How Gay Were the Hardy Boys?

The Great Hardy Boys Prank

He hated the Hardy Boys. But he wrote the Hardy Boys. Did their original author hide secret jokes inside the famous children's detective books?

"In his diaries, my father talks about having to write another of those cursed books," the author's son told one interviewer, "in order to earn another $100 to buy coal for the furnace." ("It was very good money during the Depression," Leslie McFarlane recalled in a radio interview forty years later. Both interviews are linked from the author's entry on Wikipedia.)

But over 100 million books have since been published with the boy detectives he brought to life. "A royalty of even a quarter of one percent would've been all right," he added wistfully...

Leslie McFarlane, original author of the Hardy Boys
Ghost Writer Leslie McFarlane
In 1926, a 24-year-old McFarlane accepted a short-term contract position which led to his writing the first sixteen Hardy Boys titles under the pseudonym Franklin W. Dixon. "I never did learn what the 'W' represented," he groused in a commemorative introduction later. "Certainly not Wealthy."

It's the mystery of the disgruntled ghost writer, as I discovered when reading the original 1929 version of The Secret of the Caves and found myself wondering: Are there dirty jokes hidden between the lines? He'd "inject his wonderful sense of humor," McFarlane's daughter once remembered, to make the writing project "palatable."

"And then he'd finish and say, 'I will never write another juvenile book.' But then the bills would pile up and he'd start another..."

It's been 80 years since the Hardy Boys mysteries first appeared, and the change in our language is hard to miss when the two brothers first begin investigating a ring of car-stealing smugglers, and their best friend describes his stolen vehicle.
"The car is pretty well known around Bayport," said Chet. "It was certainly a gay-looking speed-wagon."

Wikipedia argues the word gay "implied a willingness to disregard conventional or respectable sexual early as the 1920s."

The Shore Road Mystery - original 1928 illustration
Original caption: "We'll tie them up until we figure out what to do with them."
In his 1928 book The Shore Road Mystery, McFarlane had accidentally chosen words whose meanings were changing, I thought. But the same accident recurred just a few pages later, when the boy's aunt Gertrude argued they shouldn't post bail for farmer Dodd's son. "You can't rely on men who don't have a woman around the house to keep them straight."

Interestingly, McFarlane's publishing syndicate had given him strict instructions on how to portray the boys' romantic lives, he revealed in the commemorative introduction. "It was intimated that relations between the Hardy Boys and their girl friends would not go beyond the borders of wholesome friendship and discreet mutual esteem."

Was the book's author wryly hiding double entendres as a backhanded slap at his employer and their straitjacketing guidelines?

Or do readers in the 21st century just have dirty minds...

I've agonized over this question, but if it's true, then McFarlane's magnum opus was a 1929 masterpiece of dirty double meanings called — what else — The Secret of the Caves. Within a few chapters, an elderly male shopkeeper is warning the Hardy Boys and their two male friends to stay away from the mysterious beach because "There's some queer things been goin' on down there lately." And what exactly does that mean, asks the Hardy Boys' friend — Biff.
"Nobody knows. But there's been queer lights seen down around them caves. And shootin'. Guns goin' off. Mighty queer doin's, they say..."

Chet whistled softly. "This sounds good! We may stay longer than we had intended..."

Wikipedia says the word "queer" already had sexual overtones by the late 1800s.

Hardy Boys covers - The Secret of the CavesMcFarlane's book even detours to report that the females in the book were feeling left out.
"I wish I were a boy," sighed Callie Shaw.

Iola Morton looked up from her ice-cream soda. "Me, too."

"It's tough luck that you're not," agrees Joe Hardy in chapter six, but unfortunately, exploring strange caves is a men-only job. McFarlane opens chapter eight by telling us that "The Hardy boys and their chums spent the night at a hotel in a small village..."

The four teenagers are on summer vacation, so there's time for some sleuthing. When they buy camping supplies, the old shopkeeper re-iterated again that it's a dangerous cave full of queer doin's, and Frank "smiled at this thrust."

But his younger brother Joe was even more enthusiastic.
"The one thing we're afraid of is a quiet outing. Excitement," he added slangily, "is our meat."

"Ye'll get lots of it if ye go pokin' around them caves," the old gentleman predicted.

Maybe that was the book's rejected first title — Excitement is Our Meat.

In any case, by chapter 15, the four friends have started exploring the caves. There's a lot of darkness and candles, but apparently the four lads aren't alone. Within a few pages, the chums are approached by a strange looking old man.
"What a queer duck he is!" exclaimed Biff.

