Sunday, September 22, 2019

Three spooky stories by John Bellairs

The Chessmen of Doom
The Secret of the Underground Room
The Lamp From the Warlock's Tomb




















I have spoken many times of my adoration of the king of children's Gothic/horror, John Bellairs.  Despite the hot weather making it hard to get into RIP quite yet, I was really in the mood to enjoy some nice Bellairs reading, and I grabbed these three books while I still could, before I put so much stuff in front of that particular bookshelf that I could no longer reach anything on it.  (I know you will be happy to hear that the carpet is now finished, and it looks great, and we now face untold amounts of work hauling everything back into place.)

The Chessmen of Doom is a particular favorite of mine because the chessmen in question are the Lewis chessmen.*  Professor Childermass' eccentric brother, Peregrine,** has died and asked his brother to spend the summer cleaning up his country estate in Maine.  Johnny and Fergie are keen to go along and have some fun camping, but of course, once they get up there, suspicious things start happening, starting with Perry's own ghost arriving to dispense warnings.  Perry liked to dabble in magic, and the partner he'd found to carry out his fairly harmless plan has something a good deal worse in mind.

Bonus: all-time great illustration.



The Secret of the Underground Room is the next book in the series.  The local priest, Father Higgins, has been transferred to a tiny village several miles away and that church is haunted.  Higgy finds a magical artifact, and then he disappears.  Professor Childermass thinks he must have gone to England, so he and the boys go on an 'educational trip' and hope to track down their missing friend.  They end up on the isle of Lundy, trying to defeat an insane undead medieval knight!


 The Lamp From the Warlock's Tomb is part of a different set of stories starring Anthony Monday and the eccentric but brave librarian, Miss Eells.  (In my head it's pronounced Ells, but I have no idea what it should actually be.  Anyone?)  I couldn't remember what this story was, and I was hoping it's the one where Miss Eells solves a puzzle by knowing a particular Catholic litany, but it was not.  I think that's probably The Dark Secret of Weatherend.

Anyway, Miss Eells purchases a pretty lamp from an antique store, but Anthony suspects that lighting the lamp is causing real problems.  Is the lamp haunted?  Where did it come from, and why was the crabby antique-shop lady so nice about selling it?  Trouble is afoot, and it's going to take a helicopter ride in a snowstorm to set it right.

Yep, I could just read these stories all week.  I'll have to find The Dark Secret of Weatherend when I can get to that shelf again, and read it too.  Nothing beats a nice run of Bellairs stories!



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*and someday I'm going to embroider/quilt at least one of them.
** "The professor's father had taught literature at Princeton, and he had named his sons for characters in the novels of Tobias Smollett.  There was Roderick Random, and Peregrine Pickle, and Humphrey Clinker, and even Ferdinand Count Fathom, who usually signed his name F. C. F. Childermass.  All the Childermass boys had turned out to be pretty strange -- except, of course, for the professor himself.  he was perfectly normal -- at least, he said so."

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