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Literature / The House With a Clock in Its Walls

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The House With a Clock in Its Walls is a Gothic horror novel for younger readers by John Bellairs, with illustrations by Edward Gorey. Published in 1973, the work introduced the character of Lewis Barnevelt, his magician uncle Jonathan, and their friends Florence Zimmermann and (mentioned only) Rose Rita Pottinger, who live in the town of New Zebedee, Michigan; Jonathan owns the eponymous House, which was previously the property of a married couple of evil magicians with some very nasty secrets. It proved a large success, and Bellairs published two sequels in 1975 (The Figure in the Shadows) and 1976 (The Letter, the Witch and the Ring).

After taking nearly fifteen years off to work on two other series, Bellairs had begun work on at least three additional sequels at the time of his death. Brad Strickland was hired by Bellairs' son to complete the unfinished manuscripts, with the results published from 1993 as The Ghost in the Mirror, The Vengeance of the Witchfinder, and The Doom of the Haunted Opera. After this, Strickland began writing additional novels based on the characters.


The first book in the series was adapted as one of the stories in the 1979 Vincent Price television anthology Once Upon a Midnight Scary. A feature film adaptation was released in 2018, directed by Eli Roth and starring Jack Black, Cate Blanchett and Kyle Maclachlan.

The series' continuity includes:

  1. The House with a Clock in its Walls (1973; set August 1948-April 1949)
  2. The Figure in the Shadows (1975; set September-December 1949)
  3. The Letter, the Witch, and the Ring (1976; set June 1950)
  4. The Ghost in the Mirror (1993; set June-August 1951)
  5. The Vengeance of the Witch-finder (1993; set June-December 1951)
  6. The Doom of the Haunted Opera (1995; set March 1952)
  7. The Specter from the Magician's Museum (1998; set September-early November)
  8. The Beast Under the Wizard's Bridge (2000; set February-September)
  9. The Tower at the End of the World (2001; set June-August)
  10. The Whistle, the Grave, and the Ghost (2003)
  11. The House Where Nobody Lived (2006)
  12. The Sign of the Sinister Sorcerer (2008; set June-July)

The House With a Clock in Its Walls contains examples of:

  • Alliterative Name:
    • Isaac Izard, the warlock who turned the eponymous House into a vessel for the Clock.
    • Lewis's friend Rose Rita.
  • And I Must Scream: Selenna Izard seems to have been a case of this before she is let out of her tomb.
  • Back from the Dead: Attempted - fully activating the Doomsday Clock will result in Isaac's resurrection, along with the end of the world. Fortunately, it's destroyed before he comes back.
  • Bad Boss: It's very likely that Selenna murdered her human minion Hammerhandle to create her Hand of Glory.
  • Cannot Cross Running Water: Lewis, Mrs. Zimmermann, and Uncle Jonathan escape from Mrs. Izard by crossing a river because evil can't cross running water.
  • Chase Scene: As noted directly above, Selenna chases the heroes in an ominous shadowy car whose headlights mimic her glasses.
  • Cool Old Guy: Uncle Jonathan.
  • Cool Old Lady: Mrs. Zimmermann.
  • Cool Uncle: Jonathan Barnevelt is this for Lewis, once Lewis learns his uncle is a wizard who is firmly on the side of good, and eventually accepts that Jonathan isn't going to throw him out because of a mistake he's made (such as messing around with magic and nearly getting himself killed in the process).
  • Death by Origin Story: Lewis goes to live with Jonathan after his parents die in a car accident, later elaborated upon in The Sign of the Sinister Sorcerer as another driver having fallen asleep at the wheel and crossed into the opposite lane, where they collided with the Barnevelts' car head-on, killing both Mr. and Mrs. Barnavelt and the other driver.
  • Doomsday Device: The Clock of the title, which is attempting to drag time back into the proper configuration and bring on Doomsday.
  • The End of the World as We Know It: This is what would happen if Selenna Izard succeeded in using the titular clock to bring about Doomsday.
  • Evil Sorcerer: Isaac and Selenna Izard.
  • For Science!: The heroes never do establish exactly what provoked the Izards' experiments, but it's speculated it was along these lines, if not straight up For the Evulz.
    Jonathan: Isaac and Selenna Izard didn't enjoy this world very much. Why shouldn't they try for the next one?
  • Game Face: When facing Selenna Izard, Mrs. Zimmermann turns her umbrella into a more traditional sorceress' staff and her clothes into wizardly robes sparkling with magical fire. She tends to use this form near the end of each book, usually for a final battle with whatever lead villain they're dealing with. She also uses it to bluff Rose Rita in book 3, sans the staff, and mentions afterward that while she's lost most of her power, she can still make herself "look pretty darn intimidating".
  • Greater-Scope Villain: Isaac Izard, who's been dead for five years by the time the story starts, yet set the Doomsday Clock ticking until someone else could fully activate it.
  • Hand of Glory: Mrs. Izard uses a Hand of Glory to paralyze Jonathan and Mrs. Zimmermann when they and Lewis finally find the hidden Doomsday Clock.
  • Haunted Technology: The clock.
  • Idle Rich: Jonathan, who lives off an inheritance (and, per later books, the income he gets from having invested most of it in stocks and bonds) and spends most of his time just hanging around the house when he's not out running errands, doing work for the Capharnaum County Magician's Society or taking Lewis places.
  • Idiot Ball: Lewis can't seem to drop his.
  • Insult of Endearment: Jonathan and Mrs. Zimmermann use these all the time. She calls him names like Fat Ears and Weird Beard, and he calls her names like Frizzy Wig and Hag Face.
  • Intergenerational Friendship: Lewis Barnavelt with Uncle Jonathan and Mrs. Zimmermann.
  • It Won't Turn Off: The Clock's ticking inside the walls of the house strengthens and fades, but never entirely stops.
  • Jerk Jock: Tarby, although he manages a couple Pet the Dog moments with Lewis.
  • Magic 8-Ball: The protagonists use a Magic 8-Ball to find the Clock. Wizard Jonathan and witch Mrs. Zimmermann both try to use the 8-Ball without success. Eventually, Jonathan's nephew Lewis is able to get the 8-Ball to display the message "COAL BIN". (Like any magical object, the 8-Ball only works for its owner.)