"I'll say he is!" ejaculated Chet Morton.

So that's the secret of the caves...

I wouldn't have said anything, except for an earlier scene where Frank Hardy regains consciousness in one of the cave's pits — and the narrator uses a tell-tale adverb.
[W]ith the aid of the rope, and with Joe and his chums pulling lustily, Frank was soon hauled to the top...

It's a strange book. The Hardy Boys' cave does prove to be filled with pits, but for the most part McFarlane's story records the mystery of the missing mystery. Until chapter 17, which veers suddenly into startlingly unwholesome territory.

The Secret of the Caves - The Hardy Boys - original 1929 cover

They were just approaching the cliff that hid the cave from view when Frank halted and peered through the fog at the base of the rocks some distance ahead.

"Do you see somebody lying there, Joe...? Seems like a man sprawled on the sand...."

The boys hastened across the rocks in the direction of the figure on the shore...

They came up to the man sprawled on the sand. He was not dead. An empty bottle lying by his side told the reason for his slumber.

"He's drunk!"

So "The Secret of the Caves" is — they have a liquor license?
He was quite senseless from the effects of the liquor he had drunk... "This is luck!" exclaimed Frank.

"What shall we do with him? asked Joe.

Frank groped in his pocket and produced a length of stout cord.

"We'll tie him up first!"

Say, what kind of beach is this, anyways?

The Hardy Boys had apparently identified their sexy smuggler as an escaped criminal who's wanted by the police — and their stars are lining up.
"What if he puts up a fight?"

"He's too drunk."

They throw hat-fuls of water into in his face to revive him — but when he wakes up, they keep throwing more water at him.
"Hey! What's this?" roared the car thief indignantly. He had just discovered that his wrists were bound.

"Just a little joke," said Frank.

Water was streaming down the man's face. He was thoroughly aroused by now.

"I'll say he is!" ejaculated Chet Morton.

The Hardy Boys prevailed, and eventually turned their captured smuggler over to the police. I don't know if they then lit a cigarette — but I decided I didn't need to read any further. I'd already guessed the secret of the caves.

But one tantalizing mystery about the Hardy Boys remained. How could such a wildly popular detective series be created by a man who was so ambivalent about them? And could he really write a total of 21 Hardy Boys books without leaving behind a hint of his true feelings?

As the years ticked on, Leslie McFarlane dreamed of writing a great epic novel about the Canadian north. But instead, he lived just long enough to see the Hardy Boys turned into a cheery Saturday morning cartoon with their own faux-60s rock band.

McFarlane's creations continued marching through the decades, with the books' texts suffering major revisions to keep up with a changing world. Ben Stiller and Tom Cruise are even reported to be collaborating on a new movie based on the characters called The Hardy Men.

Shortly before his death, a radio interviewer surprised Leslie McFarlane, then in his 70s, with a quiz about his original ending for The Shore Road Mystery. In the book, the Hardy Boys had investigated the baffling disapperances of cars along the old shore road. So who committed the crime?

"I haven't the foggiest idea," the author answered. "And I don't really care."

But last year in an interview with the newspaper of McMaster University, McFarlane's daughter shared a haunting memory. At the end of his life, he'd delivered one last sad and final irony.

"You know, I think people are only going to remember me for those damn books."

Click here to purchase McFarlane's original 1929 text
for The Secret of the Caves

See Also:
When Kurt Vonnegut Met Sammy Davis
Five Lamest Charlie Brown Cartoons
The Cartoon Porn Shop Janitor: Carol Burnett vs. Family Guy
The Druggiest High School Sitcom Scenes
Six Freakiest Children's TV Rock Bands

27 thoughts to “How Gay Were the Hardy Boys?”

  1. Since when is WiIkipedia the authority on slang of the 20’s? I have always been taught that in 1929 gay meant happy, or fun, not homosexual. Destiny is trying way to hard to make his/her point. McFarlane may have resented having to write the books to get by, but that doesn’t meen he was hiding homosexual innuendo in the prose. This is a 2007 reading of 1929 writing. Has Destiny read much fiction from that time period? If so, Destiny may realize that language was used differently then.

    BTW, Why is it Gay for 4 boys to want to explore caves? Why is Destiny looking so hard to find a gay theme for a juvenile detective story from the late 20’s? I found the article very annoying.

