Mary Elizabeth Counselman

Mary Elizabeth Counselman
Born November 19, 1911(1911-11-19)
Birmingham, Alabama, U.S.
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
Genres 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, AL and began writing poetry as a child. She later moved to Gainesville, Georgia where her father was a faculty member at the Riverside Military Academy. She attended Alabama College (now Montevallo University).

Ms. Counselman's work appeared in Weird Tales, Collier's, The Saturday Evening Post, Good Housekeeping, Ladies' Home Journal and other magazines. Her stories were dramatized on General Electric Theater and other national television programs in the USA, Canada, the British isles and Australia. For example, “Parasite Mansion,” was broadcast in 1961 as part of the Thriller television series.

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. This oft-reprinted classic tells of a small town whose inhabitants awaken one morning to find anonymous notices posted throughout their city. The posts read, "During this day of April 15, three pennies will find their way into the pockets of the city. On each penny will be a well-defined mark. One is a square; one is a circle; and one is a cross. These three pennies will change hands often, as do all coins, and on the seventh day after this announcement (April 21) the possessor of each marked penny will receive a gift. To the first: $100,000 in cash. To the second: A trip around the world. To the third: Death."

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.

In later years she resided in Gadsden, AL with her husband, Horace B. Vinyard, and a large entourage of cats.


  • 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


Phoenix Award, Southern fandom Confederation, 1981


  • "Mary Elizabeth Counselman" in Jack Sullivan (ed). The Penguin Encyclopedia of Horror and the Supernatural. NY: Viking Penguin, 1986.

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