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House of Mystery

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The House of Mystery
Cover of The House of Mystery #1 (December - January 1951), art by Win Mortimer and Charles Paris.
Publication information
PublisherDC Comics
ScheduleVaried between monthly and bi-monthly
FormatOngoing series
GenreHorror, Fantasy
Publication date
  • (vol. 1)
    December 1951 - October 1983
    Elvira's House of Mystery
    January 1986 - January 1987
    (vol. 2)
    July 2008 - October 2011
No. of issues
  • (vol. 1): 321
    Elvira's...: 11, plus 1 special Christmas issue
    (vol. 2): 42, plus 2 Annuals
Main character(s)
Creative team
Written by

The House of Mystery is the name of several horror, fantasy, and mystery comics anthologies published by DC Comics. It had a companion series, The House of Secrets. It is also the name of the titular setting of the series.

First series[edit]


The House of Mystery started out as a horror anthology, featuring tales of the supernatural as well as supernatural-themed mystery stories. Issue #1 was cover dated December 1950-January 1951.[1] With the growing backlash against American horror comics in the mid-1950s, as well as the advent of the Comics Code Authority and its restrictions on horror-themed storylines (banning stories dealing with such supernatural fare as vampires and werewolves), the series was quietly revamped into dealing with science fiction-type monsters and other mystery/suspense-type tales that were permitted by the Comics Code.[2]


In the mid-1960s, the series was revamped to include superhero stories. From The House of Mystery #143 (June 1964) to 155 (December 1966), "J'onn J'onzz, the Manhunter from Mars" headlined the book, as his back-up feature from Detective Comics was moved to The House of Mystery. This was followed with the introduction of "Dial H for Hero" in issue #156 (January 1966),[3] which took over as headliner until issue #173 (March–April 1968). The Martian Manhunter was again relegated to back-up status during this time.

Return of horror[edit]

Cain and Gregory move out in the final issue of The House of Mystery, #321 (October 1983), art by Michael Kaluta.

With issue #174, EC Comics veteran Joe Orlando was hired by DC to take over as editor of The House of Mystery.[4] As the Comics Code Authority was now being challenged by both DC and Marvel over content restrictions, the series returned to its overt horror themes. The first issue under Orlando would be a reprint issue of old horror/suspense stories, as the new direction would truly begin with #175 (July–August 1968). The issue would introduce a new figure to the series, Cain, the "able care taker" of the House of Mystery who would introduce nearly all stories that would run in the series before its cancellation.[5] Cain would also host the spin-off humor series Plop! and later become a recurring character in Blue Devil and The Sandman.

Artist Bernie Wrightson's first professional comic work was the story "The Man Who Murdered Himself" which appeared in issue #179 (March–April 1969).[6]

Under Orlando's stewardship, the series won a good deal of recognition in the comics industry, including the "Shazam Award for Best Individual Short Story (Dramatic)" in 1972 for "The Demon Within" in issue #201 by John Albano and Jim Aparo, and the "Shazam Award for Best Humor Story" in 1972 for "The Poster Plague" by Steve Skeates and Sergio Aragonés. Limited Collectors' Edition #C-23 (Winter 1973) featured reprints of House of Mystery stories.[7] House of Mystery #224 (April–May 1974) to 229 (Feb.–March 1975) were in the 100 Page Super Spectacular format.[8]

The series was in the Dollar Comics format for issues #251 (March–April 1977) to 259 (July–August 1978).[9] House of Mystery featured stories by writers T. Casey Brennan (issues #260, 267, 268 and 274) and Scott Edelman (issues #257, 258, 260, 264, 266, 270, 272, 273). Orlando's tenure as editor ended with issue #257 (March–April 1978).[4] Karen Berger became editor of the series with issue #292 (May 1981),[10] her first for DC Comics.[11] Under Berger, the series experimented with long-form storylines in the popular I...Vampire serial created by writer J. M. DeMatteis.[12] "I... Vampire" revolved around the heroic vampire, Andrew Bennett, who sought to defeat his nemesis and former lover Mary Seward, the Queen of Blood. This serial began in issue #290 (March 1981) and would last until issue #319 (August 1983), two issues before the title ended with issue #321 (October 1983).[13]

Since 2006, DC Comics has reprinted stories from the original run: three black and white Showcase Presents volumes have been published, reprinting the series from #174 - 194, #195 - 211 and #212 - 226, respectively. A one-shot reprint in color, Welcome Back to the House of Mystery, featured 10 of the most highly regarded stories as selected by Alisa Kwitney in a Cain wraparound by Neil Gaiman and Sergio Aragonés under the Vertigo Comics imprint. The first issue from 1951 was reissued as a Millennium Edition bearing the Vertigo imprint.[14]

Elvira's House of Mystery[edit]

In 1986–1987, DC comics published a new series, Elvira's House of Mystery. It lasted 11 issues, plus a special Christmas issue. The series was a quasi-follow-up of the original series, with famed horror movie hostess Elvira, Mistress of the Dark tasked by the House with finding Cain, though she spent much of her time making fun of him and introducing horror stories similar to the original series. One issue of this series, issue #3, was released without Comics Code Approval and contained significant implied nudity, but subsequent editorial comments in later issues stated that the experiment in releasing an unapproved issue was not considered successful.

2008 series[edit]

DC's Vertigo imprint began a new ongoing series in May 2008, written by Lilah Sturges and Bill Willingham. It features at least one different story each issue, told by people trapped in a "purgatory-like house".[15][16] The series ended in October 2011 with issue #42. Two Annuals were also published.

The House[edit]

The House of Mystery exists as a location in the DC Universe simultaneously just north of Louisville, Kentucky, where it was built and almost immediately abandoned by one Col. Braitwaithe before the American Civil War,[17] and in the Dreaming. Very little is known about the House of Mystery in general. The architecture is indeterminate and changes periodically. The same holds true for the inside of the House: the rooms constantly shift and one never enters the same room twice. The House of Mystery lies in the same graveyard as the House of Secrets, its companion. Cain lives in the House of Mystery, whereas Abel resides in the House of Secrets.

Cain is not the only person to have resided within the House; in addition to boarders, including Mister Mxyzptlk, Elvira, Mistress of the Dark took shelter within the House. Her brief stay in the House of Mystery is notable for two reasons: first, the House of Mystery is established as being the same House throughout its publication history. Three distinct personalities of the House are shown: the original horror House of Mystery, a dark humor "House of Weirdness"-style which harkened back to Cain's stint in Plop!, and the current version of the House of Mystery in Kentucky. The second reason is the timing of Elvira's stay. She took up residence during the Crisis on Infinite Earths. Elvira, tasked by the House of Mystery to find Cain, took over his role of host for a brief period, while Cain was relegated to being the butt of her jokes during occasional cameos.

The House of Mystery possesses sentience, along with mystic powers. It has possessed someone before and merged with the House of Secrets briefly. This ties into the constantly shifting appearance of the House of Mystery. It was torn down in the metafictional The House of Mystery #321, but its existence was restored during the Crisis.

Batman entered the house in The Brave and the Bold #93, tripped on a floorboard, and would have been shot had his pursuer's gun not jammed. He never actually met Cain, who instead narrates a story about him occurring in Scotland, which climaxes in a castle he describes as "a house of mystery" rather than "the House of Mystery".[18] Superman teamed with Cain against Mister Mxyzptlk, who was attempting to take over the House, in DC Comics Presents #53.[19]

The House of Mystery appears mainly in various Vertigo titles, especially those tied into Neil Gaiman's Sandman; it has appeared briefly in Resurrection Man. Something called the House of Mystery appeared in 52 #18, where it seems to have been used for some time as a base for a team of detectives called the Croatoan Society, which counts both Detective Chimp and Ralph Dibny among its members. It is unclear if the Croatoan's House of Mystery is meant to be the same as the original House of Mystery, a post-Infinite Crisis version of the original House of Mystery, or simply a different location with the same name. Cain's name appeared on this house's mailbox, implying some sort of connection to the original House.

