|Vintage Pulp||May 28 2014|
Above is the cover of an Indian crime magazine called Nutan Kahaniyan, showing a wild-eyed woman delivering a pretty firm message with a broken bottle, circa 1976. Crime magazines have long been popular in India. In fact, the writer Aravind Adiga explained in his great novel The White Tiger that today “rape and murder” magazines are sold in every newsstand in the country, and are particularly popular among poor servants. But he cautions the wealthy to remain calm—even though millions of servants are secretly thinking of murdering their bosses, violent magazines are an outlet for the urge. It’s when servants start reading Gandhi and the Buddha that the wealthy should commence pissing their pants. Today there is still a magazine in existence in India called Nutan Kahaniyan, but as far as we can tell it has nothing to do with the lurid version you see above. Anyway, this is a great little artifact from a country we rarely feature, and we love the cover. We’ll see if we can find more from India moving forward.
|Hollywoodland||Aug 30 2013|
Today we’re getting back to what we do well with some scans and tawdry tales from a mid-century tabloid—this time it’s Uncensored, published this month in 1965. There’s quite a bonanza inside. You get stories on Ray Charles’ ongoing narcotics problems, Jack Paar’s runaway ego, the health fad of Finnish saunas, and the astounding “fourth sex” (castratos, in case you’re curious). There’s also interesting coverage of American socialite Hope Cooke’s marriage to Crown Prince Palden Thondup Namgyal of a place called Sikkim, a Himalayan monarchy that is now a part of India. When Cooke married the prince in 1963 she became the second most famous American to marry into royalty (after Grace Kelly). The marriage made her a Maharajkumari, which has a nice ring to it, but the union was not successful. An amusing subhead on Uncensored scribe Aldo Ceruzzi’s article encapsulates the problem: Sophisticated though she is, it’ll take lots of doing to overlook those concubines!
|Vintage Pulp||Jan 21 2013|
Above is a January 1978 cover for Australia’s Adam, a magazine you know well by now if you frequent this site. The art here illustrates Terry P. Duval’s story “The Final Run,” in which a hapless truck driver picks up what he thinks is a damsel in distress, but who soon shows she’s a pure femme fatale. Adam began in 1946, and this is the magazine near the end—it folded, looks like, in May 1978. Inside this issue you get the usual literary, artistic and photographic treats, including five pages of Patti Clifton shots, plus skiing Nazis, and a profile of the notorious but misunderstood Tokyo Rose, who we wrote about last year. Readers also get to visit a Dakhma, aka Tower of Silence, a Zoroastrian structure where dead bodies—considered in the religion to be unclean—are left to be sun baked and picked apart by scavenging birds, thus preventing putrefaction which would pollute the earth. Mmm. Fun! The author visits a tower near Yazd, Iran, and must have gotten there just before the government shut all such structures down permanently. Today, the only towers still used for ritual exposure are in India. So put those on your travel itinerary. And lastly, on the rear page, you get Paul Hogan in another ad for Winfield cigarettes. Forty-seven scans appear below.
|Intl. Notebook||Dec 6 2012|
Above is a photo of Manhattan, New York City, in the year 1947, looking from Battery Park toward midtown. Here you see everything—the Staten Island Ferry Building at bottom, Wall Street to the right, the 59th Street Bridge crossing Welfare Island at upper right, and in the hazy distance, the Empire State Building—at that time arguably America’s most recognized symbol. In the aftermath of a war that had destroyed Europe’s and Japan’s industrial capacity, the U.S. was the unquestioned power on the planet, with massive economic might, a military that had taken up permanent residence in dozens of countries, and a growing stock of nuclear weapons. Two years later the Soviets would detonate their first nuclear bomb, shaking the American edifice to its core. Meanwhile, all around the world, the seeds of change were taking root. Below is a look at the world as it was in 1947.
Firemen try to extinguish a blaze in Ballantyne’s Department Store in Christchurch, New Zealand.
American singer Lena Horne performs in Paris.
The hustle and bustle of Hong Kong, and the aftermath of the execution of Hisakazu Tanaka, who was the Japanese governor of occupied Hong Kong during World War II.
