THE WOLD NEWTON UNIVERSE
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by Matthew Baugh
(Originally printed in The Skeptical Eye Magazine, Dec. 2000, from Circle of Life Publishing.)
The nineteen-fifties were, on the surface, a mundane and contented era, as reflected (and parodied) in the TV series Happy Days. It was the prosperous Baby-Boomer era. America discovered the suburbs, kids discovered Howdy Doody and The Mickey Mouse Club, middle class families bought new cars every season, and vacations to Disneyland, Dinosaur Parks, and national landmarks became the norm.
Yet this was also a time of paranoia. People in the Western Hemisphere read about the Soviet Union, flying saucers, the H-bomb, and the space race in all the newspapers. They blackballed actors and writers who were thought to have a connection, however tenuous, with Communism, and they decried comic books as the cause of juvenile delinquency and violent crime. Human beings have personified their fears in the form of demons and monsters since the days of the cavemen. Is it any wonder, then, that myths, rumors, and reports of monstrous creatures arose in the ten short years of the mid-century decadeSo many tales of aliens, mutants, and monsters rose in the fifties that a single article could not cover them all. A fairly lengthy paper has already appeared covering just one of these phantasmagorical creatures (see Notes on the Gill-Man of the Upper Amazon). This essay will confine itself mainly to truly BIG monsters, as befits the Atomic Era.
In 1953, a specimen of the prehistoric Rhedosaurus was supposedly awakened by an atomic test in the Arctic which had the clever code name Operation: Experiment.  This carnivorous beast headed south toward New York, destroying ships and buildings along the way, including a Maine lighthouse. Conflicting reports suggest that the Beast visited the lighthouse over a three or four year period before actually demolishing it.  Many eye-witness accounts state that the Rhedosaur rose from the Hudson River and wandered through the streets of New York City in the best King Kong fashion. A huge fire at Coney Island was blamed on this creature, and some claim that it burned to death within the wooden skeleton of a roller coaster. Or did someone mistake the charred structure of the roller coaster for the bones of a prehistoric monster?
This episode, a prehistoric monster loose in the Big Apple, was probably a publicity stunt celebrating the twentieth anniversary of the film King Kong, which had been re-released that year. Still, popular folklore grafted a new detail onto the origin of the Beast: atomic testing. As for the people supposedly eaten and the cars supposedly crushed by the Rhedosaur -- hey, New York's a tough town!
Nineteen fifty-three marks the first attempt by Professor Bernard Quatermass and the British Rocket Group to send a manned vessel outside the Earth's atmosphere.The results of this mission were classified Top Secret by the British government, but apparently the flight was a failure.A series of strange human and animal deaths -- the bodies lacking solid bone -- followed soon after the Quatermass Experiment; both a club-footed humanoid and a "blob" were blamed. Military personnel surrounded Westminster Abbey; a news blackout prevented One night Quatermass and a contingent of civilians from knowing what took place within, but the strange killings stopped. 
Also in 1953, the Office of Scientific Investigation became involved with the case of the Magnetic Monster. After discovering that the air over Los Angeles had become dangerously radioactive, OSI agents Jeff Stewart and Dan Forbes investigated a poltergeist report: Nails, tools, and other steel items flying around a hardware store, and lawnmowers putting and moving by themselves. They found a strange canister, somehow the cause of the disturbance, that they traced to Dr. Howard Denker, who had discovered a new element, serranium, and bombarded it with alpha particles for 200 hours. This resulted in the creation of an incredible isotope that drained energy from everything around it. The only way to stop the "Magnetic Monster" before it destroyed the earth was to overload it; this the OSI agents did by transporting it to a remote Canadian power station and running 900 million volts through it. 
In 1954, the OSI investigated two experimental robots, dubbed Gog and Magog, at a US research institute. The robots, which resembled small tanks with several pincer-tipped arms on the turret, went on a murderous rampage and had to be destroyed. A "foreign power" was blamed for sabotaging the robots.  (After a long period of obscurity, the OSI became active again in the 1970s, sending out Col. Steve Austin on numerous unusual or sensitive cases.) 
In the summer of '54, nuclear physicist Douglas Martin and a pilot circled an A-bomb test at Soledad Flats, Nevada, in an Air Force jet. The jet crashed, but only the pilot's body was found. A day or two later, Martin was discovered stumbling along a street near the Soledad military base, unable to remember what happened. Under the influence of sodium anytal, he reported awakening after the crash on a surgical table, surrounded by men with ping-pong-ball-sized eyes. They lifted his heart out of his chest and repaired it before re-implanting it. After the operation an alien named "Deneb-Tala" explained that the bug-eyed men were visitors from "Astron Delta 4" who planned to take over the earth. This is a fairly standard UFO-abduction tale; many psychiatrists today believe that such stories are confabulations, which is to say fantasies dreamed up during hypnotic regression -- or drug-induced regression in this case. I include the story here only because Martin claimed to have escaped the aliens briefly in their underground base. He supposedly ran through a series of tunnels and came upon a veritable zoo of gigantic insects, spiders, and lizards. The nasty Astron Deltans, you see, were breeding them to devour humanity in their plan for conquest. 
In September of this year, the FBI investigated a number of unusual events in New Mexico (a mute girl stumbling alone through the desert, sugar thefts, strange murders) and later throughout the country (flying saucers, "strange carcasses," missing people, inexplicable noises). Dr. Harold Medford (from the Department of Agriculture, of all places) demanded that a shroud of secrecy be draped over these activities. The FBI, the police, and the army eventually focused on the sewers beneath Los Angeles, sending jeeps and heavily armed men in through access tunnels. The unlikely cover story given to the radio and TV stations was that L.A. had been invaded by giant ants! Naturally, few people fell for this scare story, and most citizens convinced themselves that the authorities were actually after Russian saboteurs. 
Also in 1954 special correspondent Steve Martin's "Gojira" broadcast stunned the world. The story of this incredible "King of the Monsters," which was supposedly awakened (or mutated) by H-bomb testing, is too well known to repeat here. The famous footage of Tokyo smashed -- entire city blocks burning -- thousands injured and irradiated in hospital corridors -- so resemble post-war photographs of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, one is tempted to believe that some terrorist group detonated an atomic device in the Japanese capital. Could the tale of a gigantic, fire-breathing reptile be a hoax, despite the many photographs and witnesses? A cover story, in fact, to prevent the world from panicking over the possibility of nuclear blackmail?
