How This Marshall, MI Home Inspired An Entire Novel Franchise Plus A Hollywood Movie
Marshall, Michigan is known to be a magical place. Home to the American Museum of Magic, the largest magic museum in the United States, the town represents Michigan's unique ties to the charming enchantment of the magic community.
Located only 40 miles from the Magical Capital of the World of Colon, MI, the town of Marshall has carved its own special place in magic history. That being said, it's no surprise this spellbinding setting served as the perfect backdrop for author John Bellairs' fantasy novels.
About John Bellairs
Author John Bellairs was born in Marshall in 1938. After graduating from Marshall High School, Bellairs attended the University of Notre Dame and graduated magna cum laude with a degree in English and went on to further his education at the University of Chicago, earning a masters in English in 1960.
The House with a Clock in Its Walls
Having always had an interest in archaeology, antiques, and fantasy, Bellairs wrote his first children's book The House with a Clock in Its Walls in 1973. The novel was nominated for numerous awards and was named one of the Outstanding Books of 1973 by the New York Times.
The fictional town of New Zebedee, Michigan was the setting for Bellairs novel, based on the Cronin House in his own hometown of Marshall. The ornate Italian villa was built in 1872 for local merchant Jeremiah Cronin Jr. and was a reflection of the family's status within the community.
The story follows protagonist Lewis Barnavelt who is orphaned and sent to live with his mysterious uncle. Before long, Lewis finds himself immersed in a harrowing world of black magic and secrets.
In all the novel spawned 12 editions in the franchise, three of which were set in Marshall, in addition to one Hollywood movie! When asked why he wrote for children MarshallMich.net quotes Bellairs as saying,
In my imagination I repeatedly walk up and down the streets of the beautiful Michigan town where I grew up. It is full of Victorian mansions and history, and it would work on the creative mind of any kid.
2018 Film Adaption
The movie starring Jack Black and Cate Blanchett went relatively unnoticed by me until I saw a recent TikTok highlighting this piece of Michigan history. I had no idea Marshall had gone Hollywood! Directed by Eli Roth, though the film is set in Michigan it was actually filmed in Georgia-- because Michigan no longer has film tax incentives and Georgia is known to have generous ones!
IMDb estimates the film grossed $131,523,093 worldwide and it earned a score of 65% on Rotten Tomatoes. Like I said, as an adult this film was not on my radar as PG, family-friendly movies are not necessarily my go-to, but now that I know its ties to west Michigan I'm going to hunt this down and stream it ASAP!
Have you seen this film before or read any of the original books?