Weird menace

Weird menace is the name given to a subgenre of horror fiction that was popular in the pulp magazines of the 1930s and early 1940s. The weird menace pulps, also known as shudder pulps, generally featured stories in which the hero was pitted against sadistic villains, with graphic scenes of torture and brutality.

In the early 1930s, detective pulps like Detective-Dragnet, All Detective, Dime Detective, and the short-lived Strange Detective Stories, began to favor detective stories with weird, eerie, or menacing elements. Eventually, the two distinct genre variations branched into separate magazines; the detective magazines returned to stories predominantly featuring detection or action; while the eerie mysteries found their own home in the weird menace titles.[1] Some magazines, for instance Ten Detective Aces (the successor to Detective-Dragnet), continued to host both genre variations.

The first weird menace title was Dime Mystery, which started out as a straight crime fiction magazine but began to develop the new genre in 1933 under the influence of Grand Guignol theater.[2] Popular Publications dominated the genre with Dime Mystery, Terror Tales, and Horror Stories. After Popular issued Thrilling Mysteries, Standard Magazines, publisher of the "Thrilling" line of pulps, claimed trademark infringement. Popular withdrew Thrilling Mysteries after one issue, and Standard issued their own weird menace pulp, Thrilling Mystery. In the late-1930s, the notorious Red Circle pulps, with Mystery Tales, expanded the genre to include increasingly graphic descriptions of torture.

This provoked a public outcry against such publications. For example, The American Mercury published a hostile account of the terror magazines in 1938:

This month, as every month, the 1,508,000 copies of terror magazines, known to the trade as the shudder group, will be sold throughout the nation... They will contain enough illustrated sex perversion to give Krafft-Ebing the unholy jitters.[3]

A censorship backlash brought about the demise of the genre in the early 1940s.

Dime Mystery Magazine August 1934
Cover of the August 1934 issue of Dime Mystery Magazine.


  1. ^ Locke, John. Introduction to Cult of the Corpses, by Maxwell Hawkins, Off-Trail Publications, 2008. ISBN 978-1-935031-05-5.
  2. ^ Gary Hoppenstand; Ray B Browne. The Defective Detective in the pulps. Bowling Green, Ohio: Bowling Green State University Popular Press, 1983. pp. 4–5.
  3. ^ Bruce Henry, The American Mercury, April 1938; quoted in Jones, The Shudder Pulps, pp. 138–39.

Further reading

Arthur J. Burks

Arthur J. Burks (September 13, 1898 – May 13, 1974) was an American writer and a Marine colonel.

H. J. Ward

Hugh Joseph Ward (March 8, 1909 – February 7, 1945), who usually signed his work H. J. Ward, was an American illustrator known for his cover art for pulp magazines. He is noted especially for his paintings for Spicy Mystery, Spicy Detective, and other titles in the weird menace genre published by Harry Donenfeld. He also painted definitive images of popular radio characters the Lone Ranger and the Green Hornet.

Horror Stories (magazine)

Horror Stories was an American pulp magazine that published tales of the supernatural, horror, and macabre. The first issue was published in January 1935, three years after the weird menace genre had begun with Dime Mystery Magazine. Horror Stories was a sister magazine to Terror Tales, whose first issue came out a year earlier. The title went on to become one of the major pulp magazines of the 1930s.

Horror Stories was published by Popular Publications, founded by Harry Steeger and Harold Goldsmith. The magazine was issued with luridly illustrated covers featuring the theme of the damsel in distress, mostly executed by artist John Newton Howitt (1885-1958). Only one original cover painting has survived.

Horror Stories ceased publication in 1941, because of the paper shortage after the United States entered World War II which equally effected other pulp publications.

Due to the nature of its content and its relatively short run of 47 issues, Horror Stories is now one of the most sought-after collectible pulp titles. In 2005, Black Mask published a facsimile of issue 1.

Magazines of this sort set a benchmark in macabre storytelling that inspired many of the U.S. horror comics from their appearance in 1947.

Hugh B. Cave

Hugh Barnett Cave (11 July 1910 – 27 June 2004) was an American writer of various genres, perhaps best remembered for his works of horror, weird menace and science fiction. Cave was one of the most prolific contributors to pulp magazines of the 1920s and '30s, selling an estimated 800 stories not only in the aforementioned genres but also in western, fantasy, adventure, crime, romance and non-fiction. He used a variety of pen names, notably Justin Case under which name he created the antihero The Eel. A war correspondent during World War II, Cave afterwards settled in Jamaica where he owned and managed a coffee plantation and continued his writing career, now specializing in novels as well as fiction and non-fiction sales to mainstream magazines.

