Tuesday, February 20, 2024

Weird Tales, Back to Old Habits

My plan is to finish the current series on the Houdini issues of Weird Tales from one hundred years ago--issues that culminated in the anniversary number of May/June/July 1924--then to move on to the most recent issue of the magazine, published last year. I have been caught up in my regular work, though, and so my plan is on hold. Rather than leave you with an unfinished Houdini series, though, I would like to write about a problem with the current Weird Tales and let that stew on the Internet for a while.

In preparing to write about the anniversary issues of Weird Tales, I ordered the most recent one, published in mid to late last year. I placed my order in October 2023, or five months ago as I write this. I ordered two copies, one for myself and one for my brother, who reads weird fiction and does his own research on it. He especially likes Robert E. Howard.

To summarize: two copies of the 100th anniversary issue of Weird Tales, ordered in October 2023.

The rest of October went by.

Then November and Thanksgiving.

Then December.


New Year's Eve and New Year's Day.

Half of January went by, and I said enough is enough. I got on the website of Weird Tales and sent a message through its online email function.

I did not receive any response.

Then I received in the mail a slim package from Weird Tales.

It was slim because it contained only one copy of the magazine that I had ordered.

To summarize further: two copies ordered in October 2023. One delivered in January, but only after I pointed out to the magazine that I had placed an order.

I got back on the website of Weird Tales and sent my best Baby-Boomer message about trustworthiness and customer service and meeting your obligations. I still didn't receive a response. I also didn't receive my second copy.

So it looks like Weird Tales is back to its old habits of not providing good service to its readers and customers. This has been going on for years. A couple of people have left comments on this blog telling about their own lack of experience in receiving what they have paid for. I'm sure there are and will be more.

So, my advice to anyone who is thinking about ordering copies of Weird Tales directly from the publisher: Don't do it. You won't get what you have ordered and you won't get any customer service once you point out to the publisher that your order has not been filled. I guess that's just how the world is now. Maybe we should learn to be satisfied with our meager portion and not to complain about it. 

Weird Tales has failed before, and I think it will likely fail again if this is how it runs its operations. As an aside, I will tell you that my current web browsers don't trust the Weird Tales website and have scrambled its contents. I'm not sure that I can send another message through the email function on the website. If I'm ever going to receive my second copy of the thing that I ordered and paid for five months ago, I guess I'll have to write a letter and send it the old-fashioned way, not that anyone at the magazine is interested at all in providing a service that they advertise on their website, the very same service that keeps them in business. Maybe someday Weird Tales will be in good hands again. We can wait, I guess. After all, it's the magazine that never dies.

Copyright 2024 Terence E. Hanley

Friday, February 9, 2024

Weird Tales: The Houdini Issues-Part Four

"The Spirit Fakers of Hermannstadt"

So what about Houdini's other two stories in Weird Tales? Well, "The Spirit Fakers of Hermannstadt" came first. It's a two-part serial that appeared in the issues of March and April 1924. Although it was in two parts, I'll call it one story.

"The Spirit Fakers of Hermannstadt" is the lead story in the March issue of 1924. On page 3 is is an illustration by William F. Heitman of Houdini facing a turbaned medium. He is Popkens, a schemer, faker, blackmailer, kidnapper, and scoundrel. On the tabletop separating the two men is a crystal ball and a display of cards. Houdini is flanked by two women, the Countess D--- and her sister Rosicka (a Bohemian place name), both wearing ornate 1920s dress and headbands. On the following page is an introduction to the story, attributed to "The Editor." I take that to mean Edwin Baird, but the prose is clunky, old-fashioned, boosterish, and journalistic. Maybe J.C. Henneberger was its true author.

Houdini was renowned for his private library. "Houdini is a lover of books," The Editor wrote in his introduction, "and has the finest collection of psychic, spiritualistic and dramatic works of any man in America." Awhile back, I speculated that Otis Adelbert Kline had found The Terrific Register in a public or private library in Chicago and drew from it his non-fiction fillers in the anniversary number of May/June/July 1924 (probably earlier, too). Maybe his source copy actually came to him on loan from the great library of the Great Houdini.

