Mysteries of the Worm

Sunday , 20, November 2016 Leave a comment
Zebra paperback

Zebra paperback

Of any member of the Lovecraft Circle, Robert Bloch was arguably the most successful. As the author of Psycho and a couple of Star Trek (original series), just about anyone would have some vague knowledge of his work.

Bloch sold his first story (“The Secret in the Tomb”) in July 1934 right after graduating from high school to Weird Tales. He rapidly followed up with more having four stories in WT in 1935 and six in 1936. These early stories are all pastiche of H. P. Lovecraft. Bloch wrote the quintessential Lovecraft Lite. This was before August Derleth made the move to write in a pseudo-Lovecraftian style.

Some of these stories were collected in a Zebra paperback from 1981, Mysteries of the Worm. Lin Carter edited the book. In fact, this was supposed to be a start of a new series that was going to be like the Ballantine Adult Fantasy series but more pulp magazine in origin. For whatever reason, the series did not happen.

Here are the contents for Mysteries of the Worm:

Demon Dreaded Lore: Introduction by Lin Carter

The Secret in the Tomb                                                                  Weird Tales, May 1935

The Suicide in the Study                                                                Weird Tales, June 1935

The Shambler from the Stars                                                       Weird Tales, September 1935

The Faceless God                                                                             Weird Tales, May 1936

The Grinning Ghoul                                                                         Weird Tales, June 1936

The Dark Demon                                                                              Weird Tales, November 1936

The Mannikin                                                                                    Weird Tales, April 1937

The Secret of Sebek                                                                        Weird Tales, November 1937

Fane of the Black Pharoah                                                            Weird Tales, December 1937

The Unspeakable Betrothal                                                         Avon Fantasy Reader #9, 1949

The Shadow from the Steeple                                                     Weird Tales, September 1950

Notebook Found in a Deserted House                                      Weird Tales, May 1951

Terror in Cut-Throat Cove                                                             Fantastic, June 1958

Chaosium 1993

Chaosium 1993


There was an expanded edition from Chaosium in 1993 with new introductions to the stories by Robert M. Price. He also added the following stories for this edition:

The Brood of Bubastis                                                                    Weird Tales, March 1937

The Creeper in the Crypt                                                               Weird Tales, July 1937

The Sorcerer’s Jewel                                                                      Strange Stories, February 1939

There was a third edition from 2009 which added even more stories:

The Opener of the Way                                                                  Weird Tales, October 1936

The Eyes of the Mummy                                                                Weird Tales, April 1938

Black Bargain                                                                                    Weird Tales, May 1942

Philtre Tip                                                                                         Rogue, March 1961

With the 3rd edition, you get all of Bloch’s Cthulhu Mythos fiction. Bloch wrote Mythos stories though 1937. He wrote five stories with Egyptian mythology from 1936-38. Some also have Mythos elements. Bloch added to the Mythos mainly by adding medieval sorcerer Ludvig Prinn and his blashphemous tome, De Vermis Mysteriis (Mysteries of the Worm).

3rd edition- Chaosium 2009

3rd edition- Chaosium 2009

Some of these stories, especially the earlier ones come off as slight. Bloch was working thoroughly in a pulp execution. You don’t have the info-dump of Lovecraft but you also don’t have the heaviness.

Bloch began to go in other directions in 1938. “Slave of the Flames” (Weird Tales, June 1938) pointed the direction he would take that would eventually lead to Norman Bates and Psycho. Bloch would experiment with some other story types. He wrote one sword and sorcery story and a few weirds with historical backgrounds including one pirate story.

Going through the stories in Mysteries of the Worm was interesting with the prose stylistic change in the last four stories of the original Zebra paperback. “Terror in Cut-Throat Cove” reminded me a lot of John D. MacDonald’s “Travis McGee” novels in style and setting.

It took me about 16 years to find the Zebra paperback. For whatever reason, not many copies were printed or there was poor distribution. You just don’t see it in used bookstores. I actually got the 2nd edition Chaosium trade paperback first before finding the Zebra paperback at Pulpcon in the late 1990s. Given the choice, get the 3rd edition Chaosium trade paperback because it has the most stories. Robert M. Price’s introductions are always entertaining also.

The 3rd edition is still available. If you have read Lovecraft and interested in reading more Cthulhu Mythos fiction, this is a good starting place.



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