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Literature / The Treasure of Alpheus Winterborn

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The Treasure of Alpheus Winterborn is a mystery novel for younger readers by John Bellairs, first published in 1978.

It introduces the teenage Anthony Monday and his elderly friend Myra Eells, who live in Hoosac, Minnesota, and her brother Emerson, a lawyer in St. Cloud, Minnesota. He wrote three more books about the characters, which gave Emerson Eells more involvement and introduced supernatural elements into the series.

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The series' continuity includes:

  1. The Treasure of Alpheus Winterborn (1978)
  2. The Dark Secret of Weatherend (1984)
  3. The Lamp From the Warlock's Tomb (1988)
  4. The Mansion in the Mist (1992)

The Treasure of Alpheus Winterborn contains examples of:

  • Abusive Parents: Anthony Monday's mother is mentally and emotionally abusive to her younger son; it's said she was always telling Anthony that "he was worthless and stupid and selfish", and has a strong dislike of Myra Eells, refusing to believe her son's closest friend is a decent person (though it's hinted she's really just jealous of the other woman's close bond with Anthony). Fortunately, Anthony's father is much nicer, if rarely involved in his son's personal life.
  • Alliterative Name: Emerson Eells.
  • Cool Old Guy: Emerson Eells.
  • Cool Old Lady: Myra Eells. Despite her klutziness, she somehow always knows when something's bothering Anthony, and is very willing to listen to him and help him when he needs it.
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  • The Engineer: Anthony's older brother Keith, who's always tinkering with the family car and works at a garage.
  • Hollywood Heart Attack: Mr. Howard Monday suffers one, walking into his home while clutching his chest and suddenly collapsing. There's actually some foreshadowing, as some time before, he mentions that he's been having pains in his chest from time to time, and feels "all wishy-washy". Fortunately, he survives it (and a second, minor heart attack that happens when he stubbornly tries to re-open his business before the doctor thinks he's ready).
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: Hugo Philpotts, intent on getting his uncle's treasure, winds up publicly showing himself as a rotten person in the process and has to move out of town to find a new job.
  • Intergenerational Friendship: Anthony Monday with the elderly Myra Eells and her brother Emerson.
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  • The Klutz: Myra Eells is the kind of person who can't open a can of beans without cutting her hand to ribbons, and she acknowledges her own klutziness multiple times throughout the series.
  • Nuclear Family: The Mondays are the only family among Bellairs' three series to be this, with two parents (Howard and Ginny Monday) and two kids (Keith and Anthony).
  • Papa Wolf: When Hugo Philpotts insults Anthony, Howard Monday gets angry and prepares to slug him. It's only Anthony's telling him not to hit the other man that makes Howard back down.
  • Passed-Over Inheritance: When Alpheus Winterborn died, he left his business and most of his money to his son Alpheus Junior, and very little to his sister (he was on the outs with her, though apparently not enough to keep him from visiting from time to time during the last two years of his life) and her son. The son, Hugo Philpotts, has always felt he should have gotten more and is now determined to claim his uncle's hidden treasure to make up for it.
  • Public Domain Artifact: The titular treasure is actually a small golden statue, one of the two golden cherubim on the cover of the Ark of the Covenant, which Alpheus Winterborn brought home with him after finding the Ark itself - the rest of the Ark was buried in a cave-in soon after its discovery (a previous cave-in had opened a path that led to its resting place).

The sequels add examples of:

