Monday, October 26, 2015

The Three Investigators #1:
The Secret of Terror Castle

I've mentioned a few times over the years, in passing1, that my favorite "mystery/adventure" series as a kid was The Three Investigators, the fictional team that was led by Jupiter Jones, had its office in a junkyard and hung out with the non-fictional Alfred Hitchcock.

I remember reading at least a dozen of the books, which had such great titles as The Mystery of the Stuttering Parrot, The Secret of Phantom Lake, The Mystery of the Coughing Dragon and The Mystery of the Screaming Clock.2 In retrospect, some books in the series were a lot like high-brow Scooby-Doo, with criminals attempting to cover their tracks by deploying paranormal diversions. Jupiter Jones, with his sharp and skeptical mind, rarely fell for it. I enjoyed the heck out of these books. And I wanted my own secret base in a junkyard.

The series kicked off with The Secret of Terror Castle, written by Robert Arthur Jr. and published in 1964. Earlier this year, I bought a cheap, beat-up copy of the 1964 Random House hardcover edition. The nifty cover artwork is by Edward Vebell.

This book is not, however, part of the first printing. According to the amazingly comprehensive website,, which was created and is maintained by Seth T. Smolinske, the first printing of The Secret of Terror Castle has the following identifiers:

  • No list of other volumes in the series on the back cover.
  • Text error on page 47 (two lines flip-flopped).
  • A stitched textblock consisting of 6 signatures.
  • Uncut blue graveyard endpapers (not slit down the center at the hinges).

My copy has a list of six titles in The Three Investigators series on the back cover and and there is no text error page 47. But I didn't buy it because it's a first printing and I rarely collect books for their first-edition or first-printing status. I acquire book because I want to read them and/or they are cool. This book is just cool. And different from Random House's Hitchcock Cover paperbacks from the late 1970s and early 1980s that I grew up reading.

One of the cool things is the aforementioned "blue graveyard endpapers."3 Here's a look at a portion of them, by artist Harry Kane.

Also, this book has a cool bookplate indicating that it was once owned by Carol Downs. Given my fondness for vintage bookplates, it's what pretty much clinched this purchase.

Did you read The Three Investigators series when you were younger? If so, share your memories in the comments section. And be sure to check out Smolinske's amazing website.

1. Specifically and for the record, I have mentioned The Three Investigators in these posts:
2. In fact, all of the titles began with the "The Mystery..." or "The Secret..."
3. Here are some other Papergreat posts that feature the artistry of endpapers:


  1. I had a brief fling with "The 3 Investigators" around 6th grade. For some reason, the series never caught on with me. But I did love those end papers. I'm sure that's what made me pick up the book in the first place. The promise of ghosts in a graveyard had great allure.

  2. I found this page because I was looking for those graveyard endpapers. I still am a fan of the series that I started reading about 1970 - 71. The end of one book, #2 The Mystery of the Stuttering Parrot, has a great, spooky scene in an old cemetery. That chapter and the conclusion that follows, is some of the best writing I ever have read in a children's book!

    1. They really were outstanding and, yes, I do think they have a good re-readability for modern times, and not just for the nostalgia factor. I did attempt to get into the Hardy Boys books as a kid, but I just found Three Investigators for more compelling and exciting.