Sunbathers enjoy Copacabana Beach in Rio de Janeiro, and a military procession rumbles along Rua Catumbi.
Assorted Brooklyn Dodgers and manager Leo Durocher (shirtless in the foreground) relax at Havana, Cuba’s Estadio La Tropical, where they were holding spring training that year. Second photo, Cuban players for the Habana Leones celebrate the first home run hit at Havana’s newly built Estadio Latinoamericano.
Thousands of Muslims kneel toward Mecca during prayer time in Karachi, Pakistan.
A snarl of traffic near St. Paul’s Cathedral in London.
The city hall of Cape Town, South Africa is lit up to celebrate the visit of the British Royal Family. Second photo, during the same South African trip, the royals are welcomed to Grahamstown.
A wrecked fighter plane rusts in front of Berlin’s burned and abandoned parliament building, the Reichstag. Second photo, a shot of ruins in Berlin’s Tiergarten quarter, near Rousseau Island.
A crowd in Tel Aviv celebrates a United Nations vote in favor of partitioning Palestine.
Men and bulls run through the streets of Pamplona, Spain during the yearly Festival of San Fermin.
Fog rolls across the Embarcadero in San Francisco; a worker descends from a tower of the Golden Gate Bridge.
Detectives study the body of a woman found murdered in Long Beach, California. Two P-51 Mustang fighters fly above Los Angeles.
Danish women from Snoghøj Gymnastics School practice in Odense.
Tens of thousands of protesters in Cairo demonstrate against the United Nations vote in favor of partitioning Palestine.
A beauty queen draped with a sash that reads “Modern 1947” is lifted high above the boardwalk in Coney Island, New York.
A woman in Barbados holds atop her head a basket filled with fibers meant for burning as fuel.
Mahatma Gandhi, his bald head barely visible at upper center, arrives through a large crowd for a prayer meeting on the Calcutta Maidan, India.
Major League Baseball player Jackie Robinson is hounded for autographs in the dugout during a Brooklyn Dodgers game.
|Intl. Notebook||Oct 31 2011|
These two shots show two wider angles of the Ivy Mike nuclear test detonated 31 October, 1952 (1 November in some time zones) at Eniwetok Atoll in the South Pacific. We’re reposting this test not because we’re running out of nuclear images (that’s not even remotely possible), but because it’s the only test we can find that occurred on the scariest day of the year, Halloween. But if it doesn’t frighten you, consider this—an independent, non-partisan report released today reveals that the U.S., Russia, France, Israel, China, Pakistan, India and North Korea are all expanding their nuclear arsenals.
|Vintage Pulp||May 30 2011|
This issue of the tabloid The National Insider from today in 1965 gives us Lee Harvey Oswald’s military background, Jayne Mansfield’s thoughts on abortion, and Madelyn Murray’s views on religion. But all those pieces are trumped by the excoriating hatchet job on Marlon Brando written by his ex-wife Anna Kashfi. She reveals that Brando slapped her, tried to bully her into giving up her acting career, and never forgave her for being less than forthcoming about her eastern Indian ancestry. She also slams Harry Belafonte for lying to her to cover for the time Brando spent wooing the French actress France Nguyen. Kashfi had a lot to get off her chest, so much that Insider featured her revelations in four consecutive issues, basically turning her into a guest columnist complete with byline and inset photo. She must have really gotten an appetite for this kind of writing, because in 1979 she published the book Brando for Breakfast, which is still regarded as one of the most shocking tell-alls ever written. In that one she claimed Brando had sex with a chicken. For the love of God, cock-a-doodle-don’t.
|The Naked City | Vintage Pulp||Oct 28 2010|
Above is an October 1930 issue of The Master Detective with an article on “Chicago’s Female Bluebeard,” aka Belle Gunness, a Norwegian-born serial killer who offed practically everyone she ever knew over the course of eight years between 1900 and 1908. Records are spotty, but what is known of the story is mightily intriguing. Her first victim may have been her husband, a butcher named Mads Ditlev Anton Sorenson, who took sick and died on the only day when an expiring insurance policy and a new one happened to overlap. However, it’s possible Belle might have already killed two of the couple’s four kids. Officially, the children died of colitis. Colitis has symptoms similar to those for certain types of poisoning, but no inquest was convened, even though Gunness owned insurance policies on both kids. In the case of her husband, questions were asked, but forensic science being what it was back then, no evidence of foul play was uncovered. Cleared of wrongdoing, Gunness left Chicago.
