1938-09 The Red Terrors

The October 1927 issue of The Strand featured the first part of a new story by A. Conan Doyle. The title was “The Maracot Deep” and it took the readers to the long-lost city of Atlantis. Employing great secrecy, Dr. Maracot sails to the “Maracot Deep” which he discovered on an expedition the prior year. Doyle placed the location some two hundred miles to the southwest of the Canary Islands. Dr. Maracot is back and intends to explore the depths with a bathysphere of his own design. Maracot, Cyrus Headley, and Bill Scanlan board the diving chamber and descend into the depths. In short order, the cable breaks, hopelessly trapping the three men as their chamber descends to the bottom of the pit which is at least twenty-five thousand feet deep. A thick layer of ooze formed from decaying matter covers the sea floor.

Reaching the bottom, near death, they are unexpectedly rescued by a people who live in a vast underground city. Readers soon learn these are the descendants of Atlantis and they have been living in the location for some eight thousand years. They have a vast knowledge of chemistry but know nothing of electricity.
The three men adapt to their new environment but long to return to their homeland. Eventually a communication of sort is sent to the surface by using a glass-like ball filled with an extraordinary lifting gas. The men seal a note into the vessel and send it to the surface. It is found and the world learns they are still alive. Scanlan has built a radio and the men are able to listen to broadcasts from London. They learn that their note has been found and a rescue effort is being prepared.

While they are in Atlantis, a powerful opponent appears. This culminates in a fight for the survival of Atlantis and the defeat of the enemy by Professor Maracot.
Eventually the three men decide to use the floatation balls to return themselves to the surface.

There is a Doc Savage story that uses many of these same ideas. A man sinks to the bottom of the ocean but does not drown. Renny and Long Tom are missing for weeks. A Swedish seaman shows up with a strange bottle found floating in the Atlantic Ocean. Inside are directions to their location. Doc Savage quickly mounts an expedition to that site. Doc Savage, Monk, and Ham descend to the ocean depths in an elaborate bathysphere. They reach the bottom only to have their line cut leaving them on the bottom. Members of an underwater civilization quickly take them prisoner. It turns out these people are fighting against an opponent seeking control of their world. Doc Savage aids them in defeating this enemy.

If you have not recognized it, the story is “The Red Terrors” published in the September 1938 issue of Doc Savage Magazine.
Consider the similarities between the two stories.

In both stories, a group of men enter a submersible and descend to the ocean bottom on a cable from a ship. The cable is separated, and they are trapped on the bottom. There they are taken from their vessel by the underwater inhabitants.
In both stories, a “bottle” was used to send a message from the ocean’s bottom to the surface.

The ship used for each expedition sinks. The wreck is visited, and items removed from the site and taken back to the city.

The underwater inhabitants have lived peacefully for so long that they are unable to put up much fight against opposing forces.

A corrupting influence appears in both stories. Doyle uses a supernatural creature as the personification of evil. Dr. Collendar in “The Red Terrors” is the corrupting influence as he has persuaded several of the priests of the undersea kingdom to join his side.

Radio is unknown to the ocean peoples in each story.

Both civilizations create food products using chemical processes.

Dr. Maracot and his friends encounter a giant crayfish as they descend into the crater.  Doc Savage uses an armoured diving bell that looks like a giant clawed undersea creature.

Lester Dent replaced the ever-present layer of ooze reported in “The Maracot Deep” with a layer of blue gas.

“The Maracot Deep” also ties back to an earlier Doc Savage story, “The Mystery Under the Sea” from February 1936 when Doc Savage and his crew visit the sunken city of Taz. In “The Red Terrors,” Monk surmises that the people in this story are the descendants of the builders of Taz.

Lester Dent describes Taz as being a combination of Mayan and Egyptian styles. Doyle asserts a similar idea stating that the hand of the Atlanteans lay upon both Egypt and Central America.

The people in “The Maracot Deep” have a Thought Projector. Something similar appears in “The Mystery Under the Sea” when Doc Savage visits the Central Library of the sunken city of Taz. There he sees a document with instructions on mental telepathy.

Doyle’s story features a layer of decaying ooze at the bottom of the sunken volcanic crater. There are strange trenches plowed through it by a giant multi-legged worm-like creature. Readers are told about some large tracks in Taz that could be the trail of a giant centipede.

Neither of the Doc Savage stories used the name “Atlantis” but it is clear that it is the unspoken word.

Nicholas Roerich’s The Last of Atlantis

Lester Dent was fond of leaving small clues in his stories pointing to their origins. In this case, one of these clues is the harmonica.

MARACOT DEEP – “He [Scanlan] had a beloved mouth-organ in his coat-pocket when we made our descent, and his use of this was a perpetual joy to our companions,”

The RED TERRORS – ” Our under-sea listening devices have been picking up queer sounds. There was a kind of musical note, something like a harmonica.”
In case you were unaware, a harmonica is also called a mouth organ. Doyle used it simply as a musical instrument. Dent introduced it as a communication device used as a form of underwater telegraphy.

To be sure, there are some significant differences in Dent’s story from Doyle’s but the fundamental kernel of “The Maracot Deep” is a part of “The Red Terrors.”

“The Maracot Deep” appeared in The Saturday Evening Post in the October 8, 1927 issue.

A similar story appeared in the July 22, 1945, Mandrake the Magician Sunday comic strip. Rather than visiting the Maracot Deep, Mandrake and his companions descend into the Atalan Deep.  Not unexpectedly, the cable on their diving bell breaks and they fall into the abyss.