Starting in the 1970s Cave enjoyed a resurgence in popularity when Karl Edward Wagner's Carcosa Press published Murgunstrumm and Others, the first hardcover collection of Cave's pulp stories. Cave relocated to Florida and regularly published original material until about the year 2000, and won a World Fantasy Award for lifetime achievement in 1999.

Locked-room mystery

The "locked-room" or "impossible crime" mystery is a subgenre of detective fiction in which a crime (almost always murder) is committed in circumstances under which it was seemingly impossible for the perpetrator to commit the crime or evade detection in the course of getting in and out of the crime scene. The crime in question typically involves a crime scene with no indication as to how the intruder could have entered or left for example a locked room. Following other conventions of classic detective fiction, the reader is normally presented with the puzzle and all of the clues, and is encouraged to solve the mystery before the solution is revealed in a dramatic climax.

To investigators of the crime, the prima facie impression almost invariably is that the perpetrator has vanished into thin air. The need for a rational explanation for the crime is what drives the protagonist to look beyond these appearances and solve the puzzle.

Marvel Science Stories

Marvel Science Stories was an American pulp magazine that ran for a total of fifteen issues in two separate runs, both edited by Robert O. Erisman. The publisher for the first run was Postal Publications, and the second run was published by Western Publishing; both companies were owned by Abraham and Martin Goodman. The first issue was dated August 1938, and carried stories with more sexual content than was usual for the genre, including several stories by Henry Kuttner, under his own name and also under pseudonyms. Reaction was generally negative, with one reader referring to Kuttner's story "The Time Trap" as "trash". This was the first of several titles featuring the word "Marvel", and Marvel Comics came from the same stable in the following year.

The magazine was canceled after the April 1941 issue, but when a boom in science fiction magazines began in 1950, the publishers revived it. The first issue of the new series was dated November 1950; a further six issues appeared, the last dated May 1952. In addition to Kuttner, contributors to the first run included Arthur J. Burks and Jack Williamson; the second run published stories by Arthur C. Clarke, Isaac Asimov, Jack Vance, and L. Sprague de Camp, among others. In the opinion of science fiction historian Joseph Marchesani, the quality of the second incarnation of the magazine was superior to the first, but it was unable to compete with the new higher-quality magazines that had appeared in the interim.

Mystery fiction

Mystery fiction is a genre of fiction usually involving a mysterious death or a crime to be solved. Often with a closed circle of suspects, each suspect is usually provided with a credible motive and a reasonable opportunity for committing the crime. The central character oftentimes will be a detective who eventually solves the mystery by logical deduction from facts presented to the reader. Sometimes mystery books are nonfictional. "Mystery fiction" can be detective stories in which the emphasis is on the puzzle or suspense element and its logical solution such as a whodunit. Mystery fiction can be contrasted with hardboiled detective stories, which focus on action and gritty realism.

Mystery fiction may involve a supernatural mystery where the solution does not have to be logical, and even no crime involved. This usage was common in the pulp magazines of the 1930s and 1940s, where titles such as Dime Mystery, Thrilling Mystery and Spicy Mystery offered what at the time were described as "weird menace" stories—supernatural horror in the vein of Grand Guignol. This contrasted with parallel titles of the same names which contained conventional hardboiled crime fiction. The first use of "mystery" in this sense was by Dime Mystery, which started out as an ordinary crime fiction magazine but switched to "weird menace" during the later part of 1933.

Paul Chadwick (author)

Paul Chadwick (1902–1972) was a pulp magazine author who wrote many stories under his own name and various pseudonyms. As was the case with many prolific contributors to the pulps, he wrote in a number of different genres including detective stories, science fiction and westerns. He created Secret Agent X, published under the "house name" of Brant House, and also wrote the one and only issue of the Doc Savage clone Captain Hazzard (May 1938) under the name of Chester Hawks.Many of Chadwick's detective stories feature the hardboiled character Wade Hammond, who first appeared in Detective-Dragnet/Ten Detective Aces magazine in 1931. The Hammond stories were notable in combining three emerging genres of the time: science fiction and weird menace as well as hardboiled detectives.His publishing record is sparse for the years during World War II and immediately following. In the late 1940s, he re-emerged as writer for the western pulps. His stories appear into the mid-1950s, particularly in Ranch Romances. After that, he went into newspaper work for the remainder of his career.

Popular Publications

Popular Publications was one of the largest publishers of pulp magazines during its existence, at one point publishing 42 different titles per month. Company titles included detective, adventure, romance, and Western fiction. They were also known for the several 'weird menace' titles. They also published several pulp hero or character pulps.

