The Mysterious Traveler
The Strange Dr. Weird
The Sealed Book
Murder By Experts
The Radio Programs of
and David Kogan
Robert Arthur at the time he worked in radio.
Photo courtesy of Elizabeth Arthur.
DARK DESTINY - Most notable for being Arthur's and Kogan's first radio program. They wrote, directed and produced the 27 episodes which aired from 8/26/42 - 3/11/43. This half-hour weekly program featured stories of the supernatural and a good number of the stories were later used on their The Mysterious Traveler program.
THE MYSTERIOUS TRAVELER - Created and written by Arthur and Kogan, this is the radio program for which they are most well-known and it garnered them the prestigious Edgar Award for Best Radio Drama in 1949, 1951 and 1953. This popular half-hour, weekly program consisted of 370 episodes (only about 70 survive today) which aired between 12/5/43 and 9/2/52.
Each week the program opened with the screeching whistle of an approaching late-night passenger train and the listener was invited to ride in the company of a mysterious stranger who always had a dark, macabre story to share. Maurice Tarplin played the title role of the menacing yet good-natured Mysterious Traveler:
"This is The Mysterious Traveler, inviting you to join me on another journey into the strange and terrifying. I hope you will enjoy the trip, that it will thrill you a little and chill you a little. So settle back, get a good grip on your nerves, and be comfortable -- if you can!"
According to The Encyclopedia of American Radio by Ron Lackmann, the show was directed by Jock MacGregor, the music was conducted by Emerson Bentley and James "Jimmy" Wallington was the announcer for the majority of the episodes. The photo at right shows one of the many casts at work on the program with an unidentified technician at the far left. From left to right, the cast members are: Bill Zuckert, Lon Clark, Roger DeKoven, Ed Begley, Maurice Tarplin (the voice of The Mysterious Traveler), Jimmy Wallington and Jackson Beck.
In his introduction to Radio Spirits' Old Time Radio Mysteries collection, David Kogan says this of his partnership with Robert Arthur: "...in some four hundred and fifty scripts we wrote, Bob and I roamed widely in every realm of drama: Horror, Fantasy, Supernatural, Science Fiction, Suspense. As collaborators, we spent one day a week bouncing ideas off each other in our pursuit of a theme and a plot for a script. I would be seated at a desk with writing pad and paper, while Bob would be stretched out on a couch. When we arrived at a complete story outline, one or the other would write the dialogue for the script. I served as director of The Mysterious Traveler, Bob as producer. The freedom we were given as to script themes was almost unique in the field of radio." Click on this link to read a transcript of The Mysterious Traveler episode #250 "Operation Tomorrow".
Robert Arthur and his long-time partner in radio, David Kogan, met while taking a class in radio writing at Columbia University in 1940. Together they worked from 1942 until 1953 as producers/directors/writers for The Mutual Broadcasting System in New York City on a number of radio programs. Both men also freelanced independently for other radio shows like The Shadow, Suspense, Nick Carter, and many others. The focus here is on the radio programs in which they had an ownership - particularly The Mysterious Traveler which was one of the most successful and popular programs in the history of radio.
David P. Kogan - photo from "Radio Spirits" 1999.
Cast photo from "The Encyclopedia of American Radio".
The Mysterious Traveler radio program was so popular that a comic book was inevitable. In 1948 Vol.1, Number 1 of Mysterious Traveler Comics, published by Trans-World Publications, with nifty cover and interior art by Powell made it's debut. Except for Edgar Allan Poe's The Tell Tale Heart, the other stories are uncredited but written as told by The Mysterious Traveler himself. They include Five Miles Down (a story which aired as an episode on MT and which has a theme common to several stories known to be penned by Robert Arthur), Raw Deal, The Mystery of the Five Fingers and a short, fun, factual piece entitled Take a Trip to India with the Mysterious Traveler. There are several references to The Mutual Broadcasting Network and ads for The Mysterious Traveler program throughout the comic.
Unfortunately, only this one issue of the comic book was published and it is unknown whether Arthur and Kogan had any personal involvement in this venture. A later series of comic books with the same name and similar themes was published by Charlton Comics in the 1950's and 60's but it had no direct connection to the radio program.
Collection of Seth T. Smolinske.
In 1951, Arthur and Kogan began publishing their own digest-sized pulp magazine entitled The Mysterious Traveler Magazine. Click on the link for in-depth information on these fascinating issues which contain many of Robert Arthur's short stories - several of which were aired on the radio program! The magazine had five issues which ended at about the same time that the radio program aired its last episode in 1952.
An ad for the radio program from the rear cover of one issue of The Mysterious Traveler Magazine.
Many of these twisted, grisly 15 minute episodes are condensed versions of stories written for The Mysterious Traveler. Mad organ work, great sound effects and the brisk pace of the stories make these much fun to listen to. Unlike Arthur's and Kogan's other radio programs, this one had a regular sponsor in Adam Hats, makers of fine headwear for men. Strangely enough, Three Investigators artist Harry Kane created some advertising artwork for this hat company in the 1950's and 1960's.
THE SEALED BOOK - 26 episodes aired between 3/18/45 and 9/9/45. Most, if not all, of the 30 minute episodes of this program were previously aired on The Mysterious Traveler with different casts. Philip Clarke played the croaking, cackling, old "keeper of the book." Each week, in rather lengthy introductions, he would open "the ponderous door to the secret vault which holds the great sealed book in which is recorded all the secrets and mysteries of mankind through the ages. Here are tales of every kind, tales of murder, of madness, of dark deeds strange and terrible beyond all belief." Unfortunately, there is an overabundance of long, slow, annoying organ breaks in each episode. Perhaps in this era of live broadcasts, this is where local radio stations ran commercials.
MURDER BY EXPERTS - This program was something a little different for Arthur and Kogan. Instead of writing each episode themselves, they acted as producer/director/adaptors and featured stories from some of the best mystery and crime writers of the day. 130 episodes aired between 6/13/49 and 12/17/51 but because so few episodes survive today there is some conflicting information about the program. Most of the episodes were hosted by well-known writers John Dickson Carr and Brett Halliday but apparently even Alfred Hitchcock either hosted or was a guest on some of the very last episodes. Murder By Experts is considered to be one of the finest radio programs because of the high-quality writing it featured week after week. The program won an Edgar for Best Radio Drama in 1950. At the end of Episode #46 Conspiracy, which aired on 4/24/50, one can listen to David Kogan accepting the award live and addressing the radio audience. Of course, this leads one to wonder if Robert Arthur ever addressed the radio audience when The Mysterious Traveler took home the Edgar in 1949, 1951 and 1953 - if so, it is on one of the many lost episodes of that program.
Now, are you ready to listen to a few of the episodes from these radio programs? Most episodes of "The Mysterious Traveler" are available to listen to for free on the Internet. Just do a Google search!
For complete radio log listings of each of the programs above, please visit Jerry Haendiges' Vintage Radio Logs.
Special thanks to Mike Thomas for his enthusiasm and interest in the OTR of Robert Arthur.
THE STRANGE DR. WEIRD - Most Old Time Radio sites credit Robert Arthur as the only writer for this radio program which consists of 28 episodes that aired between 11/7/44 and 5/15/45. The program utilized the regular cast of The Mysterious Traveler with Maurice Tarplin giving voice to the creepy Dr. Weird:
"Good evening. Come in, won't you? Why, what's the matter? You seem a bit nervous. Perhaps the cemetery outside this house has upset you. But there are things far worse than cemeteries. For instance . . ."