The House with a Clock in Its Walls

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The House with a Clock in Its Walls is a gothic horror novel directed at child readers. It was written by John Bellairs and originally published in 1973. The book was illustrated by Edward Gorey.

Historic Cronin House in John Bellairs' boyhood town of Marshall, MI, was the inspiration for The House with a Clock in Its Walls.

Plot[edit]

The book begins when the recently orphaned Lewis Barnavelt moves to the town of New Zebedee, Michigan, to live with his mysterious uncle Jonathan Barnavelt. Jonathan turns out to be a mediocre, though well-intentioned, warlock, while his next-door neighbor and good friend, Florence Zimmermann, is a far more powerful good witch. Jonathan's house was previously owned by Isaac and Serenna Izard, a sinister couple who had dedicated their lives to black magic, and plotted to bring about the end of the world. Before dying, Isaac constructed the eponymous clock that he hid somewhere inside the walls of the house, where it eternally ticks, still attempting to pull the world into the magical alignment, which would permit him to destroy it.

Lewis manages to befriend a local boy named Tarby, who is everything he is not—popular, athletic, thin, and so on—but the two soon begin to drift apart. Lewis tries to win Tarby back by demonstrating how to raise the dead in the local cemetery on Halloween but only succeeds in releasing Serenna from her tomb. An escalating series of encounters with the sorceress' ghost builds to a final confrontation in the basement of Jonathan's house, where Lewis must summon up his courage and prevent her from finishing her husband's work and bringing about Doomsday.

As the story ends, Lewis announces that he has found a new friend, a girl named Rose Rita Pottinger.

Other books in the Lewis Barnavelt Series[edit]

This is the first in a series of books by John Bellairs. After Bellairs' death in 1991, author Brad Strickland took over writing the series, which as of 2008 was still in production.

  • The Figure in the Shadows (1975)
  • The Letter, the Witch, and the Ring (1976)
  • The Ghost in the Mirror (1993)
  • The Vengeance of the Witch-Finder (1993)
  • The Doom of the Haunted Opera (1995)
  • The Specter from the Magician's Museum (1998)
  • The Beast Under the Wizard's Bridge (2000)
  • The Tower at the End of the World (2001)
  • The Whistle, the Grave, and the Ghost (2003)
  • The House Where Nobody Lived (2006)
  • The Sign of the Sinister Sorcerer (2008)

Adaptations[edit]

The book was used as the basis for one of the three segments in the 1979 television anthology Once Upon a Midnight Scary, hosted by Vincent Price.

External links[edit]