The Specter from the Magician’s Museum by John Bellairs & Brad Strickland
The Specter from the Magician’s Museum (1998) is the seventh novel in the LEWIS BARNAVELT horror series for middle graders. The first novel, The House with a Clock in its Walls, was written by John Bellairs and published in 1973. There was a 17-year hiatus after the third book, The Letter, the Witch, and the Ring, was published in 1976 while Bellairs was focused on his JOHNNY DIXON series. Bellairs died in 1991, leaving both series to be finished by author Brad Strickland. I haven’t read the JOHNNY DIXON stories yet, but I can assure you that Strickland has done a remarkable job maintaining the quality of the LEWIS BARNAVELT stories. My daughter and I have enjoyed listening to George Guidall narrate Recorded Books’ audiobook editions.
In The Specter from the Magician’s Museum, Lewis and Rose Rita have another school project to do. This time it’s a talent show. Appropriately, they decide to do magic tricks. To get some ideas and experience, they visit a magician who lets them look through his stuff. After Rose Rita gets a paper cut from a mysterious scroll that belongs to the magician, bad things begin to happen. Lewis starts to notice huge shadowy spider-like monsters, and Rose Rita starts acting sullen, moody, and mean. Lewis wonders if something evil is inhabiting his best friend’s body.
The Specter from the Magician’s Museum might be the scariest volume in this series so far. It’s unnerving and unpleasant to watch Rose Rita become so disagreeable (we really did not like her in this story), and the terrors she encounters are truly frightening.
At this point in the series, the LEWIS BARNAVELT books are becoming a little formulaic. The kids (sometimes while working on a school project) accidentally unleash something evil into the world, they try to take care of things by themselves, but eventually they need the adults to help them set things right. It’s a noticeable but comfortable formula that seems to be working and, as I have said before, my daughter and I are enjoying listening to these together. Kids will usually learn something from these stories, too. In this installment, for example, they will learn about fetches and some Egyptian legends.