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Literature / The Curse of the Blue Figurine

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John Bellairs' third major series for young readers began in 1983 with The Curse of the Blue Figurine and its direct sequel The Mummy, the Will, and the Crypt, which introduced Johnny Dixon and his friends Professor Roderick Childermass and Byron Q. "Fergie" Ferguson, who lived in Duston Heights, Massachusetts. He published six additional sequels in his lifetime.

After Bellairs' death, Brad Strickland was hired by Bellairs' son to complete four of his father's unfinished manuscripts, of which one was a Johnny Dixon work. After this, Strickland wrote three additional novels based on the characters.

The series' continuity includes:

  1. The Curse of the Blue Figurine (1983; set January-June 1951)
  2. The Mummy, the Will, and the Crypt (1983; set September-November 1951)
  3. The Spell of the Sorcerer's Skull (1984; set February-June 1952)
  4. The Revenge of the Wizard's Ghost (1985; set September 1952-May 1953)
  5. The Eyes of the Killer Robot (1986; set "middle of summer"-October)
  6. The Trolley to Yesterday (1989; set March-May)
  7. The Chessmen of Doom (1989; set May-June the following year)
  8. The Secret of the Underground Room (1990; set May through September)
  9. The Drum, the Doll, and the Zombie (1994; set September though New Year's Day)
  10. The Hand of the Necromancer (1996; set June-August)
  11. The Bell, the Book and the Spellbinder (1997; set March-June)
  12. The Wrath of the Grinning Ghost (1999; set June, ending June 30)

The Johnny Dixon novels contain examples of:

  • Alliterative Name: Roderick Random Childermass, and his brother Peregrine Pickle Childermass, who have alliterative first and middle names.
  • Badass Preacher: Father Higgins, a former army chaplain who does not hesitate to go head to head with dark powers.
  • Be Careful What You Wish For: Wishes granted by Jarmyn Thanatos' "Book of True Wishes" tend to backfire on the wisher, as Fergie discovers — among other things, he wishes his mother didn't have to work so hard, so she falls and twists her ankle, meaning she'll have to stay off it and can't do much work until it heals.
  • Book Safe: A Roman Missal is used as one in The Curse of the Blue Figurine, housing a blue ushabti (the titular "blue figurine") and a scroll with a note from the late Father Remigius Baart.
  • Clingy MacGuffin:
    • The skull from The Spell of the Sorcerer's Skull is one of these. Johnny suspects it's an evil talisman which has a negative effect on him, so he drops it into a bay. When he comes face to face with the Big Bad, he can sense the skull appear in his pants pocket, still cold and wet from its time at the bottom of the bay.
    • The Bell, the Book and the Spellbinder: Main antagonist Jarmyn Thanatos controls The Book of True Wishes, which he passes on to an unsuspecting victim, allowing him to steal their youth; Fergie tries to get rid of it by throwing it in a furnace, only for it to show up in his room, unharmed.
  • Comically Inept Healing: Played with, in that it's not played for laughs at all.
    • Dr. Carl Schermerhorn is regarded as a quack by Professor Childermass, due to his making a misdiagnosis that turned fatal — he mistook a brain tumor for bad teeth, and as a result, the patient (Professor Childermass's cousin Bea) died.
    • The doctors mean well in The Revenge of the Wizard's Ghost, but they're clearly out of their depths since none of them realize Johnny's being possessed by an evil spirit. Instead, they just diagnose him with an "unknown illness of the brain".
    • Almost the same thing happens in The Wrath of the Grinning Ghost, where the doctors can't figure out what's happened to Johnny's father after his spirit is stolen away.
  • Comic-Book Time: While books 1-4 specifically cover January 1951 to May 1953 (with Johnny having turned thirteen by the start of book 4), time mostly holds still afterward, and Johnny is always described as being "about thirteen" in later books. Logically, at the start of book 9, it should be 1955 (with the last chapter taking place on New Year's Eve and ending as the year turns to 1956), but the only indication of the year is a mention that the Korean War had "recently ended"... which happened in July of 1953. By the end of the series, it should be summer of 1958 at the very least.
