The Hitch-Hiker (radio play)

The Hitch-Hiker is a radio play written by Lucille Fletcher. It was first presented on the November 17, 1941, broadcast of The Orson Welles Show on CBS Radio, featuring a score written and conducted by Bernard Herrmann, Fletcher's first husband. Welles performed The Hitch-Hiker four times on radio, and the play was adapted for a notable 1960 episode of the television series The Twilight Zone.

The Hitch-Hiker
Hitch-Hiker Sorry,-Wrong-Number FC.jpg
ISBN 978-0-8222-1059-7
Written byLucille Fletcher
Date premieredNovember 17, 1941
Place premieredCBS Radio
Original languageEnglish
SeriesThe Orson Welles Show
Ghost story


Ronald Adams is a young man embarking on a cross-country drive from New York to California. Soon after leaving his mother's home in Brooklyn, he sees a hitch-hiker standing in the rain on the Brooklyn Bridge apparently trying to get a lift. The man steps onto the roadway and Adams has to swerve to avoid him, but the incident slips his mind until about an hour later, when Adams is startled to see the same man standing along the Pulaski Skyway. He sees the same hitch-hiker several more times over the ensuing days, and though the man looks ordinary and non-threatening, Adams cannot understand how he keeps getting ahead along his route and is increasingly alarmed by his repeated appearances.

After several more sightings (including an unnerving incident at a railroad crossing), Adams becomes terrified of the hitch-hiker. He only stops to refuel in a futile attempt to outrun the man, and by the time Adams reaches Oklahoma, he's exhausted and desperate for someone to talk to. Adams picks up a different hitch-hiker, a young woman who needs a lift to Amarillo, Texas. They make light conversation until Adams sees the mysterious man again and almost crashes into a barbed-wire fence in an attempt to ram him with his car. Adams admits to his startled passenger that he'd tried to run someone over, but the woman hadn't seen anyone. She calls him crazy, jumps out of the car and is soon picked up by a passing truck. Adams is shaken and decides to take a nap before continuing on his journey. However, he soon hears a call of "hello!" and sees the hitch-hiker approaching from a nearby field, prompting Adams to start his car and speed away.

Finally, Adams feels that he is going mad due to fear and lack of sleep. He finds a payphone at a deserted gas station in the New Mexico desert and calls his mother in Brooklyn, feeling that he can pull himself together if he hears a familiar voice. The long-distance operator puts his call through, but Adams is confused when the telephone is answered by a woman whose voice he does not recognize. She states that Mrs. Adams is in the hospital due to a nervous breakdown brought on by the sudden death of her oldest son, Ronald. Stunned, Adams demands an explanation and is told that Mrs. Adams' son died in an auto accident on the Brooklyn Bridge six days ago. Adams is too shocked to reply or insert more coins to continue the conversation and the call drops.

The radio play ends with Adams expressing his determination to find the hitch-hiker again: "Somewhere I will know who he is – and who I am."


Written for Orson Welles, The Hitch-Hiker was first heard November 17, 1941, on The Orson Welles Show

Immediately after their marriage in October 1939, Lucille Fletcher and Bernard Herrmann left New York for Hollywood, where Herrmann was to begin work on the score of Orson Welles's first feature film, Citizen Kane. They traveled cross-country several times by air and by train; but their most memorable trip was made in 1940, with Herrmann driving their Packard convertible. Fletcher saw "an odd-looking man, first on the Brooklyn Bridge and then on the Pulaski Skyway. We never saw him again. However, I didn't quite know what to do with the idea until a year later, when … I conceived the idea of doing it as a ghost story."[1]

"The Hitch-Hiker was written for Orson Welles in the days when he was one of the master producers and actors in radio," Fletcher wrote in her preface to the published version of the radio play, which adapts it for the stage. "It was designed to provide a vehicle not only for his famous voice but for the original techniques of sound which became associated with his radio presentations. … Orson Welles and his group of Mercury Players made of this script a haunting study of the supernatural, which can still raise hackles along my own spine."[2]

The music for The Hitch-Hiker – called "one of Herrmann's most chilling scores" by biographer Steven C. Smith[3] – was used in all four radio presentations. It was also re-recorded as stock music that can be heard (usually uncredited) on the soundtracks of several CBS television series, including the 1960 Twilight Zone adaptation of The Hitch-Hiker.[4] Herrmann's score (CBS Music Library VIII 56-D-1) is in the UCLA Music Library Special Collections.[5]

