Edgar Rice Burroughs: The Narrator

Very few people are aware of it, but Edgar Rice Burroughs had a mystery partner in many of his most famous novels.  This mystery partner was directly responsible for the Mars series, The Tarzan series, the Pellucidar series, The Caprona series, the Venus series, and others.

This mystery partner's name was never revealed, and whenever he is mentioned it is under the pseudonym of Edgar Rice Burroughs.  To learn about this second Edgar Rice Burroughs we must closely study the prologues, introductions, and forewords of the books wrote by the famous author born in Chicago, Illinois in 1875.

The exact location where Burroughs mystery partner was born in 1855 is not fully revealed.  Most likely, however, it was at the Carter family plantation about two hours by train out of Richmond, Virginia. It is unprovable, but many feel the Carter plantation is in, or just outside of, Scottsville, Virginia.  This is the town Jane Clayton was visiting on July 10, 1914 recorded in The Man Eater.

It was widely known that the Carter family was of Puritan stock, and their plantation possessed a fine stable of horses.  As pre-war southerners they also owned the usual stock of slaves.

The third generation Carter was a young tot of five when he saw his great Uncle Jack for the first time in 1860.  Captain Carter was taking a rest from his travels and stopped off to visit his relatives. He only stayed a few months then went off to fight in the Civil War.

After the war and some prospecting out west.  Captain Carter returned to the family plantation to visit once more.  He stayed with them for awhile, and became very close to his fast growing-up great nephew.  At an unrecorded date Captain Carter then moved to a place of his own in New York.

By the late 1870's, Burroughs' future writing associate, in partnership with his father, succeeded in building a string of general stores throughout Virginia.  Although he had been a very busy man of late, young Carter, now in his twenties, always found time to visit his great uncle.  His Uncle Jack appreciated this thoughtfulness, and the great nephew easily became his favorite of the younger Carter family.  During one of these visits on March 4, 1886, the third generation Carter discovered his great uncle had been found dead at the top of the hill at his New York home.

The younger Carter inherited a considerable amount of his great uncle's wealth plus a manuscript dealing with the Captain's adventures.  The will specified that the manuscript was not to be unsealed until 1897, and its contents not divulged to the public until 1907.  The younger Carter did not follow the first procedure, but the manuscript was not published until 1912 with the title Under The Moons Of Mars.  After reading his great uncle's adventures the younger Carter suddenly realized why John Carter had made such a strange request.

Captain Carter had requested in his will that his body not be embalmed and for it to be taken back to Virginia, and placed in a special tomb his great nephew was to construct.  The tomb was to be built so it could not be opened except from the inside.

The manuscript revealed to the third generation Carter that his great uncle had died once before while prospecting in Arizona.  Instead of death, John Carter ended up on a planet called Barsoom where he fell in love and married.  Somehow he was transported back to earth where he had lived for the past few years.  The younger Carter was not sure if  his Uncle Jack was dead or not, but he followed his great uncle's directions to the letter except for the reading of the manuscript.

In August 1898, the third generation Carter, now forty-three, received a telegram signed with the name John Carter.  He was instructed to come to the Hotel Raleigh  in Richmond, which he immediately did. There he met his Uncle Jack, looking as young as he did on the day he first visited the family plantation many years before.

Captain Carter had been back on Earth since May, and had prepared a second manuscript of his Barsoom adventures.  He gave the collection of papers to his great nephew.  This manuscript Burroughs eventually published as The God's Of Mars and The Warlord Of Mars.

Around 1910 the third generation Carter again surfaces in The Outlaw Of Torn, and he is now married.  Both he and his wife are visiting England, and hints are made that she is British although we are not directly told so.  We are told that the third generation Carter's wife's cousin, who is kin to a certain Father Superior, gets permission for the now fifty-five year old Virginian to examine some of an old monasteries ancient writing.  Among these he finds the detailed account of Richard, the lost Prince of England, which Burroughs later publishes as The Outlaw Of Torn.