  • Continuity Nod: Brad Strickland is especially fond of these in the books he wrote with Bellairs' characters. Johnny Dixon's old enemy Eddie Tompke features heavily in The Hand of the Necromancer.
  • Convection, Schmonvection: Averted in The Mummy, the Will, and the Crypt. H. Bagwell Glomus hid his will inside a stone statue; when his mansion catches on fire and the statue falls into the basement (which is described as having become like a brick oven due to the fire), the statue survives the blaze, but the will itself is burnt to ashes by the heat.
  • Cool Old Guy:
    • Professor Childermass, a seventy-plus-year-old history professor who's notoriously cranky, but a loyal friend who plays chess, bakes cakes and other goodies, and will march out into a raging storm, in the middle of the night and in his pajamas, to climb up a mountain and rescue Johnny from an evil spirit that — before that moment — the professor hadn't really believed in.
    • Father Higgins, a former military chaplain who also believes in the supernatural and is perfectly willing to throw himself into danger to protect Johnny and his other friends from the forces of evil.
  • Cunning Linguist: Professor Childermass often helps shed light on the current mystery with his extensive knowledge of languages, from French, Spanish and German to Latin and Greek. He prides his knowledge of languages extremely, and at the end of The Eyes of the Killer Robot, he is very put out by the fact that he did not recognize Arabic writing on a sword, thinking instead that it was only decorative engraving.
  • Dark Horse Victory: An "At least the other guy didn't win" version is discussed during an ongoing competition in the sequel The Hand of the Necromancer. Professor Childermass is a die-hard fan of the Boston Red Sox, and has a burning hatred of the New York Yankees. At the end of the book, during a game between the two, Professor Childermass surprises everyone by congratulating one of the Yankees on a good play... but then loudly points out that the Yankees are still six and a half games behind the Cleveland Indians, earning chuckles out of his friends and the other Red Sox fans nearby.
  • A Day in the Limelight:
    • The Professor and Fergie get theirs in The Revenge of the Wizard's Ghost when they set out to find the mystical artifacts needed to save a comatose Johnny's life.
    • Father Higgins steps in as Johnny and Fergie's adult helper after the Prof disappears in The Spell of the Sorcerer's Skull, with a full one coming in The Secret of the Underground Room when he's possessed by an evil spirit and the trio have to rescue him.
  • Deal with the Devil: In The Secret of the Underground Room, the villain is one of the De Marisco Knights, a family of pirates and warriors who once owned the island of Lundy. Six of them went beyond their family's usual villainy by selling their souls to the devil for power; they were eventually defeated and imprisoned via magic, but one of the knights, named Rufus, got away and eventually died a natural death. That knight's ghost is the villain of the book, seeking to revive his fellows.
  • Death by Origin Story: Johnny's mother dying of cancer is part of the reason he now lives in Massachusetts with his grandparents instead of Long Island, New York. (His father going to fight in Korea is the other.)
  • Demonic Possession: Johnny becomes possessed by the vengeful spirit of Warren Windrow in The Revenge of the Wizard's Ghost, who influences his behavior for a time before finally rendering him comatose and giving him the same scars Warren's own body had when he died, and intends to kill him eventually. Luckily, Windrow is ultimately driven out by the Professor (with the aid of the Urim and the Thummim) and hasn't been seen since.
  • Draft Dodging: In The Bell, the Book and the Spellbinder, the book's antagonist Jarmyn Thanatos (then operating under the name Jarmyn Nemo) is noted to have paid a substitute to join the Union Army in his place in 1862 — perfectly legal, though looked down upon.
  • Drives Like Crazy: Professor Childermass is noted as being a terror behind the wheel even when he isn't on an urgent rescue mission. Also, in The Chessmen of Doom, while Professor Childermass and the boys are on their way to Perry Childermass's estate, a random man in a pickup truck isn't paying attention to his driving and nearly runs them off the road, much to the professor's annoyance.