Why, you may ask, would a giant, radioactive dinosaur cause less worry than nuclear terrorists? Ah! Because the dragon can be slain! And sure enough, this walking personification of the Bomb was reduced to atoms in Tokyo Bay by Dr. Serisawa's "Oxygen Destroyer." Dr. Serisawa built only one prototype Destroyer, burned the blueprints, and sank into the depths himself, conveniently keeping anyone else from examining it or learning how it worked. A MacGuffin if ever I've heard one. The general story of "Gojira" (which sounds like "Godzilla" and vice-versa if you say both real fast), i.e., a giant dinosaur awakened by an atomic test, was probably lifted from the Rhedosaur tale of the previous year. 
Within months folklore was exaggerating the Godzilla story. For instance, the beast's reported height of fifty meters (about 160 feet) became 400 feet by the time the story reached the USA. And surely no creature in history was more incontrovertibly dead than this radioactive saurian. . .
Until 1955, when two tuna-scouting pilots for a Japanese fishing company reported Godzilla inexplicably alive, this time joined by a spike-backed quadruped called Angurus or Angilas by the press. Others reported the two monsters coming ashore at Osaka and battling to the death. The reports were eventually forgotten along with other sea serpent and flying saucer stories of the silly season (after all, how could the King of Monsters have survived being disintegrated?). 
Another monstrosity came from beneath the sea in 1955. At least, disappearances of ships and swimmers were blamed on a Kraken-like cephalopod (awakened by H-bomb tests, of course), which supposedly even damaged the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco.  This rumor may have been a reaction to the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce's reply to a certain fantasy filmmaker. Ray Harryhausen planned the destruction of the bridge in a movie, and, as he says, "The bridge had only been finished a comparatively short time. . . Perhaps our script read more realistically than it looked on the screen, but we did receive a negative reply mainly on shooting the bridge."  For what it's worth, the giant octopus (or quintapus, according to the reports) was supposedly slain by an electrically-charged torpedo.
By this mid-year of the decade, Professor Gerald Deemer, a biologist, perfected a nutritional formula that was to cure world hunger. Unfortunately his lab near Desert Rock, Arizona, was hit by vandalism, then a fire, then it was razed flat (perhaps by an earthquake). Whole herds of cattle vanished from the area. Pools of some sticky white liquid left at the sites became the only clue. Several witnesses reported seeing a shape in the distance like a tarantula "about the size of a city block," but, of course, size and distance are difficult to judge in the desert. The Air Force held a practice napalm run near Desert Rock; this seemed to reassure the locals, and the stories of a Tarantula stopped. 
A series of earthquakes hit the Mt. Toya area of Japan in 1956. Soon thereafter UFOs were reported over China, Southeast Asia, and the Pacific, supersonic objects that left white vapor trails behind. Military jets from several countries were lost trying to intercept the UFOs. Following this, an unexpected hurricane hit Sasebo City in southern Japan. News stories from Japan tried to blame all of these phenomena on a gigantic pteranodon-like beast -- or two of them! -- nicknamed "Rodan". Yet another unexpected event -- a volcanic eruption -- conveniently buried both of these airborne colossi under streams of molten lava. 
As the so-called King of the Monsters was a walking personification of atomic weaponry, so were these "Rodans" the embodiments of old fears (earthquakes and ocean storms, very familiar dangers in Japan) and new anxieties (UFOs). By giving their anxieties a physical form, it was possible for the Japanese people to allay their fears by having these monsters killed (in the lava).
See? All very Jungian. (Hundred-ton pterodactyls! Really. The next thing you know, people will be seeing even BIGGER flying thingies -- with THREE heads, yet!)
The year 1957 overflowed with megafauna rumors. An unknown disaster leveled the small town of Ludlow, Illinois, early this year; not one of the 150 inhabitants was ever heard from again. The National Guard cordoned off the area, so no one can guess the true nature of the disaster. Perhaps it was a gas explosion, leaking nerve gas, or some other chemical spill. Believe it or not, some people claimed that Ludlow was demolished and its people eaten by locusts -- grasshoppers the size of buses! Surely this was disinformation handed out by the National Guard. The locusts supposedly invaded Chicago itself, and an artificial mating call, broadcast from a boat in Lake Michigan, drew the monsters into the water, where they drowned. (They were too heavy to swim.) 
The existing film footage of the locusts shows them to be big, sure enough, but the titan insects skitter and crawl and jump as swiftly as ordinary grasshoppers. A living creature expanded in size a thousandfold would certainly move much more slowly, as an elephant's ponderous steps compare to the scampering of a mouse. Perhaps some evil genius out of a Doc Savage adventure projected films or holograms of locusts onto buildings and forest areas, leading people to believe a giant bug invasion was on.
There's something about the desert regions of the southwestern U.S. that sparks monster fever. A plutonium bomb test that resulted in the tragic death of Col. Glenn Manning was also blamed for the appearance of a "Colossal Man." This giant was reported entering Las Vegas itself (probably by drunken party-goers). It supposedly fell to its death off Boulder Dam, but something like it appeared in Mexico a year later. Due to its hideously scarred face and single eye, this new monster was called the Colossal Beast. Some claim that the Colossal Beast actually reached Los Angeles, but, after seizing some high-tension lines, it was blown to atoms. Perhaps it was one the same as the deformed "Cyclops" reported in Mexico during this time period. 
Up in the Arctic in that wacky year of '57, the string of radar bases known as the Dew Line kept North American apprised of Russian sneak attacks. Rumors leaked south of an entire village of Eskimo vanishing utterly. This urban myth was probably based on Joe LaBelle's 1930 report of discovering such a village deserted Marie Celeste-fashion: "Even the rifles, so necessary to the Eskimos in this Northern wilderness, were abandoned along with food, clothing and personal belongings of all sorts. More than 30 people -- men, women, old folks and infants -- had vanished." 
