The Mysterious Traveler -- "Stranger in the House"

Saturday, 01 October 2016 15:00 Dave Truesdale

The Mysterious Traveler (1943-52) aired "Stranger in the House" on January 29, 1952 as its 341st episode. Of the estimated 384 broadcasts, of which 303 were original scripts, only approximately 70-75 are known to be in circulation. The program was the brainchild of Robert Arthur and David P. Kogan who produced, directed and wrote the popular show. Each episode began with the sound of an approaching train, inside of which an unnamed passenger would narrate the story between stops. The stories ranged from mystery and suspense, to science fiction and the supernatural. The show proved so popular (even winning awards) that it spun off a magazine and comic book with the same title. Unfortunately, the radio show and the magazine met an untimely death due to the early 1950s McCarthy era witch hunts. Looking for communists under every rock, McCarthy turned his eye on the Radio Actor's Guild (members of which were both Republican and Democrat), and enough flimsy, unsubstantiated "evidence" brought to bear that the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) determined that the Radio Guild was a "Communist front organization." Whereupon the Mutual Broadcasting Network and WOR, the New York flagship station of The Mysterious Traveler, caved under the perceived fallout of the ruling and cancelled the long-running program in early 1953 prior to its next season. Coincidence or not, both the radio and magazine incarnations of The Mysterious Traveler died in September of 1952. For a more complete history of the radio show, the magazine, its creators, and the events surrounding the cancellation of the show we recommend clicking on this link, where we offered not one but two episodes of The Mysterious Traveler by way of introducing fans to the show back in 2009. It's a fascinating read, and even includes a short email from David Kogan to yours truly just weeks before his death at the age of 94.

"Stranger in the House" is a more or less traditional haunted house tale with a decent little twist. A young married couple decides to buy an old mansion that is reportedly haunted. As per script, everything is normal at first, but soon the husband is visited by an apparition (ghost, or ethereal succubus?) who is one of the most beautiful women he has ever seen. He is soon completely under her spell, the relationship with his new bride taking a quick turn for the worse, as you might expect. What happens next I leave for you to discover, for the routine storyline takes a slight left turn, concluding in a somewhat unusual way.

Play Time: 27:48

{Cabin fever was beginning to take its toll on both mothers and their much too energetic children in January of 1952, so moms up and down the block were happy to let the little monsters bundle up to make their usual trek to the neighborhood drugstore or newsstand for an hour or two. After listening to the above episode of The Mysterious Traveler, impressionable minds were eager for more, and they were in luck. The Mysterious Traveler Magazine was a spinoff of the popular radio show, with the writing team of Robert Arthur and David P. Kogan again at the helm, with Kogan the publisher and Arthur the editor. Its first issue was dated November 1951, the second being the one shown below. It lasted but five issues due to pressure relating to the cancellation of the radio show in 1952 (full story at the link above). Among the literary luminaries appearing in its pages was none other than Ray Bradbury, who appeared in several. Renowned artist Norman Saunders was responsible for all five covers, including the first issue at top right. fantastic Adventures had a nice run from 1939-53, and from 1948 until its death held to a monthly schedule. Weird Tales, known affectionately as "the unique magazine," had its start in 1923 and since its (original) demise in 1954 has become one of the most iconic magazines of the fantastic in pulp history.}

[Left: fantastic Adventures, Jan. '52 - Center: The Mysterious Traveler, Jan. '52 - Right: Weird Tales, Jan. '52]


To view the entire list of weekly Old Time Radio episodes at Tangent Online, click here.