I thought from now to Halloween I'd do brief reviews of horror comics at random. Please feel free to join me.

I'll avoid giving away big twists and endings. This being horror that means I won't always be able to say what the stories' key ideas are.

An index to this thread can be found here.

This Magazine is Haunted #1 (Fawcett, 1951)

I chose this issue because I've never read an issue of This Magazine is Haunted. The title was created by Sheldon Moldoff. He talked about it in his Alter Ego interview. The stories are hosted by a corpse-like figure called Dr Death. The GCD ascribes the cover to Moldoff.

"The Curse of Carnoc Castle"

The Duke of Allister was buried two hundred years ago. He left a goblet in a grotto below an inscription saying that drinking from it confers immortality, and ordering his grave to be disinterred in two hundred years. A beautiful woman travels to be present at the disinterment. The coffin is opened and the Duke returns to life...

I didn't know how this story was going to end, as it twists in unexpected ways. However, I didn't find it chilling. The GCD ascribes the art to George Evans. It's competent but unexciting.

"Stand-in for Death"

A criminal robs his honest former business partner as an act of revenge. He leaves the man and his wife tied up, although he knows the former has just had a heart attack. Having taking his victim's coat he finds a ticket in his pocket for the 89th Street ferry, and uses it to make his escape. Only...

The story comes to a mildly surreal climax. It's like a 50s DC story and has a good premise. It's a better-told story than the first one. The GCD ascribes the art to Bernard Baily.

"The Coffin Maker!"

A young woman marries a rich, elderly undertaker. He has a reputation for being always the first person at death scenes. He tells her to never go down into the basement, where he prepares the bodies for burial. But she thinks she hears him talking with someone, and sneaks into the basement to see...

This is a story of the supernatural like the others, but the menace at the climax is the undertaker, who hunts his wife with a knife. (This is shown in the splash panel.) Stylistically the three stories aren't all that different, but this one has the best art. The GCD attributes it to Sheldon Moldoff. The stiff cartooniness of his "Moon Girl" and "Batman" stories is quite absent.

Other Content

The text story is "Dr MacCready's Little Men" by Al Schutzer. It has a wacky premise and a sting ending. A reporter is assigned to report on the new therapy being used at a local asylum. Dr MacCready explains his therapy consists of giving his patients an injection that shrinks them to miniature size...

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The stories aren't all that scary. The latter two have extended climaxes, but they're not very intense for an adult reader. The second story has more to offer than the others imaginatively.

The first story has the goriest imagery, but it's not too gory. The images of the husband hunting his wife to kill her are the issue's most disturbing content.

(modified)

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"The Mind-Monster!", Doll Man #42 (Quality, 1942)

A deserted house inspires author Hubert Perrin to create a super-villain who uses the house as his hideout. His creation, Kain, quickly becomes famous.

A TV station does a broadcast about the Kain craze from the house. Millions of viewers watch the live program, and the "concentrated energy" of their minds causes the monster's materialisation out of thin air.

As the other onlookers panic Darrel and Martha change to Doll Man and Doll Girl, and take him on. Perrin is watching the broadcast, and he finds he can control the monster using his typewriter...

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Kain is a shaggy-haired giant, violent and immensely strong. He talks like the 70s Hulk but is cannier and meaner.

There was a wave of horror stories in Doll Man in its final period. The GCD attributes the cover to Reed Crandall, and the story to Bill Woolfolk and Art Gates. The cover emphasises the story's horror-nature and calls it "The eerie tale of the Mind-Monster". But it's a monster story rather than an eerie one.

The GCD's entry also has the note "Story swiped from story in Captain America #?" The story referred to must be "The Case of the Telepathic Typewriter" from Captain America Comics #52; there's a synopsis here, which is quite close to the present story. (So the synopsis has spoilers for our tale.)

The GCD's script credit for "The Mind-Monster!" is from Martin O'Hearn. He posted at his blog that it's his assessment from the style, not information from Woolfolk's records. I thought the reuse of the plot might mean the earlier story was Woolfolk's too, but the GCD attributes it to Bill Finger, on what authority I don't know.

The way the viewers' combined concentration creates Kain reminded me of The Bad Movie Report's account of Ghostwatch. (Adult content warning; spoiler warning.)