  • The Klutz: Lewis is pretty awkward physically.
  • Master of Illusion: Jonathan Barnevelt's specialty. Unlike most examples, he mainly uses them to entertain his friends and family.
  • More Deadly Than the Male: Mrs. Zimmermann is a much more skilled magical practitioner than Uncle Jonathan (though he does occasionally show off some pretty strong magic). Isaac's notes also say that Selenna is/was more powerful than him.
  • Never Mess with Granny: Mrs. Zimmermann.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero!: Lewis unintentionally lets Selenna Izard out of her tomb in his attempt to preserve his friendship with Tarby.
  • Nothing Is Scarier: Happens a lot, with a great deal of suspense ratcheted up from what isn't seen or isn't happening. As just a few examples among many: Lewis finding Izard's papers in the old organ, only to be "attacked" by a moth; his search of the house across the street for Mrs. Izard...
  • Odd Friendship: Lewis and Tarby. At the end of the book, Lewis admits it was probably doomed from the start, but he's found Rose Rita, who proves to be a much better match.
  • Ominous Pipe Organ: Subverted, there's one in the House, but it's not especially evil, and Lewis discovers Izard's notes hidden inside it.
  • Refuge in Audacity: Uncle Jonathan's raison d'etre, particularly when it comes to magic. Exhibit A: the strange and silly way he chases the reflection of the moon around the backyard before eclipsing it. Exhibit B: His time-travel magic that allows for a fake re-enactment of the Battle of Waterloo, where you can pick a different side to win each time, watching the losing general die...and it's Played for Laughs. Exhibit C: His wild and Zany Scheme to find the clock by having Lewis create the weirdest set of instructions he can come up with—and it works. This last, at least, is explained by noting that Jonathan's magic works on chaos, the antithesis of Isaac and Selenna Izard's orderly magic.
  • Scary Shiny Glasses: The undead Selenna Izard has exactly this sort of glasses, which as noted even shine with ghostly radiance during a chase scene. After her destruction, all that is left of her is her skull and her glasses.
  • Supernatural Is Purple: Purple is the color of Florence Zimmermann's magic (overlapping with Purple Is Powerful).
  • Total Eclipse of the Plot: Jonathan Barnevelt can cause a total lunar eclipse, albeit one that can only be seen from the area where he's casting it, and it requires the planets to be in a favorable conjunction.
  • Unholy Matrimony: Isaac and Selenna Izard, although they're both dead(ish) at the start of the story.
  • Vitriolic Best Buds: Uncle Jonathan and Mrs. Zimmermann.
  • What Could Have Been: In-universe example - according to Strickland's books, during the time period when Michigan was going through the process of becoming a state (1835-1837), New Zebedee was one of the cities being considered for the state capital. It ultimately lost out to Lansing, but did become the county seat of Capharnaum County. This is actually inspired by a real-life event: Marshall, Michigan (where Bellairs grew up, and which served as the basis for the fictional New Zebedee) was a front-runner for becoming the state's capital in 1847, but lost to Lansing; like its fictional counterpart, it became a county seat instead.
  • When the Planets Align:
    • Isaac Izard's end-of-the-world spell requires the exactly right sort of sky/weather configuration to work; he spent years obsessively studying cloud patterns from the cupola of the House.
    • The planets have to be favorable for Jonathan Barnevelt to perform his "eclipse the moon" spell.
  • Widow Woman: Florence Zimmermann outlived her husband Honus, whose exact cause of death has never been given.
  • Wizard Duel:
    • Mrs. Zimmermann has one entirely off-screen against Selenna Izard.
    • Lewis also attempts one against Selenna himself, which since he doesn't know what he is doing falls rather flat and leaves Jonathan's cane "in a bit of a shock".

