Mt. Rainier and Lenticular Clouds - Dec. 2008 copyright: JMM

May 21, 2008

The Edward Gorey House

Down Rte. 6A from E. Sandwich apiece, in Yarmouthport, sits the Edward Gorey House. Mr. Gorey was an accomplished pen & ink artist, known for his whimsically macabre fine line drawings. He moved to the Cape in 1983 and died in 2000, which explains why I had never heard of The Edward Gorey House till a few years ago. Gorey was eccentric, never married and owned several cats. He liked to wear fur coats and large pendants. The tour guide said that Gorey always said that he liked to "decorate" himself. I like that expression.

He did the costumes and artwork for Broadway's "Dracula" in 1977 and received a Tony Award. He also did the art for the PBS series "Mystery", along with illustrating books by others, as well as writing & illustrating over 100 of his own books. And, I just found out, he also did the artwork for an album by Cape punk band, The FreeZe, and cowrote a song with Clif Hanger. Clif is an old friend of Liz's and mine and we used to go see The FreeZe whenever we could before we went off to college. Take a look at any animation by Tim Burton and you'll see the Gorey influence throughtout Burton's work.

Anyways, the house sits in a pretty little square off Rte. 6A called Strawberry Lane. The upstairs was closed off, so you can only see the downstairs. Still, there was sooooo much to look at, as he collected glass bottles, rocks, shells, skulls, etc. When he died, he had over 20,000 books. He lived less than a mile from this fantastic old bookstore called Parnassus, so I imagine he indulged his literary passions there.

The tall tree on the left of the photo is a southern magnolia. I think they said it's the only one on the Cape, as they aren't exactly a native species of New England. They keep a dish full of leaves inside the house and you can help yourself. I took one.

There was an art contest on the Cape where people bought, painted then auctioned sperm whales. (I blogged similar pictures of the bears in Vancouver). This was not painted by Gorey himself but by a group of students in his design and style.

Here is the "graveyard" of the Gashlycrumb Tinies, an A-B-C book about the untimely demise of 26 children.

All but Maud, who was swept out to sea.

On the porch.

He designed this weathervane.

The main room of the house, with lifesize characters from "The Doubtful Guest." Flash photography was not allowed but the pics still came out pretty well.

Window in the front room.

On one of the windowsills.Kitchen, which is roped off, but you can see some of his bottles, and a couple more Doubtful Guest cutouts.

Yes it's a real skull and no it's not Edward Gorey's skull.

A typical, old Cape Cod kitchen fireplace.

The parlour, with props from "Mystery". He also loved teddy bears. I wish they'd had that pop up book seen on the table available for sale. It's so cool.

The "Mystery" open artwork plays on a continuous loop on the TV.

Another pretty window with purple cup plates and old bottles.
Throughout the house, there are Gashlycrumb Tinies here and there. When children visit, they are challenged to find all 26. I didn't have time to do an indepth search for all of them, but these are the ones I found:

"G is for George, smothered under a rug".

"Y is for Yorick whose head was knocked in".

"A is for Amy, who fell down the stairs."

"C is for Clara who wasted away."

"H is for Hector, done in by a thug" (those would be that black mass near the bottom, which are two hands in black gloves holding a white mouth gag).

I wish I'd had the time to look for all 26.

All of the cats Edward owned during his life have passed away. He left the bulk of his estate to animal charities. However, this large fellow (27 lbs) adopted the house and is the official house cat. His name is Ombledroom, a name from Gorey's "Utterzoo Alphabet", because the Ombledroom is "vast & white".

This house is about a block away from the Gorey house and is a fine example of the grand old style of captain's homes. I think this may be a restaurant now or a bed and breakfast. As curious as I am to see what the inside looks like, the house creeps me out.

While parts of the Cape have been overdeveloped and are quite unpleasant (read: Hyannis and the Rte. 28 corridor), Rte. 6A has remained unchanged and is still very beautiful & historic. It's a shame the rest of the Cape has let the developers run roughshod over the once quaint towns.


  1. Anonymous3:13 PM

    The Edward Gorey House really appeals to my (wharped) sense of humour! I love it when you go travelling Jojo (and rejoice when you get 'home' again of course)

  2. This place was soooo cool. I wish I'd had more time to find all of the Tinies.

  3. Just fabulous! I used to have a T-shirt of one of the logos from the MYSTERY! show on PBS (I think there were several?), and literally wore it out. (Very Similar!)

    Especially love Yorick, Amy and Clara. :)

  4. Ohhh, great!!
    I just know that if I want to read a beautiful story and look at wonderful pics, this is the place to come. Thanks Jo :-)

  5. Oh my God, that Weathervane!! That has got to be the coolest thing ever. I love it. And the cat is pretty cool too (indeed, vast and white). Isn't funny that he had the same sort of glass display your mom does?

    Thanks so much for sharing your pictures, Jo. I probably will never make it in person, but it so looks like my kinda place. Love that Edward Gorey!

  6. The EG House sounds looks like a great location for a Tim Burton movie!

  7. I HATE magnolia trees!They shed all the time,which is why they would happily let someone carry them out as a memento.

    I love the graveyard,awesome!

    You can definitely see his style in Burton's work.Also,I think,if you like either of them you will like "Pushing Daisies".It looks like a Burton film as a t.v. show,from his "brighter" films (like Edward Scissorhands).However,the premise is very Gorey,no pun intended.

    Gee,I would LOVE to tour that place,I think I would be very envious if it.

  8. Pretty grisly stuff!

  9. Anonymous7:20 PM

    I recognized the "Mystery" style instantly but didn't know the artist. How totally cool and how did you find out about it?

  10. fun post~i still have my childhoot set of edward gorey hardbound books. a cherished memory. i'd love to see that place!

  11. I thought it looked like Nightmare Before Christmas!

  12. Well, I have never heard of him, but I'll tell you, Mr Gorey has a new FAN!!!
    I loved everything about what you posted here, Jojo!!! WOW!

  13. I would love to see The Edward Gorey house! What a treat.

    That is the biggest damn cat I've ever seen :)

  14. Liz - I read about the house somewhere, a couple of years ago and then asked my mom if she knew about it. She had heard of it around the same time I did. Must've been when it opened. It's totally worth the drive down 6A; you should go next time you are visiting your folks.

  15. Anonymous10:36 PM

    Great photos from the house! I was there just before it opened for the season and was able to snap a few pix for my blog. Hopefully I'll be able to get back to the Cape before they close for the season and spend a lot more time inside... Thanks for the detailed tour!...Donna