John Olsen Reviews the Stories in The Shadow #66
Review written and copyrighted by John Olsen; used with permission
"The Ghost of the Manor" was originally published in the June 15, 1933 issue of The Shadow Magazine. Just the title of this pulp story, alone, is enough to make me want to read it. It conjures up images of a tall gray old mansion looming in the dark night. And inside, heirs to a fortune sit among flickering candles awaiting the reading of the will. Any, yup, that’s exactly how this story begins!
The best of all The Shadow pulp mysteries were the ones from the early years, from say 1931 to 1936. So a quick check of the date on this story tells you it’s probably going to be a good one. There were very few clinkers during that time period. And this one doesn’t let you down. It’s a great story; not perfect, but still great.
Our story opens in a classic manner, right out of an old B mystery movie. The night is cloudy and windy as we first see Delthern Manor sitting darkly in a fashionable suburb of the city of Newbury. Caleb Delthern has died, and family attorney Horatio Farman is preparing to meet with the heirs at midnight. They meet in a huge reception hall lighted by flicking candle-light. For years it was rumored that ancestral ghosts had chosen this hall as their abiding place. And old Caleb Delthern’s belief in the supernatural had caused him to provide for the reading of his will within this hall.
If you’re like me, you are already starting to feel delicious chills running up your spine. You can tell this is going to get good! About all it lacks is a storm outside, rain pelting against the windows, wind slamming the shutters and a bolt of lightning to illuminate the night sky. OK, so we don’t get the storm. But everything else is in place.
Let’s meet the heirs of Caleb Delthern. They are five in number. Caleb Delthern had three children, now all deceased. The five present are grandchildren. Winstead Delthern, Humphrey Delthern and Jasper Delthern are sons of Caleb’s eldest. Warren Barringer is the only child of Caleb’s middle child, and Marcia Wardrop is the only child of Caleb’s youngest. They sit around the long table in the middle of the large room, looking at the attorney Horatio Farman. And in the gallery above, looking down on the assembled group, are a pair of eyes. The burning eyes of The Shadow!
As the family lawyer reads the strange terms of the will, The Shadow listens. The estate is worth approximately thirteen million dollars. It will be divided among the heirs who are present at a conference thirty days hence. The eldest of those heirs then present will receive half of the entire estate. The remaining half will be divided equally among the remaining heirs who are present at that conference.
Can’t you just visualize a target painted on the back of the eldest heir? Since Winstead Delthern, the eldest heir, gets the lion’s share of the estate in thirty days, it would seem to provide motivation to one of the other heirs. Motivation for murder! For if he dies within the allotted thirty days, someone else will become eldest heir and will receive a full half of the fortune. Yes, as The Shadow watches and listens from above, he realizes that murder is in the offing. And most likely, multiple-murder!
So, how did The Shadow get mixed up in this entire affair? Well it seems that Warren Barringer, the next-to-youngest of the heirs, has been in China for the past few years. He was notified of the death of his grandfather, and of the reading of the will. Knowing that he could not arrive in time, he authorized by cable a proxy to attend in his place. His proxy was a friend he met in Java, one Lamont Cranston.
Yes, Warren Barringer becomes our proxy hero. Nearly all The Shadow mysteries of the 1930’s had a proxy hero. Warren had met the real Lamont Cranston -- the world traveler and millionaire. But unbeknownst to everyone, the real Cranston was currently in Timbuktu. And taking his place at the New Jersey mansion is The Shadow, disguised as the millionaire so convincingly that not even the servants knew it wasn’t their true master that they served.
The lawyer, Horatio Farman, advises Cranston that the meeting is a mere formality, and that he needn’t attend. So The Shadow doesn’t attend... as Cranston. But as his black-cloaked self, he hides in the balcony gallery of the reception hall, watching as the motivation for murder slowly unwinds.
Three days after that fateful meeting, young Warren Barringer arrives at the New York docks. He is met by Cranston’s chauffeur and is driven to Cranston’s New Jersey mansion. There, we get to see The Shadow in his guise as Lamont Cranston. And we get a rare glimpse into the mansion itself. That alone would make this story worthwhile reading. We get to follow along as Cranston shows Warren his huge house. We see the radio-sending station on the top floor and Cranston’s famed curio room, containing rare object acquired on his trips around the world.
We also get a very nice explanation of how the fake Cranston can get by with his impersonation of another man. Since The Shadow usually has no way of knowing what conversations the true Cranston has had in those overseas encounters, he explains it away in this manner:
“I go and I come as I please. So much so that I often confuse events in my mind. I remember people; but time and places are often troublesome. Let me see - when did I first meet you -?”
