FANDOM


Farm-Fresh balanceYMMVTransmit blueRadarWikEd fancyquotesQuotes • (Emoticon happyFunnyHeartHeartwarmingSilk award star gold 3Awesome) • RefridgeratorFridgeGroupCharactersScript editFanfic RecsSkull0Nightmare FuelRsz 1rsz 2rsz 1shout-out iconShout OutMagnifierPlotGota iconoTear JerkerBug-silkHeadscratchersHelpTriviaWMGFilmRoll-smallRecapRainbowHo YayPhoto linkImage LinksNyan-Cat-OriginalMemesHaiku-wide-iconHaikuLaconic
File:ThreeInvestigators TerrorCastle 3742.jpg


The Three Investigators was a juvenile detective book series written by Robert Arthur Jr., originally called "Alfred Hitchcock and the Three Investigators". It centered on a trio of high school boys - Jupiter Jones, Peter Crenshaw and Bob Andrews - who live in the fictional town of Rocky Beach, California. The boys spend their free time solving various mysteries rather than true crimes.

The long-standing popularity of the series in Germany has resulted in two live-action movies, The Three Investigators and the Secret of Skeleton Island and The Three Investigators and the Secret of Terror Castle.


The Three Investigators provides examples of:

  • Added Alliterative Appeal: A favorite of the book titles, as in Green Ghost, Silver Spider, Crooked Cat, Flaming Footprints, Singing Serpent, Monster Mountain, Dancing Devil, Headless Horse, Deadly Double, Sinister Scarecrow, Purple Pirate, Missing Mermaid, Trail of Terror, Rogues' Reunion, Creep-Show Crooks, Wrecker's Rock, Cranky Collector, Dancing Dinosaur, House of Horrors and Savage Statue. By the early 80s, alliterative titles were almost obligatory, before being dropped for the Crimebusters relaunch.
  • Affably Evil: Hugenay.
  • All That Glitters: The novels contained versions of this periodically. One that comes to mind lacked a clear moral: a sunken riverboat holding a watertight chest contained millions of dollars—in worthless Confederate money. It may have worthless when the book was written, anyway. But these days, preserved Confederate money is worth more than US currency of the same denomination, with mint-condition bills of $100 and $500 worth tens of thousands of dollars. The real irony, of course, is that Confederate money is so valuable now because most of it has been destroyed because it was considered worthless.
  • Arch Enemy: That perennial ne'er-do-well Skinny Norris. Later, when Skinny Norris had a Heel Face Turn, the position was taken by the mastermind Victor Hugenay.
  • Anti-Villain: A number of the boys' enemies turn out to be this, either having sympathetic reasons for doing what they do, not genuinely wishing to hurt anyone, being Forced Into Evil, performing a Heel Face Turn, or simply being too Affably Evil to be hated. Good examples are Mr. Claudius of Stuttering Parrot, Professor Yarbrough of Whispering Mummy, Arthur Shelby of Coughing Dragon, Professor Shay of Phantom Lake, and Mrs. Chumley of Sinister Scarecrow.
  • Bank Robbery: The books which aren't looking for Buried Treasure, lost masterpieces, or solving puzzles/riddles are usually this, or involve looking for the loot from one that had been hidden. Examples of actual robberies: Vanishing Treasure (which actually takes up so much of the narrative it's practically a Heist Book), Coughing Dragon, Sinister Scarecrow (variation--a museum robbery); finding the loot: Skeleton Island, Talking Skull, Crooked Cat, Haunted Mirror, Death Trap Mine.
  • Beneath Suspicion: Because of their size, the midgets from Vanishing Treasure are able to disguise themselves as Cub Scouts and are thus never suspected of the robbery until one is given away by his gold tooth.
    • Usually averted otherwise throughout the series, in fact as often as not it is defied by Jupiter who often suspects or at least does not discount servants and other seemingly irrelevant characters. At least once, though, Jupiter did almost fall prey to the trope when he continually discounted the possibility that Mrs. Chumley could be the scarecrow.
  • Berserk Button: Don't mention to Jupiter that he's fat.
