Ghost Story


ANNOUNCER: The National Broadcasting Company presents: _Plays for Americans_, 
by Arch Oboler. (Pause--one beat) As a further contribution to the war effort, 
NBC brings you a limited series of new plays dedicated to people of goodwill 
everywhere who believe in the inherent dignity of man--who fight together now 
for a better world for all. This is a war of men and ideas, and these are 
plays of the men and ideas that make up our America of today. As the fourth 
drama of this series we bring you Mr. Oboler's new play, _Ghost Story_. 

JOE: I'm sittin' here in the factory by my lathe, so a guy sticks a microphone 
up in front of my nose and he says I should talk to ya. This is goin' on the 
radio, so I'm talkin' to ya. Let me warn ya first. An' this ain't one of those 
phony warnin's like the mystery guys do--ya know, like the kids go for when 
they start with this, "Ya better turn off the radio! Blood! Blood! Blood!" 
This is _me_ talkin' and I'm just a guy who works for a livin' like you mebbe 
do--with his hands. But if you're a wise guy I'm tellin' ya--don't listen no 
more. Go on, tune in somethin' else. There's music someplace else, or there's 
some guy sellin' somethin', or some guy wishin' he was sellin' somethin', or a 
dame doin' fancy singin'--there's plenty you can tune in. But if ya wanta hear 
about somethin' that happened last night that--that mebbe never happened to 
another guy in all the time that guys like me has been gettin' born and livin' 
and dyin' in this world--well, jus' sit and listen. (Quickly) I'm six foot 
one, one hundred eighty-three pounds, twenty-four, no wife, no dependents--
there you got it. . . . I said it fast, didn't I? Well, I got practice. Yeah, 
in front of my Draft Board. I tol' them. I tol' them plenty. And they tol' me. 

SOUND: Fade in a murmur of committee behind 

VOICE: Joe, what's the matter with you--we're your neighbors! Your friends! 

JOE: O. K. Listen to what I'm sayin'! 

VOICE: But, Joe, we got our orders from Washington. Anybody essential to 
National Defense we gotta defer! 

VOICE: Yeah, we gotta defer you. You're a master mechanic. (Fade) We gotta 
defer you. 

JOE: You understand? Master mechanic! Me! So, they don't draft me. I'm single
--I got too much health--no dependents--I got no use for Japs or Nazis or that 
Duce guy--I'm looking for a fight an' they don't draft me! O. K.--I go to the 
Army. . . . 

VOICE (fade in): But you're part of an essential industry. (Fade . . .) Son, 
part of an essential industry. 

JOE: I go to the Navy--Marines-- 

VOICES: Essential industry. 
Essential industry. 
Essential industry. 
Essential industry. 
Essential industry. 

JOE: How do ya like them potatoes! I want to fight--I _can't_ fight! I'm 
tellin' ya! I got outta there and I'm ready to slug the first guy that looks 
at me! Essential industry! What kinda double talk's that? They want essential
--what's more essential than a guy who wants to get in there and fight! What's 
a war! Guy's fightin', so how about me? _How about me_? There ain't no answer. 
No. The big shots lay down the law and a guy like me, he's sunk. Now, wait a 
minnit, wait a minnit! If you're thinkin' "What's this guy blowin' off about? 
Is he tryin' to tell us what a great guy he is? A hero with red blood an' hair 
on his chest an' all that mallarky?" No, mister, no hero. This is just a story 
of me--a guy who wanted to fight, but no soap, essential to war industry--a 
master mechanic--gotta stick behind that lathe, watchin' the machinery go 
'round because Pa was a master mechanic and made a master mechanic outta me! 
So it's back behind the machine, Joe Dunham, and shut up and keep your nose 
clean! Ain't you heard--you're essential to the industry! The guys at the 
plant start givin' me the rib. 

VOICES: Hi, ya, General! 
What's cooking, Admiral? 
How goes it in the trenches? 
How many Japs did ya knock off today, Major? 

