Journey Into Mystery #79: "The Man Who Played Dead!"

Journey Into Mystery #79
"The Man Who Played Dead!"
April, 1962

Story: Unknown
Art: Don Heck

A father comes home from work one day and finds a dummy right outside his
door.  He shows his wife the gift-wrapped present, with his wife
wondering where it had come from, and his son asking if they could keep

The enclosed card reads only "Guess who".  The wife figures that it must
be a gift from one of their friends, most likely Bob, who would do this
sort of thing.  The father plans to check it out with his friend
tomorrow, while his smiling son plans to learn how to throw his voice --
just like a professional ventriloquist.  When the family is fast asleep,
the "dummy" sees its chance.  It is not an easy task to pretend to be a
pile of wood, and his joints are as stiff as boards.  The next few
minutes will make the ordeal worthwhile.  Once inside someone's home, it
becomes a simple matter to rob them.  After opening the safe, he pauses
only to inspect its contents, and takes the jewelry.

As he leaves through the front door, the "dummy" knows that the family
will wake up in the morning, and realize that they were the dummies.
Back at his apartment, the mask is removed, and the midget lights up a
cigar.  Folks have made fun of him in the past, but once he is done with
his "dummy" routine, he'll become a rich little man.  Another family find
a dummy at their doorstep, with the real surprise occurring while they're
fast asleep, and their valuables are stolen.

The day comes when the midget reads about J.P. Bentley's return from
Europe, and the ancient Egyptian necklace worth one million dollars.  If
he succeeds in stealing the necklace, he will be set for life.  The
gift-wrapped dummy is found at the doorstep of J.P. Bentley by a butler.
Figuring that it must be a present from the men at the factory, the
industrialist and his wife instruct the butler to place it in their son's
room.  They are sure that Tommy will enjoy it when he returns from
boarding school.  Leaving Charles in charge, the Bentleys step out for
the evening.  After a long wait, the "dummy" figures that the butler must
have gone to sleep.  The safe is tougher to crack than it looks, but he
is determined to open it.

Just as he reaches for the million dollar necklace, the "dummy" is
discovered by the butler.  When Charles attempts to call the police, the
"dummy" hurls the necklace at his face, stunning him.  When they wrestle
for the gun, it goes off, and the butler is now dead.  The sound of
police sirens are soon heard, and the midget burglar figures that he must
have tripped a silent alarm.

With no time for an escape, he runs to the boy's room, and pretends to be
a dummy until the officers leave.  The door is broken open, the butler's
body is found, and the police officers begin their search of the house.
One of them comes across the dummy on the bed, with the midget relieved
that they don't suspect him.  The officer smiles at the sight of the
dummy, then places it in a trunk with the rest of the toys.  As the
lawman resumes the search, the midget is now locked inside the trunk, and
has no air to breathe.  All he can do now is cry out for help -- before
they go.  If he does... he'll be arrested for murder.  If he doesn't...
he'll suffocate.  Either way, he's done for.  It is then that the midget
criminal realizes that he's really been -- a dummy.

This story was reprinted in Monsters On The Prowl #14 (December, 1971).

"The Man Who Played Dead!" is a good title, but I would have gone with
"The Dummy!"

On the splash page, the large figure of the dummy hovers over the shadows
of the city.

I'm surprised that the true nature of the "dummy" had not been discovered
by any of his targets.  I'm guessing that the present had been discovered
late at night, when the family was about to turn in, and the burglary
could occur without much risk.

Charles the Butler wears a green suit and resembles Earth's Mightiest
Butler... Edwin Jarvis.

In reading this story, I'm reminded of the classic Twilight Zone episode
with Cliff Robertson as the doomed ventriloquist.

If I were casting this story for live-action television in the 1960s, I'd
pick Richard Deacon ("The Dick Van Dyke Show") for the part of Charles
and Michael Dunn ("The Wild, Wild West") as the "dummy".

Far from being a babe in Toyland, the midget soon finds himself inside a
trunk, and out of luck.

Steve Chung
"The Man Who Played Review!"