Mary Elizabeth Counselman

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Mary Elizabeth Counselman
Born (1911-11-19)November 19, 1911
Birmingham, Alabama, United States
Died November 13, 1995(1995-11-13) (aged 83)
Pen name Charles Dubois, Sanders McCrorey, and John Starr
Occupation short story writer, poet
Nationality United States
Genre horror, fantasy

Mary Elizabeth Counselman (November 19, 1911 – November 13, 1995) was an American writer of short stories and poetry.


Mary Elizabeth Counselman was born on November 19, 1911 in Birmingham, Alabama. She began writing poetry as a child and sold her first poem at the age of six.[1] She later moved to Gainesville, Georgia, where her father was a faculty member at the Riverside Military Academy.[2] She attended the University of Alabama and Alabama College (now Montevallo University).[1][2]

Counselman's work appeared in Weird Tales, Collier's, The Saturday Evening Post, Good Housekeeping, Ladies' Home Journal, and other magazines.[1] Her stories were dramatized on General Electric Theater and other national television programs in the USA, Canada, the British Isles, and Australia.

Her tale "The Three Marked Pennies", written while she was in her teens, and published in Weird Tales in 1934, was one of the three most popular in all of Weird Tales history.[1][3][4] Readers mentioned it in letters for years after its publication.[3]

Another story, "Seventh Sister" published in Weird Tales in January 1943, is a rare example of a voodoo story written by a woman.[1]

In describing her philosophy of writing horror fiction, she said, "The Hallowe'en scariness of the bumbling but kindly Wizard of Oz has always appealed to me more than the gruesome, morbid fiction of H. P. Lovecraft, Clark Ashton Smith, and those later authors who were influenced by their doom philosophies. My eerie shades bubble with an irrepressible sense of humour, ready to laugh with (never at) those earth-bound mortals whose fears they once shared."[4]

Later, Counselman worked as a reporter for The Birmingham News. Counselman taught creative writing classes at Gadsden State Junior College (now the Wallace Drive Campus of Gadsden State Community College) and at the University of Alabama.

She completed a novel about witchcraft, and in 1976 received a $6000 National Endowment for the Arts grant.

The late August Derleth anthologised her poems in Dark of the Moon: Poems of Fantasy and the Macabre and Fire and Sleet and Candlelight.

For most of her life she resided on a houseboat in Gadsden, Alabama,[1] with her husband, Horace B. Vinyard, whom she married in 1941,[1][2] and a large entourage of cats.[2]


  • Half in Shadow: A Collection of Tales for the Night Hours (short stories) (UK edition, Consul paperback/World Distributors, 1964; contains 14 tales, 6 not in the later US edition; Arkham House edition, 1978; contains 14 tales, 6 not in the earlier UK edition). Reprint: London: William Kimber, 1980.
  • African Yesterdays:A Collection of Native Folktales. Centre, Ala.: Coosa Printing Co., 1975 (enlarged ed 1977)
  • Move Over - It's Only Me (verse) (1975)
  • Everything You Always Wanted to Know About the Supernatural - but Are Afraid to Believe (1976)
  • SPQR: The Poetry and Life of Catullus (1977)
  • The Eye and the hand (verse) (1977)
  • New Lamps for Old (1978)
  • The Face of Fear and Other Poems (Pensacola, FL: Eidolon Press, 1984)(Compiled by Steve Eng; intro by Joseph Payne Brennan


Counselman received the 1981 Phoenix Award from the Southern Fandom Confederation.


The short story "Parasite Mansion", first published in the January 1942 issue of Weird Tales was adapted into an episode of the Thriller television anthology series, broadcast April 25, 1961. The episode is described as of above-average quality but undermined by its "blithe acceptance of the supernatural". It is, however, considered stronger than Counselman's original work.[4]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g Davin, Eric Leif (2006). Partners in Wonder: Women and the Birth of Science Fiction, 1926-1965. Lanham, Md.: Lexington Books. p. 375. ISBN 9780739112670. 
  2. ^ a b c d "The Authors and Editors of Arkham House". Archived from the original on 2007-02-02. Retrieved 2007-01-18. 
  3. ^ a b Reid, Robin Anne (2009). Women in Science Fiction and Fantasy. 1. ABC-CLIO. p. 47. ISBN 9780313335914. 
  4. ^ a b c Warren, Alan (2004). This Is a Thriller. McFarland. pp. 94–97. ISBN 9780786419692. 
  • "MARY ELIZABETH COUNSELMAN". Retrieved 2007-01-18. 
  • Ruber, Peter, ed. (2000). "Mary Elizabeth Counselman". Arkham's Masters of Horror: A 60th Anniversary Anthology Retrospective of the First 30 Years of Arkham House. Sauk City, Wisc.: Arkham House Publishers. pp. 301–306. ISBN 9780870541773. 
  • Sullivan, Jack, ed. (1986). "Mary Elizabeth Counselman". The Penguin Encyclopedia of Horror and the Supernatural. New York: Viking Penguin. ISBN 9780670809028. 

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