One U.S.-maintained radar base was badly damaged, presumably by sabotage, but ham radio operators overheard messages about some sort of creature that had thawed out of the Arctic ice. Rather than the usual dinosaur, this monster resembled a gigantic praying mantis! A number of plane crashes, missing people, ship sinkings, and even a bus overturning in Washington, D.C., were blamed on this very deadly mantis, and many people reported a strange droning sound echoing from the skies from Canada down the eastern seaboard to Virginia. All of the reports mentioned overcast skies or fog, so perhaps the witnesses to the disasters were confused by random shapes of mist. A multi-car pileup in New York's Holland Tunnel was also blamed on the monstrous insect; a large cleanup crew sent into the tunnel remained very tight-lipped about the nature of the disaster -- perhaps to stifle rumors that the tunnel might collapse. 
UFO reports in '57 included one strange object that resembled a giant vulture. The object was tracked to earth from outer space, and it possessed a force field, plus radar-neutralizing capabilities like today's stealth technology, so it seems unlikely this was a living creature. Yet this "UFO" supposedly built a nest on top of a skyscraper! Eye-witnesses claimed that the "bird" looked amazingly fake, like an oversized marionette. John Keel's Operation Trojan Horse (1970) collected many reports of UFOs taking the forms of clouds, blimps, ordinary airplanes, and even angels -- perhaps this "Giant Claw" bird was a similar phenomenon, though that merely begs the question of what UFOs are. Whatever this "bird" may have been, an experimental mu-meson cannon disrupted its force field, and it crashed into the sea and sank. 
A robotic entity over a hundred feet tall supposedly came ashore on the western coast of Mexico in 1957. It was dubbed Kronos (after the Greek Titan that devoured his own young). Supposedly this robot or metalloid absorbed electrical and nuclear energy to take back to its homeworld, which was starved for power. An H-bomb test near the U.S.-Mexican border was believed by many to be an attack on "Kronos" that failed -- the cosmic device merely absorbed the bomb's energy. Scientists working at Labcentral in Phoenix, AZ, somehow used radioactive materials to trick the robot into absorbing its own energy until it melted into a pool of slag. 
Or, at least, so goes the story. The few photographs taken of "Kronos" look suspiciously like snapshots of grain elevators taken from a mile or two away -- about as convincing as George Adamski and Howard Menger's "chicken brooder" flying saucers.
After a brilliant meteor shower that summer over the California desert, geologist Dave Miller found a colleague of his apparently turned to stone. While trying to puzzle this medical mystery out, people in the area collected curious black, glassy rock fragments -- possibly from a meteorite. Houses were found crushed by boulders and other people found petrified. According to a local police blotter, the rocks were strange crystals that, on contact with water, grew into towering monoliths like Washington Monuments of obsidian. These would topple, shatter into thousands of fragments, and each fragment would grow again. Contact with the alien mineral somehow caused the Gorgon-like transformation. Miller, fortunately, discovered that ordinary salt neutralized the crystals, but numerous tourists carried off fragments of the "Monolith Monsters" with them. Perhaps chunks of the crystals sit in attics and bureau drawers across the country, waiting for a nice, cool drink of water. 
Also in 1957, an indescribable "something" supposedly oozed up from a crack in the earth of a Scottish moor. This thing -- described only as "X -- the unknown quantity" in a report to the UK Atomic Energy Commission -- was some sort of radioactive life-force that evolved when the earth was still molten. "X" sank into the depths as the earth cooled, but for reasons unknown it oozes to the surface every fifty years or so. In this year, for the first time, there was food for it on the surface -- nuclear material at various hospitals and atomic plants. "X" was described by terrified witnesses as simply a vast expanse of animated mud, inhabited by the radioactive life-force. Its victims literally melted. It was destroyed by an invention built by Dr. Adam Royston that deadened its power using electromagnetic waves. 
There are those, however, who called Dr. Royston a dotty old fool, and dismiss the "X" episode as an attempt by some clever Scots to come up with a new Loch Ness Monster.
The U.S. Air Force is notorious for finding unlikely explanations for UFO reports. When a silvery "rocket" crashed into the sea off Gerra, Italy, in 1957, the explanation given to reporters was that it was a manned expedition returning from Venus -- extremely unlikely for the period, and nothing more was heard of any other interplanetary expeditions. (One cannot underestimate determined individuals with a knack for rocketry, however, as in the case of adventurer Carson Napier.) Within a few days, a "Venusian" creature was discovered near Gerra, a reptile that resembled a bipedal dinosaur with robust arms and a bulldog-like head, complete with scaly "chops". It was dubbed the Ymir (why a Venusian creature appearing in Italy, land of the Roman pantheon, should be named after a giant from Norse mythology, is beyond me). The beast, which reputedly doubled its size every day, escaped into the Italian countryside, and eventually it was shot off the top of the Colosseum in Rome by the military. 
A number of mysterious disappearances in California were blamed on a sort of "blob" that arrived inside a meteorite. It absorbed people whole, leaving no trace of them behind. At least, so said Steve Andrews, Jane Martin, and a number of other local teenagers who woke their sleepy home town one summer night in 1958 with sirens and car horns. A local diner was supposedly absorbed by the Blob, but photographs of the wreckage show clear fire damage. Military personnel did descend on the town, and rumors arose of an Air Force Globemaster parachuting a mysterious object down into the Arctic. Perhaps this story was cooked up by local teens just for something to do on a boring Saturday night. 
More serious attention was given to the "Trollenberg Terror," as the tabloids described the terrible events occurring in Switzerland in '58. Unusual cloud formations, unusually cold weather (for high in the Alps, even!), a number of decapitation murders, and rumors of "ice zombies" ruined the tourist trade around Trollenberg, Switzerland, this year. United Nations special agent Alan Brooks was quoted as having seen the same phenomena in the Andes in 1955. Jet fighters dropped incendiary bombs on the summit of the Trollenberg, and things settled down in the area afterwards. The UN's report on the "Terror" remains classified to this day, but the tabloids were full of lurid pictures of Crawling Eyes -- multi-tentacled, icky-looking, vein-covered mounds, each the size of a garden shed, and each with a single huge eye in front. 
