The Ray of Madness – Captain S.P. Meek

pulpray01Agent Carnes of the Secret Service is paying a visit to Dr. Bird’s private laboratory in the Bureau of Standards.  Things start off with a sinister vibe as Carnes is refered to as an operative rather than an agent.  And Bird has a private laboratory?  And don’t get me started on those bastards at the Bureau of Standards.

They chat about a new element named Lunium.  It is unusual in that it was discovered by using the spectroscopic method on the moon, hence the name.  Such a discovery makes sense in the spectra of the sun and other stars, but the Moon is a rock with no atmosphere, so this is a mystery.

Carnes seems to take the service part of his job more seriously that the secret part.  He knows that “a corpse is a chatterbox compared to [Dr. Bird].”  In strict confidence, he tells Dr. Bird that the “President of the United States acts as if he were crazy.”  And not in the way politicians are usually criminally insane, but “Bugs! Nuts! Bats in his belfry!”

First he showed a failing memory, then a restlessness, then a habit of nocturnal prowling.  He will awaken, rage back and forth in the bedchamber, then go back to sleep.  During the day, he is lethargic, a complete blank at times.  He also keeps his eyes shut and avoids light.

Bird forms a theory, but like Sherlock Holmes, keeps it to himself until he can test it out.  I have a feeling Dr. Bird was intended to be a recurring character.

The story gets very topical as Bird says, “the worship of ISIS was really only an exalted type of moon worship.  The crescent moon, you may remember was one of her most sacred emblems.”  However, he was referring to this Isis.

Using a lot of scientific jargon, Bird is able to deduce that the Russki’s were shining a beam into the solarium where the President had been sleeping.

This one got a little tedious with the experimentation and science, but I could easily imagine Bird in other stories.


  • First published in Astounding Stories of Super-Science, April 1930.
  • Also that month:  Hostess Twinkies invented.
  • The scientific passages make sense now that I see that Meek was a chemist in the military.  He wrote under the names Capt. S.P. Meek, Maj. S.P. Meek and Col. S.P. Meek.
  • As suspected, Bird and Carnes were the subject of many other stories.

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