The company was formed in 1930 by Henry "Harry" Steeger. It was the time of the Great Depression, and Steeger had just read The Hound of the Baskervilles. Steeger realized that people wanted escapist fiction, allowing them to forget the difficulties of daily life. Steeger wrote "I realised that a great deal of money could be made with that kind of material. It was not long before I was at it, inventing one pulp magazine after another, until my firm had originated over 300 of them."

In the late 1930s Steeger was under pressure to lower his rate of pay to below one cent a word, which he felt was the minimum decent rate he could offer. He didn't want to have Popular pay less than one cent per word, so a new company, Fictioneers, was started; it was essentially a fictional company, with an address (205 East 42nd St) that corresponded to the rear entrance of Popular's offices at 210 East 43rd St. It was given a separate phone number, and the switchboard girl was instructed to put calls through to staff working on Fictioneers titles only if the calls came to the Fictioneers number. Many staff were working on magazines for both companies at the same time, which made it difficult to maintain the pretense of separation. Science fiction writer Frederik Pohl, on the other hand, was hired specifically to edit two Fictioneers titles: Astonishing Stories and Super Science Stories.In 1934, Popular acquired Adventure from the Butterick Company. Around the same time, the purchased a number of titles from Clayton Publications such as Ace-High Magazine and Complete Adventure Novelettes. In 1940, they purchased Black Mask from The Pro-Distributors, Inc. In 1942 the firm acquired the properties of the Frank A. Munsey Company In 1949, they acquired all of the pulp titles Street & Smith had recently cancelled, with the exceptions of The Shadow (due to the radio show) and their other hero pulps, and Astounding, although Popular did not publish revivals of them all.

Other imprints used included Fictioneers, Inc. (1939–58), All-Fiction Field, Inc. (1942–58), New Publications, Inc. (1936–60), Recreational Reading (1936–60), and Post Periodicals, Inc. (1936–60).

In 1972, the company was sold to Brookside Publications, a company owned by advertising magnate David Geller. At the time it was still publishing Argosy, Railroad, recently ending Adventure and True Adventure. A handful of years later, Geller sold Popular to French publisher Hachette. In 1981, they sold the rights to Joel Frieman who established Blazing Publications, which in 1988 renamed itself Argosy Communications, Inc. Under those names, it published a few comic book version of characters, as well as allowed the reprinting of several of their properties. In 2014 most of its titles–including all copyrights and associated intellectual property–were acquired by Steeger Properties, LLC, with Argosy Communications retaining only a few pulp heroes such as The Spider, G-8, and Operator #5.

Ramble House

Ramble House is a small American publisher founded by Fender Tucker and Jim Weiler in 1999. The press specializes in reprints of long-neglected and rare crime fiction novels, modern crime fiction, 'weird menace' / 'shudder pulps' - short story collections from rare pulp magazines, and scholarly works by noted authors on the crime fiction genre, and a host of other diverse books of a collectible or curious nature. Apart from its main publishing arm, Ramble House has two imprints: Surinam Turtle Press and Dancing Tuatara Press, headed by author Richard A. Lupoff and John Pelan respectively.

Ramble House titles were originally handmade by Tucker in small crafted editions, but the growth in the publisher’s list together with print on demand technology led to the titles being available online now as trade paperback editions. Gavin L. O’Keefe is the cover designer for Ramble House books, creating many original new designs for the books or adapting existing art.

Robert E. Howard bibliography

A list of prose works by Robert E. Howard. The works are sorted by genre, by series and then alphabetically. Untitled works and fragments (incomplete and unfinished works) are listed separately by their opening line.

Additional information is included where available, covering publication date and place, the amount Howard earned for the sale of the piece, any alternative titles and whether the work is in the public domain. Links to the freely available source texts, on wikisource or Project Gutenberg of Australia, are included in a separate column. These are marked with the appropriate icons.

Rod Brown of the Rocket Rangers

Rod Brown of the Rocket Rangers was a 30-minute, weekly CBS-TV network outer space adventure series, broadcast live Saturdays from April 18, 1953 to May 29, 1954. Set in 2153 and inspired by Tom Corbett, Space Cadet (1950 - 1955),

the series depicted the adventures of fearless Rocket Rangers, who operated from Omega Base, piloting their nuclear-powered space ship Beta throughout the solar system, to battle crime and the weird menace of extraterrestrial life-forms. The three Rangers were curly-haired Rod Brown (Cliff Robertson), his prickly partner Frank Boyd (Bruce Hall), and chubby, bespectacled comic relief Wilbur "Wormsey" Wormser (Jack Weston). Their immediate superior was Commander Swift (John Boruff). Each episode was pretty much a self-contained, "done-in-one" story, as opposed to the other serialized space shows then appearing on TV.