Told in the first person, "The Spirit Fakers of Hermannstadt" is supposed to be a nonfictional account of one of Houdini's adventures, in this case in Transylvania and from before the Great War. Within the story--and it's clearly a a work of fiction--is nested a first-person account told by the Countess D---, daughter of a depraved (and deceased) inhabitant of Castle D---, located on the banks of the Maros River. Approached by the Countess D--- and once in her service at Castle D---, Houdini is, in pretty short order, bound by the henchmen of the fake medium Popkens and thrown into an oubliette. (1)

In part two, published in April 1924, Houdini escapes the oubliette and Castle D---. (2) He returns to the castle to rescue the Countess D--- and Rosicka from the spirit fakers. Part of his scheme is to take Popkens' place at a séance. In the dark, Houdini renders Popkens unconscious and begins imitating Popkens' voice. Houdini's ghostwriter--and we can be certain that "The Spirit Fakers of Hermannstadt" was written by a ghost--mentions in his narrative Houdini's own clearly recognizable "American accent." That made me wonder if there are any recordings of Houdini's voice, and there are. You can hear one for yourself on a megacorporate video website. You know the one. Just go there and have a listen.

Houdini is discovered and held at gunpoint by the henchmen. He and the two sisters are saved by the intervention of "a dozen peasants [. . .] armed with clubs, pitchforks, and axes." These are probably the same peasants, the same stock actors, who appear in every Dracula and Frankenstein movie. They are also in "The Thing of  Thousand Shapes" by Otis Adelbert Kline, the first serial in Weird Tales, published exactly a year before in March and April 1923. I'll have more on Kline and his work in a minute, but first I should let you know that one of the spirit fakers, Houdini learns, is a Russian named Ileanadorff. "I have reason to believe," wrote the narrator, "that Ileanadorff was in reality the false monk Ileador, known as Rasputin, who became the most sinister figure in Russian history." In writing that, the narrator accidentally conflated Rasputin with his onetime associate, then enemy, Sergei Michailovich Trufanov, aka Hieromonk Iliodor or Hieromonk Heliodorus (1880-1952). Like Houdini, Iliodor was an author and actor. Unlike Houdini, he was an anti-Semite, at least at first. Strangely, Iliodor lived out his later years in New York City, working as a janitor.

Two more things. First, I'm pretty sure that we're supposed to associate the Countess D---'s depraved father with Count Dracula and the Castle D--- with Dracula's castle. The setting isn't quite right, though. In Bram Stoker's novel, Dracula's castle is in the Carpathian Mountains. In Houdini's story, Castle D--- is along the river Maros, a real river, also called Mureș and by other names, too. Second, Hermannstadt is the German name for the Romanian-Transylvanian city of Sibiu. So, the story is set in real places and there is an attempt at verisimilitude instead of the typical weird-fictional settings and sequences of events. In fact, you might call "The Spirit Fakers of Hermannstadt" a thriller or a crime or detective story rather than a work of weird fiction. It also has elements of the Ruritanian romance.

I don't think there can be any doubt that "The Spirit Fakers of Hermannstadt" was ghostwritten. The question is, who was the ghostwriter? (3) I would like to nominate Otis Adelbert Kline for that title. Whoever wrote the story was well versed (or mostly well versed) in the history, language, and geography of fantasy, adventure, historical, and weird fiction. Kline fit the bill in that way. Kline was also a manuscript reader, workhorse writer, sometime editor, and partway agent for Weird Tales. He seems to have been a real go-to guy for Henneberger and Baird. In early 1924, the two men at the head of Weird Tales would have needed ghostwriters for Houdini's coming stories. Kline would have been an obvious choice for the first. Lovecraft of course came last. That leaves the middle story, a topic for a future entry in this series. Next, though, I would like to write about the séance at Castle D---.

(1) Oubliette is the actual word used in the story. Another is gyves, an archaic word for shackles or manacles. Whoever wrote Houdini's story knew the lingo.
(2) More than once in these two parts of his story, the narrator mentions escapes made by Houdini, both real and fictional, the latter made, specifically, in his motion picture Terror Island. (See Weird Tales, Apr. 1924, p. 53.)
(3) A ghost rider had appeared on the cover of Weird Tales in January 1924. Maybe that was a bit of foreshadowing that we would soon have ghostwriters in the pages of "The Unique Magazine."

