Marshall is magical! Home to the largest magic museum in the United States, the American Museum of Magic, the town represents Michigan's unique ties to the 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. But are you familiar with the magical book series that's set in this small Michigan town?

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About the Author

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. Bellairs then went on to further his education at the University of Chicago, earning a masters in English in 1960.

With such a rich history of magic and enchantment it's no surprise this spellbinding setting served as the perfect backdrop for author John Bellairs' fantasy novels!

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. He based the series 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.

via Google Maps
via Google Maps

What's It About?

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 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!

Have you seen the movie or read any of the original books?

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