    • I Am Big Boned: See above. Jupe has always been a pudgy kid, and is touchy about it.
  • Bigfoot, Sasquatch, and Yeti: The creature of Monster Mountain.
  • Bound and Gagged: Lots of examples as it's a staple of the genre, including in the very first book. Particularly memorable examples occur in Vanishing Treasure and Fiery Eye.
  • British English: The puzzle of Dead Man's Riddle is written entirely in Cockney rhyming slang.
  • Buried Treasure: Some of the more memorable entries involve these--Stuttering Parrot, Skeleton Island, Fiery Eye, Laughing Shadow, Phantom Lake. The last one was even Pirate Booty.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Many across all the books, a lot of them introduced in casual, one-line references very easy to miss upon first reading. Enough to be a Chekhov's Armory at times.
  • Clear Their Name: A big part of the plot of Screaming Clock is this for Harry's dad; also plays a smaller role with Pico in Headless Horse.
  • Cloudcuckoolander: A number of these appear throughout the series whether as clients, witnesses, or clue bearers. Irma Wagoner from Stuttering Parrot (who is almost a bird-owning version of the Crazy Cat Lady) and Miss Agawam from Vanishing Treasure are prime examples.
  • Concealing Canvas: In The Case of the Weeping Coffin, the eccentric millionaire's house is littered with these, to the point that the curtain that doesn't conceal a safe is interesting.
  • Conservation of Detail: Just about everything in the books is relevant or becomes a clue. Often even the Red Herring has some connection to the plot underfoot.
  • Cool Car: The Rolls Royce Jupiter wins for 30 days in the first book. Even comes with its own driver, Worthington.
  • Con Man: A popular villain type. Appears in Singing Serpent, Monster Mountain, Death Trap Mine, Magic Circle, and Sinister Scarecrow.
  • Cult: Of the titular Singing Serpent; despite (or perhaps even because of) being a Scam Religion, it's actually explored fairly seriously and sympathetically for the victim of it.
  • Detective Drama: Of the 'closed mystery' sort.
  • Down in the Dumps: The Three Investigators headquarters is located in Jupiter's uncle's junkyard.
  • Embarrassing Nickname: Jupiter had a backstory as a former child actor with the stage name Baby Fatso.
  • Everybody Did It: Or at least, everyone except Letitia and Dr. Woolley in Sinister Scarecrow. Notable in that while Mrs. Chumley and the Burroughs were working together to rob the Mosby Museum (at least, eventually), Gerhart Malz's forgery plan was completely separate and had nothing to do with the scarecrow. As Hitchcock himself says, "Rarely did the boys have so many suspects turn out to be guilty!"
  • Evil All Along: The Countess and Marechal from Shrinking House, Professor Shay from Phantom Lake, "Thurgood" from Death Trap Mine...
  • Evil Aussie: The villain of Laughing Shadow.
  • Exact Words: The prize Jupiter won was to have a Rolls Royce at his disposal for 30 days. When one month was nearly over, Jupiter argued that 30 days actually amount to 720 hours of service.
    • Many riddles and puzzles in the series rely on these, but one of the best is Laughing Shadow: the Chumash chief whose Famous Last Words tell the location of the hoard said "it is in the eye of the sky where no man can find it". It's hidden literally in an "eye of the sky", a cave inside a high mountain shaped like an Indian's head, with the cave inside the eye...and it is small enough no man can enter it, but a child or young teen can.
  • Expy: Based on the names of the characters involved (Kulak, Demetrieff, Kerenov) and the coup which took place in the Backstory, the plot of Flaming Footprints reads like a search for the lost crown jewels of Imperial Russia.
  • Faking the Dead: Stephen Terrill.
  • Fakin' MacGuffin: In Phantom Lake, Java Jim wants a journal that the boys have which was written in the mid 1800s, with potential clues to a Buried Treasure. Jupiter hands it over, then after Jim leaves he reveals that he only gave up the oilskin cover of the journal, having taken the pages out first.
  • Frame-Up: Happens fairly often, such as: Harry's father in Screaming Clock, Stebbins in Phantom Lake, Pico in Headless Horse.
  • Friendly Enemy: Hugenay again.
