I don't know if this ever happens to the hypothetical you but once in a while when I'm not doing incredibly useless shit, I try to use The Internets to research something semi-valid. In this case it was something from my childhood that was so out of focus in the eye of my memory that I had almost no actual data to start piecing together. And at the same time I knew that whatever it was my mind was trying to remember was of some kind of semi-profound formative influence.

So in this particular case it was a book, a book I literally hadn't given one single thought to for years and years, and I have no idea what got me started thinking about it. But once it oozed into my mind, I started trying to remember more details about it, and once I did I could almost physically re-feel the unease and building dread I experienced reading it in bed, at night (stupidly): dread verging on outright childish horror. I can't imagine how old I was, somewhere between five and ten I guess, but I know that for me this book was the primary source of those "don't go into the basement" feelings that almost everyone with a basement seems to have (I have no idea what room kids without basements are afraid of).

OK here's so the Google montage (various quickly-cut and exciting camera angles of me alternately typing furiously or staring off into space thinking, then cutting to letters appearing in the Search box and then "Access Denied" kind of uninformative results): the first very gauzy re-reremberance I had was of some vague but horrific black liquid; a terrifying door; a grave or graves; and something about the word Omega. Then I pretty quickly remembered that the main character was a boy named Lewis. This is not enough information to find anything. Next some sort of impulse/vision of a kind woman with a refined name, and the fact that Lewis was nearsighted (and of course his glasses would habitually fall off at the scariest possible moment so that he had to cower in blind terror while he waited for the tentacles of impending horribleness to reach him).

This was all like weeks ago and after let's call it "several" fruitless Googles and some serious mental time trying to crystallize more detail, I forgot about it until about 20 minutes ago. I then tried my same old Lewis black Omega horror query but shortly thereafter somehow suddenly remembered that Lewis had a weight problem, for some reason the word "chubby" came into my mind, and finally the magic query: young chubby nearsighted lewis miss omega horror grave door revealed that in 1973, forty years ago, a man named John Belllairs started a series of books that introduced a character named Lewis Barnavelt, and for fuck's sake the book that made me forever apprehensive about basements was called The House With A Clock In Its Walls, a pretty good title for a scary book, amazingly enough with pretty ominous artwork by longtime fave Edward Gorey, such a great surprise (we decided long ago that Mara is The Doubtful Guest).

Here's a lovely Onion AV Club article about the book, comparing House to another Gorey favorite, The Gashlycrumb Tinies, and confirming that I was neither alone in my youthful terror nor in my current half-remembered curiosity. It's interesting to me that this style of horror—slow-building, implied, atmospheric unease—is still absolutely one of my favorite things. As is Edward Gorey. Maybe my mother can remember approximately what year I was allowed to torture myself with this, but my point is: hey look, a totally satisfying use of the Google Wire.


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