JOE: Yeah--the rib--but that's not botherin' me. Only one thing's botherin' 
me. Guys are on ships and guys are in tanks an' airplanes an' fox holes in the 
jungles fightin'--and me, I'm workin' from nine to five behind a lathe--yeah, 
nine to five. . . . I read about them guys at Pearl Harbor--I read about them 
guys with MacArthur--I read about men fightin' in China and alongside them 
Dutchmen and pretty soon I can't take it no more! I gotta get outta the 
factory! I don't want a lathe--I wanna tommy gun in my hand! I don't wanna 
caliper and micrometer in my hand--I wanna be sightin' along a rifle barrel--
yeah, at a Jap, pressin' a trigger! So everybody thinks I'm nuts. My girl- 

GIRL: (off) You're makin' more money than you ever did in your life. 

JOE: My friends-- 

VOICES: Come on whadda ya wanna stick your neck out for? You're nuts! That's 
what you are--you're nuts! Go on, make dough-- (Fade) have fun-- 

JOE: Yeah--everybody. So for weeks it's nine-- (Whistle sounds far, far back) 
to five. (Factory whistle far, far back) Nine-- (Factory whistle far, far 
back) Five (Factory whistle far, far back, continuing with a long beat in 
between each blast, far, far back, far behind) Every day--every morning--every 
night--nine to five--nine to five--sit by the lathe--stick the castings in--
out with the old one--in with the new one-nine to five--nine to five--over and 
over--safe as in a crib-- (Intensely) I couldn't take it! Not me! Nobody could 
keep me there! I made up my mind! Yesterday! My last nine to five! My last 
sittin' there safe as in a crib! Behind the machine! Yeah last nine to five. 
All day long the usual rib- 

VOICES: (back) Hi, Joe, where's the Army! 
Say, how goes it in the Halls of Montezuma? 
How many battleships did you get today, Leftenant? 
How's the ammunition holdin' out, Colonel? 

JOE: But yesterday it didn't make much difference. I had it figgered down to 
three one-hundred-thousandths! Shut off the lathe--punch that time-clock for 
the last time--take that lunch pail and walk--keep walkin' and ridin' straight 
an' far from any factory and any lathe--walkin' and ridin' to some spot where 
Joe Dunham, master mechanic, just wasn't anymore--and Joe Smith, private, got 
himself a gun! So yesterday at the factory, with the lathe turnin' (Fade in 
sound of lathes back behind) Five o'clock. (Sound of factory whistle far, far 
back) Turned off my lathe-- (Click of lathe dying down) For the last time! 

VOICES: So long, soldier Joe! 
See you tomorrow, Major! 
See you tomorrow, General! 

JOE: No--they wouldn't see me tomorrow. Not them or the factory or the lathe. 
I felt good thinkin' that. I felt good ridin' home--an' I felt good seein' 
_her_ for the last time--

GIRL: (fade in) Gee, Joe, I'm glad you stopped being a fool about it! Gosh, 
after all, you're sittin' on top of the world! Got everything you want, 
haven't you, Joe. (Giggles) Joe, don't . . . Joe . . . Joe . . . 
(Fade) Joe. . . . 

JOE: I got away from her early. O. K. Finish. Her--the factory. . . . Back to 
my room--pack my things--yeah--couldn't wait-- Get out quick that night. So I 
packed quick--then I saw that somethin' was missin'! Something-- (In 
discovery) Yeah, my pipe! Where had I left . . . ? Then I remembered--on the 
shelf next to my lathe in the factory! You know how a guy feels about his 
pipe-- O. K. Pack everything else--take a suitcase and on the way to the bus 
station stop off and pick up my pipe! Then--on my way (Slowly) I had it all 
figured out. . . . 

WATCHMAN: (back) What's the matter, Joe--forget somethin'? 