Director George Gould had also been the director of ABC's Tom Corbett from 1950 to 1952, and when he was hired to direct Rod Brown, he carried with him to CBS several of the writers for that pioneering series, plus its basic concepts, plus the major special effect, an amplifier producing travelling mattes. The very close similarity between Rod Brown and Tom Corbett generated at least one lawsuit, which was settled out of court, and at the time, did not affect the broadcasting of new weekly Rod Brown episodes in any way. The Rod Brown kinescopes however were never rebroadcast. The series ran a total of 58 episodes.

Rod Brown's adventures had a sponsor, Jell-O Instant Pudding. However, there are very few premiums or toys associated with the series, as compared to its rival live space adventure series such as Captain Video, Space Patrol, and Tom Corbett, Space Cadet. A Rocket Ranger membership card and a Rocket Ranger Squadron Charter have been observed. In addition, plaid flannel shirts for young boys, featuring a solid-color flannel placket silkscreened with the Rocket Ranger title, space ship, and spaceman, were also available.

The program began each week with an introduction: "Surging with the power of the atom, gleaming like great silver bullets, the mighty Rocket Ranger space ships stand by for blast-off. Up, up, rockets blazing with white-hot fury, the man-made meteors ride through the atmosphere, breaking the gravity barrier, pushing up and out, faster and faster, and then...outer space and high adventure for the Rocket Rangers."

A verse from Robert Allen's TV theme song went: "From the sands of Mars, out to the distant stars, we're the Rocket Ranger Corps..."

The membership card offered as a premium displayed the "Rocket Ranger code" as follows:


I SHALL always chart my course according to the Constitution of the United States of America.

I SHALL never cross orbits with the Rights and Beliefs of others.

I SHALL blast at full space-speed to protect the Weak and Innocent.

I SHALL stay out of collision orbit with the laws of my State and Community.

I SHALL cruise in parallel orbit with my Parents and Teachers.

I SHALL not roar my rockets unwisely, and shall be Courteous at all times.

I SHALL keep my gyros steady and reactors burning by being Industrious and Thrifty.

I SHALL keep my scanner tuned to Learning and remain coupled to my Studies.

I SHALL keep my mind out of free-fall by being mentally alert.

I SHALL blast the meteors from the paths of other people by being Kind and Considerate.

Sheldon Jaffery

Sheldon Jaffery (April 22, 1934 – July 10, 2003) was an American bibliographer. An attorney by profession, he was an aficionado of Weird Tales magazine, Arkham House books, the weird menace pulps, and related topics.

He died in 2003 of septic shock contracted while being treated for lung cancer.

Terror Tales

Terror Tales was the name of two American publications: a pulp magazine of the weird menace genre of the 1930s, and a horror comic in the 1960s and 1970s.

Uncanny Stories (magazine)

Uncanny Stories was a pulp magazine which published a single issue, dated April 1941. It was published by Abraham and Martin Goodman, who were better known for "weird-menace" pulp magazines that included much more sex in the fiction than was usual in science fiction of that era. The Goodmans published Marvel Science Stories from 1938 to 1941, and Uncanny Stories appeared just as Marvel Science Stories ceased publication, perhaps in order to use up the material in inventory acquired by Marvel Science Stories. The fiction was poor quality; the lead story, Ray Cummings' "Coming of the Giant Germs", has been described as "one of his most appalling stories".

Uncanny Tales (US pulp magazine)

Uncanny Tales was an American weird menace pulp magazine that ran from April 1939 to May 1940. Published by Martin Goodman under the "Manvis Publications, Inc." imprint. It should not be confused with Goodman's "shudder" publication Uncanny Stories.

The magazine was based in Chicago.

Victor Koman

Victor Koman (born 1954) is an American science fiction and fantasy writer and agorist. A three time winner of the Prometheus Award, Koman is mainly popular in the libertarian community. He is the owner of the publishing house KoPubCo. His Ph.D. in Information Technology was conferred by Capella University in 2016. He also possesses a BSIS (with honors, summa cum laude) from University of Redlands (2001) and an MBA from Pepperdine University (2004).

Dr. Koman's short stories have appeared in such publications as The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, Galaxy Science Fiction, and the anthologies Weird Menace, The King is Dead: Tales of Elvis Post-Mortem, the second and third Dark Destiny collections set in the White Wolf World of Darkness, and the libertarian short-story collection Free Space.

