Amazing Revelations

     The following inside information on Robert Arthur and his life and work has been contributed by Elizabeth Arthur, Robert Arthur’s daughter, who will attempt from time to time to come up with one or two more, as circumstances permit. We also hope in future to include inside information on Three Investigators books by Dennis Lynds and Mary Carey. But for the moment:

     1. Did you know that the material of The Mystery of The Whispering Mummy was inspired by Robert Arthur’s wife, Joan Vaczek, who spent the years from 1935 through 1940 living in Egypt? She was the daughter of Louis Vaczek, a Hungarian diplomat who was transferred from Montreal to Egypt in 1935, when Joan Vaczek was a sophomore at McGill. Because there was not enough money to keep her in Canada while her parents went to Egypt, Joan Vaczek left college and went with her parents, shortly falling in love with Cairo and Alexandria and the desert and Egyptology and all things Egyptian. Her one novel, This Fiery Night, published in 1959 by Harper Brothers, was a novel about the Egyptian revolution, and she also published a number of stories set in Egypt, including “The Balcony.” When Robert Arthur and Joan Vaczek were married, she shared her interest in Egyptology with him.

     2. Did you know that the material of The Mystery of the Screaming Clock was inspired by Robert Arthur’s experience as a writer and producer of radio shows? His own radio show, The Mysterious Traveler, which he co-wrote and co-produced with his partner David Kogan, required Kogan and Arthur’s involvement in every step of the process of radio production, including the hiring of appropriate actors and actresses to play various parts. In those days, radio actors and actresses handed out, via their agents, three-by-five cards which contained all vital information about their talents. For example, a card might say: “Voice range: 30-90. Dialects: Midwestern, New England, Rural, Southern. Plays: Leads, Emotional Heavies, Shrews, Comedy, Eccentrics, Classical, Narrators, Macabre Witches, Laughs, Screams.” Albert Clock, the screamer in The Mystery of the Screaming Clock was therefore based on radio actors Robert Arthur knew from his days working in radio. Clock may even have been based on a specific actor who specialized in screaming.

     3. Did you know that in The Mystery of the Screaming Clock, when Jupiter calls the phone number for A. Clock in an attempt to get an address from which to start the investigation, Robert Arthur used his own address as the address Jupiter tricks Harry’s mother into giving him when she answers the phone? Since all Jupiter has to begin with is a phone number, and no address, Jupiter -- who is a very good actor -- pretends to be from the phone company in the chapter “On The Trail”. He tells the woman who answers the phone -- who later turns out to be Harry’s mother that the phone company wants to “check the circuits” and to do this needs her proper address. She says: “The address? Why this is 309 Franklin Street.” 309 Franklin Street was the address of the house in Cape May, New Jersey where Robert Arthur lived with his aunt Margaret Fischer Arthur from 1963 until his death in 1969.

     4. Did you know that Robert Arthur was born not in a hospital or in a house, but in a tent? When his father, Robert Arthur, Sr., a graduate of West Point, was a lieutenant in the Army stationed in 1909 in Corregidor in the Philippines, there was no proper hospital for military personnel or their families, only a hospital tent, and the night Robert Arthur was born, a storm knocked out all the electricity on the island, so Robert Arthur was not only born in a tent, he was born by the light of a kerosene lantern, and during this already exciting event the mosquito netting which hung over the bed caught fire from the heat coming out of the top of the kerosene lantern. Luckily, no one was hurt, but in later years, Arthur always enjoyed attributing his fondness for spooky settings to the fact that he arrived in the world when there was a storm raging, the electricity had been knocked out, a kerosene lantern was held by an orderly, and above his head a fire burned.

