Title: Super Chiller #4: The Ghost in the Bell Tower
Summary: Midsummer nightmare…
When the Wakefield kids are invited to their aunt Helen’s country inn, Steven and Jessica are determined to use the eerie old mansion to scare their sister, Elizabeth, into believing in ghosts. But no matter what Steven and Jessica do, logical Elizabeth always works out their tricks.
Then things start happening that even Elizabeth can’t explain, and all the Wakefield kids are afraid that the inn really is haunted. Will they make it through the summer sharing their holiday with an unfriendly ghost?
Tagline: A holiday in a haunted house!
I’m not sure if I knew that Aunt Helen had a country inn, but I do love creepy old mansions and ghost stories and siblings teasing each other. HOWEVER. If the goal is to get Elizabeth into believing in ghosts I’M PRETTY SURE THAT THE CARNIVAL GHOST DID THAT FOR YOU ALREADY.
Oh, wait, that would suggest continuity. Never mind.
[Dove: Well, so far, so good. I was under the impression that Wing would either love or loathe this. So far she’s not mentioning fire. I’ll take that as a good sign. Me? I didn’t own this back in the day. Back then, I thought the only Super Chillers were the first three. Possibly I’d have more attachment to it if I had read it back then.]
A horror movie scares Jessica half to death and makes Elizabeth, Steven, and Joe Howell, Steven’s BFF, who is spending the night. Elizabeth says the movie isn’t as scary as the Amanda Howard mystery she just finished reading. I’ve always thought Amanda Howard mysteries were basically the Nancy Drew mysteries of Sweet Valley, which aren’t scary at all and could never be, so that says something about this movie they’re watching.
This horror movie has a cute boy killed by a ghost, a girl searching a haunted house for her missing cat, a hideous ghost hunting here, and a zombie image? This is an interesting movie. Or maybe it’s just a bunch of horror images tossed together without thought to whether it makes sense.
Then they start hearing a moaning sound in the Wakefield house, Jessica freaks out, but Elizabeth calls Steven and Joe on their trick. Elizabeth says she figured out what was going on because: she saw Steven looking for batteries, Joe asked her to turn down the tv, Steven kept checking his watch, and the noise came from the AC ducts in the ceiling. God, boys, for people who are known as practical jokesters, you are really shit at this. [Raven: The joke itself is pretty decent, though… if not the execution.]
The next morning, Steven and Elizabeth are still laughing at Jessica being so freaked out over the trick the night before. Jessica’s waiting for a postcard from Ellen Riteman, who is in Florida visiting her grandparents, but instead, she finds an envelope addressed to Steven, Elizabeth, and Jessica Wakefield.
It’s from Aunt Helen inviting them to stay at her new inn (okay, so I shouldn’t have known about this before). An “old friend” left it to Aunt Helen in her will (GIRLFRIENDS), and Aunt Helen plans to reopen it once she finishes restoring it. She’s invited the Wakefield kids along with their cousins Stacey and Robin to come stay with her and help with the renovations. Because a bunch of privileged preteens and teens unused to hard work are exactly whom I want helping me. [Dove: Rosey sent me a message saying that Great Aunt Helen is an imposter. She’s not mentioned in the Sweet Valley Sagas, and High came before Twins, so it’s more canon than other canon. I’ve been waiting for a GAH story to bring this up. Also, I agree with the girlfriend theory.] [Raven: I’m not opposed to the girlfriends theory, but I do like the canon of Aunt Helen’s stern and ugly boyfriend.] [Wing: Doesn’t mean she couldn’t also have a girlfriend!]
Alice is pleased that they are going, especially because Aunt Helen’s had heart problems and Alice worries that this is too big a project for her. Steven wants to bring Joe along because otherwise he’s going to be stuck alone with four girls. Considering how much you love Jessica, I have my doubts that’s a problem for you. I am glad, though, to see Steven and Joe’s friendship be so real. [Dove: Maybe he’s concerned that he’ll be around three girls that look like the love of his life – remember, Robin looks exactly like them too – and there’s too much room for error?]