In the early 1980s, Koman collaborated with Andrew J. Offutt on Offutt's Spaceways series for Playboy Press (which was sold to Berkley Books in mid-stride). Koman wrote two novels in the series, to which Offutt added his own scenes, then edited and published the novels under the series name "John Cleve". These paperbacks are long out of print. Covers for both novels were painted by Ken Barr.A community activist with a quixotic sense of what's important, Koman was instrumental in preventing the 1988 destruction of the Disneyland Monorail System's last bubble-topped Mark III monorail (Old Red), generating a one-man public-relations campaign that resulted in nationwide news coverage. The Walt Disney Company subsequently saved, restored, and converted the historic monorail fuselage into a street-legal promotional vehicle.Koman's 1995 story collaboration with Brad Linaweaver, "The Light That Blinds", features an occult battle between Aleister Crowley and Adolf Hitler. Dr. Koman has also appeared as an extra in several films, including Star Trek: The Motion Picture, CyberZone, Rapid Assault, Fugitive Rage, Mom’s Outta Sight, Billy Frankenstein, KidWitch (in which his daughter, Vanessa Koman, played the title role), Red Dragon, The Hot Chick, and A-List (film). On 11/15/1998, he was the winner on the game show Inquizition.

Dr. Koman has made available the body of work of Samuel Edward Konkin III through KoPubCo. He is the pseudonymous author of the Gloamingerism pamphlets published as afterwords in the 1999 trade paperback edition of J. Neil Schulman's novel Alongside Night.

Wayne Robbins

Windom Wayne Robbins (July 22, 1914 – January 18, 1958) was an American author of horror and weird fiction. His work was primarily published in the Popular Publications catalog of weird menace pulp fiction. His first published short story was Horror's Holiday Special in the July 1939 issue of Dime Mystery Magazine.

Robert Kenneth Jones reported that Robbins "excelled in explosive chaos," and remarked on his "credible" speculative fiction, namely Test Tube Frankenstein, from the May 1940 issue of Terror Tales, a tale of biological mimicry along the lines of Don A. Stuart's Who Goes There?. Test Tube Frankenstein is featured in Sheldon Jaffery's anthology Sensuous Science Fiction of the Weird and Spicy Pulps, where it is offered as his prime example: "one of the best of its kind to be published."Weird menace stories often dealt with conventional themes required by the publisher, themes in which an author might specialize. Stories involving "Inescapable Doom" were supplied by Donald Dale (Mary Dale Buckner); Mindret Lord handled the "Woman Without Volition"; Ray Cummings delivered stories about the "Girl Obsessed"; and many of Wayne Robbins' stories portrayed the "Man Obsessed," and a subsequent descent into madness.Wayne Robbins' published works are usually attributed to Wayne Robbins or W. Wayne Robbins, but he occasionally used the pen name Wyndham Brooks, a variation on his own given name and his mother's maiden name.

Wayne Robbins' brother, Ormond Robbins, also wrote horror, hardboiled, and western fiction for Popular Publications. Ormond Robbins used the pen names Dane Gregory and Breck Tarrant.

Wyatt Rainey Blassingame

Wyatt Rainey Blassingame (6 February 1909 – 1985), a.k.a. W.B. Rainey, was the author of many short stories and articles for national magazines, four adult novels and dozens of juvenile nonfiction books. In the 1930s, Blassingame wrote for the "Weird menace" horror pulps such as Terror Tales and Dime Mystery. His short stories have recently been republished in three collections edited by John Pelan, published by Dancing Tuatara Press. Four of his juvenile nonfiction books were written for the Landmark book series: The French Foreign Legion, The U.S. Frogmen of World War II, Combat Nurses of World War II, and Medical Corps Heroes of World War II.Blassingame was born in Demopolis, Alabama, on 6 February 1909 to Wyatt Childs Blassingame and Maude Lurton Blassingame. He married Gertrude Olsen in 1936 and had two daughters, Peggy and April. He was educated at Howard College, now Samford University, in Birmingham, Alabama, the University of Alabama, and New York University, graduating in 1952. He served in the United States Navy during World War II and received a Bronze Star and a Presidential Unit Citation. After moving to Anna Maria, Florida, he taught at Manatee Junior College and Florida Southern College.Blassingame made every effort to make his books as accurate as possible, and disapproved of fictionalizing juvenile history merely for the benefit of drama. Many of his books were chosen as Junior Book-of-the-Month selections, Junior Literary Guild selections and other honors. He died in his Florida home in 1985.

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