Dime Mystery Meme #7: Mad embalmers

As it is the path of nature for us to return to the ashes and dust whence we came, there’s always been something somewhat uncanny about the embalmed and thus non-decaying corpse. There should be no surprise, then, in seeing embalming taken up as a horror theme, creepy in itself and perhaps also something to throw in a bit of a necrophile or A.S.F.R. kink. The March 1936 cover painting by Tom Lovell and the story it illustrates goes to this directly.

Interior art for the same story:

The curators of Pulp Covers have generously made the entire issue available for download.

At least Miss March 1936 has the appearance of being decently dead before being embalmed. I’m not so sure about the girl on November 1935 cover (issue ISFDB entry here).

While featured girl on May 1940 appears to be very much alive and putting up an active, if not exactly effective, resistance. Note that this cover might also be an example of the mummification trope, which I shall be covering a few posts from this one.

But perhaps the best or most shocking example (depending on your point of view) of the trope (as well as also the coffin stuffer trope) might be the November 1933 cover (issue ISFDB entry here), where the artist has managed, aside from some serious implied nudity, to get a look of real terror on the victim’s face.

And two-fisted hero/rescuer in sight, alas. Just the cold full moon looking on.

Dime Mystery Meme #6: Consigned to the flames II

More horrible burning, but in this version of the meme, our pretty woman is in the process or on the brink of being put in the flames. One might be lowered into the flames by cultists, as in this April 1935 cover by Walter M. Baumhofer… (issue ISFDB entry here)

…tossed into what appears to be a flaming grave (?) on this unattributed November 1934 cover… (issue ISFDB entry here.)

…or hurled into a volcano while your would be rescuer/hero guy apparently gets distracted by a piece of hardware as on this September 1934 cover (issue ISFDB entry here.)

In some instances, the villain might even enter the flames with you, albeit hardly on equal terms. This villain is managing to carry his blonde victim over a brick furnace threshold and shoot the hero at the same time, all the while wearing what looks like a really bulky fireproof suit. The cover is from July 1939 and lacks an ISFDB entry.

Serious points for dexterity, if not for ethics.

Dime Mystery Meme #5: Consigned to the flames I

Fire is a fearsome thing when you’re in it or might be, and so unsurprisingly there are a lot of Dime Mystery Magazine covers showing pretty women facing the hideous prospect of being burned alive. Indeed, there are so many that I had to break the meme into two separate posts. For want of a better concept, I’ve divided them into stationary and moving examples. Stationary means being fixed in a place and having the fire being brought to one, like being burned at the stake. An example of moving would be being about to be hurled into a volcano as a human sacrifice. So stationary first, beginning with this example from August 1936, painted by Tom Lovell.

It look like our hero is willing to take on some serious hurt in hopes of rescuing this poor girl, and Mr. Nero is amused. A similar risk is posed on the unattributed July 1937 cover.

1937 must have been a big year for setting women on fire at Dime Mystery, because the December cover, which is full of peril, showing a hero not only willing to risk being burned, but also apparently being shot by an assailant behind a picture.

I don’t know who painted that cover, but there’s an interesting art-historical detail if you look at the faces of the women here, you notice that instead of being filled with panic, they seem to be calm and have their eyes cast upward, as if this is a painting of Christian martyrs. As such, this pulp painting participates in an unusually deep artistic tradition!

Felice Ficherelli, (1605 – 1660, Italian)


The Martyrdom Of St. Agatha

Source here.

Finally, there’s some real crazy going on in this meme from time to time. Take, for example, October 1935, painted by Walter M. Baumhofer.

“May you burn. You and the horse you rode in on.”

Dime Mystery Meme #4: Forced labor

I confess it strikes me as a strange use of villain time and effort to capture pretty women only to force them into brute labor. Wouldn’t big muscled men be better for that sort of thing? (They have to be better for something…) But all the same, some villains do, or so the editors of Dime Mystery Magazine seemed to think in 1938. Here is their July issue:

(“The Werewolf of Wall Street” is a movie someone ought to be making today.) They were still at it in September:

Beneath the streets of the city, a stripped-down Angel of Death engages in boat-races against some Roman dude, both with teams of slave-girl rowers captured from the world above. Yikes!