The Unicorns are “helping” Jessica pack; Janet reminds her that she has to wear purple every day even when she’s out of town. She’s up to at least two suitcases (including one that Steven brought her) and still no end in sight. Once the boys are gone, Janet gushes over how cute Steven’s smile is and how terrible it is living with Joe because he keeps playing practical jokes on her. I mean, it’s not like the Wakefields are having to deal with that, too.
Jessica freaks out then when she sees a hand in the suitcase Steven brought her. Elizabeth calms them down, though, because it is, of course, a plastic hand and another prank by Steven and Joe.
The kids all take the bus up to Aunt Helen’s. Elizabeth and Jessica have, adorable, each brought food for the other: bologna sandwiches from Elizabeth and bags of chocolate chip cookies from Jessica.
Aunt Helen, Robin, and Stacey are waiting for them when they arrive, which is interesting because Robin and Stacey came from farther south than the Wakefields did. Aunt Helen gives them a quick tour of Holton, which is a tiny, rustic town. Also: she’s driving an old black limousine that she inherited with the inn. Because that’s certainly a practical car.
She also tells them that some people think the inn is haunted. When they arrive at the inn, Elizabeth is immediately taken by the bell tower, which gives her the creeps. Huh, does it remind you of being high in the air with a ghost, perhaps?
Though the inn is dirty and rundown, Aunt Helen’s had a bunch of workers in to clean several of the upstairs bedrooms, the kitchen, and the dining room. Well thank god she’s not just relying on this group of kids.
The inn has 15 bedrooms and a giant attic; the table in the dining room can seat 20 people, which doesn’t sound like nearly enough with that many bedrooms. Aunt Helen sends the girls up to clean the attic, because there are too many stairs for Aunt Helen to manage. Sure, yes, trust them to do all of that. She sends Steven and Joe out to the old boathouse by the lake. [Dove: Wing, when are you going to inherit a haunted inn we can all live in?] [Wing: First I need to befriend an owner, then I need them to “accidentally” die, and then: happiness forever.]
Elizabeth asks about the woman who left it to Aunt Helen: Alexandra Whyte, a wonderful woman who had never married and was Aunt Helen’s neighbour in San Francisco. UM YES GIRLFRIENDS. MAY DECEMBER ROMANCE. A++.
After a bit more talk about how logical Elizabeth doesn’t believe in ghosts (DESPITE NEARLY BEING KILLED BY ONE), Elizabeth helps with the dishes, Joe and Steven go check out the boathouse, and Jess, Robin, and Stacey go off to explore. [Dove: I know we just have to live with the constant resets, but I choose to believe the ghost ones just get repressed – Carnival Ghost actually had Liz forgetting most of what happened. Maybe this logic even explains why Liz is so quick to logic the supernatural away, whereas Jess, who had her own ghostly experience as well as seeing Liz nearly die, is much more skittish.] [Raven: Repressing bad memories certainly explains why Mr Nydick gets away with everything for so long.]
Elizabeth goes looking for them once she’s done and it takes her awhile. She finds the inn terribly creepy as she walks around it and is shaken by the time she finds Robin, Stacey, and Jessica sitting on the bed in one of the bedrooms. Robin and Stacey have claimed it, and it’s pretty awesome, with an old fireplace, two big antique beds, a tall bookcase, a big dresser with an oval mirror, and a great view of the lake.
Jessica’s already picked the room she’ll share with Elizabeth, which is right next door. It’s smaller, with only one window and no fireplace, but the beds have ornate headboards and purple satin comforters (convenient) and a full-length mirror, which is, of course, why Jessica chose it.
That night, Elizabeth has trouble sleeping. Robin and Stacey come in because it’s terribly cold. They all go check it out, and sure enough, it is very cold. Elizabeth suggests the windows first, but they’re closed, and then the fireplace flue, which is also closed.
Jessica suggests that the inn really is haunted because ghosts create cold spots. Robin and Stacey refuse to sleep in the room any longer and instead sleep with Jessica and Elizabeth. They all agree not to tell Aunt Helen what’s going on because they don’t want to upset her. Elizabeth is dead set on figuring out the logical explanation for what happened. Because, again, she seems to have forgotten that she was nearly killed by a ghost not all that long ago.
