It’s a darn funny place to find a Northern. The April 1926 issue of Weird Tales is remarkable because it featured Robert E. Howard’s first really good story, the cover title, “Wolfshead”. It also had the fourth outing of Jules de Grandin by Seabury Quinn, “Vengeance of India” and best of all, “The Outsider” by H. P. Lovecraft, the 20th century master of horror’s most famous tale. And then, lost at the back, was “The Glacier Lode” by Strickland Gillian. It was his third story.
Strickland Gillian (1869-1954) is famous. His fame lies in poetry. He is on record for the shortest poem in the world but more importantly, the most famous of all Mother’s Day verses. Hardly the stuff of weirdies and ghoulies. Stranger yet, hardly the stuff of the North. No Robert W. Service is he.
“The Glacier Lode” takes place in some unidentified part of the Arctic. The main character is named Soapy Sam, which suggests Skagway. But this Sam is no criminal mastermind. He is a miner with a strange obsession. He has staked out the prime gold-mining locale, the glacier that sits by the town. Reportedly, there is plenty of gold there but Sam will not mine it, nor will he let anyone else mine it. He only says: “I don’t own the Glacier Lode, but I mustn’t sell it or let anyone prospect on it.” Sam patrols the glacier day and night.
Enter Carroll. The miner worries at Sam, trying to get him to sign a partnership to mine the Glacier Lode. Sam refuses again and again. Carroll gets tired of this and sneaks out to the mountain in the night. Soapy Sam catches him digging and shoots off his ear lobe. Carroll escapes.
But Carroll doesn’t give up. He sneaks up on Sam and smacks him in the head with a billy club. The unconscious Sam is taken to the doctor, Raymond. Spending a week, Sam explains what happened at the glacier to cause his mania. While pulling out a great nugget, Sam’s father was crushed by a falling boulder. Sam’s dad said, “We will hold onto this, my son. Wait for me– I’ll be out in a minute.” His last words had stayed with Sam, making him wait for something that could never be.
Between the knock on the head and Dr. Raymond’s help, Sam is cured of his mania. He asks Carroll to join him in mining the Glacier Lode. But he isn’t talking to just Carroll but all the miners.
It makes me shake my head. This story is neither a scary good read, nor is it a particularly good Northern. I suspect it was meant to be humorous but no self-respecting adventure Pulp would buy it. Strangely, Farnsworth Wright did. I understand filler. Sometimes he had to take what he could get. And I understand that Wright was good at spotting potential masters. He was the first to publish Tennessee Williams and Robert S. Carr. But at least they wrote horror stories for him. Just one of those Weird Tales mysteries we may never solve.