • Click on the Download button. Pay with Paypal (you can use a credit card even if you do not have a Paypal account).
  • After you pay you will be returned to our site to a page with a series of links to zip files. Click on the links to download the zip files. These episodes are downloadable in large zip files.
  • To open a zip file you need software to "unzip" it. Your computer may already have unzip software, if this is the case, just click on the file and your software will automatically open up and you can unzip the files. If your computer doesn't have an unzip program, you can get one from the internet. The most popular is probably winzip (, however, we use Zip Wizard by Coffeecup Software because its pretty good, easy to use, and free. (
  • The files are large - it will take you a few minutes to download each file. Each zip file is around 40MBs. A full CD worth of episodes takes about 14 large files. if you are on a dial-up connection, we highly recommend you buy a CD.
  • You will receive an e-mail receipt from Paypal, and we will send you an additional e-mail with the links.


Buy on CD: $4.50

Download only $3.50

Mercury Theater 19 Shows

Mercury Theater 38-07-11 Dracula
Mercury Theater 38-07-18 Treasure Island
Mercury Theater 38-07-25 A Tale of Two Cities
Mercury Theater 38-08-01 The Thirty Nine Steps
Mercury Theater 38-08-15 Abraham Lincoln
Mercury Theater 38-08-22 The Affairs of Anatole
Mercury Theater 38-08-29 The Count of Monte Cristo
Mercury Theater 38-09-05 The Man who Was Thursday
Mercury Theater 38-09-11 Julius Ceasar
Mercury Theater 38-09-25 The Immortal Sherlock Holmes
Mercury Theater 38-10-09 Hell on Ice
Mercury Theater 38-10-16 Seventeen
Mercury Theater 38-10-23 Around the World in 80 Days
Mercury Theater 38-10-30 War of the Worlds
Mercury Theater 38-11-06 2 Complete Stories
Mercury Theater 38-11-13 A Passenger to Bali
Mercury Theater 38-11-20 Pickwick Papers
Mercury Theater 46-06-21 The Hitch-Hiker
Mercury Theater 46-07-12 The Search for Henry Le Ferre

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