Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Rivals of Weird Tales-Ghost Stories

If a magazine of genre fiction has to be the size of a pulp magazine and printed on pulp paper in order to be a pulp magazine, then Ghost Stories wasn't a pulp magazine, at least in its first two years of publication. It may not have been a weird fiction or fantasy magazine either. But for the sake of completeness, I'll cover Ghost Stories here in this series on rivals of Weird Tales.

Ghost Stories ran for five years under two different publishers. Bernarr Macfadden (1868-1955) published the magazine from 1926 to 1930. Good Story Magazine Company, under Harold Hersey, took over for the last two years in print. There were sixty-four issues in all. Fulton Oursler (1893-1952), later author of The Greatest Story Ever Told, served as editor. The magazine seems to have been tailored to women readers.

According to Wikipedia, Ghost Stories published tales by Robert E. Howard, Carl Jacobi, Frank Belknap Long, Agatha Christie, H.G. Wells, and Charles Dickens. A look at the covers will show that other authors included Arthur Conan Doyle, Ellen Glasgow, F. Marion Crawford, Upton Sinclair, and Roy Vickers (William Edward Vickers).

Ghost Stories gave up the ghost in late 1931. Weird Tales survived. 

Ghost Stories
July 1926 to Dec. (?) 1931
64 Issues (Unknown number of volumes)
Published by: Macfadden Publications (1926-1930); Good Story Magazine Company (1930-1931)
Edited by: Fulton Oursler (1) 
Format: Magazine size and coated or semi-slick paper until Aug. 1928, when the magazine converted to pulp size and pulp paper

(1) I found an oblique reference suggesting that Walter Adolphe Roberts (1886-1962) was also an editor. Can anyone confirm or deny this?

If you do a search on the Internet for Ghost Story covers, you'll get lots of results. I have chosen just four covers to show here. I don't know the year of publication nor the identity of the cover artist for any of these covers.

Ghost Stories was a companion title to True Story and True Detective Stories, both of which were supposedly true and usually confessional. The cover above demonstrates that the apple doesn't fall far from the tree. The first two story titles--"She Married Her Astral Lover" and "Haunted by the Ghost of Myself"--are clearly confessional. If you add "I Went" to the beginning of the third title, you'll have another confession. The last title takes a little more work--maybe "I Was the Man Who Was 10,000 Years Old." I would rather point out that the title has a typical weird fiction construction: "The Man Who _____." I count thirty-five titles of that type in Cockcroft's index of titles.
Here's a typical Ghost Stories cover showing a spook scaring a nicely dressed young woman. There's that title again: "The Man Who _____." Note the absence of bylines, another difference between Ghost Stories and the typical pulp magazine.
Here's a byline, but only one: H.G. Wells, an author readers were likely to have known. The covers of Ghost Stories very often showed a ghost in his shroud. Seeing them reminds me of Ambrose Bierce's objection to a belief in ghosts:
There is one insuperable obstacle to a belief in ghosts. A ghost never comes naked: he appears either in a winding-sheet or "in his habit as he lived." To believe in him, then, is to believe that not only have the dead the power to make themselves visible after there is nothing left of them, but that the same power inheres in textile fabrics. Supposing the products of the loom to have this ability, what object would they have in exercising it? And why does not the apparition of a suit of clothes sometimes walk abroad without a ghost in it? These be riddles of significance.
A final Ghost Stories cover: there's the nicely dressed woman, there's the spook (this time without a shroud), and there--instead of story titles--are the names of four authors. On top of all that, the cover art is signed (but I can't tell by whom).
Text and captions copyright 2013 Terence E. Hanley

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