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John Bellairs (1938–1991)

Author of The House with a Clock in Its Walls

38+ Works 11,406 Members 232 Reviews 46 Favorited

About the Author

John Bellairs was born in Marshall, Michigan on January 17, 1938. He attended Notre Dame and the University of Chicago. Prior to becoming a full-time writer, he was a teacher. He went on to author fifteen graphic novels for young adults, one fantasy book "The Face in the Frost," and two other show more books. His works have been nominated for several awards in the past. Among those nominated for, he won the Utah Children's Fiction Book Award in 1981 for "The Letter, the Witch and the Ring" and the New York Times Outstanding Books of 1973 Award for "The House with a Clock in Its Walls." Bellairs died of cardiovascular disease, on March 8, 1991. (Bowker Author Biography) show less
Image credit: John Bellairs


Works by John Bellairs

The House with a Clock in Its Walls (1973) — Author — 2,527 copies, 76 reviews
The Figure in the Shadows (1975) 818 copies, 16 reviews
The Curse of the Blue Figurine (1983) 775 copies, 15 reviews
The Letter, the Witch, and the Ring (1976) 750 copies, 11 reviews
The Face in the Frost (1969) 727 copies, 18 reviews
The Mummy, the Will, and the Crypt (1983) 523 copies, 10 reviews
The Spell of the Sorcerer's Skull (1984) 493 copies, 7 reviews
The Trolley to Yesterday (1989) 460 copies, 4 reviews
The Treasure of Alpheus Winterborn (1978) 398 copies, 7 reviews
The Ghost in the Mirror (1993) — Author — 368 copies, 9 reviews
The Chessmen of Doom (1989) 360 copies, 5 reviews
The Dark Secret of Weatherend (1984) 358 copies, 2 reviews
The Mansion in the Mist (1992) 347 copies, 7 reviews
The Eyes of the Killer Robot (1986) 347 copies, 7 reviews
The Revenge of the Wizard's Ghost (1985) 328 copies, 3 reviews
The Secret of the Underground Room (1990) 307 copies, 5 reviews
The Lamp From the Warlock's Tomb (1988) 304 copies, 4 reviews
The Vengeance of the Witch-Finder (1993) 262 copies, 6 reviews
The Drum, the Doll, and the Zombie (1994) 218 copies, 4 reviews
The Doom of the Haunted Opera (1995) 190 copies, 4 reviews
The Pedant and the Shuffly (1968) 70 copies
St. Fidgeta and Other Parodies (1966) 58 copies, 1 review
Magic Mirrors (1966) — Author — 52 copies, 1 review
The Gargoyle in the Dump (2015) 14 copies, 2 reviews

Associated Works

The Bell, the Book, and the Spellbinder (1997) — Contributor, some editions — 209 copies, 3 reviews
The Specter From the Magician's Museum (Lewis Barnavelt) (1998) — Author, some editions — 157 copies, 4 reviews
The Hand of the Necromancer (1996) — Contributor — 116 copies, 1 review
The Tower at the End of the World (2001) — some editions — 112 copies, 1 review
The Beast Under the Wizard's Bridge (2000) — Contributor — 112 copies, 1 review
The Wrath of the Grinning Ghost (1999) — Contributor, some editions — 103 copies, 1 review
The Whistle, the Grave, and the Ghost (2003) — Contributor, some editions — 87 copies, 2 reviews
The House Where Nobody Lived (2006) — some editions — 72 copies, 4 reviews
The Sign of the Sinister Sorcerer (2008) — some editions — 64 copies


20th century (55) American literature (47) Bellairs (89) children (164) children's (489) children's fiction (82) children's literature (144) children-ya (48) ebook (60) Edward Gorey (118) fantasy (905) fiction (1,204) ghosts (131) gothic (174) horror (590) john bellairs (209) Johnny Dixon (168) juvenile (170) juvenile fantasy (62) kids (117) Lewis Barnavelt (155) magic (319) mystery (811) novel (104) paperback (56) read (140) scary (57) series (262) sf (55) sff (68) supernatural (196) time travel (52) to-read (305) Tom Hayes' Library (56) unread (66) witches (85) wizards (87) YA (231) young adult (303) young adult literature (80)

