Small House of Everything

Small House of Everything

Friday, April 12, 2024

SPACE ACE #5 (1952)

 I like the cover.  It's not exactly Squids in Space, but it'll do.

"Science predicts that rocket ships will soon roar off the Earth on their way to Mars and Venus, and even beyond the solar system.  We like to think that years from now cargo spacers will bring us the produce of our sister planets.  To guard their cargo, to maintain peace on the star frontiers, a new kind of police force will be needed...the space patrol.  This then, is a tale of a patrolman of the future, a man with star-tan on his face.  Jet Black, and his boy buddy, the Martian youngster, Jak Tal..."

In "The Thing in the Box," a strange black box from outer space takes over the minds of everyone on Mars, except for Space Ace and Jak Tal.  It seems out heroes have just purchased silver helmets that would go well with their dress uniforms, so naturally they are wearing the helmets that can block out the hypnotic rays of the strange box.  Then a weird pink egg from outer space lands and out pops a beautiful girl.  She is Myrrl -- the alien boxes have conquered her planet,, and one box has been sent to conquer Mars because the boxes prefer a dry planet.  Space Ace has to discovery the secret of the box-being, or Myrrl's people will remain conquered and Mars itself will be conquered.  Thank goodness Space Ace and Jak Tal are wearing their silver helmets...

On "The Men from Deep Space," our heroes are on patrol when they spy an unfamiliar disc-like vessel.  They try to communicate using their thought-propulsor radio but the thoughts of whoever -- r whatever-- is in the vessel remain blank.  Then the strange ship sends a ray that slices their ship in half, throwing both Space Ace and Jak Tal into space.  The flying disc is occupied by the giant not-really-squid beings from the issue's cover.  These critters can live in space, and soon have our helpless heroes in their tentacle-like grasp.  Luckily, Jak Tal had been playing with a toy handshake buzzer and that turns out to be the secret weapon against the critters.  Space Ace and Jak Tal capture on of the beings -- named Kebbelog -- and force him (it?) back to Earth to be studied.  Seems these creatures from deep space came from another dimension, but the space patrol now has the ability to destroy their entire race.  And, so (we presume) they do just that.  That'll teach them.  It' not nice to mess with Spoce Ace and his boy buddy.

In an untitled story, Fan San is an exotic dancer on Mars.  She wears a brief feathered tutu and a yellow bra with black stars where her nipples should be.  Hubba-hubba.  Somebody is trying to kill her.  They have already killed her wardrobe mistress and her maid.  Space Ace thinks its related to the theft of the Neverfade Emeralds -- the ten biggest jewels on Earth.  pace Ace thinks the jewels have been hidden un knowingly with Fan San.  He and Jak Tal set a trap for the jewel thief, but the thief get away -- but not before Space Ace recognizes him as Mark Treak, the big game hunter.  They track Treak to the asteroids, tiny worlds home to many queer and deadly creatures such as the clawsyer, a pterodactyl-type monster with poison talons, and the horned, saber-toothed swamp panther.  Then Treak gets the drop on our heroes.  Can this be end?  Heck, no.

A strange alien approached an outpost on Saturn.  He is carrying "The Harp of Death," whih can overpower armed guards.  The alien will not let anything stop him from hunting something that threatened the entire universe.  Meanwhile, on Mars, Space Ace and Jak Tal are hunting ghost killers.  They come across a body smothered in alien flower.  They trace the flowers back to a birdman who has the deadly flowers attack our crime-busting space patrolmen.  The alien harpist arrives from Saturn just in time to play his harp and kill the flowers. the birdman tried to kill Yanal (the harper) with a deadly ray gun but Space Ace saves him and throws a punch at the birdman that is sure to give him a beakache.  Two more birdmen join the fray but they are no match for Space Ace.  It turns out that Yanal-the Haper is also a birdman, just wearing a mask.  The other three are the last birdmen of Jupiter (excluding Yanal, of course) and he has been hunting them down to bring them to justice.

In "The Adventure of the Invisible Pirates," Space Ace and Jak Tal are trekking across the merciless desert of the first planet of Proxima Centauri.  With no food and half a can of water, and with space pirates on their trail, Space Ace seems to snap.  He turns on Jak Tal, attacking him.  Space Ace takes the last of the water, leaving his boy buddy to face certain death.  Jak Tal is rescued by Nev Ran, the head of the Invisible Pirates, who hopes to use him to find out about the platinum mine shipments.  This, of course, was a ply by our favorite space patrolmen to get the drop on the Invisible Pirates.  You really didn't think Space Ace was going to leave his boy buddy to die, did you?

Fred Guardineer did the artwork in this issue.  Guardineer created the magician-hero Zatara in issue #1 of Action Comics, the same issue that featured the first Superman story.  He was also noted for drawing The Durango Kid from 1949 to 1955.


Thursday, April 11, 2024


 Outlaw Guns by "Murray Leinster" (Will F. Jenkins) (originally published as "Wanted -- Dead or Alive," a four-part serial in Triple X Magazine, #57-60 [February-May 1929;  published in book form as   Wanted Dead or Alive!, Quarter Books, 1949; slightly abridged as Outlaw Guns, Star Books, 1950)

"Right now, ma'am," said Slim quietly, "my brother's dead and his name is listed as a rustler.  I'm being hunted and my name's being used by a murderer.  I ain't going to stand for it, ma'am.  Maybe I'll get killed and maybe I won't.  but I ain't going to stand for that."

With that, you know just what kind of western you have here.  Gun-blazing justice will prevail and God help the owlhoots who stand in Slim's way.

Slim Galway is a trick-rider in a wildwest show that had great success in Europe but the show eventually bogged down in failure in South Africa, leaving him stranded.  there, he got a telegram: "Your brother Buck killed today resisting posse which caught him blotting brands for Ned Howe.  Will you sell your interest in Lazy B and for how much?"  Twelve hours later, Buck was on his way back home.

Slim and Buck had combined their money to buy the Lazy B.  Buck ran the ranch while Slim went off to a wildwest show.  Even when the ranch did not make any money, the two resisted selling it.  Instead they rented it to the Ned Howe's neighboring Circle K ranch and Buck became the foreman for the combined spreads.  Slim knew that Buck would never stoop to rustling.  Somehow Buck was framed and then murdered.  And Slim was determined to clear his brother's name.

Six weeks later Slim was on the train to Las Almas -- the nearest town to the Lazy B -- when an easterner from New York warned him that a gangster from Chicago was going to kill him.  Warned, slim was able to outdraw the Chicago and toss the gangster's body from the train.  By why would anyone want Slim dead?

In Las Alamas. Fulton, the local banker told Slim that both Buck and Ned Howe were killed when a posse caught them trying to rustle cattle.   Howe's Circle K went to a niece, Benny Howe, who had just arrived to take over the spread.  Fulton suspected that both Slim and Benny Howe would end up selling their properties.  Las Alamas itself had changed.  Someone had poured money into a local election that had Getty, a local incompetent, elected sheriff; now the town became wide-open haven for saloons, gambling, and the such.  Eastern gangster began arriving, keeping more or less to themselves.  It's a sure bet that crooked money is being made, but how?  What has attracted gangsters from all over the country to Las Alamas?  Why was it so important to get rid of Buck Galway and Ned Howe.  what was so important bout the Lazy B and the Circle K that people were willing to kill for it?

Things begin to heat up rapidly.  Slim discovers that the Circle K has hired a new foreman who claimed to be Slim Galway.  All the old Circle K hands have been forced out, except for one named Swede, who is murdered when he realizes that the new foreman is a ringer.  Buck is accused of murder and finds there is a $5000 reward on his head, dead or alive.  Benny Howe realizes that something fishy is going on and is kidnapped and held captive until Slim rescues her.

Along the way, Slim is joined by a motley crew, including the easterner who had warned him while on the train -- a man known only as New York, a gangster fleeing retribution from the city.  There's also Hank Pace and his three young sons, not very bright squatters with dreams of becoming feared outlaws; believing Slim to be a desperado, they are eager to join his "gang."  And there's a dance hall girl who is out to avenge her wronged sister.  And a telegraph operator who knew too much to remain alive...

Through it all is Slim, forced to act an outlaw, while trying to remain decent.  (He and the Paces rob a store of supplies, then Slim quietly sneaks back alone and pays for the stuff they have taken.)  Not only does he have to contend with Sheriff Getty's gang of thieves, he has to deal with a town driven by the thought of the $6000 reward, and with the unknown group of eastern gangsters.  All without knowing why people are out to get him and what the end game is.

And even though the girl has the unlikely name of Benny, and even though Slim finds himself attracted to her, he must remain a gentleman.  That's the code of the West.

One final note.  Although this is a flat-out western, with guns and six-shooters, and horses and posses and all the genre fixings, it evidently takes place in the 1920s.  The eastern gangsters ride big, fancy cars.  And, for a little lagniappe, there are machine guns.

Leinster is best known for his science fiction; because of his lo-o-ong career he was known as the "Dean of Science Fiction Writers."  But he also wrote in many other fields and a good number of his stories were westerns -- well-plotted, entertaining, and satisfying action-oriented tales.  His westerns may have not gotten the acclaim that his science fiction did, but this one kept me eagerly turning the pages.

Wednesday, April 10, 2024


 The Eveready Hour  began broadcasting on December 4, 1923 (maybe.. dates differ; it could also have been November 4, 1923, or February 12, 1924...I don't think calendars had been  invented back then) from WEAF Radio in New York City.  It was the first commercially sponsored variety program in broadcasting history.  It was the brainchild of National Carbon Company's George Furness -- National Carbon owned Eveready Battery, hence the name.  Furness realized the possibilities of radio programming and advertising, and sought "to bring the full spectrum of American culture to the airwaves."

Wendall Hall, a banjo-playing vocalist, who wrote the popular song "It Ain't Gonna Rain No Mo," was the host.  (Hall himself was married on the program in 1924.)  By Election Day 1924, the program was carried by 18 stations in the "WEAF chain".  That evening, the election results were being reported by Graham McNamee (who had also originated play-by-play sports radio broadcasting) while the program featured Will Rogers, noted crooner Art Gillman, country music singer Carson Robison, the Eveready Quartet, and Joseph Knecht and the Waldorf-Astoria Dance Orchestra.

The Radio Corporation of America bought eh WEAF chain in 1927, forming the basis of NBC Radio.  NBC continued to broadcast The Eveready Hour until 1930.  guests on the program included Bugs Baer, Eddie Cantor, Pablo Casals, Irvin S. Cobb, Richard Dix, and Lew Fields (of Weber and Fields), among others.  Yip Harburg helped script several of the shows.

From Wikipedia:  "The only known recording of an Eveready Hour broadcast was made by an engineer in the Edison Laboratory in West Orange, New Jersey, on the evening of May 15, 1928, from the over-the-air signal of station WEAF.  This remarkably clear recording contains a local announcement by a WEAF staff announcer, Paul Dumont, then the first 18 minutes of the hour-long broadcast.  This same recording holds the distinction of being the earliest known aircheck (off-air recording) of a live dramatic radio broadcast, it was a recording of a radio transmission that was not a news event, speech, or music-only presentation.  This rare recording is now archived at the Edison National History Site (ENHS), which is part of the National Park Service."

Take a listen, and enjoy the interview with a 62-year-old former tattooist now seller-of-equipment-to-chinchilla-ranchers who married a circus fat lady...

Tuesday, April 9, 2024


"The Ransom" by Cutliffe Hyne  (from Pearson's Magazine, May 1896, as by C. J. Cutcliffe Hyne; reprinted in Twenty and Three Stories by Twenty and Three Writers, edited by Ernest Rhys and C. A. Dawson Scott with the author's name given as "Cutliffe Hyne," 1924 [American edition titled Twenty-Three Stories by Twenty and Three Writers, also 1924]; further reprintings unknown)

Calvert and Methuen were English adventurers who signed on to the Chilean army and were sent to harass the Peruvian guerilla and bandit Garcia, "the most vindictive brute to be found between the Andes and the Pacific."  For four weeks they harried Garcia, shot down his men, and cut off his supplies.  Then they were trapped in an ambush and captured.  Garcia had a reputation for cruelty, and Calvert and Methuen could not expect a merciful death by hanging or by being shot -- Calvert was sure to devise some sort of torture that would leave the two screaming for a quick death.

Garcia's plan was the epitome of cruelty.  One of the two would be hung from a stout branch, slowly strangling.  The other would be placed some sixty yards away and given a rifle.  If he could sever the rope with a shot, both could go free.  If not, or if the rifle shot killed the hanging man, the one with the rifle would be the next to hang.  The rope was sturdy but thin, giving the appearance from a distance of a shoelace.  The man to be hung was Methuen, chosen by the toss of a coin.  Methuen's struggles caused the rope to sway.  Most of the rope was hidden by the shadows in the background and was impossible to see.  The sights on the rifle itself had been altered to make the shot more difficult.

Calvert fired.  And missed.  Again and again.  Somehow -- on the thirteenth shot -- Calvert managed to fray the rope.  But it did not break.  It was time to reload the rifle but an exploded cartridge had jammed the breach.  As Calvert worked franticly to ready the rifle, his compatriot seemed to stop struggling.  He fired.  Again and again.  Twice more a bullet frayed the rope but it did not break.  The bullet glancing the rope caused the body to again swing back and forth.  Finally, Garcia had had enpough and allowed Calvert one final shot...

A simple tale of cruelty in a cruel world, with the tension mounting as each bullet is fired.

C. J. Cutcliffe Hyne (1886-1944) was a popular English novelist perhaps best remembered to day for The Lost Continent:  The Story of Atlantis (1899), an often reprinted fantasy, most notably as the 42nd book in Lin Carter's Ballantine Adult Fantasy series.  Hyne was also noted for his series of stories about Captain Kettle, who first appeared as a minor character in the novel Honour of Thieves (1895); when Pearson's Magazine decided it needed a continuing character who might match the popularity of The Strand Magazine's Sherlock Holmes, Captain Kettle fit the bill.  He first appeared in three separate series of twelve stories each,. beginning in 1896 and appearing over the next four years; they were eventually published in the collections The Adventures of Captain Kettle(1898), Further Adventures of Captain Kettle (1899), and Captain Kettle K. C. B. (1903).  Another eight books about Captain Kettle were published through 1938.  (An interesting note:  Kettle, as depicted by illustrator Stanley J. Wood, bore a striking resemblance to novelist [and sailor] Joseph Conrad; Conrad would later "borrow whole phrases, key episodes, and images from the Kettle stories for Heart of Darkness.")  Other popular works by Hyne included The Recipe for Diamonds (1893) and Kate Meredith, Financier (1906).  Hyne also published 18 books under the pen name "Weatherby Chesney," including The Adventures of a Solicitor (1898).

