1934-05 The Mystery on the Snow

Cover Date: May 1934
Volume 3 # 3
Copyright Date: April 20, 1934
Author: Lester Dent
Editor: John Nanovic
WHMC: The collection contains eleven folders for this story, f.159-168
Recurring Characters. The entire Iron Crew are all present in this story.


Free Doc Savage Portrait: Coupon Number 1
The Mystery on the Snow by Kenneth Robeson
Baited Gold by Laurence Donovan
The Calendar Stone by Bruce Harley
Treasure Map in Watch

Doc Savage Club
– Where Do We Fit In?
– The Lure of the Sargasso
– The Snake: Savior

From Our Members
– Richard M. Evans, Tennessee
– D. V. Owens, Wyoming
– Joseph Arroyo, New York
– Nicholas P. Hartman, New York
– Wesley Staton, Long Island


Midnat D’Avis, the female detective from Toronto may have been named after a popular music album.  Singer Jimmie Davis released an album in 1929 titled “Midnight Blues.”  

Midnat is also Danish for midnight.

The story mentions the Schneider Cup.  Doc also heads north in a fast little racer that is described as a small ship that is mostly engine.  The real story here is about aviator Jimmy Doolittle.  If one word could describe Doolittle it would be “speed.”  Between 1925 and 1932, the aviator won the three top trophies in aviation – the Schneider Trophy, the Bendix Trophy, and the Thompson Trophy.   

The fast plane described in the story sounds a lot like the GB Sportster.  This was the plane Doolittle flew when he won the Thompson Trophy in 1932.  The aircraft also made a big shown in the 1991 move, “The Rocketeer.”

Doc Savage locates his missing men using a special detector that picks up sensitive emissions from an unnamed element that has been incorporated into their shoe soles.  He cites an incident where a vial of missing radium was located in a sewer using an electroscope.  The February 17, 1930, issue of Time Magazine carried an article titled “Cantonese Miracle” that described a similar situation where an electroscope was used to find a missing tube of radium.

Doc uses a gas which mixes with gasoline and stops engines from running.

“The Germans are reported to have developed a gas which, when sucked into the cylinders of gasoline engines, will stop combustion, and so bring them to a halt.”
Source: Modern Mechanix, “New Weapons of the Next War,” November 1931

Dent alluded to this story in “The Red Skull.”  The fake telegram from Buttons Zortell told of a radium mine and a miner named Ben Johnson who needed Doc’s help.

Dent sets the story up as a horror fantasy story with Kulden’s account of invisible monsters devouring his companions.  This idea is further reinforced by the mutilated remains found in Midnat Davis’ plane.

Monk mentions an icebox.  This is not a refrigerator but a wooden box that cools foods using block ice.

Ben Lane is hideously disfigured by acid.  This sounds suspiciously like the main character in “The Phantom of the Opera” by Gaston Leroux.  A silent film version of the story was produced in 1925 and starred Lon Chaney as the Phantom.

Knockout drops are used to drug Monk and Ham while they are prisoners of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.

Doc uses his special nerve pinch to paralyze a foe.  The likely target here is the Vagus nerve.  A variation of Doc’s special grip appeared in the Star Trek series where the Vulcan, Spock uses the Vulcan nerve pinch to paralyze opponents.

The story centers on a new mineral which will supplant manganese in the steelmaking industry.

The gas Stroam’s men use is similar to that seen in “Brand of the Werewolf.”

Doc Savage utilizes some special shotguns in the story.  These are probably based on the Trench Guns used in World War I.

Travel over the snow is done by foot or dog sled.

One of the items in the Dent papers at the University of Missouri Western Historical Collection is a card in Folder 2090.  It is labeled “Character Tag” with the following remarks: “A business man who has the habit of drawing red circles around all the colons on his memos.” It ends up in this story and provides a clue as the identity of the villain.

The shortness of the day is remarked on in the story.  Day or only two or three hours long in duration.  If we take Fort McPherson in the Northwest Territory as an example, we can calculate the time of year the story occurred in.  Daytime is about three hours long at this location around December 1.  The days get progressively shorter until the autumnal equinox on December 21 which is the shortest day of the year.  Afterwards the daytime gets longer.  Around the beginning of the second week in January the days again approach three hours in duration.

What this all means is that the story had to take place around during the first or second week in December or else near the first or second week in January.  The amount of daytime changes by eight to nine minutes each day during this time as the Earth progresses through the seasons.

The use of a blimp to explore the frozen northwest is reminiscent of the 1926 polar expedition by Roald Amundsen.  The explorers attacked the arctic in a semi-rigid airship.  The Norge was an Italian vessel piloted by Umberto Nobile.  In 1928, Nobile launched his own polar expedition in the Italia.  Five different flights were planned as part of the expedition.  On the third flight the Italia crashed in the arctic stranding the explorers on the icepack for 49 days before finally being rescued.