1940-08 Tunnel Terror

Cover Date: August 1940
Volume 15 # 6
Copyright Date: Friday, July 19, 1940
Author: William G. Bogart
Editor: John Nanovic
Story Length: 36,262 words
Cover by Emory Clarke
WHMC: There are no materials in the collection for this story.
Recurring Characters. Long Tom and Johnny are absent from this story.


Tunnel Terror by Kenneth Robeson
The Haunted Sky (Bill Barnes) by George L. Eaton
Hell Island by George Allan Moffatt

Doc Savage Club
– No Vacation
– Training Ships
– Loudest Music Ever Heard
– New Device for Pressure
Editor’s Page
– Discussion on tunnel work
– The Avenger, companion book to Doc Savage
– Bill Barnes Magazine coming in July
– The Purple Dragon coming next month

“Tunnel Terror,” appeared in the August 1940 issue of Doc Savage Magazine. The Dent manuscript collection at the University of Missouri in Columbia contain no material for this story. Neither is there any correspondence between Lester Dent and William Bogart about this story in the archives.

There is a serious inconsistency in the story. It begins with a mysterious package addressed to Doc Savage. There is a tremendous amount of searching for this package. Eventually it turns up at a hotel. We later learn that the package was sent by the criminal mastermind. The package contained a single photograph that could easily have been duplicated if the original package was lost. All the activity related to the package was just a dog chasing his tail.

There is also an interesting tidbit in the story. The lost package which is the big mystery for the first part of the story turns up at the Plaza Hotel. Coincidentally, Lester Dent stayed at the Plaza Hotel in Hollywood, California during his western trip in July 1939. During that stay, he wrote a letter to Bogart dated July24, 1939. This is likely the source of the hotel name.

It appears that “The Red Skull” from August 1933 provided the basic superstructure for this story.

  • A dam is under construction.
  • There is a mysterious package. Bandy Stevens had a money belt with important documents. “The Tunnel Terror” has a package that ends up containing a photograph.
  • There is a gas that burns with incredible heat.
  • Chick Lancaster is an analog to Lea Aster who appeared in “The Red Skull.”
  • Someone is trying to ruin the construction company for financial gain.
  • The story climax occurs at the top of the dam.

The ending of “Tunnel Terror” tears off a piece from the January 1940 story, “Mad Mesa.” It turns out that the chemicals in the hot burning gas are also poisonous. The villain was going to use this to poison the water supply if his first scheme failed.

The story has the typical Bogart feel. One notable change is that Doc uncharacteristically calls the local police and turns his captives over to them.

$40,000 in 1940 was the equivalent to over $800,000 in 2022 after inflation adjustment.

Bogart tosses in an amusing passage where Monk and Ham are exploring a farmhouse:

He paused, listening. Monk, too, was peering curiously toward a hallway that divided the house. They were standing in the kitchen, and the sound came from across the hall, from what was apparently a bedroom.
It was a creaking; steady, frequent.

It turns out the sound is coming from a very old man in a rocking chair. I suspect the author, William Bogart also intended the passage to have a sexual connotation by the choice of the bedroom as the location and the use of “frequent” to describe the sound.  It should be noted that the man in the rocker was old and described as being ninety-years old. That’s where the use of the word “frequent” to describe the rocking is unusual. About the only thing most ninety-year-old men do frequently is urinate.

The introduction of the female character, Chick Lancaster, seems to also have a sexual overtone.

“Her slender, boyish form was startingly outlined by the whipcord breeches that she wore. Her flannel shirt, open at the throat, emphasize the lovely curve of her throat.”

Monk Mayfair takes quick notice of her, and she gives him a verbal blast for ogling her.