The other two Doll Man stories in the issue aren't horror, but "Diary of Death!" involves uncanny predictions. The remaining story features Torchy. The text story is a crime tale.

Journey into Fear #15 (Superior, 1953)

In Seduction of the Innocent Fredric Wertham alludes to comics stories without saying where they appeared. There’s a site here (adult content) which attempts to identify the stories. It lists Journey into Fear #15 as mentioned on p.389. I wanted to know what Wertham said, so I looked it up. It’s an allusion to a story ending that might refer to “Her Lips Dripped Blood”.

I haven't actually read Wertham's book, but I'm puzzled that such a tame (and bloodless) story would be used by him as an example.

Ghost Stories #2 (Dell, 1963)

“37 Pounds of Devotion…”

A little girl summons a doctor to save a girl, but the latter’s parents deny they sent anyone.

The first phrase in the caption on page one, "while a blizzard rages outside," brought something home to me. The word "BLIZZARD" read as "BUZZARD" to me. It threw me! I really see why certain words were lettering problems, such as "flick."

Richard Willis said:

I haven't actually read Wertham's book, but I'm puzzled that such a tame (and bloodless) story would be used by him as an example.

It's the briefest of references, to support a point he's making. I referred to the context elsewhere in the review. (I had to disguise what I was doing as it's a spoiler.)

The FAQ at the SOTI site states Seduction of the Innocent is still legally under copyright. Wertham died in 1981, and if I understand Australia's rules correctly it can't be in the public domain here either.

Web of Evil #3 (Quality, 1953)

I found the approach of this issue quite distinctive. Blood and gore are kept off the page, but there’s plenty of shock content. Three of the stories involve serial murder, and the fourth a series of disappearances. And they all have twist endings.

The GCD tentatively identifies “The Killer from Saturn” and “Goddess of Murder” as pencilled by Jack Cole. I’ll admit I didn’t spot this myself, and it took me awhile to see it. They now seem to me definitely his, so I don’t get the tentativeness. I think they were both written by him as well. Both stories are included in The Chilling Archives of Horror Comics! #4 - Jack Cole’s Deadly Horror edited by Craig Yoe.

“Goddess of Murder” was cover-featured. The GCD tentatively attributes the cover to Jack Cole and Chuck Cuidera. Its version of the statue looks like the one inside.

“The Killer from Saturn”

An alien figure begins a series of night murders, and kills and kills.

The opening string of murders gets the story off to a jolting start, and the art is pleasing to look at, with very good drawing with a comic element. The opening scripting is some of the most distinctive I’ve seen in a 1950s comic.

Cole’s hand is apparent in the art’s comic element. P.6 has a characteristic sequence in which the monster is chased off by residents throwing plates, bowls and pans. P.6 panel 7 and p.9 panels 1 and 2 have characteristic Cole poses and staging. And the monster’s stretched out pose p.6 panel 1 recalls the monster from “The Monster They Couldn’t Kill” in Web of Evil #11.

The GCD tentatively attributes Cole with the inks. The look of “Goddess of Murder” reminds me more of his work elsewhere, so I doubt this. If it wasn’t Cole inking, it was someone who whose inks merged with Cole’s pencils in an extremely attractive way and retained their humour.

 photo spoiler-1.gifA post at a Cole blog argues the element of psychological disturbance in the plot points to Cole’s having been the writer.(1) I’m sure that’s right. The method the lieutenant uses at the climax is like something Plastic Man would do.(2)

“Vengeance of the Red Ghost”

The ghost of a woman whose family rejected her as a wastrel kills the members of her family one by one.

This story is particularly ruthless at killing off sympathetic characters. The art is a bit dull but the story’s shock moments are strong and overcome it. The GCD attributes the pencils to Leo Morey.

“Goddess of Murder”

A rich art collection obtains a statue of Kali by violence. It comes to life and demands he supply it with victims.

This story has the issue’s best shock moments. Its direct shock approach is what leads me to think the story was written by Cole. The violent conclusion is also very Cole-ish.

This story doesn’t have as much of a comic element in its art as the first story, but I don’t doubt the pencils are Cole’s. Cole’s humour appears in the art and script p.5 panel 8. The thug in the panel is dressed in a cloth cap and a striped shirt under a jacket. And the head intruding into the panel on the left p.5 panel 6 is as distinctively Cole’s as anything could be. The shock moment p.4 panel 6 is this story’s equivalent to the famous eye panel Wertham singled out for criticism.

