Abraham Merritt worked as an editor for The American Weekly magazine, making enough money to travel the world, bringing back weapons and artifacts from exotic locals. He wrote fiction on the side, producing short stories and novels in the fantasy, science-fiction and horror genres. His stories were adventurous, mysterious and the strange. Two of his works were made into films (Seven Footprints to Satan a silent film in 1929 and The Devil Doll from his story “Burn Witch Burn” in 1936). Here’s a sampling of a few of his short stories:
1- “Through the Dragon Glass” (1917) – A man, who became a millionaire by taking riches from the Forbidden City in Peking, suddenly vanishes from his room one night only to reappear there the next day with vicious claw wounds raked across his chest. When his friend comes to visit, he shows him a beautiful polished stone mirror surrounded by 13 carved dragons. He tells him how he passed through the mirror to an unearthly realm with seven moons. There he met a beautiful woman with whom he fell in love. The mysterious place also holds great danger for the man as well.
2- “The People of the Pit” (1917) – Two men exploring the North Pole encounter a badly injured man who crawls to their campsite at the foot of a mountain shaped like a giant hand thrusting out of the earth. The man tells them a wild tale of his own excursion on the mountain. He found a deep hole in its center that contained hewn steps traveling for miles into the earth. There he encountered bizarre things, and his life was put in jeopardy. The story seems to be based off the old hollow earth theories. This is a wonderfully atmospheric tale that is my personal favorite Merritt story.
3- “The Pool of the Stone God” (1923) – A group of five men escape a sinking ship in a lifeboat that shores up on a strange island. They find a perfect square of open space, free of trees. In its center is a large stone pool. The pool has a 20’ statue of a cruel looking man with bat-like wings and outstretched arms beside it. Touching the wings fills the men with nausea, but that turns out to be the least of their worries.
4- “The Drone” (1934) – Four men gather at an Explorers Club to talk. They are learned men of history, the arts and science. Their talks turn to legends involving Werewolves, Leopard Men and Fox Women. The veracity of these old stories are disputed which leads to two of the men relating strange events they personally encountered. The first tale is a creepy one involving a tribal priest who transforms himself into a hyena to eat human flesh. The next man’s tale is about a unique and truly unexpected transformation.
Of these stories listed, “The People of the Pit” is extraordinary, and “The Drone” has always stayed with me for its unique creature.
Article by Matt Cowan