And that’s how he discovers that Cranston met young Warren in Java. Apparently it’s a technique that The Shadow uses often, as he meets people who the real Cranston has met around the world. People he has no information on. But he cleverly bluffs his way, convincing them that he is the real Cranston.
As for the plot of the story, the murders begin. The ghost of the manor gets the blame at first. But as the deaths continue, things start to narrow down. The last heir living won’t be the lucky recipient of the fortune. The last heir living will be the unlucky prime suspect in the murders! And only The Shadow can reveal the true murderer and save an innocent heir from false accusation and imprisonment.
The Shadow works alone in this story. Of all his agents that we have met, the only one that appears is Rutledge Mann. Mann helps compile newspaper clippings and other information for The Shadow. We get to see him deliver the envelope to the mysterious “B. Jonas” office in the rundown building on Twenty-Third street. And then his job is done, and we see no more of Rutledge Mann.
Two other familiar characters appear briefly: Stanley, Cranston’s chauffeur, and Richards, Cranston’s butler at the New Jersey mansion. Neither, of course, is aware that they serve an impostor. So they aren’t agents of The Shadow, although the unwittingly assist him.
There’s no sign of Police Commissioner Ralph Weston or Detective Joe Cardona, but then that’s only logical since none of the story takes place in New York. Other than one chapter at Cranston’s New Jersey home, the entire story takes place in the city of Newbury. The local police make an appearance in the persons of Sidney Gorson, the Newbury police chief, and his star detective, Harold Terwiliger.
(Minor spoiler here) The detective Harold Terwiliger gets bumped off by the “ghost” before the end of the story. But in a strange and bizarre way, he extracts vengeance from beyond the grave. It’s pretty cool, actually. Author Walter Gibson allows the murderer to receive justice from a dead man. I won’t go into more detail, or this would become a major spoiler.
A couple points of interest. We get to see The Shadow wearing his famous girasol ring. He shows it to Warren Barringer when he’s disguised as Cranston, and later at story’s climax when he appears at The Shadow. As Cranston, he tells Warren the story of the ring’s origin.
“A girasol,” explained Cranston. “It is a variety of fire opal; and this particular stone is unmatched in all the world. It is one of the genuine jewels of the Romanoffs.”
In later stories we heard a different version of the origin. In those stories, the ring was supposedly given to Kent Allard (The Shadow’s true identity) by the Xinca Indians who rescued him from his crashed plane in Guatemala, and who worshipped him as a white god.
It was in the 1970’s when author Walter Gibson explained the discrepancy in the ring’s history. It seems that the girasol stone wasn’t “unmatched” after all. There were actually two matching stones -- eyes in a Xincan idol. One was stolen from the Indians and eventually found its way into the Romanoff collection, and from their ended up as a gift to The Shadow. The other stone was retained by the Xincans, until it too was given to The Shadow.
In other points of interest, Cranston’s age was described as being indeterminate. Young Warren, when he meets The Shadow as Cranston in the New Jersey mansion, can “make no estimate as to Cranston’s age. The man might have been anywhere between thirty and fifty.” All of which, of course, just adds to the mystery of The Shadow. Who was he, really? How old was he? Was he really in the Great War? It wasn’t until four years later that Gibson revealed to us that The Shadow was actually Kent Allard.
We are also reminded that Prohibition is still in effect. One of the thugs in the story carries a bottle in his hip pocket, obtained from some speakeasy. Prohibition, America’s fourteen-year experiment in being alcohol free, ended on December 5, 1933, about six months after this magazine hit the newsstands.
Did you ever wonder if The Shadow’s adventures ever overlapped? Well, in this story, they do. It’s one of the rare times that we are told of another case while in the middle of another story. In this story, during the month-long wait and between murders, there is apparently a lull. And The Shadow uses that time to thwart a bank robbery in Cincinnati. It’s described in the newspaper clipping that Rutledge Mann is gathering in that one scene. It’s good to know that The Shadow is capable of multi-tasking.
One last thing that I thought was interesting. At our story’s end, The Shadow writes in his journal. This massive volume contains The Shadow’s handwritten accounts of all his adventures. He finishes writing his concluding comments about the case. And beneath the final statement, he marks a mysterious symbol. What that symbol was, we aren’t told.
Now it seems to me that I’ve seen reference to that mysterious symbol mentioned in at least one other Shadow pulp novel. But for the life of me, I can’t remember which one. I don’t think it was ever explained. It was just one more cloaked mystery of The Shadow. What was the symbol? Perhaps a small caricature of The Shadow himself. Perhaps some strange talisman he encountered in his travels. Or perhaps, and this is my favorite conjecture, it was a Chinese symbol. The symbol of Ying Ko! But, unfortunately, this is all just conjecture, since Walter Gibson never specified.