The Figure in the Shadows adds examples of:

The Letter, the Witch, and the Ring adds examples of:

  • Adults Are Useless: Played fairly straight with Aggie's family, although they do eventually get the police involved.
  • And I Must Scream: The book ends with the villain's plan Gone Horribly Right, as Asmodai "monkey paws" her wish to be "young, beautiful and alive for a thousand years" by transforming her into a willow tree. Mrs. Zimmermann notes that the branches appear to be quivering, even though there's no wind.
  • Artifact of Doom: The eponymous ring, at least if you use it to summon Asmodai; King Solomon was evidently able to use it for decades without ill effects.
  • Baleful Polymorph: Gert Bigger turns Mrs. Zimmermann into a chicken.
  • Brought Down to Normal: It's revealed that Mrs. Zimmermann lost a lot of her power following the destruction of her staff of The Figure in the Shadows.
  • Brandishment Bluff: Essentially what Mrs. Zimmermann does with Rose Rita to get her to hand over the ring.
  • Domestic Abuse: Gert Bigger admits that the man she eventually married used to beat her.
  • Evil Laugh: Instead of the booming laugh you might expect, Gert has a unsettling titter.
  • Fainting: Rose Rita does this when unexpectedly encountering Gert while sneaking around in the latter's home.
  • Freudian Excuse: Gert at least tries to claim this when monologuing to Rose Rita.
  • Gaslighting: Gert uses the ring to harass Rose Rita and Mrs. Zimmermann throughout the story.
  • Genius Bruiser: Gert Bigger is a powerful intimidating woman and entirely self-taught in magic.
  • Green-Eyed Monster: Gert Bigger has carried a lifelong grudge against Mrs. Zimmermann after they fought over the same boy; Florence won the fight (even if she and Mordecai Hunks broke up later), earning Gert's wrath.
  • Hermetic Magic: Gnostic magic is often featured, with direct references to the Keys of Solomon in The Letter, the Witch, and the Ring.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: Gert Bigger wishes to be young, beautiful and unchanging for a long, long time. She falls victim to a Literal Genie, who (probably) turns her into a tree.
  • Intergenerational Friendship: Rose Rita and Mrs. Zimmermann.
  • Just Between You and Me: Gert goes on an extended version of this to the paralyzed Rose Rita.
  • Literal Genie: The demon Asmodai, probably. The titular ring is a magic artifact that grants wishes, by allowing the wearer to invoke the demon. Upon finally achieving full mastery of the ring, Gert wishes to be young and beautiful and to live for a thousand years — then vanishes. The heroes later notice a young willow tree nearby...
  • Near-Villain Victory: Gert Bigger has changed Mrs. Zimmermann into a chicken, has Rose Rita locked in a death spell, and mastered the ring's power. But then she (very likely) falls victim to a Literal Genie.
  • Nice Job Fixing It, Villain!: Gert summoning Asmodai in Rose Rita's presence ends up disrupting the paralysis/death spell that Rose Rita is locked in.
  • No Ontological Inertia: If a witch dies (or loses her powers via being forcibly changed into something like a tree), all her spells are broken.
  • Old Maid: Discussed by Rose Rita and Mrs. Zimmermann, as Rose Rita wonders what people would think of her if she never married. Mrs. Zimmermann points out that she's technically been one since her husband died, but she was happy as a wife and she's happy as a widow, so being considered an old maid doesn't bother her. Regardless, Rose Rita won't know for sure if she wants to stay unmarried until the time comes.
  • Public Domain Artifact: King Solomon's Ring, assuming that's what it really was.
  • Sadly Mythcharacterized: The ritual Gert Bigger plans to use to summon Asmodai involves praying in an underground room with an altar and statues dedicated to Ishtar, the Mesopotamian goddess of war and love, with the implication given that she is a deity of evil and darkness. It's not at all clear why she was selected since, other than being a Femme Fatale and the fact anyone who slept with her would die, she was usually portrayed positively in the myths—if any from this pantheon would be more expected it would be Ereshkigal since she at least ruled the underworld. Or there's Hecate from the Greek pantheon who has a history of Demonization already. Perhaps Ishtar was chosen because of the presence of King Solomon's Ring in the narrative, since he'd most likely consider a Babylonian goddess as a demon before a Greek one.
  • Summoning Ritual: As noted, one must be performed to bring forth Asmodai.
  • Transflormation: Gert Bigger being turned into a willow tree by Asmodai.
  • Why Did It Have to Be Snakes?: Rose Rita is terrified of tunnels and other closed-in spaces, something that gets a Call-Back in later books.

