“Guests of the Hoodoo Room” is a riveting story by Robert E. Howard, blending mystery and suspense in a gritty urban setting. The tale follows Butch Cronin, a tough private detective, as he navigates the dangerous underbelly of the city, driven by both compassion and a relentless pursuit of justice.

First published in Shudder Stories #1 (Cryptic Publications, June 1984). Cross Plains Library has an original draft of this story.

From the letters:

The story was rejected by Margulies (Thrilling Adventures) on January 6, 1936.

Dear Mr. Howard:

There’s some action in GUESTS OF THE HOODOO ROOM that’s fairly good by itself, but the plot is far-fetched and unconvincing. And the final explanation is not plausible, holding no mystery or surprise for the reader.

I’m afraid we’ll have to pass this one up. Shoot something else along.

Sincerely yours,
Editorial Director


The story begins with Butch Cronin considering a high-reward job offered by a wealthy steamship owner, seeking his missing daughter. However, his plans are interrupted by his old acquaintance, Smoky Slade, who brings troubling news about a series of mysterious disappearances from a local flophouse. Butch decides to investigate, suspecting something sinister behind these vanishings.

As the investigation deepens, Butch and Smoky discover that the flophouse, managed by Big Joe Daley, might be a front for a more nefarious operation. They learn that men who rented a particular room have disappeared without a trace, raising suspicions of foul play. Cronin’s gritty investigation leads him through the shadowy corners of the city, uncovering a disturbing network of secrets and lies.

The climax of the story occurs when Cronin, disguised and infiltrating the flophouse, witnesses firsthand the eerie disappearances. After a harrowing encounter, he unravels a shocking conspiracy involving body-snatching and illegal activities tied to the city’s dark underbelly. The resolution sees Cronin exposing the culprits and bringing them to justice, though not without personal cost and a deeper understanding of the city’s corruption.

Map created by Howard


  • Butch Cronin: The protagonist, a tough and resourceful private detective with a deep sense of justice.
  • Smoky Slade: A down-and-out friend of Cronin, who brings the initial mystery of the disappearances to his attention.
  • Big Joe Daley: The proprietor of the flophouse where the disappearances occur, deeply involved in the sinister activities behind the scenes.
  • Dusty Miller: One of the men who disappeared from the flophouse, mentioned in Smoky’s account.
  • Red Olman: Another missing person from the flophouse, known to have a stable life before his disappearance.
  • Clubfoot Kid: A character who ends up in the mysterious room with Smoky, later disappears under mysterious circumstances.
  • Raquel Mendoza: A key figure later in the story, involved in the unfolding drama and revelations about the flophouse’s true purpose.
  • Jack Wiltshaw: Mentioned as a person of interest due to his familial connections and mysterious circumstances surrounding him.
  • Jum Woon: An influential figure with deep connections to the criminal undertakings associated with the flophouse.

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