In The New 52 rebooted DC's continuity (launched in 2011), the House reappeared in the pages of Justice League Dark, being used as a base for the team. The House is shown to currently belong to John Constantine, who claims to have won the key to the House in a poker game against Doctor Occult and Father Time. John Constantine takes his time to adjust to the House of Mystery due to the changing rooms and feels that the House has to play tricks on people and the superheroes that enter it.[20]

Collected editions[edit]

  • Showcase Presents Martian Manhunter Volume 2 collects the Martian Manhunter stories from The House of Mystery #143–173, 592 pages, May 2009, ISBN 978-1401222567
  • Showcase Presents Dial H for Hero Volume 1 collects the Dial H for Hero stories from The House of Mystery #156–173, 288 pages, April 2010, ISBN 978-1401226480
  • Showcase Presents The House of Mystery
    • Volume 1 collects The House of Mystery #174–194, 552 pages, February 2006, ISBN 1-4012-0786-3
    • Volume 2 collects The House of Mystery #195–211, 552 pages, March 2007, ISBN 1-4012-1238-7
    • Volume 3 collects The House of Mystery #212–226, 552 pages, January 2009, ISBN 1-4012-2183-1
  • The Steve Ditko Omnibus Volume 1 includes stories from The House of Mystery #236, 247, 254, 258, and 276, 480 pages, September 2011, ISBN 1-4012-3111-X
  • DC Through the 80s: The End of Eras includes stories from The House of Mystery #286, 290, 294-295, 300, 308, and 321; 520 pages, December 2020, ISBN 978-1779500878
  • I...Vampire collects the "I...Vampire" stories from The House of Mystery #290–291, 293, 295, 297, 299, 302, and 304–319, 320 pages, April 2012, ISBN 978-1401233716


Two novels were written by Jack Oleck and illustrated by Bernie Wrightson, both published by Warner Books:

In other media[edit]

  • The House of Mystery appears in the DC Animated Movie Universe franchise:
    • In Justice League Dark, the magic of the House created itself a body in the form of Black Orchid. The house itself serves as the base of operations for the Justice League Dark and is owned by John Constantine. It was destroyed by Destiny when he took possession of Richie Simpsons body. After his defeat the house rebuilt itself and welcomed Zatanna and Boston Brand into the house with Constantine before disappearing.
    • The House next appears in the sequel Justice League Dark: Apokolips War, where it was revealed that, shortly before the war, it had thrown John Constantine out. Black Orchid later collides the House with one of Darkseid's planet killers, destroying it before being killed by a Parademon. Since the House is capable of rebuilding itself and Orchid can resurrect herself it is highly unlikely that they were both lost in the battle.
    • The House appears in Constantine: The House of Mystery, which takes place after the events of Justice League Dark: Apokolips War.[21] Spectre traps John Constantine in the House as punishment for his actions in Justice League Dark: Apokolips War. However, after John escapes the house the Spectre appears to him telling him he trapped him within the house to protect Constantine from the universe's wrath for changing the timeline, so he can live his life in happiness with Zatanna and his friends. It was his own self loathing that turned all his loved ones into demons to kill him. Constantine then tells the Spectre that he will return to the house and never attempt to escape again. The Spectre then tells Constantine that he is unable to protect him any longer as a massive hole in the universe opens up dragging Constantine screaming into it. What became of the house following this is currently unknown.
  • The House of Mystery appears in Justice League Action. It first appears in the episode "Abate and Switch", where the Justice League take refuge in it to hide from Black Adam and the Brothers Djinn. In the episode "Trick or Threat", Klarion the Witch Boy transforms Batman, Zatanna, John Constantine, and Doctor Fate into children and lures them into the House in an attempt to steal the Helmet of Fate.
  • The House of Mystery and House of Secrets, as well as Cain and Abel, appear in the series The Sandman.