JOE: Yeah, I remember--Fogarty, the night watchman--did I forget somethin'. 
Yeah. . . . I went into the plant. (Sound of echoing footsteps continuing back 
behind) Quiet in the plant--kinda dark-- Two o'clock in the mornin'--seven 
more hours until the next shift came in--my shift. And I wouldn' be there. I 
felt swell. I yelled out (Yelling . . . echo chamber) _I won't be here_! 
(Sound of footsteps) I kep' walkin'. Cold in the machine shop--cold and dead--
that certain kinda' dead that machines have when they ain't runnin'. . . . 
Then-- (Door back) Door to the part of the shop where my machine was. . . . 
(Closing door) Went in. (Puzzled) Night light on. . . . But that hummin'--
machine runnin' . . . (Sharply) at _my_ machine! Yeah! What--who--a guy 
sittin'--at my lathe! Yeah--workin'! Two o'clock in the mornin' like I said--
and a guy workin' at _my_ machine! . . . (Down) I get kind of, how do they 
say, carried away like even when I talk about it. O. K. I'll tell ya about it 
straight from now on as if you--yeah, _you_--had been there with me. . . . 
(Echo back) Hey! Hey, you! 

SOUND: Sound of running--fading in--close sound of lathe in and back behind 

JOE: What are you doing there at my lathe? What's the big idea? . . . Hey, I'm 
talkin' to you. . . . Shut off that machine. . . . I'm talkin' to you! 

RUSSIAN WORKER: (in Russian) Go 'way--I'm busy! 

JOE: What did you say? Listen, guy, I'm talkin' to you! . . . What the devil 
are you doin' at my lathe this time of the night? Who let you in? 

RUSSIAN WORKER: (in Russian) I told you, go away! 

JOE: Eh? What kind of language is that? 

RUSSIAN WORKER: (in Russian) Go 'way! 

JOE: Now, listen here, you, talk plain American! Who said you could use my 
lathe? Yeah who said so? . . . O. K., guy, you're askin' for it. I'm gonna 
find Old Fogarty an' if you ain't here legitimate I'm gonna personally take 
you by the-- 

WATCHMAN: (fade in) Find what you was lookin' for, Joe? 

JOE: (in surprise) Huh--who-- 

WATCHMAN: (fade in full) What's the matter with you, Joe? 

JOE: Fogarty-- 

WATCHMAN: Yeah--sure--who you think's makin' the rounds tonight--a general or 
mebbe a admiral? 

JOE: Lissen, I was just comin' to get ya! 


JOE: Sure! This guy--where'd he get an O. K. to work this time o' night? 


JOE: _Listen_ to me, will ya? This guy--what's he doin' here? 


JOE: You dumb son of a gun! 

FOGARTY: Now jest a minnit-- 

JOE: I'm talkin' to you--listen to me! Who gave this guy the right to work my 
lathe this hour of the night? Go on tell me--who? 

FOGARTY: You nuts? 

JOE: Answer me will ya? Who is this guy? 

FOGARTY: You drunk? 

JOE: _Will ya answer me_? 

FOGARTY: You--you better go get some sleep, Joe. I got no time to stay in here 
talkin' foolishness to you. I gotta make my rounds-- (Fade) pull my 
boxes. . . .

SOUND: Lathe running. 

JOE: (slowly) O. K. . . . So you can have the machine, Mr. Polski or Ruska or 
Svenska or whatever kind of a foreigner ya are! Why should I care? (Fade) I'm 
gettin' out of here, anyway. 

WORKER: Yes, I know. . . . 

JOE: (fade back in) What did ya say? 

WORKER: Please--I must work--I cannot talk. 

JOE: Wait a minnit--I don't care what kind of rush order you're gettin' out--I 
wanna know about _this_! What do ya mean ya know about me? 

WORKER: You go--I know! 

JOE: But how do ya know? That's what _I_ wanna know!

WORKER: I cannot talk--I must work--I told you, comrade. 

JOE: (irritably) Don't comrade me! . . . Hey, what you workin' there? Why--
them's one of the castings I'm machinin' Listen, that's _my_ work! You ain't 
doin' anything new--you're just chis'lin' in on my work! 