As I explained above I find it easier to accept the GCD’s tentative attribution of the inking to Cole for this story. But I’m just going by my visual memory of Cole’s 1940s work.

“The Beast from Beyond”

City folks vacationing in the North Woods fall prey to a forest monster.

The scripting of the vacationers on the opening pages struck me as very good. They sound like people enjoying themselves.

Art-spotting Quality artists is particularly hard, because it used a number whose work I don’t know and heavy inkers. The art of this story shows a Caniff influence. A number of artists used a Caniff style in the 40s but coming into the 50s most of them moved away from it. Among the comic book artists I know that narrows the field to Edmond Good, Lee Elias and Ray Bailey. Elias and Bailey did close imitations of Caniff’s style. Good’s art was cartoonier, but shows a Caniff influence. Good was working for Quality in this period and I think the artist was him. If it was Elias or Bailey someone else inked.

Other Content

In the text story a constable stakes out a haunted house. Like the comics stories the tale has a twist ending.

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The Cole stories are out of the ordinary and give the issue class.

(1) The post is here. It has ending spoilers for this story and others, including a visual one for another story right at the top. There's adult content elsewhere at the site.

(2) I have in mind the Grandma Crookes story from Plastic Man #30, but that may not prove my point as the GCD currently tentatively attributes it Alex Kotzky.

“The Evil Terror?”, Plastic Man #43 (Quality, 1953); featuring Plastic Man

Plas and Woozy investigate killings in Vampire Valley.

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The location of Vampire Valley isn’t clear. The local bigwig is a Count Dronga, but Plas and Woozy act as if they have jurisdiction.

The GCD attributes the writing to Joe Millard (on the assessment of Lou Mougin), and tentatively attributes the art to Al Luster. If Cole wasn’t involved this is really a fantastically good imitation of his approach, in art(1) and writing, except the inks have a heavier look than I’ve seen from Cole.

 photo spoiler-1.gif In this period uncanny elements in superhero stories often turned out to have rational explanations. This story has a straight Mandrake the Magician plot, right down to the villain’s motivation. But it's a lively tale despite the familiar plot.

The story was cover-featured. The GCD attributes the cover to Dick Dillin on pencils and tentatively Chuck Cuidera on inks.

I’ve counted the question mark as part of the title as it’s in the same lettering.

The issue has two other Plastic Man stories, which are similarly Cole-ish and lively, and which the GCD credits the same way. In the third story a criminal scientist employs magnets that attract rubber - and Plastic Man. The second one, “The Monster of Flame”, has a lava monster. These critters are surprisingly common in comics. Sometimes they’re real, sometimes fake. I’ve posted a list of ‘em here.

Quality issues in this period often carried a cartoon item. Here it’s a Woozy story. The text story features Plastic Man.

(1) We even get rear 3/4 view heads poking in from the panel border like the one I pointed out last time.

*I misdated "The Mind-Monster!" from Doll Man #42 above; it's from 1952.

Black Cat Mystery Comics #30 (Harvey, 1951)

The Black Cat first appeared in the digest-sized Pocket Comics in 1941. After it was cancelled her feature appeared in Speed Comics in 1942-45. It ended in Jun. (on sale), but she appeared on the next two covers and in the text stories linked to them, so whether she outlasted the war depends how you look at it.

The next year Harvey launched Black Cat Comics. The cover of #1 says “By popular demand, after a five year run in Speed Comics”. Actually, her Pocket Comics and Speed Comics appearances add up to a run of around four years.

The indicia and cover titles changed several times during the title’s run. The GCD currently has the issues all together as Black Cat.

Lee Elias became the artist of her feature with #2, and to my mind they were a perfect match. For four issues in 1949 the title became Black Cat Western. The heroine was an actress in her other identity, and in-story she became a Western star.

But all things must pass, and in 1951 Harvey converted her comic into an anthology horror title. The indicia title was Black Cat Mystery Comics, but on the covers this quickly became Black Cat Mystery and later Black Cat. Most of the Black Cat issues have a tiny “Mystery” below the logo, but it’s easy to miss.