  • Gaslighting: While the intent was only to distract her or force her to leave the estate so the museum robbery could go off as planned, the exploitation of Letitia Radford's fear of scarecrows and bugs in the titular Sinister Scarecrow is malicious enough to count as this trope, and she nearly does go mad. Ends up being subverted, however, when the villains' concern that the boys will catch on to their scheme leads to the scarecrow attacking the boys, thus proving it isn't just in Letitia's head.
  • Genre Savvy: In the Crime Busters book Funny Business the Investigators' newest ally distracts a crowd so that the team can sneak into a secured area. Unfortunately, the only person who is Not Distracted by the Sexy is the one person who needed to not be watching as they snuck in. He even comments on how obvious their plan was after he captures them.
  • Glass-Shattering Sound: The purpose of the screaming clock, as inspired by the trick professional screamer Bert Clock used to like doing for his friends.
  • Good Detectives, Good Clients: Played utterly straight for almost every book in the series, with the boys' clients either being innocent victims of the con men/robbers/kidnappers, or bystanders caught up in such schemes by being in the wrong place at the wrong time or stumbling upon an important Plot Coupon. Which is why the subversion in Shrinking House where both the elegant Marechal and the beautiful Countess turn out to be the swindling bad guys, the seemingly villainous DeGroot is actually a Dutch cop in pursuit of them, and Joshua Cameron himself was a master forger is so shocking and one of the most memorable entries in the whole series. Averted again in Dancing Devil but with less fanfare.
  • Gosh Dang It to Heck: Goes with the genre, although the Unusual Euphemism used by Aunt Mathilda ("Mercy and goodness and sweetness and light!") stands out.
  • Graceful Loser: Several of the baddies, but Mr. Won (who returns the deed to Verdant Valley despite the Ghost Pearls being destroyed) and Hugenay in Stuttering Parrot stand out. The latter even calls the boys to congratulate them and tip them off to having gained the treasure.
  • Halfway Plot Switch: Happens on occasion.
    • Vanishing Treasure: A case about a stolen belt, and then one about a lady being haunted by gnomes, turns into a bank robbery case.
    • Monster Mountain: A case about a missing key turns into a sasquatch hunt, then a race to rescue a kidnapped woman who'd been replaced by an imposter.
    • Dancing Devil: A case about a bunch of missing black cases becomes one about the missing statue of the title.
    • Sinister Scarecrow: A case about helping a traumatized and paranoid woman afraid of ants turns into preventing a museum robbery.
  • Haunted Castle: Their first case involved investigating one.
  • Hidden in Plain Sight: A favorite for solving various mysteries. The titular silver spider turns out to be in a spider web with a real spider, the titular Phantom Lake turned out to be the man-made "view down the loch" where the treasure was buried, the titular invisible dog (a crystal statue} was hidden in a swimming pool, and the Cortes Sword of Headless Horse turned out to be painted and nailed to the side of the Cortes statue.
  • Hostage for Macguffin: Constantly.
  • Identical Stranger: Hans and Konrad's cousin Anna has one thus leading to Imprison and Replace by her Criminal Doppelganger so that her con man partner can marry her and steal Anna's money from her safe deposit box. Foreshadowed by her odd refusal to speak German, which the con man hadn't expected her to have to know.
  • I Don't Like the Sound of That Place: The Three Investigators seem to keep ending up at places like this: Terror Castle, Skeleton Island, Phantom Lake, Monster Mountain, Death Trap Mine, Shark Reef, Wrecker's Rock...
  • Imposter Forgot One Detail: The con man pretending to be Wesley Thurgood in Death Trap Mine forgot/didn't know the real Thurgood had blue eyes.
  • I Never Said It Was Poison:
    • One case involving a whale where a suspect accidentally blurted out its species.
    • On another occasion, someone asks what the "???" on their business card means. This is a Once an Episode thing which wouldn't normally be significant, but one of the group notices that they didn't actually read the card, and must have seen it before.
  • Kick the Dog: While a number of villains do terrible things (for a kids' series version of terrible--as usual, none of them ever commit murder that we know of), two which stand out would be the villain of Laughing Shadow who indulges in child slave labor to find the treasure and Mrs. Chumley of Sinister Scarecrow who uses her knowledge of Letitia Radford to create the terrorizing scarecrow; this last is one of the few things keeping her from being a completely sympathetic villain.
