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The Secret of the Underground Room (Johnny Dixon, #8)
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The Secret of the Underground Room

(Johnny Dixon #8)

3.87  ·  Rating details ·  503 ratings  ·  29 reviews
Professor Childermass is stunned when Father Higgins claims that a ghost is trying to contact him. Then the priest disappears. When the professor and Johnny catch up to him, they make a terrifying discovery -- Father Higgins is possessed by Masterman, the spirit of a long-dead knight determined to rule the world. And it looks as if Masterman is going to get his way. "Has e ...more
Hardcover, 127 pages
Published December 17th 1990 by Dial Books (first published 1990)
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This book is the 8th in the Johnny Dixon series and it take Johnny over the pond to Bristol, England and the Isle of Lundy. Their good friend Father Higgins has been possessed by a powerful spirit. They have to find a way to break the spell. The Professor and Fergie work with Johnny to save the world from this evil spirit.

John Bellairs sets a great tone and he has excellent pacing. John is simply a master at writing spooky for younger children. He hits all the right notes. If only there were som
John Bellairs books (especially the editions with covers and front pieces by Edward Gorey) fed my love of mystery and horror as a child. I tried reading 'normal' books like "The Pitcher with the Glass Arm" and other sports related fiction, it was an edition of The Mummy, The Will and the Crypt which captured me. I devoured every book Bellairs published in our local library. To this day, I hunt used bookstores for the Edward Gorey editions of those books, keeping them in a special shelf in my hou ...more
Apr 26, 2009 rated it it was ok
Wow. I used to love the John Bellairs books as a child and I read them all voraciously. It's sad to find out now that he's actually a REALLY bad and formulaic writer. From the mysterious long-lost brother (who happens to know magic and be fabulously wealthy), to the deus ex machina of the preist at the end, there is only one word to describe this book: Ouch. Truly and seriously ouch.
Oct 11, 2011 rated it liked it
In spite of a couple of out-of-the-blue deus ex machina moments the book was one of the better. The suspense was gripping and the pacing much improved over the meandering pace of the early book. The action was smooth and the sense of menace very well done.
Ea Solinas
Apr 29, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Gruff and lovable Father Higgins is one of the better supporting characters in John Bellairs' many books.

And in "The Secret of the Underground Room," the evil-battling priest slips into the spotlight in an intriguing ghost story. Though not Bellairs' best, it's a chilling and fast-paced thriller for the pre-Stephen King set -- sleepwalking, undead pirates, and a situation that Johnny and Professor Childermass can put right.

Johnny Dixon is depressed when his friend Father Higgins is transferred t
Alec Hawkins
May 21, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
These are YA books written in a time when author’s and publishers were still trying to figure out how to write supernatural horror for children. This book contains some of the scariest moments in all of Bellairs work (‘Salem’s Lot level chills in this one) and the gang goes to England! Tons of fun.
Apr 18, 2016 rated it really liked it
The second-to-the-last of Bellairs's books is a strong entry in the series. While not may favorite, it certainly shows that Bellairs still knew how to create a compelling story. In this one, Johnny Dixon, his best friend Fergie, and Professor Childermass are called upon to help Father Higgins discover what's causing strange disturbances in Higgin's new church. As usually happens, Johnny, Fergie, and The Professor find themselves caught up in all sort of creepy happenings, and they have to preven ...more
Dustin Brown
So I'd forgotten about this 'series' (they're all standalones, with the same handful of characters) that I read as a kid. Well, 11 year old anyway. What with the current scandals, a story about a 13 year old whose best friends are a 70-something professor and a catholic priest of unspecified age might be seen as creepy, in pratice they aren't. Not in this book, in any case. This was not one of Bellairs' finest (but is was the last) but it was a good re-introduction. I'm looking forward, now, to ...more
Bellairs' penultimate gothic horror for children is quite bittersweet. On the one hand it's nice to see the characters in a new adventure that features a trip to England full of interesting historical details. But on the other, the overall plot seems a jumbled mess that is never quite 'believably' made cohesive. Events happen quick and the ultimate conclusion(s) both end in lackluster fashions. Despite its flaws I'll take it over one less Bellairs book, and there are a few moments of spine-tingl ...more
Nov 05, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I found this great series when The Curse of the Blue Figurine,and The Mummy, the Will, and the Crypt were reprinted by Puffin,and through a book club.
Unfortunately Bellairs died, fortunately the series is co-authored to its finish with Brad Strickland.
Themes run from monsters to superstitious magic. To my surprise religious beliefs play a strong part too. Woven with zeal of mystery. Add adventure. In this latest installment, the last solely by Bellairs, Father Higgins disappears. Rod Childerma
Poleth Mercado
Nov 03, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I think the author did an amazing job creating suspense and picturing the characters in your head. I thought this book is really easy,scary good,and adventurous.It takes you to an adventure with this professor and two kids trying to get the masterman that is possessing the father. I recommend this book to people who like horror stories. Also, to people who like to read cliff hangers after each chapter because you want to read more. After each chapter it leaves to a," OMG...I've got to read the n ...more
D.M. Dutcher
May 19, 2014 rated it it was ok
Not one of his best.