Joe and Steven try to scare them by dressing like ghosts in white sheets, but the girls are completely unphased by that. [Raven: Yeah, that’s pretty shit to be fair. Steven and Joe remind me of Crabbe and Goyle eating floating cakes for no fucking reason other than the plot demanding incredible levels of idiocy.]
After breakfast, Aunt Helen tells the girls that their job is to sort through the stuff in the attic, keeping only what they think is important and setting the rest aside for donation or trash. Because sure, I trust them to figure out what’s important [Raven: Agreed. Didn’t Jessica sell her mother’s antique rose no too long ago?] . They also need to clear a path to the entrance of the bell tower in the back of the attic so workers can get to the tower to see if it’s still structurally sound.
Elizabeth is uneasy over this, but pushes it aside.
The attic is truly a mess and the girls feel a little overwhelmed even though they are also excited to see what they can find.
The bell in the tower was run to signal hours for the miners who worked in the area, which is an interesting use of it. I’d have thought the mine itself would have ways to signal the miners. Jessica, Robin, and Stacey try on hats and other clothes while Elizabeth goes looking through books. She finds a photo album and an old diary that belonged to Alexandra Whyte and is dated August 1919. [Dove: The year the White Sox threw the series. That’s literally the only thing I know about that year.]
Steven and Joe interrupt them to say they found a cave and though they’re telling the girls about it, they refused to share it at all, or even tell them where it is. Once the boys are gone, Jessica asks Elizabeth to get them drinks, and after a bit of grumbling, she and Stacey go get lemonade.
And as soon as they get back, Jessica says it’s time for lunch, because she’s super, super subtle. Elizabeth takes the photo album and the diary down to their bedroom — and finds that the oil painting of Phineas Whyte on the bedroom wall has been replaced by a portrait of a woman in a blue dress holding a baby.
She drags Jessica and Stacey back to the bedroom, where the painting of Phineas Whyte is back in place. Hmmmmm, I wonder if the missing Robin is to blame for this. SUBTLE. Except Elizabeth definitely doesn’t go to this logical explanation, because — her logic has failed her? Who knows.
Elizabeth goes out to the garden to work with Aunt Helen after lunch and the other three girls go back to the attic. They get tired of working pretty soon, though, and start trying on clothes and stuff. Then Stacey knocks over a can of bright red paint. From … where? I know the workers are painting in the house, but they’re not painting in that part of the house, and if it’s stood empty for so long, why in the world is there still wet paint around?
Jessica finds something that looks like a bridal veil and a workman confirms that’s what it is. He has black eyes and pale skin, and his black hair is in an old-fashioned hairstyle. He introduces himself to Bill and tells them that he knows all about the Lakeview Inn and even shows them plans that reveal every nook and cranny of the place, things that not even Aunt Helen knows about — including secret passageways.
Am … am I reading another Famous Five book? Will there be smugglers?
When Jessica tries to introduce the girls to Bill, he’s gone. SHOCKING. But the girls know they can put the plans to good use.
The boys keep teasing the girls about the cave and it is annoying Jessica to no end.
Meanwhile, Elizabeth found a key that locks their door from the inside or the outside. She’s going to lock them inside and sleep with the key, because if it’s locked then only a real ghost can get inside. [Raven: At this point, I wanted the inn to burn down and the Wakefield Twins to become naught more than a cautionary tale regarding proper fire safety regulations. In fact, their spectral forms could haunt the area, complete with ghostly third-degree burns.]
The next morning, Elizabeth thinks she’s managed to stop the ghost, but then her cut flowers are completely dead — they’ve turned into brittle dead roses with dry brown petals. Downstairs, she sees the rest of the flowers she picked, fresh and colorful, and Aunt Helen is pleased with them and says she can smell them even in the kitchen.
This bothers Elizabeth, though, because she couldn’t smell them in the dining room where she saw them.