  • Kid Detectives: The basic formula.
  • Linked-List Clue Methodology: Twice. The first time is played with--in Stuttering Parrot the messages of the seven birds all lead generally to one place where the treasure is hidden, but each message after the ones which lead them there are part of a linked chain to help them find the exact hiding place. Played straight with the titular "Dead Man's Riddle".
  • Long Running Book Series
  • MacGuffin: While usually the boys are pursuing important clues/items, or even the actual treasure, just as often it's an item with little or no purpose (the Silver Spider of Varania is needed to crown its king and thus needed to prevent the Regent for Life plot of the Evil Chancellor, but otherwise does nothing), it's only a clue or a hiding place for one that leads somewhere else (the crooked cat, the haunted mirror, the paintings from Shrinking House) and thus becomes irrelevant once it has served its purpose, or it's a Red Herring. Appropriate that this would appear, considering who the series is named after.
  • MacGuffin Delivery Service: In most of the stories with riddles leading to lost treasures, the villains sit back and wait for the boys to solve it for them, then swoop in to take it from them. Sometimes the villains are figuring out the riddle too and thus happen to arrive at a location at the same time as the boys (justified in Linked-List Clue Methodology cases--because the clues have to be figured out and followed in order, the heroes and villains meeting up is bound to happen eventually) and then take it away from them, but usually they merely follow the boys and let them do the work. Classic example: the Percivals from Dead Man's Riddle.
  • Magnetic Plot Device: Also happens a lot, usually with whatever item they're seeking or the clue which will solve the mystery/find the treasure, but the titular crooked cat and the paintings from Shrinking House take the cake.
  • Master of Disguise: Stephen Terrill, the Man of a Thousand Faces.
  • Mummies At the Dinner Table: Borderline example--while as far as we know Mr. Green of the Green Mansion never did this with his wife's corpse, he did stash her body in a secret room in his house, laid out in a coffin with her finest clothes and the Ghost Pearls.
  • Mystery Fiction
  • Mystery Magnets: A corollary to being a Kid Detective.
  • Needle in a Stack of Needles: This nearly gets one of the Investigators killed. One of the Investigators finds himself locked in the trunk of a car driven by a group of criminals, but managed to mark the floor of the garage the car will eventually return to with a large chalk "X", and even informs the other investigators of this via a walkie-talkie. Unfortunately, a Jerk Jock was listening in and had his gang mark every garage they could get into just to be an ass.
  • Never Say "Die": Although the boys never really come too close to death, the danger they suffer is often very real and both they and their families worry about getting injured or killed. Of course the worst violence they usually suffer is getting knocked out and/or Bound and Gagged/Locked in a Freezer. But in Dead Man's Riddle they do almost go over a waterfall, and in the early book Green Ghost, when Jensen asks Mr. Won what to do if the boys don't turn over the Ghost Pearls, he coldly tells him to slit their throats. They are also held at gunpoint several times (Stuttering Parrot, Vanishing Treasure, Screaming Clock, Laughing Shadow, Flaming Footprints, Shrinking House) and are left to die in the desert in Death Trap Mine.
  • Not Allowed to Grow Up
  • Not Me This Time: Hugenay, in Screaming Clock.
  • Obfuscating Disability: Mrs. Chumley in Sinister Scarecrow.
  • Ominous Pipe Organ: Terror Castle has one that supposedly is played by the Blue Phantom. Justified by Stephen Terrill having been an actor who not only liked to play his films for guests but came from the silent era when pipe organs were actually used in theaters to provide incidental music. It also contains pipes which play notes so low as to be subsonic and effect the human nervous system, thus instilling instinctive terror.
  • Orwellian Retcon: After 1980, the conceit of having Alfred Hitchcock introduce (through ghost writers) the books and interact with the boys was no longer feasible. As a replacement, the authors created a mystery writer named "Hector Sebastian." Some editions of the earlier books written with Hitchcock as a character replace him with Sebastian.
