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Frank Frazetta 1963


Prof. Arthur Maxon

Virginia Maxon

Dr. Carl von Horn

Sing Lee

Rajah Muda Saffir


Number Thirteen

Number One

Jack (Number 13)


Bulan (Number 13)


Number Ten

Number Three

Number Twelve

Lieutenant May

Townsend J Harper Jr (Number 13)

The Monster Men

Summarized by
David Bruce Bozarth


The Monster Men was written early in Edgar Rice Burroughs' career during his most prolific decade. This tale, which features overtones of Frankenstein, South Seas pirate stories, and ERB's signature brand of adventure romance, is noteworthy for an expressive philosophical exploration of what makes a human being. Originally published in the November 1913 issue of The All-Story magazine under the title "A Man Without A Soul," this eighth novel by Burroughs had a working title of "Number Thirteen." The Monster Men was not published in book form until 1929 by A.C. McClurg.

Edgar Rice Burroughs created a diverse cast of characters for The Monster Men. Their adventures and travails occur in a rapid fire, often convoluted, series of separate scenes that ultimately culminate in the expected happy ending--but one with a twist!


Professor Arthur Maxon destroys evidence of an experiment in artificial life then takes himself and daughter Virginia away from Ithaca, New York to the South Seas. In Singapore Dr. Carl von Horn is hired to assist Maxon and lead an expedition to the Pamarung Islands. The yacht Ithaca, under command of von Horn, drives off a pirate attack after reaching a tiny island.


Maxon directs the construction of houses and a stockade. Two Malays and a Dyak visit the Ithaca; Sing Lee recognizes one as Rajah Muda Saffir, whose pirates had attacked the ship. He says nothing until later. The party moves ashore to the new accommodations. First Mate Budadreen is very interested in Maxon's heavy truck. Maxon spends days in the "Court of Mystery," a central building inside the stockade. Virginia guesses the nature of her father's work, but von Horn will not confirm. Von Horn works with Maxon and also asks permission to marry Virginia. Maxon adamantly refuses, it is his intention she mate with one of his creations-a perfect man created in a chemical vat. Von Horn refrains from expressing his disgust and leaves.


Maxon's experiments continue over the next two weeks. Sing Lee keeps and eye on Budadreen, who plots with Muda Saffir. Von Horn has reservations about Maxon's imperfect, near brainless, incredibly strong creations. Maxon's hope for success centers on Number Thirteen, still growing in a vat. Maxon again repeats his determination the creature will wed Virginia. Von Horn retreats, shuddering at Maxon's maniacal ferocity. During the night Sing Lee visits the laboratory. There is the sound of breaking glass. At 9 o'clock the next morning Maxon and von Horn discover a handsome white giant beside the broken vat. Meanwhile, Virginia takes a walk outside the stockade. One of Maxon's creatures escapes. Von Horn discovered Number One is missing. In the jungle Virginia screams at first sight of Number One. Sing Lee battles the monster, futilely.


Maxon and von Horn rush out, leaving the workshop door ajar. Number Thirteen follows, to eventually defeat Number One and save Virginia. Von Horn and Maxon find Sing Lee, battered but alive, who leads them after Number One. They find the monster's dead body, then later locate Number Thirteen and Virginia. Von Horn strikes the giant, then fires a pistol. Number Thirteen strangles von Horn until Virginia pleads he cease. Maxon arrives, angry at von Horn's murder attempt, but says little in front of Virginia. Maxon directs von Horn to return Virginia to the campong with Sing Lee. After dark Maxon leads Number Thirteen back to the laboratory.


During the return to the camp, Virginia's interest in the handsome stranger irks von Horn. Intending to marry Virginia for money, and to thwart her father's mad scheme, von Horn reveals the origin of Number One, who attacked her, and Maxon's plans for her and Number Thirteen, without stating that the white man is Number Thirteen. Virginia is horrified. Von Horn proposes marriage. Maxon spends a month educating Number Thirteen. Budadreen obsesses over Maxon's trunk and Muda Saffir's reward for the girl. Budadreen enlists several native crewmen of the Ithaca by secretly showing them the monsters in the Court of Mystery. Von Horn assists in Number Thirteen's training. During one session alone with "Jack" (a name suggested by von Horn) von Horn reveals Number Thirteen's origin and the futility of the creature's desire for Virginia-he is a monster, soulless, less than the beasts, which no woman could love. Jack is stunned, realizing the import, and suggests Maxon must be stopped, even if it takes murder. Later, von Horn plots with Budadreen as regards an escape with Virginia-and Maxon's trunk. After dinner von Horn walks with Virginia in the jungle.