Strickland's sequels add examples of:

  • Alliterative Name: Ishmael Izard, villain of The Tower at the End of the World.
  • Amoral Attorney: Played with - Mephistopheles P. Moote is unquestionably evil, wanting to bring the Great Old Ones back to rule Earth (and to become one of them while he's at it), but there's no direct evidence that he ever acted this way when actually practicing law (having retired by the time of The Beast Under the Wizard's Bridge).
  • Avenging the Villain: In The Tower at the End of the World, Ishmael Izard is aware that Lewis called Ishmael's mother Selenna back from the dead, then banished her forever, and wants him to suffer for it.
  • Bedsheet Ladder: In The Vengeance of the Witch-Finder, Lewis uses one to successfully escape his room at Barnavelt Manor, tying the blanket and two sheets together (with the blanket end tied to the bedpost).
  • Big Fancy House: Much of the action in The Vengeance of the Witch-Finder takes place at Barnavelt Manor in Sussex, England, a three-story, two-winged manor that dates back to at least the 1600s. However, due to money issues, only the bottom two stories of one wing are occupied; the rest is closed off.
  • Big "NO!": As recounted in The Sign of the Sinister Sorcerer, Lewis' babysitter Gloria let out one and fainted when she learned Lewis' parents had been killed in a car accident.
  • Bizarrchitecture: Gnomon Island has some pretty odd architectural features in The Tower at the End of the World. Mrs. Zimmermann also considers the mansion on Ivarhaven Island to be this, commenting that "I like a house to look like a house, not a jumble of rectangles and squares."
  • Call-Back: Brad Strickland is especially fond of these, mainly calling back to details from The House With a Clock in Its Walls, but sometimes to other works.
    • The Vengeance of the Witch-Finder mentions the Charles Atlas Bodybuilder booklet that Lewis sent off for in The Figure in the Shadows, adding that Lewis had only kept at the exercises for a few days because they were boring.
    • The old New Zebedee Opera House features in The Doom of the Haunted Opera.
    • Elihu Clabbernong's old iron bridge features in The Beast Under the Wizard's Bridge.
    • The Doomsday Clock is heavily referenced in The Tower at the End of the World.
    • Lewis's original (not much of a) friend Tarby also cameos in The Tower at the End of the World, but Lewis doesn't speak to him at the time, mentally noting that Tarby is pretending he doesn't exist, as usual.
  • Confirmed Bachelor: In The Vengeance of the Witch-Finder, Jonathan self-identifies as "an old bachelor" who never married after a girl he was in love with jilted him and broke his heart thirty years before.
  • Creepy Cemetery: Full of weeping angels in The Doom of the Haunted Opera.
  • Cut Phone Lines: In The Vengeance of the Witch-Finder, Lewis tries to call the police from Barnavelt Manor, but soon realizes the phone has gone dead and isn't sure how much of his message got through (enough, as it turns out). He later discovers the line has been cut, and the culprit had removed about six inches of the wire to make sure it couldn't be easily reconnected.
  • A Day in the Limelight: Rose Rita and Mrs. Zimmermann get two books all to themselves.
  • Dead Person Impersonation: In The Whistle, The Grave and The Ghost, Mrs. Zimmermann gets a book listed as being written by Father Augustus St. Francis Kemp, regarding his master Father Pierre Michel d'Anjou, and how d'Anjou had commanded a lamia for a time until it proved too dangerous and he had to seal it away, supposedly dying afterward. Not long after, the local Catholic priest, Father Foley, reveals that he is d'Anjou, who wanted nothing more to do with his old life and his magical experiments and so had taken Kemp's name after the younger man died. He felt it would do no harm since the real Kemp had no family and because he expected he would die soon anyway, unaware that his life was tied to the lamia's and that he would continue to exist until it was destroyed.
  • Disability Immunity: The villain in The Vengeance of the Witch-Finder must look into people's eyes to take control of them. Bertie Goodring, being nearly blind, is unaffected.
  • The End of the World as We Know It: In The Tower at the End of the World.
  • Evil Brit: Malachiah Pruitt, the cruel sorcerer and Puritan witch-finder who took over Barnavelt Manor during the English Civil War in The Vengeance of the Witch-Finder.
  • Evil Uncle: From The Beast Under the Wizard's Bridge, Jedediah Clabbernong, who murdered his own nephew (and his nephew's wife) in a magic ritual to keep himself alive longer, and tried (unsuccessfully) to turn his grandnephew Elihu into his apprentice.
  • The First Cut Is the Deepest: In The Vengeance of the Witch-finder, Jonathan admits to Lewis that thirty years ago, a girl he was in love with jilted him and broke his heart, so he never married.
  • Fog of Doom: Cuts off New Zebedee from the rest of the world in The Doom of the Haunted Opera.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard:
    • The Ghost in the Mirror: Adolphus Stoltzfuss performs a spell to summon the demon Aziel, who can reveal the location of the treasure Stoltzfuss is searching for. While he learns what he wants, Aziel winds up devouring Stoltzfuss before he can put the information to use.
