"Terror stalked the lonely Nicaraguan beach when the Monster appeared from the sea."
As a follow-on to last week's review of Bob Deis and Wyatt Doyle's great new collection, I WATCHED THEM EAT ME ALIVE!, offered today is a little outre gem of a story from the first issue of TRUE WEIRD (November 1955). As you may know from one of my earlier posts, TW was published by physical fitness and health entrepreneur, Joe Weider, along with help from his gorgeous wife and popular figure model, Betty Brosmer.
The TRUE WEIRD (and later, TRUE STRANGE) stories are an interesting combination similar to the type found in men's adventure magazines with a touch of Ripley's Believe It Or Not added for "authenticity".
The cover story from TRUE WEIRD #1 is titled "'Fish' With Human Hands Attacked Me!". Told by Arthur A. Dunn, the story eschews the "I was there...", first-person account that such a story screams out for (although the "victim" does explain the encounter as it happened), and instead, opts for a narrative more akin to a straight news story. As a result, while still interesting to read, it lacks the thrilling urgency that made so many of the men's adventure magazine stories notable.
The feature is derived from a news story that appeared in the Spring of 1954 as a dispatch from Porto Cabezas, Nicaragua (located on the North Caribbean Coast of the country) which flatly stated: "Senorita Madeline Fuercova, visiting friends at nearby Bragman's Bluff, on the Atlantic side of the Central American republic, today claimed to have narrowly escaped an attack by three strange fish. Each fish, she said, had the head of a toad, the chest of a man, and instead of fins, arms like a human being."
The account was related by the "beautiful" Miss Fuercova, who said that she had been skin diving for fish with a spear when the creatures -- who she thought at first were sharks -- approached her. One of them came close enough to her, and when it appeared to grab for her, she noticed that it had a human hand instead of a fin. She jabbed her spear at the would-be assailant, and after a few moments and more spear-jabbing, they swam off. She returned to the beach where she told reporters, "I guess I fainted."
The article goes on to tell the history of a number of other strange creatures who have been pulled out of the sea with inexplicable appendages and other features that make them appear more human than fish. The point of the story is made that many "weird" things that have been living in the oceans for perhaps millions of years have yet to be discovered by man (insert echo chamber voice over here).
Not quite the tale that we expect, especially when the illustrations, drawn by Warren Knight, dramatize Fuercova's narrative. Still, a fascinating story and worthy of the "weirdness" contained in TRUE WEIRD.
Some have compared the description of the sea creatures to that of the gill-man in CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON (Universal), which ironically was released just the year before this story was published. I happen to think that the description is right out of H.P. Lovecraft's short story, "The Shadow Over Innsmouth" and the fish-men here resemble the "Deep Ones". The Deep Ones are described in Lovecraft's story as men who have evolved into fish as a result of a genetic disorder, and who are denizens of Devil Reef which lies just off the coast of the cursed town of Innsmouth (a fictionalized version of Newburyport, Massachusetts).
So, were the "fish with human hands" a wild tale cooked up by a Nicaraguan beauty in a bikini, or were these things real, stalking the waters and waiting for the chance to make a meal out of an unsuspecting human?
As previously mentioned, the story is written by Arthur A. Dunn and illustrated by Warren Knight. The cover of TRUE WEIRD #1 further exploits the tale quite effectively with a painting by prolific pulp artist, Clarence Doore. Along with the full story shown here, scanned from my personal copy of the magazine, is the original, 16"x 22" oil on board painting of the cover, which was sold at auction in October, 2015, for $18,750.00.