Before they go into town, Jessica runs back upstairs to change her shoes because she simply can’t be seen in public in the other pair, and along the way runs into Bill who claims he’s looking for a ladder. He asks if she’s had a chance to check out the secret passageway and the two-way mirror.
Jessica, Robin, and Elizabeth spend an hour exploring Holton; Stacey stayed back to help Aunt Helen in the garden. Allegedly. Jessica keeps trying to get them to slow down and then points out sneaker tracks that lead into a big pile of boulders. She bets that means they’ve nearly found the cave. Elizabeth isn’t convinced because one set looks small. Robin suggests that maybe Joe has small feet, because they know it isn’t Steven, and oh my god you are even less subtle than Steven and Joe when they’re playing pranks.
They find the entrance to one of the old gold mines and Robin conveniently has a flashlight in her purse. They go into it, explore longer than Elizabeth wants, and then hear a scream and see a billowing white figure flying toward them.
Jessica and Robin bolt for the entrance, but Elizabeth stops as she’s running. She drops a notebook behind her and then follows the other girls out. Robin and Jessica say over and over that it must have been a ghost, but Elizabeth is, of course, not convinced. Elizabeth goes back in for her notebook, and Jessica shouts for Elizabeth to be careful as she goes BACK into the mine.
Elizabeth gets her notebook and then brushes away all the footprints in the sand around the mine shaft’s entrance. When Elizabeth gets back to the girls, she suggests that the ghost must have been Steven, who is taller than they are while Joe is about their same height. Which means Joe is really freaking short and I had no idea. [Dove: Yeah, that’s never been apparent before. Surely Janet would think it would reflect badly on the Unicorns to have a short brother. Then again, Steven is always described as “tall”, so maybe he actually is. I just thought it was a default setting, “tall and good looking like their father…” = “bland and boring description you don’t even pay attention to” in my mind, but perhaps they really do mean Ostrich-tall?]
At the house, though, they find that Steven has been teaching Aunt Helen to play pool for the last hour, which puts an end to that bit of logic. Jessica tells Elizabeth that there aren’t always logical explanations for things, and Elizabeth responds that maybe Jessica’s been right all along.
Elizabeth wakes up late that night having heard something, so she wakes Jessica, too. Their lights won’t turn on and they see a light coming from the mirror on the wall — you know, that two-way mirror. Then words appear written in red:
I am coming for you,
Though you do not believe,
You cannot escape!
Jessica’s watching her carefully and Elizabeth looks pale and terrified. Elizabeth says maybe it was all just a reflection of the moonlight or just a weird dream. They go back to bed, and Elizabeth wakes up super cheerful.
Robin checks in with Jessica about whether Elizabeth is ready to admit that ghosts are real, but NOPE. She keeps saying it was just a dream. Jessica congratulates Robin on the creepiness of the mask with the glowing eyes, but Robin swears that wasn’t her.
Elizabeth goes off by herself at one point to check on the mine shaft’s entrance and sees two sets of prints heading out of the cave in that bit of ground that she smoothed over earlier. She measures them and writes the sizes down in her notebook, then goes back to the inn and does the same for all of their shoes. After she measures Stacey’s shoes, she sees that something has been pulled across the carpet. This reminds her of an Amanda Howard mystery and so, of course, she quickly finds the button that allows the bookcase to open like a door. The two-way mirror is right there, and she also finds a piece of posterboard with that warning written on it in red lipstick. [Raven: So how did that work, then? Was it just posterboard held up against the back of the two-way mirror? Because that would have looked PROPER SHIT.]
She’s determined to get back at Jessica for this.
Elizabeth goes back up to the other girls and acts like she’s sad and confused about what happened the night before. She thought it was all a dream but she just can’t explain it. She admits that she’s been terribly wrong and not everything has a logical explanation. She’s not sure it was a ghost, but she’s willing to consider that it might have been a ghost. The other girls are determined to figure out one more thing to do to convince Elizabeth.
