Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Weird Forces on the Cover of Weird Tales

Some Weird Tales covers are hard to classify. That's why I have come up with this category. You could break them down further if you wanted to: electromagnetic phenomena (four covers); blobs or flumes of smoke, shadow, or slime (three covers); fire (one cover); and ice (one cover). Two more involve furniture, believe it or not. That still leaves the cover for August 1923 illustrating "Sunfire" by Francis Stevens. I have read this story and kept in mind while I was reading it the image on the cover of the magazine in which it appeared. I still don't know what's going on there. It may be the most inexplicable image ever to appear on the front of "The Unique Magazine." In any case, here are the weird forces.

Weird Tales, April 1923. Cover story: "The Whispering Thing" by Laurie McClintock and Culpeper Chunn. Cover art by R.M. Mally. I don't know what the Whispering Thing is, but being able to shoot ray beams out of the bridge of its nose qualifies it as a weird force. 

Weird Tales, July-August 1923. Cover story: "Sunfire" by Francis Stevens. Cover art by R.M. Mally. Is he possessed? Is he crazy? Is he swatting at bees?

Weird Tales, February 1926. Cover story: "Red Ether" by Pettersen Marzoni. Cover art by C. Barker Petrie, Jr. Here the weird force is a lightning bolt that seems to be guided or cast by some unseen malevolence.

Weird Tales, January 1928. Cover story: "The Gods of East and West" by Seabury Quinn. Cover art by C.C. Senf. Another lightning bolt. I know it was called Weird Tales and that you should expect to see weird things in it and on it, but this cover is bizarre. What could have come over the editorial staff to commission it? And what about that woman? If Crocodile Dundee were there, he might check her, just to be sure.

Weird Tales, March 1932. Cover story: "The Vengeance of Ixmal" by Kirk Mashburn. Cover art by C.C. Senf. The man in the headdress is about to strike with his knife. Less obvious is the beam of light falling upon the man lying on the table. Is it a weird force? It seems to be, like the photoelectric beam in Raiders of the Lost Ark.

Weird Tales, August 1937. Cover story: "Thing of Darkness" by G.G. Pendarves. Cover art by Margaret Brundage. Notice the recurrence of the eyes in the dark from the first cover shown here. Notice, too, the recurring word in the title: "thing." That was a very popular word among writers in Weird Tales. I could write a blog entry about all the "things" in "The Unique Magazine."

Weird Tales, March 1938. Cover story: "Incense of Abomination" by Seabury Quinn. Cover art by Margaret Brundage. I just noticed that the smoke issuing from the mouth of the skull is turning into hands that touch and caress the woman's naked skin. I should add this cover to the category of reaching hands. Anyway, the skull and the smoke remind me of a smoking monkey from the Fourth of July.

Weird Tales, May 1939. Cover story: "The Hollow Moon" by Everil Worrell. Cover art by Harold S. De Lay, his first for the magazine. Like I said, "Weird Forces on the Cover of Weird Tales" might be translated as "I Don't Know Where Else to Put These Covers." Being frozen inside an iceberg while still being conscious is kind of weird though.

Weird Tales, March 1941. Cover story: "The Man Who Loved Planks" by Macolm Jameson. Cover art by Margaret Brundage. Not only do I not know what is going on in this picture, I also don't know what that title can possibly mean. Are these women spirits trapped inside the wood used to make this chair? I don't know. All I know is that this, too, is kind of weird. 

Weird Tales, February 1928. Cover story: "Ghost Table" by Elliott O'Donnell. Cover art C.C. Senf. I know, it's a ghost table and should go with the ghost covers, but I figure if I'm going to show a chair possessed by spirits, I should show a haunted table as well. By the way, this is the issue in which "The Call of Cthulhu" ran. So the editors chose "The Haunted Table" as their cover story. Nice. Smart.

Weird Tales, March 1953. Cover story: "Slime" by Joseph Payne Brennan. Cover art by Virgil Finlay. I have written about this cover before. It reminds me of The Blob (1958) and the Dr. Seuss book Bartholomew and the Oobleck (1949). It reminds me also of Margaret Brundage's cover from August 1937, shown above.

Text and captions copyright 2016 Terence E. Hanley


  1. Terence,

    The Ghost Table must have been some story if the editors of Weird Tales thought that it should take top billing over The Call of Cthulhu! Perhaps they felt that this title would be easier for prospective readers to get their heads around in 1928, thus making them more likely to buy the magazine. Of course it wouldn't be long before the Cthulhu Mythos would be a huge draw among fans of weird fiction.
    The Man Who Loved Planks sounds like one of the stranger fetishes I've ever heard of. It also reminds me of an off-color joke from my youth, describing a particular type of a girl as "a carpenter's dream" -- flat as a board and ready to be nailed...

  2. Mike,

    In a way, it's better that "The Call of Cthulhu" wasn't the cover story. If it had been, we would have had an image of Cthulhu dating from the very publication of the story. Instead, our imaginations can work on conjuring an image of him.