While on that English visit Carter also meets an official of the British Colonial Office as told in Tarzan Of The Apes.  The Virginian's new acquaintance gets a  little nippy during a luncheon, and relates to him a tale about one of England's high society families.  The tale was so bizarre the third generation Carter could not, and would not believe it.

To save face the British Colonial Office agent produced a manuscript, official documents and a
diary to back up his story.  This tale was almost as unbelievable as his Uncle Jack's, and the third generation Carter collected the information that eventually became Tarzan Of The Apes, The Return Of Tarzan, The Beasts Of Tarzan, and Jungle Tales Of Tarzan.

Sometime offstage in 1911, after returning from England , the third generation Carter becomes acquainted with Burroughs in his hometown of Chicago.  The two work out a partnership where Burroughs writes a series of novels based on the information provided by the Virginian.  It was agreed that Normal Bean would be their pen name, and that Carter would operate only as a silent partner.  The most likely reason for Carter's incognito has to do with his unnatural aging process which was becoming noticeable.

In 1912, the year Normal Bean's first book Under The Moons Of Mars, was printed in magazine form, Carter at the age of fifty-seven, goes to Africa to do some big game hunting.  While in Algeria he meets a Connecticut man, named David Innes, on the rim of the Sahara Desert.  Innes claimed to have been at the earth's core for the past ten years, and he showed Carter his molar transportation vehicle, plus a creature called a Mahar which he claimed resided there.

After spending a week with Innes the Virginian rushes to England where he purchased countless supplies for his new friend.  While there Carter told Innes' strange story to the Royal Geological Society but the story was not believed by them, and later Burroughs published the story under the
title of AT The Earth's Core.  Just as Carter and Innes' needed supplies reached the end of the railroad tracks in Algeria, the Virginian was recalled to America on important business.  There was little he could do but send Innes' supplies on ahead with a letter, and his American address.

We are not told what that important business is, but to make Carter leave during the middle of an adventure of such magnitude it must indeed have been important.  One logical explanation would be the return of John Carter.  We do know that offstage Captain Carter returns around this time period
to give his great nephew the events of Thuvia Maid Of Mars.

It is also very likely that the third generation Carter was contacted by agents of Lord Greystoke, about the amazing coincidence between the October 1912, All-Story Magazine publication of Tarzan Of The Apes, and the real life of the English Lord.  In the spring of 1913 we find Carter at the Greystoke plantation in British East Africa.

There he meets Barney Custer and his sister, Victoria,  of Beatrice, Nebraska, and the grandson of Greystoke, John Clayton IV, better known as Jackie.  (Dackie is treated as a misspelling).  On this visit Carter obtains information that becomes Part 1 of The Mad King, The Eternal Lover and The Son Of Tarzan.

The reason why Carter's is visiting is avoided, but big game hunting is very unlikely since he is never mentioned joining any hunts.  This tends to make one believe the Virginian is not there on one of his numerous vacations, because hunting is his favorite sport.  It is also doubtful Carter is visiting dear and close friends, because of the withholding of information on his part.  The information I am talking about is the David Innes adventure.

The occurrence in Algeria takes place less than a year before Carter's visit to the Greystoke plantation.  Yet by the dialogue that is reported in Tarzan At The Earth's Core we are led to believe Greystoke is totally unaware of David Innes' existence.  When Jason Gridley tracks down the ape man for aid and relates the Innes story, Greystoke in no way acts as if he is familiar with the tale.  It is also interesting to note that Gridley makes no mention of being acquainted with Carter.

From my studies I have reached the conclusion that Carter's first Greystoke visit was strictly heads
up business.  That business was the publishing of Tarzan Of The Apes.  Evidently a relative, or
close friend, living in America, who knew the Greystoke's secret, spotted the story and informed the Englishman.  In turn an agent representing the Greystoke family contacted Burroughs in Chicago, who in turn contacted Carter in Algeria.  The necessary arrangements were made for Carter to visit British East Africa.

