Strange Tales #120: "The House Of Shadows!"

Strange Tales #120
 "The House Of Shadows!"
 May, 1964

 Written At Midnight By: STAN LEE
 Drawn By Candlelight By: STEVE DITKO
 Lettered At Twilight By: SAM ROSEN
 Reviewed In Hindsight By: STEVE CHUNG

 The Master of the Mystic Arts does not walk the streets of the city often, nor is he usually seen by the public! When Doctor Strange does appear, all heads turn in his direction... He finally reaches a small cottage on the outskirts of the city. A television show is about to begin and viewers will see a reporter entering an actual "haunted house" to spend the night there! This is a live broadcast and the reporter is ready with his portable microphone! He will report on everything he sees and hears while the cameras are trained on the exterior of the house! Allan Stevens is determined to prove there is no such thing as a haunted house! A woman has heard about this old cottage and voices her concerns to a police officer! Since the program has a permit, the officer's job is to keep the crowds back! As the Master of the Mystic Arts remains to witness the proceedings, he overhears the murmurs from the crowd! When asked if he thinks the reporter will see a ghost, Doctor Strange admits there are things that most of us do not even dream exist! His presence is taken to be on the network's behalf to impress the viewing audience!

 As Allan Stevens enters the haunted house, the Master of the Mystic Arts frees his astral form from his body! Even in this ectoplasmic form, Doctor Strange is unable to enter the invisible barrier which surrounds the entire house! Returning to his physical form, the Master of the Mystic Arts concentrates, and calls upon his enchanted amulet... The amulet glows and its all-seeing eye opens! It rises until it rests upon Doctor Strange's brow!

 He is now able to follow the reporter's progress! As the reporter begins his report, he sees a lamp floating in the air! As mist swirls in and out of the walls, Stevens figures this must be due to the bad lighting, and his overactive imagination! As he continues his report, Stevens suddenly wonders if he has taken leave of his senses!

 The microphone is dead and the live broadcast has ended! As viewers speculate on the legitimacy of the proceedings, the Master of the Mystic Arts prepares to make his way through the crowd! Since none of them are willing to budge voluntarily, Doctor Strange summons the spells of the omnipotent Oshtur! The startled onlookers feel themselves being moved aside by invisible hands... and further opposition to his presence suddenly find themselves floating in the air!

 Reaching the front door, the Master of the Mystic Arts uses his enchanted amulet to unlock the door... and locking it once more upon entering... Doctor Strange sees the floating lamp and the mysterious mists that Allan Stevens had seen earlier! The Master of the Mystic Arts knows what the reporter did not... he knows the secret of the dweller in the shadows!

 He has come to free the reporter and does not fear the swirling mists around him! As the mists form a cell... Doctor Strange prays that his own strength exceeds that of his unseen foe! He calls upon the Dread Dormammu, the Hoary Hosts of Hoggoth, and upon the mystic realm! The fury of the ageless Vishanti is shown and by the Twelve Moons of Munnopor, his will is done! A mystical force-field causes the mists to part and to fade away... In the name of his aged mentor, Doctor Strange dismisses the powers that have served him well! The dweller has witnessed his power and now knows it is greater than his! The reporter must be released...

 The crowd outside see Allan Stevens emerge from the house and his mind is a blank from entering the structure! All the reporter knows is... he will never enter the house again! With the reporter's release, the house is allowed to retain its secret! It has come from another space-time continuum to observe humanity... and has come to be known as being haunted! The door opens once more and the Master of the Mystic Arts faces the living house... He prepares to banish it to the shadowy realm from whence it came!

 The house does not wish to leave, but Doctor Strange is determined to protect mankind, and his will is firm in this matter! The Vapors of the Vishanti drive the house from the sight of man and the mystic hosts of Hoggoth prevent it from ever returning again! The Master of the Mystic Arts has triumphed! The house's disappearing act has members of the crowd believing it was just a network publicity stunt, and the pre-fab house was quickly carted away under cover of smoke! Seeing Doctor Strange coming their way, the spectators are all too happy to let him pass! The Master of the Mystic Arts walks off into the night... while the crowd can only stare after him! They may not believe! They dare not believe! They may scoff and ridicule... but none of them will ever forget what they have seen with their own eyes!

 Doctor Strange comes off as an investigator of the supernatural than the master of black magic he had been in earlier issues.

 Harris Hobbs was a reporter who met Thor and who traveled to Asgard when the God of Thunder fought Loki and the Absorbing Man.

 A haunted house was featured in Journey Into Mystery #75 (December, 1961): "Mister Gregory And The Ghost!"

 One wonders what would happen if Doctor Strange had met Gandalf.

 Who would claim the title of hall pass monitor?

 The Master of the Mystic Arts calls upon the Dread Dormammu, whom he would meet, and duel a few short issues from now.

 Limbo is the home dimension of Immortus, the Space Phantom, and the Dire Wraths.

 Elsewhere in the Marvel Universe, Spider-Man was "Unmasked By Doctor Octopus!" in The Amazing Spider-Man #12 and a battle between the Thing and the Hulk ended when "The Avengers Take Over!" in Fantastic Four #26.

 Steve Chung
 "The Review Of Shadows!"