1940-02 The Angry Ghost

Cover Date: February 1940
Volume 14 #6 (Issue #84)
Copyright Date: January 19, 1940
Author: William G. Bogart
Editor: John Nanovic
Bantam Edition #86 January 1977
Sanctum Edition #71
Story Length: 35,593 words
WHMC: The collection contains eighteen folders for this story, f. 623-640.
Recurring Characters. Doc, Monk, Ham, Renny, Long Tom; Johnny is missing.

The Western Historic Manuscript Collection at the University of Missouri in Columbia has many of Lester Dent’s original manuscripts including drafts. The folders for “The Angry Ghost” (f. 623-640) consists of eighteen folders. The collection contains material for 158 different stories. The average manuscript size is just over seven folders. There are only eleven stories that have more than ten folders. Only one story has eighteen folders. This is indicative of multiple versions of the story. Lester Dent complained to Bogart in a letter dated June 12, 1939, that he had spent as much time fixing Bogart’s version of the story as he would have if he had written the entire story himself. Dent states that this is not acceptable work. Dent notes that Bogart’s next story had better show improvement if their business relationship is to continue.

This all goes back to April 6, 1939, when Lester Dent received a letter from William G. Bogart complaining about criticisms from Doc Savage editor John Nanovic over “The Angry Ghost.” Nanovic notes that parts of the story lack any genuine sense of peril, there is too much repetition on the disintegrator, and the story lacks fighting scenes.

Dent has scribbled criticisms on the front and back of the envelope from Bogart. Dent writes “too much rambling” and describes Bogart’s scene with the Treasury Building as weak. Lester Dent answers Bogarts letter on April 10. Dent tells Bogart not to show incomplete stories to Nanovic. Dent agrees with the criticism from Nanovic laid out in the previous letter.

It is interesting to note that the letter is addressed to “Lester Dent, Esq.” The esquire suffix is usually used to denote the person is a lawyer. Otherwise, it is used by the English gentry to signify social class ranking. This undoubtedly goes back to Lester Dent’s short tenure at nighttime law classes which in no way entitled him to use the title.

It is not that Bogart lacked enthusiasm for the story. In a letter dated “circa 1939,” Bogart wrote Dent about the story he was working on. Bogart informs Dent that he is meeting an engineer today. They will meet with a retired U. S. Army colonel who is an expert on seaside battlements. Bogart closes his comments by remarking that he will drive in to see Dent on Tuesday. It is interesting to note that Bogart’s father worked on the manufacturing of the big 14-inch naval guns during the war. The 1910 Federal Census lists the father’s occupation as machinist.
Note: Bogart’s letter has a handwritten notation on the top “circa 1939” but this may actually be from December 1938. Bogart closes his comments by remarking that he will drive in to see Dent on Tuesday. This is likely the trip Dent mentioned in a letter to Bogart on December 20, 1938, saying he would be in New York City between Christmas and New Year’s Day.

The hand of Bogart is very obvious to any reader familiar with Lester Dent’s style. Bogart makes some mistakes.

A gang member shoots Doc Savage, but he is saved by his bullet proof vest. This is old hat to readers. Long Tom asks Doc why he was not killed by the bullet. A later portion of the story explains how all of Doc’s men wear bullet-proof vests. John Nanovic should have caught this.

Doc Savage uses a glass capsule containing an anesthetic liquid that vaporizes after breaking. This is a gimmick familiar to most readers. The gas becomes inert after mixing with air in a minute or so. This gas is different, and Doc Savage turns on an exhaust fan to pull the gas out of the basement garage.

This story appears to have suffered greatly from all the rewriting. Doc Savage encounters a group of Nordic soldiers. Modern readers may take this to mean natives of Norway, Finland, Denmark, Sweden, or even Iceland. However, popular newspaper accounts appearing in print at the time this story was written tend to use the terms Nordic and Aryan interchangeably.

Long Tom and Renny complete an analysis of the destroyed material at Fort Atlantic. Long Tom exclaims that he has discovered what is causing the concrete to break down. Then the pair are captured and taken away. Later when they are rescued by Doc Savage there is nary a word from Long Tom about his discovery.
This story appears to have suffered greatly from all the rewriting.
The Iron Crew is short one member. Johnny Littlejohn is absent with no mention of his name or whereabouts.

“The Angry Ghost” shares some similarities with “The Metal Master.”

  • In “The Metal Master,” someone close to Nan Tester is the villain. In “The Angry Ghost,” someone close to Annabel Lynn is the villain.
  • In both stories, Doc Savage is flying in an airplane that is destroyed by the ray.
  • In both stories, Doc Savage’s headquarters is damaged by the device.
  • During the final battle of “The Metal Master,” Doc Savage uses a gas to incapacitate his enemies. Likewise, in “The Angry Ghost” Doc Savage employs a clever trick and uses gas against his enemy.
  • Both stories mention the breaking of a wine glass by sound as a simplified means of explaining how the destructive ray works.

“The Metal Master” – “No, it doesn’t. Take sound. Everyone knows that the proper note sounded on a violin will cause a wine glass to break. Everyone also knows that a strong electromagnetic field will actually melt many metals. In perfecting this device, those two facts were taken as a basis for experiments.”

“The Angry Ghost” – “Did you,” said the quiet-voiced man, “ever see an opera singer break a wineglass by singing close to it?” … “That explains, in a general way, how our device functions,” the man advised. “Every object has a vibrating point, and that is why the wineglass, for instance, breaks. … In other words, when subjected to a certain wavelength of combination sonic and electric nature, any molecule can be so disturbed—not shattered, mind you, but disturbed—that it loses its cohesion with other molecules.”

The convenient wine glass explanation in “The Angry Ghost” is a good piece of evidence that Bogart/Dent recycled elements of “The Metal Master” into a new story.