The Hidden Staircase

I will be comparing two editions of the second volume in the Nancy Drew Mysteries series. The two books I will be comparing are, first, the 1930 dated book with the tweed cover and, secondly, a 1987 printing that has a text which had been revised in 1959. Fans of Nancy Drew know that the first 34 Nancy Drew books were eventually re-written, her character changed somewhat and various stereotypes removed. The number of chapters was also cut from 25 to 20, and the total page number also decreased.

Basic Comparisons

The 1930 edition has 25 chapters and consists of 206 pages. There is an illustration on the interior cover and the first actual page, and an illustration on the page which is opposite the title page.

The 1987 book only has 20 chapters and 182 pages, and also has no interior illustration on the inside cover or first page. There is an illustration opposite the title page, and one illustration in chapter 1. There are also illustrations in chapters 2, 5, 9, 13 and 17.


Inside illustration, 1930, 1987 printings.

Differences between the texts.

1. No mention of Helen Corning in the 1930 text.

2. It's Nathan Gombet in the 1930 text, but his name gets changed slightly to Natahan Gomber in the revised text. He's also not quite as nasty as in the original text.

3. Nancy is physically attacked by Nathan in the original text.

4. There is no attempt on the lives of Nancy and her father in the original text, chapter 3.

5. Allie Horner visits Nancy in the third chapter in the original text, but there's no such thing in the revised text.

6. The Turnball's house has a lot of flies in it in the original text, but this isn't pointed out in the revised text.

7. There's an organ grinder and his monkey mentioned in the 1930 text.

8. A technological change. In the 1930 text, there is an iceman who brings ice for the refrigerator. This is before refrigerators that kept their own freezers cold.

9. Mr. Drew gives Nancy a revolver in the 1930 text, but not in the revised text.

10. When Nancy goes to bed she puts the revolver under her pillow in the 1930 text.

11. There are a couple of canaries that appear in the house in the 1930 text; in the revised text, there's one owl that appears.

12. There's a 'fat, slovely looking colored woman' in the 1930 text. She assists Gombet. Later she's referred to as looking like an ogre. She even ends up threatening to shoot a policeman.

13. In the 1930 text, Gombet lives in the next-door house. In the revised text, he buys it.

14. Gombet keeps birds in the 1930 text.

15. There's a whole section of Nancy being in the next-door house and trying to avoid the colored woman is in the 1930 text, but not in the revised text.

Synopsis of both texts. SPOILERS!

Chapter 1

1930: No mention of Helen Corning. Nathan Gombet makes his appearance, and he's ultra-nasty. Gombet accuses Carson Drew of hiding some important papers.

1987: Helen Corning makes her appearance. The name now is Nathan Gomber, and he has a 'shifty gaze' and is no where near as nasty. Gombet says Carson Drew is in danger. Later Nancy meets Helen and her aunt.

Chapter 2

1930: Nancy is actually attacked by Gombet.

1987: Nancy goes home and tells her father about Gomber. Willie Wharton is discussed. Nancy is dating some one named Dirk Jackson. Nancy and her father are almost run over by a car.

Chapter 3

Chapter 3 is basically totally different. Gombet is a dangerous and violent person in the 1930 edition, and is just another thug in the 1987 edition, at least at first. There's no mention of a Willie Wharton, and no attempt on their lives.

Virtually all of the chapter is about Nancy meeting Allie Horner who has come to visit her. She gives Nancy a chicken and some eggs. Allie knows Gombet. They talk about the railroad bridge. Nancy says Gombet is a dangerous man and needs to be in prison.

The 1987 edition has Nancy determining that the car was pushed, and then going to Twin Elms where she meets Aunt Rosemary and Miss Flora. She finds out a necklace has been stolen.

Chapter 4

Nancy tells her father about Gombet. He shows up and confronts Mr. Drew. A lot more time is spent showing just how nasty Gombet is. Gombet threatens to 'do something desperate' if he doesn't get money he thinks he's due.

