Download Issues of “Weird Tales” (1923-1954): The Pioneering Pulp Horror Magazine Features Original Stories by Lovecraft, Bradbury & Many More

We live in an era of genre. Browse through TV shows of the last decade to see what I mean: Horror, sci-fi, fantasy, superheroes, futuristic dystopias…. Take a casual glance at the burgeoning global film franchises or merchandising empires. Where in earlier decades, horror and fantasy inhabited the teenage domain of B-movies and comic books, they’ve now become dominant forms of popular narrative for adults. Telling the story of how this came about might involve the kind of lengthy sociological analysis on which people stake academic careers. And finding a convenient beginning for that story wouldn’t be easy.


Do we start with The Castle of Otranto, the first Gothic novel, which opened the door for such books as Dracula and Frankenstein? Or do we open with Edgar Allan Poe, whose macabre short stories and poems captivated the public’s imagination and inspired a million imitators? Maybe. But if we really want to know when the most populist, mass-market horror and fantasy began—the kind that inspired television shows from the Twilight Zone to the X-Files to Supernatural to The Walking Dead—we need to start with H.P. Lovecraft, and with the pulpy magazine that published his bizarre stories, Weird Tales.

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Debuting in 1923, Weird Tales, writes The Pulp Magazines Project, provided “a venue for fiction, poetry and non-fiction on topics ranging from ghost stories to alien invasions to the occult.” The magazine introduced its readers to past masters like Poe, Bram Stoker, and H.G. Wells, and to the latest weirdness from Lovecraft and contemporaries like August Derleth, Ashton Smith, Catherine L. Moore, Robert Bloch, and Robert E. Howard (creator of Conan the Barbarian).

In the magazine’s first few decades, you wouldn’t have thought it very influential. Founder Jacob Clark Hennenberger struggled to turn a profit, and the magazine “never had a large circulation.” But no magazine is perhaps better representative of the explosion of pulp genre fiction that swept through the early twentieth century and eventually gave birth to the juggernauts of Marvel and DC.

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Weird Tales is widely accepted by cultural historians as “the first pulp magazine to specialize in supernatural and occult fiction,” points out The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction (though, as we noted a few days ago, an obscure German title, Der Orchideengarten, technically got there earlier). And while the magazine may not have been widely popular, as the Velvet Underground was to the rapid spread of various subgenera of rock in the seventies, so was Weird Tales to horror and fantasy fandom. Everyone who read it either started their own magazine or fanclub, or began writing their own “weird fiction”---Lovecraft’s term for the kind of supernatural horror he churned out for several decades.

Fans of Lovecraft can read and download scans of his stories and letters to the editor published in Weird Tales at the links below, brought to us by The Lovecraft eZine (via SFFaudio).

Letter to the editor of Weird Tales, September 1923 – September 1923

Letter to the editor of Weird Tales, October 1923 – October 1923

Letter to the editor of Weird Tales, January 1924 – January 1924

Letter to the editor of Weird Tales, March 1924 – March 1924

Imprisoned With The Pharaohs – May/June/July 1924

Hypnos – May/June/July 1924

The Tomb – January 1926

The Terrible Old Man – August 1926

Yule Horror – December 1926

The White Ship – March 1927

Letter to the editor of Weird Tales, February 1928 – February 1928

The Dunwich Horror – April 1929

The Tree – August 1938

Fungi From Yuggoth Part XIII: The Port – September 1946

Fungi From Yuggoth Part X: The Pigeon-Flyers – January 1947

Fungi From Yuggoth Part XXVI: The Familiars – January 1947

The City – July 1950

Hallowe’en In A Suburb – September 1952

Fans of early pulp horror and fantasy—--or grad students writing their thesis on the evolution of genre fiction---can view and download dozens of issues of Weird Tales, from the 20s to the 50s, at the links below:

The Pulp Magazine Project hosts HTML, FlipBook, and PDF versions of Weird Tales issues from 1936 to 1939

UNZ.org has PDF scans of individual Weird Tales stories from the 40s and 50s, including work by Lovecraft, Ray Bradbury, Dorothy Quick, Robert Bloch, and Theodor Sturgeon.