"We really shared that story together," Fletcher said in a 1988 interview about Bernard Herrmann. "He was very interested in that story so he had to write the music for it."[6]


The Hitch-Hiker was first performed by Orson Welles on the November 17, 1941, broadcast of The Orson Welles Show on CBS Radio.[7] Welles also performed the radio play on Suspense (September 2, 1942), The Philip Morris Playhouse (October 16, 1942),[8] and The Mercury Summer Theatre of the Air (June 21, 1946).[9]


The Twilight ZoneEdit

Inger Stevens and Leonard Strong in a scene from The Twilight Zone episode, "The Hitch Hiker" (1960)

Rod Serling adapted The Hitch-Hiker for the first season of his television anthology series The Twilight Zone for an episode originally broadcast on January 22, 1960. Serling's version mostly kept to the radio show plot with a few exceptions, most notably changing the driver to a young woman named Nan Adams (portrayed by Inger Stevens) and moving the fatal accident at the beginning of the story from the Brooklyn Bridge to a dusty road in rural Pennsylvania.[10][11] When the teleplay was adapted for radio on The Twilight Zone Radio Dramas in 2002, the role of Nan Adams was played by Kate Jackson.[citation needed]

Other adaptionsEdit

In 2004, Mind City Productions adapted the Mercury Theater version of the radio play into an animated short film, adding animation directed by Michael Anthony Jackson to the original recording of the Mercury radio production. This was intended to be the first in a series of animated adaptations of Mercury radio productions, although to date, this remains the only entry in the series.[12]

In 2011, a short film adaptation of "Hitchhiker" was produced and directed by Lawrence Anthony.[13]

In 2020, a fragment of Welles’ radio broadcast was sampled by Hip-Hop and R&B artist Logic to be part of the first track of his studio album, No Pressure.


  1. ^ Smith, Steven C., A Heart at Fire's Center: The Life and Music of Bernard Herrmann. Berkeley and Los Angeles, California: University of California Press, 1991, hardcover; 2002, paperback ISBN 978-0-520-22939-6 p. 72
  2. ^ Fletcher, Lucille, Sorry, Wrong Number and The Hitch-Hiker. New York: Dramatists Play Service, Inc., 1952 (revised), 1980 (renewed), ISBN 978-0-8222-1059-7 pp. 23, 25
  3. ^ Smith, Steven C., A Heart at Fire's Center: The Life and Music of Bernard Herrmann. Berkeley and Los Angeles, California: University of California Press, 2002, paperback ISBN 978-0-520-22939-6 p. 72
  4. ^ Film Score Rundowns, "The Hitch-Hiker (Bernard Herrmann)"; retrieved July 1, 2012
  5. ^ Wrobel, Bill, Film Score Rundowns, "CBS Collection 072 UCLA," Blog 42, June 25, 2010. Herrmann's score for The Hitch-Hiker is in Box 11 (p. 23).
  6. ^ Interview, Lucille Fletcher on The Hitch-Hiker. Bernard Herrmann: A Celebration of his Life and Music (1988), a radio documentary by Bruce Crawford and Bob Coate, KIOS-FM, part one; retrieved July 1, 2012
  7. ^ Welles, Orson, and Peter Bogdanovich, This is Orson Welles. New York: HarperCollins Publishers 1992 ISBN 0-06-016616-9 Chronology of Welles's career by editor Jonathan Rosenbaum, p. 367
  8. ^ The Definitive Philip Morris Playhouse Radio Log, retrieved January 21, 2012
  9. ^ Welles, Orson, and Peter Bogdanovich, This is Orson Welles, chronology of Welles's career by Jonathan Rosenbaum, pp. 372, 373
  10. ^ DeVoe, Bill. (2008). Trivia from The Twilight Zone. Albany, GA: Bear Manor Media. ISBN 978-1-59393-136-0
  11. ^ Grams, Martin. (2008). The Twilight Zone: Unlocking the Door to a Television Classic. Churchville, MD: OTR Publishing. ISBN 978-0-9703310-9-0
  12. ^ Jackson, Michael Anthony. (2004). The Hitchhiker. Mind City Productions.
  13. ^ "Twilight Zone: Hitchhiker". "iMaiden Channel".

External linksEdit