Emmanuel College is a coeducational Roman Catholic liberal arts college located in Boston, Massachusetts. The college was founded by the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur as the first women's Catholic college in New England. John Bellairs taught here for the 1968-69 school year.

Bellairs on Campus

Bellairs had spent the latter half of 1967 living and traveling around England but returned to the United States in January 1968, settling in Boston and looking for work - something he had not expected to do quite so soon.  He applied at Emmanuel College, which at the time was for women only, similar to the College of Saint Teresa he had left years before.

John Murphy, who first taught with Bellairs in Winona and would again the next year at Merrimack College, was surprised at Bellairs's decision to teach at Emmanuel because of the Winona similarities. Bellairs accepted the $8,000 per-year position as a part-time instructor of English, teaching four sections of freshman composition[1].

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However the teaching stint would be far shorter than expected as he was associated with the college for only the one school year, leaving in the spring of 1969. He was certainly not his happiest there, especially being around nuns and, Priscilla Bellairs notes John always believed he was fired after someone actually read Saint Fidgeta[2].

Bellairs mentioned his dismissal to Dale and Marilyn Fitschen, writing that he “got a tumble from Emmanuel College, a good Catholic girl’s school out on the Hagway in Boston near Hagway Park.[3]

Years later, author Lis Carey met Bellairs and struck up a conversation with him only to discover they shared the Emmanuel College experience, she graduating a few years after Bellairs's tenure.

"He hated it there; he thought the school in general and the English department in particular was filled with strange, rigid, incomprehensible people. I was a history major, still in touch with the chairman of the department, and called him up and asked him if he remembered John Bellairs. He said, 'Yes, I remember him! Very nice man, but somehow he didn't seem happy in the English department. What's he doing now?' When told he was writing fantasy, he responded, 'Those that can't teach, do....'"

Carey also recalled the first time she read The Face in the Frost and believed that some parts of it were from her old college, seen in the "spook-house mirror through which he experienced it.[4]"

One good thing that came from his time on campus was that "out of boredom" he began composing the early drafts of what would go on to become The House with a Clock in its Walls[5].

Bellairs stayed longer at his next teaching position at Merrimack College.


  1. Correspondence with John Murphy (2003).
  2. Correspondence with Priscilla Bellairs.
  3. Correspondence from John Bellairs to Dale and Marilyn Fitschen (Jun. 26, 1968).
  4. Correspondence with Lis Carey.
  5. "Author's Imagination Stuck at 10".  Haverhill Eagle-Tribune (Nov. 25, 1990).