  • Embarrassing First Name: Byron "Fergie" Ferguson feels this way about his first name — as he explains to Johnny, "I wish you'd call me Fergie, on account of nobody in their right mind wants to be called Byron."
  • "Eureka!" Moment: The Professor has one in The Revenge of the Wizard's Ghost, when he remembers that the word "boss" has more than one meaning.
  • "Everybody Laughs" Ending: The Revenge of the Wizard's Ghost, The Secret of the Underground Room, The Hand of the Necromancer and The Bell, the Book and the Spellbinder, the former three all in response to remarks that Professor Childermass made.
  • Evil Brit:
    • Dr. Pimlico and her Fake Brit husband, Evaristaus Sloane (In-Universe, he had to leave his home and move to England for quite some time, long enough to pick up a touch of an accent), who serve as the villains in The Eyes of the Killer Robot, with plans for murder and mayhem.
    • Edmund Stallybrass, a curator at a museum in Britain and would-be destroyer of all life on Earth, who serves as the villain in The Chessmen of Doom.
    • Dr. Rufus Masterman, the spirit of an evil knight from the British Isles, in The Secret of the Underground Room.
  • Eye Remember: In The Eyes of the Killer Robot, an Evil Sorcerer discovered a way to build a Magitek robot powered by a human being's eyes. When he decided to put it into practice, he had a grisly idea: what if the last thing a person's eyes sees are himself/herself? He murdered a man and made sure the last thing the guy saw was his own reflection. When he implanted the victim's eyes into the robot, the robot somehow took on the appearance of the dead man.
  • Eye Scream: The title objects in The Eyes of the Killer Robot were cut from their original owner's head and underwent special treatment after his death, allowing them to animate a statue (or in this case, a baseball-throwing robot).
  • Faking the Dead: In The Chessman of Doom, Professor Childermass states that all of his brothers (naming three) are dead now. In the following book, The Secret of the Underground Room, it turns out that one of them was still alive after all — Humphrey Clinker Childermass had decided the world had gotten to be too much for him, so he faked his own death and went into hiding. He reveals his true status in order to help the professor, Johnny and Fergie with rescuing Father Higgins and defeating Rufus Masterman and his fellow knights.
  • Fantasy-Forbidding Father: Or mother, in this case. In The Secret of the Underground Room, it's noted that Mary Elizabeth Higgins, a non-Catholic, wanted her son Thomas to become a lawyer rather than a Catholic priest. They were still quarreling about this when she died in 1946.
  • Frying Pan of Doom: Played with — during The Drum, the Doll, and the Zombie, Professor Childermass grabs up a cast-iron frying pan from Professor Coote's kitchen with the intention of using it against the intruder in the house, who's in the process of dragging Johnny away. When he gets outside, however, he finds a better weapon, and leaves the frying pan behind in favor of his tire iron.
  • Genre Blind: Strange and eerie things seem to happen to Johnny, Fergie and the Professor on a yearly basis, at least, but every time new weird occurrences happen, Fergie laughs them off and Johnny and the Professor seem to behave as if they've never had any previous encounters with the supernatural.
  • Genre Shift: Whereas the previous books had all revolved around magic and magical beings, The Trolley To Yesterday is a time-travel story (and a steampunk one at that!).
  • Ghostly Chill: In The Revenge of the Wizard's Ghost, the catacombs under the church on the old Windrow estate are rather chilly, in part because the spirit of Zebulon Windrow is lurking about.
  • Gosh Dang It to Heck!: Professor Childermass favors the phrase "Holy H. Smoke," using it in both The Revenge of the Wizard's Ghost and The Trolley to Yesterday.
  • The Guards Must Be Crazy: In The Wrath of the Grinning Ghost, the guards at the gates to Nyarlat-Hotep's palace stop the Professor, Johnny and Fergie and declare that "None shall pass!" However, in no small part due to their being blinded by having their eyes sewn shut, Professor Childermass is able to fool them into believing they'd really said "Nuns shall pass", and that he is a nun and thus allowed in, with Johnny and Fergie also introducing themselves as "Sister (name)". The last time the guards are heard from, one is remarking on how there's been a lot of nuns around lately and wondering if there's a convention going on.
