Black Pool for Hell Maidens – Hal K. Wells


Larry Kent is making his way through a swamp that is almost as dense as the prose in this story.

The last rays of an unseen sun had faded until the wooded swamp was a fog-shrouded monochrome of somber shadows and swirling vapors.  The dank chill of slime-wet air seeped coldly through the darkening gray mists . . . Hidden cells deep within his sensitive brain quivered to the stimulus of a familiar and eerie warning.  Somewhere in that chill curtain of twilight fog, Fear lurked, naked and abysmal.

A couple paragraphs of that, and I’m exhausted.  Luckily, Wells takes pity on the reader and lapses into a more readable style.

pulpblackpool01Kent has spent time in the savage wilds of China and Africa, “but never had Kent’s quivering nerves sensed the crepitant feel of Fear more strongly than they did now in the desolate heart of Alabama.”  He valiantly carries on in search of his fiancee, Dorothy Lane, who mysteriously vanished in these swamps four days ago.

His nose leads him to two dead bodies.  Standing over them is “a creature that was a blasphemous caricature of a man.”  Its description is fairly Gollum-esque down to the bulbous eyes and loincloth.  His hands, however, are more more claw-like with the fingers fused together and a giant thumb — like the pincer of a crayfish.  Not nearly dainty enough for my precious.

Seeing Kent, the brute runs off and smack into three men. Kent tells them that he is lost and the men offer him a place for the night, but their hospitality is transparently a ruse. As they return to their lodge, Kent sees Dorothy accompanying them, but she does not acknowledge knowing him.

Back at the lodge, or “House of Grisly Fear” as the chapter heading describes it, Kent sees a room full of men who have suffered various amputations.  Their faces are all the same, though, “stolidly set masks of pure fear.”

Like the creature they encountered in the swamp, they are dressed only in loincloths. From the stumps of their limbs grow strange appendages similar to the claws of the creature — who is not a creature, but a man named Bartlett.

Putting the pieces together, Kent recognizes one of the men as Dr. Enlow Carlin.  The doctor had claimed that he had discovered the gland that granted regenerative powers to certain crustaceans.  He was drummed out of the mad scientists union for such heresy; and also for spending his time on crustaceans rather than ape-men.

When Dorothy finally manages to be alone with Kent, she has no time for explanations, but tells him they need to escape.  Thanks, Madam Curie.  Carlin catches them before they take a step and decrees that they shall be turned over to “The Dweller in the Pool.”

Dorothy reveals that the Dweller in the Pool is her brother Raoul.  He had lost an arm in an auto accident and was “too bitterly proud to tell any of the rest of the family.”  That must have been some arm.  Or some family.

He sought out Carlin for his regenerative skills.  Sadly, his miraculous crayfish injections were merely a scam to blackmail hopeful patients, and reduce them to deformed madmen.  But things are not what they seem with the Dweller in the pool.

A nice pulp piece despite some over-written passages.


  • First published in Mystery Tales, June 1938.
  • Also that month: Minimum Wage enacted for $.25/hour.
  • Who is the titular Hell Maiden?  Dorothy is the only woman in the story and she seems like a pretty good chick.

Blood-Bait for Hungry Mermaids – John Wallace

pulpmegabloodbait“The afternoon was grey, cheerless, and suffused by a miasma of melancholy.”

As first sentences go, that doesn’t exactly grab me by the lapels and scream “read the bejeebus out of me!”

Bob Barton is fishing on his cabin cruiser along with his wife Pamela and her sister Lucy, artist friend Wilson, business partner Forsythe and Captain Hawkins.

Wilson tells Barton the fish are biting and they go down to Mermaid Rock.  In the water, they clearly see three mermaids with girl’s faces, “full white breasts” and “scaly, bluish, finned” tails.  It seems strangely reasonable to Barton that they should be there, that he should cast his line into the water, and that he should hook one through the cheek.  She screams in agony as he reels her in, pretty much as I suspect a trout would.  As he removes the hook, she bites his wrist.

Wilson stabs her in the fishy area (. . . . . . er, nevermind), and stitches her mouth shut with wire.  He intends to stuff her and mount her as an objet d’art.  As Wilson strings the creature up and begins to gut it, Barton sees the scaly bottom half part to reveal a pair of human legs.  Seeing this and the thrill the men are getting out of fishing for the other mermaids snaps Barton back to sanity.

