Pulp magazines and the lure of Egypt

Back when pulp magazines were being pumped out of America’s printing presses by the hundreds of thousands, the publishers had a lot of space to fill. Most were printing dozens of titles, and that volume of content meant that they had the space and opportunity to exploit whatever was gripping the public imagination at the time.

And back in the 1920s and 1930s, nothing was more exotic and intriguing than ancient Egypt — with its mummies, buried treasures, curses and bizarre funeral rites.

Because of that, it’s not uncommon to find alluring pulp magazine covers featuring mummies, golden sarcophagi, pharaoh headdresses and ankhs.

Most of this interest was generated from the discovery of King Tut’s tomb in 1922.

The May 1937 edition of “Dime Mystery Magazine” shown at left features the following stories:

The cycle of interest in Egyptian culture died down soon enough as America got interested in other oddities. By the 1950s, it was aliens and UFOs. In the 1960s, the Cold War got us interested in spy stories. In the 1970s and 1980s, we had ninjas and martial arts. In the 1990s, it was cyborgs and robots.

And now, in the 2000s, pulp magazines — if they still existed — would feature zombies, vampires and pirates as the publishers dug up stories similar to “The Walking Dead,” “Pirates of the Caribbean” and the “Twilight” book series.

In fact, if you look at book stores now, you will find a glut of all this material. It’s just not in magazine form. How else can you account for the existence of “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies” and a bazillion teen vampire books?


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