To balance the southwest's Colossal Man, stories of a 50-Foot Woman arose in southern California in 1958, attaching themselves to a tragic but ordinary murder case: Wealthy young Nancy Archer was committed to an asylum by her husband Harry, who started seeing another woman, Honey Parker, on the side. Nancy was released, and, learning of the illicit affair, and learning further that Harry wanted to have her put away permanently so he could get his hands on her money, Nancy killed her husband and his mistress and was in turn shot by the local sheriff. This sordid but mundane affair was somehow mixed up with a local report of a "silver-clad giant" emerging from a UFO, and voila -- the story became that of a giant woman who crushed her two-timing husband in one hand like a grape! Oh, well, ordinary murder stories have influenced outright fantasies before -- Exorcist III was based on the Zodiac killings of San Francisco, for instance. 
I once interviewed an old man from the Painted Desert, however, who insisted after forty years that there really was a 50-Foot Woman. "I'll never forget that voice as long as I live," he told me. "Deep and thunderous but still feminine, echoing down out of the night: 'Haaarrry! . . . Haaaarrry!' Sometimes I still wake up in the middle of the night, sure I've heard it on the wind." Maybe he'd been living in the desert too long.
One of the United States' early rocket experiments was masterminded by Dr. Quent Brady. Carrying a payload of live wasps, Brady's rocket flew off course and crashed somewhere in Africa. A few months later reports of strange monsters trickled out of Equatorial Africa. Brady convinced himself the stories had something to do with his rocket. He mounted an expedition to an area called Green Hell and found, to his surprise, mutant wasps the size of Greyhound buses. (In a nod to the Square-Cube law, the wasps had huge, buzzing wings but could not fly.) Bullets and hand grenades had no effect on the "Monsters from Green Hell," but a fortuitous volcanic eruption wiped them out. 
Another oversized spider appeared in 1958. This one terrorized the New Mexico town of Santa Rosa. No explanation was given for its existence -- it was simply considered a "new discovery" by a local high school teacher. It was supposedly killed by DDT and exhibited in a high school gym. Photographs still exist of the hairy arachnid, its legs curled in death, amid dancing teenagers and serious-looking faculty members. This might have been a leftover float from a local parade.
Would you have ever heard of the Loch Ness Monster if it had been reported killed soon after the first news stories in 1933? Probably not. The Santa Rosans apparently decided the Spider would be a tourist draw, because it mysteriously came back to life to terrorize the town again! Supposedly it was killed by high-voltage cables dropped into its cave-lair, but you never know -- Santa Rosa might want to compete with the tourist trade of Roswell, to the south, someday, and the Spider might rise once more from its cavern-tomb. 
Another prehistoric reptilian colossus appeared in Japan in 1958. This monster was dubbed Varan or Baran, perhaps after the Varanus lizard genus. This huge, spiny creature was sort of a cross between the better known Godzilla and Rodan: It had webs of skin like a flying squirrel, and it could glide long distances. It could walk upright or crawl on all fours. Tanks and missiles proved useless against the monster. The Japanese military finally sent up explosives attached to balloons; Varan ate them and suffered a terrific case of heartburn. The reptile dove into the sea, never to be seen again. 
In 1959, volcanic activity terrified Mexican villagers only 40 miles from Mexico City. Again, nature was not held responsible for the subsequent death and destruction: the locals first blamed a "Devil Bull," then a "Black Scorpion" of immense size and ferocity. The scorpion (some say there were several) was also blamed for a train wreck that resulted in 120 deaths. The "Black Scorpion" was finally killed by the army. Again, something over which mortals had no power (a volcano) was transformed by the popular mind into a huge monster, which, though formidable, could be destroyed. 
At around this same time, also in Mexico, Professor John Fielding explored the ruins of the Mayan city of Tikel, which was abandoned abruptly in A.D. 607. According to legend, the goddess Caltiki was to blame, and on her next appearance she would destroy the world.
According to Fielding's report, an amoeba-like mass from a sacred pool attacked him and his assistants. He rammed it with a truck, killing it, but sample cells taken from the carcass became revitalized by radioactivity and began to grow. Again Mexico City was endangered, but the army found "Caltiki" susceptible to flamethrowers. 
A sea-dwelling "Giant Behemoth," awakened from ancient sleep by atomic testing, terrorized the London area in '59. It hid underwater most of the time, climbing ashore occasionally to stomp on cars and people. Like Godzilla, it spewed out "radioactive rays," and its description closely matched that of New York's Rhedosaurus. Indeed, it was killed in the same manner -- by a radioactive isotope shot down its throat -- by men in a small submarine, conveniently hidden under the murky waters of the Thames. The story sounds like an urban legend, a supposedly true tale transferred to a new location, from New York (the Rhedosaur) to Japan (Godzilla), and finally to London. The atomic-test-awakens-ancient-monster tale was getting a little long in the tooth by this time. 
No explanation at all was given for the "Giant Gila Monster" reported this same year in New Mexico. The fifty-foot black and orange reptile just sort of appeared; a few desert-dwellers of a philosophical bent suggested it was a personification of the southwest's untamed wilderness. A train wreck was blamed on the monster, perhaps by railroad authorities looking for a scapegoat. As usual, the majority of witnesses were teenaged hot-rodders and would-be rock-'n'-roll stars. 
Giant Leeches with humanlike heads and arms (but covered with suckers) were reported in the Florida Everglades in the sticky summer of this year. Radioactive material from Cape Canaveral was blamed for these mutations.  Perhaps there was something to this rumor, as the very cautious Dr. Dana Scully reported a similar "annelid worm with the characteristics of an anthropoid" in the early 'nineties. 
Renowned biochemist Milo Craigis retreated to a remote Caribbean island in the late fifties to work on his life-prolonging experiments. Instead, according to island legend, he created "Killer Shrews" the size of German Shepherds, which multiplied swiftly, eating anything (and anyone) they could. After fighting a losing battle against the Shrews, Craigis, his daughter, and some visiting sailors merely abandoned the island, leaving the Shrews to devour each other. 