On this 1913 visit Greystoke and Carter reached an agreement acceptable to both.  The Edgar Rice Burroughs team would be allowed to continue their jungle series, as long as they made some efforts to protect Greystoke's true identity.  The Englishman and Carter also formed a communication channel so they could keep in touch.

Have you ever noticed how real the adventures of Tarzan seem in the first books.  Although the events are extreme and very unprobable the end leaves the reader believing they could be true. After the meeting with Greystoke the Tarzan series takes on a drastic change.  The Son Of Tarzan dating is not consistent with Tarzan Of The Apes, The Return Of Tarzan, The Beast Of Tarzan and Jungle Tales Of Tarzan.  Then with Tarzan And The Jewels Of Opar the series spins towards a more fantasy & science fiction approach.  Also note that Tarzan did not provide Carter with the events of The Son Of Tarzan.  Herr Skopt does at a later meeting in The Son Of Tarzan.

From the Greystoke plantation Carter headed back to Algeria to search for signs of David Innes. Once there he discovered his old guide had died, and he was unable to locate any of those who had been on any of his previous missions.  Hiring a new crew the Virginian searched the desert for months, but could not find a trace of the New Englander.

We know Carter also visits the west coast of Africa where he meets Herr Skopt, the proprietor of a local motel, mentioned in The Son Of Tarzan.  It is not made clear if this port visit took place on Carter's first visit in 1912, or his second in 1913.  We do know, however, this meeting occurred before 1915 because that is the year Burroughs penned Jack Clayton's story.

In the summer of 1917 we find Carter at Cape Farewell, located at the southernmost extremity of Greenland.  The sixty-two year old Virginian is suffering from some unnamed health problem, and his doctor advised him to take a vacation on the northern island.  This health problem is never directly brought out, but in 1929 in Pirates Of Venus when Carson Napier is visiting Carter in Tarzana it is mentioned that he has more than one operation.

While walking along the shore during a fishing venture the Virginian discovers a  quart thermos bottle with a manuscript in it.  The lengthy article was signed by Bowen J. Tyler, Jr. and Lys La R. Tyler, and the events recorded take place between June 3rd through September of 1916. Tyler's adventure eventually sees print under the title The Land That Time Forgot.

The vacationing adventure was dumbfounded with his find for he knew both Tyler, Jr. and Sr.  The younger Tyler was thought dead because the ocean liner he was aboard was sunk by a German sub during the war. and he had been missing ever since.  Wasting no time the Virginian rushed back to the Tyler home in Santa Monica, California to report his amazing find.

There Carter learned that the elder Tyler had unexpectedly died on his yacht, Toreador, while returning from Honolulu.  Ten days after Tyler, Sr.'s  body arrived a rescue team, which Carter was a member of, and led by the late Tyler's secretary, Thomas Billings, set out for the almost unheard of island, Caprona.  This daring rescue mission was recorded in The People That Time Forgot.

The exact date and place is unrecorded, but we do know from the Glossary in Tarzan The Terrible that Carter and Greystoke meet once more.  This visit takes place offstage during Tarzan And The Golden Lion shortly after the hostilities of World War I, and before Burroughs begins to write Tarzan The Untamed in 1918.

During that meeting Carter is provided with the Clayton's war time adventures that fill two novels. Since their last meeting  in British East Africa, Carter has been provided, through his Greystoke channel, information that became Part II of The Mad King, The Man Eater and Tarzan And The Jewels Of Opar.

On March 1, 1919, both Carter and Burroughs buy property in California at the base of the Santa Monica Mountains.  Burroughs is so pleased with the sales of the Tarzan series that he names his new property Tarzana.  Soon afterwards the whole community adopts the name.  Nothing is ever mentioned about the fate of the Carter plantation in Virginia, but chances are other relatives were by this time handling affairs there.