The 1987 version is deep into the mystery at Twin Elms. Nancy thinks there's a secret entrance somewhere. A radio is turned on mysteriously upstairs. Nathan Gomber appears and wants to buy the house.

Chapter 5

She visits Abigail Rowen. She meets Rosemary Turnball. She explains to Nancy how she seems to be living in a haunted house. Her sister's name is Floretta. The house has lots of flies for some unknown reason. They see shadows on the walls and hear strange music. A spoon, a pocketbook and a small amount of money are missing. They have a man to take care of the grounds. They have seen a man who is an organ grinder with a monkey in the area. Nancy agrees to look into things for them.

In the 1987 edition Gomber insists he wants to buy the house. A chandelier moves on its own. Helen screams.

Chapter 6

1930: Nancy takes Rosemary back to the mansion. A diamond bar pin is now missing. Floretta had been talking with the iceman, this being a person who brought ice around to people's homes since refrigerators were not like they are now; you kept things cold by using actual lumps of ice. Nancy opens a closet. No Helen Corning in the story at all so far.

1987: Helen claims to have seen a gorilla in the window. Nancy figures out how the chandelier had been moved by someone. She's still looking for a secret entrance. Mr. Drew calls Nancy, and there is strange violin music coming from upstairs.

Chapter 7

1930: Nancy agrees to help the old women. Nancy goes home and explains to her father what is happening. He says he's going to Chicago for a week, and Nancy can stay with the women if she wants to. He also gives her a revolver.

1987: Nancy finds no one playing the violin. Later an owl gets into the house somehow.

Chapter 8

1930: Nancy visits Helen Corning. Nancy gets a threatening letter.

1987: Nancy and Helen search outbuildings for the secret entrance. While in an old carriage house Helen falls through the floor.

Chapter 9

1930: The threatening message is revealed. She decides to take the revolver and lots of ammo with her. She goes to Twin Elms alone. Strange music has been noted. She tells the two women she received a threatening letter.

1987: In the new version, Nancy suspects her father is in trouble. She puts on some old clothes from the attic. A guy is caught on the grounds but it turns out he's just a neighbor.

Chapter 10

1930: Nancy decides to search the house. She does so with the two women. Special notice is given to the sofa. Nancy places the loaded gun underneath her pillow. She takes a nap but is awoken when she hears a 'blood-curdling yell.'

1987: Nancy and Helen do some housekeeping. More stuff is stolen. Nancy plans to set a trap for the thief, but things go wrong and Helen calls for help.

Chapter 11

1930: Miss Floretta and Rosemary are okay. Nancy decides to go downstairs with her gun. A silver urn has been stolen.

1987: In the new version Helen sees the sofa move on its own. Food is stolen, and Mr. Drew is found to have been kidnapped.

Chapter 12

1930: They look for the missing urn but can't find it. Nothing major happens for two days. Nancy begins to worry about her father. She finds information that indicates something has happened to him.

1987: Nancy talks to the police, Hannah, and the lawyers for the railroad. While out exploring the grounds she finds a cave.

Chapter 13

1930: Some dresses have been stolen, and two canaries make their appearance. (The bird involvement is an owl in the newer version). One of the women reveals that Gombet had wanted to buy the house. He had threatened them when they said they would not sell the house to him. Nancy worries about her father.

1987: Nancy sees a thug by her car. She calls the police and again talks to Hannah. Part of the ceiling collapses and Nancy is knocked out.

Chapter 14

1930: The entire chapter centers on Mr. Drew and Gombet, and how Drew was captured by him. In the kitchen there is a 'fat, slovenly looking colored woman working over the stove.'

1987: Nancy meets with the police who have found out the name of the thug. Nancy returns to the mansion and Helen tells her that Miss Flora has fainted. Nancy finds a secret passageway behind a cabinet.