Aunt Helen suggests that the girls take a break from the attic cleaning the day after tomorrow so they can participate in Gold Rush Day which is an annual celebration in Holton. People dress up in old-time costumes and there are games and food and crafts for sale.
Elizabeth goes to confront the boys about measuring the footprints. She’s figured out that even though Steven had an alibi and couldn’t be the ghost, Stacey and Joe were, with Stacey sitting on his shoulders to make the ghost so tall. She wants the boys to switch sides to help her scare Jessica.
They turn a wooden float into a sort of sailboat by adding wood and making it a cross-shaped hanger with an old white sail. Joe’s going to pull the float to the other side of the inlet, Elizabeth will get Jessica to stand in front of the window, and then the float will glide across the water with the sail flapping and making a ghostly white figure float across the water.
They’re interrupted by Bill, who thinks it is a clever plan and has a suggestion for an improvement. The moon won’t be out until very late, so it will be too dark to see the ghost. He says if they put a light on the raft with a beam shining up at the sail, the ghost will seem to glow.
That night, Elizabeth gets the girls to go back to the room so they can try to figure out what happened with the mirror the night before. She again talks about the moonlight coming through the curtains, closing them and then opening them, which is the signal to the boys.
They see the ghost floating across the water, Elizabeth says that she’s finally convinced, which makes Jessica mumble about something, and then the ghost bursts into flame and roars upward into the night. Okay, that’s amazing.
The girls are all freaked out, and Elizabeth says again that she’s finally convinced. Stacey starts to tell her the truth, but Jessica shuts that down. Elizabeth goes off “to the bathroom” (really to check in with the boys), giving the other girls time to argue over who is doing what trick without telling the others.
Steven and Joe say that they didn’t make the ghost blow up and they have no idea how it happened. [Dove: Still, it looked cool!]
The girls are back to work in the attic the next day, all exhausted. Elizabeth sends Robin and Stacey down to take a nap and reassures Jessica that after the girls are done, it will be their turn to take a nap.
Jessica works for a bit, but then finds a pile of old sheets and comforters and lies down for a moment. She can hear Elizabeth in the background, humming a lullaby, which weirds her out only a little and not enough to stop her from dozing off.
When she wakes later, it’s pitch black in the attic and she starts to hear a creaking sound between her and the stairs. She tries to make her way to the small window at the other end of the attic and can see a bit of daylight. It overlooks the garden and she hopes she can get Aunt Helen’s attention.
As she’s struggling to open the window, a ghost shows up and whispers that it’s coming for her. Jessica finally gets the window open and screams for help.
Elizabeth, who is headed out to help Aunt Helen pick wild raspberries in the garden, hears her scream and races upstairs because it looks like Jessica is about to jump out the window in terror. She manages to get up there in time to stop her sister, but Jessica is certain that there was a ghost.
Elizabeth says things have gone far enough because Jessica was almost hurt. She takes Jessica down to their bedroom and goes to get Robin and Stacey. She makes the three girls sit together while Elizabeth runs to bring some raspberries to Aunt Helen so she doesn’t worry and then they all have to talk about their conspiracies.
Elizabeth admits that she set up the ghost that nearly chased Jessica out the window [Raven: Well, she admits to setting up a tape of creaky footsteps, but denies puting anything more elaborate than an audio scare. Because if she had actually set up a mannequin on a wire as a fake ghost, she could have been charged with attempted murder as it nearly drove her sister to jump from an attic window]. She also breaks down everything else: the cold room happened because they turned off the radiator and opened all the windows for awhile before they came and got her (she knew because the radiator was making a snapping sound, which it does when it is just warming up); Robin wore blue eye shadow the next day that was the same colour as her blue lips that were supposedly so cold; Jessica switched the paintings while Elizabeth was downstairs getting the lemonade, which was why Jessica was out of breath when she got back up to the attic, and then at lunch, Jessica delayed going upstairs to check so that Robin had plenty of time to switch the paintings back, and, of course, they had help from the boys to move such a giant picture; the dead flowers were baked, which is why Aunt Helen smelled flowers in the kitchen; Elizabeth found the secret passage when she was measuring shoes to see who matched the footprints.
