The Doom of the Haunted Opera is the sixth book in the Lewis Barnavelt series. It is the fourth and final book begun by John Bellairs and completed by Brad Strickland.


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Main article: Lewis Barnavelt series characters


  • Henry Vanderhelm
  • Immanuel Vanderhelm



The Doom of the Haunted Opera is the fourth and final book completed by Brad Strickland, created similarly to the previous novel (The Drum, the Doll, and the Zombie) from a mere plot sketch drawn up by Bellairs before his death.  

"[The] one-page synopses [did not have] characters named - for example, Immanuel and Henry Vanderhelm were named by me - and the conclusion only sketched in. I elaborated [this] into [a] twenty-page outline, worked with the editor to refine..., and then wrote the book.[1]"  

Eagle Opera House

Exterior of the Eagle Opera House in Marshall.

Strickland says the original sketch was something brief, similar to:  
Lewis finds an old opera score that is actually an elaborate magic spell. The son of the evil magician who wrote the opera shows up and by magic persuades the townspeople to stage the opera. Lewis learns that if the entire score is sung, the dead will come to life as the servants of the villain, and he will conquer the world. He must break the spell.
Strickland says he again fleshed out the plot and wrote the book.  "The editorial board and I went round and round over the actual title of Haunted Opera, with the board arguing that no kid would want to read anything about operas -- it was a wimpy word -- and me arguing that we ought to use John's projected title. The alternative was Haunted Theater, for which I did not care [for].[1]"

In 1996 Strickland confessed to having "the most fun" with Doom in that he was able to visit New Zebedee's inspiration, Marshall. "I visited Marshall twice, taking copious notes and even visiting the actual Eagle Opera House, the old ruined theater that served as the model for the New Zebedee Opera. It's a spooky place, and in the years since it closed many generations of school children have snuck up there and left graffiti behind. I found one that read simply "Lewis" and knew I was on the right track![1]".

On such visit was May 27-28, 1994, when Strickland and a group of fourth-graders took part in the Bellairs Walk and toured the opera house.  Strickland also visited their school on Friday afternoon and signed autographs at the kids' place bookstore[2].

Strickland acknowledges a "proofreading failure, pure and simple" on page 146:

“...the magicians had scrambled up out of the orchestra pit and dashed out past Lewis and Rose Rita.”
"Musicians it is supposed to be. No matter how hard one tries, one or two creep through. There's something fishy about the bikes in the cemetery scene...that resulted from editorial transposition of paragraphs, for instance[3]."


Thanks to Jeanne Sharp, reader and advisor.
"Jeanne is a super young woman who was a dedicated Bellairs fan. She got in touch with my agent when she learned I was working on completing the Bellairs novels and sternly told me I'd better do a good job! She seemed so well-read in John's work that I sent her the manuscript of The Drum, the Doll, and the Zombie to check for errors. She found only a few, but made lots of suggestions ('You've got to mention Fergie's big feet!'). She vetted a couple more of the books, until she became so busy with college that she couldn't any more, but by that time I was ready to fly on my own.[3]"

Ann LaPietra

Ann LaPietra

For Ann and Tony LaPietra, who helped me explore the haunted opera!
Strickland sent Ann and Tony LaPietra, long-time residents of Marshall and owners of the kids' place bookstore, a copy of the manuscript and dedicated it to them "for their kindness and assistance during his visit to the town and the opera house.[4]"


Strickland says he still gets "occasional fan letters asking [him] to write about the further adventures of Jailbird", Jonathan's whistling cat[3].

External links


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Correspondence with Brad Strickland from the CompleatBellairs (Jan. 26, 1996).
  2. "Author to visit Marshall as part of Bellairs project".  Battle Creek Enquirer, May 24, 1994.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 Correspondence with Brad Strickland.
  4. "Bellairs fans mark birthday with opera house tour".  Battle Creek Enquirer, Jan. 24, 1995.
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