A man writes a letter to a boy named Lewis. He encloses a bus ticket to Michigan. Lewis has just lost his parents. The man writing the letter is his mother’s brother and that makes Lewis his family. He advises Lewis to stay focused and keep moving forward. He reminds him of what Albert Einstein said about life being like a bicycle. The man’s name is Jonathan. Lewis has arrived at the last stop — New Zebedee, Michigan and it is 1955. Jonathan appears before him wearing a Kimono but Lewis thinks it’s a robe. Jonathan helps him with his luggage and complains about its weight. Lewis says it’s dictionaries that’s in the bag and that he loves new words. The boy wants to watch Captain Midnight by 10 but Jonathan says he doesn’t have a TV. They stop walking when the bell from a large copular lined with walls starts sounding.
Jonathan glares at the building until it stops. They hop into a rickety car and arrive at a spooky house. Lewis sees Jack-o’-lanterns and asks Jonathan if he loves Halloween a lot. Jonathan says he keeps that all year round and they’re about to step into the gates when a
woman calls Jonathan back. The woman is Mrs. Hanchett, Jonathan’s neighbor. She asks if what he’s wearing is a robe but he says it’s a Kimono. She asks if he went playing his saxophone and Jonathan retorts that the art is not for everyone. She tells him that she really doesn’t care what he plays, only the fact that he plays at 3:00 am in the morning. She asks who Lewis is and is surprised that Jonathan is responsible for keeping another human alive. Jonathan promised to keep it down but admits that 3:00 am is his best jamming hour.
Lewis enters the house and is awed by a display of different clocks tick-tocking together. He tells Jonathan that that is a lot of clocks but the latter says it is just the right amount. Lewis is startled by the sound of rustling and Jonathan tells him it’s from a deranged cuckoo. A slender woman steps out of a door and Jonathan introduces her as his next door neighbor, Mrs Zimmerman. While the two bicker, Lewis feels strange energies around the house. Jonathan tells him he can have cookies for dinner and encourages him to let go of all the rules he’s lived by. Lewis’ sleep is disturbed by a loud metal clang. He wakes up to the sound of disturbing footsteps and metal clanking. He slips out of his room to see what’s happening and that’s when he sees Jonathan listening to the wall. A figurine pops out of a wall art, laughing maniacally at Lewis.
Lewis runs to his room, scared as hell. The next morning,he sees Jonathan and Zimmerman gossiping loudly about going into the wall. Jonathan sends him off to school in a humorous way that makes Lewis suspect him. At school, Lewis joins a basketball team but he’s terrible at playing. Later on, he plays cricket with Tarby who tries to catch up with him. He asks where Lewis lives and is surprised when he tells him. He tells Lewis that the house is haunted after a man died there. Later that night, Lewis sees his mother and she tells him about a book and a key. She says he’s in danger. When Lewis asks what she’s talking about, she asks if he can hear the ticking. He turns to the wall and that’s when he wakes up. He hears footsteps again so he follows it.
He sees all the strange things in the house and becomes scared. He loses it when he sees Jonathan pounding into a wall with an axe. He runs to his room and packs his things. The picture on the wall tells him not to go and a chair blocks his way to the door. Lewis starts banging on the door asking for help but Jonathan shows up behind him and assures him that everything is okay. Jonathan says he’s not going to ax-murder him. He takes him into a library and tells him the truth about himself. Jonathan is a warlock and the house used to be owned by Isaac Izard and Selena before the former died. Jonathan says Isaac locked a
clock in the walls because he’s a joker. He says Isaac put a clock in the wall to drive him nuts. He said he put all the other clocks there to drown out the noise but they do nothing to help.
Lewis begs Jonathan to teach him to be a warlock. Jonathan hands some books to Lewis and asks him to finish those first. Lewis asks if he would have to defeat an evil spirit to become a warlock and Jonathan says not for a long time. A purple spider pops out the door at that moment scaring them. Jonathan explains that the spider belongs to Zimmerman whose spells have been backfiring lately. Jonathan tells Lewis to never open a particular cabinet locked with spells no matter what. While Jonathan is reading a book on Isaac’s life, Zimmerman enters and says that she’s scoured the crawl space and didn’t find the clock. Tarby sees a group of girls mock Lewis because of his googles, so he tries to convince him to take them off. Lewis agrees and that’s when Jonathan shows up in the rickety vehicle.
