Thursday, December 8, 2011

Hal K. Wells (1899-1979)

Magazine Writer
Born September 2, 1899, Little Hocking, Ohio
Died December 12, 1979, Torrance, California

Harold Kerton Wells was born on September 2, 1899, in Belpre or Little Hocking, Ohio (they aren't far from each other), and lived in Belpre and Athens, Ohio, before looking for greener pastures on the West Coast. Wells enlisted in the Ohio National Guard on May 18, 1917, a little more than a month after the United States declared war on Germany. He served in the infantry and field artillery and was discharged on July 27, 1918, with a Surgeon's Certificate of Disability. Wells was classified as 50% disabled, but I don't know the nature of his wound, injury, or illness. Two years later he was enumerated in the U.S. census in Athens, Ohio, where he worked as a salesman in a dry goods store. His father was employed as a carpenter at the state hospital, a place now reputed to be haunted.

By 1930, Wells was living in Los Angeles and calling himself a writer of magazine fiction. The earliest credits I have found for him are from about that time period: articles for Motion Picture Magazine in 1927-1928 and stories in Weird Tales in 1929-1932. His stories for "The Unique Magazine" were three in number, the last of which has a very intriguing title: "The Brass Key" (Feb. 1929), "The Daughter of Isis" (Feb. 1930), and "The Ordeal of Wooden-Face" (Jan. 1932). Wells also wrote a letter to the magazine, printed in the February issue, 1935. Incidentally, Wells was enumerated with Richard W. Faubion in Los Angeles in 1930. Faubion may or may not have been the same man who later served in the U.S. Air Force as a psychologist.

Hal K. Wells wrote several more stories for fantasy and science fiction magazines from 1931 to 1954. His credits include tales for Astounding Stories, Fantastic Universe, Mystery Tales, Startling Stories, Super Science Stories, and Thrilling Wonder Stories. He was also the author of a story upon which the film A Moony Mariner (1927) was based. A contemporary newspaper item suggests that the film was a comedy with science-fictional elements.

I have an address for a Hal K. Wells, 1744 North Wilton Place, Los Angeles, in 1957. I'm willing to grant that was the same Hal K. Wells who hailed from Little Hocking, Ohio. I know nothing more about him except that he died on December 12, 1979, in Torrance, California.

Hal K. Wells' Stories and Letter in Weird Tales
"The Brass Key" (Feb. 1929)
"The Daughter of Isis" (Feb. 1930)
"The Ordeal of Wooden-Face" (Jan. 1932)
Letter to "The Eyrie" (Feb. 1935)

Further Reading
Stories by Hal K. Wells have apparently fallen into the public domain and are now available on the Internet.

Thrilling Wonder Stories, November 1940, with a story by Hal K. Wells listed on the cover. And what cover with dinosaurs on it could possibly have failed to sell magazines? The cover artist was Earle K. Bergey.
Two poor reproductions of illustrations from stories by Hal K. Wells. Top: "Devil Crystals of Arret," Astounding Stories, September 1931. Bottom: "When the Moon Turned Green," Astounding Stories, May 1931. The drawing on top (which unintentionally borders on the obscene) was the work of Frank R. Paul. H.W. Wesso drew the picture below.

Updated February 10, 2020.
Thanks to Randal A. Everts for Hal K. Wells' full name and death date.
Text and captions copyright 2011, 2023 Terence E. Hanley


  1. Earle K. Bergey is your cover artist on the Thrilling Wonder Stories, November 1940.