Doubly Strange and Terrifying
Jan. 15, 2024
Season 12, Episode 01
Re-Imagined Radio shares two episodes of The Mysterious Traveler, "The Man the Insects Hated" and "Behind the Locked Door." Double action and suspense. A double feature. Doubly strange and terrifying. Double the fun.
We've combined two or more radio stories in one episode before. "Sorry, Wrong Number" and "The Hitchhiker," for example. Or "Fall of the City" and "R.U.R." "Fall of the City" and "Great Day for a War." Or "Hiro and Liling" and "The Martian Death March." "The Abdominable Snowman" and "Bloody Hands." "Nirvana & Gehenna" with its parallel worlds. "Coast to Coast," "Sound Stories," and "Destination Freedom."
But we've not combined two episodes from the same series before. It's a unique way of approaching radio storytelling, the double dose. So now we double down. Risk double indemnity. With our first double feature.
To prepare, we asked listeners, contributors, and beta-testers what they thought. "Double or nothing," they replied. "Double fun. Double speed ahead," they said. "Double or nothing."
Richard Holeton, a writer of some reputation, author of the pioneering hypertext novel, Figurski at Findhorn on Acid, to which we presented a radio adaptation by the same name, was delighted with the idea. "I like your idea. Doubles of course are a longstanding literary theme and trope. I think of Dopelgangers, Vladimir Nabokov’s The Real Life of Sebstian Knight (doubles abound through Nabokov’s novels, including Lolita), Raymond Federman’s cult postmodern novel Double or Nothing (a title you could borrow?), the double mechanical pigs in Figurski . . . etc. Naturally I'd be enthusiastic for a Double Holeton!"
Well, you get the idea. We're enthusiastic. This is our first double feature. Thanks for listening. Twice.
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READ the "Mysterious Traveler Double Feature" transcript.
A textual description of what is heard in this episode, and a visual representation of its production process.
Written, Produced, and Hosted by John F. Barber
Sound Design, Music, and Post Production by Marc Rose
Graphic Design by Holly Slocum
The Mysterious Traveler
Mutual Broadcasting System, from WOR, New York
December 5, 1943 to September 16, 1952
Anthology radio series
370 episodes produced, potentially 80 survive
The Mysterious Traveler was an eclectic anthology radio series. Broadcast on the Mutual Broadcasting System from its flagship station, WOR, in New York, the series featured stories from a wide range of genres. Fantasy, science fiction, crime, stories of mystery and suspense, and horror.
The series, throughout its nine-year broadcast run, was "sustaining," meaning there was no sponsor. Mutual paid the production expenses, and used The Mysterious Traveler to fulfill its obligations to provide programming content to affiliate network stations. Writer, producer, director David Kogan said the mystery genre was popular for sustaining programs because "they didn't require high-priced comedy or musical talent" (Tollin 1998 20).
In April 1952, the Mystery Writers of America awarded The Mysterious Traveler the Edgar Allan Poe Award for "Best Mystery Radio Show" (Hand 143). Ironically, later that same year, in September, the radio series was abruptly cancelled for alleged Communist connections.
Robert A. Arthur, Jr., writer
David P. Kogan, writer, producer, director
Jack Amrhein, Jim Goode, Ron Harper, Walt McDonough and Al Schaffer, sound effects
The Mysterious Traveler never used "stars," preferring instead unsung radio professional musicians, announcers, and actors like Jackson Beck, Lon Clark, Roger DeKoven, Elspeth Eric, Wendell Holmes, Bill Johnstone, Joseph Julian, Jan Miner, Santos Ortega, Bryna Raeburn, Frank Readick, Luis van Rooten, Ann Shepherd, Lawson Zerbe, and Bill Zuckert.
"The Man the Hated Insects"
October 7, 1944, Episode #43, Not Available; July 27, 1947, Episode #114
A scientist, John Hanson, working in the Louisiana swamps, is obsessed with the insects. He thinks they are trying to kill him. He invents the perfect insect killer, "Formula 397." The insects attack, and take away everything the poison-maker loves.
Eric Dressler as Professor John Hanson
Helen Shields as Mary Hanson
Robert Dryden as Martin Andrews
Original Organ Music by Gene Terazzo
Written, produced, and directed by Robert A. Arthur and David P. Kogan
Announcer Carl Caruso
"Behind the Locked Door"
May 24, 1949, Episode #205; November 6, 1951, Episode #329
November 6, 1951 (Revised, and now a masterpiece of horror)
Professor Stephens and his assitant, Martin, mount an archaeological expedition near Arizona's Vermillion Cliffs. There, they find a cave that may contain Aztec treasures. Instead, the cave provides a bizarre history and a deadly legacy. Parallels to H.G. Wells' The Time Machine and an unexpected twist ending add to the appeal of this masterpiece of horror.
