Making it in Massachusetts

Hannah Duston

John's years in Massachusetts began in the late 1960s and were a whirlwind of activity, from moving around between Boston and Haverhill and returning briefly to teaching, to starting a family and finding time to continue writing.

And write he did: first was the publication of The Face in the Frost in 1969, followed by a smattering of small-scale projects, attempts, and ideas. One persistent idea involved that neighborhood house from childhood and its occupants – what if they were magicians? What if there was a supernatural clock hidden away inside? What if it was written for young readers? After years of rewrites, the "what if's" became a reality and 1973's The House with a Clock in its Walls opened its doors to soon-to-be fans hungry for more adventures.

And the adventures kept coming: first with Lewis Barnavelt and his friends in small-town Michigan; then the first of Anthony Monday's escapades involving treasures, tomes, and talismans; and finally Johnny Dixon, living with his grandparents in the foothills of the White Mountains and whose setting of Duston Heights is partially based on the geography of Haverhill. Each series unique with its own characters and display of details, collectively John's fifteen books captured the innocence of youth, of how evil is oft-overturned, and that you can never have too many friends.

John Bellairs Mural

Now Bellairs really was the "famous author" - his mailbox overflowed with correspondence from fans in Haverhill and elsewhere around the world, he visited schools and libraries to visit his young fans in person and answer their questions, and his novels were recognized with awards, two even going as far to be adapted for television.

When John died in 1991, he left a celebrated legacy of stories and characters...and unfinished ideas that his son, Frank, brought into fruition through author Brad Strickland. Fans have remembered John Bellairs in the years after his death through their naming the Cronin House as Michigan Historical Marker in 1992 and his adopted home of Haverhill naming him to their Hall of Fame in 2000. In 2008, Haverhill again honored Bellairs by installing a stained-glass influenced mural of the famous author.