SFFaudio’s Public Domain PDF page contains many scans of full Weird Tales issues, from the 20s to the 50s, tucked in amongst several other genre magazines and a few issues of 19th century title Argosy, the first pulp fiction magazine.

Finally, head over to Melt for more scans of Weird Tales' lurid covers, like those you see here.

And to learn much more about the history of the magazine, you may wish to beg, borrow, or steal a copy of the pricy collection of essays, The Unique Legacy of Weird Tales: The Evolution of Modern Fantasy and Horror.

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Related Content:

Discover the First Horror & Fantasy Magazine, Der Orchideengarten, and Its Bizarre Artwork (1919-1921)

H.P. Lovecraft’s Classic Horror Stories Free Online: Download Audio Books, eBooks & More

Read Hundreds of Free Sci-Fi Stories from Asimov, Lovecraft, Bradbury, Dick, Clarke & More

Download 15,000+ Free Golden Age Comics from the Digital Comic Museum

Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness


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  • BigHead says:

    I’m afraid the link to Melt (for the covers) is incorrect. It leads to another page on this site instead.

  • Josh Jones says:

    Fixed it!

  • Neko says:

    Is there a compilation done of all the issues that can be download with one link?

  • Todd Mason says:

    _Der Orchideengarten_ wasn’t a pulp magazine…and ARGOSY was much more a 20th Century magazine than a 19th Century creature, even if it was converted from the less successful children’s magazine THE GOLDEN ARGOSY just before the turn of the century, becoming the first true pulp-paper fiction magazine in “standard”-size (think NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC and comic books–the default dimensions for magazine height and width in the latter 1980s and early 1900s). In fact, the default dimensions of “mainstream” comics are what they are because a predominance of comic books were issued by publishers also publishing pulps, and not a few parallel titles flourished…PLANET STORIES published Leigh Brackett and her protege Ray Bradbury and Poul Anderson and Charles Harness at the same time as PLANET COMICS came from the same offices, along with their JUNGLE STORIES and JUNGLE COMICS. Ziff-Davis, nowadays known mostly for computer-info branding as ZD, was publishing such magazines as AMAZING STORIES, the same one the Spielberg tv series was named for, and MAMMOTH MYSTERY and FANTASTIC ADVENTURES, which in its best issues at the turn of the ’50s was publishing material to rival WEIRD TALES or the then-new MAGAZINE OF FANTASY AND SCIENCE FICTION, with major work by Fritz Leiber, Theodore Sturgeon, Robert Bloch and others…and spinoff comics such as AMAZING ADVENTURES, and a comics title featuring a durable character, G.I. JOE. Meanwhile, WEIRD TALES was consulted/read through for potential contributions to BEST AMERICAN SHORT STORIES for most of the magazine’s original 1923-1954 run, as looking at those annual volumes will demonstrate…it had a cache far greater than simply being a More Colorful lurid pulp magazine than others.

    And while DO was apparently the earliest commercial magazine (that I’m aware of, as well) to specialize in horror and fantasy fiction, such English-language magazines as THE BLACK CAT and the decadent THE YELLOW BOOK had strong currents of fantasy and horror in their mix…as did the slightly earlier pulp magazine, THE THRILL BOOK. And it was ARGOSY’s companion magazine, with which it was eventually merged, ALL-STORY, which would publish the first Tarzan serial…and ALL-STORY’s title has been revived over the last couple of decades by Francis Ford Coppola and associates as ZOETROPE ALL-STORY…while ARGOSY by the early 1950s was moving away from fiction toward being a more hairy-chested/he-man’s version of ESQUIRE, much as the similar former good-quality pulp fiction magazines ADVENTURE and BLUE BOOK were doing in the same years. That version of ARGOSY survived well into the 1970s, and short-lived revivals of the title as a fiction magazine have occurred twice since…much as WEIRD TALES has been revived several times, eventually for another long, if never hugely popular, run.

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