“The Devils of Dark Lake” is an untitled synopsis by Robert E. Howard, written in the 1930s. This story combines elements of horror, adventure, and revenge, revolving around a series of brutal and supernatural events that unfold around Dark Lake.

The first appearance of this was in the Robert E. Howard Foundation Newsletter volume 3, number 1. See also the story THE DEVILS OF DARK LAKE.

Detailed summary

One evening, toward sundown, Steve Gorman receives a frantic telephone call from Joan Grissom on a party line. She is at her cottage on the west shore of Dark Lake, three miles south of Gorman’s location. Joan screams that an ape-like monstrosity is trying to break into her cottage and has already killed her companions, Jack Richards and Harriet Wilkins. Her husband, Dick Grissom, is at his fishing shack four miles further south, where there is no telephone. Despite repeatedly shooting at the monster, Joan’s attempts are ineffective. She screams that it is tearing away the window bars, followed by a rending crash, an awful scream, and horrible laughter. Gorman, without a weapon, races to his car and speeds to the Grissom cottage.

Upon arrival, he finds Harriet Wilkins impaled on the fence pickets, with inhuman finger marks on her throat. Jack Richards, a star football player, lies dead inside the yard with his neck twisted unnaturally. Inside the house, Gorman finds the window bars torn off, a door ripped from its hinges, and Joan missing. He locates her empty gun and rushes to Dick Grissom’s fishing shack. Upon arrival, he notices a car near the shack and finds Joan bound and gagged inside. He is then attacked by a dark-faced servant he recognizes as Joan’s former chauffeur, Strozza, whom he quickly subdues.

Gorman is confronted by an ape-like monstrosity carrying the limp form of Dick Grissom. The creature drops Dick and attacks Gorman, rendering him unconscious. When Gorman regains consciousness, the sun is setting, and a Shroud-Weaver, a giant African spider, is perched on his chest. Just as it is about to bite him, a bullet cracks, killing the spider. Gorman leaps up to find a yellow-skinned man and a woman, Bartholomew and Celia, who explain that Joan’s former suitor, Rackston Bane, is behind the attacks.

Bane, born in China and raised with Oriental ideas, was rejected by Joan three years prior. He returned to the Orient, built a horrific organization, and included Bartholomew and Celia. Bane had aided a rival voodoo man to usurp Bartholomew’s power in Haiti, forcing Bartholomew and Celia to flee. They seek revenge against Bane, who had captured and tormented Celia on Cannibal Island. Bane’s monstrous servant, Esau, hails from a tribe in Mongolia, and Strozza is a half-breed Italian-Somali who sabotaged Joan’s gun with blanks.

Gorman, Bartholomew, and Celia pursue the captors to Cannibal Island. They paddle to the island through the swamps in darkness, with Bartholomew scouting ahead. When his canoe returns with his severed head, Celia swims up the creek, using Gorman as bait. Gorman is ambushed by a cannibal but manages to drown him, escaping alligators to reach the shore. Celia kills another attacker, and they proceed to Bane’s stronghold.

Gorman is captured and bound in a hut with a mad dog lunging at him. He frees himself just in time, kills the dog, and breaks out. In the house, he finds Joan, Dick, and Celia in torturous situations. Joan is naked on an altar, Dick is being slowly lowered into a snake-filled cage, and Celia is crucified on an X-shaped cross. Gorman bursts in, kills Esau and three other servants, and Celia, using her last strength, pulls Bane into the snake cage, where he meets a gruesome death. Celia dies, smiling vindictively.


  • Steve Gorman: The protagonist who races to save Joan Grissom and confronts various horrors.
  • Joan Grissom: The woman under attack by the monstrous servant, later kidnapped by Bane’s men.
  • Jack Richards: A star football player killed by the monster.
  • Harriet Wilkins: Joan’s companion, found impaled on a fence.
  • Dick Grissom: Joan’s husband, captured and tortured by Bane’s men.
  • Strozza: A dark-faced servant and former chauffeur of Joan, who attacks Gorman.
  • Bartholomew: A Haitian seeking revenge against Bane, who helps Gorman.
  • Celia: Bartholomew’s sister, who assists Gorman and seeks vengeance against Bane.
  • Rackston Bane: The antagonist, a rejected suitor of Joan, who orchestrates the attacks and kidnappings.
  • Esau: The ape-like monstrous servant of Bane, from a tribe in Mongolia.
  • Shroud-Weaver: A giant spider from Africa used as a weapon by Bane.
  • Unnamed Cannibal: A former resident of Cannibal Island, who attacks Gorman.

Published in: