Everyone has heard of Percival Lowell's theories of Martian canals, but have you heard the theory of Mars' vast thinking vegetable and its mammoth eye?
The above is an artist's rendition of the eye of Mars. It's not a metaphorical depiction. What you see is exactly what the theory claimed: (from the caption) "A vast eye, upon a tenuous, flexible, transparent neck raises itself high above the surface of Mars and can watch the growth of its vegetable body upon any part of the surface." Its "vegetable body" is a Mars-hugging super-organism of intelligent vegetable life that creeps along the cracks left in the drying Martian surface (Lowell's erstwhile "canals").
The Martian Eye theory was put forward as an explanation for the shifting white patches just perceptible to telescopes, which less paranoid minds ascribed to mere seasonal snow.
I've mentioned the use of taxidermied tree octopuses as hat decorations and octopus-inspired hair-styles, now here's another example of octopuses as objects of fashion. From the April 23, 1915 edition of the Tacoma Times:
Beach Belle Uses Octopus As Wristlet In Weird Sand Dance
Los Angeles, April 23. — Probably the strangest pet ever adopted by the shrinking sex is the little octopus carried by Miss Diana Rico, a belle of the beaches here. Whenever she goes bathing or strolling along the sands Miss Rico carries the tentacled mascot wrapped about her wrist.
This weird creature of the deep gave Miss Rico an inspiration for a new tango step, "The Dance of the Octopus," which created a sensation when she first stepped its sinuous figures on the beach.
When not clinging to the arm of its mistress, the baby octopus creeps about a little tank built especially for it.
Miss Diana Rico and Her Weird Pet.
While we're there, let's see what else was on the front page of the Tacoma Times that day...
Back in 2005 I posteda version of this image from a WWII pin-up calendar/poster:
Miss November, 1944
Perhaps you wondered, "What did the Army do with all those Japanese-microplane-spray-attack-protection covers after the war?" Well, it turns out they sold the surplus to civilians as "Amazing All-Over Rain-Covers". Here's a 1948 ad extolling their (apparently 106) uses:
Biggest variety of uses of anything you ever owned! Impress your date by picnicking and canoeing in the rain! Awkwardly shuffle through the rain-drenched masses like cocooned vermin! Never again suffer the embarrassment to your male ego of having your gal use a newspaper to keep her party dress unruined! Any rain-avoidance-based thing is possible with the Amazing All-Over Rain-Cover!
What do you get if you cross a Sasquatch with a Tree Octopus? Perhaps something like this:
"Agonizingly he was jerked in the air." (Click for larger.)
This illustration is from the short story "In The Lair Of The Space Monsters" by Frank Belknap Long, published in the pulp magazine Strange Tales of Mystery and Terror #6 (Dec. 1932). (The first three pages of the story, including the illustration, are missing from the linked Google Books preview.)
As innocent this may seem, the fashion of wearing one's hair in the form of an octopus -- popular among the London elite of the 1870s -- would later develop into the wide-spread use of taxidermied octopuses as decoration for hats, that would in turn lead to excessive poaching of the Pacific Northwest Tree Octopus, helping to bring about that species' endangerment.
Here's the first reel of The Trail of the Octopus, a pulpy serial photoplay from 1919. Watch as Carter Holmes (Ben Wilson), master criminologist, and Ruth Stanhope (Neva Gerber), niece of Dr. Reid Stanhope, the discover of the Sacred Talisman of Set (a.k.a. the Devil's Trademark), are drawn inexorably into the clutches of a sinister land octopus (who sadly is only symbolic of the plot and makes no appearance outside of the intro and an advert where he grabs the whole cast):
The 15-part serial follows Holmes and Ruth as they must track down nine daggers that will unlock a rock vault in which Dr. Stanhope hid the Sacred Talisman, which they want to destroy to stop a shadowy conspiracy of cultists and racist stereotypes from attempting to kill Ruth. From a review:
The producers [at first can't] seem to decide on whom they wanted the main villain to be. First it's a group of devil worshipers and their female leader, then we find out she works for this other guy, then we find out he is an agent for this other Arabic bad guy who lives in "the orient." Well that guy in the orient actually works for yet another guy over in the orient, who is a Fu Manchu knockoff. Perhaps he really is the final leader of all the bad guys? There is also a mysterious masked man known as Monsieur X who pops up in the story every so often, but he's someone else completely. Whew!
Serial Squadron, who are in the process of transferring the films to DVD from the only known prints, have a project overview. You'll have to wait until Spring to buy the DVD set if you want to see the semi-complete serial (episode 9 is lost). Here are some posters for the episodes:
The vulnerable portion of the octopus is the neck, and fishermen and others, who know their habits when attacked, always strive if possible to seize them by the throttle-valve, when they are easily killed. This is comparatively easy on land, but nearly impossible in the water. The locomotion of the devil-fish is as easy on land as in the water. They have been known frequently to run up perpendicular cliffs, two hundred feet high, as easily as the fly runs up a wall, the machinery of attachment being very similar. They are said to move on land as fast as a man can run, and frequently pursue their prey out of the sea, though on the land they are far more timid than in their marine haunts. [From World of Wonders (1881).]
But why had they set out on a journey so strange and so hazardous -- through the land of the tree-octopi and the snake-cats, through that horrible, unearthly fungoid forest, and up and up, up into the caves of utter blackness, across that frightful chasm, up to the Tamahnowis Rocks, into the blaze of the sunshine, out onto the snow and ice on Mount Rainier?
Drome, written and illustrated by John Martin Leahy, is a pulp story about a strange underground world, home to a lost civilization that may be the progenitors of ancient Greek culture. It was originally serialized in the Jan.-May, 1927 issues of Weird Tales, and republished as a book in 1952. I'm reviewing the book, which I believe has some differences from the pulp original (a preface, footnotes, and some casual references in the main text to atom-bombs and television that don't seem particularly 1920s-ish.)
The story has two elements of interest to me: 1) it starts in Cascadia (the entrance to the underworld is on Mt. Rainier) with references to regional history and culture and 2) it mentions Cascadian tree octopuses, albeit of an unusual and deadly subterranean variety. So naturally I had to acquire an original copy for the ZPi library and review it.
No. 1.—The Guard by Distance—How to Avoid any Risk of being Hit on the Fingers, Arm, or Body by Retiring out of the Hitting Range of your Adversary, but at the same time Keeping Him within the Hitting Range of your Own Stick.
Your opponent, encouraged by the apparently exposed position of your left arm, naturally strikes at it, but you, anticipating the attack, withdraw it very quickly, and swing it upwards behind you. This upward sweep of the arm automatically causes you to swing your left foot well behind your right, and to draw in the lower part of your body out of your opponent's reach: at the same time it imparts the initial momentum to your right arm, and assists in bringing your stick down very quickly and heavily upon your adversary's head before he has time to recover his balance after over-reaching himself in trying to hit you.