Of course, just about every scientist who desires seclusion for his work becomes the victim of rumors, as in the cases of Evangelista Torricelli (inventor of the barometer), Nikola Tesla, and anyone named Frankenstein. The Killer Shrews joined legends of voodoo and zombies in the folklore of the Caribbean.
To round off this wild decade, a house-sized, lobsterlike beast called a "gargon" ran loose through a small California town in the fading months of 1959. As if that weren't enough, its masters were said to be Teenagers from Outer Space, who carried "ray-guns" that could disintegrate all the flesh from a human or animal body, leaving only a skeleton behind. The earth, according to contemporary rumors, was to become an alien farm, where the gargons would eat humans, and the aliens would eventually eat them. One of the aliens supposedly fell in love with an Earth girl and gave the invading armada false landing instructions, causing them to crash and burn. 
While the police agreed that there were deaths and violence in this case, they believed these "Teenagers from Outer Space" were a gang of terrestrial delinquents whose "colors" happened to be a bit more outre than usual. This gang planted a few skeletons about town, damaged buildings (blaming it on the "gargon"), and set off explosives in the nearby woods (the crashing spaceships). The people who claimed to have actually seen the monster were probably victims of hysteria -- a sentiment that could easily represent the whole decade of the 1950s.
[Editor's note: The Skeptical Eye is notorious for downplaying and debunking UFO sightings, unusual phenomena, and claims of the paranormal. Thus the explaining away of nearly every megafauna event listed above. Which of these truly monstrous monsters existed in the Wold-Newton Universe? Whichever seems best to you.]
1. The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms (Warner Brothers, 1953)
2. Bradbury, Ray, "The Fog-Horn"
3. The Quatermass Experiment (BBC-TV, 1953)
4. Magnetic Monster (United Artists, 1953)
5. Gog (United Artists, 1954)
6. Cyborg and its sequels by Martin Caidin; Six Million Dollar Man TV series
7. Killers From Space (RKO, 1954)
8. Them! (Warner Brothers, 1954)
9. Gojira (Toho International, 1954); Godzilla, King of the Monsters (Toho/Embassy Pictures, 1956)
10. Godzilla's Counterattack (Toho International, 1955) aka Gigantis, the Fire Monster (1959)
11. It Came from Beneath the Sea (Columbia, 1955)
12. Nadler, Harry, and Dave Trengove. "Ray Harryhausen." Castle of Frankenstein #19 (1972), p. 10.
13. Tarantula (Universal, 1955)
14. Rodan (Toho International, 1956)
15. Beginning of the End (AB-PT Pictures/Republic, 1957)
16. The Amazing Colossal Man (American International Pictures, 1957); War of the Colossal Beast (AIP, 1958); The Cyclops (Allied Artists, 1957)
17. Colby, Carroll B. Strangely Enough! (New York: Sterling Publishing, 1959), p. 173.
18. The Deadly Mantis (Universal, 1957)
19. The Giant Claw (Clover Productions/Columbia, 1957)
20. Kronos (Regal/20th Century Fox, 1957)
21. The Monolith Monsters (Universal, 1957)
22. X -- the Unknown (Hammer Films/Warner Brothers, 1957)
23. Twenty Million Miles to Earth (Columbia, 1957)
24. The Blob (Tonylyn Productions/Paramount, 1958)
25. The Crawling Eye [aka The Trollenberg Terror] (Tempean Productions/Eros Productions, 1958)
26. Attack of the 50 Foot Woman (Woolner Production/Allied Artists, 1958)
27. Monster from Green Hell (Gross-Krasne Productions/Distributors Corporation of America, 1958)
28. Earth vs. the Spider (Santa Rosa Productions/American International, 1958)
29. Varan the Unbelievable (Toho Productions, 1958)
30. The Black Scorpion (Warner Brothers, 1957)
31. Caltiki the Immortal Monster (Galatea Films -- Climax Pictures/Allied Artists, 1959)
32. The Giant Behemoth (David Diamond Productions/Allied Artists, 1959)
33. The Giant Gila Monster (Hollywood Pictures Corporation/McLendon Radio Pictures, 1959)
34. The Giant Leeches (Balboa Productions/American International, 1959)
35. "The Host" (The X-Files)
36. The Killer Shrews (Hollywood Pictures Corp., 1959)
37. Teenagers from Outer Space (Topor Corp./Warner Brothers, 1959)
All rights reserved. The text of this article is © 2000-2004 by the author, Michael D. Winkle. No copying or reproduction of this article or any portions thereof in any form whatsoever is permitted without prior written permission and consent of the author.
One of the least known series featuring crossover characters from popular fiction is the John Gorman saga by Marc A. Cerasini and Charles Hoffman. John Gorman was actually created by Robert E. Howard (1906-36) in an untitled outline for a spicy adventure story. Cerasini and Hoffman, both Howard scholars, took this outline and used it as a basis for a short story, She-Cats of Samarkand. The story was published originally under the byline of Sam Walser, a pseudonym originally used by Howard when he wrote for the spicy pulps. Soon four other John Gorman adventures would be published under the real named of Cerasini and Hoffman. All of these stories appeared in fanzines published by Robert M. Prices Cryptic Publications in the 1980s.
A John Gorman Checklist
By Robert E. Howard:
Untitled Synopsis, Risque Stories #1 (March 1984)
By "Sam Walser" (pseudonym of Marc A. Cerasini and Charles Hoffman)
She-Cats of Samarkand, Risque Stories #1 (March 1984)
By Marc A. Cerasini and Charles Hoffman
The Temple of Forbidden Fruit, Risque Stories #2 (October 1984)
Jungle Curse, Risque Stories #3 (July 1985)
“Drums of the Bizango, Pulse-Pounding Adventure Stories #1 (December 1986)
Hell Cat of Hong Kong, Risque Stories #5 (March 1987)
A Probable Outline of John Gormans Career
John Gorman spent his boyhood in early Texas. He was born around 1893 (1). Gormans father was a doctor. His mother died when he was in his early teens. Gorman blamed his father for his mothers death. Apparently Gormans father had denied his wifes illness until it became too late to treat her successfully. This estrangement between father and son caused John Gorman to run away from home. For a while, Gorman, then in his teens, rode the rails in the Southwest in search of work.
By 1913, Gorman found himself in the Far East where the events of Hell Cat of Hong Kong unfolded (2). In Hong Kong, Gorman would find himself a pawn in a power struggle between two powerful women, the White Tigress and the Old Hag. The White Tigress, a criminal adventurer, would cause problem years later for Sailor Steve Costigan in Robert E. Howards Alleys of Peril (3). The Old Hag is better known to readers of James Clavells Asian Saga as Tess Hag Struan (1825-1917), matriarch of Struan and Company, the most powerful trading company in Hong Kong.
In Clavells Tai-Pan (1966), Dirk Struan, Tess father-in-law, secured the survival of his company by making a remarkable deal with a Chinese merchant in 1841. In exchange for a vital loan, Struan made a very dangerous promise. Four Chinese coins were cut in half. Struan received one half of each coin, and the other halves were given by the merchant to four anonymous Chinese business partners. At any future date, the holders of the half-coins could present themselves to Dirk Struan or his heirs, and surrender their half-coin in exchange for any favor they wanted. One half-coin was presented to Dirk Struan by a Chinese pirate in 1841, another half-coin was redeemed by a Chinese revolutionary in 1894 (and led to the Chinese revolution of 1911), and a third coin appeared in1963 in circumstances described in Clavells Noble House (1981). James Clavell died in 1994 before revealing the fate of the fourth half-coin. ronically, Hell Cat of Hong Kong, written during Clavells lifetime, provides an explanation concerning this mystery.
Hell Cat of Hong Kong revealed that other half-coin was given to Ho Yen, a powerful mandarin. The White Tigress and her gang stole it from him. Shortly thereafter, John Gorman arrives as a merchant seaman in Hong Kong. A dispute with his ships captain rendered Gorman unemployed. He was soon recruited by the White Tigress, who made Gorman both her chief lieutenant and her lover. The Tigress and Gorman then stole a valuable report about Manchurias mineral wealth. The Tigress intended to sell the report to the Japanese. A lovers quarrel caused Gorman to leave the Tigress service. The Old Hag then contacted Gorman. She persuaded him that the Tigress plan to sell the Manchurian report to the Japanese would lead to war in the Far East. Gorman gave the Hag information, which allowed her to capture both the Tigress and the report. The Hag intended to give the Tigress to Ho Yen for punishment. However, Gorman still had some feelings for his former lover. Gaining possession of the half-coin, Gorman gave in to the Hag in exchange for the Tigress freedom.
An interesting question is raised by the storys conclusion. What happened to the half-coin? In Clavells Noble House, the head of Struan and Company in 1963, Ian Dunross, only knew of the redemption of three coins. What happened to the half-coin presented by Gorman? One possibility is that the Hag had to give it to another powerful Asian personage to whom she owned favors. In Hell Cat of Hong Kong, the Hag employed the services of a Burmese dacoit to unsuccessfully attack the White Tigress. Burmese dacoits were under the control of Sax Rohmers Dr. Fu Manchu. Could the Hag have been forced to surrender the coin to Fu Manchu?
Gormans activities during World War I are unknown. Soon after the war, Gorman was in Australia. There he bought a boat, the Snark, which had supposedly once been the property of a recently deceased American writer. Although the writer was not identified, he was clearly Jack London (1876-1916). London had built the Snark during 1906-7. Gorman took the Snark to the United States, where he used it to smuggle liquor into Florida from the Caribbean during the Prohibition era of the 1920s. During this period, Gorman visited Haiti and became involved with zombies during the events of Drums of the Bizango.
Eventually Gorman gave up his career as a liquor smuggler and traveled to Africa during the 1920s (4). After spending years in Africa, Gorman was employed as a guide by a wealthy English hunter and his wife in Jungle Curse. In this adventure, Gorman had a harrowing experience with a supernatural entity known as the Devil Leopard.
By 1931, Gorman was in Uzbekistan, then a Soviet Socialist Republic (5). There he participated in a failed insurrection of local nationalists to gain independence. This revolt was described in She-Cats of Samarkand. You wont find any reference to this rebellion in history books. One can only assume that the Soviet authorities suppressed all reports of this nationalist revolt from reaching the outside world. With a reporter named Steve Corcoran, Gorman fled to India. In 1932 (6), Gorman had his most fantastic adventure in The Temple of Forbidden Fruit.
When the story began, Gorman was fleeing the vengeance of the Thuggee cult of India. The cult had murdered one of Gormans friends, an unnamed reporter (probably Corcoran). In retaliation, Gorman killed the cults leader. Chased into the mountains of Tibet, Gorman was injured during a battle with one of the legendary yeti (abominable snowmen). He was found by mysterious group of yellow-robed monks whose leader wore a mask of yellow silk. The leader referred to this region of Tibet as the Plateau of Thang, and gave his title as the High Lama of Thang. The monks lived in a stone citadel that allegedly was built by pre-human travelers from the stars. During the time of Valusia (an ancient kingdom described in Robert E. Howards King Kull stories), this order of monks had discovered a Tree of Life whose fruit granted immortality. However, not all devourers of the fruit gained immortality. Some became sick and even died. Centuries later, there began the deaths of people who had remained ageless for many lifetimes due to the fruit. It was realized that the fruit must be eaten again and again for its gift of longevity to be maintained. Unfortunately, the Tree of Life died itself. However, the monks discovered that the fruits properties remained in the corpses of those who had once eaten it. The monks became a corpse-eating cult. Devouring maggots in the flesh of the corpses had caused the High Lamas face to become a mass of worm-like cilia. Some of the fruit from the deceased Tree was still preserved. A female member of the cult, Fatima, gave this fruit to Gorman, but the fruit did not seem to have any beneficial effect on him. Considering Gormans partaking of the fruit sacrilegious, the High Lama ordered the Texan and Fatima to be tortured to death. Gorman slew the High Lama, and escaped with Fatima.