The American edition of Twenty-Three Stories is available online.

Monday, April 8, 2024


 I was taking a trip back in time yesterday and read Raymond F. Jones's This Island Earth, a 1952 fix-up of three novelettes from Thrilling Wonder Stories (1949-1950).  Zipping through the book with pleasure, I realized that it has been over a half decade since I last saw the movie version of the book, outside of the lampooning it got from Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Movie in 1996.  (Actually, the movie version of part of the book; halfway through the movie veered off into a different direction.)  Anyway, I thought I'd revisit the movie.

It should be noted that the film was first released as part of a double feature with Abbott and Costello Meet the Mummy (another film I should really revisit).  This Island Earth was a sorta critical success, with kudos for an intelligent script, some gosh-wow special effects, and the magic of Technicolor.  

In the film, Dr. Cal Meacham (Rex Reason) has received at his lab some strange items instead of an order he had made for some electronic condensers, along with instructions on hos to build an "interocitor," whatever that is.  Meacham has to set a lot of his scientific knowhow to make the device and, golly gee, it's some sort of a communicating device.  A man calling himself Exeter (Jeff Morrow) appears on the interocitor's screen and tells Meacham that this was a test to prove Meacham's ability; Cal has passed the test and is offered a job with a special project that Exeter is funding.

Cal is flown to a remote area in Georgia, where he is among the world's top atomic scientists.  Also at this strange facility he meets an old girlfriend, Dr. Ruth Adams (Faith Domergue).  He meets Exeter, Exeter's assistant Brack (Lance Fuller), and a whole bunch of suspicious looking people.  Cal, Ruth, and another scientist (Russell Johnson) try to flee, but they are attacked and Johnson's character is killed.  Cal and Ruth then try to escape in a plane and, while they are up in the air, the entire research facility is destroyed.  Then, their plane is sucked up into a giant flying saucer.

It turns out that Exeter is from the planet Metaluna, which is locked in a deadly war with the evil Zagons.  Exeter's earth facility was being used to transform lead into needed uranium for the war effort.  Cal and Ruth are taken to Metaluna, where the planet is locked in a final (and losing) battle with the Zagons.  The leader of Metaluna is "The Monitor" (Douglas Spencer), who plans to transfer his people by "thought transference," which will strip humanity of its free will, but will allow Metaluna to continue the war.   Exeter feels this plan is immoral.

I mentioned above that the film had an "intelligent script."  Well, the word intelligent can be very relative, but moral and ethical quandaries help push it into a positive zone.  It was the technical effects that helped make the movie so popular; the New York Times wrote, that they are "so superlatively bizarre and beautiful that some serious shortcomings can be excused, if not overlooked."  Today the film can be considered a creaker but its reputation remains generally positive.

Uncredited cast members include Richard Deacon, Olan Soule, and Orangey the cat (who played Neutron the cat; Orangey's other credits include Breakfast at Tiffany's, The Diary of Anne Frank, Darby O'Gill and the Little People, Visit to a Small Planet, The Incredible Shrinking Man, and Rhubarb -- that's one talented cat!).  Also uncredited is Regis Partin, who played the wrinkled-headed Metaluna mutant who has become a meme in its own right.

Directed by Joseph M. Newman (The Outcasts of Poker Flat, Flight to Hong Kong, Tarzan, the Ape Man [1959]), with an uncredited assist from Jack Arnold (The Mouse That Roared, Creature from the Black Lagoon, The Incredible Shrinking Man).  Script by Franklin Coen (Alvarez Kelly, War of the Planets, Forged Passport) and George Callahan (The Babe Ruth Story, Adventures of Kitty O'Day, Charlie Chan in the Secret Service).  Henry Mancini was one of three uncredited composers for the movie.

Hold on to your propeller beanie!  Here come the movie!

Sunday, April 7, 2024


 E. Y. "Yip" Harburg (1896-1981), the great American lyricist, would have celebrated his 143rd birthday today.  He may be gone but his songs remain with us, and will for years to come.   His musical partners included Harold Arlen, Jerome Kern, Jule Styne, Jay Gorney, Vernon Duke, Burton Lane, Ira Gershwin, Sammy Fain, and Earl Robinson.  He contributed to many Broadway Revues, including Earl Carroll's Sketchbook of 1929, Garrick Gaieties (1930), Earl Carroll's Vanities of 1930, Ziegfeld Follies of 1931, Americana (1932), Ziegfeld Follies of 1933, and Life Begins at 8:40 (1934), At Home with Ethel Waters (1953).  Among his Broadway hits were Finian's Rainbow, Jamaica, and The Happiest Girl in the World.  He composed music for the films Gold Diggers of 1937The Wizard of Oz, At the Circus, Babes on Broadway, Ship Ahoy, Cabin in the Sky, Can't Help Singing, and Gay Purr-ee.

A Socialist, Arlen was outspoken on racial and gender policies, opposed reactionist politicians and the mistreatment of working classes, supported union politics, and was an ardent critic of religion.  He was blacklisted for 12 years, from 1950 to 1962  -- something that offended him greatly:  "As the writer of the lyric of the song 'God's Country,' I am outraged by the suggestion that somehow I am connected with, believe in, or am sympathetic with Communist or totalitarian policy."

Here are some of his greatest songs:

"Brother Can you Spare a Dime" (The Weavers):

"April in Paris" (Ella Fitzgerald & Louis Armstrong):

"It's Only a Paper Moon" (Paul Whiteman and his Orchestra, with Peggy Healy):

"Over the Rainbow" (Judy Garland) -- voted the Number One Recording of the Twentieth Century:

"We're Off to See the Wizard"  (Judy Garland, Ray Bolger, Buddy Ebson [before he had to give up the role of the Tin Man], and Burt Lahr):

"Lydia the Tattooed Lady"  (Groucho Marx):

"How Are Things in Glocca Morra?"  (Bing Crosby):

"Old Devil Moon"  (Sarah Vaughan):

"When the Idle Poor Become the Isle Rich"  (Charlotte Rae):

"Free and Equal Blues"  (Josh White):

"Down with Love"  (Barbra Streisand):

"How Do You Do It?"  (Frank Luther with Leo Reisman and his Orchestra):

"Hurry Sundown"  (Peter, Paul & Mary):

"Right as the Rain"  (Tony Bennett):

"Rhymes for the Irreverent" (The Michell Trio):

And here's the History Guy talking about Yip Harburg:

Happy birthday to a man who is continuing to make a difference!


 The Fisk University Jubilee Quarter, from 1909.  This is the first recording of "Swing Low, Sweet chariot."

Friday, April 5, 2024


 Dell Comics launched The Funnies, a standard 1930's comic book that reprinted various newspaper strips, to compete with Eastern Color's Famous Funnies (the first rue comic book), which had made its debut some two years earlier.  This was Dell's second attempt at the title:  In 1929, they had started a 16-page tabloid newspaper insert, "more a Sunday comic section without the rest of the newspaper than a true comic book";  it lasted 32 issues. varying from a weekly to a monthly status.  (Interestingly, Eastman Color followed the same pattern, issuing their newsprint tabloid, Funnies on Parade, in 1933, before issuing Famous Funnies.)

The Funnies ran through May 1942, for a total of 64 issues.

This first issue of The Funnies, with its hodge-podge of content, provides an interesting look of at newspaper comic strips of the day, as well as at the birth of comics books as a publishing phenomena.

Included in this are Dan Dunn, Mutt and Jeff, Major Hoople, Pinhead Duffy, Daisybelle, Boots and Her Buddies, Tailspin Tommy, Flapper Fanny, The Nut Brothers, Mr. Blotto, Bronc Peeler, Myra North, Otto Honk, Captain Easy, Cicero's Cat, Alley Oop, Freckles, Ben Webster, Don Dixon, Happy Mulligan, and other characters, both famous and forgotten.   There's an awful lot crammed into 68 pages.

Enjoy this jaunt into the past.

Thursday, April 4, 2024


 Miss Pickerell Goes to the Arctic by Ellen MacGregor  (1954)

It's time to look in on Miss Pickerell, this time with the fourth and final book written by Ellen MacGregor, Miss Pickerell Goes to the Artic.  It would be another eleven years before the series was picked up and continued by Dora Pantell, using MacGregor's notes and story ideas.

This time Miss Pickerell's house guests for the summer are her niece and nephew, Rosemary and Dwight.  Not that the retired spinster sees much of them -- both are amateur radio enthusiasts, spending much of their time on their short wave set talking to people they have never even seen; often when Miss Pickerell attempts to speak to them, they turn around and tell her to "Sh." 

Because she is not spending much time with Rosemary and Dwight, Miss Pickerell spends a lot of time thinking, and when she thinks she wants to look up things in her encyclopedia.  But she does not have her encyclopedia handy.  She has lent it to Mr. Esticott, the conductor of the train that ran from Square Toe City to the state capital and a part-time worker at the local drug store soda fountain.  (Gratuitous aside:  This clears up one aspect from Miss Pickerell and the Geiger Counter, in which it was implied that Square Toe City was actually the state capital.  It isn't.  And we should all be thankful.)  Mr. Esticott had a lot of time on his hands between taking tickets on the train and he was a fast reader, so Miss Pickerell lent him her encyclopedia to help him pass the time.  He would have read it all by now, but there just so many fascinating things in the volumes that kept drawing his attention -- he was now working on the final volume, W-X-Y-Z.  So it was that, on a rainy day, Miss Pickerell and her cow rode to the drug store to ask for the encyclopedia back, thinking that Mr. Esticott had finished the books.  (Miss Pickerell seldom went anywhere without her cow, who was her friend; she had just installed a new canvas tarp on the cow's trailer so she would not get wet in the rain while she was in the drug store.)  Mr. Esticott had just received a new shipment of peppermint syrup (Miss Pickerell's favorite), so he made her a peppermint sundae.

Mr. Esticott waxed eloquent on the many fascinating things he had read.  The B volume was one of his favorites (for some reason, the H volume was a bit boring; no matter).  Take birds, for example.  There was one type of bird -- the arctic tern -- that travels all the way from the South Pole to the North Pole every Spring.  there are 8600 species of birds and each has its own special pattern of migration, but the arctic tern migrates the most.  there was also, Mr. Esticott continued, an interesting article on bush pilots; his cousin was a retired bush pilot, flying to remote regions in the Arctic.  Then the train whistle blew in the distance, signaling that Mr. Esticott was anted as a conductor, and Miss Pickerell made ready to drive to the weather station to find out if there would be any major blizzards that coming winter (if there were to be any as bad as the one last year, Miss Pickerell wanted plenty of time to move her cow to a warmer climate; last year's blizzard was very traumatic for her cow).  Miss Pickerell agreed to let Mr. Esticott take the encyclopedia with him to finish it; she would get it from him in two days when she traveled to the state capital to buy her cow a birthday present.

More than you needed to know, perhaps, but this first chapter sets up everything to follow in the book.

Miss Pickerell had a birthday tradition for her cow:  She would fill a bucket with coil and plant grass, along with some colorful flowers. in place of a birthday cake.  With all the rain, the grass was coming in lushly, but the lack of sun meant that the flowers would be late this years.  She thought of the Arctic, which had 24-hour daylight this time of year and what that sunshine would do for her flowers.  Alas, the weather station was unable to predict weather for the coming winter, but it could predict severe storms that week for the arctic.  Mr. Esticott's bush-flying cousin stopped by to use Rosemary and Dwight's short-wave radio for contact a weather base in the arctic, which was willing to hire him to take them to the Arctic to study glaciers, provided he could have his plane ready in time.  Miss Pickerell decided to place the birthday bucket under artificial light, hoping that would make the flowers grow..  On the way to the state capital to buy her cow's present, Miss Pickerell met  Bellingham Busby, a mobile home sales engineer, who was upset because he was about to sell the new Model X24 mobile trailer (a combination snowmobile/mobile trailer) to the scientists headed to the Arctic, but they had to leave before Busby could reach them due to weather conditions.   Busby instead sold the X24 to Miss Pickerell for her cow, making arrangements to airlift and parachute the trailer to her pasture during her cow's birthday party. 

Sadly for Mr. Esticott's bush plane flying cousin, Foster Esticott, he was not able to ready his plane in time for the Arctic expedition, so they left on another plane.  He was, however, hired by Mr. Busby to drop the X24 onto Miss Pickerell's pasture for her cow's birthday.  Two days before the birthday party, word came that the weather expedition plane was lost in the bad Arctic weather!  Foster decided to fly to the Artic, a region he knew well, to help in the search for the missing expedition.  He needed an observer and Miss Pickerell volunteered.  Since the X24 had already been attached to his plane, Miss Pickerell felt they should take it with them to provide a shelter in case they found the missing scientists.  Miss Pickerell hastily said goodbye to her cow, apologizing for missing its birthday, and Dwight and Rosemary promised to look after it.

And off they went to another exciting adventure for the redoubtable Miss Pickerell, who found herself alone and adrift on an ice sheet in the Arctic Ocean (among other things)...

I can't say how much I have enjoyed Miss Pickerell's adventures since I was in the fourth grade.  It is so much fun to experience them again.  Full of humor, quirkiness, science light and science easy, and a heroine we all can root for -- one with an old-fashioned sense of right and wrong.  These books are a much better read than many others I have read recently.