This was an enjoyable Shadow pulp novel to read. There’s the old grandfather clock that strikes twelve. Secret passages in the mansion walls. Strange laughter in the night. A pretty young girl in peril. And The Shadow working in the background, hiding in... the shadows! Whew! This one has it all! It makes for a great story; one of my favorites!
"Foxhound" was originally published in the January 15, 1937 issue of The Shadow Magazine. Our master criminal, the megavillain in this piece, is named Foxhound. His name is also used as a password; the first guy says “Fox” and the second guy responds with “Hound.” Devilishly clever, these fiendish crooks of the nineteen thirties! But even more clever is the nemesis of the underworld, The Shadow. And it will take all the skill and cunning of The Shadow to defeat the hidden mastermind known only as Foxhound.
One scene in this pulp mystery features a hypodermic needle being stabbed into the base of a victim’s skull. Another scene showcases a beautiful blue-eyed blonde who loves to torture and kill. When a victim dies, it’s with plenty of spurting blood. And the criminal mastermind himself rules from a huge underground complex. What does all this point to? That the story was written by Theodore Tinsley, of course!
Yes, this was Ted Tinsley’s second Shadow novel, his first being “Partners of Peril” two months earlier. And it has many of the trademarks that have come to be associated with Tinsley. Tinsley’s women could be, and were, bad girls. Very bad girls. Unlike Gibson’s stories, in which women were innocent and never died, Tinsley wasn’t afraid to have an evil woman... and a woman could die. Not only that, he added an “edginess” to his writing. His stories were a little “pulpier” than Gibson’s. There was a touch more sex and violence. Spurting blood and silky thighs. Villains were often sadists who enjoyed a little torture. He also liked to put caves, tunnels and underground hide-outs in his stories. And he was fond of trains, although trains were just about the only thing not in this story.
Our story opens in a court of law. A trial is in session. Shades of Perry Mason! But the defense attorney is no champion of justice. He’s Alonzo Kelsea, the highest-priced and shrewdest criminal lawyer in the city. And he’s about to get habitual criminal Jimmy Dawson declared innocent on the charge of murder.
It seems that Jimmy Dawson had sneaked aboard the oceanliner Loire, killed Herbert Baker, and ransacked his cabin looking for something. Upon exiting the ship, he was stopped by police detective Pat Malone. He pumped bullets into detective Malone, not realizing a longshoreman was an eyewitness to the brutal murder. The law couldn’t prove the murder of Herbert Baker aboard the ship, but they had a open-and-shut case in the murder of Pat Malone. Or so they thought.
In the back of the courtroom, Police Commissioner Ralph Weston and millionaire Lamont Cranston watch the proceedings. They watch as the eyewitness is discredited. They watch as beloved philanthropist Leland Payne gives weasely Jimmy Dawson an ironclad alibi. No one can question his word, when he states that Dawson had been with him at the time of the murder. And Cranston and Weston watch as Jimmy Dawson is released, found innocent.
How did this strange turnabout of affairs come to be? How could Jimmy Dawson, who had neither friends, influence or money, afford to hire attorney Alonzo Kelsea? Kelsea’s minimum retainer was fifty thousand dollars. And how did Dawson manage to obtain an alibi from New York’s most trusted philanthropist? That’s what The Shadow wants to know. He also wants to know why Dawson killed Herbert Baker. Dawson wasn’t indicted for the crime, but The Shadow knows he was responsible. What was Dawson looking for in the stateroom? And who is behind the strange scheme?
The answer to all those questions can be summed up in a single word: Foxhound! It is the tall, muscular figure in cloaked silver-gray known as Foxhound who has made off with twenty-million dollars. It is Foxhound who must obtain something that was secreted aboard the ship Loire in Herbert Baker’s cabin. It is Foxhound who controls a vast empire of crooks from his underground lair. Yes, the name of all this evil is Foxhound.
Assisting The Shadow in this titanic battle of good vs. evil are his agents Burbank, Clyde Burke, Harry Vincent and Moe Shrevnitz. Also assisting the forces of good, from police headquarters, are Commissioner Weston and acting inspector Joe Cardona.
The Shadow gets to use his long-time disguise of Lamont Cranston, while the real Cranston is conveniently out of the country. He also appears as an unnamed dignified business man. And, although another of his disguises is never identified as Phineas Twambley, the description certainly fits: a tall, white-haired old man who speaks in a gentle, rather high-pitched voice.