It’s a full moon and Lewis’ first try at magic spells. He flops his first try and Jonathan tells him it’s the attitude that matters more than the spells. Lewis finds it weird so Jonathan shows him something weirder. He blows the saxophone and it annoys the dogs in the neighborhood. When he’s done, he points to the still water in a fountain and tells Lewis to tap it. When he does, little stars whoosh out of it and the sky is filled with a magical solar system. Lewis is enjoying the scene until the garden lion shits on him. Jonathan is about to leave Lewis’ room when the latter asks why he never saw him until now. Jonathan explains that he was the black swan of the family since he didn’t really get along with their father. Lewis tells him that he thinks he’s also a black swan.
Lewis starts learning to use magic. He turns a caged cat’s fur from white to rainbow colours. He makes Jonathan float in the air and doesn’t know how to reverse it. He makes water rush from the tap to an annoying kid’s face. He channels energy to the moving chair by mistake. Jonathan is worried about the clock in the wall. Zimmerman tries to assure him that they’ll find it before it can harm Lewis. Meanwhile, Lewis’ magic is now better. He does everything with magic now — making his bed, getting dressed, and creating a TV for captain midnight. At school, Tarby has won the elections and isn’t comfortable hanging out with Lewis anymore. Lewis convinces him to go home together so that he can teach him magic tricks for his sport games. At home, Jonathan has figured out where the clock is. He lifts the arm of a statue and it opens up a secret passage in the mouth of a lion statue.
Jonathan follows the passage and it leads to a large room. The giant structure in it seems to be what’s been making all those sounds at night. Jonathan finds a chart on a table and he’s overjoyed. Meanwhile, Lewis is in the library with Tarby. He is looking for a spell to make a
perfect shot with the curve ball. Tarby stubbornly opens the forbidden cabinet and brings out a spell book on necromancy. Lewis returns the book and escorts Tarby out of the house. Jonathan and Zimmerman figure out the meaning of an illustration on the chart that the former found. Lewis’ mother shows up in his room again and reminds him of the book. She tells him that he can win Tarby over if only he’d use the book. The next day, Lewis convinces Tarby to give him another chance at magic. This time, he promises to raise the dead.
Lewis steals the book and goes to the cemetery to meet Tarby. The book leads them to the particular grave they should use. Tarby gets comfortable in a corner while Lewis casts the spells. Tarby does not see any immediate reaction but stops in his tracks when the tomb shakes. He abandons Lewis and runs away. Lewis also runs back home, replaces the book, and gets into bed. He wakes up the next day to discover that his spells aren’t working anymore. Jonathan sees all the statues gathered on the ground floor. They’re all repeating “He’s back! He’s coming home!” Jonathan hurries to the cemetery and finds Isaac’s tomb opened. He tells Zimmerman to help him since he can’t face Isaac alone but she says she can’t. She tells him to tell Lewis the truth but Jonathan says he’s only a boy. She says she can still swing a hammer anyway.
Jonathan and Zimmerman hit horseshoes into the front doorway. Jonathan goes to get some more and sees that the large wall painting has changed to an illustration of himself, Zimmerman, and Lewis in separate coffins. Lewis is about to confess to Jonathan about what he did, but Florence gets ahead of him and says the perpetrator will be very sorry when they find him. Lewis doesn’t tell them anymore and takes Jonathan’s advice to stay with Mrs Zimmerman for the time being. At Zimmerman’s, Lewis sees that she’s unable to make magic sparks. He sees a picture of a show where Jonathan performed alongside Isaac. Zimmerman explains to him that Isaac and Jonathan used to be best friends until the former went to war in Germany and returned a fiercer wizard.