Wednesday, April 3, 2024


 Over the past few months, I have added some three dozen books by John Creasey to Mounty TBR -- small amount, comparatively speaking -- Creasey published over 620 books.  As I dig into them, I joyfully realize that my favorite Creasey character could be Inspector Roger West of Scotland Yard's C.I.D.  West appeared in 43 novels from 1942 until 1978, along with a handful of short stories.  From 1967 to 1971, six of the West novels were adapted for the BBC for "Stand By for West!", with six to eight episodes half-hour each.; 41 episodes in total, all adapted by Maurice Travers..  The novels dramatized were Battle for Inspector West (1948), Inspector West at Home  (1944), Inspector West at Bay (1952, also published as The Blind Spot, and as The Case of the Acid Throwers), Inspector West Cries Wolf (1950, also published as The Creepers), A Beauty for Inspector West  (1954, also published as The Beauty Queen Killer, and as So Young, So Cold, So Fair), and Inspector West Makes Haste (1955, also published as Murder Makes Haste, as The Gelignite Gang, and as Night of the Watchman).

In this episode, West, the youngest Inspector at the Yard, finds the dead body of a small-time crook and is suspected of being involved in criminal behavior.  Abbott suspends him from duty and must follow a trail of conspiracy, corruption, and murder to ferret out the truth.

Patrick Allen (Dial M for Murder, The Night of the Generals, Glencannon) played West.  His real-life wife, Sarah Lawson (The Devil Rides Out, Night of the Big Heat, Night Without Pity) played West's wife Janet.  Also included in the cast of Inspector West at Home were Edward de Souza as West's friend and ally, Mark Lessing; Grant Taylor as West's superior, Superintendent Abbot; Frederick Treves as Detective Inspector Bob Cornish; Harry Landis as private investigator Pep Morgan.  Rounding out the cast were Maurice Hedley, Robert James, Margaret Robertson, Carol Marsh, Anthony Jackson, Rio Fanning, and Frederick Jaeger.

Enjoy this seven-part, three-hour thriller of twists and turns.


Charlie Brown had the chutzpah to call the English teacher "Daddy-o," thus causing the BBC to ban the Coasters song.

Times were simpler then...

Tuesday, April 2, 2024


 "The Nomad" by Robert [S.] Hichens  (first published in London Magazine.October 1907; reprinted in Metropolitan Magazine, December 1907; included in Hichens' Snake-Bite and Other Stories, 1919; included in Twenty-Three Stories by Twenty and Three Authors (sometimes referred to as Twenty and Three Stories by Twenty and Three Authors, edited by Ernest Rhys and C. A. [Catherine Amy] Dawson-Scott, 1924 [British (Thornton Butterworth) edition only; not included in the American (D. Appleton & Company edition, 1924)]; reprinted in Argosy [UK}, September 1928) 

At 17, Marie Bretelle was an "extremely coquettish and lively girl, with a strong will of her own and a passionate love of pleasure and of town life;"  one would expect that if she ever moved from her native Marseilles, it would be to Paris -- nothing else would be good enough for her.  But Marie also had "an idiotic softness for handsome faces."  So when Robert Lemaire -- handsome, bold, muscular -- came to Marseilles to give an acrobatic show at a local music hall, Marie's idiotic softness took over.  She saw him "dressed in silver-spangles tights, and doing marvelous feats on three parallel-bars.  His bare arms had lumps on them like balls of iron, his fair mustaches were trained into points, his bold eyes were lit with a fire to fascinate women"  And Marie eloped with him to become Madame Lemaire.  They travelled to Algiers, where he had an accident during a performance that ended his career.  For a while they struggled, both with different types of jobs, but eventually they left Algiers and moved throughout North Africa, finally settling down at El-Kelf in the Sahara, where they ran a small inn catering to desert wanderers.  Lemaire spent his days drunk on absinthe -- his looks, his health now gone.  It was left to Marie, now forty years old, to run "Au Retour du Desert," as the inn was named, for the past ten years, accompanied by a one-eyed Arab servant who spent his days squatting on his haunches in a corner smoking keef.   Although her husband was a hopeless drunk, he still exuded a strong personality that kept her with him.  Marie spent much of her time staring down the hot, wind-blown desert road, wondering if that figure dimly seen in the distance could be a man on a horse, a woman hunched over a donkey, a Nomad on his camel, or, perhaps, "some poor desert man, half naked in his rags, who tramps on his bare brown feet along the sun-baked track, his hood drawn over his eyes, his knotted club in his hand?"

The one day, Marie was preparing supper for Lamaire and the only friend he had made in the desert -- a man who had murdered his unfaithful wife and served only ten months for the crime.  Marie broke -- there is no better word for it.  It came to her of a sudden, and she determined "No more."  The young and ambitious 17-year-old Marie Bretelle seemed to emerge, demanding she abandon the desert life that has worn her down for so many years.  At the same time, in the distance, on the road, a figure was emerging.  Or was it her imagination?

That evening Lemaire felt there was something different about Marie.  She remained as down-trodden as before; there was no change...and yet there was.  His friend, the wife-murderer, wondered if she had taken a lover, but there had been no one else at the inn.  Still, his friend suggested, "Best her!  If you don't beat them be sure they'll betray you."  Or, perhaps, it was the devil; women "Young or old, they're always calling the Devil to their elbow."  Look closely, the wife-murderer said, you may catch sight of him.  It was the Devil who turned his wife wrong and caused him to murder her.  Lamaire confronted his wife, abused her.  She raged at him, spilling all the venom she had held within her for years.  Lamaire then beat Marie savagely while the wife-murderer and the one-eyed Arab looked on approvingly.

The next morning there was a speck far out on the road.  It was not imaginary.  A Nomad.  Marie determined to stop him and beg to go with him.  When Lamaire and his wife-murdering friend returned to the inn, drunk, they found her gone.  Lamaire drew his revolver and uttered curses.  In between rounds of absinthe, they searched the inn, but the hostess of the inn  at El-Kelf was not seen again...

Robert Hichens (1864-1950) was a popular British writer, known in his time as being the satirist of the "Naughty Nineties."  He published nearly fifty novels and thirteen collections of stories, along with at lest eight stage plays, one film script, a children's novel and a handful of nonfiction books about the Near East.  

He wrote his first novel when he was 17.  Six years later he anonymously published The Green Carnation, a novel satirizing the affair of his friends Oscar Wilde and Lord Alfred Douglas; the novel was withdrawn, but not before it helped damage Wilde's reputation with the public.  Hichens was also friends with E. F. Benson, Reggie Turner, and Maude Valerie White.  His biggest best-seller was The Garden of Allah, which has been filmed three times and which he adapted into a play.  Hichens is also known for The Paradine Case, 1933, which was filmed by Alfred Hitchcock in 1947.  A good portionb of his work dealt with exotic Eastern locations and the occult, although he never fully committed to believing in the supernatural.  Despite that, a number of his short stories did use the supernatural, including his most reprinted short story, "How Love Came to Professor Guildea;" ISFDb lists 82 appearances of the story, and that listing is not exhaustive; the story was also televised in 1950 in Lights Out, and was reportedly one of the stories "they wouldn't let Alfred Hitchcock do on TV."

Snake-Bite and Other Stories  is available to be read online.

Monday, April 1, 2024


 One of Edgar Wallace's most famous creations -- The Four Just Men -- made it to British television in 1959-1960:  "Four men:  a British politician, an American journalist in Paris, a lawyer in the U.S., and a Roman hotelier, band together to fight injustice wherever they find it."

Famed British actor Jack Hawkins got top credit when the show aired in England; American Dan Dailey got the top billing when the show appeared in America.  Richard Conte and Vittorio De Sica round out the quartet.  They were aided by Vickey (June Thornberg), Jeff Ryder's (Richard Conte) assistant and a law student; Nicole (Honor Blackman, perhaps best known as Pussy Galore and for being John Steed's partner, Catherine Gale), Tim Collier's (Dan Dailey) secretary (and girlfriend); Jock (Andrew Keir), Ben Manfred's (Jack Hawkins) manservant and best friend; and by Guillia (Lisa Gaatoni) and Francesco (Robert Reitti), Rico Piccari's (Vittorio De Sica) secretary and butler, respectively.

At the time of filming, The Four Just Men was the most ambitious television series made for British television, filming on locations in England, France, and Italy.  For the most part, the series had the actors appearing alternatingly, with an occasional appearance (or telephone call) from one or more of the other leads during an episode -- a format to be used by later television series such as The Name of the Game.  Guest stars included Judi Dench, Alan Bates, Patrick Troughton, Donald Pleasance, Richard Johnson, Ronald Howard, Basil Dignam, Fenella Fielding, Bill Nagy, Mai Zetterling, Oliver Reed, Ian Hunter, Robert Shaw, Lionel Jeffries, and many others familiar either by sight or name from British television and films.

 The Four Just Men was the first (I believe) novel published by the prolific Edgar Wallace.  (He had previously published reportage, poetry and at least one non-fiction book.)  It was published with a high profile publicity campaign and with a contest for "guessing the murder method," with prizes totaling 1000 pounds " (well over 100,000 pounds today, if they still used pounds).  The book was a runaway success and launched Wallace's career, which eventually included over 170 novels, 957 short stories, 18 stage plays, as well as screen plays, poetry, and historical non-fiction.  More than 150 films have been made of Wallace's work, including a large number made in Germany.  Wallace wrote five sequels to The Four Just Men.  In addition to the television series, the book was made into two films: a silent film in film in 1921, and a film in 1939.  Giant ape fans will remember Wallace for writing the first draft of King Kong, which was "novelized" by Delos W. Lovelace in 1932.

It should be noted that the television series veered from Wallace's original violent and vigilante-oriented concept.  Times change and television does have standards.

"The Battle of the Bridge" is the first episode in the series, and is only one of two episodes in which all four "Just Men" appear together.  The four, who last met during the Allied invasion of Italy in 1943, are reunited by the death of their former commanding officer.  Commander Cyril Bacon's (Anthony Bushell)last wish was for the four to join together and fight injustice.  Bushell's vast estate will fund their operations.  Flashbacks happen.

The episode was directed by Basil Deardon (Sapphire, Khartoum, The Man Who Haunted Himself).  Gene L. Coon (perhaps best known for his work on Star Trek [thirteen episodes of the original series], Wagon Train [23 episodes], and Mr. Lucky [ten episodes]) wrote the script.

Enjoy this well-presented episodes.

Sunday, March 31, 2024



Openers:  Mother's voice was savage.  "Now I don't want to hear pone more peep from you tonight!"  And she snapped off the light and slammed the door behind her.

For a minute Peter dared not to stir in the bed.  She had waited outside the door to listen.  Then "Remember now!" she called and he heard her go down the hall.

He looked over in the corner.  You could see the Bogey man now, he shone green in the darkness.  The luminous green body uncoiled and faced outward from the wall, hands away from eyes, and stared down at the scattered pieces of Meccano.

Peter was suddenly frightened.  "It wasn't me!  I didn't do it!" he called.  The big green-and-yellow eyes turned toward him.  "No!" he whispered, "It wasn't me..."

-- "The Shipwrecked Bogey Man" by Lloyd Williams (from Out of This World Adventures No. 1, July 1950)

This story is a bit of a riff on John Collier's "Thus I Refute Beezly," which coincidently had been reprinted in Julius Fast's 1944 anthology Out of This World.

Peter's Bogey man is invisible to everyone else.  The following morning all the Meccano building blocks were back in their box in Peter's closet.  Peter's father is just as unhappy with the boy's "imaginary" friend as Peter's mother is; bot feel it is time for Peter to grow up a little bit and accept responsibility.  Another day passes and, in the morning Peter discovers his older brother Jimmy's chemistry set in the closet along with the Meccano box.  Also in his closet are some random parts to a radio and some of Daddy's tools...and Daddy begins complaining very loudly that the radio downstairs is not working...

The original magazine blurb for the story reads :  "There really was a big green bogey man in Peter's bedroom...and nobody would take any notice.  So how could expect a little boy like Peter to keep the monster from making unearthly atomic machines from the toys in the closet?"

I can't say much about the author.  ISFDb has him as the author (1869-1951) of the 1909 fictional German Invasion of England novel The Great Raid:  The Story of Britain's Peril, one of a number of books to follow the template of George Chesney's 1871 book The Battle of Dorking.  But, 't'ain't so, according to writer/critic John Clute, who wrote that "Williams should not be Lloyd Williams (? - ),who published some short stories in the 50s."  I don't think Williams is a house name because he had one story in a different publisher's magazine in 1951.

Out of This World Adventures was a short-lived (two issues) edited by Donald A. Wollheim for Avon books.  Wollheim (1914-1990) was an early science fiction fan. writer, and editor.  He founded the Fantasy Amateur Press Association (FAPA) in 1936 and was a co-founder of The Futurians, a New York-based group of fans who included Frederik Pohl, C. M. Kornbluth, Dirk Wylie, Jon Michel, Richard Wilson, Isaac Asimov, Damon Knight, Robert A. W. Lowndes, Judith Merril and others in 1938.  He became editor of Cosmic Stories and Stirring Science Stories in 1941, using a number of pseudonymous stories from fellow Futurians.  He edited the first anthology to us the words "science fiction" in the title, The Pocket Book of Science Fiction (1943) and the =first true science fiction omnibus, Portable Novels of Science (1945), and the first original science fiction anthology, The Girl with the Hungry Eyes and Other Stories (1949).  From 1947-1952 he worked for Avon Books and edited magazines The Avon Fantasy Reader. The Avon Science Fiction Reader10 Story Fantasy, and Out of This World Adventures.  He moved to Ace Books in 1952, publishing the first novels of many now legendary science fiction writers.  In 1972, he founded DAW Books, still one of the most important publishers of science fiction.  Throughout his publishing career, he mixed literate an innovative books with low-brow pulpish titles.  This dichotomy was also very evident in the magazines he edited.

 All of the magazines Wollheim edited for Avon are available online.


