It will take some time before Robert Unik finishes sifting through everything he inherited from his late mother last month, but so far the treasure trove the Manitoba man just received includes books, photos and documents that once belonged to the famous fiction writer Robert Bloch.
The author might be best known for his 1959 horror novel Psycho, which was later made into a film directed by Alfred Hitchcock.
But to Unik, Bloch was just his great-uncle Bob, who he remembers visiting in Los Angeles as a young boy. Bloch introduced Unik to celebrity friends like Barbara Eden, who starred in I Dream of Jeannie, and George Kennedy, from movies like Earthquake.
Unik said his mother, Myrna Unik, inherited the items from her Aunt Elly, who was born Eleanor Zelisko in Manitoba. She later became a model, moved to Los Angeles and married Bloch.
“That’s how I ended up … having a famous great uncle who’s a writer,” said Unik, who lives in the city of Selkirk, just north of Winnipeg.
The items Unik is still going through include two bookcases filled with autographed books and photographs of Bloch with actors including Boris Karloff, Joan Crawford, Christopher Lee and Buster Keaton — and even Hitchcock himself, he said.
Then there’s a Christmas poem to his great-aunt and uncle from the author Ray Bradbury, who wrote the novel Fahrenheit 451.
Unik said he also came across some contracts Bloch signed with publishers, and after posting about the inheritance in fan pages online, he learned there’s a lot of interest in these items.
“I’m getting all the editors calling … telling me about this information and [that] the contracts are worth more than the books because it’s got his signature,” he said.
“I’m overwhelmed right now, because I’m still dealing with my mom’s estate.”
Unik, a retired woodworking teacher, said he hopes to soon have time to go through everything and make sure the pieces are preserved properly.
A major horror figure: expert
While the success of Bloch’s Psycho and the Hitchcock film that came after it “sealed his immortality” as an author, expert David Annandale says that depiction doesn’t do justice to the writer’s full career, which spanned half a century from roughly the 1940s to the 1990s.
“There’s such a wealth of stories there. I certainly remember his short story, Sweets to the Sweet, was one of the first stories that absolutely traumatized me as a little kid,” said Annandale of the tale of a young girl with uncanny abilities.
“As important as Psycho was and is, his contribution to horror literature, horror film, horror media in general extends far beyond that.”
The senior instructor in the University of Manitoba’s department of English, theatre, film and media said Bloch was a contemporary of H.P Lovecraft who was still active into the time of Stephen King — making him, in the simplest terms, a kind of bridging figure between the two.
“He’s one of the major figures in horror fiction and film for really the whole middle of the 20th century,” said Annandale, who specializes in horror, science fiction and fantasy.
As for Unik’s recent inheritance, Annandale said he’d love to know more about what exactly is among the items.
“What a find to have here,” Annandale said.
“That’s, I would say, important — not just for the personal history of Robert Bloch, but for the field itself. I think this sounds absolutely amazing.”
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