This phase ended in late 1954, presumably due to the looming Comics Code. The next three issues primarily reprinted stories from the heroine's Black Cat Western phase and used that cover-title. There was a hiatus between #55 and #56, and another after #56, after which the title restarted as a weird stories anthology. The cover of #57 reverted to the Black Cat Mystery title and the remaining issues were called Black Cat Mystic. Jack Kirby did covers and stories from this phase. The title ended at the start of 1958. It was revived as Black Cat for three issues in 1962-63 and reprinted Lee Elias “Black Cat” stories.

The present issue was the first horror anthology one. The cover shows the Black Cat in what I think is a nightmare scene, but she doesn’t have a story inside. The issue has a contents page, as many Harvey anthologies did, and this one's has a pseudo-editorial called “The Black Cat Speaks”. In the column she says she won’t be appearing in all the stories, but she’ll be appearing in some (“You’ll be seeing me in stories more thrilling and terrifying than ever before.”) As far as I know this never happened. The GCD credits the cover to Lee Elias.

“Gateway to Death”

This is told in flashback. A scientist has invented a device that functions as a gateway to other universes. He recruits an intern as his assistant, and they explore one together.

The central gimmick of this story is one we’ve all seen before. There’s grim moment at the climax and a good twist in the final panel. I think the story could have appeared post-Code, except for a reference to a severed claw.

The GCD attributes the pencils to Vic Donahue.(1) His style is clear and realistic. But the storytelling and some elements in the art are so much like Kirby’s 1950s work I think he must have done layouts or basic pencils. His style is particularly evident p.3 panel 7 and pp.5-6 (note the poses p.5 panel 1, the layout panel 3, and the woman p. 6). P.5 could be from Challengers of the Unknown. The change of direction as the men go through the portal also strikes me as a touch out of his work in this period.

The Simon and Kirby Blog indicates Donahue worked for S&K, so I think this story was produced by their studio.

“The Thing from the Grave”

A woman who lost her husband a year previously shows up at a friend’s house and recounts a disturbing dream.

The story is drawn in a solid but slightly dull way, like many a 1950s DC tale. It’s written as a story that starts out being unsettling and become shocking, but doesn’t make the most of its shock moments. The climax is gorier than I’ve seen from DC in this period. The final twist is a familiar one. According to the GCD the artist was Rudy Palais.

“The Werewolf Must Kill!”

An American who was bitten by a werewolf in Italy has become one himself.

The werewolf’s other form is a wolf form, and he changes and attacks during the day as well as by night. The rise of the need to kill and his transformations seem to go together.

This story was drawn by Lee Elias. He drew some famous horror covers, but this story is drawn in his standard style and lacks the gore imagery that gives those covers their impact. He captures the way dogs move depicting the wolf. The final sequence is set at night but drawn and coloured as if it’s day. I like Elias’s Caniff-y style, and like the story for it. But others might find it too cartoonish.

Other Content

The issue has five one-pagers, but one of them was printed as the central portion of a centrespread, with half-page text stories either side of it. There is a full-page text story in addition to these.

The centrespread item is “Black Cats’ Encyclopedia of Superstition”,(2) and explains the sources in superstition of common customs and expressions. The second one-pager features miscellaneous “Weird Facts”. The third is “Mysteries of the Heavens!” and consists of speculation about how the other people of our solar system, imagined as human, cope with their planets’ environments. The fourth is a historical facts page called “Horror After Death!” about things done with famous people’s dead bodies. The final item is called “Powers of the Unknown” and has absolutely nothing to do with the powers of the unknown; it’s a set of Ripley’s Believe It or Not! items with Romeo and Juliet thrown in for no discernible reason.

The text stories are an interesting uncanny portrait story, a standard idol one, and standard Voodoo one.

(1) The issue was reprinted by Lorne-Harvey in The Silver Scream #3 in 1991. The indexer of that issue tentatively attributes it to Donahue, pencils and inks.

(2) The GCD interprets this as “Black Cat’s Encyclopedia of Superstition”, which is logical; but that’s not where the apostrophe is, the logo shows two black cats, and I have to call ‘em as I see ‘em.