  • Photographic Memory: Jupiter.
  • Polish the Turd: The sole rationale for the series initially being named Alfred Hitchcock and the Three Investigators, and the frequent cameos of Hitchcock in the first thirty books or so, was Robert Arthur's insight that the books would sell better if they were somehow connected to somebody famous. He was right.
  • Power Trio: Arguably the Beauty, Brains, and Brawn variation, with Jupiter as The Smart Guy, Peter as The Big Guy and Bob as the most sociable one. Though the Freudian model (Jupiter - Superego, Pete - Ego, Bob - Id) might cast an interesting light on tentative hidden sides of Bob Andrews ...
  • Put on a Bus: Despite seeming to reform after being used and abandoned by Marechal in Shrinking House, Skinny Norris appears at his nastiest and the closest he comes to true criminal activity in Headless Horse (aiding and abetting Cody in concealing who started the brush fire and framing Pico for it). When the truth comes out he is sent away by his father to military school and never seen again in the series.
  • Real After All: Aside from the fact the monster of Monster Mountain turns out to be a genuine mountain man, several of the entries involving the supernatural written after M. V. Carey took over the series turned out to be real, or at least implied to be. In a chillingly effective moment at the end of Haunted Mirror, the villain sees something in the supposedly cursed glass that makes him flee right into the arms of the police; unable to explain it, the boys look very uneasily at the mirror and quickly leave. More obviously, when the villain of Magic Circle flees the scene only to crash in his car while the witch of the titular circle looks on with grim vindication, the boys have to wonder if she cursed him for what he had done to her; Jupiter scoffs at such notions of course, and a true Wiccan would not curse lest she run afoul of the Three-fold Rule, but...
  • Red Herring: Happens a lot. A particularly good one was in Death Trap Mine: the fact Mrs. Macomber had suddenly left her job, disappeared for several months, came into money out of nowhere when she had been destitute and forced to work at what had once been her own store, matched the description of a member of a holdup gang, and then vanished after a newspaper referencing the robbery was discovered all led Jupiter to believe she was a member of the gang and possibly the one who killed the man found in the mine. But instead she'd come into money when a relative died, and been kidnapped by Thurgood for recognizing he was an imposter, and the rest was all coincidence.
    • Another good example: Rory from Phantom Lake whose whole purpose in the plot, other than being a Violent Glaswegian, was to distract the reader from wondering who might really be Java Jim or his accomplice. On the one hand, his constant attempts to convince the boys to stop looking for the treasure, his conveniently timed comings and goings, and his various misdeeds all made a great candidate for the villain--too obvious, in fact. Which might cause some readers to get suckered into thinking he was guilty, while others would dismiss him but then be left not knowing who the real villain was. Anyway, he wasn't Java Jim--he just didn't want Mrs. Gunn to be rich because he was afraid she wouldn't accept his marriage proposal. A bit of Unfortunate Implications there--what she wants doesn't matter? She can only be rich if he earns it for her and takes care of her?--but otherwise a Crowning Moment of Heartwarming and Funny in one.
  • Regent for Life: A desire to make this happen kicks off the plot of Silver Spider.
  • Scooby-Doo Hoax: The frequent explanation behind seemingly supernatural happenings. Textbook examples include Green Ghost, Skeleton Island, Haunted Mirror, Dancing Devil, and Sinister Scarecrow.
  • Scary Scarecrows: The Mystery of the Sinister Scarecrow
  • Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness: Jupiter sometimes falls into this habit.
  • Sesquipedalian Smith: Jupiter Jones
  • Ship Tease: Between Jupiter and Allie, if their Slap Slap Kiss relationship (minus the kissing) is any indication. Perhaps a natural progression of putting two know-it-alls together.