  • Another Dimension: The villains in The Mansion in the Mist live in a relatively small one, with just a meadow, a forest, a lake, a tower and a small outbuilding full of gardening supplies before they started meddling.
  • Artifact of Doom: The Logos Cube of The Mansion in the Mist, which began to act with a will of its own after it was hidden away, randomly altering things in the Autarch's dimension and even killing one person (and it's implied it did the same to one of the Autarches too) for no reason.
  • Bury Me Not on the Lone Prairie: Willis Nightwood's will in The Lamp From the Warlock's Tomb involved a set of bizarre instructions for his burial: his body was cremated, and his ashes placed in a can that was sewn up into the belly of a scarecrow that was then taken to an underground tomb on his estate. The scarecrow was placed in a chair at a table marked with a pentagram and where an iron bell, a Dutch china lamp that had been his bedside table lamp for years, and a family bible had all been placed. Certain rites were carried out once the scarecrow was in place, then the tomb's entrance was sealed with earth, boulders and three feet of concrete, and a plaque with the words "It takes jacks to open" (believed to be a reference to his poker-playing days) was affixed to the concrete once it was dry. It turns out all this was in order to prevent the evil spirit that had possessed him (and was now linked to the lamp) from getting loose after his death.
  • Can't You Read the Sign?: In The Dark Secret of Weatherend, Miss Eells blatantly ignores a "No Trespassing" sign as she and Anthony hop a fence to explore an empty house. Anthony mentally notes that Miss Eells hates such signs anyway, and once stomped on one just to show what she thought of it.
  • Demonic Possession: Willis Nightwood, original owner of the titular object in The Lamp From the Warlock's Tomb, got himself possessed by an evil spirit while performing a ritual to get some important ingredients he needed for a different spell. The evil spirit serves as the secondary antagonist of the story, as the theft of the lamp from the tomb allowed it to manifest wherever the lamp is taken.
  • The End of the World as We Know It: The antagonist of The Dark Secret of Weatherend intends to wipe out humanity with a massive storm that destroys everything.
  • The Hermit: Nathaniel Wabe becomes this at the end of The Mansion in the Mist, staying in his own little universe to live in peace and tend his vegetable garden. He does, however, ask them to supply him with a few things he misses from Earth (cigars, the comics section of the newspaper and some carrot seeds) once or twice a year, which the group agrees to.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard:
    • The Dark Secret of Weatherend: Anders Borkman, when he catches Ms. Eells and Anthony in his father's tomb, demands they hand over the object they've taken from the coffin. When they do, the object turns out to be a magical talisman that destroys him.
    • The Lamp From the Warlock's Tomb: Adele Grimshaw banished the evil spirit that was linked to the lamp. Later, her attempt to use the lamp to become more powerful (and kill the Eells siblings in the process) leads to Anthony shattering the lamp's chimney, which breaks all her spells. The evil spirit she banished promptly returns and kills her.
    • The Mansion in the Mist: The Autarches created the Logos Cube, but lost control of it. When it's destroyed, so are they.
  • I Choose to Stay: After the other Autarches are destroyed in The Mansion in the Mist, Nathanial Wabe decides to stay in their little dimension, which is just big enough for one person to live comfortably. While Emerson offers to bring him back to Earth, Wabe opts out, saying that Earth is too crowded and full of people for him - he just wants to be left alone in peace and to tend his vegetable garden.
  • Magical Accessory: Emerson, as revealed in The Mansion in the Mist, has a collection of amulets that can be worn to ward off evil. These include a blessed tube of sand from the Gobi Desert, various coins, tiny icons, teeth from long-dead wizards and other items.
  • Read the Fine Print: Positive example in The Dark Secret of Weatherend. It's been years since Myra Eels bothered to carefully read the contract she signed when she was made Head Librarian of the Hoosac Public Library, and as a result, she'd forgotten about one clause that was in there, stating that she could not be fired from her job for any reason.
  • Significant Anagram: Mrs. G. Warmish, the antagonist of The Lamp From the Warlock's Tomb, is Adele Grimshaw, who changed her identity in preparation for carrying out her evil plan.
  • Silly Will: In The Lamp From the Warlock's Tomb, while there were no strange bequests in Willis Nightwood's will, it did include a set of bizarre instructions for his burial (see "Bury Me Not on the Lone Prairie" for details).
  • Supernatural Is Purple: In The Mansion in the Mist, when a star shines through a certain piece of purple glass, it causes a chest to appear that can transport people to another dimension.
  • Taken for Granite: In The Mansion in the Mist, this happens to some unnamed victims of the villains, and almost occurs to Emerson and Miss Eells.
  • Take Over the World: The Autarches of The Mansion in the Mist want to do this via dragging Earth off into their own private dimension.
  • Ultimate Job Security: In The Dark Secret of Weatherend, Miss Eells is in danger of losing her job after being magically hypnotized and ruining a tea party being held by Mrs. Hanson Oxenstern, head of the library board. Then the last chapter reveals that when she was made Head Librarian, her predecessor was the one who drew up her contract and, knowing what Miss Eells was like, included a clause stating that she could not be fired for any reason, something Miss Eells had forgotten about until it was pointed out when she was formally reinstated. Mrs. Oxenstern is, naturally, quite irked at this, but she can't do anything about it.
  • Weather Manipulation: The antagonist of The Dark Secret of Weatherend achieves this via magic, and a previous incident is mentioned where, hundreds of years ago, a group of witches set things up to cause "wild and woolly weather" in an area in England.
  • Why Did It Have to Be Snakes?: Anthony Monday develops a fear of dogs after one chases him in his first book, leading to his tripping over a wire and breaking his arm.


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