  • Hair-Trigger Temper: The perpetually cranky Professor Childermass. Many things can set him off; fortunately, he is able to restrict himself from physical violence against living beings. (Easily replaceable inanimate objects, such as the plates he buys at the ten-cent store, are less lucky.) He even has his own "fuss closet", with padded walls and flooring, where he goes to burn off his rage at things like not being able to open a jar of olives.
    • Father Higgins is also said to have a permanent case of bad nerves and a violent temper as a side-effect of serving on the Pacific front during World War II, being present for some of the bloodiest battles of the war, but he rarely displays his temper around Johnny, due to the younger boy being pretty mild-mannered and well-behaved.
  • Hand of Glory: Discussed late in The Hand of the Necromancer. Mattheus Mergal lies about why he wants the Blackleach hand, while trying to hypnotize Professor Childermass; the professor snaps out of it with Johnny's interference, admits he knows Mergal was lying, and then, when Mergal sarcastically says "I suppose you know better.", Professor Childermass responds that he knows a little about magic and proceeds to prove this by explaining what a Hand of Glory is and how it works.
  • Hates Being Nicknamed: Both Professor Roderick Childermass and Father Thomas Higgins hate being referred to by specific nicknames.
    • The professor hates being called "Rod" (though it's specified in The Drum, The Doll, and The Zombie that he doesn't mind friends of his own age using it), but actually asks Grampa Dixon to call him "Randy" (short for his middle name of "Random") on one occasion; however, this nickname is never brought up again.
    • Father Higgins hates being called "Higgy". However, he has no objection to "Tom".
  • Held Back in School: In The Hand of the Necromancer, Johnny has a run in with his old classmate Eddie Tompke, who'd been in the same class as him "until the previous year", having been held back. Eddie pretends it doesn't bother him, but it clearly does.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: A common element in the Strickland books (though Bellairs used it too), as most of the villains are dispatched by something they controlled. Examples include:
    • The Revenge of the Wizard's Ghost: Warren Windrow's spirit is cast out once and for all by the Urim and the Thummim, two magical artifacts that his family owned.
    • The Secret of the Underground Room: The ghost of Rufus Masterman possesses Father Higgins in order to resurrect his fellow knights. Higgins fights back and destroys the necromantic glass needed for the spell, and later banishes his ghost back to the outer darkness with a sprayer of holy water when Masterman returns to try and kill Johnny. (Admittedly, it's Humphrey who makes sure Masterman can't return a second time.)
    • The Drum, the Doll, and the Zombie: Mama Sinestra had revived a dead man as her slave; when her spell is broken, he returns to his grave, taking her with him. Her grandson then tries to summon the spirit of Baron Samedi, who promptly turns on him.
    • The Hand of the Necromancer: Mattheus Mergal, who is trying to recover the necromantic hand of Esdrias Blackleach, is dragged into the realm of the dead by said hand.
    • The Bell, the Book and the Spellbinder: Jarmyn Thanatos tries to drain the youth from unsuspecting victims so he can rejuvenate himself. His latest would-be victim, Fergie Ferguson, has friends who refuse to give up on him and wind up causing him to destroy Thanatos' enchanted book, and Thanatos with it.
    • The Wrath of the Grinning Ghost: Nyarlat-Hotep, like Jarmyn Thanatos before him, makes the mistake of targeting a person with friends and family who aren't willing to give up on him, and cause the villain's defeat.
  • Hollywood Heart Attack: While not seen, a heart attack is what kills Evaristus Sloane in The Eyes of the Killer Robot — his witnessing the defeat of the titular robot is the trigger, with his wife exclaiming afterward that "He's dead! His poor heart couldn't take it!". Foreshadowed early on when his wife tells him to "Remember what that doctor told you about your heart!"
  • Hollywood Voodoo: Plays a central role in The Drum, the Doll, and the Zombie.
