The 1920s

There is some evidence that Clark Savage, Jr., spent some time during the early 1920s studying with various “Indian fakirs,” and that some of the skills he learned from them he put to use later on as “Doc Savage.” If this is so–and Savage has always been reluctant to divulge many of the details of his background–it may well be that some of the “fakirs” he studied under were in fact the product of Mr. Am’s lamaseries, or perhaps even Am himself.

In 1921 Sherlock Holmes' research into longevity bore fruit, as he perfected his "Royal Jelly bee pollen." Holmes' brilliance is unquestioned. However, given his success in discovering a secret hundreds of others failed to discover, and given Holmes' experience in Tibet in the early 1890s, it is not out of the realm of possibility to wonder if Holmes was given some privileged information by a lama or two in Tibet, perhaps by Mr. Am himself.

That same year saw the creation of another hero. George Leicester, an English doctor working in the Philippines, saved an "old fakir" from the plots of the vile supercriminal "Numa Pergyll." In gratitude the "fakir" gave Leicester a portion of his mental powers, including clairvoyance, mind control, and the ability to see into the future. Leicester used these powers to become the crime fighter "Fascinax" and was active through the 1920s. I believe that the "fakir" was one of Mr. Am's lamas, who sought a likely candidate in the Philippines and found him in Leicester. Interestingly, one of the chapters of Leicester's "biography" is entitled "The Message from the Planet Mars," indicating that perhaps Leicester not only served Mr. Am, if unknowingly, but that he also encountered Martians, the agents of the Nine Unknown's masters, the alien Old Ones.

The early 1920s saw another member of the British Secret Service make contact with one of Mr. Am's lamas. Cottswold Ommony, a British agent with many years of experience in the forests of Northern India and the mountains of the subcontinent, was sent to investigate a strange piece of jade and to find some vanished British citizens. Ommony and his dog Diana, a descendant of the British branch of the Wold Newton canines (see my forthcoming article on same and MN's "You weren't nuthin' but a hound dog") trekked into Abhor Valley, a "lost valley" in the Himalayas, and encountered Tsiang Samdup, who claimed to be an agent of the Tashi Lama but was in fact working for Mr. Am's organisation.

The early 1920s also witnessed another Westerner gain special abilities via Mr. Am’s lamaseries, although this one perhaps would have traded his powers for a normal life. Michael Traile, the son of an American couple in India, was stricken while a teenager with a disease which necessitated surgery on his brain. However, the Hindu surgeon who operated on Traile was not as skillful or careful as he should have been, and although he cured Traile of the disease–possibly a tumor of some kind?–he botched part of the surgery and left Traile physically unable to sleep. Traile would undoubtedly have gone insane, but a “yogi” stepped in and taught Traile how to relax his body completely so that it gained the necessary rest, even while Traile remained awake. Traile, grateful for being saved in this way and wanting (perhaps at the prompting of the “yogi”) to do something positive with his life, used the extra hours of the night to train himself in methods of detection and the ways of war. In the 1930s, when the infamous Dr. Yen Sin threatened civilisation, Traile–now known as the “Man Who Never Slept”–was ready to oppose him. While there are undoubtedly many Indian yogis capable of teaching methods such as the one that saved Traile’s sanity, I believe that Mr. Am’s forces heard of the botched surgery on Traile and, seeing an opportunity to create another weapon against evil, stepped in.

In 1922 an American air-man, Kent Allard, encountered another American, a drug-runner named Lamont Cranston, in Shanghai. The pair took a flight together, but their plane crashed somewhere in the Himalayas. The pair were rescued and taken to the “secret city of Shambala.” Cranston revealed his vile nature by killing some of his rescuers and taking hostages, forcing Allard to kill him. Allard then took Cranston’s identity and spent the next three years training as a paladin in Shambala and studying under various immortal Chinese masters, learning the skills he would later put to good use as the legendary crime-fighter, the Shadow. While studying, Allard was given a life-extending formula used by the Shambalans; Allard also met the man who would prove to be his deadliest enemy, Shiwan Khan.

A hidden city, a life-extending elixir, immortal master training men to be potent crime-fighters...all of these things point, with a clarity all the more surprising for not having been pointed out before now, to the involvement of Mr. Am’s lamas. Shambala was, clearly, one of their largest and most effective bases. Unfortunately, Mr. Am’s lamas have never been overly acute in their judgment of men’s personalities, and with Shiwan Khan they made a mistake, as they did with Dr. Nikola before him. Khan turned evil fairly quickly and made use of his longevity and the advanced technology he stole from Mr. Am’s lamas. Interestingly, Khan has stated that he has an East Asian (perhaps Himalayan) home base, which he refers to as "Xanadu" and in which his power is "absolute." Perhaps Khan, early in his career, allied with the Nine Unknown and was given one of their home bases to use? Or, more likely, Khan left Mr. Am's lamas and went to the Nine Unknown, who he used to gain further knowledge, and then left, taking control of one of their own bases.

In 1922 Anton Zarnak, now having graduated from Mr. Am’s lamaseries and returned to New York City, met the man who would later become his greatest servant and friend: Akbar Ram Singh. Singh was not impressed with Zarnak during their first meeting, and it was not until 1925 that Zarnak saved Singh’s life, thus earning Singh’s life-long service. And yet, why did Singh clearly devote his life to Zarnak’s service before having his life saved by Zarnak? I believe it is because Singh was assigned to Zarnak’s service by Mr. Am’s forces. I believe Singh went, first unwillingly, and only truly became Zarnak’s servant and friend after Zarnak saved his life and proved his worth.