Black Cat Mystery Comics #31 (Harvey, 1951)

This issue is very different from the last one. The horror is really ratcheted up: there’s madness, blinding with acid, demon slaves, knife murders, stranglings, and an all-powerful witch. The stories are also much more dynamically told.

The cover again has what looks like a nightmare scene. There's no Black Cat, but there's a giant black cat. The GCD tentatively attributes the art to Al Alvison.

The editorial on the contents page cites three brief letters.

“Bloody Red Rose”

A man buys roses for his wife. But when he gives them to her she finds they’re running with blood!

This is Poe-like story with a strong central image. It ends a little abruptly. The GCD attributes the art to Rudy Palais. It’s drawn with much more vigour than his tale from last issue.

The idea is strong enough for the story to have been a classic, but this one doesn’t make it. Perhaps it needed to be longer, to take the antihero through more terror.

I’ve sometimes seen the writing on stories by other artists attributed to Jack Kirby. This story has several captions that sound like his:

Deep in the black heart of the Earth, many a foul and unearthly thing takes root and grows until it appears above ground to strike terror in the minds of men. (p.1)

A cold, dark winter night, and out of the darkness a strange and horrible figure appears to sell her innocent-looking wares to an approaching man… (p.1)

I don’t know if Kirby was the only writer who wrote in this style. My guess is the story was a Simon and Kirby studio one and he wrote or did some rewriting. The story flows fluidly, as S&K stories do, and has one of the circular panels they liked to use.

“The Tapping Doom”

A lady scientist can no longer stand her cruel boss’s abuse and throws a beaker of acid into his face.

The art of this one is cartoonier, and reminds me of Joe Certa’s work. The GCD attributes it to Manny Stallman. The art isn’t gory; we don’t get anything like Two-Face’s face. The plot is a familiar one, but in this story the perpetrator is sympathetic and the pursuing force evil.

This story again has Kirby-ish narration (and another of those circular panels):

A strange figure approaches the Harrington Chemical Laboratories, his face an ugly mask of cruelty and evil that chills the summer night air… (p.1)

Nearer and nearer the evil apparition approaches the frantic girl, its walking stick glowing with a vengeful intention, its appalling face twisted into a terrible smile!... (p.3)

“The Sea Witch of Sandy Hook”

A rich young couple go sailing, despite a warning from their groundskeeper that the Sea Witch of Sandy Hook will be abroad. She is.

The GCD attributes the art to Rudy Palais, but if the first and last stories are his there’s no way that’s correct. I think it’s Al Avison with someone else inking.

This is another fluidly-told story, about helplessness in the power of evil. The story is the issue’s most fantastic, and the witch is drawn with gusto.

“The Sleepwalking Killer!”

Everyone at work hates Herbert Spence…

The storytelling here is different from that in the rest of the issue. The tale is light on dialogue, in two places plot points are conveyed using the art only, and there are almost no captions. The GCD attributes the art to Rudy Palais. That looks right, if “Bloody Red Rose” is his.

Other Content

This issue has the same kind of centrespread as the last, with a central “Black Cats’ Encyclopedia of Superstition” “page”. This time it describes superstitions from around the world. The remaining one-pagers are a “Ghosts that Never Rest!” item recounting the legend of Harry Main (but not the treasure part), and a page of “Weird Facts”.

The first text story is an imitation of The Thing from Another World (1951), the second is a ghost town story, and the third is a tale of murder.

Drew…Collins…this thing is BREATHING! It’s…aarrrghhhhh!

"The Black Tarantula", from A Feature Presentation #5 (Fox, 1950)

Count Rorret is the Black Tarantula, an undead being dedicated to evil. In a graveyard he summons the ghosts of the evil dead and tells them what happened when he set out to provide himself with a companion in the Middle Ages.(1)

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This was the only issue of A Feature Presentation. The story is a book-length story, but by this point comics had shrunk, so the story is 29 pages.(2) The cover is designed to look like a hardbound book. To fit with this it has the price “$1oo” crossed out and “now 10c” next to it.

The art is on the crude side, like wartime MLJ, say. It shows the influence of Kirby’s early style, as so many Golden Age stories do. The plot is quite imaginative. The Black Tarantula seduces a woman into undeath by offering her the hope she can be with her lover in death. Although in her undead form she is evil she still refuses to relinquish him. With its Dracula-like central figure, scenes of seduction into undeath, young lover protagonists, and historical setting, this is rather like a Hammer horror story.(3)

I don’t want to oversell it: the story doesn’t have the impact it could, given its concepts. But the concepts are there.

