Trapped Under Glass! A Look at a Very Peculiar Trend in Vintage Pulps

I can’t begin to explain it. Vintage Pulps (primarily sci-fi pulps) simply couldn’t resist having a dame encased in glass on their covers. Sometimes it was ice, sometimes it was an invisible force field – it didn’t matter, as long as it was a transparent enclosure of some kind. I’m sure there’s a reasonable explanation for this, but until I find one, I’ll continue scratching my head at the seemingly endless pulp covers of gals under glass.

vintage pulps magazine cover


trapped under glass vintage pulps

Any armchair psychiatrists or sociologists out there that want to hazard a guess as to the reason for the “trapped under glass” phenom?  Perhaps an allusion to the repressed and artificially restricted early 20th century female – yearning to break from this invisible bondage?  Just a thought.

vintage pulps magazine cover

Startling Stories

vintage pulps magazine cover

Space Science Fiction February 1953

I’m sorry, but there’s definitely something going on here that seems deeply Freudian.

vintage pulp magazine cover

You can try to break her out, fellas, but it’s no use.  For every chick you set free from random glass balls, there will be two more to take its place on next week’s pulp covers.

This pulp maiden doesn’t seem too terribly unhappy with her transparent bubble.   The “trapped under glass” trope did offer a bit of variation from time to time.

vintage pulp magazine cover

The “trapped under glass” trope also provided excellent opportunity for another trope: the scenery censor.  Read more about strategically covered nudity here.


vintage pulps magazine cover

Whoa! What’s this?  A man trapped under glass?…. Oh, he’s escaping danger, and is fully in control of his situation.  For minute there, I thought we might have had a rogue pulp on our hands.


vintage pulps magazine cover

Science Fiction adventures

Sorry about the cover defacement – it’s the only one I could find of this issue.  It’s important because we have both a guy and girl trapped behind glass.  You’ll note the guy is fully armed while the girl is fully defenseless.


vintage pulp magazine cover

And here we see it again: both guy and girl are trapped under glass.  As before, the dude has a gun, the girl is screwed.


vintage pulp magazine cover

This is just horrifying, and adds to the theory that this whole “trapped under glass” schtick  wasn’t a positive thing for the ladies.


trapped under glass pulp covers

Note, the “glass” containment was generally a sphere; however, as the next few examples demonstrate, it could be a cylinder as well.

vintage pulp magazine cover

Damsels helpless and trapped inside a phallic shaped cage…. I wonder if there’s meaning behind this?


trapped under glass (8)

Damn.  A whole landscape of naked chicks encased in phallic ice columns.  Again, I detect a hint of sexual undertones here.

vintage pulp magazine cover

vintage pulp magazine cover

You may recall that vintage pulps were prone to feature ladies being attacked by animals (When Animals Attack! A Menagerie of Deadly Beasts of the Pulps) and jungle natives (When Natives Attack! White Damsels and Jungle Savages in Pulp Fiction); however, those were primarily from mid-century pulps.  The examples thus far have mainly been from the decades prior… the “trapped under glass” trope definitely had its heyday in the 1920s-1940s.

But that’s not to say it went away entirely…

trapped under glass (1)

Comic books carried the torch, but it was nowhere near as prevalent.

wonder woman comics

It also occasionally came out of retirement and reared its ugly head on television…


"Batman" Deep Freeze (TV Episode 1966)

“Batman” Deep Freeze (TV Episode 1966)

… as well as the movies….

"Lifeforce" movie (1985)

“Lifeforce” movie (1985)

… but, as I said, the Golden Age of the trapped under glass motif had long since passed.  Whatever it’s psychological meaning was, whether it had some Freudian or sociological backstory, will have to remain a mystery.  So long, trapped-under-glass-girl.  It was fun while it lasted.

vintage pulp magazine cover


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