Chapter 15

1930: The chapter is from Mr. Drew's viewpoint. Gombet appears and Drew tries to get out but fails. The colored woman ties him up. Gombet again confronts Drew and threatens him. None of this at all is in the new version.

1987: Nancy finds a letter from 1785. She once again talks to Hannah and the police and later follows Nathan Gomber. She talks to the police and Hannah a lot in this version.

Chapter 16

1930: Gombet is revealed to live in the next-door house. In the newer version, he buys the house late in the book. An explanation is given to her about the history of the house and an argument between two brothers. This is referred to only briefly in the new version. The women tell her he keeps 'A colored woman who looks as though she were an ogre.'

The women also tell Nancy that Gombet keeps birds. She plans to check out the house at night.

1987: Nancy again talks to the police. Gomber made some threatens against the two old women and the house is sold to him. There is a noise in the attic.

Chapter 17

1930: Nancy sneaks into the cellar, but not before seeing the colored woman washing dishes and saying 'I never saw a moe surly-looking creature. she looks positively vicious!'

1987: Nancy finds a trap door on the roof.

Chapter 18

1930: The colored woman had started to come into the basement, but decided there was nothing there. She says 'I hears noises dat sounds like dey was in de basement and dey was only in my haid.' This is the type of steretyped language that blacks have in the original versions. She searches the old house, is nearly found, and finds a stuffed owl. A parrot starts talking. Nancy is carrying the gun.

A lot of space is given to the room full of birds, alive and not, in Gombet's house.

1987: Gomber is revealed to have bought the house next door. Nancy yet again talks to the police. She manages to get a confession from the captured thug. She then searches the outbuildings at the other house.

Chapter 19

1930: Nancy hides in a closet. The colored women arrives and again there is the strong stereotyped language. Nancy gets locked in the room. She opens a door at the back of the closet and falls down a set of stairs.

1987: Nancy and Helen search the other house. They find some staircases.

Chapter 20

1930: Nancy explores the passageway. She encounters a rat. Her flashlight fails.

1987: Nancy and Helen finds Willie Wharton who admits he has been scaring the old women and played a role in the kidnapping of Nancy's father. He decides to help Nancy. Before long the police arrive, Nancy finds her father, and Gomber is caught.

Chapter 21

She finds a way out of the passageway. It leads to Twin Elms, referred to as the Turnbull Mansion. She figures there are other secret passageways.

Chapter 22

The old women tell Nancy they sold the house to Gombet. She tells them Gombet is the one who has been causing trouble, and she shows them the passageway. She finds another exit which explains the stolen clothes. She finds another exit near the sofa, and one in the library.

Chapter 23

She goes to the police and says she wants Gombert arrested. They go to Gombert's house. The police get inside and encounter the woman holding a sawed-off shotgun.

Chapter 24

The woman says 'You git, white man!...or I'll fill you' system full of lead.' Nancy takes sheriff to the Turnball mansion, goes through the underground passage, and finds an exit in Gombet's house into the kitchen. The sheriff gets the drop on the woman and she drops her shotgun.

The sheriff tells the woman she'll be in serious trouble and she agrees to tell him where Gombet is along with the prisoner. The enter the room where Drew is held prisoner.

Chapter 25

Gombet is taken prisoner. He confesses what he's been doing. The stolen items are found. Nancy and her father stay the night at the mansion. She is given the urn as a reward.

Misc. notes

The newer version wants to play Nancy is peril as soon as possible. Helen Corning does not maker her appearance until chapter 8 in the old version, while she's in chapter 1 in the new version. Nancy is in the old house by chapter 3 in the new version, but it takes until chapter 6 before she does the same thing in the older version.

Gombet gets a lot more story time than Gomber, too, and he comes across as a much nastier character. Nancy is given a gun in chapter 7, but does not have any gun at all in the new version.

In the older version Nancy does her work at the house sometimes with the two older women helping her. Helen Corning does not figure into things at all.

A very major difference between the two versions is Nancy's willingness to carry a gun.

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