Weird Tales, March 1924. Cover story: "The Spirit Fakers of Hermannstadt" by Houdini. Cover art by R.M. Mally. This was the first Houdini issue and the first cover of Weird Tales to depict an author. The scene here is from near the end of part one of a two-part serial, in which Houdini is thrown, bound and naked, into an oubliette.

Original text copyright 2024 Terence E. Hanley

Monday, February 5, 2024

Weird Tales: The Houdini Issues-Part Three

"Imprisoned with the Pharaohs"

In January and February of 1924, Weird Tales magazine played cowboys and Indians on its covers. In the first illustration, a hatless cowboy wearing thick, furry chaps is seen fleeing on horseback from a ghostly rider twirling a ghostly lariat. In the second, an Indian seems to be summoning lightning from the night sky. With his straight arms raised and his hands open before him, he looks like the symbol of the Lone Scouts. With his flashing red cloak, he looks like the ape in Frank Frazetta's illustration for the Conan story "Rogues in the House." Both covers were by R.M. Mally.

Then the Houdini issues began.

There were three in all, in March, April, and May/June/July 1924. Although Houdini signed his agreement with Weird Tales in February 1924, the issue with the Indian cover was already on the nation's newsstands by then. The March issue was the earliest in which his byline could appear. 

R.M. Mally was again the creator of the three Houdini covers. Houdini was supposed to have been the author of all three cover stories. They were:

  • March 1924: "The Spirit Fakers of Hermannstadt"
  • April 1924: "The Hoax of the Spirit Lover"
  • May/June/July 1924: "Imprisoned with the Pharaohs"

So there were three stories published under Houdini's byline in Weird Tales. But does that mean that Houdini was actually their author? The answer is obviously no in the case of "Imprisoned with the Pharaohs," as H.P. Lovecraft is known to have ghostwritten that story. There was some drama attached to that, for Lovecraft wrote it in a hurry, lost his first version in an even quicker hurry, then rewrote it on his honeymoon, again in a hurry. (Most people are in a hurry on their honeymoons, though not to retype lost manuscripts.) Maybe the briefcase or satchel containing his typescript is in the same place as Hemingway's stolen suitcase. Maybe they're both at the dead letter office where Bartleby the Scrivener used to work. Wherever it went, Lovecraft was well compensated for his work, Houdini liked the result, and his story is still admired by fans of weird fiction. It also became the cover story of the only quarterly issue of Weird Tales, May/June/July 1924. (1, 2)

To be continued . . .

(1) According to Wikipedia, "Imprisoned with the Pharaohs" is supposed to have been an influence upon a young Robert Bloch. Wikipedia of course doesn't say how. Robert Price, though, has identified an Egyptian Cycle of stories written by Bloch. These were published in Weird Tales in 1936-1938. Bloch's Milwaukee friend Earl Peirce, Jr., wrote a story, "The Archer" (Weird Tales, Mar. 1937), that seems to be connected to the Egyptian Cycle as well. Bloch didn't encounter Weird Tales until 1927. If "Imprisoned with the Pharaohs" was an influence upon him, that happened after the initial publication of Lovecraft's story.
(2) Houdini's fictional guide in "Imprisoned with the Pharaohs" is Abdul Reis el Drogman. I assume that the Reis part of his name is from Piri Reis. El Drogman would seem to refer to Abdul Reis' service as a guide. Otis Adelbert Kline would later write stories about a man employed in the same way. These were in his Dragoman series for Oriental Stories and The Magic Carpet Magazine of 1930-1933.

William F. Heitman's illustration for "Imprisoned with the Pharaohs," in Weird Tales, May/June/July 1924. The byline was Houdini's, but the story was written by H.P. Lovecraft. The scene here reminds me of one from Raiders of the Lost Ark in which Indiana Jones descends into a pit full of snakes. Indy's friend Sallah is there. Played by John Rhys-Davies (Rhys, not Reis), Sallah would appear to be a drogman- or dragoman-type character. Every Western adventurer in the Middle East or Near East needs one.

