The House with a Clock in Its Walls

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The House with a Clock in Its Walls is a gothic horror children's novel by John Bellairs. It was published in 1973 and 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.


Lewis Barnavelt, recently an orphan, moves to the town of New Zebedee, Michigan, to live with his mysterious uncle Jonathan Barnavelt. Lewis' uncle turns out to be a mediocre, though well-intentioned, warlock. 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 Selenna 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 as it attempts to pull the world into the magical alignment, which would permit him to destroy it.

Lewis befriends a local boy named Tarby Corrigan, who is everything he is not: popular, athletic, thin, 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 in doing so releases Selenna 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 the end time.

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

The Lewis Barnavelt Series[edit]

This is the first of a series by Bellairs. Following Bellairs' death in 1991, author Brad Strickland wrote more, writing the series which was still in production as of 2008.

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


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.

On June 20, 2017, it was announced that a film adaptation of the novel was being developed, with Eli Roth set to direct and Cate Blanchett and Jack Black set to star in the adaptation.[1] It is also announced that Kyle Maclachlan will join as well [2] The film is scheduled to be released September 21, 2018.


  1. ^ McNary, Dave (June 20, 2017). "Jack Black, Eli Roth Join 'The House With a Clock in its Walls' Horror Movie". Variety. Retrieved June 29, 2018. 
  2. ^ Hipes, Patrick (September 25, 2017). "Kyle MacLachlan Joins Amblin's 'The House With A Clock In Its Walls'". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved June 29, 2018. 

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