  • Clifton Adams, The Badge and Harry Cole.  Western.  "As a deputy marshal in lawless Western Arkansas, Harry Cole was well qualified for the job.  He took a passionate pride in the knowledge that he was better at it than almost anybody else.  Cole let nothing interfere with his work:  not friendship or personal loyalties -- nor even the love of his beautiful wife, Cordelia.  As a grand climax to his bloody career as a lawman, he took on the infamous Sutter gang.  Along the way he left a trail of dead men and broken lives.  finally, having lost everything but his badge, he had to make the most bitter choice of his life."  Once and Outlaw.  Western, originally published as by "Matt Kincaid."  "Frank Gavin, railroad trouble-shooter, was headed for the lawless section of the Indian Territory.  Gavin knew he was in for a tough time because his quarry was one of the hill men -- a breed that traveled inn packs. But when the bullet that he expected between his shoulder blades came blazing towards him, Gavin was ready -- with an unexpected trick up his sleeve."  Reckless Men.  western.  The cattlemen were at their wits' ends.  Their grassland was being destroyed by squatters.  As they saw it, there was only one way out -- hire a killer.  The gunman did his work well, usually from a long range with a special rifle -- until one man, driven by desperation, darted to stare down the gun barrel of the man about to pull the trigger."  Shorty. Western.  "With professional thoroughness the marshal searched the ground that the raiders had littered with so much killing.  He was not a squeamish man, and this was not the first time he had seen wanton slaughter and burning, nor was it the first time he had seen a dead mutton puncher in cow country -- nevertheless he was shocked.  For four years he had rested comfortably in the belief that cowmen and sheepmen had learned something from the last bloodletting.  He had been wrong."  Adams wrote over fifty novels, mainly westerns and crime fiction, winning two Spur Awards.  He named Oklahoma Writer of the Year in 1965.  Three of his westerns have been filmed.
  • "Jack Adrian," editor, Ashtree Press Macabre, Volumes 1-3.  Weird and supernatural stories.  From 1997 to 2005, Adrian (real name Christopher Lowder) produced a series of annual anthologies of rare short stories for Canadian small-press publisher Ash-Tree Press.  Seven of these anthologies have been released in e-Book omnibuses.  Volume One contains the 16 stories from the 1997, 1998, and 1999 Annuals; Author include Patricia Wentworth, Jessie Douglas Kerruish, Somerset Maugham, Arthur Ransome, Ford Madox Ford, E. C. Bentley, Hillaire Belloc, and John Buchan, among others; Volume Two collects the 2000 and 2001 Annuals, with tales by E. Nesbit, B. M. Coker, Ethel Lina White, E. R. Punshon, S. Baring-Gould, Sax Rohmer, Julian Hawthorne, Marjorie Bowen, F. Tennyson Jesse, Pamela Frankau, Milward Kennedy, Helen Simpson, Leigh Brackett, and others; Volume Three covers  the 2003 and 2004 Annuals, which collected 30 stories from The Cornhill Magazine from 1920-1939.  There are 68 stories in these three volumes, a fantastic bargain.  (The remaining two Ash-Tree Press Annuals, with another 50 stories, are long out of print and not available in electric format.  Pity.)
  • Iain Banks (as opposed to his fantastical alter ego, Iain M. Banks), The Steep Approach to Garbadale.  Novel.  "The Wopulds have built their fortune on a board game called Empire! -- now a hugely successful computer game.  so successful, in fact, that a powerful American corporation wants to buy them out.  Young renegade Alban, who has been evading the family clutches for years, has sold most of his shares and resigned from the company.  But his cousin Fielding manages to persuade him to attend the upcoming family gathering -- part birthday celebration, part shareholders' meeting -- convened by Grandma Win, Wopuld matriarch and the most powerful member of the board.  At Garbadale, the family's Scottish Highlands retreat, Alban must confront two painful events from his past:  his ill-fated love affair with his beautiful cousin Sophie and his mother's suicide."
  • "George G. Gilman" (Terry Harkness), Adam Steele #19:  The Tarnished Star. Adult western where violence is a way of life.  "Franklin Carter, the local rich man, is as corrupt as they come.  He has plans for Sun City, and he's not about to let an honest, upright newspaperman like Harry Andrews get in his way.  But then Steele rides into town, and Carter has to revise his game plan.  And when the Virginian is joined by Dexler Grace, an ex-lawman with his own bone to pick, Carter knows he's got trouble on his hands.  But he's not too worried; he can hire plenty of help to make sure he comes out on top.  Steele is betting his life that he and a couple of sharpshooters can cut down Carter's mob, but he's not betting it'll be easy..."
  • Declan Hughes, All the Dead Voices.  An Ed Loy thriller.  "PI Ed Loy wants to escape his past -- but it won't be easy.  Soon after moving to a Dublin apartment from his childhood home on the city's outskirts, he's approached by Anne Fogarty, whose father was murdered fifteen years ago.  Anne thinks the police nabbed the wrong person, and the three most likely culprits are two ex-IRA men and George Halligan -- Loy's underworld nemesis.  Jack Cullen, one of the other suspects, may somehow be connected with the death o a rising soccer star -- another case Loy is asked to take in.  And as his two investigations collide, Loy finds himself in grave danger in a city divided -- where the wounded Celtic Tiger walks hand in hand with the ghosts of a vi0lent past."
  • Richard Laymon, Dark Mountain.  Horror, originally published as Tread Softly by "Riichard Kelly."  "For two families, is was supposed to be relaxing camping trip in the California mountains.  They thought it would be fun to get away from everything for a while.  but they're not alone.  the woods are also home to two terrifying residents who don't take kindly to strangers -- an old hag with unholy powers, ad her hulking son, a half-wild brute with uncontrollable, violent urges.  the campers still need to get away -- but now their lives depend on it!"  Laymon was a massive talent gone far too soon; for reasons I can't understand, he was far more popular in England than in his native America.
  • Denise Little, editor, Vengeance Fantastic.  Fantasy/horror anthology with 17 stories.  Martin H. Greenberg's Tekno Books shares the copyright.  "Vengeance is a theme that runs through some of the world's most memorable literature -- and thoughts of revenge have most likely crossed everyone's mind at one time or another.  But what if it was actually within your power to get even with the people who had snubbed you, with someone who'd used dirty tricks to get a job that should have been yours, or someone who had sullied your reputation, or been unfaithful to you?  What if you thought you could right much larger wrongs done by an enemy of humanity itself?  Would you do it?  Just what would you be ready to do?  And would you be willing to pay whatever price gaining that vengeance required?...From a young woman who would betray her own faith to save her people from marauding a goddess willing to pull down the very heavens to bring justice to a a deal struck between Adam and eve and Lucifer as "woman" who must decided how to rework the threads of life...her are spellbinding tales that will strike a chord with every reader.  But remember, vengeance is only sweet if you don't get caught!"  Authors include Mickey Zucker Reichert, Nina Kiriki Hoffman, P. N. Elrod, Alan Rogers, Jody Lynn Nye, Elizabeth Ann Scarborough, Mel Odom, Kristine Kathryn Rusch, Gary A. Baunbeck, and Tim Waggoner.
  • "Andre Norton" (Mary Alice Norton), Dark Piper.  Science fiction,  "The ten-planet war had ended, and Griss Lugard had come home to Beltane, the biological-experimental station in deep, deep space.  He had warned the council of the dangers of peace.  The war had destroyed worlds beyond imagining, and the refugees were sure to come, unerring in their determination to have anew home at any price.  But Griss's warnings had gone unheeded.  Now, deep in an uncharted region of this planet's untamed surface, a small band of survivors must face the dangers of mutant monsters running wild on an empty world gone mad..."  If you are of a certain age, you came to science fiction via Norton or through Robert A. Heinlein...and were the better for it.
  • Barbara Roden, editor, Lady Stanhope's Manuscript and Other Supernatural Tales.  Anthology of rare supernatural stories, the first publication from Ash-Tree Press, a small 55-page pamphlet.  The five stories are by Katherine Haynes, Christopher Roden, G. W. Howarth, Dale J. Nelson, and Tina Rath.  Originally conceived as a Christmas collection for members of the Ghost Story Society.
  • Paul Tremblay, Disappearance at Devil's Rock.  Horror, winner of the 2017 August Derleth Award for Best Horror Novel.  "thirteen-year-old Tommy Sanderson is missing.  Elizabeth and her young daughter, Kate, struggle to comprehend her son's disappearance.  The police have no leads.  Tommy's two friends may not be telling the whole truth about the night they were hanging out in Borderland State Park, near the landmark local teens call Devil's Rock, before he vanished.  Strange events follow.  Elizabeth believes she sees Tommy's ghost in her bedroom.  Kate and other residents claim a figure peers trough their windows at bight.  Random pages torn from Tommy's journal mysteriously appear, revealing an introverted teenager obsessed with the phantasmagoric; the loss of his father, killed in a drunk-driving accident a decade earlier; a folktale involving the devil and the Borderland woods; and a horrific incident that Tommy believed connected them all,  As the search grows more desperate, and the implications of what happened become more sinister, no one is prepared for the shocking truth about Tommy's disappearance at Devil's Rock."
  • Yrsa Sigurdardotter, Last Rituals.  Icelandic suspense novel, the first featuring Thora Gudmundsdottir.  "Ay a university in Reykjavik, the body of a young German student is discovered, his eyes cut out and strange symbols carved into his chest.  Police waste no time in making an arrest, but the victim's family isn't convinced that the right man is in custody.  They ask Thora Gudmundsdottir, an attorney and single mother of two, to investigate.  It isn't long before Thora and her associate, Matthew Reich, uncover the deceased student's obsession with Iceland's grisly history of torture, execution, and witch hunts.  But there are very contemporary horrors hidden in the long, cold shadow of dark traditions.  and for two suddenly endangered investigators, nothing is quite what it seems...and no one can be trusted."  Sigurdardottir has published six novels in the series thus far, and the the author of award-winning crime and children's novels.
  • George E. Simpson & Neal R. Burger, Thin Air.  Thriller.  "at the war's end, the men of the USS Sturman were ordered to join hands on the ship's deck, ignorant pawns in a top-secret Navy experiment.  An alarm sounded.  A humming began.  Moments later a common surge of desperate, disoriented terror was felt by every crewman as they watched the ship beneath them, and finally their own bodies, disappear into thin air.  Now, after more than twenty-five years, a man wakes up screaming from a nightmare having 'something to do with the Navy...'  another, hopelessly insane, draws, in a childish scrawl, pictures of figure holding hands...And Naval Investigator Nicholas ?Hammond scratches at the iceberg tip of a complex network of cover-up and deceit, hiding a scientific breakthrough that could save the world...or destroy it."
  • Ross Thomas, Ah, Treachery!  Political thriller.  "Millicent Altford is a rainmaker, showering politicos with cash.  Edd "Twodees" Partain is a clerk at Wand Lou's gun shop in Sheridan, Wyoming, until a certain man in a lambswool topcoat pretends not to know him.  Now Edd is heading to L.A.  He's going to help Millicent get back $1.2 million someone stole from her was chest, and that means returning to his former life in a world of spies, counterspies, revolutionaries, thieves, soldiers, and murderers.  From Central America to Beverly Hills, from the CIA to a network of ex-intelligence operatives called VOMIT, the lady's vanished $1.2 million is making some beautiful women and brutal men live up to their reputations and beyond -- and taking treachery to a new level of increased insanity..."  Thomas did this stuff better than almost anyone else.
  • Ian Watson, Harlequin.  Gaming tie-on book; A Warhammer 40,000 novel, Book 2 of the Inquisition War.  "By his order Jaq had condemned Mch'lindi to death.  If her death were to be the diversion he required, she was accepting this.  He knew that she wasn't sprayed with an assassin's resistant synskin.  As the captain squeezed his trigger, Jaq threw himself in front of Meh'lindi, howling 'No!'  The the grim darkness of the 4qst millennium, the Inquisition protects mankind from its many enemies, whether foul demons or the inscrutable alien elkdar.  But who will protect humanity if even the Inquisition becomes corrupted?  Inquisitor Jaq Draco and his motley companions find themselves caught in a war that no one can win...unless he can somehow access the ancient secrets hidden in the legendary Black Library."  There have been a gazillion Warhammer books issued, and as with the games, I am unfamiliar with all of them because I have a life (sort of).  I picked this one up solely because of the author.
  • Roger Zelazny & Gerald Hausman, Wilderness.  Western.  "In 1808, trapper John Colter ran and climbed 150 miles through what is now Yellowstone National Park to escape pursuing Blackfoot warriors.  in 1823, hunter Hugh Glass, left for dead after a bear attack, crawled 100 miles from the Grand Valley to the Missouri River.  Tortured in mind and body, these two men came to embody the spirit of survival.  Finally we have their story -- an epic saga, stirring as the wilderness itself, bold as these people who came west to tame it." 

From My FaceBook Page from 13 Years Ago:

Alas, alas, my bride is lost to me for the next day or so.
Dhamn yhou, J. R. Ward!

Today's Headline, April 1, 2024:

Florida Sinks Under Weight of Waffles

The State of Florida has unexpectedly sunk into the Atlantic Ocean from the weight of too many Waffle Houses, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAH) said today.  "We knew it was going to happen sometime in the future," said spokesperson Mulvaney Quod, "but we just did not expect it to happen this soon.  The state had just to many Waffle Houses and the severe weight of the food franchise was just too much to carry, especially after two additional Waffle Houses opened yesterday, both in Stagnant Springs, a small town on the state's Panhandle."

Florida's total Waffle House population rose to 93,780 with the opening of the two additional restaurants.  "It was just too much.  Too much!" Quod said.  "It was a race against the rising seas due to climate change, or the heavy weight of all those Waffle Houses, and the waffles won."  Some scientists have speculated that the state's additional burden of Buckee's travel stops, Dollar Tree stores, and Tom Thumb convenient stores may have added to the final catastrophe.

The U.S. Coast estimates that only 37 Floridians survived the sinking.  "It all happened so fast!"  Speaking from a safe location in Alabama, Florida surgeon General Joseph Ladapo credited Florida's strict anti-vaccination laws for saving at least 6 of the 37 survivors.  "We know thos esix had not been vaccination.  Vaccines are known to add a disturbing amount of weight to fat cells in the human body, causing them to sink faster.  That's science," Ladapo said.  when asked about the 31 survivors who had been vaccinated, Lapado said, "Yeah, well, our studies have shown that persons who have been vaccinated grow monkey tails.  Who wants to go swimming with a monkey tail?  That's science."  He refused to comment further.