In 1902, now living on a farm in LaPorte, Indiana she had bought with insurance money, Gunness met and married another Norwegian—Peter Gunness, a local butcher. This man who already shared her last name had two young daughters. One of the girls died of a sudden stomach ailment shortly after the wedding, then Peter himself died when a sausage-grinding machine fell on his head, splitting his skull and killing him instantly. At least, that what it looked like. But what had actually happened is that Belle Gunness had hit him with a cleaver. It should be mentioned that she was about five-nine, went 200 pounds and was physically strong. Belle Gunness was charged with murder, but in the absence of solid forensic evidence, the case hinged on hearsay—namely, that of Gunness’s adopted daughter Jennie Olson, who had told a classmate, “My mama killed my papa. She hit him with a cleaver and he died.” But Olson refused to repeat the statement in court and, since Belle was pregnant, the jury acquitted her. Not long after, young Jennie Olson vanished.
Belle Gunness had acquired butchery skills, and these would soon come in handy. In a local paper she bought an ad in which she described herself as a widow looking for a gentleman. The suitors came calling and the corpses began piling up. It’s impossible to say for sure how many she murdered. Only one fact is certain—she began ordering lots of steamer trunks. The only reason Belle Gunness was ever caught is because her live-in farmhand, a man named Ray Lamphere, had fallen in love with her. Lamphere was well aware of Belle’s activities, and began to make thinly veiled threats when it became clear she wasn’t interested in him. Belle retaliated by firing him then trying to get him locked in an asylum, and Lamphere retaliated in turn by arousing the suspicions of a man whose brother had gone missing on the farm. In the end, she had no choice to but to agree to a police search of the place. The game was up, but that didn’t mean she had to stick around for the conclusion.
On April 28, 1908 the Gunness farmhouse caught fire. By the time emergency crews arrived the place was cinders. In the basement four bodies were found—those of Gunness’s three children and the body of a woman that couldn’t be identified because it was headless. The headlessness pointed to murder, and so police arrested Ray Lamphere. They believed he had killed Belle Gunness and her children, then set the fire to cover up his crime. Continued digging in the basement finally unearthed Belle Gunness’s dental bridge near where the unidentified corpse had been found. It seemed Gunness was dead. Meanwhile, evidence of serial murder emerged when excavations in the farm’s hog pen, pictured above, uncovered a mass grave. Inside was interred the body of Jennie Olson and many other victims. The morbid case became a nationwide sensation.
At trial Ray Lamphere had a novel defense—he said he wasn’t guilty of murder because Belle Gunness wasn’t dead. The jury agreed there was indeed reasonable doubt about this—the body from the fire was about six inches shorter than Gunness, even accounting for the missing head. Lamphere was acquitted of murder but jailed for arson. He would last in prison only for a year before dying of consumption, but before his death he told the whole story. According to him, Belle had been killing for years, usually with a cleaver to the skull or chloroform. She would then dismember the bodies using her butchery skills, and he would help bury the pieces. The motive was simple—Belle was hungry for money. The killings sometimes triggered insurance payments; other times Belle killed after suitors had lent her large amounts of cash.
Ray explained that when the LaPorte police began nosing around, he and Belle forgot their differences and worked out a plan to escape town together. She killed her three children and a local woman whose body would serve as a decoy, left them in the basement of the farmhouse with her dental bridge, and dumped the decapitated head in a swamp. Lamphere torched the place, and they were to meet at a crossroads likeeloping lovers and venture forth toward their new lives. Instead, Lamphere claimed Gunness cut across a deserted wood and ditched him. According to him, she escaped with all the cash from her various insurance murders and scams—some $250,000, or about 7 million in modern money. A check of local banks revealed that her accounts had been emptied just before the fire. Belle Gunness—killer of forty-two people according to Ray Lamphere—had outsmarted everyone and vanished for parts unknown with a fortune.