Then she tells them that she got Steven and Joe to switch sides and help her instead.
The only thing Elizabeth hasn’t figured out is where they got the ghost face in the mirror, because there’s no way they bought it in Holton. Jessica says it was Robin’s trick to scare Jessica, but Robin continues to swear she didn’t have anything to do with that.
Jessica wants to know how Elizabeth managed the ghost, but Elizabeth says all she did was have a creepy tape recording and she didn’t turn off the lights, though probably Steven and Joe did that to add to the trick, just like she still thinks they were behind the lake ghost exploding.
For Gold Rush Day, the girls and Aunt Helen dress up, mostly in clothes from the attic, but the boys refuse to do so. They split up to do their own things; most of them to the souvenir and food booths, but Elizabeth off to a history lecture.
In the lecture, Homer Bates tells them all about the colourful characters who used to live in Holton, many of whom still have descendants in the area. After, Homer stops to talk to Elizabeth, because he loves seeing young people interested in history. They talk about the Lakeview Inn and someone finally tells her the actual story of the ghost. William Cliff, a young man, fell in love with a beautiful girl who lived at the inn. She decides to marry another man. William snuck into the inn during the wedding, and then the bell in the tower rings just as the preacher asked if there was any reason for the two not to be joined in holy matrimony. William was draped over the railing of the bell tower, dead from a broken heart. PSH WHATEVER. [Dove: The cynic in me always thinks this “dead from a broken heart” trope is always more likely to be “dead from an undiagnosed terrible but relatively peaceful thing”. I get snapped right out of the story as I wonder why whether they had any symptoms they just shrugged off and things like that.] [Raven: “He died from a broken heart. … No, hang on…” *rereads papers* “… … Syphillis.”]
The wedding was called off and the inn abandoned shortly after. The bell has never rang since, and the ghost of William Cliff will haunt the inn until the bell rings again to drive him out.
Aunt Helen is going to spend the next few days in Holton going to town meetings because a new developer wants to do some work there, which means the kids will mostly be left on their own at least during the day.
The next day, Jessica chooses laundry over going back up into the creepy attic, but when the others try to get out of it, too, Elizabeth won’t let them.
Jessica doesn’t have as much fun in the laundry room as she hopes, because it is an industrial space and there are tons of linens to wash, dry, fold, and put away. She finishes what she thinks is the last load, but then finds one more set of sheets in the dryer, which she finds weird. She folds them, too, double checks the washers and dryer, then puts the last load away.
Only to find the dryer full of white sheets when she gets back into the laundry.
She folds this set, takes a couple steps out of the laundry room, then runs back inside. She doesn’t catch anyone and the dryer is still empty. She shouts for whoever it is to stop their game and takes the last load of sheets to the linen closet — which is now empty. [Dove: Not entirely convinced this isn’t Liz getting revenge for every time Jessica has dodged her half of the chores.]
She tells herself to stay calm and be logical like Elizabeth, then decides that Elizabeth must still be trying to get revenge on her.
Later, Jessica, Robin, and Stacey stay downstairs to watch television and Elizabeth goes upstairs to read Alexandra’s diary. It starts on her 18th birthday, for which she received the beautiful diary. She goes on to write about Will showing up while she’s on the porch in the shade, but he acted like he barely knew her. Annabelle, their cook, told her that Will was sweet on her, but Alexandra refused to believe it.
Elizabeth starts to fill the bathtub with hot water. I hope you’re not planning on reading that diary in the fucking bath. It’s not like it can be replaced, kid.
Will shows up another day and brings her a wild rose. She didn’t want to hurt his feelings, so she took the flower; it’s pressed and dried in the diary. If Alexandra doesn’t actually like Will, which is sort of what I’m getting from the diary, why did she keep the flower in the diary?
Oh, god, Elizabeth does take the diary into the bathroom. The water is no longer hot, though; instead, it has a thin coat of ice across the bathtub. That’s some damn cold water.