Original text copyright 2024 Terence E. Hanley

Friday, February 2, 2024

Weird Tales: The Houdini Issues-Part Two

Spirits & Sphinxes

Weird Tales magazine was apparently already in trouble when Harry Houdini (1874-1926) met J.C. Henneberger (1890-1969) in his Chicago office in February 1924. Henneberger must have seen a chance to capitalize on Houdini's name and fame by having him and it associated with his magazine. Maybe that would increase sales. And maybe Houdini saw an agreement between them as a chance to publicize his upcoming lecture tour of America. He wanted to talk about spiritualism, séances, and mediums. He wanted people to know that these things were (and still are) a scam, a hoax, and a great fraud.

What followed were three cover stories for Weird Tales written under Houdini's byline. Houdini also conducted a letters column called "Ask Houdini," which took the place of "The Eyrie" and ran in two installments, April and May/June/July 1924. I haven't checked this, but I believe "The Eyrie" was in every other issue of Weird Tales from March 1923 to September 1954. Only those two issues had something different. In any case, things didn't work out so well for Henneberger. Weird Tales foundered in mid-1924, and although he officially retained ownership of the magazine, he became indebted to others, including the men at the head of Cornelius Printing Company of Indianapolis. (I always like to point out that Weird Tales originated in my native city.) The quarterly issue of May/June/July was the last to appear until November 1924. By then, Edwin Baird, the first editor, had left, being replaced by Farnsworth Wright. Meanwhile, Houdini seemingly vanished, having moved on to another--apparently very successful--phase of his career.

* * *

The FictionMags Index provides a list of Harry Houdini's magazine credits. I have adapted it as follows:

  • Letter in The Sphinx: The Official Organ of the Society of American Magicians, Sept. 15, 1916.
  • "The Thrills in the Life of a Magician" in The American Magazine, Sept. 1918.
  • "The Spirit Fakers of Hermannstadt," a two-part serial in Weird Tales, Mar.-Apr. 1924.
  • "The Hoax of the Spirit Lover" in Weird Tales, Apr. 1924.
  • "Imprisoned with the Pharaohs" in Weird Tales, May/June/July 1924, ghostwritten by H.P. Lovecraft. Reprinted in Weird Tales in June/July 1939 as part of a series entitled "Weird Story Reprint." Houdini still got the byline, but an introduction to the story identifies Lovecraft as its true author. It's ironic that a man who exposed ghosts also had a ghost behind his story.
  • "When Magic Didn’t Work" in Collier's, Apr. 18, 1925.
  • "Tricks of Fake Mediums" in Liberty, Nov. 28, 1925.
Thanks to The FictionMags Index for compiling these credits and making this and so much more information available for the rest of us. (Houdini had other credits in The Sphinx. There is a website with indices to The Sphinx, but it's a commercial website, so I won't provide a link. You can find it on your own easily enough.)

Here are two more magazine credits, from Wikipedia:
  • "How I Unmask the Spirit Fakers" in Popular Science, Nov. 1925.
  • "How I Do My 'Spirit Tricks'" in Popular Science, Dec. 1925.
If you detect an air of skepticism and debunkery in these titles, you could be on to something.

Houdini had a famous difference of opinion with Arthur Conan Doyle (1859-1930), who, like the Cowardly Lion, believed in spooks, and yet, like Edgar Allan Poe, wrote great tales of ratiocination. Houdini and Doyle had first corresponded in 1920 while Houdini was touring in Great Britain. (It isn't clear to me when they actually met, although there is an extant photograph of them standing together like a Mutt-and-Jeff pair.) They became friendly, but that turned sour as Houdini continued in his work investigating and exposing frauds, mediums, hoaxers, and fakers. Doyle was well known for his belief in ghosts and fairies. You could call him gullible, perhaps in the extreme, while Houdini resided at the opposite end of the spectrum, for he was in fact powerfully skeptical of the whole business of spiritualism. Doyle saw Houdini's film The Man from Beyond (1921), though, liked it, praised it, and was mollified by it, for Houdini apparently had attempted an onscreen reconciliation of a sorts through his second-to-last picture. Good for Houdini.

To be continued . . .

In 1924, Houdini went on a twenty-four-date lecture tour of America booked by Coit-Albee Lyceum. His subjects were spiritualism, mediums, and séances. He also investigated mediums as a member of the Committee for Psychical Investigations organized by Scientific American. The poster or lobby card shown here is from 1924. It advertised something or other but I haven't found out what. But it was 1924, Houdini's name was still in the news and in American popular culture, and it shows the Great Sphinx of Egypt . . .