It is not known whether there will be any efforts to try to raise the state out of the water at this time.  In the meantime, in order to help the survivors, a Denny's restaurant had been loaded onto a barge which will cruise over the area where the state had been,

9 Outrageous Pranks in History:  Not mentioned here was when a local Boston television station reported that a volcano had erupted in the Blue Hills section of Eastern Massachusetts, a prank I remember well.

Florida Man:
  • The ancient scourge of leprosy is thankfully rare in this day nd age  and, while the numbers are small, there has been a sharp uptick in the disease in America, with one out of five cases now being found in Florida and 81% of those cases located in Central Florida.  So what's going on?  First one must understand the leprosy, or Hanson's Disease, is slow moving; it can incubate in a person for decades.  95% of the population has a natural immunity to the disease, which is far more common in other parts of the world and physicians here are apt to overlook the disease's symptoms.  In Florida, it appears that the probable source for the disease in nearly equally divided -- about one-third of the victims appear to have contacted the disease overseas, one-third appear to have contacted it locally in Florida, and it cannot be determined where the other one-third contacted the disease.  One point of possible local transmission is the three-banded armadillo, which is able to transfer the disease to humans, but it is doubtful that this would significantly cause the sudden uptick in the disease.  Leprosy is curable through a treatment of antibiotics taken over the course of a few years, but the cure may not resolve nerve and skin damage due to delayed diagnosis.  There is no vaccine for leprosy.  So why Florida?  Is it just a coincidence that this leprosy endemic follows a sharp rise in polio cases in the state due to the anti-vaccination policies of Florida Man and state Surgeon General Joseph Lapado, who insists that unvaccinated children be allowed in public schools?  Can the carefully formulated distrust of the medical system as promulgated by the current state administration have a bearing?  And could Florida's harsh anti-immigration stance result in an avoidance of timely medical assistance by those who fear the government's outreach?  Florida's anti-woke, anti DEI, anti-CRE policies may have much to answer for their insistence that "uncomfortable" scientific and historical facts should (and must) be avoided may also come into play here.  None of this accounts for the fact that many of the cases that have now arisen appear to have originated as much as 20 years ago.  But it does raise a lot of questions.
  • Florida Man Terry "Wheezy" Flowers, 39, was arrested after he allegedly fired upon an unidentified man on March 6 outside a Pompano Beach convenience store.  the victim was fatally shot five times.  Store security cameras recorded the incident, including an unnamed person with the accused picking up the spent shell casing that Flowers had fired.  The shooting was apparently over a $3 debt.  Pompano Beach has been ranked one of the most dangerous cities in the state.
  • When you don't have the tools you need, you use the tools you have.  An unknown Florida man, using a red bandanna to cover his face, was recorded by security cameras using a shopping cart to break into a cell phone repair shop in Hollywood.  It took three hits with the shopping cart to smash the glass window -- causing some $4000 in damages -- so the man could enter the premises, where he foolishly stole some $400 worth international phones.  "He's not even gonna make any money of of it," the shop owner said.  "They don't even work here."
  • Florida Man Doujoin Griffiths, 23, who had been wanted since Septemer 2021 murder of his 20-year-old Massania Malcolm and her one-year-old daughter, Jordania Reid Griffiths, was arrested this past week in New Jersey.  Griffiths was also wanted for the attempted murder of Jordfane Reid, who was identified as Malcolm's boyfriend and the father of Jordania.  Griffiths was accused of shooting Malcolm and leaving the baby in a hot car with the body of her mother.  Nice guy.
  • An unnamed 36-year-old Florida man from Ozona has been arrested and charged with animal cruelty.  According to officials, the man had agreed to watch seven cats for a friend, but got tired of cat-sitting after as week and a half.  So he put five of the cats in a small plastic bin and the remaining two in a small suitcase and dropped them off at an ASPCA shelter in Largo.  All seven animals were alive when placed in the container and the suitcase; when ASPCA opened the container and the suitcase, they found five of the cats dead; a sixth had to be euthanized; and the seventh had an internal body temperature of 106 degrees Fahrenheit.

Good News:
  • "Exhausted" immune cells could be the next target in searching for a way to prevent breast cancer
  • 8-year-old boy becomes the youngest ever to beat a chess Grand Master
  • Thousands donated to the animal shelter where Jon Stuart adopted his beloved dog Dipper, who recently died at age 12
  • Woman given new 3D-printed windpipe
  • Moscow teens save over 100 in terrorist attack on music venue
  • Greek Archaeologists use The Iliad to locate 10 ancient shipwrecks
  • The 2024 European Tree of the Year has been growing in Poland for over 200 years

Today's Poem:

A Sibling's Favorite Day

I have a brother
He is sweet and amazing...most of the time.
There is a day in April when he transforms into a holy terror.
This day is known as April Fools Day.
My brother wakes up at the crack of dawn, devious plots already formed.
He frolics about the house, putting tape in doorways, dirt in shoes, and
much worse.
Every time I think I've found all his traps, another one miraculously
Oh, how I fear this day.
Oh, how he anticipates this day.
Oh, how do I stop this oncoming slaughter?

-- Clover Miller


 Take a gander:

Saturday, March 30, 2024


 Here's one for Easter, signed by Rachel, Mara & Ele Cain.  It's amazing how many well-intentioned, bad versions of this song are on the internet, but there are also some good ones; this one stood out because of its gentle message of love.

Have a wonderful and meaningful day.

Friday, March 29, 2024


Yep.  These are favorites.  Who am I to argue?

First, we have Magno.  When Magno & Davey visit the movie capital of the world they did expect to be "hurled into a seven-reel thriller that dealt with certain death!  Magno had (you guessed it!) magnetic super powers, including invulnerability and the power to fly.  No one, probably not even the writers, know how he got his powers.  Magno came full-blown, complete with costume, but he also wore ordinary clothes, but in both cases he was known simply as Margo -- no other name was given for him.  He was created by pulp writer Paul Chadwick, who created Secret Agent X under the house name "Brant House; not to be confused with the much later comic book creator of Concrete.  Since comic book writers of the 40s were blissfully unaware of hints of pedophilia and grooming, many comic books heroes had a young sidekick.  For Magno it was Davey Landis, who got his own costume and superpowers.  Magno ran in Super-Mystery Comics from July 1940 to February 1947, and was also featured in the first 26 issues of Four Favorites.  While Magno and Davey are visiting a movie set, glamorous movie star Lana Sherman exits her dressing cottage and is immediately attacked by her pet dogs and is killed.  Why? And who is responsible?  And what's more important, who told the artist that he knew how to draw mouths -- the mouths on all of the characters look almost as grotesque as their chins (which are also horribly drawn). And don't get me started on the poor depiction of arms...

The next favorite is Unknown Soldier.  This was the first Unknown Soldier in comicbookdom, first appearing Ace's Our Flag Comics (August 1941).  After five issues, he was switched to Four Favorites, where he remained until this issue.  Unknown Soldier did not have a super costume; he wore ordinary brown army issue -- although of a tighter fit that is standard.  He did have a mask, though.  But Unknown Soldier was not an ordinary G.I.; in fact, he wasn't a human being at all.  He was the spiritual embodiment of all the American soldiers who had died for freedom since the country was founded.  He could fly and was very strong and had a "nitro gun" which shot explosive charges.  For his final outing, Unknown Soldier is after a Japanese spy who is murdering innocent Chinese.  The Chinese do not realize that the spy is Japanese and not Chinese, even when he is in from at of them, because the artist is so piss-poor at drawing oriental faces.  Other Unknown Soldiers would eventually appear from different comic book publishers.

Our third favorite is Lash Lightning, who teams up with Lightning Girl to battle the werewolf of Wetheridge.  Flash Lightning was originally Robert Morgan, who got his super abilities from a "land of eerie mystery" (code name for Egypt), and was then sent out into the world with the Amulet of Annihilation from The Forces of Right.  He was introduced in Sure Fire Comics #1 (June 1940).  A year later he dropped the initial letter to his name and became Lash Lightning.  In June 1942, he got his sidekick, Lady Lightning; when he accidently sent thousands of bolt of electricity through his, friend Isabel Blake.  Whoopsie.  But all was well,  It gave Isobel a few superpowers and the ability to communicate psychically with Lash.  The pair fought for The Forces of Right through issue #22 of Four Favorites, including this encounter with a werewolf.  Not that it's important, but Lady Lightning has pin-point pupils.

Finally, we come to out fourth favorite:  Captain Courageous, who faces off against the arch-villain Captain Nippo.  Care to guess his ethnicity?  What can I about Captain Courageous other than he has a large blue sea star sucking on his face?  I really don't think I need to go any further than that.

Check it out.  And ponder why Ace doesn't publish comic books any more.

Thursday, March 28, 2024


 Miss Pickerell and the Geiger Counter by Ellen MacGregor  (1953)

One of the greatest accomplishments in my life is that I never grew up.  I still have the same sense of wonder that I had as a child, as well as the same 11-year-old boy's sense of inappropriate humor.  Because of this I am sure that no one will know when (and if) I reach my dotage.  Also because of this I remain a big fan of the books and series I rea as a kid.  Take, for instance, Miss Pickerell.

Miss Lavinia Pickerell (her first name is seldom used) is a retired New England schoolteacher (at least, I think she was a schoolteacher; at least that is my impression -- although I don't remember specifically reading that; if she wasn't a schoolteacher, she should have been, IMHO) whose peculiar sense of appropriateness is undaunted.  Her sole companion is an unnamed cow of whom she is very fond, and which travels with her everywhere.  She is also fond of her nieces and nephews who quite often spend their vacations with her.  In Miss Pickerell and the Geiger Counter, the second book in the series, her nephews Homer and Harry are spending the summer with her.

She first appeared in a Ellen MacGregor's short story, "Swept into Space" (Liberty. May 1950), whi8ch was later expanded to the children's book Miss Pickerell Goes to Mars (1951).  MacGregor went on to publish three additional books about Miss Pickerell before the author's death in 1954.  eleven years later the series was continued by Dora Pantell, who used MacGregor's story notes and credited MacGregor as co-author, for an additional eleven novels, before signing her name as the sole author on a final two books.

As Geiger opens, Miss Pickerell is on a steamship going down the Square Toe River to take her nephews to Square Toe City to see the circus and also to visit the atomic energy exhibit at the state capital.  (Yeah, Square Toe City is the state capital.)  But the most important reason for the trip is to see veterinarian Dr. Haggerty, who has agreed to give her cow its annual physical examination following the circus performance.  Had Miss Pickerell know how the ship's crew were going to treat her cow she would have found another means of travel; they insisted the cow be locked in storage below decks rather than travel on the deck itself where the cow could appreciated the scenic view.  In the dank hold with the cow was a large pile of rocks, to which Miss Pickerell paid little attention, even though she was a big fan of rocks and had a rather large collection of her own -- including the red rocks she had bought back from Mars on her first adventure, rocks which had once won a gild medal at the state fair.

When Cornelius Lynch, the owner of the steamboat, discovered the Miss Pickerell's cow was on board, he decide it was against regulations.  He ordered the boat to stop at a nearby small town where a train could take Miss Pickerell and her cow for the rest of the journey.  Homer and Harry opted to remain on the boat so they could continued to swim in the canvas pool that had been set up on the steamship's deck, and would meet Miss Pickerell after the circus at the atomic energy exhibit.

The ticket seller at the train station refused to allow Miss Pickerell to take her cow on the train.  What a quandary.  She had to get to the city to meet up with her nephews but she wasn't allowed to get to the city with her cow.  She had to find someone to watch her cow while she went to pick up her nephews, but it could not be just anyone.  It had to be a very responsible person.  The ticket-seller suggested the local sheriff, who, because he hadn't been paid for the last six months, could always use some extra cash.  The sheriff was willing to watch Miss Pickerell's cow in the barn behind the sheriff's office, but sadky the sheriff was now feeling well; the bright sunlight was hurting his eyes.  Miss Pickerell looked at him closely:  the man had the measles!  

(The sheriff had also said that he spent most of his time looking at the dirt streets in the town, hoping to find some uranium ore that the town could sell to the Atomic Energy Commission to it could pay his salary.  Miss Pickerell, because of her great love for rocks, knew a lot about geology and knew that the area could not possibly have any uranium ore, despite a constant rumor that there was uranium along the banks of Square Toe River.  MacGregor, who always uses a science topic to anchor the Miss Pickerell adventures, discusses geology throughout the book, but always uses a light touch so as not to lose her young audience.)

Having made arrangement for both a doctor and a man to watch over the sheriff in his bedroom, all that remained was fir Miss Pickerell to bring her cow to the sheriff's barn, and then take the train to the city,  But when Miss Pickerell went back to the field where she had left the her cow, it had disappeared.

Now things are getting complicated.  she found the cow a distance off, by a building that housed an atomic energy experimental station but the cow was fenced in with a sign that said




Miss Pickerell was a stickler for obeying the law.  Yet she had to retrieve her cow.  the sheriff had said he would appoint a deputy while he was sick with the measles, so she went aback to get the sheriff's deputy to retrieve her cow.  But the sheriff had not appointed a deputy yet.  Miss Pickerell agreed to serve as a temporary deputy for only as long as it took to get her cow back.  By the time she was able to get the cow to the sheriff's barn, the train to the capital had already left.  Since she could not get to the capital, the sheriff asked her to continue to search for uranium in the city's streets, even though she knew there was no geological way for uranium to exist there.  So, off she went with a Geiger counter.

And the Geiger counter started clicking very fast.  But how?  And why?  And there's a ruined experiment at the atomic energy experimental station.  And the need for Miss Pickerell get her cow to the city for its veterinarian's appointment.  What about her nephews?  How are they managing in the city alone?  And the poor sheriff; Miss Pickerell discovers his secret desire...can she help him achieve it?

So many questions.  So few pages left to resolve it all.  Plus, we get to learn a lot about geology, radioactivity, and carbon dating in this whimsical tale.

Miss Pickerell is a force of nature.  Nothing can stop her from doing the right thing.  Nothing can prevent her from solving any problem she tackles.  Nothing can stop me from enjoying her adventures just as I did when I was in the fourth grade.

