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From the writer of The House with a Clock in Its Walls.
Who is Johnny Dixon?
Johnny Dixon is the young hero of twelve children’s gothic horror novels, written by John Bellairs, then by his successor Brad Strickland.
Set in the early 1950s, the series relates the story of Johnny Dixon, a young boy whose mother died of cancer and whose father is a fighter pilot in the United States Air Force during the Korean War. So Johnny is sent to live with his paternal grandparents in fictional Duston Heights, Massachusetts.
There, he becomes best friends with eccentric history professor Roderick Childermass, and both of them, with their group of friends, will fight evil forces.
How to read John Bellairs’ Johnny Dixon Books in Order?
Every book in the Johnny Dixon series works as a standalone story, but the lives of the different characters evolve from one novel to the other.
- The Curse of the Blue Figurine — It’s the 1950s when Johnny Dixon’s mother dies, his father goes to fight in the Korean War, and he goes to live with his grandparents. Although life in a new house is strange, Johnny’s “Grampa” listens to his favorite ballgames, takes him on long walks, and tells him stories of the strange mysteries that lurk in the shadows. Best of all, he’s friends with Professor Childermass, an eccentric academic who’s about to take Johnny on the adventure of a lifetime. He tells the boy the spookiest legend in Duston Heights, Massachusetts—the tale of the troubled spirit of mad Father Baart, who is said to have killed two people before vanishing long ago. With the professor as his guide, Johnny sets out on a quest that will put him face-to-face with the crazy, long-dead priest.
- The Mummy, the Will, and the Crypt — H. Bagwell Glomus built an empire out of cereal. In the 1920s, his Oaty Crisps were the most popular breakfast in the United States, and Mr. Glomus was the wealthiest man in the little town of Gildersleeve, Massachusetts. But he was not a happy man. In 1936, he took his own life and his will was never found. Legend has it that his last will and testament is hidden somewhere in his office, but so far, no one has been able to find it and claim the $10,000 reward. Yet, no one has looked as hard as Johnny Dixon.
- The Spell of the Sorcerer’s Skull — On a country lane in snowbound 1950s New Hampshire, a car goes skidding off the road. Professor Childermass and Johnny Dixon escape unscathed, but their car is stuck, and they are forced to walk into town. When Childermass suddenly vanishes, Johnny is the only one who can find him. The mystery is linked to a tiny skull taken from a child’s dollhouse, which seems to have powers too terrible to guess at. With the help of a crusty old Irish priest, Johnny chases the clues to his friend’s disappearance all the way to the rocky coast of Maine, where something evil hungers for revenge.
- The Revenge of the Wizard’s Ghost — The abandoned schoolhouse sits just outside the town of Duston Heights, Massachusetts, and Johnny Dixon is not sure what called him there. Inside the darkened building, he finds three chilling stained glass windows which show a hooded monster, a vengeful angel, and the hateful, staring face of Zebulon Windrow. Impossibly, the old man speaks to Johnny, threatening revenge on behalf of one of his descendants—and then the room is filled with horrible insects. As they cover Johnny’s body, moving closer toward his mouth, he awakes and escapes the nightmare. When Johnny falls into a strange trance from which he cannot be awakened, his friend Professor Childermass races to save him. To rescue the young boy, the professor must unlock the secret of the dream, and delve into the terrible mysteries of the Windrow estate.
- The Eyes of the Killer Robot — When feared Yankees slugger Cliff Bullard goes barnstorming around the northeast, offering $10,000 to any local pitcher who can strike him out, Professor Childermass and Johnny Dixon get a sneaky idea. There’s a local legend about a crackpot inventor who once built a robot capable of throwing a baseball 110 MPH, and the professor thinks that if they find the machine, they can win Bullard’s prize. They discover the rusted old monstrosity in an abandoned workshop and put it back together, piece by piece. But when they screw in the robot’s eyes and it comes to life, they realize they have made a terrible mistake. As soon as it’s activated, the robot attacks, trying to kill Johnny and the professor. Was it made to be a killing machine, or have its circuits been corroded? To save the town and get a crack at the $10,000, Johnny and the professor will have to tame the steel beast.
- The Trolley to Yesterday — Johnny Dixon is worried about Professor Childermass. He’s been talking to himself and stalking down the street with his collar turned up and his hat over his eyes, and now he won’t return Johnny’s calls. Johnny’s afraid that the professor’s old age is starting to get to him, but he will soon learned that the professor has discovered a trolley that can carry them five hundred years back in time, to the last days of the Byzantine Empire. In the dark and winding streets of Constantinople, he and Johnny confront crusaders, mystics, and thieves as they attempt to save the ancient empire from destruction at the hands of the advancing Turkish armies.