The Gunness case is one of particular interest to murder historians, partly because the lack of solid records leaves so many gaps in the narrative. The summary you’ve just read follows one line of reasoning, but in truth, there is doubt about where she lived and when, who she met and when, and even how many children she had. There are many questions over whether she actually escaped. Some believe Lamphere killed her and ditched the body. There is also a theory, supported by intriguing circumstantial evidence, that she went on to kill more people in California. DNA tests on Gunness descendants might clear up some questions, but these are pending as of today. In any case, it’s safe to say that Belle Gunness is one of the most accomplished killers who ever lived. Her story—whichever one you prefer—proves once again what we always say here at Pulp Intl. The world hasn’t grown crueler. It was always that way.
|Modern Pulp||Oct 27 2010|
Chennai, India-based Blaft Publications has followed up their acclaimed 2008 collection of Tamil pulp stories with a second volume, which they’ve called Tamil Pulp Fiction II. Original, untranslated copies of Pulp II have been available since April, but the first English copies are just hitting American bookstores this week. We haven’t read any of the stories, but we’re aware of how popular the genre is. In India, pulp paperbacks are sold at every newsstand in the country, along with the incredibly popular crime magazine Murder Weekly. Indian crime writers in general are becoming more recognized worldwide, led by Aravind Adiga, who won the Man Booker Prize in 2008 for his novel The White Tiger. You can learn more about Tamil Pulp Fiction II and read an excerpt at NPR, here.
|Vintage Pulp||Oct 8 2010|
Our copies of National Informer span a time during which the paper was transitioning from typical tabloid to sex magazine. In our issues from 1966 to 1968, you get alarmist political journalism, which by the 1970s becomes drooling quasi-smut, as we see in this issue that first hit newsstands today in 1972. Of course, this shift from commie-baiting to masturbating meant abandoning a rightward leaning readership for a leftward leaning one. Clearly the move was meant to boost readership, but it didn’t work. It wasn’t Informer’s fault, though. All the old school tabloids were taking a beating. Even the venerable National Police Gazette, which had begun publishing lifetimes earlier, in 1845, died during the seventies. But Informer had a shorter history, a smaller audience, and a lower budget. In a tabloid sea where old battleships like Gazette and Confidential couldn’t turn quickly when the weather changed, Informer was a mere speedboat. Turn it did, and quite easily. Hugh Hefner’s Playboy had obliterated America's already battered pubic hair barrier in 1971 and Informer followed in its wake. But more explicitness did not bring more readership, as far as we can tell. National Informer and its sister publication National Informer Weekly Reader were dead by 1974.
|Vintage Pulp||Aug 30 2010|
Above is an August 1962 Master Detective with great cover art of a lady in red being taken into custody, and clearly this isn’t a Wall Street bank she works at, because at those taxpayers’ money is free for the taking. Since it’s getting toward the best part of baseball season over in the U.S., the blurb that intrigued us the most on this cover was the final one, telling us that Tito Francona—father of current Boston Red Sox manager Terry Francona—was somehow involved in solving a murder. We’re told that he “belted a homer that led Tucson police to a killer”, and we were expecting the story to be some kind of convoluted mystery. But no—the blurb is meant literally. Francona hit a home run during a Cleveland Indians spring training game in Tucson and the ball actually landed next to a body that was hidden in brush beyond the right field wall. The body belonged to a fugitive who was wanted for the murder of his unfaithful wife’s lover. He had chosen that unlikely spot to commit suicide by shooting himself. Case solved. So Francona didn’t exactly enter stage right and help unravel a Da Vinci Code style puzzle, but the story is still an interesting historical footnote. Baseball is the type of sport where players and fans tend to believe in curses, so maybe a purification ceremony where the body was found would help the Indians finally win a World Series. It’s been sixty-two years and counting.