John Metcalfe (writer)

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Not to be confused with John Metcalf (writer).
John Metcalfe
Born (1891-10-06)6 October 1891
Heacham, Norfolk, England
Died 31 July 1965(1965-07-31) (aged 73)
Occupation writer
Nationality English
Period 1925
Genre Science fiction

William John Metcalfe (6 October 1891 – 31 July 1965) was a teacher, short story writer and novelist.


John Metcalfe was born in Heacham, Norfolk, England, on 6 October 1891.[1] [2] He studied philosophy in the University of London, from which he graduated in 1913. Metcalfe then taught in Paris until 1914. During World War I, he served in the Royal Naval Division, the Royal Naval Air Service, and ultimately the Royal Air Force.

After the war, Metcalfe taught for five years at Highgate Junior School in London and began writing. His first book, The Smoking Leg and Other Stories was published in 1925.[2] The Smoking Leg and Other Stories contains several noted stories, including the title story, "The Bad Lands", "Nightmare Jack" and "The Double Admiral".[2] After its publication, he abandoned teaching to begin writing full-time.[1]

Metcalfe emigrated to the United States in 1928, where he began writing Arm's Length while serving as a barge captain on the East River. On 17 March 1930, Metcalfe married the American novelist Evelyn Scott.

Metcalfe's second collection, Judas and Other Stories features several horror stories, including "Mortmain", about a man who believes he is being haunted by the ghost of his wife's first husband.[2]

After his service in World War II in the British Royal Air Force, Metcalfe taught schools in Dorset and Hampstead before returning to the United States, where he taught at schools in Connecticut and New York.[1]

In the 1950s, Metcalfe discussed with August Derleth the possibility of having a third collection of his fiction published by Arkham House. This collection, (to be titled The Feasting Dead and other Stories ) was never published, but Arkham House did publish The Feasting Dead as a chapbook.[2] Derleth also anthologised several of Metcalfe's stories in his anthologies.[2]

Evelyn Scott died in August 1963, after suffering from heart disease, a lung tumor, and mental health problems. Metcalfe suffered a breakdown after her death and was hospitalized. After his release in October 1964, he returned to England, where he died on 31 July 1965, as the result of a fall.

Although Metcalfe is best known as an author of horror stories, he also wrote novels and some poetry.

T. E. D. Klein has described Metcalfe as a "writer of subtle, finely crafted supernatural tales, many of them about lonely misfits out of step with their times" [3] and Brian Stableford has stated Metcalfe's stories "build up a unique sense of unease".[1]



  • Brenner's Boy (1932)
  • Arm's Length
  • Spring Darkness' (US title: Mrs Condover)
  • Foster-Girl (US title: Sally)
  • All Friends Are Strangers
  • The Feasting Dead (1954) (Reprinted in 2014 by Valancourt Books)


  • The Smoking Leg, and Other Stories (1925)
  • Judas, and Other Stories (1931)
  • Nightmare Jack and Other Tales (1998)


  1. ^ a b c d "Metcalfe, John" by Brian Stableford in David Pringle, St. James Guide to Horror, Ghost and Gothic Writers. London : St. James Press, 1998, ISBN 1558622063 (pp. 405-6).
  2. ^ a b c d e f Stefan R Dziemianowicz, "Metcalfe, (William) John", in S. T. Joshi and Dziemianowicz, (ed.) Supernatural literature of the world : an encyclopedia. Westport, Conn. : Greenwood Press, 2005. ISBN 0313327742 (p. 802-3).
  3. ^ T.E.D. Klein, "John Metcalfe" in Jack Sullivan (ed) (1986) The Penguin Encyclopedia of Horror and the Supernatural, Viking Press, 1986, ISBN 0-670-80902-0 (pp. 290).

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