The Sphinx was "The Official Organ of the Society of American Magicians." Here is the cover for the March 15, 1924, issue, showing Houdini's picture flanked by hieroglyphics and the volume (XXIII) and number (One) enclosed in what you might call cartouches. By mid-March, Houdini was already on tour. (He had lectured in Birmingham, Alabama, on March 7 and 8, 1924.) Also by then, the first of three Houdini issues of Weird Tales had come out. His story, or article, "The Spirit Fakers of Hermannstadt," first of a two-part serial, was the cover story that month.

The Society of American Magicians held its 20th annual dinner at the Hotel McAlpin in New York City on June 6, 1924. Houdini was on the cover of the program along with the Great Sphinx of Egypt. The cover artist was Grant Wright. At about that same time, Houdini's book A Magician Among the Spirits (Harper & Brothers, 1924) came out. The subject was the same as in his lecture tour, that is, spirit fakers. According to Wikipedia, the uncredited co-author of A Magician Among the Spirits was C.M. Eddy, Jr., of Weird Tales fame. Like Houdini, Eddy had stories in the March, April, and May/June/July issues. Eddy's story for the triple-issue (cover shown below) was "The Loved Dead."

The theme and motif of the Sphinx returned in the May/June/July issue of Weird Tales and in Houdini's cover story, "Imprisoned with the Pharaohs," actually by H.P. Lovecraft, a friend and sometime collaborator of Eddy. The cover art was by R.M. Mally, his or her last for "The Unique Magazine." (In fact, all three of the Houdini covers were by Mally.) After reading about Houdini's activities in 1924 and seeing all of these images, I think it pretty likely that Weird Tales was still seeking to capitalize on its association with Houdini, thus the Sphinx on the cover. Ancient Egypt and the pharaohs of Egypt were still in the public consciousness, too, after the discovery of the tomb of Tutankhamen in November 1922. In looking over the first thirteen issues of Weird Tales, I see that there were several stories and non-fiction fillers on those subjects. In this space, those will have to be subjects for another day.

Original text copyright 2024 Terence E. Hanley

Tuesday, January 30, 2024

Weird Tales: The Houdini Issues-Part One

Harry Houdini
Né Erik Weisz
Aka Eric or Erich Weiss, Harry Weiss
Performer, Magician, Illusionist, Escape Artist, Actor, Author, Aviator, Technical Advisor, Movie Producer & Director, Public Speaker, Psychic Investigator, Skeptic, & Debunker
Born March 24, 1874 (O.S.), Pest (Budapest), Kingdom of Hungary, Austro-Hungarian Empire
Died October 31, 1926, Detroit, Michigan

A lot has been written about Harry Houdini. I'm not sure that I can add to it. Instead I'll just write about him in his connections to genre fiction, genre films, and of course Weird Tales.

Born in Hungary to a rabbi and his wife, Houdini grew up in Appleton and Milwaukee, Wisconsin, then in New York City. He began performing--on a trapeze--at age nine and became a professional magician in 1891. He performed on the vaudeville stage, in circuses and museums, at the World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893, and--off and on from 1906 to 1923--in films. He was supposed to have played Captain Nemo in an adaptation of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, but that deal fell though. Instead, he appeared in a number of other genre films:

  • The Master Mystery (1918), a fifteen-part thriller/mystery/science fiction serial on which Aleister Crowley (1875-1947) of all people served as a consultant.
  • The Grim Game (1919), a crime thriller and aviation picture.
  • Terror Island (1920), a South Seas adventure.
  • The Man from Beyond (1922), a time-travel adventure with the ever-popular man-frozen-in-the-ice-then-thawed-out-and-reawakened plot device. There is also a depiction of reincarnation in The Man from Beyond, now interpreted as an attempt at reconciliation with Arthur Conan Doyle (1859-1930), whom had been alienated by Houdini's skepticism and debunking of spiritualism, mediums, and séances. (1)
  • Haldane of the Secret Service (1923), a crime/detective story. Released on September 30, 1923, it was Houdini's last film. Weird Tales was halfway through its first year when Haldane arrived in theaters.

