The House of Mystery
1945 - 1949
Above image courtesy of Tune In For Terror © 1992
The House of Mystery was sort of a forerunner to the Scooby Doo mystery formula, only without the dog or teenagers. Every week, Roger Elliott, aka, "the Mystery Man" (a self described "ghost chaser" played by John Griggs) would tell some kids about a mystery that looked supernatural at the onset, but that he was able to prove had natural causes by the end. (Although radio researcher Michael Ogden recalls one episode in which the explanation was rather open ended, which was otherwise uncharacteristic for the series.) Elliott narrated his tale in flashback to the kids, and his story was recreated with a full cast and sound effects. The sponsor was a cereal company, so the intended audience was pretty young.
The House of Mystery started out as a 15 minute serial with a version of Rip Van Winkle, then evolved into single 30 minute episodes. It was not uncommon for Roger to take more famous ghost type stories and place himself right in the middle of them, almost like Baron Munchausen. That begs the question: given that Elliott was always the hero who figured out the mystery at the end, and his studio audience were all gullible youngsters, could Elliott's character have been making up all the stories to impress the kids? After all, what are the odds that one guy would stumble into so many mysteries and solve them all so easily on such a regular basis? Then again, that same question would apply to many crime/ mystery/ and super hero shows on radio. It certainly seemed more obvious with those kids oohhhing and ahhhing over Elliott's exploits, almost as if to encourage him to exaggerate his accomplishments even further. If ever there were an audience easy to convince, it was this group of wide eyed children.
The series had a special charm, coming as it did from a time of such innocence. What parent today would let their little kid go over to a stranger's house to listen to someone who calls himself "the mystery man" spin spooky tales? (That may be the creepiest aspect of the entire series!) The overacting of the adults playing children is rather amusing, as is the smug performance of Griggs as Elliott. He really hams it up every time he says "the house... of mystery!" And the shameless plugs to push the sponsor's product are unintentionally funny as well. It all sounds very campy by today's standards.
Unfortunately, only four or five episodes of the series survive. Where they all went is a mystery.
The Standard Intro:
(Music: Mysterious organ sting)
Announcer: "Post, makers of Post Corn Toastees, welcomes you to The House... of Mystery.
An Opening Narration:
Host: "This is Roger Elliot, otherwise known as 'the Mystery Man', inviting you to join us for another story-telling session here at the house... of mystery."
A Typical Introduction:
Host: "Well Johnny, how was that picnic last week?"
Johnny: "Wow. It was swell."
(Girl): "It was wonderful Mystery Man, simply wonderful."
Roger: "I'm glad to hear it. I hope you all are remembering to stay outdoors as much as you can. And now I see it's time for today's... mystery.
(Spooky music starts, fades under.)
Roger: " A story I call... 'A Gift... From the Dead!'
"It began in a hotel in San Francisco, where I'd taken a room to wait for Paul Sheldon, an old friend of mine who was flying in from Kansas City to join me. Some weeks ago, Paul and I had been invited by his sister, Jane Coverac, to spend a few days in the beautiful but rugged Big Sur country, a hundred and fifty miles south of San Francisco.
"We accepted Jane's invitation with enthusiasm, as evidence of her complete recovery from the shock of her husband's death. But my thoughts were miles away when the bellboy knocked on the door and handed me a letter. It was from Jane. I opened it and began to read. But I was hardly beyond the first line when a big feeling of uneasiness crept over me. The note was brief and to the point. She was canceling her invitation.
"As the day wore on, I reread the letter several times, each time feeling more uneasy. And by the afternoon, I found myself pacing restlessly back and forth, impatient for Paul's arrival. I was about to leave to the airport to meet his plane when a long distance telephone call stopped me. It was a woman, her voice tight with panic."
(SFX: Woman's voice filtered.)
Phone voice: "Mister Roger Elliot?"
Roger: "Yes, who's this?"
Phone voice: "My name is Craig, Elma Craig."
Phone voice: "I'm Mrs. Coverac's housekeeper."
Roger: "I see."
Phone voice: "Mr. Elliot, you must come at once. Mrs. Coverac needs help."
Roger: "But I just got a letter from her canceling the invitation."
Phone voice: "I know, that's why I'm calling. We're in danger Mr. Elliot. You must come!"
Roger: "What kind of danger, Miss. Craig?"
Phone voice: "The master of this house has returned. We've heard him, he's here! Basil Coverac has come back. Mr. Elliot, he's come back... from the dead!"
A Typical Ending
Roger: "And that was a mystery I call 'A Gift From the Dead!'"
(SFX: Group of children murmur in approval.)
Johnny: "Golly. Imagine looking on your table and seeing a big ruby or a diamond or something. Golly."
Roger: "Yes, but Johnny, imagine if you thought they were put there by a ghost!"
Johnny: "Awww, I wouldn't. I don't believe in no ghosts!"
Roger: "Good for you!"
Girl: "You know, even though I don't believe in ghosts either, I got goose pimply all over when I heard that music box, it sounded so, um, so ghostly!"
Roger: "Well I suppose that's why we always have to keep going on proving that ghosts don't exist."
Johnny: "Can I go to the kitchen now?"
Roger: "Well don't you want to hear about next week's story?"
Johnny: "Well, yeah, but I want--"
Roger: "But at the moment, the thing you want most is Post Corn Toastees!"
Johnny: "Uh, yeah." (Chuckles.)
Roger: "Well Johnny, I can't say I blame you. So after I thank Horace Braham, Vera Allen, Peggy Cunnigee, and Barry Kroger for helping me tell my story for today, I'll tell you in just a few words that next week you will hear one of the most baffling experiences in my entire ghost chasing career, when I solve the mystery of the disappearing planes. I know you won't want to miss it, so be sure to be with us next week at this same time, and for our radio listeners, this same station. I'll be waiting for you at the house... of mystery."
(Music theme up and under.)
Roger: "This is Roger Elliot, your mystery man, saying goodbye until next week and reminding you to try the new Post Corn Toastees, the most delicate corn flakes. Extra thin, and tender crisp!"
(Music rises and concludes.)
Hear it now, FREE!
(Courtesy of RadioLovers.com)
Gift From The Dead (from 1947-08-03): A widow believes she is haunted by the ghost of her departed husband, and Roger Elliott is called in to solve the mystery.
Other known titles and air dates (from OTRstreet.com):
00-00-00 Bat Boy
45-10-27 The Ghost Who Forgot Halloween
46-06-09 Journey Into Fear (1-hour - Hour Of Mystery)
46-07-21 The Singapore Exile Murder
47-08-03 A Gift from the Dead
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