Ann Shepherd as Kathy Evans
Lyle Sudrow as Martin
Robert Donnelly as Professor Stephens
Other Exemplary Episodes
June 22, 1948, Episode #159
Professor Dana Freidberg and Keith Roberts, a writer engaged to write Friedberg's biography, explore a meteor crash site in Montana, suspecting that it may really have been made by a spacecraft landing. They find evidence, but before they can report to Washington they are waylaid at a farm compound where they learn of a Martian invasion already in progress! The odds are stacked against humanity, but there is a chance the young biographer may escape to warn the military about the invasion, happening the same day as the broadcast!
Starring Lawson Zerbe, Cameron Prudhome, and Bill Smith
Written, produced, and directed by Robert A. Arthur and David P. Kogan
Music by Paul Talpin
Sounds by George Cooney
Announcer, Carl Caruso
Each episode of The Mysterious Traveler begins with sound effects of an approaching railroad train. Then the sardonic Mysterious Traveler welcomes listeners . . .
This is a Mysterious Traveler, inviting you to join me on another journey into the strange and the 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.
The Mysterious Traveler, the narrator, was Maurice Tarplin (1911-1975), novelist and radio actor. Tarplin was a familiar radio voice as Dr. Weird on The Strange Dr. Weird and Inspector Faraday on Boston Blackie. He was heard on numerous other shows, including Valiant Lady, The Shadow, Theater Five, The March of Time (as Winston Churchill), Gangbusters and various soap operas. He played Los Angeles District Attorney Richard Hanley on The Guiding Light, Barnie Belzer on Myrt and Marge, and he was heard in several episodes of Tom Corbett, Space Cadet.
Beyond his role as narrator, Tarplin appeared in two episodes of The Mysterious Traveler. The first was "The Good Die Young" (February 27, 1944, Episode #13). In this episode a beautiful and clever child, Saundra, rebels against her new stepmother. Saundra pretends to be a sweet innocent cherub in front of her dad, but behind his back contrives ways to get the stepmother out of the house, including attempted murder. In the end . . . there will be blood! Tarplin plays a general practitioner named Doctor Smith. He appears twice in the episode. Here we sample his second, and his contribution to the narrative arc of the story.
Tarplin's second appearance was in "The Accusing Corpse" (April 16, 1944, Episode #20; Repeated January 13, 1949, Episode #186, not available). This episodes follows Roger and Vivien, a brother and sister who trick Vivien's husband, Philip, into believing he killed his wife in a fit of rage. Then the blackmail begins. When Philip pieces together the situation, he demands to be shown the corpse. So Riger shows him the body buried in the woods! Tarplin plays Dr. Smith, the County Coroner. He appears twice. Here we sample his second appearance where he unravels the crime.
Written by Robert A. Arthur, Jr. and David Kogan
Directed by Jacque MacGregor
Original music by Doc Webel
Maurice Tarplin as Dr. Smith
Don Randolph as Roger Martenson
with Philip Clark
Throughout the nine-year run of The Mysterious Traveler, episodes were written by Robert A. Arthur, Jr. (1909-1969) and David P. Kogan (1916-2009), who also produced and directed. Kogan and Arthur met in 1940, as students in Erik Barnouw's radio writing class at Columbia University, New York (Arthur; Hand 131-132). Hand says Kogan, 24, persuaded Arthur, 31, to collaborate on radio drama.
And collaborate they did, for the next decade, following this system described by Kogan. "We developed the plots together and then one of the other of us would go off and write it. Bob Arthur didn't really care for directing so he usually left that for me" (Tollin 2001 35). Each partner was interested in particular story genres. Again, Kogan, "I've always loved science fiction so I tended to write the scripts in that genre. . . . Bob Arthur was a former Weird Tales pulp writer so he generally handled the horror scripts" (Tollin 2001 20).
Together, they wrote and produced Dark Destiny (1942-1943). Some early episodes were reused for The Mysterious Traveler which they began in December 1943. Episodes were recycled for The Strange Dr. Weird (1944-1945). Arthur and Kogan also wrote the 1944 summer episodes of Nick Carter, Master Detective (1943-1955), for which Kogan had previously written. They wrote and produced The Sealed Book (1945), Adventure Into Fear (1945), The Teller of Tales (1950), and Mystery Time (1952). And, from 1949-1951 they wrote and produced Murder by Experts, a series that featured well-known mystery writers as hosts (Hand 132; Ellett 117-118).
