Where is Bayport?
This question is part of a popular parlor game among readers of the Hardy Boys series. Even though most will admit that the location is fictitious, that does not stop them from trying to identify the state containing Bayport and possibly the location itself.
At least nine articles in the series book magazine Yellowback Library have gathered clues from the stories to make cases for assigning Bayport to any particular state or town. Other articles and theories exist as well.
|YL 117||Mar. 1994||Case for Bayport, NJ||Doug Allcock|
|YL 145||July 1996||Welcome to Bayport, MA||Jim Mixon||Plymouth, MA|
|YL 145||July 1996||Bayport Revisited||Doug Allcock||Morro Castle in Hidden Harbor|
|YL 153||Mar. 1997||Bayport Revisited II||Doug Allcock||Emilio Carranza in Mark on the Door|
|YL 162||Dec. 1997||Bayport Revisited III||Doug Allcock||Cabin Island|
|YL 165||Mar. 1998||Bayport Revisited Addendum||“Rea Cerche”||An “interview” with Doug Allcock|
|YL 177||Mar. 1999||Bayport Revisited IV||Doug Allcock||The 1939 New York World’s Fair and The Disappearing Floor|
|YL 187||Jan. 2000||Bayport Revisited V||Doug Allcock||New York City at the time of What Happened at Midnight|
|YL 215||May 2002||Bayport Revisited VI||Doug Allcock||The Gretta endpapers|
Some of the additional theories from readers were published in the letters column of Yellowback Library.
Robert Crawford devotes a chapter (pp. 42-57) to clues to the location of Bayport from the first 40 original-text volumes in his book, The Lost Hardys: A Concordance (1993). He outlines cases for several states including New Jersey, Delaware, and Maine with citations for each clue. He also goes into details about how Bayport was described in the first 40 volumes (with dust jackets). Crawford even includes floor plan diagrams of the Hardy Home. Other portions of the book surveys the characters (primary and secondary), crimes, and themes of the stories. Each citation has a five-digit number with the volume number and page for the reference. It packs a good deal of information in its 77 numbered pages.
Chapter 13 of Mark Connelly’s The Hardy Boys Mysteries, 1927-1979: A Cultural and Literary History (McFarland, 2008) devotes chapter 13 to “Bayport, U.S.A.” which includes the notion that Haileybury, Ontario, Canada, where Leslie McFarlane lived was at least an influence on the descriptions even if it was not close enough to New York City to match the references in the books.
For someone who wishes to play the game or simply wonders if Bayport is a real town, one of the first stops for research is a gazetteer or a general web search to look for a town with that name. The one that gets brought up often is Bayport, New York on Long Island. The name is the same but it fails the criteria described in story after story in the series.
In the 1960s the Stratemeyer Syndicate tried to make its stories as consistent as possible. The goal was to have similar descriptions and portrayals of characters and locales and this was achieved by composing a series “bible” with entries on characters (major and secondary), locales, and past plots. The latter was to minimize repetition of crimes and themes. For the Hardy Boys, there were even horoscope pages for key characters (Frank, Joe, Chet, and Aunt Gertrude) with the ramifications of each zodiacal sign on that person that might contribute to the new stories. Before the bible was composed, writers more or less copied any books at hand, worked from memory, and invented new characters and locales as their plot called for.
What does the Hardy Boys bible say about Bayport?
The population of Bayport was changed by Edward Stratemeyer in January 1927 after he read Leslie McFarlane’s manuscript for the first volume, The Tower Treasure. What was originally 100,000 in the story (not specified in the outline) was reduced to 50,000 because of the level of professionalism of the police department in McFarlane’s text. As he notes, this would mean only one high school in the town.
One of the elements which causes problems for most location candidates is the series of steep cliffs with caves at the shoreline which can have concealed tunnels leading up to the surface at the top of the bluff as in The House on the Cliff (1927). Bayport, N.Y. falls short in this.
Nearly all of the descriptions say that Bayport is on Barmet Bay which opens to the Atlantic Ocean. This causes problems for locations in upstate New York or Ontario, Canada.
Another part of the Stratemeyer Syndicate’s bible for the Hardy Boys series had their own sketched map of Barmet Bay, showing Bayport and surrounding towns and landmarks. An earlier summary of the locale description suggested that it was “apparently” but not actually in New York state based on travel distances and times mentioned in the stories.
Of course, there are many contradictions to even the official descriptions. The 1970s and 1990s TV shows provided clues to the location of Bayport with the on-screen license plates.
After the Syndicate was sold to Simon & Schuster, the new book packagers like MegaBooks had their own canonical descriptions for authors to follow. River Heights for Nancy Drew which was vaguely in the “Midwest” was specified to Illinois in these descriptions and some books mention it.
When PaperCutz did their comic book story based on the Hardy Boys, “The Ocean of Osyria” in 2006, they showed a map that vaguely identified a location for Bayport.
In the late 1940s Grosset & Dunlap employed an art director, A.P. Tedesco, who redesigned the layout, typefaces, and other aspects of the appearance of books from the publisher. Some of these included map-illustrated endpapers to help readers follow along with the adventures. An example of this is the map of Africa for the late reprints of the Tarzan series.
In 1947, Horace Gardiner Richards was compiling a bibliography of stories set in the southern part of New Jersey. His draft title was Jerseyana but the book had a more prosaic title of One Hundred South Jersey Novels: a bibliography of fiction with a southern New Jersey setting (New Jersey Folk-lore Society, 1947).
He asked if Barmet Bay was based on Barnegat Bay (a theory posited by some Hardy Boys reader playing the game) but Harriet Stratemeyer Adams replied in the negative. She also stated that there was discussion about including maps for the endpapers.
Another Grosset & Dunlap series famously included map endpapers. The Rick Brant series was not a Stratemeyer Syndicate product but since it began in 1947 it included the sort of endpaper that the Hardy Boys might have received.
A decade later when the Hardy Boys were portrayed on television in two serials for The Mickey Mouse Club, comic books included a map of Bayport to help readers follow the action in the story.
When asked by a CBC reporter in 1972, decades after his work on the Hardy Boys, Leslie McFarlane replied about Bayport to which he replied:
They lived in the city of Bayport, which you will find in no map—no map of the Atlantic coast. It is vaguely somewhere between New York City and Florida. And there’s a river runs into it. And there’s a bay. And the Atlantic Ocean is out there, conveniently handy when the boys want to pursue rascals in motor boats and so forth and get involved in mysteries involved in shipping such as The Phantom Freighter. And then there’s some hills in the background and there can be haunted houses and derelict buildings where the boys can get into adventures with different degrees of—oh, shall we say “mayhem”?
McFarlane repeated some of this sentiment in his 1976 memoir, Ghost of the Hardy Boys.
Like the contents of the Hardy Boys’ pockets, Bayport contains whatever is needed for the next mystery adventure. The game of specifying a location for Bayport is fun to play but don’t expect to come up with a single answer that fits all of the textual evidence.