Johnny and his friend Professor Childermass find that their priest friend is suffering from what looks to be a ghost. That ghost has malevolent plans for him, and soon the two of them are racing to England to prevent the resurrection of an unholy evil. Unfortunately the plot is unsatisfying, and the book feels rushed; events just happen instead of being foreshadowed, and plot elements come out of nowhere. It's still an enjoyable book, and one of the few series to treat Catho
Brian Rogers
Jan 10, 2016 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
In my "lets read children's lit I should have read" quest I picked up a few John Bellairs books from the library book sale. He had come highly recommended, and the House With a Clock in its Walls was pretty good. This, on the converse, was an interminable slog of poor pacing, plot advancement via a succession of un-grounded hypothesis, pure supposition and deus ex machina topped off with a cherry of anticlimax. It was only its short length and sheer stubborness on my part that I didn't abandon i ...more
Jan 02, 2015 rated it really liked it
Yup, starting my year by rereading Bellairs. It struck me how much these books are basically H.P. Lovecraft-meets-Shirley Jackson for strange fussy children — the obsession with geographical detail! The vague but precise period setting! The accepted presence, slightly surprising but ultimately matter-of-fact, of unearthly forces! Among the best of New England gothic. I don't know why these haven't been reissued yet in a deluxe box set with all the deluxe Edward Gorey illustrations, because I wou ...more
Nov 29, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I stumbled upon a whole shelf of Bellairs' books at a school library. The Edward Gorey covers grabbed me right away. I love Masterpiece Mystery and have a Gorey calendar with postcards that I occasionally send when I'm feeling gothic. This book was really cool. It featured possession, England, a Catholic priest, thought dead brothers and a 50s setting that was so much fun to inhabit for a while. I can't believe that I never knew about Gorey until now. I would have loved him when I was a kid.
Justin  K. Rivers
Jun 21, 2010 rated it really liked it
The last Prof. Childermass/Johnny Dixon story that Bellairs wrote before he died, it is also one of the shortest. But Bellairs makes every moment count, with some very high and personal stakes involved in the fate of Father Higgins, and a strange, atmospheric trip to a ruined castle in England. Again, Bellairs weakens his story by some unimpressive coincidences, and the resolution did not quite seem earned. But the concept and the chill-factor are Bellairs at his best.
Jan 02, 2015 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Despite his reputation, I'm just not sold on Bellairs. The characterizations are flat and Johnny Dixon himself isn't much of a proactive hero -- things mainly happen to him, not the other way around. Too many coincidences to swallow in this one, and it really doesn't get interesting until the final stretch.
Miranda W. 8 Rdg
Apr 03, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Secret of the Underground Room was an amazing book written by John Bellairs. He used mystery of ghosts to tell the story and let the readers know that this book is extremely scary. It was an easy book and I recommend this book to people to love to read about possession. This book should become a Newberry award winner.
Not one of my favorites (of Bellairs) but still a fun read. Slow start, and the young protagonists Johnny and Fergie end up simply being there for the action, rather than taking much part in the actual culmination (though they get themselves there int he first place). The suspense, though is as chilling as any of Bellairs' books. And of course, they're just as good for adults as for kids.
A fun Johnny Dixon book, and (of course) a very quick read. The story was interesting. However, Professor Childermas saves and earns a lot more than you would think from the earlier books and (unfortunately) and other character just shows up out of the blue. It is a little unbelievable. Anyhow a fun story.
Lisa Kucharski
Oct 03, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Nice scary story from Bellairs taking Johnny and his friend all the way to England! A nice event happens for Prof Childermass... he finds someone who was missing.

I like the fact that they get to save Father Higgins, since it was Father Higgins that has saved both Johnny and the Professor once.
Greg Kerestan
John Bellairs's last solo outing before his death, volume 8 hasn't lost its charm but shows signs of wear; the bottle shop and riddling seem like retreads of prior Dixon stories, though the British setting gives it a little charm of its own.
Jul 17, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
One of the darkest YA books I've read. Black magic, possessions, evil undead knights. I wish I had found these as a kiddo, I would have LOVED them.
Margot Note
It's a kid's book, but I love Bellairs' spookiness and the Edward Gorey illustrations.
Jan 30, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: terror
Not one of his classics.
just resurrected an old favorite from childhood. not as good now as it was before, but still a good, light read. cant wait to pick up the rest of the johnny dixon/professor childermass series!
Jan Yip
Nov 01, 2011 rated it it was amazing
childhood favorite....I Loved all John Bellairs' books!
Chris Lawson
rated it really liked it
Dec 07, 2013
Lucy Polanco
rated it really liked it
May 08, 2016
Jennifer Vellenga
rated it really liked it
Mar 05, 2012
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John Bellairs (1938–1991) was an American novelist working primarily in the Gothic genre. He is best-known for the children's classic The House with a Clock in its Walls 1973) and for the pathbreaking fantasy novel The Face in the Frost (1969). Bellairs held a bachelor's degree from Notre Dame University and a master's in English from the University of Chicago. He combined writing and teaching f ...more

Other books in the series

Johnny Dixon (1 - 10 of 12 books)
  • The Curse of the Blue Figurine (Johnny Dixon, #1)
  • The Mummy, the Will, and the Crypt (Johnny Dixon, #2)
  • The Spell of the Sorcerer's Skull (Johnny Dixon, #3)
  • The Revenge of the Wizard's Ghost (Johnny Dixon, #4)
  • The Eyes of the Killer Robot
  • The Trolley to Yesterday
  • Chessmen of Doom
  • The Drum, the Doll, and the Zombie
  • The Hand of the Necromancer (Johnny Dixon, #10)
  • The Bell, the Book, and the Spellbinder (Johnny Dixon, #11)