John Olsen Reviews the Stories in The Shadow #3
Review written and copyrighted by John Olsen; used with
"The Voodoo Master" was originally published in the March 1, 1936 issue of The Shadow Magazine. Dr.
Rodil Mocquino is the sinister voodoo master of the title. The Shadow must
battle the evil of the voodoo cult headed by Dr. Mocquino. The Shadow must free
the zombis from the clutches of Dr. Mocquino. And The Shadow must confront Dr.
Mocquino in his hidden lair. It's one of The Shadow's most amazing adventures
against one of the most insidious masterminds he ever encountered.
It begins when the police consult with Dr. Rupert Sayre about a man with no
name. A man who remembers nothing, who stares straight ahead with bulging eyes,
who has no initiative of his own. A zombi! The police want Dr. Sayre, one of the
highest rated practicing physicians in Manhattan, to determine what mysterious
ailment afflicts the mystery man.
Dr. Sayre has had some experience before with men in this condition. In the
Shadow story published three years earlier entitled "Master of Death", Sayre had
encountered living men who moved about like mechanical figures. They were
victims of a strange brain operation performed by the evil Eric Veldon. The
police, knowing of Dr. Sayre's part in the overthrow of Eric Veldon, have come
to him for assistance.
What the police don't know is that Dr. Rupert Sayre is the personal physician of
The Shadow. It was The Shadow who defeated Eric Veldon, the master of death. And
thus it's not surprising that Dr. Sayre calls upon The Shadow to help him with
this new threat to humanity.
The Shadow determines that this mystery man, this zombi, has been subjected to
no brain operation. No medical procedure has created this living automata.
Something else is controlling him. And that something is Dr. Rodil Mocquino, the
voodoo master from San Domingo.
Eventually, The Shadow is able to return the man to normalcy and discovers he is
Stanton Wallace, recently from Texas. He is newly arrived in New York, and is
discovered to be a member of a voodoo cult. A cult headed by the mysterious Dr.
Rodil Mocquino. Dr. Mocquino plies his evil trade in order to acquire great
wealth and power. It's up to The Shadow to stop him. And in doing so, the reader
is swept along on a thrill-a-minute ride that makes this one of the top Shadow
novels of all-time.
Assisting The Shadow to find the mysterious lair of the evil voodoo doctor is
Hawkeye, Cliff Marsland, Miles Crofton, Clyde Burke, Moe Shrevnitz and Harry
Vincent. Burke appears early in the story and then heads off to Europe on orders
from The Shadow to safeguard one of Dr. Mocquino's intended victims. Detective
Joe Cardona represents the law along with his assistance Detective Sergeant
Markham. The Shadow appears in several disguises in this story. He appears in
his oft-used disguise as Lamont Cranston, the wealthy clubman and world
traveler. He also appears as the police-station janitor Fritz. And he appears in
a new disguise, James Rettigue, an investment broker.
Finally, a few special notes about this story. Dr. Sayre has a featured part in
this story. He is more than just The Shadow's personal physician. He is an
active agent of The Shadow. He knows the secret phone number to contact Burbank,
and is recognized when giving his name. His role is more active than in others
stories in which he appears. This story stands out as being perhaps the single
best showcase of his talents.
The Shadow has a hypnotic gaze here. He doesn't go quite as far as to "cloud
men's minds" as in the radio series, but he definitely has some hypnotic powers
that were left vaguely described. The Shadow also apparently has some medical
training, because he is able to pierce the mystery of the zombi and discover the
medical reason for his condition - something that even Dr. Sayre could not do.
The Shadow's autogiro appears several times in this story. We are told that is a
new improved type of autogiro that is wingless and can take off vertically. The
typical autogyro had wings and needed to taxi a short distance to take off. This
new improved autogiro seems to be more of a helicopter. Lamont Cranston is
identified as the owner of the autogiro, although it is piloted by Miles
Crofton. Crofton also appears at the helm of The Shadow's trim speed boat,
showing he's equally as good at piloting a boat as at the autogiro.
The infamous vial of purplish liquid makes an appearance here. It's given to The
Shadow by Cliff Marsland after The Shadow is injured in a battle with the
minions of Dr. Mocquino. It revives him and gives him added strength. As
speculated before, this mysterious elixir probably had some narcotic base and
had to be used by The Shadow with great caution and only when absolutely
necessary. The Shadow wouldn't want to chance an unintended addiction.