  2. there’s a South Park episode that seems to suggest the Hardy Boys were gay… I don’t buy it, though… indeed, 21st century colloquial language is different from 20th century… but maybe this entire post was intended as a joke?

  3. funny stuff, even if you don’t sell readers on the thesis (i doubt that was the intention). reminds me of a deconstructionist english prof who once told the class hamlet’s “to be or not to be” soliloquy was all about masturbation…gave examples…ugh…

  4. Bogus sources or not, I think Destiny is pointing out there that there are a few too many turns of phrase in this book for it to be a mere coincidence. There are a whole lot of words in there that are now just dripping with innuendo. (You see what I did there?)

    “Ejaculated”? Really. One of the female characters says “I wish I was a boy”, and the other agrees, and one of the boys says “tough luck you’re not.” Really?!

  5. When I was young the first hardy Boy books I read were early versions and I spent some time looking words up i.e.;ruffian or reiver[my example].
    As later versions were realeased these words would change ,modernized,along with the various Hardy Boy’s activities [combo became a rock band].
    I wonder if good ol’ Chet ever “pulled a boner”.

  6. the Norwegian edition published on this site..better hurry back in the closet…;-)

    PS: Think the monster in the cave use to call itself ‘the eye of Hoor’

    ,-7 ‘ shame on you…CMC’

  7. What are you fucking kidding with this shit?
    Leave it to a sicko perverted fag to try to besmirch the Hardy Boys and Leslie McFarlane.
    Go fuck yourself!

  8. I always thought they talked different, but I searched every chapter in those books and none of those paragraphs showed up as to what I saw. What bull crap!

  9. HardyFan: you need to read the original editions that were released in the 1920s. Applewood books re-issued them in the 1990s. (Just follow the links!)

  10. wow dude u r truly a fag. u got way too much time on ur hands to use all this bogus shit to try to prove the greatest book series to come out of America of being gay. Fuck you u dumb cunt!!!!

  11. How appropriate that this was posted on a site named after monkeys.

    Wasn’t it once said that if an infinite number of monkeys were allowed to type at an infinite number of typewriters, they would eventually reproduce all the works of Shakespeare? Material like this shows that internet blogging is probably the closest approximation we have to that scenario.

    Keep typing, ‘Destiny’. Shakespeare is out there somewhere.

  12. Erm…okay…I think you’re allowing your imagination to run away with you.

    There are no gay jokes in the Hardy Boys books, only phrases that have long come to have other meanings. The fact they MAY have had vague overtones way back when (according to Wikipedia, the world’s educator) doesn’t mean that McFarlane was meaning them to have any other connotation than what those words actually meant, for example, Gay = Happy.

    To imply that the author wrote the Hardy Boys with a gay overtone is frankly insulting to the author, and insulting to the editor of the books at the time. Don’t you think it would have been picked up at the time? They were careful in those days as to what got passed the censor…besides which, I’m pretty sure McFarlane would have had more pride in his work even if he wasn’t enjoying it.

    These are children’s books. If you feel the need, go and concentrate your strange observations on books aimed at the over twelves. Mind you, it wouldn’t be as much fun, or as contraversial, would it?

