Thursday, September 26, 2013

Weird Menace Magazines-Part 2

The weird menace pulps, also called the horror or shudder pulps, began with the October 1933 issue of Dime Mystery Magazine, published by Harry Steeger and his Popular Publications. Steeger got the idea from attending Le Théâtre du Grand-Guignol in Paris, Grand Guignol for short. (Strangely enough, the name means "the theater of the big puppet.") Weird menace was such a big hit that Steeger added two titles to the line over the next two years. Terror Tales was the first. It arrived on newsstands in September 1934. Horror Stories followed in the first month of 1935.

Rogers Terrill did triple duty as editor of Popular Publications' weird menace titles. He required three elements in every story: mystery, horror, and credibility. In other words, supernatural horror was not allowed. The events in a story had to have a logical explanation. "Throughout the next seven years [after 1933, that is], the contributors to Popular's big three horror pulps bent, mutilated, and twisted the word 'logical' into the most unimaginable shapes possible." (1) Although both call themselves weird, weird menace and weird fiction are separate genres.

If weird menace can be considered high-end, then Harry Steeger's magazines were it. Artists included Amos Sewell and Walter Baumhofer, both of whom later moved up to illustrating slick magazines, as well as Rudolph Zirm, John Newton Howitt, and John Drew. Among Terrill's stable of writers were Wyatt Blassingame, Paul Ernst, Arthur J. Burks, Hugh B. Cave, Arthur Leo Zagat, Nat Schachner, Ray Cummings, John Knox, G.T. Fleming-Roberts, and Bruno Fischer, aka Russell Gray. Mary Dale Buckner, who wrote under the name Donald Dale, was one of few female writers to contribute to the genre. Ernst, Cave, Zagat, Schachner, and Cummings also contributed to Weird Tales.

Dime Mystery Magazine announced a change in format beginning with its September 1938 issue. Thenceforth detective adventure would take the place of weird menace. The announcement was an early sign that the fad for weird menace was coming to an end. Nonetheless, Popular began publishing two new magazines of weird menace, Startling Mystery Magazine and Sinister Stories, in early 1940. Both had the misfortune of arriving at about the time New York mayor Fiorello La Guardia was waging a campaign against obscenity in magazines. Neither title lasted more than a few months. (2) Terror Tales and Horror Stories came to an end a year later, in spring 1941. By then, torture, blood, and violence were no longer mere abstractions, for World War II had begun. Fiends and madmen ruled not just the pages of pulp magazines but also half the planet.

Terror Tales
Sept. 1934 to Mar. 1941
51 issues
Published by: Popular Publications
Edited by: Rogers Terrill
Format: Standard pulp

Horror Stories
Jan. 1935 to Apr. 1941
47 issues
Published by: Popular Publications
Edited by: Rogers Terrill
Format: Standard pulp

(1) From the 21st Century Archives trading card set "Women in Terror" (1993).
(2) Startling Mystery was in print for only two issues, February and April 1940. Sinister Stories lasted for three issues, February, March, and May 1940.

Terror Tales, October 1934.
Horror Stories, March 1935.
Both could have been covers for Weird Tales.
Text and captions copyright 2013 Terence E. Hanley

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