It's interesting to note that when the story was reprinted in the 1943 Shadow
Annual, it was edited down by over 2,500 words. Part of what was removed was any
mention of the swastika. In the original version, the swastika is mentioned
along with a pentagram as a lucky talisman engraved on a unique gold piece of
Dr. Mocquino. This story was written in mid-1935, even though it wasn't actually
published until 1936. And at that time, the swastika had not yet become the
reviled symbol it would be eight years hence. It was merely considered an
ancient good-luck symbol. But when the story was reprinted in the 1943 Shadow
Annual, the swastika was the hated symbol of Nazi foreign aggression. Not
surprisingly, it was excised from the reprint version.
It won't be giving anything away to reveal that Dr. Mocquino is killed at the
end of this story. Two of Mocquino's loyal servants spirit his body away, and
it's never found. This is to pave the way for Dr. Mocquino's return two months
later in "City of Doom". Somehow he comes back to life and once again challenges
The Shadow. And two years after that, he made his third and final appearance in
"Voodoo Trail". The three stories make a great trilogy.
"The Red Blot" was originally published in the June 1, 1933 issue of The Shadow Magazine. Crime
has struck New York. Strange, unexplainable crime. All orchestrated by the
master criminal who leaves behind a red blot. The Shadow must uncover his hidden
hoard of mobsters before he can confront the mastermind known as the Red Blot!
The Shadow is on the case. As our story opens, The Shadow is in his sanctum,
reviewing the crimes that have left men of wealth in terror. A bank messenger
had been shot down in broad daylight. The assailants mysteriously disappeared
after a police chase. Upon the sidewalk where the man had been slain was a huge
blot of crimson. That was how it all began. But it didn't stop there.
A gambling club was the next target of the strange band. Police had arrived at
the club as the crooks were escaping with a large amount of cash. Again, the
perpetrators escaped by some strange unknown method. And on the green felt of
the central card table in the club was a huge dab of dulled crimson. The Red
Blot had struck again.
Then there was the theft of a painting valued at many thousands. Left behind, a
large red blot. Once again the criminals departed with impunity, disappearing
before the police could gather them up. And most recently, a big-time fight
promoter was strangled in his apartment. His bankroll of a hundred thousand
dollars was stolen; on his white starched shirt front was the familiar dread
sign of spattered crimson.
The police were baffled. They had not gathered a single clue. As we view The
Shadow in his sanctum, he begins piecing together what few meager clues his
agents have accumulated. The report sheets and clippings seem to point The
Shadow in the right direction: old Timothy Baruch's pawnshop.
Timothy Baruch is one of the oddest characters on the East Side. He's been a
pawnbroker for years and rumor has it that his safe contains jewels and other
wealth of great enough value to tempt the Red Blot. The Shadow decides a visit
to the pawnshop is in order. Word from the underworld, via his secret agents, is
that the pawnshop will be struck at 11 PM. The Shadow decides to show up early.
With plenty of time to spare, The Shadow appears at Baruch's pawnshop and works
his amazing safecracking skills upon the formidable safe. The door swings open,
revealing an empty interior. The only thing left in the safe is a white piece of
paper containing a crimson splotch in its center. The Red Blot has stuck again!
Who is this strange master criminal who commands the mobs of Manhattan? How is
he able to discover the choicest targets for crime? And how are his underlings
able to make their escape from the traps of the law? In what manner are they
able to disappear, even when surrounded by police? These are the questions that
The Shadow must answer. He will use all his cunning to defeat the mastermind
known as The Red Blot.
In this early Shadow tale, The Shadow works nearly alone. His agent Harry
Vincent is mentioned as having turned in a report, but he doesn't actually
appear in the story. Contact man Burbank appears briefly and gets to speak two
lines; that's all. The Shadow is acting pretty much as a lone vigilante in this
The Shadow appears in disguise as Lamont Cranston, millionaire adventurer and
globe-trotter. He also appears once in the guise of an obscure mobsman
traversing the badlands. And of course he appears in slouch hat, black cloak and
gloves as himself, the master of the night.
Appearing on behalf of the New York Police Department are Commissioner Ralph
Weston, Detective Joe Cardona, Detective Sergeant Markham and Inspector Timothy
Klein. A new police detective is introduced here. Detective Merton Hembroke is
new on the force, but has risen swiftly through fast and effective action.
