83. The Machine that Reads Minds

“The Mental Monster” has a basic plot that centers on mind reading and is for all purposes a rewrite of “The Midas Man” (August 1936). The problem with this story from August 1943 is that the mind reading idea is an entirely new concept to Doc. It is as if the prior adventure never happened. This also happens again in a couple of other later stories that bring up old ideas which reappear as first time adventures.

This idea first appears in the February 1936 story titled “The Mystery Under the Sea.” In this story, Doc visits the sunken city of Taz where he sees a mental plate from the Central Science Library that describes the biological processes associated with mental telepathy. Dent completes the circle six months later in “The Midas Man” (August 1936).

This story is essential rewritten as “The Mental Monster” which appeared seven years later in the August 1943 issue.” Common traits seen in both stories include

  • A machine for reading thoughts.
  • The device is used for financial gain.
  • An overstuffed chair is used to hide the device from unsuspecting victims.
  • The lead female character is connected through a marriage engagement.
  • Thermite is used to destroy the chair.
  • The story climax occurs on a boat.

The Doc Savage seen in “The Midas Man” is not the same Doc Savage found in “The Mental Monster.” Series continuity flies out the window. Mind reading is a new idea to Doc Savage. Doc tells Johnny about it and says it sounds “far-fetched.”

  • Doc Savage is full of mistakes.
  • Doc fails to recognize the sound of a wired-wireless carrier sound. At the same time, he lets a girl sneak up on him and nearly brain him with a club.
  • After a big fight, Doc forgot that he had left one of the white birds in a container out in the woods.
  • Doc is alarmed and shows his emotions.
  • Doc Savage forgets to bring a knife and cannot cut the prisoners loose. We have come a very long ways from the days when he could break the bonds with his bare hands.

In some ways this is a better story than the original.  Dent’s writing skill are much better.  But the normalization of Doc Savage into an ordinary man severely diminishes the story for those who prefer the larger-than-life aspects of the earlier stories.