There is no mentioning why Carter decided to move across country with Burroughs, but most likely it has to do with his slowed aging process.  Carter is now sixty-four, but looks noticeably much younger.  In fact, John Carter upon his 1920 earth visit says this of him, "You yourself, have aged, though not as much as most men in a corresponding number of years, which may be accounted for by the fact that the same blood runs in our veins."  ERB-The Chessmen of Mars.

During the 1920 visit John Carter is testing a newly acquired skill.  He has possessed the power to cross the void in spirit for some time, but he had never been able to transport material things. Now he has learned to do so.  On this one night visit, John Carter teaches his great nephew Martian chess while relating the events of The Chessmen Of Mars.

It is not directly said that the slightly under twelve year old, Shea, is Carter's son, but there is good probability that he is.  It is quite evident the boy has been living with the adventurer for some time, and from Lana Of Gothel we do know he has children.  John Carter mentions that after his great nephew's death he would not return to Earth and the younger Carter replies, "There are my children. They are your blood kin".

By 1920 Carter has once more grown restless and decides  to return to Algeria to hunt lion.  Two weeks before it is time to leave he received a letter dated June 1st from a Cogdon Nestor, and Club postmarked Algiers.  To the Virginian's delight, this fellow had accidentally stumbled across David Innes' telegraph instrument which had long been lost in the desert sands.  After he cabled Nestor to visit him in Algiers, Carter set out for Africa twelve days earlier than first scheduled.

When he reached Algiers the adventurer found Nestor already had their necessary provisions packed and ready, so the day after his arrival they left for the south.  Also going on this three month desert venture was an English telegraph operator named Frank Downes, and an unknown number of native servants.  After reaching the long hidden telegraph instrument it took several days for them to get in touch with Innes, but once communication had been established they talked with him almost everyday for two months.  Their carefully recorded notes eventually became Pellucidar.

In June 1925 Carter is once more visited by John Carter, his great uncle.  He is given another manuscript and a letter, but this time it does not deal with his Uncle Jack and family.  It seems another earth-man named Ulysses Paxton has found his way to Mars where he eventually becomes Vad Varo of Barsoom.  Burroughs pins this story as The Master Minds Of Mars.

In 1927 Carter met a young man, Jason Gridley, that played a very important role in his life. The fellow had just graduated from Stanford, and was looking for some land in California.  Carter introduced Gridley to Burroughs who was dipping into real estate.  Burroughs sold Gridley two acres a few miles from his and Carter's own ranches.  The Virginian was very impressed  with the family less twenty-three year old Jason Gridley.  In fact, so much so, that while Gridley's new house was being built Carter permitted the radio buff to set up headquarters in his own office.

By the time the house was completed and the young man had moved out, the two had become very close friends.  During that brief period, Carter had even learned the very simple basics of his work. The young Jason had discovered a new type of radio wave which he was perfecting, and had named it The Gridley Wave.  The radio genius hoped to someday use this new discovery to make contact with worlds other than his own.  Although not overly interested in the project Carter did sometimes help his friend, and was even provided a home station.

One day while the adventurer was visiting Jason at his new lab a set of mores code signals was picked up on The Gridley Wave.  The men were amazed for they thought that there were only two stations on earth.  The  mysterious signal came from Abner Perry, Innes' right hand man,from their Imperial Observatory at Greenwich, Pellucidasr.  Thanks to the books provided by Carter, which were taken to the inner earth by Innes in 1912, the old gent had also stumbled upon The Gridley Wave.

Abner himself had two radio stations at the earth's core, but this was the first contact with the outer crust.  During that contact he told them David had been captured, and was being held in a dungeon beneath the palace of the Cid of Korsar.  He also related the events that made up Tanar Of Pellucidar, and put in a plea for help before the signal faded and communication was lost.