- The Chessmen of Doom — Professor Roderick Childermass may be the strangest person Johnny Dixon has ever met, but compared to his brother Peregrine, the professor is practically normal. Peregrine is a born trickster, and when he knows his death is near, he sends a letter promising the professor his entire $10,000,000 estate—assuming he can solve one final riddle. To crack the puzzle and claim the fortune, Johnny and the professor head north to the wild countryside of far-off Maine. They’ll find that the riddle is the least of their problems. To inherit the money, the professor must stay alive until the end of the summer, and since everyone in Maine seems to want Peregrine’s heir dead, survival will be no easy task.
- The Secret of the Underground Room — Aside from the eccentric Professor Childermass, young sleuth Johnny Dixon’s best friend may be Father Higgins, the kindly priest at the local church. When Higgins is transferred to the congregation in the tiny town of Rocks Village, Johnny and the professor are afraid they won’t see their old friend ever again. But they’ll be reuniting with Father Higgins sooner than they think—and the thing that brings them together will be positively out of this world.
- The Drum, the Doll, and the Zombie — The drum is small, no bigger than a plastic cup, and decorated with sun-bleached bones. It is a token from the island of St. Ives, whose voodoo cults are infamous around the world, and it is one of the most dangerous objects Johnny Dixon has ever held. When he raps the little drum, the wind howls, and an explosion rocks the house. There are more surprises to come. An inquisitive young man, Johnny has tangled with all manner of supernatural beasts along with his friend Professor Childermass, and now they will confront the living dead.
- The Hand of the Necromancer — In the days of the Salem witch trials, the notorious necromancer Esdrias Blackleach was accused of using powerful black magic against his fellow townsfolk. But just before he could be brought to trial, he dropped dead, escaping justice forever. Or so it seemed . . . Fast forward to the 1950s, the inquisitive young sleuth Johnny Dixon and his mentor Professor Childermass are getting ready to donate a box of Blackleach artifacts to the local museum when a descendant of the sorcerer shows up and attempts to steal his ancestor’s wooden hand. He has a fiendish plan to raise the old necromancer from the dead, and only Johnny and the professor can stop him and make the town safe from black magic forever.
- The Bell, the Book, and the Spellbinder — Johnny Dixon and his best friend Fergie are whiling away a rainy day at the Duston Heights library when Johnny asks a screwy question: “What’s the last book in the library?” After Johnny goes home, Fergie decides to find out. There, under number 999.99, he finds a very peculiar tome, The Book of True Wishes, which is all about Fergie’s favorite subject: himself. The book knows Fergie’s name, and it promises him everything he ever wanted, which means he is about to forget a very important rule: Be careful what you wish for.
- The Wrath of the Grinning Ghost — The sea is calm, the air is fresh, and the bobbing boat feels like a living creature underneath Johnny Dixon’s feet. Johnny hardly ever sees his father, who trains Air Force pilots in Colorado, and their annual Florida fishing trip is the highlight of his year. They’re on their way back to Duston Heights, Massachusetts, where Johnny lives with his grandparents when a visit to a fortune-teller puts a terrible fright into Johnny. Inside the seer’s crystal ball, he sees a grinning ghost who cackles out a fearsome message: “The universe shall be mine!” Johnny tries to forget what he saw, but when he and his father return to Duston Heights, his dad falls into a coma, and Johnny is certain that the ghost is to blame. With the help of his old friend Professor Childermass, Johnny will defeat the smirking ghoul—or never see his father again.
- The Stone, the Cipher, and the Shadows – Though forty miles away, Duston Heights is not safe from the flu that’s raging through Boston. When Johnny Dixon’s grandmother falls ill, he’s sent to live with his neighbor to avoid infection. So many locals are getting sick that school is canceled for a week, and the reclusive Dr. Abram Ashburn comes out of retirement to make house calls. After seeing a scary vision of his bedridden grandmother outside of a window, Johnny starts to feel on edge. Then he and his best friend find what looks to be a weird map of a cemetery in Dr. Ashburn’s house. One specific grave is marked with an “X,” the burial place of a woman who practiced witchcraft in the seventeenth century.
What should you read if you like the Johnny Dixon books?
If you like reading John Bellairs’s Johnny Dixon novels, you may be interested in Miss Peregrine’s Peculiar Children, the Lewis Barnavelt series, Brandon Mull’s Fablehaven.This article was last updated on April 30, 2023.