The Miss Pickerell books:

  • Miss Pickerell Goes to Mars, 1951
  • Miss Pickerell and the Geiger Counter, 1953
  • Miss Pickerell Goes Unsersea, 1953
  • Miss Pickerell Goes to the Arctic, 1954
  • Miss Pickerell on the Moon, with Dora Pantell, 1965
  • Miss Pickerell Goes on a Dig, with Dora Pantell, 1966
  • Miss Pickerell Harvests the Sea, with Dora Pantell, 1968
  • Miss Pickerell and the Weather Satellite, with Dora Pantell, 1971
  • Miss Pickerell Meets Mr. H.U.M., with Dora Pantell, 1974
  • Miss Pickerell Takes the Bull by the Horns, with Dora Pantell, 1976
  • Miss Pickerell to the Earthquake Rescue, with Dora Pantell, 1977
  • Miss Pickerell and the Supertanker, with Dora Pantell, 1978
  • Miss Pickerell Tackles the Energy Crisis, with Dora Pantell, 1980
  • Miss Pickerell on the Trail, with Dora Pantell, 1981
  • Miss Pickerell and the Blue Whales, with Dora Pantell, 1983
  • Miss Pickerell and the War of the Computers, by Dora Pantell alone, 1984
  • Miss Pickerell and the Lost World, by Dora Pantell alone, 1986

Wednesday, March 27, 2024


 Karl Swenson lays Mr. Chameleon, a master of disguise who changes his appearance every week in order to track down murderers.  You may think "Chameleon" is a nickname, it is the detective's actual last name; saddled with that name, he determined, as a child, to live up to it, adopting many guises.  His motto is "The innocent must be protected and the guilty must be punished."  The show ran on CBS radio from July 14, 1948 to 1951 Or, perhaps, 1953 -- dates differ and information is sketchy).  Among the regular cast members were Frankl Butler as Chameleon's assistant, and Richard Keith as the police commissioner.  The show was directed by Richard Leonard and written by Marie Baumer

In reviewing the first show of the series, Variety said it was "Grade A throughout."  As the program continued, though, others reacted differently.  Billboard wrote during the fourth season, "Script, performance and production were all ridiculously melodramatic and devoid of real character or animation;" adding that Chameleon used too many cliches, had too much self-confidence, and was a "stuffy individual."  Ah, well.  you can't win them all.

Judge for yourself.  Join Mr. Chameleon as a fashion model is murdered in her apartment.  Luckily, there's a witness.  unluckily, it's her parrot.

Tuesday, March 26, 2024


 Wolf of the Steppes

by Greye La Spina

Letter from Doctor Thomas Connors to Amdi Rubdah, the adept, Teheran, Persia.

To my dear Master, greetings:

Not in vain have I learned from you somewhat of the mysteries enveloping the human soul in its earth life.  In my performance for the first time of the ancient incantations you have taught me under the Persian stars, I have gained a vivid knowledge of the occult powers resident in the flesh-caged spirit of man and realize with rejoicing the impotence of Evil in the everlasting conflict with Truth, especially when that Truth is armed with the knowledge that is power.

In this packet I enclose a number of letters sent me by my friend and colleague, Doctor Greeley.  They will serve as an introduction to my narrative, which will follow, and they will bring you to the evening of the day I arrived at my friend's house.

Extract from letter of Doctor Andrew Greeley to Doctor Thomas Connors.

Since I penned the above memoranda regarding the solvent you inquired about, I have had an adventure, a very romantic adventure for an elderly married man!  It really should have been a young bachelor like yourself, Tom, to have gone gallantly to the rescue.  Myra has become so fond of our heroine that she insists we should adopt the young lady.  Of course this should be out of the question until we knew more about the girl.

Now I suppose I may as well satisfy your curiosity.  About two weeks ago I was motoring out toward Riverside about dusk to look in on a convalescing patient.  As I approached the grounds of a large, handsome residence which I had observed more than once when passing, I heard suddenly a long-drawn-out whining in a quavering and eerie note that was most unpleasant; it changed at last into an undulation that sent my blood cold.  So unusual was the howl that involuntarily I slowed the car to listen, in case the animal should give voice again.

I would have stopped entirely, had not a white figure with frantically waving arms sprung out of the hedge and charged upon me, springing on the running board with an agility and an indifference to danger that startled me.  It was a young and very good-looking girl.  Such fear stared at me out of her wild eyes that when she clambered in beside me and commanded me to go on I did not hesitate, but obeyed her agonized cry.

"For God's sake don't stop!" she flung at me.  "If you value your life, go on quickly!"

With that I heard the crashing of a heavy body through the shrubbery, and looked back with a thrill of apprehension to see a pair of flaming red eyes coming toward us at such a speed that I stood not on the order of my going.  I shot out of there, the little flivver snorting like a mad thing, while that awful howl wailed out behind us.  Why on earth I should have had such a horror of that great dog I don't know, unless the girl's terror had infected me, but I certainly felt as if the devil himself were swinging along after us.  I turned toward the home at the first side road, and am under the impression that the beast only dropped behind when we got into the village; I can assure I didn't stop to look behind me after that last glance.

My wife was much astonished at her husband's return with a fainting heroine, and she had her hands full, the girl going into one attack of hysterics after another.  All that we could get out of her during the next few days was that her name was Vera Andrevik; that she is an orphan; and that it would useless for us to ask further explanations from her.  She insists upon the last point with a firmness as strong as it is inexplicable, for naturally much depends on it in her own interests.

Until she has become more normal we must content ourselves with the meager information she has condescended to give us.  Her strange whims occupy us at present, giving much food for thought.  In spite of the sultry nights now, she will not sleep until both windows in her room are locked and the Venetian blinds drawn and fastened.  She makes a complete tour of the house nightly, personally superintending the securing of downstairs windows and doors.  Lastly she locks herself into her room.  Her mysterious precautions have furnished Myra and me the most lively curiosity.

If you happen to hear of a lovely lost Russian heiress, let me hear from you at once!  On the other hand, if you are asked about the whereabouts of a fair but mentally unbalanced young lady, communicate with me also.  As ever,


Letter from Doctor Greeley to Doctor Connors, dated the week after the previous letter.

DEAR TOM:  Since writing you last our strange visitor has been acting in such an odd manner that I don't know but that you'd better come over when you get a chance and give me your opinion as to her sanity.  My wife declares the girl as sane as I am, but you know Myra; everything is to her what she wants it to be.

Vera Andrevik has told us nothing more than I wrote you last.  I ventured on evening to ask if she couldn't give us her mother's address; she turned absolutely white, looked at me with such a ghastly expression of horror that I was much startled; then she fell back limply in a faint.  Myra, of course, scolded me for my masculine abruptness; she thinks I should leave the management of the matter to her entirely.  We are agreed that it will not be wise to question the girl yet, as it will take time for her to regain her supposedly normal nervous condition.  But you can judge from the foregoing if the subjects of home and mother are taboo or not.

I mentioned casually to Myra, in Vera's presence, a half-formed intention to make inquiries at the residence where the dog belonged.  Vera flung herself at my feet in an agony of terror, hysterically begging me not to enter the grounds there.  She declared that she could not explain, but that if I did not follow her counsel I would bring such peril upon us all as I could not imagine in my wildest flights of fancy.  I promised not to go, but not entirely on account of Vera's pleas and representations; I have felt such a growing horror of that place that I can't bring myself to go down the road in front of it.  For a gray-haired old doctor that's going some, isn't it?  The red-eyed dog's howl has affected me most unpleasantly.

In the meantime, our visitor refused to go out of the house except in the flivver, and then she wraps herself around with thick veils, regardless of the sweltering het of these close days.  At night she continues to lock herself into her room.  When I remonstrate with her she says:  "Do you suppose I like to do it, Doctor Andrew?  Yet it must be done."  She refuses to enlighten me further; she says she doesn't care to be considered a harmless lunatic.  I feel like telling her that she acts fairly crazy as it is to shut herself up on hot nights without outside air, but what's the use?

I am positive that she has been under a nervous strain that has for some time being  unhinged her mind.  Come out when you can, Tom, and observe the case.  I shall be deeply interest to know what you think about it.  But, for the love of mercy, don't come blundering into the house without letting me know first!  The bell has been muffled because Vera nearly has convulsions every time it rings, such is her terror of God knows what.  She would probably go into a cataleptic fit if she happened to see you come into the house unannounced.    Yours,


From the same to the same.

DEAR TOM:  I gather from the pronouncedly mystical tone of your last letter, that you've been dabbling again in a the forbidden arts, seeking for the unfindable secrets of the soul.  Let 'em alone, boy; they never brought good to any one, and it's dangerous business, most unsettling to the brain.

Instead of puzzling out magic spells, come down for a few days and help me work out a few chemical problems in my laboratory.  It's been a long time since you've helped me with research work.

I've another reason for wanting you here, and that -- as you may have surmised -- is Vera.  Tom, that child is suffering terribly.  Unless she can relieve her mind I fear she will permanently lose her mental poise.  She declares she is as sane as we are, but says she cannot tell us the story that would throw light on her queer actions, because, if she did, we would believe her insane.  Then she just sobs and sobs, and it is all Myra can do to keep her from going into hysterics.

To-day she almost went into a spasm in the automobile, and for almost nothing.  She and Myra were in the back seat.  A chap just wandered right into the path of the car, and when I stopped the old flivver with a jerk he looked at Vera and smiled in a triumphant manner that was highly unpleasant.  He was an odd-looking fellow; wore a gray fur-trimmed overcoat and a gray fur cap, from under which his long, straight hair escaped in wild profusion.  His heavy, black eyebrows met in a nearly horizontal line across his forehead, giving him a strangely fierce expression which his eyes did not contradict; I thought the latter looked almost garnet in color, an impression which Myra verified.  The hand nearest us was hooked carelessly into his coat pocket by the thumb, and of the four fingers hanging outside the pocket the forefinger was so long that the abnormality was very pronounced' I have never seen such a strange hand before.

Vera began to whimper, clutching at Myra as in abject, uncontrollable fear.  "Go on, go on!" she cried wildly to me.

I had no good reason not to humor her, especially as the man finally stepped out of our way,.  He stood there, deliberately reading our license number aloud; Myra heard him after we had passed.  Now why on earth should he do that?  It was entirely his own fault that he had gotten in the way, and the old flivver never so much as touched him.

All the way home Vera moaned and carried on in the most pitiful manner, imploring us not to let "him" take her away from us.  Her heartrending pleas to Mr. Myra, as she calls my wife -- for she never uses the word "mother" -- were enough to draw tears to the eyes of a stone image.  Myra assured her that no one should take her away against her own will, and she finally quieted down.  But we had a bad night with her afterward, for at dusk some confounded dog came into our garden and took to howling, and it got on my nerves to such an extent that I actually imagined I recognized the howl of my friend of the red eyes, of whom I wrote you previously.

Vera went into a frenzy of terror at the sound of those howls, and insisted on going the rounds of the doors and windows with my wife to assure herself that everything was securely fastened.  Her fear is infectious; both Myra and I have impatiently assured each other numberless times that we do not feel in the least wrought up nervously, but the fact that we have had to affirm our mental calm is sufficient evidence that that confounded dog's howling and Vera's groundless fears have together broken upon our sleep sufficiently to start us both well on the way to nervous trouble.

I am beginning to connect Vera's terror definitely with the fierce fog that chased my car that first night; just what the connection is I cannot figure out now, but the solution may present itself unexpectedly.  What complicates matters is the effect upon Vera of that stranger who practically help up our car this morning; Can he have something to do with the mystery also?  Yours,


Postscript:  Just opened the above letter to add another more recent occurrence.  The fellow I nearly ran over in town yesterday turns out to be Vera's guardian, a well-mannered Russian named Serge Vassilovitch.  About an hour ago he was admitted to my study.  His smile, which is a ready one, reveals a double row of white, pointed teeth between lips as full and red as a painted woman's.  There clung about him a strangely suggestive odor, most disagreeable to my nostrils; it was damp, must, stale -- it reminded me of the smells of the animal cages at the zoological gardens.  Probably the heavy gray fur on his coat carried the odor.  All in all, in spite of his really charming manners, his personality was not one that attracted; instead, it repelled me strongly, and I felt instinctive distrust of him.

 He told me that my license number had served as a clew to my address, and declared that he had recognized his ward under her heavy veils, although how he could have done so is more than I can understand., for I would not know my own wife under the thick layers of chiffon Vera had swathed about her pretty face.

Vassilovitch took me into his confidence with regard to Vera, although I could see he wasn't very happy about shaking the family skeleton's bones in public.  Poor Vera!  Her story is tragic.  Her father went insane and shot himself; her mother threw herself from a window to certain death under an insane impulse; Vera herself has been possessed, since her mother's death, with hallucinations so strange, so bizarre that her lack of mental poise could not be doubted for a moment by any one tp whom she had told her story.

"Why, she believes," said he, with grieved accents, "that her nearest and dearest are persecuting her.  She declares that I am her worst enemy -- I, her natural protector!"

He asked me if she had told us her story, and seemed oddly contented -- if I have observed correctly -- when I replied that we could extract nothing from her in explanation of her extremely odd behavior.  He shook his head sadly.  "If she were to tell you her so-called story," he explained, "you would realize that she is mentally unbalanced."

As I have mentioned, Vassilovich was a pleasant-mannered fellow, but I felt so uneasy in his presence that it seemed to me as if I couldn't bear being shut up with him alone, and I made an excuse to open the door into the front hall.  Silly and womanish, if you will, but you know that we called intuition may often be well founded, and I feel that Serge Vassilovich does not possess a good influence.  I therefore dissipated it as much as possible.

After his explanation I felt it only right that he should see Vera and that the girl should have the opportunity to give us her side of the story, which was certainly due to my wife and me, after our having taken the girl in, a complete stranger, as we had.  Her guardian agreed strongly with me on this point, and said very reasonably that he felt sure, after she had told her story, that we would be only too glad to turn her over to his care again.