WORKER: Yes--your work. All of us! 

JOE: All of us? What are ya talkin' about? 

WORKER: All of us. . . . (Fade) All of us. . . . 

SOUND: Fade out sound of lathe with above 

JOE: I'm goin' to ask you sittin' out there somethin'. Have you ever been 
scared? Naw, I don't mean the scare that comes to you when you ain't got 
enough money to pay the rent, or the automobile mebbe nearly goes off the 
road, or you're gonna lose your job, or somebody bigger 'n you starts to take 
a poke at you, or you read the headlines and you start thinkin' about your 
kids. Those are bad enough scares but I'll tell you somethin' worse--the scare 
that comes to ya in a place that you know real well--like your own room or 
your own basement or your own attic--or the place where you work--where 
everythin's the same and yet there's somethin'. . . . The guy at my lathe 
said, "Your work--all of us--all of us" an' the air was all of a sudden cold 
. . . and I didn' want to turn my head . . . I didn't want to . . . turn my 
head. . . . (Fade in sound of machines) Then I heard lathes--lots of them 
runnin'--all of them-- (Bring in sound of machinery behind) I turned my head. 
The machines all over the shop workin'! Runnin' in the dark--and then there 
was kind of a light and then I saw--yeah, it was all right! Guys workin'! 
Yeah--the new shift! That was it--later than I thought--the new shift! . . . 
(Voice flattens) But I didn't know any of these guys! Not one! Every lathe 
runnin' and me not knowin' one of 'em. What was this! Had they fired everybody 
and put in a lot of scabs? . . . I'll tell ya. 

SOUND: Fade in sound of lathe machines continuing behind 

JOE: Hey! You! Hey! Who are these guys? 

RUSSIAN WORKER: I told you--we must work! 

JOE: But you said they was workin' for me! Yeah! For me! What do ya mean for 


JOE: Huh? 

RUSSIAN WORKER: Go--ask _them_! 

JOE: O. K. . . . You! Yeah, I'm talkin' to you! That's Max Marran's machine. 
What you doin' workin' _his_ shift? 

POLE: (flatly) For you. . . . 

JOE: Huh? What did ya say? 

POLE: I work for you. 

JOE: What do ya mean for me? I never asked you to work for me! 

POLE: Please let me work. 

JOE: No! Ya gotta answer me! What do ya mean, you're workin' for me? 

POLE: I am Polish. 

JOE: So what? What's that got to do with workin' for me? 

SOUND: Fade sound of machinery 

JOE: He didn' answer me. Bent back to the machine and kept on workin'. Didn' 
answer me. All right--so I went to the next machine, where Mike Rogan always 
used to work. 

SOUND: Fade in sound of machine again 

JOE: You! You tell me! Who gave you this job? What is this, a new shift? 

CZECH: I'm working for you. 

JOE: Hey, wait a minnit! You too? Who ever asked you to work for me? 

CZECH: I'm Czech. 

JOE: So you're a Pole, so you're a Czech, so I'm nuts! What gives here? Hey, 
you! _You_ over there! You got some sense! _You_ tell me! 

VOICE: I am Serb. 

JOE: What is this? You guys talk like the--the League of Nations! What's what 
you are got to do with me? 

POLE: We cannot work when you talk. 

JOE: So I'll keep on talkin'! Who cares if ya work? 

SOUND: Machinery cuts dead 

JOE: The minute I said that--the machines stopped. Yeah--everyone of the 
fifteen or twenty guys reached over and pulled the switches on the lathes and 
turned around slow and sat there lookin' at me. An' it was kinda dark and all 
their faces and all their eyes. . . . And then the first one started talkin', 
and he said: 

RUSSIAN: (fades in) You asked us why we have to work. Yes--we will tell you. 
Each of his own crime (Fades), each in his own way. . . . 

