The Night Thread with a Clock in Its Walls

The thread was ticking away, marking off the minutes until doomsday.

Today is a day I’ve been nervously anticipating as one of my favourite books ever written is released on the big screen.

Ever since I was a kid, I wondered what a movie version of The House With a Clock In Its Walls would look like. Well, that day has arrived, but I’m nervous since this production is like a frogurt.

Cate Blanchett: that’s good!The-House-with-a-Clock-In-its-Walls
Jack Black: that’s no so good
Kyle McLachlan: that’s good!
Eli Roth: that’s bad
The trailer: ehhhhhhhh…..

Well, fingers crossed. But even if this movie stinks, I want to share this magical (no pun intended) story and world with you.

The House With a Clock In Its Walls was published in 1973 by the criminally unknown author John Bellairs. This creepy cover is what initially sucked me in, but the story – and Edward Gorey’s always-delightful artwork – turned me into a lifelong fan

The basic story: a lonely orphaned boy goes to live with his eccentric uncle who he soon learns is a bush-league warlock, although his next-door neighbour is a kindly and far more powerful witch. As the story goes on, he is drawn into a world of sinister supernatural skulduggery, living in a wonderfully spooky house. However, somewhere inside the house is an enchanted clock which could end the world.

Gorey
A supernatural car chase illustrated by Edward Gorey; you know you want to experience this.

Like all of Bellairs’ books, it’s a beautiful combination of occult creepiness with humor, heart, and brains. It was originally written as an adult – no, not that kind of adult – novel, but a publisher suggested rewriting for younger readers, and Bellairs’ career took off.

I was heartbroken upon finishing one of his books in 1993, where the “About the Author” that told me John Bellairs had died two years prior, aged just 54. But during his career, he wrote 14 more fantastic stories for young readers, and I’ve read them all many times.

As the New York Times review of House said, “What the author has done that’s so special is to touch both the intellect and the feelings. He has dusted off the paraphernalia of ancient magic and made us newly aware of the difference between good and evil. His dialogue goes snap, crackle and pop. He sets chilling scenes with suspense that tightens like a screw.”

The House With a Clock In Its Walls was adapted in a condensed and utterly atrocious TV short as part of the Vincent Price-hosted anthology Once Upon a Midnight Scary in 1979. I dearly hope this new movie does the story justice and inspires a new generation of Bellairs readers.

And I hope you’ll check him out too! His stories are an absolute delight.

Other recommended reading:

  • The Spell of the Sorcerer’s Skull
  • The Revenge of the Wizard’s Ghost
  • The Curse of the Blue Figurine
  • The Eyes of the Killer Robot
  • The Trolley to Yesterday

Have a fun – and spoooky – night!