The Black Tarantula has fangs and a straight Snidely Whiplash moustache, and wears a cape and a wide-brimmed hat with a downturned brim. In the opening sequence he has on a suit, but in the flashback he wears a tunic; and in the opening his hat is a Fedora, but in the flashback it has a round crown. So he’s kept up with the times. On the cover he has a top hat and tux and no moustache.

Despite the medieval setting religion plays no role in the story. The setting is European, but at one point the hero uses the oath "by the Prophet's beard".

The GCD doesn’t have guesses as to the creators.

This was the story reprinted behind L. B. Cole’s striking cover for Startling Terror Tales #11 (Star Publications, 1952). The GCD says that reprint had 27 pages.

The text story involves a house haunted by the ghost of a little girl.

(1) In his opening spiel the Black Tarantula refers to the events as having happened “almost nine hundred years” earlier, which makes the date c.1050. But his gravestone in the opening sequence gives his birthdate as 1101 and when he's tempting the heroine he says he’s been dead “over two hundred years”. That places the events in the 14th century (or maybe 15th). His human name was Zoraster Rorret.

(2) The GCD says 29. The scan at Comic Book Plus has 28, but there’s no title and the first page is numbered 2. The issue likely started on the inside front page, as was standard in later Fox comics. The Comic Book Plus/DCM scan doesn’t have it. The story seems to start on p.2, so the first page may have been a full-page splash.

Fox released the story again in Variety Comics (1950), a giant made up of four rebound issues. The GCD’s series description page notes the issue dropped the original covers, and so the opening pages. It says the comic exists in at least two versions, both of which used our issue. The version at Comic Book Plus and DCM places the issue last. The sites don’t currently have Startling Terror Tales #11.

(3) It’s set earlier than they were: Hammer’s Gothic horror films were usually set in the 18th-19th centuries or later. But it doesn’t make much difference.

Ghost Comics #4 (Fiction House, 1952)

This issue contains two new stories and two reprints. The cover is by Maurice Whitman. I don’t think he's that well-known an artist, but check out his cover for Planet Comics #71 or his "Kaänga" story in Jungle Comics #163: at his best, he was terrific. In this case the design and witches are good but the colours and cheesecake draw so much attention to the heroine one almost misses them.

“Death is a Dream”

This is a combination spy/ghost story set in Hong Kong and the China Sea.

The art is in an imitation Alex Toth style that doesn’t follow him into excessive minimalism and is clear, clean and attractive. The GCD says the artists were Bill Benulis and Jack Abel.

The opening sequence is set at the British Embassy in Hong Kong. Hong Kong was British territory. The sequence, with its depiction of a mob attack on an embassy, would read more naturally if it were set in mainland China before its fall to the Communists. It may be there was some rewriting, but perhaps the writer just used the mob-attacks-an-embassy trope without thinking about it.

The opening is handled in a confusing way. Partly we’re not supposed to know what’s really happening: we find out when the brother does, on p.4. But it’s also not clear what the brother thinks is going on, and that’s a plot point given what happens next. The heroine’s stance is a little wonky p.2 panel 1.

The nameplate of the embassy has “1923” at the bottom. I assume that’s when it was opened. It’s an oddly specific detail.

The Chinese heroine is beautiful and brave. The lead villain is supposed to be a Soviet agitator, but this is not stated.

“No World for Me”

The story is partly told from translations of Martian microfilms. A rocket from Earth reaches Mars. The Martians capture the astronaut and put him in a mind probe to learn about him. The rest of the tale relates his story, and his fate.

This is only marginally a horror story. (There’s a brief sequence with ghosts.) The art is in a clear Iger Shop style. The GCD attributes it to Jack Kamen, pencils, and “Iger Studios”, inks.

“Flee the Mad Furies”

A woman believes her father was killed by the witchcraft of a gypsy woman he took into his house, and asks ghost investigator Drew Murdoch for help.