JOE: Crime? What--? And then the one who said he was Polish got up from the 
lathe, stood there, and started to talk. . . . 

Music: Behind 

POLE (fades in): My name is Joseph Rozanski. I lived in the largest city in my 
country, Warsaw, I had an education much above my station in life because my 
father was a very scholarly man and he taught me many things. I became an 
apprentice to a machinist, and soon I was working in a factory and making a 
good living. I met a girl--I loved her--we got married--we had three children. 
Life to me was good. I had my work--my family--and that was enough. Trouble in 
the world? I did not care. I had what I wanted. I was working in the factory 
when the bombers of the Germans came. Just before the first bomb hit, I 
remember I was thinking, "Tomorrow I will take the family to the country for 
fishing." My family is in the country now. The Germans were very careful on 
their first bombings. Poland was first--it was important to show the rest of 
the world what the bombers could do. My family is in the country--under the 
ground. Trouble in the world? I did not care. I had what I wanted. That was my 

Music: Out. 

JOE: He sat down and his eyes stayed on me. And then the one who called 
himself a Czech got up. 

Music: Behind 

CZECH: (fades in) My name is Anton Warshak. I lived in Praha. Praha was very 
beautiful. I worked for Skoda. It is one of the great factories of the world 
for munitions. Small guns and great artillery and shells and bombs and naval 
artillery and anti-aircraft guns--the finest in the world. When Munich came, I 
said, "What does it matter--as long as I can sit at my machine and can work, 
what does it matter?" Then the Germans went into Sudetenland and I said to the 
other workers, "You see--that is all they wanted! What was Germany for the 
Germans. . . ." I was a great fool. Soon they were in Praha. Soon we at the 
machines were slaves and they were the masters. Czechs are not good slaves. 
But I said to the others, "Let us stay at the machines and work--good work." 
But they said, "No--the Germans will use the machines against our friends." I 
said, "Czechoslovakia has no friends!" While the others worked slowly and 
badly and did many acts of sabotage, I kept on working as always. I made the 
machines that are killing those who _are_ the friends of my Czechoslovakia. 
That is my crime. . . . 

Music: Out 

JOE: And he sat down and another stood up and spoke- 

Music: Behind 

FRENCHMAN: (fade in) My name is Paul Renée. I lived in Pordais, which is a 
factory town fifty kilometers from Bordeaux. You see my hands--ever since 
there have been machines there has been a Renée whose hands have known how to 
do wonders with iron and brass and steel. I owned a small factory and of all 
the workers I was the best. I made little things--most unimportant--and most 
profitable. Life was very good and very secure. I laughed when I heard that 
the foolish _Allemands_ were marching again. The Maginot Line of 
fortifications had the Nazi madmen forgotten the Maginot Line? Yes, between 
them and my factory was always the great Maginot Line! That was my strength 
(Voice flattens) But there was no strength in _me_--only in the thought that 
there was concrete and steel to protect me! So I went on making profitable 
things with my machines--amusing--beautiful--profitable things. . . . The 
Maginot Line . . . I forgot that in this war there was no protection in 
defense . . . there was only the protection of the will to win. I forgot that. 
It was my crime. 

Music: Out 

JOE: He sat down and what was in his face was in _all_ their faces pain--yeah, 
pain--like they were hurt--pain like as if they couldn't stand it any more! 
And then the Russian was on his feet, and this is what he said. 