He abandoned Jonathan and married a wicked witch named Selena. She says they believe
Isaac killed his wife to perform a blood ritual to make a key out of human bone. At school, Lewis tries to talk to Tarby about what happened in the cemetery. He says Jonathan is in big trouble because of them but Tarby tells him to pretend like nothing happened and promises to break his arms if he says anything. He punches Lewis when he tries to resist. Lewis falls to the ground and reads the word “indomitable” from the open page. He gets motivated and returns home to Jonathan. He enters the library and sees the chart on the table. The doors close and the books start flying around, hurting Lewis. He yells for help and Zimmerman and Jonathan come running to him. Zimmerman gets the chart as she leaves.
Lewis tells them that he can read the chart thanks to the show Captain Midnight. With the help of some cards from ovaltine shakes, Lewis cracks the code. Jonathan figures out that the clock is a doomsday clock that will run everything backwards so that people get younger and younger until they vanish. They return home to find the house torn down from beginning to end. Jonathan says Isaac was looking for the bone key and they try to destroy it but it doesn’t even melt. Lewis confesses to raising Isaac from the dead, but Jonathan is too angry. He decides to send Lewis home despite the kid crying and begging. Zimmerman assures Lewis she’ll talk Jonathan out of it and asks him to wait downstairs. She goes up to Jonathan and talks to him.
Jonathan admits that he’s scared, but for Lewis. He says that their house is no place for a kid. Zimmerman tells him not to abandon the kid the way he abandoned his little sister — Lewis’ mother. She calls Jonathan a coward and leaves the room. The sound of Marmalade
— Mrs Hanchett’s dog — yapping outside draws Lewis’ attention. He sees Isaac in Mrs
Hanchett’s house and runs across to warn her. He drags her away from her house into Jonathan’s despite all her questions. He calls for Jonathan and Zimmerman as soon as they enter the house. Zimmerman is about to step out of the room but the door locks on its own. While Jonathan tries to open the door, Isaac knocks on the main door where Lewis and Mrs Hanchett are. Lewis tells Mrs Hanchett to leave the door but she doesn’t listen to him. She opens the door and Isaac steps in.
He says hi to Lewis and kisses Mrs Hanchett. Lewis is confused and asks Mrs Hanchett if she had been Selena all along. She starts rapidly shaking her head from side to side and suddenly changes to Selena. Lewis says he thought they both died. Selena reveals that the bone key was made from the actual Mrs Hanchett’s and that she didn’t die. She hid herself when Jonathan and Zimmerman came into the house the night Isaac died. She starts shaking her head again and turns into Lewis’ mother. Lewis realizes that she’s the one who used to come to his dreams. She tells him that she couldn’t get close to the cabinet so she had to use him. Isaac tells him that he has to get the key for them. Meanwhile, Jonathan and Zimmerman make it out of the room.
They run to the secret hideout and get into a trap set by Isaac. Lewis is suspended mid air in a cage under which sharp blades await him should the cage be opened. Above it,
Marmalade, who’s really a rat, is biting the rope until it snaps. Isaac asks for the key in order to release Lewis. He tells them of his time in the black forest and how he got his powers. It turns out that Isaac didn’t meet a witch but Azazel, the fourth prince of hell. He tries to take the key from Jonathan’s pocket with magic while blackmailing Zimmerman but she suddenly uses great magic to stop him. She saves Lewis and stops Selena from taking the key. Jonathan is about to take the key but Isaac attacks him with a bright light. Zimmerman saves him first but Isaac gets the key and disappears with Selena.
The toys and Jack-o’-lanterns chase the trio out of the house. When Lewis figures out where the hex is, they hurry back and Zimmerman uses her magic to deal with the toys and Jack-o’-lanterns. Zimmerman doesn’t make it to the hex and Jonathan turns to a baby when he tries to open the clock. Lewis is the only one who can stop the clock now. The magic ball tells him to say goodbye and when he does, he throws the ball into the clock. It hooks and rewinds everything. Lewis saves the day and Jonathan is back to being an adult. At school, Lewis uses a trick to impress the basketball team and becomes friends with Rita.