Finally, in 1922 the French hero the Nyctalope clashed (for the first time, but not the last) with Leonid Zattan, a man compared, with reason, to Fu Manchu and described as "evil incarnate." Zattan was the "Lord of Issyk-Khoul," a hidden city located in the Tibetan province of Tien-Chan and inhabited by a group of Assassins. (The similarity between "Issyk-Khoul" and the drainless lake of Issyk-Kul in the Tien Shan range of Kyrgyzstan is purely coincidental). Zattan's links with the Nine Unknown have not been definitively established, but given the Nine's ties to other criminal masterminds from Asia and to other hidden cities in the subcontinent it would not be unusual for the Nine to have had some hand in Zattan's ascent to power.

In 1923 fourteen emeralds were stolen from an Indian nadir, and the American criminal the Scarlet Fox was assigned to recover the emeralds by the American Justice Department. He eventually did so, averting a race war in India. I believe that the theft of the emeralds was engineered by the forces of the Nine Unknown, to spread misery and to increase the worship of the Old Ones. The Fox, however, was too skillful and managed to thwart the efforts of the Nine Unknown and recover the emeralds.

That same year saw the revelation to the world of the Nine Unknown and their sinister abilities and plots, courtesy of James Schuyler Grim and his biographer, Talbot Mundy. Grim, better known as “JimGrim,” traveled with his friends on a quest to find the destination of all the money coined through the ages. In the course of this investigation Mundy ran afoul of the agents of the Nine Unknown, forces (in the words of one journalist) “supernaturally powerful and malignant.” The agents of the Nine Unknown demonstrated incredible mental powers, and were initially more than a match for Grim and his friends. In the end, Grim defeated the Nine Unknown’s agents and won a sort of peace, but unfortunately for Grim this was not to last, nor did Grim manage to confront the Nine himself. Perhaps this was for the best, as the Nine were and are incredibly powerful, while Grim was only a mortal man. Then again, Grim had an almost superhuman ability to survive danger, and so perhaps might have triumphed over the Nine after all.

Following on the heels of their defeat at the hands of JimGrim the Nine Unknown suffered another setback when one of their bases, near the city of the "Hellenes" (see the 1880s), was visited by John Wrexham, the grand nephew of Jonathon Wrexham (see 1819) along with two of his friends. Although this encounter, written by the Anglo-Indian writer "Ganpat," was the basis for three novels, the actual ending was not nearly so hopeful as the novel portrayed, with John Wrexham sacrificing himself to destroy the Nine Unknown base.

In 1925 the Nyctalope again became involved with the duel of the Nine Unknown and Mr. Am in his adventure with the so-called “Amazon of Mount Everest.”

In 1926 JimGrim again clashed with the forces of the Nine Unknown, this time a group calling themselves the “Black Lodge.” The forces of the Black Lodge wielded the same strange powers that Grim had encountered before, but fortunately for Grim the result of the battle was the same–Grim’s triumph and the defeat of the Black Lodge.

Interestingly, this battle also revealed a group called the “White Lodge,” whose members strove on the side of life. The “White Lodge,” I believe, is a front of sorts for Mr. Am’s forces. Perhaps “front” is the wrong word for it, because I believe there is such a thing as the “White Lodge,” a group of powerful mystics fighting for good. But I believe they are backed by Mr. Am, and I believe that ultimately they serve him. One somewhat famous member of the White Lodge is the occult detective Dr. Taverner, whose biographer, Dion Fortune, showed him explicitly referring to his enemies as members of the “Black Lodge.” Likewise, Dr. Taverner's knowledge of and use of the Akashic Record puts him in the same company as Chullunder Ghose, the friend of JimGrim and a fellow fighter against evil and the Nine Unknown.

In 1928 another kind of occult detective, Doctor James Livingstone, twice crossed swords with the forces of the Nine Unknown. The first time involved a bloodthirsty man who claimed to be the reincarnation of a Hindu vegetarian. The second time Livingstone dealt with the reincarnation of a famous leader of the Thuggees. Hindu vegetarians are not bloodthirsty, obviously, but the Thuggees are, and I believe both cases were instances of the Nine Unknown trying to control the minds of Westerners and spread chaos in America.

1928 saw a more important event. Kent Allard, now going by the name “Lamont Cranston” on a full-time basis, had given in to his evil side and become a Tibetan drug lord. One of Mr. Am’s agents, posing as a Tibetan tulku, sought Allard out and forced him to repent of his evil ways. Allard returned to the base of Mr. Am’s forces and renewed his training.

Finally, in 1928 the French adventurer Francis Hardant discovered a Nine Unknown base in Tibet. As Hardant's biographer, Guy d'Armen, related, Hardant uncovered a base run by a scientist calling himself "Natas" who made use of advanced technology and used it to produce artificial leprosy, which he used to keep the prisoners of the city captive. (Only he could control the leprosy, via his "Z Rays.") Hardant led the final invasion which destroyed the base, but the final fate of "Natas" is unknown.

In 1929 Dr. Frank Chandler, an agent for the American government, traveled through Tibet and India on an undisclosed mission. While in the subcontinent he trained under a "yogi" and learned a variety of mental skills and powers, including powerful hypnosis. He then returned to America and used these powers to fight crime as "Chandu the Magician." Again, there is no way of knowing for sure, but I believe the yogi who taught Dr. Chandler was one of Dr. Am's lamas. Likewise, the same lama taught Dr. Chandler's friend "Omar the Mystic."

In the beginning
Before the Twentieth Century
The Twentieth Century
The 1920s
The 1930s
The 1940s & Afterward

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