The Specter from the Magician's Museum by John Bellairs & Brad StricklandThe Specter from the Magician’s Museum by John Bellairs & Brad Strickland

The Specter from the Magician's Museum by John Bellairs & Brad StricklandThe 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 by John Bellairs & Brad StricklandThe 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.

Published in 1998. Based on John Bellairs’ mystery-adventure series, this thrilling story will keep you on the edge of your seat! John Bellairs, the name in gothic mysteries for middle graders, wrote terrifying tales full of adventure, attitude, and alarm. For years, young listeners have crept, crawled, and gone bump in the night with the unlikely heroes of these gothic novels: Lewis Barnavelt, Johnny Dixon, and Anthony Monday. And this installment by Brad Strickland is no exception! After Rose Rita Pottinger cuts her finger on an enchanted Egyptian scroll, Lewis must work together with his neighbor Florence and sorcerous uncle Jonathan to rescue Rose Rita from the tomb in which she’s imprisoned.


  • Kat Hooper

    KAT HOOPER, who started this site in June 2007, earned a Ph.D. in neuroscience and psychology at Indiana University (Bloomington) and now teaches and conducts brain research at the University of North Florida. When she reads fiction, she wants to encounter new ideas and lots of imagination. She wants to view the world in a different way. She wants to have her mind blown. She loves beautiful language and has no patience for dull prose, vapid romance, or cheesy dialogue. She prefers complex characterization, intriguing plots, and plenty of action. Favorite authors are Jack Vance, Robin Hobb, Kage Baker, William Gibson, Gene Wolfe, Richard Matheson, and C.S. Lewis.