I called Myra to bring Vera, but my wife replied that she did not know where the girl was and that she had apparently left the house when she saw her guardian enter it.  Here was a fine to-do!  And Vassilovich seemed terribly upset.  He spread those red lips of his tightly against his sharp white teeth in a kind of threatening snarl, and actually demanded of Myra of she would give her word of honor that that she didn't know where the young lady was.  He left finally, but not without stating definitely that he would return in a day or two.  Myra thought his words and his manner distinctly threatening.  The menace was worse because of its indefinableness.

Myra insists vehemently that Vera is not out of her head, and since Myra did not know her exact whereabouts she felt she could consciously tell Vassilovich that she didn't know where the girl was.  Funny idea of truth women have!  Vera insists upon remaining in the garret, where she can jump out of a window and die instantly at will, as she expresses it.  Draw your own conclusions as to whether or not she intends to return to her guardian.

I am sadly disturbed, Tom.  I simply cannot make head or tail of the affair.  Myra says Vera is as sane as she is herself, and Vera weeps hysterically when asked for an explanation, crying that she will kill herself rather than fall into the hands of Serge Vassilovich.

If you can't come down, write me your opinion, Tom.  Whether the girl is mentally deranged or not her guardian claims that she is not of age and that he can therefore take her to his home by force, if he can find her.  I am persuaded that she would rather die than return with him.  I am sending this special delivery.  Hastily,


Telegram from Doctor Connors to Doctor Greeley, late afternoon of the day the above letter was received.

Will be with you to-night without fail.  Don't let Miss Andrevik out of your sight under any circumstances,                                                                                                              TOM

Resumption of Doctor Connors' narrative.

I studied the young girl carefully during dinner.

All she said or did rang true.  I felt convinced that she was a well poise mentally as any of us, but I sensed an atmosphere of nerve strain about her and saw the spirit of keen suffering looking at me out of her beautiful, sad eyes.  However, in a case of this kind one can never make true judgment without extended observation, and I was sure that something would be said or dome before the evening was over that would give me the key to the situation.  Moreover, I had come to a conclusion as to the source of the trouble which I know you have already surmised.

We adjourned to the library, a small, cozy room, after dinner.  Doctor Greeley turned on the electric fan, for Miss Andrevik insisted that all windows on the lower floor especially should be closed and fastened at night, and the evening was very close and sultry.  We chatted lightly about nothing in particular, until I felt that the time had arrived for me to bring up the real occasion for my visit.  I turned to Vera, and was about to touch on the subject lying nearest the hearts of all of us when I distinctly heard -- underneath the library window giving on the front porch -- a singular whining, snuffling noise, as of some big animal nosing around.

Vera stiffened in her chair.  I reached out instinctively and took her hand in mine; I was sitting near her.  It was as cold as ice, poor child.  Silence reigned in the room, while we listened intently.

We heard the noise of taloned feet, half padding and half clicking, across the boards of the porch flooring; the soft thud as the animal -- whatever it as -- sprang over the rail into the garden; ad then a howl burst upon our startled ears that fairly lifted Vera from her chair.  She pulled her hands from mine, rose to her feet as if impelled, and with a wail of terror threw herself upon the floor with her head in Mrs. Greeley's lap.  As she hid her face she moaned:  "It is he!  It is he!  Oh, don't let him take me away!"

Mrs. Greeley looked across at me half defiantly as she smoothed Vera's head with her motherly hands.  The doctor looked at me with a wordless inquiry that demanded a reply.  I gave it, knowing at the same time I was giving courage to the poor tormented girl, struggling with the terrible memories of her horrible experiences.

"Miss Andrevik is no more out of her head than I am," I said aloud.  "I am going to whisper four words into her ear, and they are so magical," I affirmed lightly, "that she will find courage to tell the things hidden in her heart and which she has dared to disclose because she believed that she would be thought insane if she told them."

How quickly the poor girl raised her white face to search my eyes for the help I promised!  I made her sit once more in her easy-chair, and the, leaning over her, I whispered the four words into her eager ears.  You know, dear Master, what those words were.  For a moment she sat rigid like one entranced; then the revulsion of feeling that swept over her bowed her, sobbing, while Mrs. Greeley almost glared at me in her fear that I had hurt the girl whom she had grown to love like a daughter.

 "Oh, how can I ever thank you/" cried Vera.  "Yes, now I will have the courage to tell you, for I know you will understand.  If you could only realize how I have doubted even my own eyes during those awful days, Dr. Connors!"

Another long, quavering howl broke upon our ears.  Mrs. Greeley turned to me with an explanation.  "It's a big dog," said she.  "I saw him come into our garden just about dusk this evening.  He is a big, gray, shaggy fellow.  He has been haunting out garden of late at night, and he has a most disagreeable howl.  I don't know to whom he belongs, but I certainly wish they would tie the brute up at night," she ended a trifle angrily.

I exchanged glances with Miss Andrevik, whose eyes were eloquent with meaning, and answered her in kind.  Then I told my friends the four words I had whispered into her ear and that had worked such a major change in her whole attitude, loosening her tongue and removing her fear to tell her story.  Of course it was only natural that Dr. Greely should  give me a look of penetrating and disturbed amazement; he thought my mind had given way.  His wife contented herself with a look of simple inquiry.  

"I see that neither of you understand my words," I smiled tranquilly.  "I can explain later on.  Just now I want to learn the details of Miss Andrevik's story, so that I may decide upon my course of action.  Depend upon it, there is more here than appears on the surface."

Again out conversation was punctuated by that mournful, ominous cry from without.  Vera shuddered, but without her former hysterical symptoms; she knew that she had found a protector who was able to guard her; her thankful eyes told me that.

"You may not have heard a cry like that before, Andy," I observed to Dr. Greeley.  "But I have hunted all over the world, and, whether you believe it or not, that is no dog's howl; that is the howl of a wolf that you hear to-night, and a wolf of a very savage kind, too, if I am not mistaken.  Miss Andrevik's story will undoubtedly throw much light upon the matter, although it may not only sorely try  her courage in the telling, but will tax your credulity tremendously.  Before she begins, I want to assure her that I can and will believe every word of her recital."

Once more I sought her glance, and her eloquent eyes thanked me.  Then  I requested the doctor to go the rounds of the house with me once more to make doubly sure that doors and windows were well secured.  I turned lights on full in every room, merely stating that this was imperative, for I did not feel there was time for full explanations; it was borne in upon me that before day broke we would all have seen strange things.  But as you had taught me, dear teacher, I made use of the Light, in its artificial form, to nullify the forces of evil which I knew were abroad.

Vera's story, as nearly in her own words as I can remember it, runs as follows.

Vera's narrative.

My parents were Russian, and I was born in Russia.

Coming under political suspicion because he had consorted with men not in his own class, my father was given to understand that he would be wise to leave the country.  Converting into gold his large holdings, he took my mother and me and came to America.  Serge Vassilovich, one of the men with whom my father's association had brought him into disrepute, followed us in the course of three years.  As they had both been students of the occult arts, in which my father had grown deeply interested, he was welcomed with open arms and given a home with us.

I was about ten years old.  I spoke English fluently, having had an English governess, a good but stupid soul.  I had never known anything but happiness in all my short life; always I had seen my mother laughing and my father good-humored.  Therefore, I remember with what amazement I began to note my mother's face grow sad when she thought she was alone and with what dismay I dis=covered her more than once weeping.  All this was after the arrival of Serge Vassilovitch.

My mother hid her trouble from my father, and it was not until long afterward that I learned the reason for her tears.  Serge Vassilovitch loved my mother, and desired to take her away from my father, whom, however, she never ceased to love.  He urged his guilty love upon her, only to be rebuffed repeatedly,  Finally he swore that my mother should some day go to his arms whether she wanted to or not, and for some time he left her in peace.  The it was that my mother began to look sad and to weep in secret more than before, for y father fell so deeply under the spell of our evil genius that whatever Sege Vassilovitch proposed to him was as though foreordained.  This condition of affairs went on for four years.  I had grown to be tall and womanly and a companion to  my dear mother, for I was seventeen years old when affairs reached a climax.

My father went so deeply into the study of the occult arts with Serge that it became his own and our own undoing.  Night after night thy pored over unhallowed books of magic, and although I am sure that Serge knew well what he was about my poor father was more weak and curious than he was wicked.  He fell so entirely under the evil spell of that incarnation of Satan that he finally arrived at a place where he could not break with him, and actually believed everything Serge told him, even to entertaining suspicions of my der mother.   He drew up a will, as we discovered afterward, naming Serge my guardian and leaving in those hands all that should have been ours in trust; this shows you how deeply he believed in that vile man.

One day Serge's mad passion broke bounds; his years of restraint made him madder than ever before.  He caught my mother to him, kissing her and holding her to him until she lost her strength and fell from him in an agony of shame at her weakness.  She turned on him at last, then, telling him that another day shall not pass that her husband should know that his friend had abused his confidence.  Sege laughed at her scornfully.  She told him that he must leave her roof at once, and he apparently acceded to her request.  But although she little realized it, her momentary generosity in covering up the matter in her anxiety not to trouble my father became her undoing.

The following morning a child's body, mangled dreadfully as though by the teeth of a savage dog, was found on our grounds.  We kept no dog, therefore suspicion did not attach to our household.  But my father was closeted with Serge for hours after that discovery, and afterward he shut himself into his library, admitting no one.  In the afternoon he came into my mother's room, , where we sat embroidering, and kissed us both with a tender gravity which I felt portended something unusual.  He laid a sealed envelope in my mother's lap, requesting her not to open it until circumstances seemed to demand it.  Strange request!  While my mother still sat staring with puzzled face at the envelope we heard a muffle shot.  We ran down and pushed open the library door.   Oh, my poor father!  He had died, an innocent victim to that unmentionable devil whose evil influence had ruined all our lives,  In his hand he still held the revolver with which he had hoped to purchase immunity for us from what he feared might be our fate.

After the agony of that experience was over my mother wanted to take me away, but our stern, implacable guardian refused to permit me to go, and my mother would not leave me, for she had already learned of Serge's further perfidy from my father's letter, and she dared not leave me with him.

My father's letter remained a sad secret with my mother during the year that we had together.  During that year my poor mother was tortured in every conceivable manner imaginable by Serge Vassilovitch.  Fearing both for me and for herself, she never left me alone for a moment, yet even in my presence that monster never desisted from inviting her to his arms with a cynicism that in itself was sufficiently revolting to a high-souled woman.  It was toward the end of that first year of her widowhood that my mother learned the inner meaning of my father's letter -- learned it from Serge's own lips.

My poor father had been the victim of a most vile plot, and he had taken his own life in the belief that in doing so he was expiating his unconscious crime.  Under Serge Vassilovitch's spell, he had been led to believe that, owing to the magical arts they had practiced together, the power of metamorphosis into the form of a wolf had been bestowed upon him by certain evil powers.  Serge himself had killed the child, and had shown the mangled body to my father, declaring that in the form of a wolf my poor parent had destroyed and torn the innocent.  Imagine the consternation and horror of a high-minded man who had unwisely permitted himself to dabble in magic arts that had brought him to such a pass.  He felt that, having unconsciously one such crime, he might in future commit others.  He believed there was but one way out and like a true and noble gentleman he took that way, not even giving his beloved wife an opportunity to dissuade him.

The awful story of his supposed crime formed the contents of his letter to my mother.  Oh, if he had only come to her instead of taking that final step!  My mother knew that he had laid by her side all that bight.  She taxed Serge, who laughed fiendishly, and admitted that he had lied to my father, thus forcing him to take his own life.

"Clearing the way very thoughtfully for his own successor," said he sardonically.

Struck to the heart by the horror of the revelation, my mother attempted to flee with me, but Serge had given out that she was mentally unbalanced; we were stopped and forced to return.  With scorn and loathing in her heart, she rebuffed his suit daily.  But one afternoon, as I sat with my mother, embroidering, I felt his eyes upon me strangely.  He was regarding me with such an expression that I suddenly feared him horribly, sprang up with a cry, and rushed to my mother's side.  She caught me to her with a gasp of such anguish that it seems as if I could hear it now.

"Was not one victim enough for you?" she asked.

"Well," he returned with insolent indifference, "I was just wondering if, after all, I ought not prefer the bud to the blossom."

There was a long pause.  then my mother said in a strange, hard voice:  "You have won.  Give me this one night in peace."  And she held me to her, while her labored breath shook her entire body.

Serge went slowly away with a backward smile, hatefully exposing his sharp white teeth with an air of knowing triumph.

My mother locked the door.  She barred the window.  The she sat down, pulled me down beside her, and whispered the whole awful truth to me.  I listened, my brain whirling, for it appeared to me that what they said must be true; and that my mother's mind had been injured by my father's tragic death.

Little by little, however, convinced by her deadly seriousness, by my father's letter, and by my own emotions of fear and horror when in the presence of my guardian, I began to credit her.  I saw but one thing to do, and that was to attempt to escape, even if we died in the attempt.  My m other was firm in her intention to kill herself rather than fall into those evil hands, and, while she said nothing to me, I knew she would not leave me behind her.  We whispered out plans to escape that very night.  With youth's optimism I knew I could find something to do that would support my mother and myself.  And in spite of her anxiety, my mother smiled her lovely smiles at me again for the first time in months.

When the house was sleeping soundly we crept out on the porch roof, and my mother slipped down a pillar to the ground, turning to hold out her arms to me.  I was halfway down the roof when my mother's rang out in an agony of fear and horror.

"Vera, Vera, go back!  Save yourself! The revolver!  My God,  it is the wolf of the steppes!"

As she cried out to me I saw a huge shape as of some great shaggy beast spring upon her from the darkness, bearing her to the ground.  Something raised its head from where she lay, her cries silenced forever, and I roused myself from my apathy of deadly fear to scramble back into my window, away from the horror of those terrible fiery eyes, red and evil, that looked leering upon me from over my unfortunate mother's dead body.  My senses were failing me, but i managed to get back into the room, and hardly had closed and fastened the shutter before I heard the thud of a heavy body upon the porch roof.

My  mother's words echoed in my dizzy brain:  "Save yourself, Vera!  The revolver --"  I looked about me hastily in the dim candlelight.  On my mother's dressing table I saw a revolver, and I caught it up, crying out to the Thing that waited without:  "If you try to break in here, I shall shoot you.  I am armed."