     5. Did you know that when Robert Arthur’s book, Mystery and More Mystery -- a collection of ten of his own stories -- was published in 1966, it was reviewed in The New York Times Book Review of November 6, 1966 by Anthony Boucher, who reviewed five other books at the same time, including Alfred Hitchcock's Sinister Spies, which Robert Arthur ghost-edited? In the preface to his reviews, Boucher wrote: “One warning applies to all the following books: Please pay no attention to the ridiculous publishing practice of giving age limits, such as “12-16.” There are certainly quite a few bright 10-year-olds who will enjoy these books; and there is no upper age limit.” Those of you who know The Three Investigators books will know that Boucher’s warning about the ridiculous publishing practice of giving age limits to books such as those he reviewed applies to The Three Investigators series as well. About Mystery and More Mystery, Boucher wrote: “Not an anthology, but a one-man show is Robert Arthur’s Mystery and More Mystery. Arthur is easily one of the best puzzle-gimmick men in the business and has written an undue proportion of my favorite detective short stories. A collection of his work(for any age) has long been overdue; and this is a splendid one. ‘The Adventure of the Single Footprint’ is all all-time dazzler, and others among these are almost as good.”

     6. Did you know that in The Mystery of the Fiery Eye, Robert Arthur loosely based a minor character on his daughter Elizabeth Arthur? In the chapter “Bob Takes The Trail” Bob goes in search of the plaster bust of Octavian. He goes to the Logan household, where he meets Liz Logan, who according to her mother, “lives in a world all her own, full of mysterious spies and sinister criminals.” When Bob leaves with the bust of Octavian, Liz Logan says to him, “Look, don’t you ever need a girl operative? I’m sure you must on some of your investigations. There are times when a girl would be a big help. You could call me. I’m a terrific actress. I can use make-up to disguise myself, and I can change my voice and --” But, although “Bob was thinking that Liz seemed a pretty nice sort, and maybe a girl could help them sometime. It was true that Jupiter had little use for girls, but if the right occasion ever arose, he’d suggest they call Liz Logan,” that is the end of Liz Logan. Elizabeth Arthur, however, decided that, under the circumstances, probably the best way to become a girl operative was to grow up to write stories herself. For more on her writing, please visit

     7. Did you know that when Jupiter and Pete are first approaching the castle, at night, in The Secret of Terror Castle and suddenly something flies over their heads, and Pete ducks, yelling that the thing is a bat, when Jupiter says, “Bats only eat insects. They never eat people,” this was because Robert Arthur was personally rather fond of bats? At a time before most people in the world were aware of how important bats are to the balance of any ecosystem, Arthur had a sort of personal mission to set the record straight on them. This was because in the house he lived in for ten years in Yorktown Heights, New York -- a house in the woods, and also on the Croton Reservoir -- there was a large colony of bats living in the attic. Arthur used to take his young daughter regularly into the attic during the day, when the bats were sleeping, so that she could admire them, and come to share her father’s affection for them. In that house in Yorktown Heights -- which had three stories, an attic and a basement -- Arthur’s study was on the third floor, and once in a while bats would get confused at night, and squeeze out not through the eaves into the outside world, but through the door from the attic down to the third floor. Since Arthur often worked at night, he used to like to tell people there was nothing better than writing a mystery or a ghost story while a few bats swept companionably around above your head.

     8. Did you know that Robert Arthur considered that, of the three Investigators, he himself was most like Bob Andrews? Not only did he and Bob share the first name of Robert, both were slender and non-athletic, and both were in charge of Records and Research for the firm of The Three Investigators. In addition, Robert Arthur -- whose nickname was also Bob -- and Bob Andrews, were both related to a journalist, in the case of Bob Andrews, his father, who was a reporter for the Rocky Beach newspaper, in the case of Robert Arthur, himself, since he had a Master’s in Journalism, and at various times, columns in several papers, including the paper in Yorktown Heights, New York, during the 1950’s. Also, when Bob Andrews’ father appears on the scene on The Mystery of the Stuttering Parrot, helping Bob out by suggesting a place where one might “bury a treasure where dead men guard it ever” Mr. Andrews not only comes up with the proper solution, he bears an eerie resemblance to Robert Arthur himself!


Robert Arthur at play in a snow fort