  1. ^ Schelly, William (2013). American Comic Book Chronicles: The 1950s. TwoMorrows Publishing. p. 47. ISBN 9781605490540.
  2. ^ Irvine, Alex (2010). "1950s". In Dolan, Hannah (ed.). DC Comics Year By Year A Visual Chronicle. London, United Kingdom: Dorling Kindersley. p. 67. ISBN 978-0-7566-6742-9. When the Comics Code Authority was formed in 1954... House of Mystery was therefore forced to gradually re-focus itself as a suspense and science-fiction title.
  3. ^ McAvennie, Michael "1960s" in Dolan, p. 116: "Writer Dave Wood and artist Jim Mooney put young Robby Reed in touch with the mysterious H-Dial".
  4. ^ a b Joe Orlando (editor) at the Grand Comics Database
  5. ^ McAvennie "1960s" in Dolan, p. 130: "Editor Joe Orlando decided that The House of Mystery was in need of renovation".
  6. ^ McAvennie "1960s" in Dolan, p. 132: "'The Man Who Murdered Himself' in House of Mystery was...the first DC story illustrated by Berni Wrightson (who left the "e" off his first name to distinguish himself from a famous diver".
  7. ^ "Limited Collectors' Edition #C-23". Grand Comics Database.
  8. ^ Eury, Michael (July 2015). "A Look at DC's Super Specs". Back Issue! (#81). Raleigh, North Carolina: TwoMorrows Publishing: 24–25.
  9. ^ Romero, Max (July 2012). "I'll Buy That For a Dollar! DC Comics' Dollar Comics". Back Issue! (#57). Raleigh, North Carolina: TwoMorrows Publishing: 39–41.
  10. ^ Karen Berger (editor) at the Grand Comics Database
  11. ^ Irvine, Alex (2008), "House of Mystery", in Dougall, Alastair (ed.), The Vertigo Encyclopedia, London, United Kingdom: Dorling Kindersley, p. 88, ISBN 978-0-7566-4122-1, OCLC 213309015
  12. ^ Manning, Matthew K. "1980s" in Dolan, p. 193: "Writer J. M. DeMatteis unveiled vampire/vampire hunter Andrew Bennett with the help of artist Tom Sutton in The House of Mystery #290".
  13. ^ Overstreet, Robert M. (2019). Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide (49th ed.). Timonium, Maryland: Gemstone Publishing. pp. 763–764. ISBN 978-1603602334.
  14. ^ "Millennium Edition: House of Mystery #1". Grand Comics Database.
  15. ^ Furey, Emmett (April 19, 2008). "NYCC: Vertigo - Welcome to the Edge". Comic Book Resources. Archived from the original on April 21, 2008. Retrieved April 20, 2008.
  16. ^ Renaud, Jeffrey (May 6, 2008). "Sturges is Big Brother of Vertigo's House of Mystery". Comic Book Resources. Archived from the original on May 10, 2008. Retrieved May 9, 2008.
  17. ^ Kuppergerg, Paul (w), Perlin, Don (p), Tanghal, Romeo (i). "The Devil Strikes at My Old Kentucky Home!" House of Mystery, no. 252 (May - June 1977).
  18. ^ O'Neil, Dennis (w), Adams, Neal (p), Adams, Neal (i). "Red Water Crimson Death" The Brave and the Bold, no. 93 (December 1970 - January 1971).
  19. ^ Mishkin, Dan (w), Swan, Curt (p), DeZuniga, Tony (i). "The Haunting Dooms of Halloween!" DC Comics Presents, no. 53 (January 1983).
  20. ^ Lemire, Jeff (w), Nolan, Graham; Drujiniu, Victor (p), Drujiniu, Victor (i). "Enter The House of Mystery..." Justice League Dark, no. 14 (January 2013).
  21. ^ Romanchick, Shane (February 22, 2022). "'Constantine: The House of Mystery' Blu-ray Release Date Revealed for Post-'Apokolips War' DC Showcase Shorts". Collider. Retrieved April 10, 2022.

External links[edit]