Music: Behind 

RUSSIAN (fade in): I--yes . . . I will speak. I lived in a Union of Workers. 
For many years my people had starved and had struggled for a dream that each 
passing year brought closer to reality. A union of men no one of whom had too 
much . . . no one of whom had too little. . . . To make this come true we put 
our lives into the machines that turned our soil and drilled into it . . . 
into the machines that would change our nation in one man's lifetime from a 
place of great stupidity and great unequality into a worker's paradise. But, 
most of all, the machines worked to make the other machines of war, for there 
was an enemy of all workers crouching beyond our borders, an enemy we knew 
would reach out a hand of friendship and strike with the other. Yes, the 
machines of war, and always our leaders told us that the skill of one worker 
at his machine gives strength to a hundred soldiers! For bravery in this new 
war, they told us, would not be enough when the enemy has more airplanes in 
the sky than you have, when his guns outshoot yours, when his tanks go faster 
than yours, then brave flesh alone and the strength that is within a free man 
is not enough, for the bombers do not think of freedom and the tanks do not 
think of freedom, and it is the bombers and the tanks and the guns that win 
the war. This our leaders told us and then the war did come, and at first I 
was very brave as I sat at my machine and sang the songs of the workers. But 
the enemy came closer and closer--and his Stuka bombers were in the sky, and 
his Panzer divisions closer and closer--and I began to have great fear. They 
were strong, the enemy. No one had stopped them. _Could_ they be stopped? 
. . . And then the sound of their guns was in the air--but our leaders told us 
to keep working! Our soldiers would turn them back! The machine _must_ keep 
working! But my hand on the machine was like water! Our soliders stop them? 
No! No one could stop them! I left my machine! I left the factory! I ran! We 
were lost! All of us lost! . . . I left the machine . . . in a Union of the 
Workers. . . . My crime was the greatest of all. 

Music: Out with above 

JOE: And when he stopped talking, he just stood there--they all just stood 
there looking at me. I said: 

JOE (back--slight echo): Why do you stand there looking at me? All of you! Why 
do you tell me these things? 

SOUND: Eerie effect behind 

CZECH: We heard you were going away. 

FRENCHMAN: It would have been a great loss. 

POLE: So we came to do your work. 

RUSSIAN: Once _we_ were workers. 

SOUND: Effect out 

JOE: The Russian said that--he stood where he was, but suddenly his words were 
all around me. 

SOUND: Effect behind 

RUSSIAN (in very close): Once _we_ were workers. 

SOUND: Effect out 

JOE: Were . . . workers? _Were_? And then, as if they knew what I was thinking 
they began to speak. 

SOUND: Effect behind 

VOICES (in unison): Dead. 

SOUND: Sharp intake of breath by Joe 

CZECH (with great simplicity): Do not be afraid, America. We were workmen. 

POLE: I died at my machine. 

FRENCHMAN: I died in my factory. 

CZECH: They stood me against a factory wall and shot me.

VOICES (in unison): Dead. . . . 

JOE (with great difficulty): You--dead--come to help me? 

RUSSIAN: Come, comrades! To work! 

VOICES (echo): To work. 

SOUND: Click of various switches and whine of various machines starting--
fading back slowly behind 

JOE: And the machines began to work again--and they sat behind the machines--
the dead! You hear me--the dead! Sitting at the machines and working with 
their dead hands for me--Joe Dunham--for _me_! The dead showing me what to do! 
I couldn't look at them! I fell to my knees to the floor! And through the 
floor I could feel the machines running--the machines!--for _me_! (Bring up 
sound of machines as transition--cut cold on cue with factory whistle. Joe 
says calmly:) Then the factory whistle blew time for the new shift, and I woke 
up, and I pulled myself up off of the floor and there was nobody there. Nobody 
. . . only, next to my machine, there was a big pile of finished work--of 
machined castings--that never was there before. And I went over and touched 
them--and they were real--as real as the words I'd heard. . . . When I started 
telling you all this, you remember I told you if you were a wise guy not to 
listen any more. I was a wise guy, too, but last night dead men did my work 
for me. That's all I know. Dead men did my work for me. And one of them said 
that one worker at his machine gives strength to a hundred soldiers. And 
another one said that just being brave in this war is not enough. You got to 
have guns and ships and tanks. O. K. O. K. Now if you don't mind go away. I 
got my work to do. 

SOUND: Click of switch whine of machine starting--hold as transition--segue 
into musical curtain. 

Music: Musical curtain 

Originally broadcast: 22 February 1942