The cover of the September 1928 issue of Weird Tales features a giant venus-flytrap-like plant with many tentacles attacking a woman who clothes are mostly shredded. A man approaches in the foreground with a knife.

Weird Day in the Archive

Today was spent on the pulp Weird Tales, begun in 1923 with editor Edwin Baird. While it existed, in some form, until 2014 (with certain vanishings, unvanishings, and mutations), my focus for the time being, though I hesitate to call it narrow, is on the run from its beginning in 1923 to the first major pause, that which stretched from 1954 to 1973. Please pardon the commas! I have seen many today and they must have hitched a ride in my brain.

A block of text from the first issue of Weird Tales. It reads “WEIRD TALES offers such fiction as you can find in no other magazine–fantastic stories, extraordinary stories, g r o t e s q u e stories, stories of strange and bizarre adventure– the sort of stories, in brief, that will startle and amaze you. Every story in this issue of WEIRD TALES is an odd and remarkable flight of man’s imagination. Some are “creepy,” some deal in masterly fashion with “forbidden” subjects, like insanity, some are concerned with the supernatural and other with material things of horror–all are out of the ordinary, surprisingly new and unusual. A sensational departure from the beaten track–that is the reason for WEIRD TALES.

To be honest, I am still making my way through Weird Tales. As much as I wanted to skim and peruse and be academic-y, I had some trouble because it seemed each page of this pulp was pulpy with themes that incited the amateur/the fan/the slan in me. It had far more to openly say about bodies than Amazing and Astounding. It has some interesting thoughts on bodies, some weird things to say about bodies, and frankly some obviously bad things to say about bodies.

Cover of Weird Tales July 1934. The cover has a black background and shows a man holding onto the chest of a blonde centaur with stag horns with one hand, and a woman with long blonde hair and a sheer dress with the other.
Cover of Weird Tales July 1934. The cover has a black background and shows a man holding onto the chest of a blonde centaur with stag horns with one hand, and a woman with long blonde hair and a sheer dress with the other.

I imagine I’ll spend a lot more time parsing Weird Tales (perhaps regaining my scholarly distance), but I leave you with a brief excerpt from the May 1923 issue. It addresses so-called “abnormal women who crave notoriety,” but to me it seems like the story of some women who had the chance to mess with medical and spiritual professionals and did it quite well.

An excerpt from the May 1923 Issue of Weird Tales titled “Neurotic Women Have Queer Mania.” The story details women who take actions that seek attention. Evelyn Lyons uses a hot water bottle to fake a fever of 118 degrees, and Mary Ellen MacDonald set fires, dressed as a ghost, slapped people, and fooled multiple spiritualists and mediums.

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