In Which I Meet Figbash, Among Others

Have you ever been alone in a particularly historic area? It can be a somewhat eerie experience– especially if such artifacts as human skulls and original artwork from The Gashlycrumb Tinies are around.

I spent the majority of my day today at the Edward Gorey House. Thanks to my volunteer job there, I can go almost anywhere in the house, including the off-limits upstairs. (Fandom secret: it’s essentially an office.) Even doing such a mundane task as paperwork becomes interesting when it’s done in the Gorey House. Paraphernalia related to the late writer and artist abounds throughout the museum–everything from his collecting of Beanie Babies to one of his signature raccoon fur coats. I was mildly interested in Gorey before I started working at the House; The Gashlycrumb Tinies is one of my favorite books. I’ve always loved how the more macabre elements of his work walk the line between the playfully ironic and the genuine. According to a newspaper article on display at the museum, Tim Burton and Lemony Snicket, the latter having visited the museum in 2006, are among today’s creative minds heavily influenced by Gorey’s work.

But the more time I spend at the House, the more fascinated I become with Gorey as both an artist and a personality. I knew that Gorey had worked on the animated introduction to WGBH’s Masterpiece Mystery series, but I had no idea

Figbash forms an “R”

that he’d won a Tony Award for costume design in the musical “Dracula.” Apparently, Gorey was miffed that he hadn’t won for Set Design, having lost to a musical featuring a working locomotive on stage. I learned that Gorey was an avid collector and enjoyed going to yard sales in his VW Bug, the license plate of which reading “OGDRED.” This was derived from one of Gorey’s preferred pseudonyms, Ogdred Weary.

Figbash is an interesting recurring theme throughout the house. I suppose youcould call Figbash a stuffed animal, but he doesn’t look like any animal you’d recognize. Gorey stitched Figbash and stuffed him with Uncle Ben’s rice while watching television, one of his favorite pass-times. This particular creation was a favorite of Gorey’s because his arms, legs, and head can be arranged to form any letter of the alphabet.

What works of Gorey have you read, if any? Any eerie (or not) tales of authors or their museums you’d be inclined to share?

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