It was only until fairly recently that I learned that the Phantom Stranger that I've been such a fan of was not the "original" version; rather, a character bearing that name--and a fairly similar look and M.O.--debuted in a self-titled series in 1952.
In stories mostly by John Broome and Carmine Infantino, the Stranger owed a lot to the characters from 1940s radio shows like The Shadow and The Mysterious Traveler--he would appear, help in solving a supernaturally-themed problem, and then disappear.
As you can see from the covers, Carmine Infantino was doing some of his best work (Carmine Infantino in the 50s is to what Jack Kirby was in the 60s is to what Neal Adams was in the 70s is to what George Perez was in the 80s--i.e., a brilliant comic book artist working at the top of their game), and even though they don't look all that "phantomy", they are about as spooky-looking as DC allowed their comics to be in those Seduction of the Innocent-influenced days.
The original Phantom Stranger comics are very expensive to find, even in near-used-for-a-doormat condition. To that end, I've had to rely on DC's scattered reprints of the various stories (there were four stories per issue, three of them starring the Stranger) over the years to be able to read them. So instead of trying to piece the issues together here at the beginning (some of the stories, to my knowledge, have never been reprinted), I'm going to incorporate those issues along the way, as we get to them chronologically.
Most of them appeared in the first few issues of The Phantom Stranger Volume 2, but a few popped up in some other titles, and we'll be talking about them here in time. So come back tomorrow, when we'll meet the "new" Phantom Stranger, from his debut in the classic Showcase #80!