Henry S. Whitehead
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Created: February 2017
| Updated: February 2017
Henry St. Clair Whitehead (March 5, 1882 – November 23, 1932) was an American writer of horror fiction and fantasy
Henry S. Whitehead was born in Elizabeth, New Jersey, on March 5, 1882, and graduated from Harvard University in 1904 (in the same class as Franklin D. Roosevelt). He led an active and worldly life in the first decade of the 20th century, playing football at Harvard, editing a Reform democratic newspaper in Port Chester, New York, and serving as commissioner of athletics for the AAU.
He later attended Berkeley Divinity School in Middletown, Connecticut, and was ordained a deacon in the Episcopal Church in 1912. From 1918 to 1919 he was Pastor of the Children, Church of St. Mary the Virgin, New York City. He served as acting archdeacon of the Virgin Islands from 1921 to 1929. While there, living on the island of St. Croix, Whitehead gathered the material he was to use in his tales of the supernatural. A correspondent of H. P. Lovecraft, Whitehead published stories from 1924 onward in Adventure, Black Mask, Strange Tales, and especially Weird Tales; in his introduction to Jumbee, R. H. Barlow would later describe Whitehead as a member of "the serious Weird Tales school". Whitehead's supernatural fiction was partially modelled on the work of Edward Lucas White and William Hope Hodgson. Whitehead's "The Great Circle" (1932) is a lost-race tale with sword and sorcery elements.
In later life, Whitehead lived in Dunedin, Florida, as rector of the Church of the Good Shepherd and a leader of a boys group there. Barlow collected many of his letters, planning to publish a volume of them; but this never appeared, although Barlow did contribute the introduction to Whitehead's Jumbee and Other Uncanny Tales (1944). H. P. Lovecraft was a particular friend of Whitehead's, visiting him at his Dunedin home for several weeks in 1931. Lovecraft said of him: "He has nothing of the musty cleric about him; but dresses in sports clothes, swears like a he-man on occasion, and is an utter stranger to bigotry or priggishness of any sort."
Lovecraft expressed admiration for Whitehead's work, described his story "The Passing of a God" as "perhaps representing the peak of his creative genius". Stefan Dziemianowicz describes Whitehead's West Indian tales as "virtually unmatched for the vividness with which they convey the awe and mystery of their exotic locale".
Whitehead died of an apparent gastric problem.