Friday, October 07, 2011

Nancy Drew Blog Party Day 7 - The Hidden Staircase Discussion

Nancy Drew Cameo Edition Illustration

The Hidden Staircase

A hidden staircase, a runaway truck, scary masks. Let's discuss! Add your comments to this posting below and let me know what you think of this story. Does it rate as a good spooky mystery apropos for a fall setting? Did you like the original or revision better? What's your favorite cover art of the 3 classic covers?

A Few Fast Facts:

Ghostwriter: Mildred A. Wirt Benson

1930 Outline Length: 3 pages

3 Cover Illustrations By: Russell H. Tandy, Bill Gillies, Rudy Nappi

Texts: Revision varies the story quite a bit in parts.

Synopsis From My Website:

Original Text:

A visit by a sinister fellow who claims Carson Drew swindled him out of land that was condemned for the railroad leaves Nancy shaken as the man threatens harm if he does not get his money back. Meanwhile, mysterious goings on and thefts of personal items at the home of the Turnbull sisters leads Nancy to try and catch the house "ghost." Someone is trying to get the Turnbull sisters to leave The Mansion! Carson Drew's disappearance and a series of events that put Nancy in danger as she discovers a hidden staircase and secret passageway lead to the resolution of this spooky and suspenseful mystery.

Revised Text:

Nancy resolves to help chum Helen Corning's aunts solve the mystery of the ghost who seems to be haunting their home, Twin Elms. A mysterious man appears at the Drew home to warn Nancy and her father that Carson is in danger. This warning leads Nancy and Carson to search for the missing Willie Wharton, a land owner, who can prove he signed away his land to the railroad and save the railroad from a lawsuit. Meanwhile, the disappearance of Carson Drew, thefts and mysterious goings on at Twin Elms, and the discovery of a hidden staircase lead Nancy to solve this baffling mystery.

While the original is much more descriptive--as typical for the original texts--it also lacks some of the more descriptive objects, hidden entrances and such that the revision adds in. There are several scenes in the revision that heighten the suspense or add a cliffhanger. These include the scene where a truck nearly runs down Nancy and her father Carson Drew so they must dive into the river to avoid it. Also, the scenes where the outbuildings were searched, the girls dress up in costumes found in the attic for a party, the ceiling falls, and Nancy investigates the roof and finds a trap door. The mystery in the revision also involves more details about the land deal background and the kidnapping of Carson Drew is more developed with extra goons helping out Gomber for the kidnap scheme.

I'd recommend reading the revision, if you haven't, as the story though choppier, manages to describe Twin Elms and it's secret entrances and hidden secrets more thoroughly. And for those fans of Helen Corning, she's featured more prominently. Some goofy additions to the revision like the scary mask held up to the window at Twin Elms. Some interesting sleuthing like rocking the chandelier back and forth and using a hammer to tap the wall for hollow spots.

Original vs. Revised - 5 Interesting Clues:

1. In the original version, Nancy takes Carson Drew's revolver with her to The Mansion. She states, "I don’t know whether I could hit the broad side of a barn or not."

2. There are several name changes. Nathan Gombet becomes Nathan Gomber. The Mansion becomes Twin Elms. And relationship changes. In the original, the Turnbulls are friends of Abigail Rowen. In the revision, they are related to Helen Corning. Further, in the original, Rosemary and Floretta are twin sisters. In the revision they become Rosemary and Flora and Flora is Rosemary's mother.

3. In the revision, Gomber has an odd haunter/helper named Willie Wharton.

4. Once revised, a tall Gombet becomes a short Gomber.

5. Roughing it in the original, The Mansion does not have a telephone!

3 Mysterious Things About Nancy:

1. She dates a boy named Dirk.

2. Nancy likes to read and buys a detective story magazine.

3. She doesn't believe in ghosts.

An Important Lesson We Learned From Nancy:

When someone's trying to buy a house and it suddenly becomes haunted, they're probably the one playing "ghost."

Sleuthworthy Rating On a Scale of 1-10:

10. The perfect blend of suspense, "hauntings," secret passageways, and hidden staircases. I especially love these kinds of mysteries. I enjoyed the revision in that there were more of these kinds of hidden/secret entrances--like the listening post which wasn't in the original.



Kansas Mad Man said...

