Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Perley Poore Sheehan (1875-1943)

Reporter, Editor, Novelist, Short Story Writer, Playwright, Screenwriter, Movie Director
Born June 11, 1875, Cincinnati, Ohio
Died September 30, 1943, Sierra Madre, California

Perley Poore Sheehan was born on June 11, 1875, in Cincinnati, Ohio. As a young man, he worked as a newspaper reporter in Hamilton, Ohio, before setting off for Union College in Schenectady, New York, with fifty dollars in his pocket. When he graduated in 1898 with a degree in philosophy, he still had his fifty dollars. As the New York Times said of him, "Mr. Sheehan considered faith a substitute for cash."

After his graduation, Sheehan worked on newspapers in New York. Having saved a little money, he decided to see a bit of the world. Starting with Cuba, he made his way to Spain, then to France. Sheehan arrived in Paris without knowing the language and with only ten dollars to his name. Nonetheless, within five years he had become editor of the Paris Herald, the Paris edition of the New York Herald. Sheehan held that post from 1905 to 1907. He was also a correspondent in Paris and London. While in France, Sheehan padded his bankroll, added to his knowledge of the French language, and found himself a Gallic wife. Her name was Virginia (or Virginie) Pont and they were married on May 18, 1902, in France.

Perley Poore Sheehan returned to the land of his birth in 1908. It didn't take him long to begin placing stories in American magazines. The Fiction Mags Index lists his many credits between 1909 and 1933, but I'm not sure that list is complete. His specialty was adventure, and he contributed to The Argosy, The All-Story Weekly, Thrilling Adventures, and other titles. Sheehan's continuing characters included Captain Trouble and Kwa, a Tarzan-like jungle hero. It should come as no surprise that Sheehan also contributed to Munsey's Magazine, for he served as associate editor of that publication for some time beginning in 1908. He also edited The Scrap Book under his sometime co-author, Robert H. Davis. The Internet Speculative Fiction Database also lists some of Sheehan's tales, evidence that he wrote in genres other than just plain adventure. I have combined a couple of different lists to come up with the following one. These are short stories and serials only. Sheehan's other titles follow.

Short Stories and Serials by Perley Poore Sheehan:

  • "Monsieur De Guise" The Scrap Book (Jan. 1911)
  • "The Copper Princess" The All-Story (Sept. 1913)
  • "The Woman of the Pyramid" The All-Story (Mar. 1914)
  • "The Ghost Mill" All-Story Weekly (Apr. 4, 1914)
  • "The Queen of Sheba" All-Story Weekly (Apr. 18, 1914)
  • "Judith of Babylon" All-Story Cavalier Weekly (serial beginning Feb. 6, 1915)
  • "Abu the Dawn-Maker" All-Story Cavalier Weekly (serial beginning May 8, 1915)
  • "The Abyss of Wonders" The Argosy (Jan. 1915)
  • "The Belated Tears of Louis Marcel" Munsey's Magazine (July 1915)
  • "The Superscoundrel" All-Story Weekly (June 16, 1917)
  • "The One Gift" (1920)

From Munsey's Magazine:

  • "The Black Abbott"
  • "The Fighting Fool"
  • "The Green Shiver"
  • "Kwa and the Ape People"
  • "The Red Road to Shamballah"
  • "Spider Tong"
  • "Where Terror Lurked"

In addition to writing short stories and serials, Sheehan wrote plays:

  • "Efficiency: A Play in One Act" (with Robert H. Davis) (1917)
  • "Blood and Iron: A Play in One Act" The Strand Magazine (Oct. 1917)

and books:

  • The Seer (1912)
  • The Prophet (1912)
  • "We Are French!" (with Robert H. Davis) (1914)
  • The Abyss of Wonders (1915)
  • Those Who Walk in Darkness (1917)
  • The Passport Invisible (1918)
  • The One Gift (1920)
  • The House with a Bad Name (1920)
  • The Ten-Foot Chain: or, Can Love Survive the Shackles? (1920; Sheehan's contribution to this "symposium" is entitled "Princess or Percheron")
  • The Whispering Chorus (1928)
  • King Arthur (1936)
  • Heidi (1936)
  • Lola Montez, Her Pagan Majesty, or, Queen Errant (1936)
  • Blennerhassett (1937)
  • The Abyss of Wonders (1953) illustrated by John T. Brooks

In 1919, Sheehan made the move from straight prose to scenarios for the silver screen. In 1920, he was still based in Manhattan, but by 1940, Sheehan was living in California and his movie career was winding down. In the meantime, his stories were adapted to film and Sheehan himself wrote scenarios for a number of silent pictures:

  • The Dragon (1916)
  • The Bugler of Algiers (1916)
  • The Whispering Chorus (1918)
  • Brave and Bold (1918)
  • A Society Sensation (1918)
  • Upstairs (1919)
  • Three Sevens (1921)
  • For Those We Love (1921)
  • If You Believe It, It's So (1922)
  • Always the Woman (1922)
  • The Old Homestead (1922)
  • The Man Who Saw Tomorrow (1922)
  • The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1923)
  • The Night Message (1924)
  • Love and Glory (1924)
  • The Way of All Flesh (1927)

And talkies:

  • The Lost City (serial, 1935)
  • King Arthur (1936)
  • The Victim of Lust (1940)
  • Ihtiras kurbanlari (a posthumous credit from Turkey, 1953)

Sheehan checked off another box by directing the movie The Night Message, released in 1924. By that same year, according to a poorly designed website,
a Hollywood mythos was clearly emerging. Perley Poore Sheehan, a popular screenwriter, issued a bizarre tract called Hollywood as a World Center, which combined elements of small-town boosterism, industry braggadocio, and occult transcendentalism (known locally as "new thought"). For Sheehan, "The rise of Hollywood and its parent city, Los Angeles, has world-wide significance. It is a new and striking development in the history of civilization. . . . This flooding of population to the Southwest has its origins in the dim past. It is the culmination of ages of preparatory struggle, physical, mental and spiritual. In brief, we are witnessing the last great migration of the Aryan race." Going beyond traditional American disdain for the eastern cities, Sheehan saw the birth of Hollywood as the dawn of the Aquarian age and described a New Jerusalem that would reveal to all mankind the "Universal Subconscious."
If all that's true, then the web of crackpot ideas becomes a little more tangled. If you pull on a thread, you never know what might fall out.

According to the Internet Movie Database, Sheehan's last movie credit while he was living was The Victim of Lust, released in 1940. By that time, the writer was residing in Sierra Madre, California, amongst a garden of castoff plants, marked by a homemade stone lych gate. He had also returned to newspaper work, writing a column for the Sierra Madre News. The Los Angeles Times noted that he had forsaken the high collars and spats of his days in Paris for an open collar and no tie.

Perley Poore Sheehan died on September 30, 1943, in Sierra Madre, California. Thirty years later, Sam Moskowitz included Sheehan's short story, "Monsieur De Guise," in his four-issue revival of Weird Tales. Moskowitz opened his introduction with these words:
Perley Poore Sheehan wrote in an era of the great scientific romancers--Edgar Rice Burroughs, George Allan England, A. Merritt, Francis Stevens--and his work compares favorably with the best of them. Yet, as occasionally happens to fine writers, it is rare to find his stories reprinted.
and closed it thus:
["Monsieur De Guise"] will go down on your mental list of all-time favorites.
Perley Poore Sheehan's Story in Weird Tales
"Monsieur De Guise" (Summer 1974, originally in The Scrap Book, Jan. 1911)

A philosophy major who made his living as a newspaper reporter and editor, Perley Poore Sheehan turned to writing fiction after ten years abroad. Here's a cover with his byline from June 27, 1914. 
Sheehan specialized in adventure stories as in "Abu the Dawn-Maker" from All-Story Cavalier Weekly, May 8, 1915.
Next came books. Here's an eerie cover from 1928, artist unknown.
Sheehan's biggest hit as a scenarist was probably The Hunchback of Notre Dame, a star vehicle for Lon Chaney in 1923.
That movie was the inspiration for an Aurora model manufactured four decades later.
Sheehan had dealt in lost worlds earlier in his career. He got back into the act with his screenplay (co-written with two others) for the 1935 serial The Lost City. Kane Richmond, who received second billing here, also played during his career: The Shadow, Spy Smasher, and Brick Bradford.

I have written a lot on Perley Poore Sheehan and have barely covered his credits or much on his career. I welcome corrections and additions. I hope someone can pick up the baton from here and complete a biography and bibliography.

Revised slightly on October 20, 2019
Text and captions copyright 2012 Terence E. Hanley


  1. There's a story called The Million Passing Tales from Feb 26, 1916 in the All-Story. I'd love to track it down.

  2. I could get you a fotocopy of this story. I have it. Please mail your contactaddress to

  3. I'm writing a conference paper on 'Blood and Iron', and plan to work it up into a scholarly journal article. This page has been a great help, thanks!

    1. Dear Kate,

      Glad I could help. Please let me know when you present and/or publish your paper.



    2. "The Ten-Foot Chain" was not a novel. It's a collection of four novelettes published in 1920, the first "theme anthology" that I'm aware of although there may be earlier examples. Sheehan's contribution was titled "Princess or Percheron." The 1920 edition is hard to come by but a later reprint is easily located from internet booksellers.

    3. Thanks, Unknown, for the clarification. I have updated my article.