Although his name was known the world over, Houdini began slipping in his career by the time the 1920s rolled around. His last movies weren't very successful and so he put that business behind him. In February 1924, he announced that he was leaving the vaudeville stage and going on a twenty-four-date lecture tour to talk about "his experience with fraud medium." (2) He also announced that he had signed a contract to write a series of articles on the same subject for none other than Weird Tales magazine.

Maybe it was a step down for Houdini to get involved in pulp fiction, but that's what he did, meeting Weird Tales publisher J.C. Henneberger in his Chicago office in early 1924. (3) The two men swung a deal, and that's how the Houdini issues of Weird Tales came about. I won't go into the particulars here. You can read about the people, places, and events involved in John Locke's history, The Thing's Incredible! The Secret Origins of Weird Tales (2018), pages 136-156. Suffice it to say, Houdini had the cover story in three straight issues of the magazine, March, April, and the quarterly issue of May/June/July 1924. His likeness, by R.M. Mally, appeared on the first of the three, making Houdini the first author to be depicted on the cover of "The Unique Magazine."

To be continued  . . .

(1) In his biography, Houdini: The Man Who Walked Through Walls (MacFadden, 1961), William Lindsay Gresham wrote: "The idea [behind The Man from Beyond] was probably suggested to Houdini by a story which appeared in The American Weekly about the body of a viking, complete with winged helmet and flaxen beard, which had been discovered in the Arctic, perfectly preserved after a thousand years." (p. 196) If we had the title of that story, we could add it to the Internet Polar Fiction Database and the Internet Viking Adventure Database. Was it one of A. Merritt's works? (My paperback edition of Gresham's Houdini lacks an index. Mention of Weird Tales and H.P. Lovecraft--"the late, great H.P. Lovecraft"--is on page 236.)
(2) "Houdini Leaving Stage," Minneapolis Star, February 23, 1924, page 8.
(3) John Locke suggests the week of February 11, 1924, as the period during which they met. See The Thing's Incredible!: The Secret Origins of Weird Tales (2018), page 138.

A still from The Master Mystery (1918), starring Harry Houdini. I believe the actress here is Marguerite Marsh (1888-1925). Inside the robot suit is Floyd Buckley (1877-1956), later the voice of Popeye the Sailor on radio and in animated cartoons. The robot is called Q the Automaton. You might think Q was one of the first robots in cinema, but there were robots on film as early as 1897. From The Secrets of Houdini by J.C. Cannell (Dover, 1973), facing page 244.

Here's a French-language version of the movie poster for The Master Mystery. The artist was E.G. I'm not sure why a robot needs a knife in order to carry out its mayhem. Maybe robots were different then.

Original text copyright 2024 Terence E. Hanley

Saturday, January 27, 2024

Weird Tales, May/June/July 1924-Non-Fiction & Other Fillers

Following is a list of the fillers in the May/June/July issue of Weird Tales, a list transcribed from the Internet Speculative Fiction Database. Thanks to them again. All are by uncredited authors. Most have asterisks around them. Read on to see what they mean.