Dime Mystery Meme #3: Coffin stuffers

Of the odder cover themes that appeared at Dime Mystery Magazine over the years were covers that seem to suggest a villain who happens to have a empty coffin and feels a need to find something pretty to put in it. I’m sure that wasn’t the underlying story, of course, but the covers still seem to have had that consistent feel. Consider this cover February 1937:

(Note: if you’re into shudder pulp you really owe it to yourself to visit the Pulp Covers page for this issue, since not only do the curators there provide a lot of splendid interior art, but the they also make the whole issue available for download.) Doesn’t it seem like our villain is suggesting to our heroine (who’s having none of it) that the elderly gent to his left needs a companion in burial? Or consider this rather late cover from February 1941:

“We’re gonna have us a funeral, by gum, and somebody has to be the body.” This cover, from May 1935…

…might be primarily a case of cult human sacrifice, although there appear to be coffins lined up neatly in the background, perhaps suggesting forethought in disposing of the victim once the weird ritual has run its course. But in this final example, from August 1935, it appears the the entire point is to get the victim into the coffin…

…even if understandably, she really, really doesn’t want to go.

Dime Mystery Meme #2: Early A.S.F.R.

Turning a living person into a statue is an idea that goes back at least as far as the Greek myth of the Gorgons and certainly in the Internet era has become a sort of kink. More than a few covers of Dime Mystery Magazine strongly suggest the kink goes back at least to the shudder-pulp era. Consider this unattributed March 1937 cover:

Now I suppose it’s possible that our mad sculptor here is only using his victim as a kind of unwilling model. That would be criminal behavior in the real world, but mere kidnapping and assault don’t seem to rise to the level of menace one would expect from a Dime Mystery cover. I would submit that our lady’s fate here is not merely to model art but to become it.

Again, things become more obvious in other covers. There is this cover from March 1938 painted by Tom Lovell:

Helpless women being moved by pulley and dipped into a gilding vat, then hung up (to dry?). And this one from August 1939.

The curators at Pulp Covers remark, whether in innocence or in irony I am not sure “Yes, the evil cult leader is spray-painting the chained girl gold. No, I don’t know why,” A look in the background at one of the victim’s possible predecessors suggests an answer. That’s no ordinary spray-paint.

Programming note: Dime Mystery memes for the rest of August

Some personal exigencies of time management require me to temporarily reduce posting frequency here, so from now until the end of August you should expect to see one rather than two pulp-related posts per day. You should expect to see one pulp post every day at noon U.S. Eastern time. And there will be a slight shift in format during that time as well.

The format change was motivated by the curious feeling, while reviewing the cover archives for Dime Mystery Magazine, which was one of the earliest and most lurid of the shudder pulps. How lurid? Well, an early (1933) cover really set the tone here:

Source: Wikipedia.

Fire, blood, sacrifice, a helpless female victim whose nudity is not shown but quite blatantly implied, cultists in robes, and a gun-brandishing hero who is (maybe) arriving just in time to save the distressed damsel: all very shudder pulp. The thing that struck me while going through the old issue covers is how frequently certain themes were recycled by just this one magazine over a publishing history of about six years (effectively 1933-1939, and and then on a reduced schedule with far less lurid covers into the 1940s). Apparently the editors of of Dime Mystery Magazine really liked, or more to the point, estimated that their readership really liked, seeing certain things over and over. And that naturally provoked me to have a bit of semi- or perhaps pseudo-scholarly fun trying to classify a few of them. Coming up with fifteen or so thematic categories proved to be quite easy, as you shall see — if you can bear to look — over the coming days.

(Notes: (1) The Tales of Gnosis College should continue to be published on its standard schedule, with a new page appearing every 24 hours at midnight, U.S. Eastern time. (2) All the images in this parade of memes come from the collection of Dime Mystery Magazine covers at Pulp Covers. Where possible, I have attempted to date them using the issue grid at the ISFDB or the cover index at Galactic Central.

Pulp Parade #330: Tube girl oh yeah…and some more dubious stuff

This is Marvel Tales for May 1940, with a cover by H.W. Scott. The ISFDB entry for this issue is here. I found this version of the cover at Pulp Covers, where the curators have made the entire issue available for download, and have also posted some interesting interior art, all of it uncredited, unfortunately. There is this, illustrating Nils O. Sonderlund’s “Mistress of Machine-Age Madness.”

This illustrating Robert Wentworth’s “World without Sex.” (As the illustration suggests, the story is something of a doozy and in publishing I’ve had to weigh its undoubted historical significance against whatever bullshit MRA types will generate out of it.)

This illustrating George E. Clark’s cover story “Test Tube Monster.” I like the conceit that by the year 1978 we’d be making beautiful women in test tubes.

And finally this illustrating Frederick Arnold Kummer, Jr.’s “Princess of Power.”

Pulp Parade #329: That’s…entertainment?

This is the cover for Marvel Science Stories for November 1938, cover by Frank R. Paul. The ISFDB entry for this issue is here. I found this version of the cover at Pulp Covers, the curators of which have also made the entire issue available for download. As an example of this issue’s interior art, this illustration to Henry Kuttner’s cover story “The Time Trap,” also by Frank R. Paul.