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Scaring up a Gorey exhibition

Associated Press

Two little legs, one slightly askew with a sneaker lace undone, poke out from underneath the blue living room rug.

Sitting on a shelf, a little girl peers out from the ice block in which she’s encased.

Another little boy is the target of a ravenous group of mice.

The 26 doomed children at the Edward Gorey House are characters from “The Gashlycrumb Tinies,” written and illustrated by Gorey.

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His story begins “A is for Amy, who fell down the stairs, B is for Basil, assaulted by bears,” and continues through a series of fatal scenarios -- “W is for Winnie, embedded in ice, X is for Xerxes devoured by mice.”

Dolls posed as the children are scattered around the house, the illustrator’s home from 1986 until 2000, when he died at age 75 of a heart attack. Outside, under the magnolia, are graves for the Tinies children.

The Highland Street Foundation, an organization that funds nonprofits, bought the house for just over $400,000 and reopened it as a museum showcasing all things Gorey.

Gorey’s random collections, including one of cheese graters, have been turned into exhibits, displayed carefully next to glass shelves showing off original drawings, toys and a Tony Award he won for the costume and set design for the critically acclaimed 1977 Broadway play “Dracula.”

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His work in the theater inspired the museum’s current exhibit, “Edward Gorey’s Dracula,” which closes Dec. 17. The exhibit features original art, set designs and costumes -- including the evolution, in sketches, of the flowing black outfit that Frank Langella wore on stage as the count.

Gorey illustrated hundreds of other books and drew the opening and closing scenes for PBS’ “Mystery!,” where shifty characters glide back and forth across the screen and three identical detectives follow their trail.

Rick Jones, the director and curator of the museum, was also a friend of Gorey’s for 15 years. Going through his friend’s sketchbooks and manuscripts, he said, gave him the chance to learn more about Gorey’s work.

Of all of Gorey’s creations -- costumes, set designs, puppets -- his drawings mostly give the feeling of an artist working feverishly in solitude. His crosshatch style incorporated incredibly thin, crisscrossed pen lines to create gradual shade variations from barely there gray to pitch black.

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Although his house in Yarmouth Port has more than 10 rooms, Gorey did most of his drawing in a second-floor room the size of a small walk-in closet. His desk faced a window that looked out at a giant Southern magnolia tree.

“I think the reason is he drew precise and small things. He didn’t want all that space,” Jones said.

Jones said it would have been difficult to spend so much time in his friend’s house right after he died, but he finds joy in his work.

“It’s been a long time now,” he said, sorting through pieces for the show. “It feels good to perpetuate Ed’s legend.”

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