Queer Horror

Conquering the Demon Within
The History of GLBT Horror Pulps

[ Introduction | The Demon Within | The Demon Turned Out | Conclusion]
The Gay Ghouls by Chet Roman


The pulp novel reflects the development of queer folk during the modern GLBT movement. Now mind you, the movement hasn't been around altogether that long. In America, for example, many consider the movement to have started in the 1960s, with the defining moment being the Stonewall Rebellion in 1968. But even within this brief timespan, queer culture drastically changed.

Demon's Stalk by William J. Lambert, III Before and during this time, queer folk had very few places to turn to support their sexual orientation. One way that they could support each other, learn more about their sexuality, and see themselves reflected as 'normal' was in pulp novels. Pulps were cheaply printed books that began to appear in the 1940s. The hope of the printers was to get great works of literature out to the masses. But, instead of making these works more readily available, they served as a way to spread trash, often with no discernable plot lines and with two-dimensional characters. Books so poorly written that no publisher would touch them now had an audience.

The heyday of pulps for queers started in the late 1960s, and continued through the 70s; and all sexualities were represented. Lesbians appeared most frequently, but generally as a way to titillate heterosexual men, rather than lesbian women. But, some of the stories were written by women for women. In addition, many gay, bisexual and even transgender stories were also written.

The Demon Within

The Daemon by Peter Tuesday Hughes The earliest of the queer horror pulps gives those of us used to a more modern, gentler time and idea of what those who came before us had to deal with. Many of the pulps begin as though they are addressing an audience ready to lynch them. The forewords often times explaining why GLBT folks weren't inherently evil and how they needed to learn to stand up for themselves and fight back. Many others, however, gave the impression that gay life was a sad, empty, cruel and meaningless life. Too often they refer to 'twilight lovers', 'strange men' and 'hidden evil' when describing queers.

An all-too-common theme in many of the forewords of these books is in challenging the new field of 'psychology.' During this time, queer folk were labeled as aberrant, deviates and psychosexual. With a new terminology and the label of 'science' to back it up, psychology threatened to continue the persecution of homosexuals that religion had begun.

		   at China Cove by Jon Dark In doing research for this article, I found it increasingly difficult to figure out what pulps would have horror contents. Some were fairly easy to pick out, such as Three on a Broomstick by Don Holliday in 1967 and Gay Vampire by Davy S. [pseudonym] in 1969. And many were easy to automatically dismiss with names such as Raunchy Truckers or Daddy's Little Boy. But a large number of pulps fell somewhere in between. Black Room Terror, Deliver Her To Evil, The Evil Friendship and dozens of other titles caught my eye as having potential. It became obvious that instead of finding pulps that dealt with GLBTs in horror, I discovered a time period where GLBT folk were the horror.

In 1970, three pulps were published in the queer horror genre. The Gay Haunt by Victor Jay, The Gay Ghouls by Chet Roman and Demon's Stalk by William J. Lambert, III had very different storylines, but remarkably similar thought processes behind them. In reading them, you could feel the authors trying to break away from their own self-hating attitudes, but never completely succeeding. The gay folk in these stories were sexually depraved, sure, but they also desired relationships. And even though "a relationship" didn't actually mean monogamy (this was pre-AIDS, after all), it did begin to show that gays were a bit more than one-dimensional creatures only able to backstab anything with which they weren't actively having sex. Gay men were also shown to be a bit more masculine than they were represented in the media, and were seeking other men who were comfortable with being gay.

Dark Brotherhood by Jonathon D'Etange But overall the stories still give the air of one who is trying to show the positive side of evil. All three stories have the main gay male character being raped, and most secondary gay characters are killed off. But, a little slack must be provided here, after all what would the field of horror be without a little loss of life in secondary characters? In The Gay Haunt, we see a gay man who is so fed up with being gay that he 'becomes straight', only to have his gay friends seduce him back to his former state of queerness, partially by raping him.

The self-hating undercurrents continue during the early 70s in two other novels; Daemon by Peter Tuesday Hughes, written in 1972 and Devil at China Cove by Jon Dark in 1973. In these, gays are still able to have relationships and are quite a bit more masculine, but not the most moral of people. Daemon shows how fragile gay men can be and how quickly they accept 'gay for pay,' while DaCC portrays gays as getting whomever they want, even if they have to drug them.

These books did serve to highlight how tightly intertwined were the concepts of gays and demons. Demon's Stalk portrayed gay men as vessels for the antichrist, while Daemon lightened it up a bit by just making gays willing to sell their souls for power. DaCC rounded out the trio by showing that gays could somewhat master demons and keep them at a private seaside resort. While the threadbare plots were different, the three agreed on one thing, gay men were convenient means to spread evil.


Dark Master by P.H. BennettThe Demon Turned Out

The intermingling of the subjects of gays and demons continues throughout the 70s. And, as gays became more publicly accepted in the media, the forewords justifying their existence had vanished. But the subject matter seemed to show that gay men felt that they were a private battleground of good and evil, having to fight every step of the way.

The 'demon' which had been within gay men at last appeared to have been exorcised. No longer were gays plagued by demons to unleash their evil against the innocent. But, it also became clear that the demon was not actually exorcised, since it had never actually existed within. Instead, the demon was better understood as being forced upon queer-folk by the community at large, or by smaller 'secret societies' that held great power.

Devil's Phallus by Scott McBrideOne such example is Dark Brotherhood by Jonathon D'Etange, written in 1977, which showed a slice of middle America trying to coerce gay men into doing evil deeds by drugging them, brainwashing them and finally possessing them. But, the gays fought back and won using the power of love. Dark Master, a 1978 pulp by P.H. Bennett, doesn't show quite as noble a side of gay-folk as a gay prostitute is sacrificed to the god Pan after seducing half the men in a small town. But again, here the evil of the gay man using and abusing the townsfolk is dwarfed by the EVIL of society.

But trends do not change instantaneously, as Devil's Phallus by Scott McBride, also printed in 1978 shows us. In this pulp, gay male sacrifices gay male to his own, personal gods. The men seem to gain power through the subjugation of each other, and ultimately invoke Kali as the final solution to their conflict. But, while this is a less than noble characteristic, it is considered more as a heterosexual male trait than a homosexual one. So, while the men might be cruel, self-aggrandizing, amoral monsters, at least they were the same as the rest of society.



The short-lived phenomena of the pulps allow us to see a side of gay life of the past that isn't normally seen. Freed from the insistence of publishers to write things only if they'll sell and make money, writers were able to write what they really felt. But within this short lifetime of the pulp, there was a definite transition in the thoughts of gays. What started with an apologetic approach to describing the evil within us slowly transformed into an understanding that the evil isn't internal, but rather is foisted on us by society. This understanding was reflected in the plots, which changed from the need to protect them from us to a complete reversal in which we are in constant danger from them.

Further readings

A special thanks to Quatrefoil Library for the use of their collection of gay pulps.

To Queer Horror Articles

Queer Vampires Queer Werewolves Queer Ghosts Queer Demons Queer Dark Thrillers Other horror beasties Frequently Asked Questions GLBT horror books Movies and TV shows Other websites of interest Original queer horror stories Articles Chat with others Interviews with queer horror folks Search this site Give feedback to team Miscellaneous