You never know what you’re going to find at library bag sales; those things are a great dumping place for anything and everything. Most often they’re a great way for a library to get rid of things it doesn’t need, especially if said library runs its own resale shop and/or accepts book donations. And as a dumping ground, a lot of interesting stuff slips through the cracks. Such was the case here, when I found a bunch of digest horror magazines from the early 1970s.
After the death of Weird Tales in the 1954, a number of short-lived magazines rose up in attempts to fill its place. At least two attempts have been made using the Weird Tales name itself. You could argue that The Twilight Zone, Night Gallery, and The Outer Limits, along with their eventual revivals, were also in the same weird fiction boat. In any case, here are two of the magazines that cropped up in the late 1960s, early 1970s, riding on the growing interest in witchcraft and the occult.
4 issues – September 1969 through January 1970; 6 issues as Witchcraft & Sorcery through September 1974
Here’s a unique little horror magazine, from the Camelot Publishing Company. The editorial introduction espouses the values of Weird Tales and Unknown Worlds, and promises to be that great pulp’s equivalent for a new generation; the fan mail in the next issue attests that there is a vibrant niche market for this, with a half-dozen people praising Coven 13 in the vein of Weird Tales. Alas, that wasn’t enough to save it. After only four issues, it vanished into the ether, never to be heard of again.
I’ve thought about picking up the last two issues, if only to have the complete version of Let There Be Magick—intended to be a five-issue serial, it was completed in four—but every time I look on eBay, either they’re not there, or they go for $10-15 each. I lucked out by finding the first two in a fifty-cents-per-bag sale.
After its four-issue run as Coven 13, the magazine switched names to Witchcraft & Sorcery for a further five or six issues, spread out over the next four years. This new magazine was subtitled “The Modern Magazine of Weird Tales” in case you had any doubts. Both leaned heavily on more straightforward horror: witchcraft, the occult, and a lot of vampire and werewolf tales.
The first cover sets the tone for the series: the paintings by William Stout are very evocative, gritty and foreboding with those streaked lines. Great use of color. Note that the magazine is badly miscut; you can see part of the spine on the left. Stout also does the interior art, standard magazine black-and-white line art.
The magazine contains six short-stories, a novelette, and a serial, none of them from noted authors. (It’s worth noting that most of these authors had their only published story in this magazine.) You can read a full contents list at the ISFDB. Between the miscut cover and the no-name authors, you can see the beginnings of why this magazine died.
Another evocative painting by Stout; I like the painting style—because of how you can tell it was painted—though the subject matter for both is pretty lame. Yay, witches. More going on here than the previous issue, though still not a lot of action; at least both are highly atmospheric. You can tell at a glance what this magazine is all about.
The selection continues a run of no-name authors—one of these days, I’ll get to reading these, so I can comment on their quality—though there is one exception. Harlan Ellison’s “Rock God” gives the magazine a little star power.
The Haunt of Horror
2 issues – June 1973 through August 1973
This is what happens when Marvel tries its hand at a Weird Tales homage of occult and witchcraft. Curtis was an imprint of Marvel Comics, which operated such brands as the Marvel Magazine Group to get around the Comics Code to appeal to older readers, sort of like how Warren got its Eerie and Creepy around the code by making them comic magazines. The Haunt of Horror is also the name of an old Marvel comic, and was reused for this short-lived digest.
Probably the most interesting fact about these was that George Alec Effinger was the assistant editor; he ended up stepping down after the second issue to pursue his career as a fiction writer: probably a good choice, escaping Haunt of Horror before it died soon thereafter, while Effinger went on to write a bunch of slick novels. (I’m thinking of the Audran Sequence.)
Wow, Marvel’s not screwing around. Right off the bat we know what they’re going after: the horror pulps of yore. Look at that cover: death burning up some semi-nude chick surrounded by an assortment of demons and ghouls. As a magazine it skirts the Comics Code, and Marvel knows that damn well, and capitalizes off that fact. (Just wait until next issue; you ain’t seen nothing yet.) You can also feel the Marvel vibes in these issues; the interior art is similar to horror comic output at the time.
Marvel could also bring a lot of star power to the field, including Fritz Leiber’s Conjure Wife serialized in the two issues. The Howard entry is one of his Cthulhu Mythos tales, “Usurp the Night” (aka “The Hoofed Thing”). There’s “Neon” by Harlan Ellison, an R.A. Lafferty and a Ramsey Campbell and a bunch of other stories. There’s also one of Effinger’s “Dr. Warm” stories, under the Diomede name. (As editor, it looks bad when you publish a story in your own magazine under your own byline.)
Thought the last one was pulpy? Kelly Freas cooks up a scintillating cover that brings the most lurid Weird Tales to mind. I’m not sure if that girl could have any less clothing without the magazine getting stuck behind a piece of cardboard or something. A helluva trashy cover, but like all good trashy covers, it grabs your attention—that film of blue drawing your eye to the poor lady, contrasted by the reds and blacks of the horrible occult.
Again, a lot of star power. Anne McCaffrey pens a short story; Leiber’s Conjure Wife concludes; Lin Carter writes an essay on Atlanits; Harlan Ellison makes a return (with Freas interior art!) because Effinger published the last two pages of his story backwards. There’s a second “Dr. Warm” story by Effinger, and a tale by Arthur Byron Cover. It’s an interesting selection of tales; unlike Coven 13, which focused mostly on witchcraft and the occult, the tales in Haunt of Horror are spread all over the weird tales category: some science fiction, some pure horror, and a lot of damn weird stories.
And that’s all she wrote. Ads and promotional material were made for an October issue, which would have included stories by R.A. Lafferty, Ramsey Campbell, and a third Effinger “Dr. Warm” tale. It would have also introduced a letters column, which signals that despite its notable authors, not a whole lot of people were reading it yet.