  13. ok I am 65 started hearing, reading at 1951 from textbooks and library published in 20s 30s pre-WWll the words Gay and and many others were stll used in daily life then it was not considered Homosexual at all. we never heard; slut, whore, Fag[except to discribe a relit ciggeret] pussy was ‘cat feminien. Twat was girls downtheres . peter was boys. cock some how was for girls ‘get a piece of cock’
    men’ got a piece of tail’ ie ass , slice of IT. Rubbers were the gum shoes you wore in the rain. Condoms were ‘jonny rubbers’ snakeskins or lamb skins, fish gut. girls talked nasty only when no males were in esr shot. but when they did it was attrousis.
    The references to it were not baseball like boys did . it was flower gardens like it was in the 1900s -20s. or fancy house like earlier than that. I herd him knocking at my door. [petting her pubes] Let him in the foryer[kept bloomers dress on for a feelup. invited him to the vestabule’inside the clothing with his hand maybe a titty kiss]. Dressed the parlor'[took the panties/bra off,still dress/blouse on] let him work around at the fine furniture with out thenice dust covers that were kept on it unless company was cummin]’ He rang the kitchen[sic: bell]”Cunniling’us ffor us. A quite-tapping on the backdoor’ was anal OK??” let him in to clean his rubbers’ ” put on a jonny skin’ Did it that way till he was finished. Opened the pantry” he couod do anything he could to get her ‘Goat’ ‘ trip her trigger’ give her the’ Vapors’.
    the other was flower garden . Swinging on the garden gate was ‘intercourse’or girl to girl fun, not as uncommon as you think of greatgrand mothers were. They were plegued with a lack of male correspondence. Flue in the late teens killed healthy working males more than females of the home . WWl took ablebodied males and sent home cripples, mustard gas was debilitating beyond our present horors. STDs were rampant. They were 3 to one in the cities and worse in the country. unwed mothers had special HOMES to vacation at for the 4 months of recurperation of ”Sick Aunt’s” Dancing was a community Effort to make money for THE BOYS overseas and the girls charged 10 cents a dance which made them 5 bucks on a good night they had dance cards to be filled. they kept the money over the card as tips. A parking lot trip for a’ bit of fresh air ‘ generallt added jingle to the mole skin pouch, velvteen shache. that hung from the wrist. and got them a swig of ‘Necters’
    lavender was the AFRODISAC of the day. bayrum for men. The hot water bottle and a 6 inch long hard rubber spray head filled with vineger for cleansing the ‘ upper vestibule’ after a hard night on your heels,[’round heels’ were the one who tipped over on their backs easily]. pine-tar soap for killing the ever present lice .
    ”skads”were the amount of Ferns in your bunch””number of males you KNEW biblicaly in a certain period. ‘Clutch’ was the number of males you had to’ Choose’ from.’main squeeze’ going steady with . ‘lotus blossom’ was girls who let about anyone on her lilly pad if they felt froggy. the resulting withered up stem with miltipul holes in it was what they were to look like in a few years.” Porcupines” was ‘having as many pkling out as had been poked in”. Raffel ticket ‘was one winner a month wait for the results next period. Alum the chemical of steptic pincels , was used as a ‘Drench’ in the hot water bottle to ‘tighten the draw string on a round heeled girl. before a date. chicken liver ,one was inserted, to fake a virginity. the resulting bloody mess stunk enough to fool most guy’s they are DUMB you know. wet orgasms were refered to as ‘ private purgings” or ” slip shots” motor car sex was touted as highly as Hotel for the night is now. Picnic sex was the most common. Next time I’ll tell you about Gaslight parks that were all across America paid for by the big companies that provided lifhting gas for the communities. including the benches band shells and curvywalk was with primrose gardens 10 feet tall.

  14. I love the movie of Ben Stiller which is There is something about mary, nice love story and comedy.:**

  15. WOW!!!! A lot of people need to get a LIFE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Language was different in the early 1900’s. Instead of seeing homosexuality in everything, do some research and learn some facts!!! You might as well say the Gay 90’s is when the entire world turned homosexual and heterosexual is just an illusion!! The scary thing is you all probably have children and are raising them to think like you!!!!!!!!!!!!! IGNORANCE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  16. “Or do readers in the 21st century just have dirty minds… ”

    Bingo. You got exactly what makes your article such a piece of crap.

    Next time try writing about something you have a clue about.

  17. why is everyone above this comment so angry and protective of the hardy boys lol, they aren’t anywhere near the pinnacle of american literature so why not have a little fun with literary interpretation?

  18. Wow, the homophobic remarks and anger shown here is really scary. I cant see why you would be offended by someone pointing out that the Hardy boys probably were gay. Being gay is not a bad thing, but ignorant and homophobic is. Heterosexuality is obviously fragile.

    So what if its a childrens book. Disney, Betty Boop and all kinds of childrelated products have hidden straight AND gay innuendo. From cartoons to toys. Do your research and you will find them. Actually you dont even have to do research. Just go to Youtube and search for it and you will see compliations of vaginas, erections and double entendre put there by the creators for their own amusement.
    There is nothing new about it and its higly plausible that this author may have done the same, especially as he obviously did not like the books. One must amuse oneself somehow to make boring work tollerable.
    The problem is straights being offended and hating on anything that dont fit their narrowminded ignorant views. Just think how Who framed Roger Rabbit exposed children to sexuality by having Jessica Rabbit and her huge tits and no panties all over the screen. Actually this promotion and indoctrination of heterosexualuty and toxic genderroles is very dangerous.
    Have a think about that and calm the fuck down. Seriously.

    It’s very easy to look at the world and think, this is all so cruel and so mean. It’s important to not become bitter from it. That is the key to navigating this life—don’t take it too seriously. That’s when the party begins.

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