Commissioner Weston is beginning to look to Hembroke for guidance, where he used
to seek out Cardona. There's a little subtle rivalry going on between the two.
Detective Hembroke actually carries most of the action in this story. Joe
Cardona is mentioned early-on. But he doesn't actually get to show up until the
last few chapters. Until then, when we see the law at work, it's Hembroke and
Weston that are featured.
Commissioner Weston, of course, believes that The Shadow is a myth. Cardona
knows that The Shadow is real. He has encountered him before. But Weston refuses
to allow Cardona to officially mention The Shadow in his reports. After all,
this unknown man could be more than one person, mistakenly identified as the
same man each time. Or he simply might be an illusion of darkness and shadow.
Many of the famous locales originated in these early stories are used here. The
underworld dive known as Red Mike's is mentioned, as is The Black Ship another
infamous hangout for thugs and mobsters. The proprietor of The Black Ship is now
"Louie," Red Mike having opened his own place.
Other now-famous items that we see in this early story include The Shadow's
girasol ring. It contains a rare fire open "unmatched in all the world." In
these early stories, we were to understand the ring originated in the Romanoff
jewel collection. Later, we were told it originated in Central America. And in
the 1970's author Walter Gibson explained that there were actually two such
girasol rings. That explanation conflicted with the assertion in this story that
the ring is "unmatched in all the world." As it turns out, there was a matching
We also get a more complete look at the strange clock in The Shadow's sanctum.
This strange clock was mentioned in various stories, but always the description
was rather vague. It was always described as a clock of curious construction, in
which the hands of a normal clock were replaced by three concentric circles. But
in what way the clock operated was left unspecified. This story clears up the
clock matter quite nicely. It gives a complete description of the clock and how
The clock contains three concentric circles. These circles are stationary; they
don't spin or rotate. The inner circle has numbers 1-12 for the hours. The
middle ring is marked for minutes. The outer ring is marked for seconds. In the
grooves separating these three sections are three small rings. The rings move
around the dials, each encircling a single digit at a time.
One thing I found interesting about the clock is that it is digital, not analog.
That is to say, the ring showing the hour always shows exactly one of the
digits, it's never between digits. For example, at 1:15 the ring for the hour
would not be partway between 1 and 2. It would be centered on the 1 continually
until 1:59:59. When 2 o'clock arrives, then the ring would move from the 1 to
the 2. Similarly the minute and second indicators move in increments, rather
In this early story, The Shadow has never been seen close-up by any living
criminal. This is the more violent Shadow of the early 1930's who shoots to
kill. Any thug who gets too close to The Shadow dies. As this story explains:
"There were mobsmen who claimed to have seen him - but only at a distance. Those
who had met The Shadow face to face no longer lived to assert their claims."
We also get to see The Shadow use his rubber suction cubs to climb the outside
of a brick building. He uses this unique discs to climb to a second story window
of Baruch's pawnshop. This isn't the first time they appeared. Their debut was
in nearly a year earlier in "The Crime Cult." By the time this story appeared,
he had used them in four previous adventures. And he would go on to use them for
years to come.
Does The Shadow's famous vial of purplish liquid appear here? It's hard to say.
In one scene, The Shadow produces a small vial and uses it to revive a groggy
Cardona. But he only places it to Cardona's nostrils. Nothing is imbibed, and no
purplish color is mentioned. So although this may not have been that famous
fluid, I'm guessing it was. The effect of the vial was the same here as it was
in other stories. And it had appeared in other Shadow stories as early as 1931.
I'll hazard a guess that this appearance is of that same purplish liquid.
This is a straightforward gangster tale. Nothing magical or ghostly. No strange
inventions or crazed scientists. It's The Shadow pitted against one of
gangland's most sinister villains. As Commissioner Weston put it, "The most
astonishing case of criminal activity in the history of the New York police!"
Olsen was first introduced to The Shadow in the early 1960's, tuning in to
rebroadcasts of his adventures on KEX radio in Portland, Oregon. Several years
later, John was drawn to a hardback book entitled "The Weird Adventures of The
Shadow," containing three Shadow novels reprinted from the old pulp magazines.
The pulp Shadow was a far different character from the beloved radio version, but
the stories drew him in and opened his eyes to a richer version of the hero.
Today, John is retired in Sherwood, Oregon. He has read all 325 of
the old Shadow pulp mysteries and enjoys them so much that, as of this writing,
he is well over half way through reading them all again for a second time.