  • **"Juvenile Criminal," about the Hon. Grey Bennett and a boy named Leary. There really was a Grey Bennett, as remote from the first year of Weird Tales as we are from it.**
  • **"Retaliation," about a British ship.**
  • **"Providential Warning at Sea," about Captain Thomas Rogers and his ship Society in about 1694.**
  • **"Pastime of Despots," about Czar Peter.**
  • **"The Unnatural Son," about a theft in Salisbury.**
  • **"Singular Discovery of a Murder in 1740," an account of events at St. Neots, England.**
  • **"Giants," about very tall men known to history.**
  • **"Sham Fight," about a battle between Christian and Musselman armies at Bostra [sic].**
  • **"War Horses," about war in Funen, Denmark.**
  • **"The Original Bluebeard," about Gilles, Marquis de Laval. Seabury Quinn had covered him before in his non-fiction series "Weird Crimes," in October 1923.**
  • **"Distressing March of the Crusaders Through Phrygia."**
  • **"Remarkable Accident," about Baptiste, an actor at the Comedie Francaise in 1820.**
  • *"An Account of a Family Who Were All Afflicted with the Loss of Their Limbs," about John Dowling of Wattisham, England.*
  • *"Hypocrisy Detected," set in Paris.*
  • *"Force of Imagination," also set in Paris.*
  • *"Immolation of Human Beings," about the Ashantees [sic] of Africa.*
  • **"Imprisonment of Baron De Geramb."**
  • *"Anecdote Concerning the Execution of King Charles the First."*
  • **"Anne Boleyn."**
  • **"The Heroes of Hindoostan."**
  • *"Extraordinary Instance of Second Sight," about a French army officer quartered in Scotland during "the previous century."*
  • **"Miracles," about a Dr. Connell and his patient, named Anne Mulligan, in 1777.**
  • **"National Superstition," about two Venetians.**
  • **"Death of the Duchess of Bedford."**
  • **"Pardon for Forgery," a case from 1803.**
  • **"Terrific Death of a Painter," about Peter Peutemann.**
  • **"Deaths by Lightning," set in Ireland.**
  • **"Wonderful Providence," about war in France in 1562.**
  • **"Monsieur Rouelle," about the "celebrated chemist."**
  • **"A Singular Experiment," about an Irish boy named Magrath who fell into the hands of a "subtile doctor," a kind of Procrustes who experimented on the boy and made of him a monstrous creation. This account goes along with my suggestion that medical doctors are very often psychopaths or sociopaths and see their fellow human beings as mere material and subjects for their bizarre and monstrous experimentation. We recently had one of those at the head of a large governmental agency. He and his fellows very likely developed and loosed upon the world a deadly virus and in response created an oppressive regime that is still lurking, still preying, including in the minds of his and their followers, supporters, and apologists. Monstrous medical doctors recently won a victory for themselves in Ohio, too. Now they have the power under the state constitution to decide who is a human being and who is not. Now we have another Moloch State.**
  • **"Pentilly House, Cornwall," about a Mr. Tilly, an atheist.**
  • **"Singular Combat," about England in the time of Henry IV.**
  • **"Fatal Misfortune and Singular Instance of Affection in a Horse," set in England.**
  • *"Punishment of the Knout in Russia."*
  • **"Intrepid Conduct of Admiral Douglas," about a mutiny on board the ship Stately.**
  • "Only Sound," a very brief item from the Los Angeles Times. (Below it are two jokes.)
  • "Odd Facts," half a dozen brief fillers. (Below it are three anecdotes or jokes. So there are five untitled anecdotes or jokes in addition to 37 titled fillers.)

As I was about halfway through this list, I discovered the original source of most of these accounts. The source is:

The Terrific Register; or, Record of Crimes, Judgements, Providences, and Calamities, Volume I and Volume II, published in 1825 by Sherwood, Jones, and Co., of London, and Hunter of Edinburgh.

Presumably all are factual, so no fiction to add to the 37 stories in this issues. Items taken from Volume I have single asterisks around them in the list above. Those from Volume II have double asterisks. Seven of the items are from Volume I of The Terrific RegisterTwenty-eight are from Volume II. That makes 35 in all, leaving only two that are from other sources.

So, if we're trying to get from 37 new stories in the interior of the anniversary number to the 50 promised on its cover, then we'll have to add 13 of the items listed above, I guess. You get to choose. A couple of them are almost as long as the shortest new stories.

It's clear that Otis Adelbert Kline was not the author of these fillers, as he had been (or probably was) in previous issues. But if he was acting as editor, or co-editor, then maybe he was the one who chose them for inclusion. And that makes me think that there must have been copies of these two volumes either in a public or university library in Chicago or in a private collection to which he had access. And now I think we had better look at the fillers in previous issues for their possible origins in the same two volumes of The Terrific Register.

I have written before about the Fortean method. I called it that after Charles Fort (1874-1932), author, gadfly of science, and collector of oddities. People who read and wrote for Weird Tales knew of Fort and his ways. Some became Forteans themselves. Others simply availed themselves of the Fortean method in creating their fictions. Like I said, I have suspected that Otis Adelbert Kline was the author of the many non-fiction fillers printed in Weird Tales in its first year, and maybe he was after all, taking after Fort in the process. But it's clear with this discovery of The Terrific Register as a source that Kline was not the sole author of the Weird Tales fillers and that Fort was not the first collector of oddities. He, along with Kline, was simply working in an older tradition. I wonder how far back that tradition goes. And I wonder: is history simply a field engaged in telling about the odd events--the crimes, judgements, providences, and calamities--of the past? Aside from that, are not these accounts simply retellings of how weird works in our lives and affairs?