    • The Vengeance of the Witch-finder: After hearing Lewis has his crown, the ghost of Malachiah Pruitt demands it be returned. Unfortunately, Lewis also attached the Amulet of Constantine to the crown, enabling Pruitt's defeat.
    • The Beast Under the Wizard's Bridge: Mephistopheles Moote sets the return of Jedidiah Clabbernong in motion. He dies by getting in Clabbernong's way when the transformed sorcerer is intent on recovering the jewel containing his soul. Clabbernong's obsession with recovering it also leads to his own downfall.
    • The Tower at the End of the World: Ishmael Izard, intent on avenging his mother, passes a set of runes to Lewis that would lead to his death at the hands of a demon. When Lewis tricks him into taking them back, the demon destroys Ishmael instead.
    • The Sign of the Sinister Sorcerer: Adolfus Schlectesherz murders his old teacher (enabling his spirit to appear to the Barnevelts and try to warn them), and later banishes Jonathan Barnavelt into the same realm where Dr. Marville's spirit ended up. The good doctor subsequently teaches Jonathan key abilities that lead to Schlectesherz's downfall.
  • Homeschooled Kids: In The Vengeance of the Witch-finder, the nearly blind Bertie Goodring is homeschooled by his mother, a former governess, due to his special needs. As Bertie proves, Mrs. Goodring is a very good teacher. It's never said if he's still homeschooled after the operation that restored his sight at the end of the book.
  • Hurl It into the Sun: In a roundabout way in The Beast Under the Wizard's Bridge: the heroes magically propel the beast's Soul Jar and a rivet from the bridge (with Anti-Magic properties) into space, and the beast itself follows them, with all three coming down on the Red Star, knocking it off course and into the sun.
  • Inadequate Inheritor: According to The Whistle, The Grave and The Ghost, Jonathan's sisters Helen and Mattie, who were bossy, nosy, and had married outside their religion (the rest of the family was Catholic, but they married Baptists) were this to their grandfather, and so got nothing. Subverted with Charles Barnevelt, who also didn't get anything, but was passed over because he didn't need the money due to being a hard-working man who made a good living by himself.
  • Intimidating Revenue Service: Subverted in The Tower at the End of the World; it's revealed that an evil wizard like Isaac Izard has no fear of the IRS, and successfully avoided paying property taxes on his home for years (apparently he figured he'd end the world and not have to worry about it). Once he was dead though, and with no known heirs (his wife was dead and their son was overseas but believed dead as an infant), the house (with all its contents included) was auctioned off to settle the tax bill.
  • Meaningful Name: Gnomon Island in The Tower at the End of the World. Ishmael turned the top of the island into a gigantic sundial to use in his spell to end and recreate the world, and "Gnomon" is the name for the projecting piece at the center of a sundial, which shows the time by the position of its shadow.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: In The Vengeance of the Witch-finder, this is essentially Jonathan's reaction when he hears Lewis's concerns and blames himself for not being better at talking to kids and listening to him more, which would have averted a lot of the trouble they get into.
  • Out-of-Context Eavesdropping: In The Beast Under the Wizard's Bridge, Lewis overhears Jonathan and Mrs. Zimmermann talking about how they'd "better watch you-know-who, as well. I haven't trusted those two since this whole bridge business began. If anybody is going to get involved in some kind of diabolical mischief around here, it will be that pair, you mark my words." Lewis is crushed and thinks Jonathan means he and Rose Rita; in the final chapter, he finds out Jonathan had really meant Mephistopheles and Ermine Moote, the villains of the story.
  • Passed-Over Inheritance: The House With a Clock In Its Walls established that Jonathan inherited his money from his grandfather, with the implications that his own father and siblings were this trope; two of Strickland's books go into more depth on it:
    • The Whistle, The Grave and The Ghost reveals that Lewis's father Charles was a hard-working man who made a good living by himself (and thus didn't need the money), while Charles and Jonathan's sisters Helen and Mattie lost out because they were bossy, nosy and had married outside their religion (the rest of the family was Catholic, but they married Baptists). Jonathan, on the other hand, inherited because he was like his grandfather: "fat, lazy and too easygoing to worry about making money". (Also, he'd gone to agricultural college with the intention of becoming a farmer; Great-Grandpa Barnavelt approved of this since he'd started out as a farmer and homesteader himself before joining the army during the American Civil War and later building up a fortune in the railroad and livestock industries.)
    • The Sign of the Sinister Sorcerer reveals that Jonathan's father was also passed over because he and Great-Grandpa Barnavelt had had some kind of falling-out at one point.
  • Posthumous Collaboration: The first three were written by Strickland based on Bellairs' notes for the sequels he'd intended to write.
  • Public Domain Artifact: The Vengeance of the Witch-finder sees Lewis discover the Amulet of Constantine, a glass tube on a chain which contains one of the Nails of the True Cross. After Lewis's uncle Jonathan uses it once to banish an evil spirit, he gladly entrusts it to his neighbor Mrs. Zimmermann, who specializes in such talismans and is more skilled with magic than him.