Both men were very concerned about Innes, but there was little they could do since they had no
mole machine to drill through the earth's crust.  The two did not completely give up, however,  but continued to search for another means of entrance.  They collected and studied the scoffed at works of men who claimed there was a polar opening which led to the inner world.

After all the available data had been studied they had made plans to put their rescue operation into motion.  The only thing the adventurers lacked was a man that was experienced in this type of dangerous mission to provide leadership.  He needed strength, character and a lack of fear. Jason knew no one of this caliber, and Carter knew of only one.

Careful not to mention  about Greystoke's hidden secrets, Carter told Jason enough to convince him John Clayton was their man.  For unmentioned reasons the seventy-two year old adventurer did not go on that rescue mission, but stayed behind to watch over Jason's radio experiments. There is a possibility Carter's wife was ill at this time and eventually dies,  for the Virginian is sleeping alone when Carson Napier makes contact with him through a form of mental telepathy in 1929.

The young radio buff ventured into Africa and found Greystoke, and in 1928 they successfully entered Pellucidar and rescued Innes.  This rescue mission was recorded by Burroughs as Tarzan At The Earth's Core.

After Jason set out in search of Greystoke and to rescue Innes, the adventurer carefully watched over the radio equipment which by now he was familiar with.  After months of nothing Carter took a ten day break and went to Arizona.  It is not made clear if he went there to purchase a two room cabin located near the headwaters of the Little Colorado River in the White Mountains, or if it was the first of many visits he makes there.

In Swords Of Mars we do learn Carter has happened upon an extinct race of men that lived there,
and he is investigating their origin and strange disappearance.  Whatever the case, upon his return
to Tarzana he was surprised to find The Gridley Wave had made contact with someone.

At first Carter thought it might be Jason contacting him from Pellucidar, but upon examination he discovered he was amazingly enough in touch with Ulysses Paxton of Barsoom, or Mars as we know it.  The Martians had been receiving Jason's signals for months, but it was sometime before their world's greatest scientist could duplicate The Gridley Wave and return signals.  On that first off world contact the information that Burroughs published as A Fighting Man Of Mars was relayed.

In 1929, a few months after Jason's return from Pellucidar, Carter received a very strange letter. The letter was from a Carson Napier, dated the third, and sent from Guaymas.  Guaymas is a seaport in Sonora, on the Gulf of California.  In fact the letter was so bizarre the adventure thought it was from a crank and he dismissed it without giving it another thought.

When the phone rang it was Jason and he wanted Carter to come over, for he had made contact with Abner Perry through The Gridley Wave.  Perry relayed to them that Von Horst, the only missing member of the Innes' rescue mission, had been found.  Those related events were later published by Burroughs in Back To The Stone Age.

On the night of the thirteenth Carter for some unknown reason awoke from his sleep.  He witnessed a ghostly female figure pass through the wall, and enter his bedroom.  The supernatural figure gave him a message.  "It is midnight of the thirteenth.  He left Guadalupe today and will wait in Guaymas for your letter."  ERB-Pirates Of Venus.  After that she exited the room in the same manner.

The wide awake Carter instantly remembered the crank letter he had received three days ago.  It had said she would appear, say those exact words, and even specified the date.  The surprised adventurer was positive he had not been dreaming, for it was fully an hour before he could go back to sleep.

Carter reported to his office a little earlier the following morning as usual.  The Virginian had his secretary, Ralph Rothmund look up the crank letter.  After locating Napier's address Carter sent him a letter ratifying the apparition.  A few days later he received a reply saying Napier was on his way to Tarzana to visit him.

Once there, the man born in India, gave more demonstrations of his amazing skills.  Afterwards the fellow explained to Carter about his telepathic and mental image projection powers.  He also told the seventy-four year old Carter hat he planned to fly to Mars.  Napier's rocket was going to be launched from Guadalupe Island, off the west coast of California, and he had permission from the Mexican government.

