Growing up on too many books, there were so many places I wanted to live that weren’t real. It killed me that Professor Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters wasn’t taking admissions. Why couldn’t I go on an expedition to the Barrier Peaks? Did I have to settle for New York when I would have preferred the 87th Precinct of Isola instead? Here are five places that still make me want to sell my apartment and move.
New Zebedee – the Michigan town (population 6,000) where Lewis Barnavelt is sent to live with his Uncle Jonathan after his parents die in a car accident in John Bellairs’s The House With a Clock In Its Walls, The Figure in the Shadows, and The Letter, the Witch, and the Ring. In New Zebedee, all the houses are Victorian piles, the weather is always gothic, adults play poker with children, and lunatics are constantly escaping from Kalamazoo Mental Hospital and jumping out naked from behind trees. I love lonely Twelve Mile Road lined with Burma-Shave signs. I love witch-repelling Wilder Creek. I love the steep loneliness of Cemetery Hill. To me, there’s a map of America where New Zebedee lies not so far from Green Town, Illinois (Ray Bradbury), Jonathan Carroll’s Galen, Missouri, Cornwall Coombe from Harvest Home, and Charles L. Grant’s Oxrun Station. These are cities where it’s always autumn, everything tastes like apples and smells of woodsmoke, and the weather is never less than brisk. A map of the highways that linked them would be a map of the weirdest heart of America.
The City of Glenbard – growing up I was convinced the world would end at any moment in the fires of World War III, so I was obsessed with books about survival. My Side of the Mountain was one of my favorites, but The Girl Who Owned a City had machine guns and food hoarding and urban warfare, so it won by a hair. When ten-year-old Lisa Nelson finally goes full-messiah and leads a child army to freedom against the Army of Chidester and Elm, the first thing she does is fortify the local high school (complete with attack-repelling drums of boiling oil on the rooftops) and declares it her very own dictatorship: The City of Glenbard. I didn’t realize it was a libertarian fantasia while I was reading (and re-reading, and re-reading) it, but even knowing that now barely dims the enthusiasm I have for Glenbard, where everything is Lisa’s way, or the highway. The only thing I think Lisa got wrong is that she didn’t name it The City of Lisastadt.
Doomstadt – originally named Hassenstadt (or “Hate Town”) when Doctor Doom took over the capital city of Latveria he renamed it after himself (of course): Doomstadt. The main building is Castle Doom, but there is also Doomton, Doom Falls, Doomsvale, and Doomsburg. The major holiday is Doom’s Day which is declared whenever Doctor Doom feels like it, the economy is great, and everyone is happy all the time. When Doctor Doom goes abroad, he leaves a robot double (a Doombot, of course) to rule in his stead. Usually when he gets back he destroys the Doombot so that they don’t get uppity. Doomstadt has also been ruled by a small brainwashed child, and a cyborg tiger from the future. Its zoo contains dinosaurs. I don’t have words for how much I love this place.
Chimney Rock – back to Connecticut for the location of book #5 in the Choose Your Own Adventure series, right after the space opera of Space and Beyond and before the spy whales of Your Code Name is Jonah. A pretty typical “old dark house” book, I read and re-read this one for hours, probably high on the dim gothic fumes wafting from the pages as Edward Packard played endless riffs on his basic formula of a scary old lady, a creepy caretaker, and a spooky cat. With 40 different endings, and almost every single one of them leading to your death, this book reeked of doom and gloom and I couldn’t get enough of it. Even when distracted by the spy and sci-fi antics of the other installments, I always came crawling back to the cursed house of Chimney Rock for my horror fix.
Jones Salvage Yard – owned by Uncle Titus and Aunt Mathilda Jones, this vast scrapyard is home to the secret headquarters of the Three Investigators. Stars of the 43-volume series, Alfred Hitchcock and the Three Investigators, they were a blue collar antidote to squeaky clean Miss Perfect, Nancy Shrew, and those gag-inducing snobs, the Hardy Boys. There was Bob, with his leg in a brace, dumb old Pete, and Jupiter Jones and his dead parents, and they solved crimes from 1964 to 1987, unmasking fake vampires, mummies, pirates, and invisible dogs, but all the while their worst enemy was rich kids. The mysteries were all right but the best thing was their secret headquarters in an abandoned mobile home in the middle of Jones Salvage. Hidden from view by a mountain of junk, you could only gain access through secret passages made of corrugated pipe and labled Green Gate One and Red Gate Rover. Once inside, the three investigators lounged around, drinking pop and answering the phone, using the typewriter and tape recorder, or developing pictures in their special darkroom. When I finally rented an office I told everyone it was because I had so much work I needed a place to write. But really? I just wanted a secret headquarters like the Three Investigators.
Horrorstor by Grady Hendrix
Something strange is happening at the Orsk furniture superstore in Columbus, Ohio. Every morning, employees arrive to find broken Kjerring wardrobes, shattered Brooka glassware, and vandalized Liripip sofa beds clearly, someone or something is up to no good.
To unravel the mystery, five young employees volunteer for a long dusk-till-dawn shift—and they encounter horrors that defy imagination. Along the way, author Grady Hendrix infuses sly social commentary on the nature of work in the new twenty-firstcentury economy.
A traditional haunted house story in a contemporary setting (and full of current fears), Horrorstör comes conveniently packaged in the form of a retail catalog, complete with illustrations of ready-to-assemble furniture and other, more sinister accessories. We promise you’ve never seen anything quite like it!