He discovers that someone has drugged them all with “Scopolamine — the liquid hypnotism.”  There actually is a drug called Scopolamine, which is used to treat nausea and vomiting according to Wikipedia.

It is also known as Devil’s Breath and can leave victims as zombies with no free will, assisting criminals, looting their own bank accounts, or being forced into prostitution.  There is an article at the Daily Mail which I will not link because it has a LOUD ad not only auto-playing, but on a loop.  Somebody should really go to jail for that.  The story accurately recounts those side effects and also correctly notes that it prevents the formation of short-term memories.  Basically, a Forget-Me-Now.

Finally we get to a story with an ape, though, sans zeppelin.

Finally we get to a story with an ape, though, sans zeppelin.

Barton searches for Pamela and finds Forsythe outfitting her with fins.  Barton knocks him out, but Pamela still drugged up tries to bite him.  Barton does manage to save her and also Lucy who was already suited up and swimming topless in the ol’ fishing hole.

There is a motive and a nice piece of misdirection based on the effects of the drug.  It’s pretty goofy with an over-complicated James Bond villain revenge plan, but it does have a lot of fun elements.


  • First published in Mystery Tales, December 1939.
  • Also that month:  Gone with the Wind premieres in Atlanta.
  • I thought I had found a strange coincidence that there was a character named Bob Barton in two consecutive stories.  I think it is just a Kindle X-Ray error as the first Bob (Bride of the Ape) seems to have no last name; which must have been awkward as the story had him getting married just the day before.

Blood for the Vampire Dead – Robert Leslie Bellem

pulpfiction0125 stories for $.99; they must be good.

Despite the cover, there are no Apes, Sexfiends, Gangsters, Mad Scientists, or Tentacles in this story; not even a blimp or anything particularly politically incorrect.  Still, how can I complain about not getting my $.04 cents worth?

Tim Croft is a doctor whom the state has stationed in a rural Ozarks community.  I am not clear why the state is choosing where he should practice unless possibly he majored in rickets.

Late one night, Jeb Starko — from up at Haunted Holl’r — bangs on his door.  Starko claims the Ludwill clan is going to kill his wife Eula because they think she is a witch-vampire.  Eula is currently under the doctor’s care and Dr. Croft knows this is not true for 2 reasons.

Nurse Brenda comes out to see what the commotion is.  Someday she and Croft will marry, but for now she is rooming with the other nurse Edith.  Now we’re talkin’!

The Ludwills show up carrying “the inert form of a young girl, stripped stark naked and horribly pallid in the lantern glow.”  Croft is immediately taken aback as he did not get them anything.  Turns out that is Ludwill’s daughter, and he is accusing Eula of being a vampire, stringing his daughter up in the woods and drinking her blood.  Sure enough, she does have what appear to be fang marks on her neck.  Although, I prefer to think they were from necking with with Brenda and Edith.


Not to nitpick, but she really is supposed to be naked based on the story.

Croft tells him that Eula is innocent.  And dead.  Unfortunately, this news news to her husband.  Ludwill can’t quite believe it either and asks to see her body.  They go to the hospital but can’t see her body because it is gone.  However, everyone does get a good look at Edith’s body as she has been stripped and hung upside down naked from a rafter.  She too has been drained of blood and has wounds on her neck.

That night Croft and Brenda try to flee the town, but get stuck in the mud.  Croft is knocked out and Brenda is gone when he awakens.  He goes to the Starko house and sees Eula sitting at a table before bowls of blood.  He then hears Brenda screaming in a nearby cave.  He finds the Ludwills have strung Brenda up as revenge.  During a fight, Starko enters the cave and attempts to puncture Brenda’s neck.

Croft grabs him and says, “You’re through killing girls for their blood!”  The doctor describes Starko’s motives and actions with Holmesian precision.  As justice was served, the doctor tells the Ludwills “I will not hold it against you for knocking me out and kidnapping my sweetheart.”  Yeah, and stripping her naked, hoisting her from a rafter, and using her as bait for a killer.  Bygones.  Do come over Wednesday night for Uno.


  • Appeared in Mystery Tales, March 1940.
  • Also that month, Hitler and Mussolini meet in Brenner Pass to confirm their bromance.
  • Archaic words:  Eldritch — weird and sinister or ghostly.
  • Bellem is apparently best know for his creation of detective Dan Turner.  Good article here that makes me want to read more by him.
  • He also turned out dozens of scripts for some of the most popular TV shows in the 1950’s.