Common Knowledge

Canonical name
Bellairs, John
Legal name
Bellairs, John Anthony
Date of death
Burial location
Greenwood Cemetery, Haverhill, Massachusetts, USA
Marshall, Michigan, USA
Place of death
Haverhill, Massachusetts, USA
Cause of death
cardiovascular disease
Places of residence
Marshall, Michigan, USA
South Bend, Indiana, USA
Chicago, Illinois, USA
Winona, Minnesota, USA
Mount Carroll, Illinois, USA
Bristol, Gloucestershire, England, UK (show all 9)
Boston, Massachusetts, USA
North Andover, Massachusetts, USA
Haverhill, Massachusetts, USA
University of Notre Dame (BA|1959)
University of Chicago (MA|1960)
fantasy author
Awards and honors
Haverhill Citizens Hall of Fame (2000)
Utah Children's Fiction Book Award (1981)
Short biography
John Bellairs is best known as the author of 15 gothic mystery novels for young adults, comprising the "Lewis Barnavelt", "Anthony Monday", and "Johnny Dixon" series (which included 1973's "The House with a Clock in its Walls"). The book, illustrated by Edward Gorey, and "The Treasure of Alpheus Winterborn" (1978), about a rumored fortune buried in the walls of a town library, were made into television movies for children. He also penned "St. Fidgeta and Other Parodies," "The Pedant and the Shuffly," and the Tolkien-inspired fantasy "The Face in the Frost." Born in Michigan, he earned a BA in English from Notre Dame in 1959 and attended graduate school at the University of Chicago. Later, he taught English at various Midwestern and New England colleges before relocating to live and write in Haverhill, Massachusetts. He died of cardiovascular disease in 1991.



Teen supernatural horror from the 80's in Name that Book (September 2012)
Horror Series read as kid in Name that Book (November 2010)


I originally read this book as a kid and had forgotten all about it until I found it among a pile of weeded books in a school library. It was the same 1974 Dell Yearling copy I remember reading and immediately the memories of its delicious creepiness came flooding back. I scooped it up and brought it home for my 10-year old, who loved it as much as I did. He even recommended it to his teacher as a class read-aloud.

The illustrations by Edward Gorey are fantastic but what is best about this book is how it taps into a child's wild imagination to help immerse him or her into Lewis's world of Gothic horror. I was ecstatic to rediscover one of my favorite scenes (the nighttime car chase to the bridge) - my 42-year old self had retained this vivid scene (and the intense, creepy emotions it invoked) but had forgotten which book it was from.

Without realizing it, this book was probably the impetus for my love of books with creepy, magical themes (e.g., Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell is an all-time favorite read...and listen...and viewing). Now that I have this little gem back in my possession, I will not be letting it go.
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KatieDunne42 | 75 other reviews | Mar 25, 2024 |
Well, this was a lot more horrorizing (to use a word invented by my grandson) than I expected, based on other Bellairs books I've read. And using voudon as the entire plot, background, and everything of the book is a pretty bold move. I don't know if the authors actually did any research, I certainly have not, but when you're taking an actual religion and/or cultural phenomenon that's not your own, it's good to put in an author's note to enable your readers to know. Is this purely fantasy (in which case a disclaimer would be courteous) or is there any grain of truth? One of the things I have always liked about Bellairs is that he gets Catholicism and its appurtenances right, unlike (for example) Stoker. Not sure he's getting voudon right at all.

Great Edward Gorey frontispiece! I'm so glad that he stuck with the series for so long.
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muumi | 3 other reviews | Feb 10, 2024 |
A little too heavy on the religion this time around with Johnny Dixon's priest friend doling out Catholic voodoo against a vengeful ghost but still a fun read even if you forget to say your prayers.
NurseBob | 6 other reviews | Sep 22, 2023 |


1960s (1)
1990s (4)
Ghosts (4)
1980s (7)
1970s (2)


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Associated Authors

Brad Strickland Author, Editor
Richard Egielski Illustrator
Edward Gorey Illustrator, Cover artist
Mercer Mayer Illustrator
Bruce Coville Introduction
David K. Stone Cover artist
MariLyn Fitschen Illustrator
Bart Goldman Cover artist
Nikou Tridon Translator
Carl Lundgren Cover artist
Hope Forstenzer Cover designer
Rowena Morrill Cover artist
Louise Brierley Cover artist
Judith Gwyn Brown Illustrator
Gavin Morris Cover designer
James Sarfati Cover designer
Paul O. Zelinsky Cover artist
Christine Heun Cover designer


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