What I found was truly captivating. Apparently, in 1954 a man named Harris Burdick walked into Peter Wenders’ office. Mr. Wenders worked for a children’s book publisher, and Harris Burdick came in to see if they would be interesting in publishing some of his work. With him Harris Burdick brought 14 drawings, each a sample from a different one of his books, and each of these drawing was accompanies by a title and a few lines of text from the story the drawing went with. Wenders was captivated by the drawings and was over whelmed with a desire to read the stories, so he told Harris Burdick to come back with the stories as soon as he could. Harris Burdick replied that he would come back the next day with the stories and the rest of the illustrations… but the next day came and went and Burdick didn’t come back. For 30 years Wenders searched for him driven all the while by that unquenchable desire to read his stories, but it was like Harris Burdick had disappeared off the face of the earth, like he had never existed.
However, all wasn’t lost. Over the years Peter Wenders’ shared the illustrations with others in an attempt to help him solve the mystery of Harris Burdick, and even though it didn’t help with his search the illustrations and the mystery that accompanied them haunted all those who saw them. Over the past fifty years they have inspired the creations of hundreds of artists over a variety of mediums.
Chris Van Allsburg published a compilation of the works in a picture book, which elementary teachers have used for years to inspire and prompt their students. Stephen King published his solution to the mystery of The House on Maple Street in his collection of short stories titled Nightmares & Dreamscapes. In 2008 Nathan Tysen and Chris Miller turned “The Mysteries of Harris Burdick” into a musical. There are dozens of videos for “The Mysteries of Harris Burdick” on You Tube, and first Wenders and now Van Allsburg have received hundreds if not thousands of stories written by everyone from 3rd graders 70 year old retirees.The thing is, now that I’ve written all this I’m realizing that no description or history lesson can do these pictures justice, so here they are. I hope that they intrigue and inspire you as they have me.
three times and slowly the schooner appeared.
ARCHIE SMITH, BOY WONDER
The caterpillars softly wiggled in her hand,
they spelled out "goodbye".
the ocean liner was pulled further and
further into the canal.