It will be a while before Robert Unik finishes sifting through everything he inherited from his late mother last month, but so far the treasure the Manitoba man has just received includes books, photos and documents that belonged to the famous fiction writer Robert Bloch.
The author is perhaps best known for his 1959 horror novel psychologywhich was later made into a film directed by Alfred Hitchcock.
But for Unik, Bloch was just his great-uncle Bob, whom he remembers visiting in Los Angeles when he was young. Bloch introduced Unik to famous friends like Barbara Eden, who starred in I dream of Jeannie, and George Kennedy, films like Earthquake.
Unik said his mother, Myrna Unik, inherited the items from her aunt Elly, born Eleanor Zelisko in Manitoba. She then 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 town of Selkirk, just north of Winnipeg.
Items Unik still runs through include two bookcases filled with autographed books and photographs by Bloch featuring actors such as Boris Karloff, Joan Crawford, Christopher Lee and Buster Keaton — and even Hitchcock himself, he said.
Then there’s a Christmas poem to her great-aunt and uncle from author Ray Bradbury, who wrote the novel. Fahrenheit 451.
Unik said he also came across contracts that Bloch signed with publishers, and after posting articles about the legacy to online fan pages, he learned that these articles generated a lot of interest.
“I get all the editors who call me… tell me about this information and [that] the contracts are worth more than the books because they bear his signature,” he said.
“I’m overwhelmed right now as I’m still dealing with my mum’s estate.”
Unik, a retired carpentry teacher, said he hopes to have time soon to go through everything and make sure the pieces are kept properly.
A Major Horror Figure: Expert
If Bloch’s success psychology and the Hitchcock film that followed ‘sealed his immortality’ as author, expert David Annandale says the depiction doesn’t do justice to the writer’s entire career, which spanned half a -century, from the 1940s to the 1990s approximately.
“There’s such a wealth of stories out there. I certainly remember his news, candy sweetswas one of the first stories that absolutely traumatized me when I was little,” Annandale said of the story of a young girl with supernatural abilities.
“As important as psychology was and is, his contribution to horror literature, to horror film, to horror media in general extends far beyond that.”
The senior instructor in the University of Manitoba’s Department of English, Drama, Film and Media said Bloch was a contemporary of HP Lovecraft who was still active during Stephen King’s time – making him , in simple terms, a sort of transitional figure between the two.
“He’s one of the major figures in horror fiction and cinema for the entire mid-20th century,” said Annandale, who specializes in horror, science fiction and fantasy.
As for Unik’s recent legacy, Annandale said he would like to know more about what exactly is among the elements.
“What a find to have here,” Annandale said.
“It is, I would say, important – not just for Robert Bloch’s personal story, but for the estate itself. I think it sounds absolutely amazing.”