Muda Saffir, growing weary with Budadreen's delay in delivering the girl, leads 500 pirates to the island, landing with a smaller force. Meanwhile, Budadreen and six crewmen watch von Horn and Virginia leave the campong. Number Thirteen, confused and angry, goes to confront and kill Maxon, who is not asleep in his bed. The anger past, Number Thirteen begins to have doubts. Budadreen and company enter the laboratory and remove the trunk into the jungle, unaware they are observed by Muda Saffir. Budadreen and one other escape the deadly pirates, though the compound itself is also attacked. Sing Lee and Maxon are defended by Number Thirteen. Muda Saffir takes the chest, planning to return for the girl. Attending to the wounded Maxon, Number Thirteen and Sing Lee hear a commotion emanating from the workshop.


Von Horn pleads with Virginia to leave the island and marry him as soon as possible. The girl reveals she does not love him. Von Horn is troubled--Budadreen has not appeared to fake the kidnaping and, in the distance, comes the sound of battle. They become separated returning to the camp. Virginia becomes lost. Budadreen finds her and offers a plausible explanation sufficient to induce the girl down to the Ithaca, where she is locked below decks as the ship sails. Von Horn encounters the survivor of Muda Saffir's attack on Budadreen's men and learns things have gone wrong. At the compound von Horn observes Number Thirteen tending Maxon. Determined to see Maxon and Number Thirteen dead, von Horn sends the lascar to the Ithaca then releases the eleven monsters. Sing Lee warns Number Thirteen about the monsters. Number Thirteen uses von Horn's spare bull whip to control the monsters. Maxon regains consciousness and, apparently, his sense of reason and remorse: he disowns and banishes Number Thirteen.


The Ithaca does not fare well in the gale. Having lost all canvas, the ship is wrecked. Budadreen and his men are swept overboard. Hours later the drifting hulk is boarded by headhunters. Number Thirteen wanders aimlessly, disconsolate to be unsuitable for the girl and dejected over Maxon's emphatic dismissal. While awaiting the storm's passing, Number Thirteen contemplates the meaning of "soul." In the morning Number Thirteen takes the eleven monsters with him to search for Virginia. The group arrives at the harbor; von Horn and the lascar hide and watch Number Thirteen and the monsters-and later-Muda Saffir's fleet return and the boarding of the Ithaca. Number Thirteen sees the pirates pilfering the stranded ship then leads his hideous horde aboard when Virginia is taken by Muda Saffir. Muda Saffir orders his prahu to sail away from the fierce battle on the Ithaca's deck. Number Thirteen and his monsters capture another prahu and pursue.


Chagrined at losing the girl, von Horn thinks of Maxon's chest as compensation for his plans. He watches the stranded pirates jury rig the Ithaca and sail. With the lascar, von Horn returns to the campong, disappointed Maxon and Sing Lee still live. Maxon offers his wealth and Virginia's hand if von Horn can save her. Meanwhile, Number Thirteen's prahu lands on Borneo and engages the pirates. A terrific battle is fought; four of the monsters fall and dozens of pirates are killed. Muda Saffir's prahu escapes with Virginia on board. Seizing a different boat, losing two more of the monsters in the process, Number Thirteen renews the chase. The Dyaks captured with the prahu, under Barunda's leadership, are allowed to live as long as they help. Barunda cheerfully complies, realizing the white man they call Bulan (white moon) is only interested in the girl, not the chest. Up river, Muda Saffir forces himself upon Virginia, who defends herself so ably that the pirate leader is pushed overboard.


Ninaka of the Signana Dyaks observes Muda Saffir's fall into the river, but his greed to own Maxon's treasure kept him silent, and he hoped a crocodile would finish the hated Rajah. At daybreak the prahu stops at a native village. Ninaka hides the chest and takes Virginia ashore and hides her. Muda Saffir, on the river bank, conceals himself as Bulan's prahu races up river. Bulan's ship lands at the native village. Barunda and Ninaka form an alliance and order two men to lead the white man and the monsters on a wild goose chase. Meanwhile, the two pirates load chest and girl into a prahu and head up river. That evening Virginia dives overboard and eludes the pirates. She sleeps on the river bank, waking at dawn to face a giant orang outang (sic).


The morning after Virginia's capture by Muda Saffir, von Horn, Maxon, Sing Lee and the lascar sail to Borneo in a small boat. Outside the harbor they find the Ithaca in distress. Von Horn agrees to help the Dyaks if they will lead them to Muda Saffir. Joining forces, the group sails up river and is hailed by Muda Saffir. Von Horn and the Rajah make a deal; Maxon unaware of the details since he does not speak the native language. Elsewhere, Bulan and the five remaining monsters wander, lost. Attacked by Dyaks, fifteen of twenty are killed and stripped of clothing and weapons; two of the monsters die. The next day Bulan, Number Ten, Number Three, and Number Twelve encounter orang outangs. The monsters wish to live with the beasts. Bulan hears a woman's scream in the distance.