  • I Have Many Names: The antagonist of The Bell, the Book, and the Spellbinder, according to Professor Childermass, "has more names than Heinz has pickles!". His birth name was Jarmyn Cudbright, his most often used alias was Jarmyn Thanatos (sometimes Dr. Thanatos), and he also used the names Jarmyn Nemo, Adam Nemo, Thomas Jannatry and Armyn J. Omen. Plus the appropriated name "Randolph Roberts" (taken from one of the boys he kidnapped and stole the youth of) and his sorcerous nom de plume of "the Spellbinder".
  • I Know Karate: Professor Childermass doesn't say it aloud, but in The Trolley to Yesterday, after his Knights of Columbus sword is broken against a man wielding a stout wooden spear, he decides to fall back on the tricks he's learned from a mail-order course in jujitsu. It actually works, letting him knock his enemy to the ground and snatch an object from the other man's belt.
  • I Know You're Watching Me: In The Trolley to Yesterday, Professor Childermass and Brewster (actually the Egyptian god Horus) are in his house having a talk. Johnny and Fergie are crouched under the kitchen window trying to listen in, where Brewster easily detects them and asks the Professor, "But hadn't you better ask those other two in?" Professor Childermass is... not thrilled to catch the two eavesdroppers, but ends up inviting them in and explaining what's going on anyway.
  • In-Series Nickname: In The Eyes of the Killer Robot, Professor Childermass reveals that during Henry Dixon (Johnny's grandfather)'s years as a semi-professional baseball player, he used to be called "Cyclone Dixon".
  • Intergenerational Friendship: Johnny Dixon (who's twelve at the time) becomes good friends with the seventy-plus-year-old Professor Roderick Childermass over the course of the school year in book 1. Later books introduce Fergie Ferguson and Sarah Channing, who are the same age as Johnny, and they likewise form friendships with the professor.
  • Ironic Nursery Rhyme: Sung by the demonic spirit in The Mummy, the Will, and the Crypt.
  • It's for a Book: In The Spell of the Sorcerer's Skull, during Johnny's trip to Vinalhaven Island, Maine, he and his friends stop in the local library to do research, trying to find something that'll lead them to the answers they need so they can find and rescue Professor Childermass. Father Higgins' excuse to the librarian, when he asks her for pamphlets, guidebooks and pencil and paper to take notes with, is that he's writing a book on the Maine seacoast.
  • Kill It with Fire: Fergie tries to do it to Jarmyn Thanatos' "Book of True Wishes", but fails. Later on, Professor Childermass threatens Thanatos with burning down his tower to stop him if he has to, but Thanatos taunts him that fire is not the element that can harm him. Fortunately, Johnny figures out the way to stop Thanatos' book, and by extension Thanatos himself, just in time.
  • Kill It with Water: How to actually beat Thanatos and his "Book of True Wishes" — at Johnny's taunting, Fergie jumps into Lake Umbagog with the book in hand, and it melts away in an instant, taking Thanatos with it. It's later explained that Thanatos was a strong believer in astrology and in opposites; he was born under the sign of Aries, a fire sign, so naturally its opposite would be hostile to him in all its forms.
  • Lethal Chef: Downplayed example with Grampa Dixon. The one time his cooking is described, he's said to have overcooked hamburgers until they were charred, and the canned peas were just as bad. Then again, he was depressed over his wife being in the hospital with a brain tumor at the time.
  • Lost Will and Testament: The Mummy, the Will, and the Crypt has cereal magnate Herbert Bagwell Glomus, whose will was hidden away before his suicide, and Johnny Dixon's desperate hunt for it (he wants the reward money to pay for a brain surgeon for his grandmother, whom he believes to be dying of a brain tumor). His efforts are opposed by Glomus's sister, who wants the will to stay hidden because she fears her brother hadn't left her anything (without a will, she at least got some of his money). Johnny ultimately figures out the will's hiding place; it's destroyed in a fire before it can be read, but his discovery means he still gets the reward money.