  • Re-Power: Florence Zimmermann recovers her powers, stronger than before, as a result of their time travel adventure (in no small part due to Rose Rita's desire to help her do so) in The Ghost in the Mirror.
  • Rule of Three: Plays a key role in The Sign of the Sinister Sorcerer. First, witches and wizards often work and learn in groups of three, due to it being a balanced number - both Jonathan Barnavelt and Mrs. Zimmermann were part of a trio when they were learning. Second is the Curse Of Three, the rule that "bad things come in threes". The curse affects both Lewis and an old sea captain he read about, and nearly affects Jonathan, but the third bad event is prevented from being carried out.
  • Second Love: Albert Galway, Rose Rita's maternal grandfather, is revealed in The Doom of the Haunted Opera to have been married at least twice - he took his first wife, Coral, to the opening performance of the New Zebedee Opera House in 1902, and when mentioning it, specifies that she was "My first wife" and "not your grandmother, Rose Rita".
  • Sealed Evil in a Can:
    • Witch-finder Pruitt's invisible servant in The Vengeance of the Witch-finder, sealed in a spot on the grounds of Barnavelt Manor and later doubly sealed with a tomb of brick above it, and the Amulet of Constantine inside the lid. When a hole in the tomb opened, it released the invisible servant and brought Malachiah Pruitt's spirit back to the manor.
    • The simulacrum of Immanual Vanderhelm in The Doom of the Haunted Opera, which was made up of sheet music and was hidden away in a piano in the old opera house. An extra spell kept it from coming to life, but that spell expired when the man who cast it died, allowing the music to be brought out of the opera house and come to life.
    • The ghost of Belle Frisson, trapped in her own tomb until she can lure a victim in to give her the life-energy she needs to return to life in The Specter from the Magician's Museum.
    • The titular creature of The Beast Under the Wizard's Bridge, trapped by the magical metal used in the construction of the bridge.
    • The lamia in The Whistle, the Grave, and the Ghost, sealed under a large stone in the woods outside of New Zebedee.
  • Secret Keeper: Bertram "Bertie" Goodring learns of Jonathan's magic in The Vengeance of the Witchfinder. David Keller learns about Jonathan and Mrs. Zimmermann's magic in The House Where Nobody Lived.
  • Self-Deprecation: Throughout the series, Jonathan describes himself as being just a "parlor magician", specializing in illusions meant to entertain. However, he's able to pull off some major moments of awesome, banishing the spirit of Malachiah Pruitt back to the grave with the aid of the Amulet of Constantine and disposing of the evil spirit called by Ishmael Izard in The Tower At the End of the World. He also takes part in the spell that destroys Henry Vanderhelm, and delivers quite a blow to the lamia that stalls it long enough for Mrs. Zimmermann to destroy its link to this world.
  • Set Right What Once Went Wrong: In The Ghost in the Mirror, Rose Rita and Mrs. Zimmermann travel back in time to 1828 in order to right "the great wrong" in the life of Mrs. Zimmermann's first magic teacher, Hilda Weiss "Granny" Wetherbee.
  • Significant Anagram: A clue to the villain in The Sign of the Sinister Sorcerer. Said villain, Adolphus Schlectesherz, has a surname that translates as "evil heart". He anagrams that phrase into the name of his "puppet", Hal Everit.
  • Silly Will: Mild version - while the bequests in Elihu Clabbernong's will weren't unusual (he was the last of his family and so left everything to various charities), he did include an odd passage in his will that seemingly had nothing to do with anything else. It turns out to be a clue that lets the heroes find the Soul Jar for his great-uncle Jebediah Clabbernong, which Elihu had hidden away until the time period when it could be destroyed.
  • The Slow Path: A variant in The Ghost in the Mirror - Rose Rita and Mrs. Zimmermann get back to their own time easily, but discover that Rose Rita had left an object behind in 1828, which has taken the slow path to their era. It's the crystal that will grant Florence back her full powers, which needed to be buried in the earth for seven years minimum before being given to her and ended up waiting a total of a hundred and twenty-three.
  • Snake People: The lamia, a blood-drinking magical spirit that serves as the villain of The Whistle, The Grave and The Ghost.
  • Soul Jar: The trope is discussed in The Beast Under the Wizard's Bridge, and one appears as well. It's a ruby in the shape of a human heart, holds the soul of the warlock Jebediah Clabbernong, and can only be destroyed when the Red Star is in the sky.
  • Time-Travel Episode: The Ghost in the Mirror, which sees Florence Zimmermann and Rose Rita going from 1951 to 1828 and back.
  • Total Eclipse of the Plot: In The Tower At The End of The World, Ishmael Izard's spell to end the world would have apparently involved an eclipse of the sun.
  • Unholy Matrimony: Mephistopheles and Ermine Moote, the villains of The Beast Under the Wizard's Bridge.

Alternative Title(s): The Figure In The Shadows, The Letter The Witch And The Ring, The Beast Under The Wizards Bridge


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