The Mystery of Barbara Newhall Follett

Well before I was 10 years old, I was compelled to draw and write down stories, and of course illustrate the stories I wrote. This was puzzling to me and a little disconcerting. I didn’t know anybody who was “a writer.” At least there wasn’t anybody who did that in my parents’ circles. So until well into high school, I was obsessed with youngsters who had published books of fiction. (Rimbaud was the titan of poetry who eclipsed all other such figures — and he really rebounded during the ’60s.) I discovered Peter S. Beagle’s A Fine and Private Place in 1969 (he had written it when he was 19 and it was first published in 1960). No accident that these youngster works were fantasy, but I was delighted that Beagle’s dreams were not at all musty. Around the same time, I came across an author who was even more of a prodigy, Barbara Newhall Follett, who had written the brief book, The House Without Windows & Eepersip’s Life There (1927) when she was just 12. Yeah, it doesn’t have much of a plot, but it’s way beyond the average child’s afternoon fancy. (Just that name, Eepersip, gives you a clue.)

The book might not have come back in the ’60s along with all other odd literature without the enigma of the author’s life as a postscript. In 1939, after an argument with her unfaithful husband, she walked out of their apartment in Brookline Village, MA and was never seen again. Disappeared.

I was fascinated. And now, 45 years later, I live quite close to the apartment she vanished from. Have walked by it a couple times. Gives me an eerie feeling. Wonder how often somebody goes by who knows what happened there.

Follett’s nephew who never met her keeps quite an extensive website about her:

(You can read the whole House Without Windows there, btw.)

Maybe it’s merely a meaningless quirk of time-space, but I never dreamed in those days back in the mountains that I would settle so close to Barbara Follett’s final exit.



One thought on “The Mystery of Barbara Newhall Follett

  1. Also somewhat eerie is reading someone whose record reviews I’ve heard on the radio and read in the Phoenix write about a member of my family! Many thanks, Milo. Your readers might also enjoy my recent essay on Barbara to commemorate her 100th last March 4th.

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