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Literature / Simon Ark

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Simon Ark was the protagonist of a series of short stories by Edward D. Hoch.

Simon Ark looks to be an ordinary man in his sixties but he claims he is actually over 2000 years old, a Coptic priest who travels the world looking for evil—specifically, Satan. It is said that he is cursed by God, that when Jesus carrying the cross wanted to rest, Ark refused him rest and in turn has never known rest himself, doomed to wander the globe forever. The narrator of the Ark stories, Simon's publisher, believes that the immortality story is just something Simon came up with to make himself sound mysterious, but he does admit that Simon has not visably aged in all the years he has known him. The immortality element is not played up in any way and is just incidental to the stories.

The Simon Ark stories have supernatural themes, although the crimes in them are always found to have been committed by mundane means.


The Simon Ark stories contain examples of:

  • Amateur Sleuth: Simon claims to be a Coptic priest. Of course, he also claims to be 2000 years old, and searching for works of the devil. What he finds is usually more mundane.
  • Anachronistic Clue: In the short story "The Weapon Out of the Past", Simon identifies a diary supposedly written during the American Revolution as a forgery because it uses the word "silhouette", an eponym not coined at the time.
  • Burn the Witch!: Discussed in "The Witch is Dead". When the eponymous witch is found burned to death inside her locked trailer, The Watson wonders if she was burned for being a witch like at Salem. Simon points out that the witches at Salem were hanged (with one pressed to death).
  • Cutting the Knot: In one story a magician doing an escape trick is placed in a wardrobe that is chained and padlocked shut. To ensure no tampering with the padlock, a matchstick is snapped off in the keyhole and wax poured over the top. When the wardrobe is opened the next day, the magician has been murdered and the lock is untampered with. Simon later explains the devastatingly simple method the killer used. The killer cut the lock off, then replaced it after the murder with an identical looking padlock: snapping off a matchstick in it and sealing it with wax to replicate the original. With the matchstick and wax, there is no way to verify that original key actually fits the lock.
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  • Faking the Dead: In "The Gravesend Trumpet", two conspirators fake the death of the one of them, making it look like the work of an ancient curse. However, one of conspirators is planning to later murder the other, taking advantage of the fact that everyone already thinks they are dead.
  • Fresh Clue: In "The Automaton Museum", Simon deduces the killer's identity when he discovers that the automaton in the victim's office has 23 minutes of time left on its spring, meaning it cannot have been running for more seven minutes after the murder.
  • Hanging Judge: "The Judges of Hades" takes its title from the nickname given to a trio of small town judges (two of whom end up dead). The DA describes their judgements as being devoid of human mercy.
  • High-Voltage Death: All of the victims is "The Avenger from Outer Space" are electrocuted.
  • Interdisciplinary Sleuth: Simon claims he gains a lot of his investigative talent from his time as Coptic priest.
  • Locked Room Mystery: Many of the stories involve some kind of variation on the locked room mystery. The implication is usually that some sort of occult forces are involved. The reality inevitably turns out to be something much more mundane.
  • No Name Given: The narrator is never named in the stories.
  • Occult Detective: This is what Simon claims to be, or at least claims to be trying to be. It's not really his fault that the mysteries he uncovers aren't really all that occult after all, now, is it?
  • "Scooby-Doo" Hoax: The series was using this as a standard device before the Trope Namer was born.
  • Serial Killings, Specific Target: In "The Avenger from Outer Space", a killer makes a carefully planned series of murders look like the work of a local lunatic.
  • Shout-Out: In "The Automaton Museum", the murder victim has his office laid out identically to the victim's in the Father Brown story "The Invisible Man".
  • Spontaneous Human Combustion: In "The Witch is Dead", Mother Fortune is found burned to death inside her locked trailer with nothing else touched. Spontaneous human combustion is suspected, but it is actually murder.
  • Tampering with Food and Drink: In "The Faraway Quilters", the Victim of the Week has her drink spiked with chloral hydrate, which causes her to pass out and fatally wreck her car.
  • Wandering Jew: Simon claims to be over 2000 years old and says that he was cursed by God for refusing to allow Jesus to rest while he was carrying the Cross. Whether this is true, a delusion, or an elaborate deception on Simon's part is left as an exercise for the reader. Another story suggests Ark was instead the author of a fraudulent gospel so pious that God was unable to punish him with hell or reward him with heaven, and so left him on the Earth instead.
  • The Watson: Simon's publisher, who is also the narrator, fills this role.
  • Woman On Fire: In "The Witch is Dead", Mother Fortune is found burned to death inside her locked trailer with nothing else touched. Spontaneous Human Combustion is suspected, but it is actually murder.


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