Von Horn and Maxon speed up river, following reports of the girl and Bulan. At a long-house Maxon succumbs to fever. A native woman relates a tale of a white girl carried off by mias pappan, which von Horn believes is Number Three. Leaving Maxon, von Horn, Muda Saffir and warriors search for Virginia. Sing Lee follows, hears a jungle battle and woman's scream. Bulan and his monsters fight the apes. Von Horn's group arrives and takes the unconscious Virginia, leaving Bulan and the monsters to their fate. Sing Lee is attacked by Number Ten; Sing Lee kills the monster with a revolver. Bulan and his foes had disappeared. Sing Lee returns, finding Maxon improved, and Virginia happy to see him. That night von Horn pressures Virginia to Marry. Virginia is confused because she believes von Horn saved her, but she continually thinks of the white stranger.


Ninaka murders Barunda, Barunda's men battle, driving Ninaka and his men, with Maxon's chest, ashore. Unable to escape the pursuing pirates while burdened, the chest is buried. Bulan, knocked unconscious during his battle with the apes, licks his wounds then sleeps through the night. Next day he convinces Number Three and Number Twelve to rejoin him. After a difficult day's travel they drink, eat, and sleep on a river bank. During the night Bulan hears voices in the jungle. He observes Ninaka burying the chest. Meanwhile, von Horn overhears a report to Muda Saffir by two of Barunda's men. After Muda Saffir departs, von Horn hails the Dyaks and bribes them to take him upriver to speak with Barunda's uncle, who is still pursuing Ninaka. Hours later, von Horn arrives in time to see the chest buried. Bulan witnesses von Horn's murder of the two Dyaks. Von Horn hastily returns down river, passing in darkness the two war prahus of Muda Saffir speeding upstream.


Muda Saffir attempts to engage the village chief in the murder of von Horn, Maxon, and Sing Lee. The chief demurs, providing two prahu and crew and assisting in the abduction of Virginia. Muda Saffir's party arrives at the spot where von Horn murdered the Dyaks; Barunda's uncle and his men join the Rajah's group. Bulan watches all with interest. Sighting Virginia, Bulan and his monsters, still dressed like Dyaks, move toward the girl. She slips away from the guard, but they are soon discovered. Bulan carries Virginia at a run, over his shoulder she sees the monster fighting a rear guard action; both die. Bulan enters a defensible canon (sic) and ascends to a point where he can hurl large rocks upon the pursuers, many are injured or killed. The superstitious Dyaks retreat. Dawn breaks. Virginia, relieved, looks upon Bulan's face for the first time. "Thank God,"..."I thought I was in the clutches of the hideous and soulless monster, Number Thirteen." Bulan takes the terrible cut in silence.


When asked, he gives "Bulan" as his name. He reveals the sacrifice of the monster to rescue Virginia. Expressing a brief pity, and offering an explanation of her father's madness, she reveals her horror that Maxon intended to mate her with the soulless Number Thirteen. Both deal with philosophical and emotional issues in silence while Bulan agrees to take Virginia to her father. At night Bulan goes without sleep and his outer clothing so that Virginia sleeps warm during the cool mists for four nights. The fifth morning Virginia wakes to find Bulan delirious with fever. Virginia tends Bulan and suddenly realizes she has always loved him.


For a week Maxon, von Horn, and Sing Lee search for Virginia. Von Horn goes along, but his thoughts are for the buried chest. Bulan lay with fever two days. Virginia is curious of the repeated phrase uttered by the man: "nine ninety nine Priscilla." The next morning Bulan awakes, his mind lucid, and learns of the girl's loyalty, yet feels sad she will never love him once she knows his past. At that moment von Horn, Maxon and Sing Lee arrive. Von Horn shoots Bulan, who falls. Sing Lee prevents the coup de grace, disarming von Horn. Von Horn tells Virginia Bulan is Number Thirteen. Virginia takes Bulan's head into her arms, weeping, for she truly loved him, man or monster. Sing Lee reveals that Bulan is not dead and is not one of Maxon's creations-a true man suffering amnesia he found in a drifting lifeboat and substituted for the creature in the vat. Sing Lee lists all of von Horn's deceptions and betrayals. Virginia again avows her love as the recovered Bulan and Maxon reach an accord. Von Horn disappears into the jungle. At the long-house, the three whites and Sing Lee are astonished to see an American naval vessel coming up river.


Lieutenant May explains the navy's presence: they had come to arrest ex-navy man Doctor Carl von Horn. Traveling up river with the navy crew, the ship lands beside von Horn's prahu. A native guides Maxon, Sing Lee, and a dozen Americans into the jungle, where they find von Horn's headless body and the exhumed chest-which is revealed to contain books, not treasure. Three days later the New Mexico leaves Borneo. Bulan and Virginia converse on deck. At the girl's mention of 999 Priscilla the man's memory is returned, it is his father's address. Bulan is Townsend J. Harper, Jr.--wealthy, unmarried, and deeply in love with the girl in his arms.