Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Allison V. Harding (?-?)

Pseudonym of Jean Milligan
Author and Attorney
Born ?
Died ?

"The big man was still grinning, and one hand came up and touched his cheek. The hole there was apparent, but what was oozing out, slowly, thickly, almost like honey, was not blood. It could not be blood for it was not red. It was neutral-colored liquid, strange and terrible to see as it was inexplainable. An almost whitish, thick, serum-like substance."
-from "The Damp Man"

Weird Tales offered many popular and memorable characters to its readers over the years, but few were as weird and downright creepy as Lother Remsdorf, Jr., otherwise known as the Damp Man. The Damp Man first showed his turgid face in an eponymous story in the July 1947 issue of Weird Tales. Despite the seemingly irreversible fate he encountered at the end of the story, Remsdorf was back in the September issue ("The Damp Man Returns") and made yet one more appearance in Weird Tales in May 1949 ("The Damp Man Again"). There's no mystery as to why the Damp Man returned again and again, for he is a character not soon forgotten, and he must have been very popular with readers of the magazine.

The Damp Man was the creation of Allison V. Harding, a writer about whom little is known, despite the fact that she wrote three dozen stories for Weird Tales between 1943 and 1951. According to Weird Tales aficionado Robert Weinberg, she was an attorney in New York City. "Allison V. Harding" was in fact the pen name of a woman named Jean Milligan. I have found a couple of newspaper articles about a New Yorker named Jean Milligan, but nothing to tie the subject of the articles to the author of stories for Weird Tales. If anyone has information on Allison V. Harding or Jean Milligan, please send it my way.

Unlike Catherine Moore, Allison V. Harding seems to have written primarily in the here and now. I have read just two of her stories (reprints are hard to find), both of which have a 1940s urban setting. Some of her other story titles (el, tunnel, city, steam shovel, engineer) suggest a similar locale. Certain other titles suggest future science fiction: "The Day the World Stood Still" (The Day the Earth Stood Still), "Revolt of the Trees" (M. Night Shyamalan's execrable The Happening), and "The Murderous Steam Shovel" ("Killdozer").

Allison's style is slick and sophisticated, though perhaps a little pulp-ish in places. She may have been influenced by John Collier (1901-1980) whose stories appeared in The New Yorker and other slick magazines at the time. In any case, despite their popularity among readers of Weird Tales, few stories by Allison V. Harding have been reprinted in the last fifty years. A compilation would make a nice addition to the bookshelf of the Weird Tales reader.

Allison V. Harding's Stories in Weird Tales
"The Unfriendly World" (July 1943)
"Night Must Not Come" (Sept. 1943)
"Death Went That Way" (Nov. 1943)
"House of Hate" (Jan. 1944)
"The Marmot" (Mar. 1944)
"The Day the World Stood Still" (May 1944)
"The Guard in the Dark" (July 1944)
"The Seven Seas Are One" (Sept. 1944)
"Ride the El to Doom" (Nov. 1944)
"Revolt of the Trees" (Jan. 1945)
"Fog Country" (July 1945)
"Night of Impossible Shadows" (Sept. 1945)
"The Murderous Steam Shovel" (Nov. 1945)
"Tunnel Terror" (Mar. 1946)
"The Wings" (July 1946)
"The Machine" (Sept. 1946)
"Mayaya's Little Green Men" (Nov. 1946)
"The House Beyond Midnight" (Jan. 1947)
"The Immortal Lancer" (Mar. 1947)
"The Place with Many Windows" (May 1947)
"The Damp Man" (July 1947)
"The Damp Man Returns" (Sept. 1947)
"The Inn by Doomsday Falls" (Nov. 1947)
"The Frightened Engineer" (Jan. 1948)
"The Coming of M. Alkerhaus" (Mar. 1948)
"City of Lost People" (May 1948)
"Isle of Women" (July 1948)
"The Follower" (Sept. 1948)
"The House on Forest Street" (Nov. 1948)
"Four from Jehlem" (Jan. 1949)
"The Holiday" (Mar. 1949)
"The Damp Man Again" (May 1949)
"The Deep Drowse" (Sept. 1949)
"The Underbody" (Nov. 1949)
"Take the Z Train" (Mar. 1950)
"Scope" (Jan. 1951)

Further Reading
"The Damp Man" in Weird Tales, edited by Marvin Kaye (Barnes and Noble, 1988)
"Take the Z Train" in Weird Tales, edited by Peter Haining (Carroll and Graf, 1990)

For an updated entry on Allison V. Harding, click here for my posting of May 24, 2011, "Who Was Allison V. Harding?"

Allison V. Harding and her character, the Damp Man, finally made the cover of Weird Tales in May 1949. The cover art is by illustrator and comic book artist John Giunta (1920-1970). Despite his comic book-like origin, the Damp Man evokes real dread. Perhaps only a woman could have written as effectively about a creature who is essentially a nightmarishly indefatigable stalker.

Original text and captions copyright 2011 by Terence E. Hanley

1 comment:

  1. I am a relative of Jean Milligan. Would love to see a copy of her writing of The Damp Man