The Jessie Douglas Kerruish Mystery and The Undying Monster

I thought information on Charles Wadsworth Camp was scarce, but that’s before I tried to find anything about Jessie Douglas Kerruish! So far, all I’ve unearthed is this cryptic excerpt from the product description of the Ash-Tree Press edition of The Undying Monster:

“First published in 1922, The Undying Monster is a thrilling tale of mystery, adventure, and horror, which provided the archetype for the Hollywood werewolf movie. In his introduction to this edition, Jack Adrian discusses the strange, sad fate of the novel and its author, while two contemporary appendices provide a fascinating look at Jessie Douglas Kerruish and the novel’s initial reception.”

Strange, sad fate, ehh? I’m hesitant to buy the $47.50 book to find out more, but Jack Adrian also wrote the biographical entry about Kerruish in The St. James Guide To Horror, Ghost & Gothic Writers (St. James Press, December 1997, edited by David Pringle). My local library supposedly has the St. James Guide, according to an online search, but is unavailable for placing a hold on, possibly because it’s a reference book and can’t be checked out. First chance I get to visit the library, we’ll see what’s what.

The movie came out in 1942, twenty years after the book. In England, the film was called The Hammand Mystery. The Missing Link Classic Horror site says:

“Produced in response to Universal’s successful The Wolfman of the previous year, The Undying Monster is a tale of lycanthropy set in an isolated mansion on a cliff edge in Cornwall. The film was badly publicised at the time of its release, which contributed to the poor box-office receipts. Nevertheless, the film is an elegant and highly entertaining tale that owes more to murder mysteries than it does to conventional werewolf stories.”

1000 Misspent Hours and Counting says:

“20th Century Fox never really developed a consistent, distinctive voice for their 1940’s horror movies (perhaps because they made so few of them), unless possibly free-roaming quirkiness counts as a unifying aesthetic. That very unpredictability makes the studio’s wartime fright films among the most dependably interesting of the era, however, and The Undying Monster is an especially striking example. It looks essentially like a contemporary Universal gothic, but it plays more like a murder mystery in which the culprit just happens to be a werewolf. In fact, one might almost look at it as a lycanthropic variation on The Hound of the Baskervilles.”

An interesting side note is that the complete title of the original novel was The Undying Monster: A Tale of the Fifth Dimension.

To be continued when I find out what happened to Jessie Douglas Kerruish. If anyone out there knows, please don’t hesitate to leave a comment.

12 responses to “The Jessie Douglas Kerruish Mystery and The Undying Monster”

  1. […] Blog post about Jessie Douglas Kerruish and the film version of The Undying Monster from Bill Ectric’s Place. Additional helpful information about Ms. Kerruish in the comments of the post. […]

  2. Great information! Thanks, Walter W. Lee.

    Sent from my iPhone

  3. Further facts about Ms Kerruish’s family. Her father, a sea captain, died in 1900 at the age of fifty three, and is mentioned in the New York Times (Fehruary 1887) as being one of the members of a board of inquiry into the grounding of the steamer, Wisconsin; so he must have been moderately well known

  4. Interesting info! I ran across this site while trying to find a copy of the book. I have owned several in my life and seem to have either misplaced or loaned out all of them, never to be seen again! Just wanted to comment on what a brilliant story The Undying Monster is! I remember reading it as a very young teenager (about 12 or 13) and it scared me so much I couldn’t sleep in the same room as the book! I know, that sounds funny to me, too, now that I’m 54 – however I’ve always had a great interest in the horror genre and in Norse mythology, so this book was a goldmine for my young imagination! I’ve just reordered it online and am so looking forward to reading it again!!

  5. that was an excellent bit of digging, Ed! What a shame about the loss of her works and the migraines.

  6. This is great info, Ed! Thanks for sharing it.

  7. Bill and Dan, I’ve just discovered The Undying Monster movie, as well, and I was able to find some info on Jessie Douglas Kerruish. The piece below quotes from Adrian’s entry in the St James’ Guide so there may be more info there. Also the Who’s Who in Horror and Fantasy Fiction by Michael Ashley has an entry on Kerruish, but I don’t know how long it is.

    From Gale Contemporary Authors Online:
    Born c. 1884 (some sources cite 1890), near Hartlepool, County Durham, England; died following a long illness in 1949, in Hove, Sussex, England. Career: Writer, c. 1907-49.
    Edwardian horror writer Jessie Douglas Kerruish “created an authentic, undisputed, and much-lauded (even, unusually in this genre, at the time of first publication) masterpiece of the macabre, ” explained St. James Guide to Horror, Ghost & Gothic Writers contributor Jack Adrian. Most of her early work appeared in Fleet Street periodicals such as the Weekly Tale-Teller and Yes and No, and a fair amount of it was lost forever when the records of those magazines from the first decades of the twentieth century were destroyed in the Luftwaffe firestorms of World War II. Beginning around 1910, Kerruish worked closely with Isabel Thorne, “who . . . may be considered to be one of the superlative short-fiction editors of the first 30-odd years of [the twentieth] century, ” wrote Adrian. “Thorne was a hugely skilled, hands-on editor who knew precisely what she wanted and precisely what her section of the market wanted.” She coaxed many of the major names in Edwardian fiction to contribute to her periodicals, including Sax Rohmer, Rafael Sabatini, Jack London, and Edgar Wallace. Several of the short works Kerruish wrote for Thorne were collected into the volume Babylonian Nights’ Entertainment: A Selection of Narratives from the Text of Certain Undiscovered Cuneiform Tablets in 1934. The stories, all of which had a Middle Eastern theme, were “semi-fantasies launched with a humorous twist, ” Adrian explained.
    By 1917, Kerruish was ready to try her hand at longer works of fiction. Her first published novel, Miss Haroun al-Raschid, was awarded the Hodder & Stoughton First Novel prize of 1000 pounds that year. She “. . . quickly follow[ed] it with The Girl from Kurdistan, ” explained Adrian. “Both are absorbing and pacey romantic adventure yarns set mainly in the Near and Middle East, and there seems every likelihood that Kerruish herself visited the region at some stage.” However, Kerruish’s best-known and most celebrated work was undoubtedly her macabre novel The Undying Monster: A Tale of the Fifth Dimension. The story was first published in 1922 and was made into a film in 1943. It tells about the uncovering of a hereditary family curse unraveled by a psychic detective. The detective, Luna Bartendale, manages to unravel and end the curse through hypnotic regression, wrote a contributor to the Penguin Encyclopedia of Horror and the Supernatural, “right back into the Volsungasaga. The occult jargon is laid on a bit thick at times, but otherwise the book has aged well; it was in print as recently as 1975.” “That is Kerruish’s ultimate triumph, ” Adrian concluded: “a formidable and teeming imagination coupled with an ability to make what lesser writers would balk at . . . into a strong narrative that is, if not precisely real-life, at least authentic-feeling and, above all, entirely engrossing.”
    Kerruish’s career dropped off precipitously after the publication of The Undying Monster. In the 1930s she began to suffer from debilitating migraine headaches, which prevented her from working effectively. Although she contributed a few stories to the Not at Night anthologies through the 1930s and 1940s, she never matched the output of her early years and died an obscure death in 1949.

    Happy reading,

  8. That would be great.

  9. Thanks Bill,
    If I come across more I’ll post you.

  10. Thanks, Dan, that’s a good link. One thing I did read somewhere is that Kerruish went blind, but I don’t know the details.

  11. Hi Bill,
    I’d be interested to unravel a bit of this mystery myself. I’m only 3/4 of the way through the book and already would dearly love to find out more about the author. Did you come up with anything else?

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