We don’t really have a proxy hero, in this story. Probably because we aren’t sure who the good guys are. Just about everyone acts suspiciously, so we don’t know who to root for. There is a bit of a love interest between philanthropist Leland Payne’s young niece, Madge, and Doctor Bruce Hanson. Hanson is a young research specialist in the field of cancer treatment. Both young Hanson and Madge act a bit suspicious at times, but since they are in love, it seems a fairly safe bet to assume they are actually innocent. So, in a sense, these two become our proxy hero and heroine. We don’t actually get to see all that much of them, so the “proxy” title is more honorary than anything else.
Author Theodore Tinsley offers many interesting and curious incidences. But often, he never really explains them by story’s end. He’s probably figuring we’ve forgotten by then, being carried away by the story’s action. But I still want to know... the man murdered on shipboard, Herbert Baker. Why were his fingerprints hopelessly disfigured by acid? Why did Leland Payne accuse his niece of treachery with his dying words? And why does Foxhound speak in a harsh metallic voice that sounds like a poorly recorded photograph record? None of this is ever explained.
Tinsley does offer some unique thrills that are a nice chance of pace. One scene has two thugs using, instead of a normal gun, a special short-barreled pistol that shoots a stream of ammonia into the eyes of their adversaries. And their adversary is The Shadow. He gets a stream of ammonia gushing straight into his eyes, which certainly puts him at a disadvantage.
The Shadow really gets bashed around in this story. That’s another tell-tale sign of a Tinsley authored Shadow novel. His characterization of The Shadow was a bit different from Walter Gibson’s. His Shadow was a bit powerful, but he also was wounded more frequently. In this story, he gets that squirt of ammonia in the eyes. He’s hit on the head numerous times, so many that this poor guy must have had multiple concussions. And he’s shot pretty severely near the end. He takes a bullet to the right side of the chest. Yes, Tinsley really liked to put The Shadow through his paces, and make him earn his victories the hard way.
And The Shadow isn’t the only one. Poor Harry Vincent gets a knife thrown at him. It pierces the palm of his hand, pinning him to the wall. Ouch! That’s really gotta hurt. And when Clyde Burke gets a murderous slug pumped into his body by a treacherous killer, the blood spurts from his neck. The Shadow’s agents really get a shellacking in this story.
Tinsley wrote a pretty good Shadow yard, for only his second try. He doesn’t quite get everything right, but the oversights are minor. For example, he has Moe Shrevnitz talking in a raspy voice. That was never his signature in Gibson’s writings. When Clyde Burke is shot, he is taken to a private hospital that is maintained and operated by the wealth of The Shadow for just such an emergency. This is a public “accident ward” that Tinsley has The Shadow using. Now if Gibson had written this, Burke would have been taken to Dr. Rupert Sayre’s private clinic. So, there’s a few minor things like these that Tinsley didn’t get quite right. But things would get better as he continued writing for The Shadow magazine.
Some interesting tidbits from this story. The dirigible Hindenburg is mentioned in this story. A valuable painting is reported to have just arrived on the lighter-than-air ship. Ironically, it would be less than four months later when the dirigible would crash in flames, resulting in one of the biggest news stories in U.S. history.
In another scene, Tinsley has The Shadow using the sharp cutting edge of his girasol ring to cut a section out of a pane of glass. We all know that a diamond can cut glass, but I wasn’t sure about a girasol. So I did a little research. Glass has a hardness of about 5.5 and a girasol’s hardness ranges between 6 and 7 (a diamond is 10). So it looks like Tinsley did his own research, too. He wasn’t just making this up, as I first assumed.
In one scene lawyer Alonzo Kelsea is described as wearing body armor under his clothing. I know they had bullet-proof vests back in the 1930’s, but I wasn’t aware of any other body armor. Tinsley doesn’t elaborate any further, which is unfortunate. I’m curious to know what types of body armor were available to a lawyer back then. Notice how scrupulously I’m avoiding lawyer jokes, here.
The climax of the story takes place in an old abandoned iron mine. A small opening in the side of a cliff leads to an ancient tunnel. The Shadow follows it until it leads to a huge cavernous opening in the bowels of the earth, a chamber so big that it easily contains a large underground lake. Here, The Shadow confronts Foxhound in a setting that would be right at home in a James Bond novel.
And then, in the last few paragraphs as the story ends, we are given a quick preview of the story in the upcoming issue of The Shadow Magazine. It’s “The Loot of Death.” There was a short period of time when The Shadow Magazine promoted the next issue’s story, but it didn’t last long. Doc Savage Magazine, another Street & Smith pulp, consistently promoted the next story on it’s last page, for the entire run. But it was unusual for The Shadow.
The story is a good one. The writing is slightly more “intense” than the usual Walter Gibson fare. But a dash more violence and a slightly less infallible hero don’t hurt The Shadow at all. It makes for a fun and pulpy read that I can recommend.
John 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.