At one point in the story, Fatima mentioned that a European scholar knew the Plateau of Thang by another name. Any reader familiar with H. P. Lovecrafts Cthulhu Mythos stories would recognize the Plateau of Thang as an alias for the Plateau of Leng. In The Hound, Lovecraft located Leng in Central Asia and dropped hints of a corpse-eating cult whose symbol was a winged hound. Gorman saw am image of a winged hound on one of the doors of the citadel.
Lovecraft gave different locations for Leng in his tales. At the Mountains of Madness placed Leng in Antarctica, while Celephais and The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath situated Leng in the Dreamlands, a fantasy realm visited by Earths dreamers. In the stories about the Dreamlands, Leng was ruled by a high priest who wore a yellow mask. The priest was eventually revealed to be a Moonbeast, a tentacled monstrosity. After Lovecrafts death, Cthulhu Mythos stories by other writers have speculated that there is an earthly incarnation of the high priest with the yellow mask who is quite distinct from the Moonbeast version of the Dreamlands (7). The Temple of the Forbidden Fruit gives an explanation for this earthly avatar of the high priest.
After Gorman fled Tibet, there was no further news of his activities. The John Gorman series was very entertaining. It deserves to be better known, and should be collected and reprinted in book form.
All rights reserved. The text of this article is © 2001-2004 by the author, Rick Lai. No copying or reproduction of this article or any portions thereof in any form whatsoever is permitted without prior written permission and consent of the author.
The true identity and character of the mysterious Shadow has been the subject of considerable speculation among Wold Newton scholars. What has been given less attention has been the background of his agents, who have many secrets of their own. Margo Lane's past has been plumbed, with some surprising and illuminating results, but Cliff Marsland, in some ways the Shadow's most mysterious agent, has remained an enigma until recently. Cliff was a big, rugged looking man with light hair and a solid jaw. He was one of the toughest, both physically and emotionally, of the Shadows agents and had a reputation as an underworld gorilla. Despite this, Cliff Marsland was not a criminal, this was a fiction he fostered to facilitate his infiltration of the criminal badlands on the Shadows behalf. Though he was genuinely tough, Cliff lacked any of the cold-blooded hardness of a genuine criminal. He was exceptionally handy with his fists and his guns, but took no pleasure in killing. We are introduced to Cliff in the Shadow adventure GANGLAND'S DOOM with this cryptic bit of dialogue:
"Cliff Marsland!" said the whispered voice, "That was not your name---fourteen years ago---when you were overseas---"
"Perhaps," said the voice, "You remember the village of Esternay, in the spring of 1918. Or, perhaps, that trip to Monte Carlo, three weeks after the Armistice? Do you remember Blanton, the Frenchman---"(1)
If Cliff Marsland was not really Cliff Marsland, who was he? What secrets did he have to hide? Probing these matters has always been difficult because of the great importance the Shadow gave to keeping the personal lives of his agents a secret. Recently though, material has come to light revealing that Cliff was born to a prosperous ranching family from the area around Cross Plains Texas. The Morris family were Irish immigrants who settled the area in the 1850's and became very successful within a generation. The family's most noted member was the eldest son through adoption, Quincey P. Morris. Young Quincey was something of a local hero before he traveled to England to win a bride. The family records are unclear about the details, but the death of Quincey's fiancee seems to have involved him in a dark adventure. In the pursuit of this adventure, he is said to have died a heroic death in 1888 somewhere in Eastern Europe. (2)
Quincey's younger brother Stafford Morris married a local girl named Elizabeth Chesterton in 1890 and their son, Clifford Morris, was born in 1895. Young Clifford grew up exposed to both the best of culture Texas had to offer as well as to the rough life of working a cattle ranch. He became a powerful young man standing six feet tall and weighing one hundred ninety pounds, with blue eyes, straight black hair, and an expression as stoic as any of the local Comanches. Clifford was an avid rider and boxer, and taught the latter skill to a friend from Cross Plains, a younger boy named Robert Ervin Howard.
In 1915 the idealistic Clifford left home to join the British forces and serve in the Great War. Like many other young men the War soon shattered his ideals. He saw and did terrible things in the fields of France over the next three years and, though he was highly decorated, he felt anything but heroic.
Probably the most satisfying adventure he had during the war was in 1918, in the French village of Esternay. It was there that he first met the mysterious allied spy-master known as the Dark Eagle. The details of this adventure are lost to us, but we know that Clifford and the Dark Eagle developed a high regard for each other.
Unfortunately, Clifford's next adventure was his involvement in the terrible Battle of the Argonne. The battle shattered his body and his nerves and his recovery in an army hospital left him addicted to morphine. Clifford was deeply ashamed of his weakness in succumbing to shell-shock and addiction. He was so ashamed that, when he found out that his parents had erroneously been told of his death, he decided to do nothing. As far as he was concerned, Clifford Morris had died on the battlefield. The wretch he had become was a different person. He adopted an alias using the Roman god of war as his inspiration. It was in the land of war that the old Clifford had died and the new "Cliff Marsland" had been born.
He was able to pull himself together briefly when the Dark Eagle called on him again in 1919. This time he was involved in the affair of Blanton, the Frenchman, which took him to Monte Carlo. The action helped, but not enough. The Dark Eagle mysteriously dropped out of sight after the adventure and Cliff lost direction again.
He ended up in the opium dens of Limehouse in London, a lost soul. It was there, in 1921, that his life took a new and totally unexpected turn. He was recruited as a potential assassin by the sinister figure known in the London Underworld as "the Scorpion." (3) This villain was actually the being known as Kathulos, an ancient sorcerer priest of Atlantis awakened after thousands of years of sleep and bent on world conquest. Kathulos needed an assassin to remove the one Englishman he feared could stop him, Sir Denis Nayland Smith. (4) Curing Cliff of his addiction, Kathulos gave him a potion that greatly amplified his strength and sent him after Smith. Fortunately, Cliff's character reasserted itself. His strength of will, Smith's friendship and the secret aid of the lovely Zuleika helped him break Kathulos' influence over him. Zuleika was a beautiful Circassian slave girl who had been sold to Kathulos as a child. She fell in love with Cliff while he was still an addict, and her love and courage were probably the single greatest factor in helping him defeat the fiend. Unfortunately, soon after the battle ended, Zuleika vanished. Cliff stayed on as Smith's aide-de-camp, but they were unable to find any trace of the woman he loved.
