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.


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.


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 Inter­net Archive has dig­i­tized copies from the 1920s and 1930s.

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

This site 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.

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.


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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Comments (9)
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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.

  • Jill Farrington says:

    Do you have a newslet­ter I could sub­scribe to

  • Lisa Ostler says:

    I’m search­ing for a copy of “weird tales” that had an unusu­al sto­ry in that it was Not Creepy at all but very sweet and endear­ing. It was about a glad­i­a­tor that becomes San­ta Claus. Ok, ok that’s a pathet­i­cal­ly over sim­pli­fied expla­na­tion… but loved the sto­ry. Used to tell it every year… but can’t find it now to share with grand chil­dren and my hus­band has passed away and col­lec­tion of books is gone. Don’t remem­ber the issue or cov­er.… any idea?… would real­ly love to find this trea­sure

  • Paul says:

    That UNZ web­site you linked us to is a holo­caust denial web­site.….

  • Vik says:

    I was hooked on these mag­a­zines when I was a kid. How I wish I had saved my copies of Weird Tales! I have a name stuck in my mem­o­ry of one of the char­ac­ters in one of these stories–“Katumba the Ter­ri­ble.” Have any of you ever heard this name, or the sto­ry in which it appeared? Many thanks!

  • Roy says:

    Over the last few years, I’ve been run­ning many of the PDFs men­tioned here already through OCR soft­ware, then cre­at­ing HTML ver­sions of the sto­ries. My work is acces­si­ble at the URL below.

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