This is a reprint of the “Ghost Gallery” story from Jumbo Comics #81 (1945). The stories were represented as Murdoch’s cases, narrated by him, so they were credited “by Drew Murdoch”. The story has been shortened by a page. In the original version the villainess was the guest heroine’s sister.

The story is drawn in a heavy version of the Iger Studio style. The GCD’s page on Jumbo Comics #81 credits the art to Alex Blum. Its page on the present issue credits it to “Iger Studios: Alex Blum” because of the changes (and the script to “Drew Murdoch”).

Fiction House had at least other two occult investigators: Prof. Broussard from “The Werewolf Hunter” in Rangers Comics, and Dr. Drew from “The Secret Files of Dr. Drew”, which ran in the Rangers Comics later. It also had a feature in Jumbo Comics called “Stuart Taylor in Weird Stories of the Supernatural”, which was a continuation of one of its original features, “The Diary of Dr. Hayward”; but this seems to have been more of an SF/time travel feature. (But it had a long run, and in a long run anything can happen.)

On p.2 I noted the similarity between Dr Drew’s name and that of Douglas Drew from “The Old Tower’s Secret” in Adventures into the Unknown #2 . Drew Murdoch predated both of them, and outlasted Dr Drew. He’s called “Dr. Murdoch” in the opening caption here (written in the guest heroine’s voice), but “Mr. Murdoch” in the story and the other “Ghost Gallery”s I checked.

“The Trumpet of Valkyrie”

Pilot Lieutenant Grayson has a prophetic dream in which his plane is destroyed and a goddess-like figure saves him. An experimental U.N. ship(1) is seized by the Reds and taken to a “Finnish fjord”. Grayson’s squadron is assigned to destroy it before its secrets can be discovered…

This story is an airman-behind-enemy-lines tale with a supernatural aspect, drawn in an impressive realistic style by Rafael Astarita. It originally appeared as a “Ghost Squadron” story in Wings Comics #73 (1946). In the original version the Germans were the villains, and the setting of the main part of the adventure was Norway. This story has also been shortened by a page.

Other Content

In the text story boys are responsible for the capture of two crooks.

My hat-tip to the GCD for the information on where the original stories appeared.

(1) This was the period of the Korean War, fought as a U.N. action.

Web of Mystery#1 (Ace Magazines, Feb. 1951) Cover believed to be by Warren Kremer

"The Case of the Beckoning Mummy" artist believed to be Mike Sekowsky, inker possibly Vince Alascia, 7 pages

Archaeologist Damon Knight and his finance Karen are in Egypt looking for the tomb of the 8000 year old king Kali-Dahn. In the marketplace they come upon an aged fortune teller who informs Karen that she will have a happy life after the shock of the loss of a loved one. He tells Damon that he's on an evil mission and will die horribly unless he leaves Egypt. He notices a ring Damon is wearing and asks where he got it. Damon says it was from the tomb of Kali-Dahn's son, and why does the old man want to know? He says he can tell them no more and asks them to leave. That night Damon dreams the fortune teller, wrapped up like a mummy, comes to him and tells him to leave or die. He also says the ring was his and he gave it to his son, which would make him Kali-Dahn. He vanishes. Damon thinks it must have been a dream but there are mummy wrapping where it appeared. The next morning he goes to see the fortune teller only to be told by a stranger that no such person was there, that's the spot where he sells shawls. The mummy appears one last time and gives him a final warning. He ignores it. They soon find the Kali-Dahn's tomb and he enters it, ignoring the curse that says the first person that defiles the tomb will die. Inside he finds the ring the mummy had stolen from him. That night the mummy appears and beckons to him to follow it inside of the tomb. Unable to stop himself he does.

True Creepy Tales#1, one page

An old man tells two young lovers a legend about an Indian brave, padding across a lake, being slain by another brave that loved the same woman. The maiden threw herself into the lake to join him To this day people say a ghostly canoe crosses the lake, the brave still trying to find his betrothed. A lot of people taking canoes out to the lake at midnight have ran into him and been capsized and drowned when his canoe struck theirs. The young couple don't believe him until the ghostly canoe actually turns up and sinks their boat.

