The Mysterious Harris Burdick

For years, people have wondered about the author and illustrator Harris Burdick and his story. What happened to him? Where did he disappear to? What’s the deal behind his art?

For those of you who don’t know the legend of Harris Burdick, here’s a brief history about what occurred.

Burdick had sent some illustrations and captions to a publisher, Peter Wenders, who was very interested in them and asked Burdick to return the next day. However, the illustrator never showed up the next day. Wenders contacted Chris Van Allsburg and told him of this event, and Van Allsburg constructed a book with this information, titled The Mysteries of Harris Burdick.

The Mysteries of Harris Burdick has the illustrations that Burdick created and the captions he wrote to go along with them. Van Allsburg took the captions and wrote various stories based on the captions and illustrations. Titles include “A Strange Day in July”, “Archie Smith, Boy Wonder”, and “The House on Maple Street”.


For my birthday, I got The Chronicles of Harris Burdick, which is another version of The Mysteries of Harris Burdick. However, instead of having the stories being primarily written by Chris Van Allsburg, it contains stories written by fourteen other authors while they used Burdick’s illustrations and captions. Some of those authors included in the book are Stephen King, his wife Tabitha King, Kate DiCamillo, and an introduction by Lemony Snicket. My plan was to use this book to follow in their footsteps and create my own story based on a Harris Burdick piece of artwork.

Currently, I’m working on his “The Third-Floor Bedroom” piece, and it’s coming along smoothly. I should have it finished before the end of March, if today is the first day. Perhaps one day, I could have a story associated to every drawing in this book.

But all this time, it’s never been proven that Peter Wenders, the publisher Harris Burdick went to, ever found out who exactly Burdick was. He never found out where he went, nor why he never returned and couldn’t be found. However, it has been said that Wenders passed away in 2000 at the age of ninety-one.

The mystery behind Mr. Burdick may not ever be discovered, as it has been sixteen years since the publisher passed away. But today, even if he isn’t as well known as he should be, we still have his illustrations that continue to inspire younger writer, such as myself, as well as giving other a fun read to lose themselves in.


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