Meet Great Grandmère, an ancient, mummified matriarch who is roused only for important family events. Then we have Uncle Einar, an elderly vampire who has lost his ability to fly. Cecy is a witch who experiences the world through her dreams. Finally, there’s Timothy, a human boy who finds himself living with this otherworldly outfit. Though they sound like characters straight out of 1960s monster sitcoms or The Addams Family, this peculiar posse dreamed up by Fahrenheit 451 author Ray Bradbury predated its television descendants.
The Elliotts first entered the public sphere when Bradbury’s short story, Homecoming, was published in Mademoiselle magazine in 1946. Charles Addams was tapped to create the illustrations for the piece, likely thanks to the creepy and kooky clan he had been drawing for The New Yorker since 1938.
“I was 26 years old when I met [Addams] in New York and he had just done that painting for Mademoiselle,” Bradbury later told IndieBound. “When I saw it I realized he was a kindred spirit so we made plans to write a book together.” The result, Bradbury believed, would be a Halloween classic that would inspire people to gather around the fire every October to read tales from the tome, just like they did with Dickens’ A Christmas Carol in December.
“I believe in this more than I have believed in anything in my writing career. I want you to be in it with me,” he wrote to Addams on February 11, 1948.
The plan was to create an anthology of stories and illustrations over a period of years. They pitched the idea to publishers, who were interested enough to start planning a book made with black paper and white type. In the end, Addams's high fee made publishers step back, and both men moved on. "The years passed, some stories were written, we stayed in touch but went our separate ways,” Bradbury later wrote. Addams further developed his own macabre bunch, inking a deal to turn his New Yorker drawings into a TV series called The Addams Family.
Bradbury, of course, continued to be a prolific writer. By the time he was inspired to return to the Elliott family, “dear Charles Addams had passed into that Eternity inhabited by the creatures of his and my world,” he wrote at the beginning of From the Dust Returned, the long dreamed of anthology that was eventually published in 2001. Though Addams was no longer around to create new depictions of the Elliotts, Bradbury dug out the old illustration from Mademoiselle and used it on the cover—a small taste of what could have been if a publisher had realized the possibilities.