  • Sidekick: In many of the books, the boys have one of these in the form of their client, a local who happens to make a handy guide or Mr. Exposition, or a relative who either is seeking a lost heirloom/treasure or wishes help to Clear Their Name or that of a member of their family. A Running Gag early on is that this would be a boy of a new nationality for each book--Carlos from Stuttering Parrot, Hamid from Whispering Mummy, Chang from Green Ghost, Chris from Skeleton Island, August August from Fiery Eye, and Djaro from Silver Spider. This gag was dropped for a while, although sidekicks continued in Screaming Clock, Moaning Cave, Crooked Cat, Flaming Footprints, and Shrinking House, then was briefly resurrected for Cluny of Phantom Lake (well, Scottish-American, but close enough) and Diego of Headless Horse. A number of these were found in and around Rocky Beach, justified by its proximity to both Los Angeles and Hollywood. Interestingly, none of these were reckless (at least no more so than the boys themselves) and many were quite helpful.
  • Something Completely Different: Every once in a while the usual formula of a client coming to the boys or them stumbling upon a case would be subverted--when, for example, they happened to be traveling outside Rocky Beach or had been invited away/on vacation (Skeleton Island, Moaning Cave, Monster Mountain, Death Trap Mine), and once they even ended up traveling to another (fictional) country (Silver Spider).
  • Spotting the Thread: Often used to catch the villain (or catch him in a lie), but on at least one occasion it was a Red Herring--after having chased the villain into the barranca in Shrinking House and knowing he'd injured himself falling in, the boys looked for a limp to identify him later. But DeGroot's limp turned out to be from an old injury, and he wasn't even a villain.
  • Start X to Stop X: In order to undo the "Curse" placed on Allie's aunt by a con man in Singing Serpent (because Your Mind Makes It Real), the boys bring in...a con woman of their own, portraying a gypsy who can "break" it.
  • Sundial Waypoint: Used to find the titular Fiery Eye.
  • Teen Genius: Jupiter Jones. He has the general knowledge of an educated adult, often comes up with ingenious ploys, frequently builds technical gadgetry from scratch, and besides is a skilled actor.
  • Technology Marches On: Unavoidable for a series written mostly in the 60's and 70's, but offenders which stand out are the constant references to payphones, the speakerphone Jupiter invents, walkie talkies and directional finders, the colored chalk to leave trails or send messages when cell phone texting could accomplish the same thing, and the Ghost-to-Ghost Hookup (which would likely not tie up all circuits today and could again be accomplished quicker and easier with texting). What is unfortunate is that Robert Arthur, the original author who came up with most of these inventions, took great pains to show his work and be current with technology, including that which the police and detectives would have; as usual the passage of time turned the series into an Unintentional Period Piece.
  • Telecom Tree: Known as the ghost-to-ghost hookup.
  • Treacherous Advisor: Professor Shay of Phantom Lake.
  • Villain Team-Up: In Sinister Scarecrow, thanks to Blackmail.
  • Wicca: Appears in Magic Circle, and depicted with a fair amount of accuracy for the times. One of many examples of M. V. Carey having Shown Her Work due to her fascination with the supernatural.
  • Wig, Dress, Accent: The Paper-Thin Disguise worn by the gang working for Three-Dots in Fiery Eye consists of...fake mustaches and horn-rimmed glasses.
  • Working the Same Case: Two examples, both early in the series--in Whispering Mummy Pete, fed up with the seemingly supernatural case, decides to go off on his own to investigate a missing cat, only to find out it connects to the mummy. Then in Vanishing Treasure the bank robbery being performed by the "gnomes" they investigate turns out to be perpetrated by the same thieves who stole the Emperor's belt from the museum which had forbidden them from getting involved (because they were "just kids").
  • Yellow Peril: Mr. Won of Green Ghost.
  • Your Princess Is in Another Castle: Fairly frequent, when either the lost item they're searching for literally does turn out to be somewhere else or they encounter a Red Herring. One particularly memorable example is in Stuttering Parrot when, after following every clue to the Merita Valley graveyard, the long flat box which had once held the painting is discovered holding only a note saying, essentially, "You didn't read the clues well enough, better luck next time!" The last parrot clue, "I never give a sucker an even break, and that's a lead pipe cinch!" even lampshades this...until it turns out it was actually a stealth clue telling them the lead pipe found in the graveyard is the actual hiding place for the painting. Another example in Fiery Eye not only involves them looking in the wrong bust for the titular jewel, but finding a Mock Guffin version of it.
Community content is available under CC-BY-SA unless otherwise noted.