Arthur and Kogan were nominated twice (1949 and 1951) and awarded twice The Edgar Allen Poe Awards (1950, "Best Radio Drama" for Murder by Experts, and 1953, "Best Radio Drama" for The Mysterious Traveler) by the Mystery Writers of America organization (Mystery Writers of America).
Their collaboration ended in 1953 with the abrupt cancellation of The Mysterious Traveler. According to Arthur's daughter, Elizabeth, both her father, Robert Arthur, and Donald Kogan were members of the Radio Writer's Guild (Arthur), an organization suspected of sympathizing with the Communist Party by Senator Joseph McCarthy and the House Committee for Un-American Activities. In 1952, an anticommunist faction of The Guild published a blacklist detailing Communinist activites of their colleagues (Blue 360). Arthur and Kogan were named. Both the Mutual Broadcasting System and radio station WOR were pressured by advertisers and affiliates to drop The Mysterious Traveler series, which it did in September 1953 (Arthur).
No direct involvement was ever proved of Arthur and Kogan, and they eventually cleared their names. But, their careers as radio writers were effectively ended. Arthur never wrote for radio again and ended his career ghost editing many Alfred Hitchcock anthologies for both adults and children, as well as creating the very popular The Three Investigators series of detective novels for children. Kogan, with an equally impressive radio career, scriptwriting for Bulldog Drummond, and then working for The Shadow and The Adventures of the Thin Man, became a portfolio manager and wrote articles for financial publications (Hand 144).
NOTE: Richard J. Hand, writing in Terror on the Air: Horror Radio in America, 1931-1952 notes publication by American Business Consultants of Red Channels: The Report of Communist Influence in Radio and Television, June 22, 1950, in the right-wing journal Counterattack: The Newsletter of Facts to Combat Communism, which accused 151 radio and television writers, actors, musicians, broadcast journalists, and others as involved in the manipulation of the entertainment industry by the Communist Party. Neither Arthur nor Kogan were included in this report. The full text is availble here.
Jerry Haendiges Vintage Radio Logs: The Mysterious Traveler
Old-Time Radio Researchers
OTR Plot Spot: Mysterious Traveler
The Mysterious Traveler at the Internet Archive website offers 77 episodes
The Radio Programs of Robert Arthur and David Kogan
Arthur, Elizabeth. Biography, Robert Arthur, Jr. http://www.elizabetharthur.org/bio/rarthur.html
Blue, Howard. Words at War: World War II Era Radio Drama and Postwar Broadcasting Blacklist. Scarecrow Press, 2002.
Blue's source for this information is Caute, David. The Great Fear: The Anti-Communist Purge under Truman and Eisenhower. Simon & Schuster, 1978, p. 529.
Ellett, Ryan. Radio Drama and Comedy Writers. McFarland, 2017.
Hand, Richard J. Terror on the Air: Horror Radio in America, 1931-1952. McFarland, 2006.
Tollin, Anthony. Old Time Radio Thrilling Mysteries: The Smithsonian Collection. Radio Spirits, 2001.
Tollin, Anthony. Old-Time Radio Greatest Mysteries. Radio Spirits, 1998.
Mystery Writers of America. https://edgarawards.com/all-winners/
Special thanks to Maureen Keller, Syliva Lindman, and Brenda Alling for promoting this episode of Re-Imagined Radio.
READ their Press Release
The Mysterious Traveler Double Feature web poster by Holly Slocum (240 x 356)
The Mysterious Traveler Double Feature cover graphic by Holly Slocum (820 x 360)
The Mysterious Traveler Double Feature landscape poster by Holly Slocum (1910 x 1080)
The Mysterious Traveler Double Feature square poster by Holly Slocum (2000 x 2000)
The Mysterious Traveler Double Feature full poster by Holly Slocum (2000 x 3000)
Name: The Mysterious Traveler
Tagline: Double Feature
Description: Re-Imagined Radio celebrates The Mysterious Traveler with a double feature, two episodes of action and suspense. Double the fun. Listen to two episodes, "The Man Who Hated Insects" (November 7, 1944), and "Zero Hour" (June 22, 1948).
Program type: Episodic
Media type: Recorded, radio broadcast, live stream, podcast
Premier broadcast and live stream: January 15, 2024, KXRW-FM (Vancouver, WA), KXRY-FM (Portland, OR)
Recording availability: Podcast
Recording specs: Audio, MP3, stereo, 48.1Hz, 256kbps
Recording name: rir-mysterious-traveler.mp3
Categories: radio, drama, documentary, performance, story, fictional/non-fictional, holidays
Keywords: radio drama, storytelling, documentary
Script: Original script(s) written/adapted, research, and commentary by John F. Barber
Producer/Host: John F. Barber
Sound Design/Music Composition: Marc Rose