What Napier needed was a human receiver for his projections, which he hoped Carter would be. The old Virginian agreed, and he was to oversee Napier's estate during his absence.  Plus record Napier's adventures, through Burroughs, and make them available to the world.  Napier took off for Mars on schedule, but miscalculations caused him to land on Venus instead.  By 1932 Carter had received enough telepathic projections for Burroughs to produce the novels Pirates Of Venus, and Lost On Venus.

In 1933  we find the Virginian has taken a few weeks off, and returned to the cabin in Arizona. There he was visited by his great uncle, John Carter, and told the events that eventually make up Swords Of Mars.

By the end of 1936 Napier had related his third set of adventures.  Burroughs eventually publishes them as Carson Of Venus.

It was late 1937, or early 1938, when Carter and Ulysses Paxton made contact through The Gridley Wave.  Paxton transmitted the story of one of John Carter's solders, Vor Daj, which Burroughs published as Synthetic Men Of Mars.  This fellow was in charge of finding Ras Thavas, the master surgeon, to help the seriously injured Dejah Thoris.

In 1940, at the age of eighty-five, Carter is residing in Lanikai on the island of Oahu, Hawaii.  He has once more moved to keep up with his publishing partner, Burroughs, who is now a war correspondent.  The Burroughs family was living at 2623 Halelena in Honolulu.  Carter's writing partner also had an office at 1298 Kapiolani Blvd.

While in Hawaii, Carter pens Napier's fourth set of adventures which Burroughs published as Escape On Venus, and he is paid a visit by John Carter.  This is the last recorded visit Carter has from his great uncle, and the last tale sees print as Llana Of Gothol.   It was also upon the island of Oahu that the adventures typewriter mysteriously began typing by itself one midnight, and produced Beyond The Farthest Star.  

In 1941 Carter left the island of Oahu and moved to Honolulu.  His long time friend and writing partner, Burroughs, was going through the crisis of a divorce, and the old adventurer wanted to be closer to him.  While there the Virginian received the last recorded adventure of Napier, which Burroughs published as The Wizard Of Venus.

It is not until June 10, 1967, at the age of one hundred twelve, do we hear about Carter again. The old adventurer is now serving in the Bureau Of Communications, and is in route to Paris on the transoceanic liner, Harding.  On the trip he meets an Admiral in the Air Corps who claimed to have lived both in the past, and in the future, through incarnation.  From that chance meeting the adventurer collected the information that sees print as The Moon Maid.

Sometime in 1968 Carter asked for an indefinite leave from office, which he was granted.  He went to Hershel Island in the Arctic to big game hunt, and rest from the pressures of war.  In March, 1969, Carter came close to losing his life on a bear hunt, and would have, if not rescued by a patrolling cruiser of the International Peace Fleet.

It just so happened that Secretary of Commerce White died, and the President decided Carter would be a good  man for his replacement.  Knowing the adventurer's approximate location a cruiser was dispatched to search for him, which turned out to be his salvation.  While recovering from  his ordeal Carter came into contact with the Air Corps Admiral he had met two years before. He was told the adventures of Julian 9th of 2100 which becomes The Moon Men.

This is the last recorded information we have on the second Edgar Rice Burroughs, of Virginia, and whatever became of him is unknown.  We do know at last account that Carter was in great shape for one hundred fourteen, and he was still a very active man.  From all implications we can assume that the old Virginian went on to serve his post, and continued his adventurous lifestyle for some years to come.

Author's note:  The dates provided in this article are derived from the following sources.  (1) Edgar Rice Burroughs through his books.  (2) Some dates listed are actual occurrences in ERB's real life and provided from the Burroughs' family genealogy.  (3) Others are based on the most logical date agreeing to ERB's writing notebook.  This article is based on the fact Tarzan was born in 1872, and not 1888, as described in Tarzan Of The Apes.

James Michael Moody