The Hidden Staircase will always rank as one of my favorite Nancy Drew books in the series. (I have a particular favorite, then so many I can't rank them numerically). The revised version was the second Nancy I was introduced to, and I remember my mom reading it to me, after the television show debuted (along with Old Clock and House on the Cliff). It was also the first one I owned, and my cousin, too. (the earliest titles and the last titles could be found at some discount stores in the area, but not any of the in-between books). As such, Staircase is one of my sentimental favorites, revised and original. The original, I feel, builds with less suspense and in some cases less detail (in some areas). The original seems a bit dated even in 1930----no phone OR lights? And no gas lamps on the wall? The book has nice follow through from "Clock" with characters bridging the gap. . . .I like the original very much. I just like the revision more. The Gillies' cover shows the (what I imagined 45-50 year old sisters in the books) as VERY elderly, and the text was changed to match even their clothing when the book was revised. Now, I imagine the original version sisters as Miss Mamie and Miss Emily, but with the white haired sister being the steady one (as the original frontispiece shows). Favorite points: Nancy carries a gun (original), the front door opens with a bang as a cliffhanger (revised).

Pam H. said...

The Hidden Staircase (revised text)was the first ND book I read. I love the character built into the house. The creepy staircase is prominent, but there were other sneaky areas such as the "listening post". I liked Helen and her role in this story too. She seemed more of a chum in the revised text than in the original.

susied said...

I'm listening to this on audio right now! So far I'm enjoying it very much.

Funny, there is no mention of George or Bess and Nancy is dating someone called Dirk! When do these guys come into the series?

Jenn Fisher said...

@susied - Bess and George do not appear until book #5 - Shadow Ranch. Ned doesn't appear until book #7 - Clue in the Diary.


Jan said...

I'm going to have to get hold of the revised Staircase! It's very odd to me that Helen is more a part of the story in the revised version! I remember - I've only had the originals of the first 25 books (minus Old Clock and Twisted Candles), and I remember as a child reading all about the adventures of Helen and Nancy, then being really puzzled when in Shadow Ranch, she seemed to be completely replaced by Bess and George! I had liked Helen (I found that I liked George and Bess even more), and it was a bit of a shock as a kid!
I like the Gillies cover the best because it actually shows the women on it. But I'll always have a fondness for the Tandy cover I grew up with.
Jan Rader

Kara said...

The Hidden Staircase was my original favorite book! It still ranks up there, and I just loved the haunting and hidden rooms. My favorite version is the revised. I did read that one first but I appreciated the changes. AND I hated that they closed the passageway in the original!

I really don't know what my favorite cover is. I am stuck between the first and last one! I'm probably partial to the last one simply because that was my childhood cover.

LuAnn Sgrecci O'Connell said...

To me the latest cover is the iconic because it features just Nancy, the one I grew up with, on dark, spooky stairs with a flashlight. I like the OT for the writing, but I like the RT for the reasons other have mentioned--the prominence of Helen, more happening. For some reason I like that the ladies are Helen's relatives. I'm often struck when reading the OTs how there is much more development and only one or two suspenseful parts whereas in the RTs, many suspenseful events. The first time I read the OT, the tunnel scene seemed to last a long time. It's interesting they incorporated this into the Nancy Drew movie. This is definitely one of the spookiest Nancys with the hauntings, old mansions with mysterious staircase and tunnel and Mr. Drew being kidnapped. Somehow Nancy's world seems more dangerous her father is kidnapped!

Jambob said...

For those of us raised on the original versions ,,,the revised will never do. Where else would you find the word "shan't"? Maybe I am spelling it wrong but it sounds the same. Also, if I am not mistaken the Hidden Staircase is the only ND movie starring Bonita Granville that bears the name of one of the books and loosely follows the stroy line.

Jenn Fisher said...

@Jambob - Janice - one other movie-- Nancy Drew Detective--was based on the book The Password to Larkspur Lane.


Nancy Lauzon said...

I read the RT of Hidden Staircase, and I did find it one of the scarier stories written. Especially the mask in the window.

In fact, I used a hidden staircase in one of my mystery novels, as a nod to this book!


Jen said...

Where did you find the outline for the OT? The Stratemeyer collection at the NYPL doesn't seem to have any outlines for Nancy Drew.

Jenn Fisher said...

@Jen - I was given a copy by a Stratemeyer family member.