The Sorcerer's House -- Real Life Location References

Some of the locations inside The Sorcerer's House are actually real places. As Gene Wolfe was from Illinois, he would have been familiar with these locations.

  • The story itself takes place in the state of Illinois, US. We know this because Martha discusses taking a shuttle to the Chicago O'Hare Airport. (Letter 2)
  • The Black House is an actual house at 110 Edgar St, Lincoln, IL 62656. It is painted black, and contains a 3 car garage. The house has 7 sides instead of five, however, two of these sides may not be clearly visible from the road. The actual house seems to have far fewer rooms than the house described in the book. This makes sense since Gene may not have ever set foot in the house. Pictures Unfortunately, there is no river or forest next to the house.
  • Building 19, the prison building Bax and Shell did time in, is a famous building that is part of Vienna Correctional Center, a minor security prison. Building 19 was infamous for overcrowding and poor living conditions. This led to a class action lawsuit on behalf of the prisoners in 2012, 2 years after the book was published. The prison provides vocational training, including training in auto body and auto mechanics. This may be the metal shop that Bax refers to in Letter 35. It is (or at least was back in 2013) customary for prisoners to be released with a state provided bus or train ticket and 10$. There is also a train going directly from Vienna to Rockford. This could indicate how Bax got to MedicineMan in the first place, and why he only had a tiny bit of money available to him.
  • Medicine Man does not appear to be a real town in Illinois. However, there is a company in Rockford Il called MedicineMan Creative, which was in operation before the book was published.
  • While there is no Riverman Inn, there is a Riverview Inn also in Rockford, close to MedicineMan Creative.
  • The Riverview Inn refers to the local Rock River in its title. Along the sides of the Rock River are many houses and businesses. If you follow the river south, you eventually come to a strip of land that is mostly unpopulated. The only building on this strip of land is Hoppers Haunted House. (11576 IL-2, Rockford, IL 61102) This haunted house is 1 hour from Barrington Illinois, which is where Gene Wolfe was living at the time. The haunted house was in operation during the writing of the book. It is also surrounded by trees. This could be the location of the Skotos Strip.
  • Lake Brompton, mentioned in Letters 4 and 23, is a lake in Quebec. It is famous for legends of a local lake monster. The lake is far away from any of the other locations in Illinois, suggesting that references to the lake may be fake.

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