There are two more stories that Robert E. Howard wrote about a "Costigan" who could be Cliff during this period which would have had to have occurred over the course of the next year. One recounts the death of Costigans acquaintance ???????? under bizarre circumstances. (5) The other tells of the destruction of a criminal Satanist cult led by the famous tenor Castenetto. (6)
Kathulos had survived, and had captured Zuleika to use as a pawn in his new campaign to conquer Britain. (7) He returned in 1923 to begin a new reign of terror, during which Smith was apparently killed. (The mention in TAVEREL HALL of the Battle of the Argonne happening a dozen years earlier is a misprint. The sentence was actually meant to say "half-a-dozen years.") The full story of Taverel Manor has yet to be told. The method by which Kathulos faked Smith's death in order to take him prisoner, the heroic rescue by Cliff, and the tragic sacrifice of Zuleika will make a stirring story when an author can be found to tell it. For our purposes it is enough to say that Cliff returned to America, despondent over the loss of his love. By now his father had died and his mother was in poor health. He feared that the shock of learning he was still alive would hurt her and chose to further conceal his former identity be changing the color of his hair. With the support of Sir Denis he entered New York society as an up and coming young investor.
Cliff's business connections brought unexpected results. He had never expected to love another woman the way he had Zuleika but it happened. By early 1924 he was engaged to Arlene Griscom, daughter of the theater magnate Howard Griscom. Sadly, Cliff's luck went bad on him again. Arlene's younger brother was a weak individual who fought with his father constantly. After one such fight he had fallen in with a bad crowd and had been talked into helping commit a robbery.
The young man confessed to Cliff and told him that he feared going to prison. Cliff agreed that he would never survive in Sing Sing and decided to confess to the robbery himself. He was sentenced to eight years. During his imprisonment, he contacted his boyhood friend Robert E. Howard. He refused to let Howard tell his family that he was still alive, but did give him permission to publish the story of his encounter with Kathulos, so long as Howard disguised the names and had it published as fiction. Howard agreed and wrote the story as SKULL FACE. He changed Cliff's name to Stephen Costigan after "Sailor" Steve Costigan, a boxer and sailor he admired. Nayland Smith's name he changed to John Gordon, though most of the rest of the names and events mentioned in the account are true.
In 1932 Cliff Marsland was released from prison and, met again the mysterious figure he had known as the Dark Eagle. This man, now operating in New York as the Shadow, recruited Cliff to infiltrate the mob for him. In the course of this adventure he was reunited with Arlene. (8) What happened next has been a mystery to Shadow scholars. We know that Cliff married Arlene, and that the two expected to settle down to a respectable and prosperous life. Why then did Cliff continues to show up in the Shadow's adventures, maintaining his reputation as an underworld gunsel, and regularly risking his life? Why is there no further mention of his beloved Arlene? Shadow scholar Frank Eisengruber says of Arlene:
She is mentioned in some tales in 1932, when Cliff works partially for The Shadow. By 1933, Marsland is living constantly in the underworld and his wife is no longer mentioned. It would not be like The Shadow to make Cliff abandon his wife. Probably she died soon after the marriage and Marsland, to soothe his grief, dedicated himself to The Shadow's cause. (9)
This is correct. In fact, Arlene was killed by a criminal gang in the early winter of 1932. Her death was the result of the bungled attempt to do in Cliff, who had fallen afoul of the gangs leader. Cliffs outrage at this act pushed him back into his dangerous career with a vengeance! In another twist of fate, Cliffs strange career may finally given him the opportunity to share his life with a woman better suited to his dangerous lifestyle than either Zuleika or Arlene. In one of the Shadows adventures Cliff is wandering through the streets of the city when he passes a Chinese restaurant. He encounters a pretty young Chinese woman who is coming out of the building and, for a moment, it looks like this could become a romantic encounter.
Down by the next corner, two men were arguing what part of Chinatown they should visit next. They came suddenly to an agreement and one said he would wait while the other picked up a package of laundry. The man who waited was Chance LeBrue, the other was Cliff Marsland. Going a few doors down the street, Cliff entered a basement laundry and showed a ticket to a Chinaman who was gathering bags of wash.
In high tone, the Chinaman called "Ming Dwan!" and a Chinese girl appeared to take the ticket. Promptly finding the bundle beneath the counter, Ming Dwan handed it to Cliff and their eyes met steadily. It could have been a romantic moment between Cliff Marsland, a rugged American type, and this Chinese beauty, whose dark eyes and black hair contrasted sharply with her clear yellow complexion. But Ming Dwan's trustful look brought only an undertone from Cliff: "Hawkeye will report back, Myra. You can contact Burbank then."
Nobody could have recognized Ming Dwan as Myra Reldon, planted here close to the Wei Hai Wei headquarters. Playing a Chinese part was Myra's specialty and her laundry job was the night work she had told Gloria Brent about. (10)
Myra Reldon, aka Ming Dwan was one of the Shadows most capable agents, who often aided him on cases involving Chinatown. The two agents exchange information and nothing more is said of the encounter but the hint of possible romance is unique in the Shadow stories and may reveal a great deal more than it seems to. Were Cliff and Myra lovers? Did they even secretly marry? Did they find in each other the happiness that seemed missing in their mysterious and often tragic lives? Until more evidence comes to light, we cannot say anything for certain. (11)
Only The Shadow knows . . .
This article would have been impossible without the support and assistance of the following people.
Win Eckert for giving it a place to live and for many suggestions and much encouragement.
Jess Nevins for helping me put together the Quincy P. Morris connection.
Ronald Plumb of The Shadow Cast website. This one of a kind archive is an invaluable resource to anyone wishing to do research on the Shadow or any of his agents!
John Olsen of The Shadow Magazine website, a priceless treasure for Shadow fans featuring Jade Dragon and over 150 other stories from the Shadow pulps for download.
All rights reserved. The text of this article is © 2001-2004 by the author, Matthew Baugh. No copying or reproduction of this article or any portions thereof in any form whatsoever is permitted without prior written permission and consent of the author.