  • Misplaced Retribution: Discussed in The Drum, the Doll, and the Zombie, where Major Harrison Dixon confesses that when his wife was dying, he was so angry at such a senseless death that he wanted to hit something, but he couldn't — you can't hit back at cancer. When he went off to fight in Korea, he finally felt that he was hitting back, but after he was shot down and had recovered, he flew non-combat missions for a while, including evacuating the bodies of the dead and the wounded, and that's when he finally realized he hadn't been shooting at his wife's cancer — he'd been shooting at kids. And that realization is what made all his anger drop away.
  • Missing Mom: Johnny's mother died of cancer before the series started.
  • More Teeth than the Osmond Family: The pillow creature in The Drum, the Doll, and the Zombie is described as having "hundreds of needle-sharp teeth".
  • Neat Freak: Gramma Dixon is described in chapter 1 of The Curse of the Blue Figurine as "one of those fussy types who vacuum the house twice a day".
  • No Communities Were Harmed / No Historical Figures Were Harmed: The Caribbean island of St. Ives in The Drum, the Doll, and the Zombie, ruled by the more-corrupt-than-usual LeGrande regime, bears a suspicious resemblance to Haiti under "Papa Doc" Duvalier.
    • It's not a "community" per se, but The Hag in The Curse of the Blue Figurine is pretty clearly supposed to be New Hampshire's "Old Man of the Mountain."
  • Not a Morning Person: Fergie, as Johnny notes in The Spell of the Sorcerer's Skull.
  • Not-So-Fake Prop Weapon: A variation in The Curse of the Blue Figurine. The titular object has a fake label on it claiming that it's a souvenir from the city of Cairo in Illinois, but it turns out to be a genuine ushabti (or tomb figurine) from Kush, an ancient kingdom in Nubia whose people had once invaded Egypt and carried some of their practices, including the making of ushabti, back to their homeland when they were driven out.
  • Nothing Is Scarier: Johnny Dixon fleeing the mummy through the secret passage from the mausoleum, then knowing it is coming for him in the darkness of Staunton Herald.
  • Old Soldier: Professor Childermass, Father Higgins and Johnny's father are all war veterans.
    • The professor served in World War I as an intelligence officer (his codename was the Crab, which amuses Henry Dixon when he finds out), and mentions in The Eyes of the Killer Robot that he changed a tire on an army jeep while being shelled during the Battle of the Argonne Forest. This gets a call-back in The Chessmen of Doom, when he remembers single-handedly charging an enemy machine gun nest during the same battle, despite being in intelligence and not the infantry.
    • Father Higgins was an army chaplain who served in the Pacific front during World War II, fighting in Guam and the Philippines, and the war is said to have left him with a permanent case of bad nerves and a violent temper.
    • Major Harrison Dixon was a World War II bomber pilot, who returned to action (this time in a jet) in the Korean War.
  • On One Condition: In The Chessmen of Doom, Professor Childermass will only inherit his late brother Perry's estate (and 10 million dollars) if he stays there for the summer (June 15 to Labor Day) and keeps the place in shape without any paid help (though apparently hiring someone to fix the furnace doesn't count). He winds up violating the terms of the will by going home early, stating that the money isn't worth the risk of sticking around and possibly getting killed by the Evil Wizard Edmund Stallybrass. However, he does get twenty thousand dollars as a consolation prize. The Hand of the Necromancer adds that Perry also bequeathed him some magical items once owned by the wizard Esdrias Blackleach, with no conditions attached, though the items came with their own set of dangers.
  • Playground Song: The Boy Scouts on their way to Camp Chocorua in The Mummy, the Will, and the Crypt sing "98 Bottles of Beer on the Wall" all the way through before the trip is out. Narration describes it afterward as "the song that is calculated to drive bus drivers out of their minds".
  • Portal to the Past: The Trolley to Yesterday introduces the "Holes of Time", which occur for no reason in certain random but fixed locations, and can take people to any point in history in that location — they're the key to the Time Trolley's operation. Five are mentioned in particular — one in a house in Topsfield, Massachusetts; one at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean; one in a crypt of a medieval church in London; one in the temple of Abu Simbel in Upper Egypt; and one in Leander's Tower in the Hellespont, which is where the Professor intends to go.