"Venom of the Vampires" by Martin "Marty" Rose, 7 pages

Johnny Pierce's plane crashes in Honduras, stranding him and his passengers, a nobleman and a school-teacher in the jungle. They come across an ancient Mayan city and a tribe of Indians, who take them to their chief. The chief says he'll have someone take them to a white man village in the morning. The nobleman doesn't believe him, telling Johnny they're probably being fattened up by the chief, who he keeps calling a witch doctor. The school-teacher is just about to fall asleep when a vampire bat lands on her neck. Johnny grabs it and assures her it would take a lot of bats attacking at once to kill someone. The nobleman says there's a legend that some of his family has turned into vampires. He doesn't believe it, but admits that he practices black magic. Johnny tells him to stop scaring the teacher. The nobleman makes a doll of the witch doctor and stabs its leg with his knife, saying in the morning the witch doctor will be lame. Johnny punches him out to shut him up. The next morning the chief is lame and they're told they can go but he's going to find out who cast the spell on him and kill them. The nobleman threatens to cast his next spell on Johnny. At midnight the nobleman turns into a vampire. Johnny chases him off with a plant he thinks must be some sort of wolfsbane. He returns to the city and starts attacking the natives, where we learn they had killed him for casting the spell. He sends some braves to bring back Johnny and the teacher, who have been wearing the wolfsbane to keep the vampire from returning, not realizing it's poisonous and slowly killing them. The natives tell them to get rid of it and take them back to the chief, who promises to make them well again but says he needs their help to get rid of the vampire. Johnny suggests that maybe the vampire is hiding out in the same cave the vampire bats live in, and he's right.

True Creepy Tales#2, 1 page

In Yorkshire, England, we're told, it's believed that a soul returns to the body once in twenty-four hours until after the funeral and burial. One evening a man is heading home when he sees another man standing on the road. He offers to take him to Yorkshire. The man gets in without speaking a word and ignores any attempts to start a conversation. When they reach an inn he gets out of the wagon and walks inside. The man asks the groom taking his horse who he was, but the groom says there was nobody there but him. He goes inside and tells the landlord, who leads him to a room where the man he picked up is lying. The landlord says he's been dead for two days.

I'll finish the issue but thought I'd better put this up in case something happened and the post disappeared on me.

"The Lamenting Voice of the Bell", 6.66 pages

Hunchback Hans Welden has become famous for the beautiful sounds of his bells, which people describe as sounding like angels, not knowing that he kills children and melts their bodies into the bell to make the sounds. The burgomeister asks him to make a new bell for the town hall, but there are few children left in the village and they're well guarded. However an old friend returns to the village, says he has only a few years to live, and states that since Hans is his best friend he's going to leave him all of his money. Hans decides maybe his "friend" will do, and killing him will also mean he'll get his money right away. He pushes him into the molten metal that the bells are made of. The next night, at the same hour he killed his friend, he hears the bell tolling and his voice saying he will toll every night at 11pm until Hans confesses. Hans convinces himself he's imagining it, and tries the next morning to collect the money, only to learn since no body was found he's only missing and German law says in such cases he won't be pronounced dead for ten years. The next night the bell tolls again. Hans is of course the only one that can hear it. He decides to get it out of his home by having it placed in town hall, and talks the burgomeister out of having it ring because according to legend the bell is only to be tolled for a proclamation or when an injustice is done. But that night it rings yet again, and Hans runs to town hall to try to stop it.

"Model For A Madman" two page text story, a mad painter kills women to capture their last moments on canvas, but his latest model is opposed to being killed.

"Ghost Ship of the Caribbean" art by Ken Rice, 7 pages

A young couple out on a cruise run into a hurricane. Barely keeping afloat, they reach the eye of the storm where they see a ship that's over 100 years old. Despite the rotting sails and timbers, Bill decides to explore the derelict, ignoring Ann's fears that it doesn't look safe. It's not. Going below they find skeletons of the crew. The ship's log says the captain was named Phineas Johnson. Bill notes his great-grandfather was named Phineas and was lost at sea. Just then they leave the eye of the storm and enter the hurricane. Bill decides he can pilot the ship to land, but as they head towards the wheel they come across the ghosts of the crew. One of the ghosts calls for the storm to blow them off the ship, but the captain's ghost stops him. He explains the crew left him on a deserted island and turned pirate because of the huge treasure of pearls they were transporting. He offers them to his descendent, but the pirates aren't through with them yet.

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