Running the arduino blink sketch, I tried switching the transistors around with emitter and collector...when I did that two lights were very dim and one was half as bright...I tried a TIP 120 (wiring everything a little different because the pin configurations are different) and same thing...just very bright lights but no HIGH to LOW, I also tried a PNP as well...the NPN I was mostly messing around with was, I believe a 2N4400 or something like that...I don't have it with me at the moment...
The universal language for electronics is the schematic drawing, English is a poor but often attempted replacement.
Without such a drawing I can only guess of why your results were poor:
You wired the leds in parallel between a voltage source and the collector of the transistor, but failed to have series current limiting resistors wired is series for each led. That would also account for a hot transistor. Not having a properly sized series resistor between the transistor base terminal and the arduino output pin can also damage the transistor and the arduino output pin.
Again just throwing out things we've seen other beginners do and short of a drawing it's all speculation anyway.