  • Posthumous Collaboration: The Drum, the Doll, and the Zombie, written by Strickland based on Bellairs' notes.
  • Prefers Rocks to Pillows: In The Secret of the Underground Room, when offered a bed in an inn, Father Higgins declines, stating that "I slept on rocks and roots in the jungles during the Second World War, and that floor looks very inviting to me. Wake me about noon tomorrow, if you would be so kind." He promptly throws himself down on the rough boards and is asleep in seconds.
  • Public Domain Artifact: The heroes' greatest weapon against the forces of darkness is a small cross, worn on a necklace by a priest, containing two splinters of the True Cross. Unfortunately, it's lost in The Secret of the Underground Room when Masterman breaks the chain that Johnny wears it on, and he realizes later that he'd forgotten to grab it from the floor and so left it in the underground room.
  • Raised by Grandparents: Johnny moves in with his father's parents when he's about eleven, due to his mother's death and his father going off to fight in the Korean War.
  • Recurring Extra: Perry Childermass manages to be both this and an Unseen Character (the first time he's named, it's because the Professor has gotten a letter reporting his death; and his physical body never appears, as his corpse was stolen soon afterward). Despite this, he still manages to to affect the plot of three different books: The Chessmen of Doom, The Hand of the Necromancer and The Bell, the Book, and the Spellbinder (downplayed in the latter, as Perry and his former estate are merely mentioned as being near where they're actually heading, and when this is mentioned, Father Higgins asks about what he was like in an effort to try and take his mind off the present danger).
  • Sanity Slippage: A side effect of Jarmyn Thanatos's process of becoming younger. Every time he does it, he loses a bit of himself; by the time of The Bell, the Book and the Spellbinder, he has worn down to little more than his desire to live forever.
  • Shout-Out: Several in The Revenge of the Wizard's Ghost.
    • The tentacled monster hanging around the Windrow Estate, and the enigmatic stained-glass window depicting three figures, are borrowed from the M.R. James stories "Count Magnus" and "The Treasure of Abbot Thomas", respectively.
    • The "Temple of the Inner Light", also located on the estate, may be a more subtle Shout Out to "The Inmost Light", a story by Arthur Machen. In both cases, Light Is Not Good.
  • Shout-Out Theme Naming: Professor Childermass's father, Marcus, named his sons after characters in Tobias Smollett novels — Roderick Random, Humphrey Clinker, Peregrine Pickle and Ferdinand Count Fathom (who usually goes by F.C.F. Childermass). Possibly averted with his daughter, whose name is never mentioned.
  • Sinister Minister: Father Remigius Baart, the antagonist of The Curse of the Blue Figurine.
  • Sitcom Arch-Nemesis: Downplayed example, but Professor Childermass has a strong dislike for (and can barely stand to be in the same room as) Dr. Carl Schermerhorn, the Dixon's family doctor, a fat, shambly man who uses bad grammar and tells lousy jokes. The professor tries to be polite to him, but generally regards him as a quack and, when Major Harrison Dixon falls gravely ill in The Wrath of the Grinning Ghost (his spirit has actually been stolen by an evil entity), the professor forbids him from being involved with the case. However, he has a good reason for all this: Schermerhorn once misdiagnosed the professor's cousin Bea, who was having severe headaches, with bad teeth. It turns out she had a brain tumor, which led to her death a few months later. Schermerhorn, for his part, doesn't seem to realize how the professor feels about him.
  • Soulless Shell: Brought up in The Drum, the Doll, and the Zombie.
    • Main villain Mama Sinestra plans to use her voodoo magic to draw the souls out of her living victims and turn them into soulless zombies under her control.
    • This is the final fate of Todd Lamort, alias Etienne LeGrande of St. Ives, the secondary antagonist of the same book. When he attempts to summon Baron Samedi while not being an initiated voodoo priest, the Baron instead plucks his soul from his body and destroys it, leaving him a gibbering mess who cannot talk sense, feed himself or understand what anybody says.