The Thing sniffed around the window frame for a few moments, then sprang to the ground.  I felt my senses leaving me, and I fell back on my mother's bed, unconscious.

With morning came voices, shrieks, feet running here and there, knockings on my door.  I dared not open; I was terribly afraid of everything and everybody in that awful house.  I heard my guardian's exclamations of horror at the discovery of my mother's mangled body, and it seemed to me as if I could not live through through those moments of intense suffering.  How I got through the day without losing my mind I do not know; I do remember that I lost myself in periods of unconsciousness several times.

Toward evening came the voice of my guardian at the door, stern and commanding.  "Open at once, foolish girl!" he demanded.

I kept silence.

"If you do not open to me at once, Vera, I shall be obliged to break in the door."

"If you try to come in," I replied with desperate bravado, "I have a bullet ready for you."

He laughed with cold scorn.  "Hunger will drive you out soon enough," he commented aloud.  "But it will be better for you now in the end to open now than later."

I felt that his words hid a mystery too terrible for explanation.  But I remained firm.  I was convinced that between Serge and the wolf of the steppes there was some evil connection.

After a while he seemed to have gone away, for I heard no sound.  But t last came a sniffing around the cracks of the door and the scratching of sharp claws on the panels.  He had sent the Thing that had killed  my mother!  Oh, how pitiless he was!  I had heard of the wolf of the steppes, but believed it to be only a superstition, and yet my intuition told me that that which waited without was not a dog.

I cried out to it to go away, and finally it went, only to come to my window, whining and snarling there and scratching at the shutters.

"Go away!" I called again, cold fear clutching at my heart.  "If anything tries to come in at this window I shall shoot on sight."

The howlings died away.  Ominous silence ensued.  I heard only the soft thud as the beast landed on the ground before the porch.  You may well imagine what a night I passed, knowing that perhaps the Thing waited beneath my window.  Just as morning broke i peered through a chink in the shutter and saw it for the first time.  It was a great, gray, shaggy wolf; it bounded out of the bushes and stood, with slavering jaws, looking up at my window with its evil, red-rimmed eyes.  It seemed to me that those eyes could penetrate the slats of the shutters and could see me watching from behind them.  It raised its head and gave a long, dreadful howl.

Then, as I looked, I thought my eyes must be deceiving me, for it stood upright like a man.  As the light grew stronger from the rising sun, the shaggy coat seemed to turn into civilized garments, and there, suddenly, where the wolf had stood, was my guardian, gazing up at my window with venomous ugliness upon his wicked face.  This time I did not lose my senses, for I realized with what I had to deal.  All the old nursery tales told me of the wolf of the steppes when I was a little girl in Russia came to my mind again.  I knew that the werewolf was discredited in America and if I were to claim such a thing about my guardian I would not be believed, and might even be called insane, as my mother was.  There was but one thing to be done; I must escape, even at the cost of my life.

That afternoon I saw Serge go on horseback down the road, and seized my favorable opportunity, only to be disillusioned.  My governess, with pity in her eyes, turned me back, calling one of the servants to her aid.  I realized that  I was being guarded as would be a mad creature, so I went back, locking myself into my room.  I was weak from want of food, but dared not open the door again, lest my guardian should return.  I told him that if he would permit me to have ten minutes alone after the sun set I would unlock the door then.  I heard him laugh quietly to himself; he did not know that I knew him for what he was; he thought I was prepared to receive an odious lover, and undoubtedly he was already thinking of how he would mangle my body with his metamorphosed talons and his sharp white teeth!

He told me that as an earnest of my good intentions I must surrender the revolver.  This I had not expected, but I rose equal to the occasion.

"I dare not open the door to you now," I replied.  "But I will throw it pout of the window."

"Very well, Vera," assented my guardian.  I heard his footsteps retiring down the hall, and knew he would go outside to retrieve the weapon, which I had no intention of giving up.

I took a silver-mounted hairbrush from my mother's dressing table, opened the window cautiously, and when I heard his steps in the graveled path below I threw the brush with all my force as far as I could into the bushes.  He ran to get it.  And then I unlocked my door, flew down the stairs, out the front door, and down the path, thanking God that this time no one had appeared to stop me and putting my trust in Him that there would be someone outside who could save me from the horrible fate that otherwise might await me, unless I took the sad alternative of self-death.

Hardly was I out of sight of the house before I heard a long and dreadful howl of fury.  I knew that the wolf of the steppes had found my door open and the room empty.  Fear seemed to hold me feet to the ground.  I clutched at my revolver, giving myself up as lost, when I heard Doctor Greeley's automobile coming down the road.  You know the rest of the story.

Resumption of Dr. Connors' narrative.

The poor girl had hardly dared to meet her friends' eyes while telling the almost unbelievable tale, but upon finishing she turned imploringly to Mrs. Greeley, who half avoided her eyes, and looked inquiringly at me.  I replied to her questioning look with a glance of assurance, and turned to Vera.

"My dear Miss Andrevik, there is every reason for me to believe your story, since I have been a witness of just such a metamorphosis in Persia.  Lycanthropy is one the wane, because the waste places of the world -- forgathering places for spiritual forces of good and evil -- are becoming peopled, and with added population such manifestations become more and more unusual.  You may rest assured that I do not think you insane, and until I can explain the matter more fully to your friends they must take my word for it that you are unusually well-poised mentally, else you could never have come through such a terrible experience unscathed."

Vera's next thought was that, as she was a minor, her guardian would be able to claim her legally.  To this I replied that there was but one thing to do, and that was to remove such a menace forever from the world.  That I was determined to do this you can well understand; the only difficulty in the way was that if I shot the wolf the dead man would remain on our hands, according to the laws of lycanthropic metamorphosis, and I really did not like to think of hunting up Sege Vassilovitch and shooting him down in cold blood -- murderer though he was -- in bright daylight, in order to assure his transformation into a wolf, which alone would save me from a charge of manslaughter.  The only way out of the dilemma was to kill the wolf and then rely on a certain formula which you taught me to use under special conditions to transform into the wolf form permanently the slain Serge Vassilovitch.  The authorities certainly might wonder at a wolf being at large in the town, but they could not object to its being killed, especially i it had attacked any of us, as it would be certain to do if given sufficient opportunity.  My object was to kill it before it could do any damage, either to any of us or to outsiders.

I instructed Doctor and Mrs. Greeley not to let Vera out of their sight, and to keep all their doors scrupulously secured, especially at night.  I bade Vera retire and sleep sweetly, secure in the knowledge that one who understood her problem was watching over her safety.  When Mrs. Greeley went upstairs with the girl my friend turned to me, and with severe gravity demanded an explanation of my "idiotic rigamarole."  I gave it; dear master, I gave it very fully and completely.  When the sun's rays brought us respite from our guard I was still explaining to my very skeptical friend.  i promised him a sight of the metamorphosis, which he admitted would be a convincing proof of my "theories."  He refused o believe that I could have seen just such a transformation with my own very good eyes.

For three days we kept closely to the house, and on the evening of the third day I saw the wolf of the steppes slipping behind a clump of bushes in the garden, and felt convinced that that night would see the last act played out.  I had provided myself with the necessary articles, and awaited with impatience for the darkness to fold down upon us.  I had cleared all movables out of the library, so there would be plenty of free space.  I stationed Doctor Greeley behind one of the French windows with a revolver, and I arranged a morris chair at the farther end of the room, behind which I crouched.  The window was left unfastened, so that, at a light touch from without, it would swing inward.

We had planned that when the wolf entered, as it undoubtedly would, unless it were warier than I gave it credit for being, Doctor Greeley would immediately close the window behind it, turning on the light at the same time.  If the creature turned and saw him, he was to shoot; otherwise, I would get a splendid opportunity from my ambush to finish the night terror of Russia.  Each of us was also armed with a hunting knife, in case we came into close contact with the beast.

All happened as we had planned.  We had hardly been in place fifteen minutes before we heard the padding and the scraping of the taloned claws on the porch flooring, and a moment later a sniffing ta the window, which, at the touch, swung slowly open.  The moon has risen above the treetops, and her soft light poured into the room, rendering other ight unnecessary.  I saw the anima; hesitate on the threshold for a moment; and then it came into the room with a single bound, and sprang across to the inside door opening into the hall.

For an instant my heart stood still with apprehension.  Had we forgotten to close that inner door in our anxiety to plan for the entrance of the wolf?  No, the beast paused again before the closed door, and then began to pace back to the window.  My friend closed it quickly, but in doing so stood against the moonlight in full view of the werewolf.  I rose from behind my ambush and took quick aim, firing almost simultaneously with Doctor Greeley.  Which of our shots took fatal effect I do not know to this day, since both were in vital spots.  The great gray beast lifted itself into the air with a single convulsive movement, while a terrible howl of pain and fury burst from it.  Doctor Greeley sprang to one side just in the nick of time, for the falling werewolf, with its dying effort, struck and snapped at the place where my friend had been standing, then rolled back upon the floor, twitching with a dying spasm.

I turned on the light and my friend and I drew cautiously near the dead animal.  Then I turned triumphantly to him, I must confess, and wordlessly pointed to what lay on the library floor.  Clad in his gray, fur-trimmed overcoat, now stained with red ,Serge Vassilovotich lay with staring, furious garnet eyes, quite motionless.

Doctor Greeley looked as though he could not credit his own eyes, and then turned to me incredulously.   "I could have sworn it was a wolf," he said slowly, horror-stricken.

I laughed.  "In a short time you will see, with your own eyes, the transformation of this dead murderer into the werewolf form," I promised.

"Seeing's believing," he retorted.

The shots had brought both women down into the hall, and we heard their voices outside the door calling to us.  I opened the door a trifle to say that all was well and the wolf dead.  Then I added that they would do well to retire to an upstairs room for a while, and they were not to come down under any circumstances.  While Mrs. Greeley did not realize the gravity of this injunction, I saw that Vera Andrevik understood what I was about to do, for her eyes opened, , startled, she drew Mrs. Greeley from the room, closed the door, and I heard their voices as they mounted the stairs to seek Vera's rooms, where I knew she would hold Mrs. Greeley until I had finished my incantation.

I closed door and windows.  Then I carried out the instructions that you gave me, dear master, inclosing on one circle the dead murderer and in another double circle my friend and myself.  I set the brazier in position, poured the prepared powder upon the glowing charcoal, and called thrice upon the Spirit of Evil.  The first time such a deadly silence fell upon us that it struck cold to the palpitating heart; the second time a rushing wind came suddenly from nowhere and seemed to center itself upon the house, shaking it as with an earthquake shock; the third time -- oh, dear master and teacher, it is well that you taught me to school my soul against the emotion of fear!  When I felt the approach of the essence of wickedness materialized i feared for my friend, and made him kneel within the inner circle, bowing his head upon his clasped arms.  Then I braced myself physically and lifted my head high to meet whatever was to come.  It was more terrible than I had imagined!

From out of the now dense darkness gathered unseen forces that I felt were pushing and pulling against the magic circle of protection.  I knew that an instant's weakness on my part would give them entrance. I dared not rely upon my own strength entirely, and from the depths of my soul I sent out a cry to Adonai for courage and endurance.  And it came -- it came!  But the Evil grew ever stronger and stronger, and I realized that I must use every ounce of my will to keep fear from my heart that the magic circle might not break, weakened by my weakness.  I kept my eyes fixed upon the dead that lay within the farther circle.

The moon no longer shone within the windows but there was alight that seemed to shine from where I stood and my friend knelt.  Also the light from the brazier threw flickering tongues of brightness over the room now and then.  When the moment came when I knew I could bear it no longer I called with a loud voice upon the Evil that lurked in the shade about us.

"In the name of Adonai, aid him not again, alive or dead!  And now, begone!"

\As I called upon the name of the Mighty One I felt new life and courage and power flowing into my veins, and I knew that I was speaking with authority.

I looked upon the dead that lay near by, and saw that the change had begun, so I touched my friend upon the shoulder.  He lifted his head cautiously; his face was gray and drawn, for he had felt the spiritual influence of that Evil near us, and he had not been prepared, like myself, to resist and defeat it.  His eyes fell upon the other circle, and in the soft light of the brazier I saw them dilate with incredulous astonishment.

Together we saw the metamorphosis of what had been Serge Vassilovitch into the wolf of the steppes, in which form that base spirit must remain imprisoned for the allotted space.  My friend is convinced now that my "theories" are not groundless!

As the last of the transformation took place I felt a glad lightening of my spirits, and realized that the Evil about us, which I had called to undo its work, was about to depart.  The rushing of a mighty wind again whirled about the house and departed whence it came, and, as it went, the moon's light broke froth from behind the clouds that had swathed it and burst out in full splendor, throwing into relief the body of the great gray wolf that lay within the farther circle.  I stepped from the circle and turned on light,

My friend met my smiling gaze with a look that impressed me with the awe he felt over our experience.  "My dear Tom," he finally said, "I agree with Hamlet most sincerely and fully.  There are stranger things than we know of.  Let it go at that, old man."

We both laughed, for the ordeal was over, and with its passing came a revulsion of spirit that was welcome.

The body of the dead wolf was turned over to the authorities the following day.  I suggested that possibly it had escaped from some traveling menagerie, and my explanation was accepted on the face of it.

Miss Andrevik has been formally adopted by my friends, the Greeley's, and her father's fortune finally turned over to her in the unexplainable absence of her guardian, Serge Vassilovitch.  She has become as light-hearted as could be expected of a girl who had passed through such a gruesome and grueling experience.  I may add that her extreme youth and the love she now finds we all have for her may have had something to do with helping her to regain her girlish happiness ponce so horribly threatened.

There is no more to relate at this moment, master, save that I hope some day to bring Vera with me to receive your blessing.  A yet I have not spoken to her, but our eyes have said much that our lips do not yet feel licensed to speak.

Greetings, O Amdi Rubdah, from your pupil,

                                                                                                                     THOMAS CONNORS


(from The Thrill Book. Vol. 1, No. 1. March 1, 1919, edited by Harold Hersey)