The Mysteries of Harris Burdick

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The Mysteries of Harris Burdick
The Mysteries of Harris Burdick (Van Allsburg book) cover.jpg
Author Chris Van Allsburg
Illustrator Chris Van Allsburg
Country United States
Genre Children's, Fantasy novel
Publication date
Media type Print (Hardcover)
Preceded by The Wreck of the Zephyr
Followed by The Polar Express

The Mysteries of Harris Burdick is a 1984 picture book by the American author, Chris Van Allsburg consisting of a series of seemingly unrelated, highly detailed images in Van Allsburg's distinctive style. Each image is accompanied by a title and a single line of text, which compel readers to create their own stories. Many famous writers have tried to put their own little twists on the pictures.[1]

The book is available in a Portfolio Edition which includes another image/caption pair from the story "Missing in Venice".

In 2011 a new book titled "The Chronicles of Harris Burdick" was published, featuring stories by high profile writers like Stephen King and Louis Sachar, inspired by the illustrations in the original "The Mysteries of Harris Burdick" book.[2]


A fictional editor's note tells of an encounter between a children's book editor named Peter Wenders and an author and illustrator named Harris Burdick, who says he has 14 stories that he has written; he has brought one picture from each story with a caption. He leaves with a promise to deliver the complete manuscripts if the editor chooses to buy the books. The next day, Burdick didn't show up. Burdick never returned to Wenders' office. Over the years, Wenders tried to find out who Harris Burdick was, but he never found out. Burdick was never seen again, and the samples are all that remain of his supposed books. Readers are challenged to imagine their own stories based on the images for the books.

In 1984, Chris Van Allsburg visited Wenders' office, and Wenders showed him Burdick's drawings. Van Allsburg decided that maybe if he published the drawings, they may find out who Harris Burdick was.

Both Wenders and Van Allsburg were sure that someone would come with information about Burdick. Then, in 1993, a dealer in antique books, told them that he had purchased an entire library that had previously belonged to a recently deceased woman, including an antique mirror with portraits of characters from Through the Looking-Glass. The mirror fell from the wall and cracked open. Neatly concealed between the wooden frame and the mirror was an image identical to Burdick's other works; its caption identified it being from the Burdick story "Missing in Venice".

As stated on the Burdick website, Peter Wenders died in 2000 at the age of 91.


  • Archie Smith, Boy Wonder
  • Uninvited Guest
  • The House on Maple Street
  • Missing in Venice
  • Under the Rug
  • The Harp
  • A Strange Day in July
  • Another Place, Another Time
  • Mr Linden's Library
  • Oscar and Alphonse
  • Just Desert
  • The Seven Chairs
  • The 3rd Floor Bedroom
  • Captain Tory


The short story "The House On Maple Street" which appears in Stephen King's Nightmares & Dreamscapes is inspired by the last image/caption in The Mysteries of Harris Burdick.

The cover illustration of The Mysteries of Harris Burdick—featured inside the book with the caption "Another Place, Another Time"—appears to have been inspired by, and based on an Erich Lessing photograph from the June 1959 issue of National Geographic magazine. The photograph, which accompanies a feature article about post-war Germany, shows a group of children riding a sail-powered rail car on tracks linking the mainland with the Halligen, a group of islands in the North Sea.[3]


  1. ^ Byrne, Terry (June 22, 2008). "They are hoping for a storybook ending". The Boston Globe. Retrieved November 18, 2011. 
  2. ^ Marcus, Leonard S. (November 10, 2011). "The Chronicles of Harris Burdick - 14 Amazing Authors Tell the Tales - By Chris Van Allsburg and others.Illustrated by Chris Van Allsburg - Book Review". The New York Times. 
  3. ^ Conly, Robert Leslie/Lessing, Eric "Modern Miracle, Made in Germany". National Geographic 1959 115(6): p.783.

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