  • Supreme Chef: Professor Childermass, whose hobby is baking (his cakes are absolutely wonderful), and Gramma Dixon, who tends to make the same dishes all the time, but they're always delicious.
  • Survival Mantra: In The Curse Of The Blue Figurine, Professor Childermass is climbing a mountain on a stormy night, searching for Johnny Dixon, who has been abducted by a ghost. The professor is afraid of heights, so he repeatedly quotes the "Lay on, Macduff!" speech from Macbeth and recites a prayer to Saint Michael to keep himself from panicking and turning back. In The Hand of the Necromancer, he similarly recites the Roman emperors and their supposed descendants, followed by a prayer, when he, Johnny and Sarah are trying to survive a storm conjured by the book's villain.
  • Sword Cane: One is featured in The Eyes of the Killer Robot. It ends up in Professor Childermass's hands thanks to a ghost pointing Johnny to a pawn ticket in an old snuff box, and proves key to stopping the titular robot (though the Professor doesn't realize it's enchanted until after he uses it for its intended purpose). Oddly, it's never seen in the series after this, despite the Professor still having it at the end of the book.
  • Teacher's Pet: In book 1, class bully Eddie Tompke claims Johnny is this, and that's why he always gets good grades. The truth is that while Johnny's teachers usually do like him, it's because he does his work and actually earns those grades.
  • Tear Off Your Face: In the later sequel The Drum, the Doll, and the Zombie, Johnny Dixon has a nightmare about this — in it, the book's villain, a hideous old woman named Corinne LeGrande (better known as Mama Sinestra), shows up at the Halloween party at his school, looking like herself. When it's time for everyone to take off their masks, she removes her entire face, revealing only a grinning skull underneath.
  • The Teetotaler: Gramma Dixon, who strongly disapproves of alcohol and doesn't even like to stay in the same room when it's being served.
  • Theme Initials: The Windrow Family, with their intention to communicate that their family held the Urim and Thummim. However, there are only so many names that start with U and T. (And there are no IIs shown in the list of Windrow's names.)
  • There Is Only One Bed: More like "there are only two beds" and three people, late in The Secret of the Underground Room. Johnny offers Father Higgins his bed in the room of their inn after rescuing him, but Father Higgins declines. See Prefers Rocks to Pillows for his follow-up response.
  • Things That Go "Bump" in the Night
  • Time Travel Episode: The Trolley to Yesterday, which sees Johnny, Fergie and the professor going back to the last days of the Byzantium Empire.
  • Tomboy: Sarah Channing in the later Johnny Dixon books.
  • Trash of the Titans: In a variant, it's only Professor Childermass's desk that's a disaster area, covered in papers and old composition books, which are literally overflowing onto the floor. The back room of his study is apparently in similar shape.
  • Unholy Matrimony: The villains of The Eyes of the Killer Robot.
  • Verbal Tic: Mattheus Mergal of The Hand of the Necromancer has a habit of saying "Hmm". This, along with a few other things, clues in Johnny that it's Mergal on the phone and not Professor Childermass, as he claims.
  • Veteran Instructor: Having served as a pilot in both World War II (in a bomber) and the Korean War (in a jet), Harrison Dixon becomes an instructor for other fighter pilots after the Korean War ends.
  • When the Planets Align: In The Chessmen of Doom, the planets have to be favorable for Edmund Stallybrass to perform the spell that would summon comets to wipe out humanity.
  • Wrecked Weapon: In both The Trolley to Yesterday and The Wrath of the Grinning Ghost, Professor Childermass breaks his Knights of Columbus sword while fighting someone. The second time, he even lampshades it:
    Professor Childermass: "Drat! That is the second one of these things I've broken!"
  • You Can't Miss It: Referenced in The Drum, the Doll, and the Zombie when a very frustrated Professor Childermass has just gotten a set of directions from a gas station attendant and preempts the expected line with "Don't you dare tell me I can't miss it!".

Alternative Title(s): The Spell Of The Sorcerers Skull, The Mummy The Will And The Crypt, The Eyes Of The Killer Robot