Museum to Macabre Illustrator Edward Gorey Opens
Award-winning book writer and illustrator Edward Gorey has a museum. Rumor has it, he probably wouldn’t have loved the idea of his home being turned into a museum after his death in 2000, but thankfully fans have a place to remember the man who wrote and illustrated over 100 of his own books, plus so much more.
The museum is only open from April to December, and this year’s opening coincides with a new exhibit featuring Gorey’s work, The Vinegar Works: Three Volumes of Moral Instruction. The Vinegar Works came to define his style and the new exhibit features original artwork and manuscripts from the book. It was comprised of three tales, including The Gashlycrumb Tinies, The Insect God, and The West Wing.
The Gashlycrumb Tinies, published in 1963, tells the death story of 26 children. As gruesome as it sounds, the alphabetical and rhyming tale is extraordinarily entertaining. The death of the children isn’t illustrated, but readers do see the moment before tragedy strikes.
“E is for Ernest who choked on a peach, F is for Fanny sucked dry by a leach. G is for George, smothered under a rug, H is for Hector, done in by a thug.”
The fifty year old tale and the exhibit fit perfectly in the home Gorey bought in 1979 that is now the museum. The home was a 200-year old sea captain’s home in Yarmouth Port, Cape Cod, Massachusetts. It’s now preserving the memories of Gorey, who in addition to being a writer and illustrator, also did set and costume design and had a great fondness for animal welfare.
When we grow up, we learn Grimm’s Fairy Tales aren’t quite the happy stories we imagined as children – Hansel and Gretel actually burn the evil witch to a screaming painful death in her own oven. Rapunzel, impregnated by the prince who climbs her hair nightly, is cast out into the woods. The prince is blinded and while the two do reunite, the path there is more ugly and sinister than we ever imagined as children.
Grimm’s fairy tales got a makeover – a cover-up destined to make their stories into the animated, much loved fairy tales of today, but Gorey’s books entertain and delightfully horrify people today, just as they did when he first created them.
Visit the Edward Gorey House in Yarmouth Port or contact the Hyannis Area Chamber of Commerce for more information on visiting the area.