If your taste in Old Time Radio Shows includes a bit of the darker side then The Mysterious Travler needs to be on your playlist. As its title suggests this anthology series is full of crime noir, with elements of horror and a little science fiction thrown in from time to time for good measure.
The premise was the old chestnut of a mysterious stranger on a train (in this case Maurice Tarplin) who would regale a willing listener with a dark and creepy tale. The stories were always self-contained and renowned for their rather downbeat endings.
The series was written by Robert A. Arthur and David Kogan and in 1953 they were honoured by the Mystery Writers of America with an Edgar Award for Best Radio Drama.
The show was sufficiently popular to engender a couple of spin-off shows – The Sealed Book and The Strange Dr. Weird. Both of these leaned heavily on this series for content comprising mainly abridged or condensed versions of the original MT episodes.
There was also a short-lived prose magazine series which ran for five issues between late 1951 and 1952. Loads would have been printed but few copies have survived the years. They are very collectable today as the cover paintings were by acclaimed pulp artist Norman Saunders.
The final spinoff was a comic series published by Charlton Publications. The first issue saw press in 1956 and ran for 15 issues. Thirteen of these were published in the 1950s and it was briefly revived in 1985 for the remaining ones. Again these are highly sought after as some featured artwork by acclaimed comic artists such as Dick Giordano & Steve Ditko.
The series ran for nine years and around 370 episodes were produced. Sadly though as has happened to many a classic old-time radio show most episodes have been lost. Still, the shows are self-contained so remain worth seeking out.
The first show aired on 5th December 1943 with the aptly cheerless title “The Hands That Killed” which is sadly missing from the archives. This introduced the listener to classic the opening line that would characterise the series…
“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!”
It was also epitomised by the haunting sound of a distant steam locomotive, sound effects which were no doubt viewed as impressive back then.
The Mysterious Travler boarded the train for the last time on the 16th of September 1952. The final show “The Treasure of Superstition Mountain” is also missing but we live in hope that a recording turns up someday.
This is a work-in-progress list of shows that are reputed to still be available. We have not heard them all but are assured the ones below exist.
44-01-30 (009) House of Death
44-02-27 (013) The Good Die Young
44-03-26 (017) Stranger In The House
44-04-02 (018) Out of the Past
44-04-09 (019) Beware of Tomorrow
44-04-16 (020) The Accusing Corpse
44-07-02 (031) The Queen Of The Cats
44-09-24 (042) Death Laughs Last
44-10-07 (043) The Man Insects Hated
45-01-06 (055) They Who Sleep
45-03-10 (064) Case of Charles Foster
45-03-24 (066) Death Comes To Adolf Hitler
45-03-31 (067) Murder Goes Free.
46-08-25 (074) Death Is The Visitor
46-09-01 (075) No One On The Line
46-09-08 (076) Symphony Of Death
46-12-29 (084) If You Believe
47-01-05 (085) New Years Nightmare
47-01-12 (086) No Grave Can Hold Me
47-03-09 (094) The Woman In Black
47-04-13 (099) Dark Destiny ?
47-05-25 (105) Mind Over Murder
47-06-15 (108) Death Is The Judge
47-07-06 (111) The Locomotive Ghost
47-07-27 (114) The Man The Insects Hated
47-09-07 (119) Vacation From Life
47-10-21 (125) Death Is My Caller
48-01-20 (137) The Man In The Black Derby
48-02-24 (142) The Man Who Died Twice
48-03-16 (145) They Struck It Rich
23/03/48 (146) Seven Years To Wait
48-04-20 (150) Murder In Jazz Time
48-05-04 (152) They Who Sleep
48-05-11 (153) I Won’t Die Alone
48-05-18 (154) Death Writes A Letter
48-06-08 (157) Murder Is My Business
48-06-15 (158) Queen Of The Cats
48-06-22 (159) Zero Hour
48-07-06 (161) The Man Who Vanished
48-08-10 (166) The Visiting Corpse
48-09-21 (171) Death Has A Thousand Faces
48-10-05 (173) Death Rings Down The Curtain
49-01-06 (185) Devil And The Deep Blue Sea
49-01-13 (186) The Accusing Corpse
49-03-29 (197) Death Has A Cold Breath
49-04-19 (200) Out Of The Past
49-05-24 (205) Behind The Locked Door
49-06-14 (208) No Grave Can Hold Me
49-08-02 (215) Planet Zevius
49-10-11 (225) The Last Survivor
49-10-25 (227) No One On The Line
50-01-10 (237) Survival Of The Fittest
50-02-07 (241) The Man Who Tried To Save Lincoln
50-03-14 (246) The Big Brain
50-04-04 (249) The Man From Singapore
50-04-11 (250) Operation Tomorrow
50-04-18 (251) Death At Fifty Fathoms
50-04-25 (252) I Died Last Night
50-05-02 (253) S O S
50-05-23 (256) The Lady In Red
50-07-18 (264) Killer Come Home
50-60-06 (258) Killer At Large
51-03-13 (297) Knives Of Death
51-08-28 (319) Fire In The Sky
51-10-09 (325) The Man That Knew Everything
51-11-06 (329) Behind The Locked Door
51-11-13 (330) Speak of the Devil
51-11-20 (331) The Most Famous Man In The World
51-12-11 (334) Hideout
51-12-25 (336) Christmas Story
52-01-08 (338) It’s Only Money
52-01-15 (339) Key Witness
52-01-22 (340) Change Of Address
52-01-29 (341) Stranger In The House
52-02-19 (344) Strange New World
52-06-03 (359) The Haunted Trailer
52-06-17 (360) The Green Plague
We hope you enjoyed quick overview and that it tempts you into giving an episode or two a listen. Before you go check out our other OTR show reviews.