Original text copyright 2024 Terence E. Hanley

Wednesday, January 24, 2024

Weird Tales, May/June/July 1924-Stories & Essays

Following is a list of the contents of Weird Tales, May/June/July 1924, the first of two parts, this one showing the 37 stories, one essay, and two features or departments, transcribed from the Internet Speculative Fiction Database. Thanks to them.

  • "Why Weird Tales?" by Anonymous, actually by Otis Adelbert Kline (1891-1946).
  • "Imprisoned with the Pharaohs" by Houdini (1874-1926), ghostwritten by H.P. Lovecraft (1890-1937).
  • "Deep Calleth" by Gordon Burns.
  • "The Malignant Entity" by Otis Adelbert Kline, the middle story of his three featuring Dr. Dorp.
  • "The Sixth Tree" by Edith Lichty Stewart.
  • "The Haunted Mansion in the Pines" by Leonard F. Schumann.
  • "Spirits" by J. M. Alvey.
  • "Hypnos" by H. P. Lovecraft.
  • "Draconda," part six of a six-part serial by John Martin Leahy (1886-1967).
  • "The Hand" by H. Francis Caskey.
  • "The Loved Dead" by C. M. Eddy, Jr. (1896-1967), with an uncredited H. P. Lovecraft.
  • "The Vow on Halloween" by Lyllian Huntley Harris (1883-1939).
  • "The Man Who Thought He Was Dead" by Granville S. Hoss.
  • "Called Back" by Dan W. Totheron [Dan W. Totheroh (1894-1976)].
  • "The Sunken Land" by George W. Bayly.
  • "The Dancing Partner" by Guy L. Helms.
  • "The Purple Death" by Edith Lyle Ragsdale.
  • "The Imposter" by Norman Springer (1888-1974).
  • "The Werewolf of St. Bonnot," an article in the series "Weird Crimes" (No. 6), by Seabury Quinn (1889-1969).
  • "Just Bones" by Samuel Stewart Mims (1885-1974).
  • "First Degree" by Robert Cosmo Harding (1883-?).
  • "The Latvian" by Herman Fetzer, aka Jake Falstaff (1899-1935).
  • "The Machine from Outside" by Don Howard.
  • "Tea Leaves" by Henry S. Whitehead (1882-1932).
  • "Deep Sea Game" by Arthur J. Messier.
  • "The Soul Mark" by H. C. Wire.
  • "It!" by E. M. Samson.
  • "Mystery River" by Elwin J. Owens.
  • "The God Yuano" by Marjorie Darter.
  • "The Cellar" by Paul L. Anderson.
  • "In the Weird Light" by Edward Everett Wright and Ralph Howard Wright, with an epigraph by William Wordsworth and including a graphic of the globe.
  • "A Glimpse Beyond" by H. M. Hamilton.
  • "Ask Houdini," letters column conducted by Houdini.

The thirteenth issue of Weird Tales was a big one, 192 pages in all, containing 37 stories, 37 titled fillers (and several untitled ones), Otis Adelbert Kline's anonymously published essay "Why Weird Tales?", and two features, "Weird Crimes" by Seabury Quinn and "Ask Houdini," a letters column conducted by Harry Houdini. All of that content was printed in three columns of small type on each page.

In terms of page count, the triple issue is twice as long as the most recent issue, #367 from last year, as well as many issues immediately after it, which began again in November after a hiatus of three months. Some of these stories are very short, only a page or two. Most have never been reprinted. I have read only a few, but several sound intriguing, including "Draconda," an interplanetary adventure by John Martin Leahy. H.P. Lovecraft was pretty prominent in this issue, with one story under his own byline, one that he ghost-wrote, and one on which he lent a hand, C.M. Eddy's scandalous tale "The Loved Dead." Notice that there is not one but two stories with titles in the form of "The Man Who . . .".

I have written about some of these authors before. Hover over their names, then click. And now I find that there are lots that I haven't written about, and they deserve some space . . .

Original text copyright 2024 Terence E. Hanley