She immediately stomps down to confront her sister [Raven: Where’s your logic now, dickhead? How the hell could this be Jessica? She’s not Elsa from Frozen]. They don’t get far into their argument before Aunt Helen checks on them because they’re yelling, and of course they back down a little so they won’t upset her. She’s pretty worried as it is, though, because she thinks that developer will decide he wants the inn next.
This … this now sounds like it has become Scooby Doo on top of being Nancy Drew.
Elizabeth and Jessica talk about what’s happened to them, they both swear they don’t know about the other, and then Robin interrupts them and they turn on her, but she also swears she doesn’t know what happened, and she still swears that she didn’t know anything about the mask.
They get loud enough that Aunt Helen has to shout at them to be quiet because she’s on the phone. Jessica and Robin head for their bedrooms and Elizabeth goes back to the bathroom. The water there is not, now.
That night, the girls agree that it must be Steven and Joe still playing tricks on them.
Elizabeth and Jessica wake up in each other’s beds the next morning, having somehow switched places, though not bodies. Man, a twin body swap would be kind of hilarious. Someone write that for me, okay. [Dove: It’s on the list of NaNo maybes, but I don’t think it’ll run to 50,000 words.]
Oh, wait, it’s not that they’re in different beds. It’s that their entire beds have switched places, which means that it can’t possibly be Steven and Joe, because even if they were strong enough to do themselves, and Elizabeth doubts that, there’s no way they could have done it without waking up the girls. [Raven: Pretty sure Steven has done PLENTY of stuff in their bedroom without waking the girls.]
They rush over into Robin and Stacey’s room; their cousins don’t really believe them, but Elizabeth is adamant that weird things are happening. She also tells them the ghost story she heard from the historian, about William Cliff and the ghost of Lakeview Inn.
The girls have to clear a path to the tower entrance because they’ve put it off all this time, but they’re all worried about being up there with a ghost. Bill turns up while they’re working and startles them, and they talk to him about the Lakeview Inn ghost. I mean, surely Bill isn’t a nickname for William or anything. He listens and tells them there are lots of stories and it’s hard to know which one might be real, then warns them away from the bell tower.
Elizabeth thinks he knows more than he’s telling them, but when she turns back to ask him, he’s gone. They go looking for him, meet the foreman, Tom Hollyfield, and learn that there is no one named Bill working at the inn.
Shocking. I am shocked, I tell you.
Jessica wants to go home and forget that she ever heard of the inn, and Robin and Stacey feel the same way. Elizabeth points out that if they all leave, Aunt Helen will be alone with the ghost and “some weird man named Bill” oh my god you are supposed to be the logical one.
They try to talk things out logically that night, and then Elizabeth remembers that she saw something familiar in the old photo album. Oh god finally, they figure out that it is Will and Alexandra, and Will is a nickname for William but Bill is, too, and he must be the ghost.
Also, I’m pretty sure that William Cliff wasn’t actually Alexandra’s boyfriend based on what we’ve learned so far, but okay, sure, just because he was interested in her means that they were clearly together even though she’s been uninterested. [Dove: I got that vibe too. She was polite, but not champing at the bit to be his girlfriend.] [Raven: I took that as ol’ timey manners and reservedness.]
The window blows up, tears the picture out of Jessica’s hand, though Elizabeth saves it before it blows out the window; the window slams shut again and on the wall red letters show up and say GET OUT! As soon as they read it, it disappears and the wall is back to normal.
The girls decide that Bill warned them away from the bell tower because he knows if they ring it, he will be banished.
The next day, Aunt Helen has to take a phone call and asks the girls to get muffins out of the oven; when Elizabeth opens the oven, she finds maggots on the muffins. Awww, how are those maggots, Michael?
Aunt Helen has to go to an emergency meeting with the town council and won’t be back until quite late. The girls promise they’ll be fine on their own, and as soon as Aunt Helen leaves, it’s Ghost Hunting Time.
So … have the boys just flat disappeared at this point?
They brainstorm ways to stop the ghost and Robin sort of echoes my thoughts about the boys and they go talk to them down at the boathouse. They’ve been painting the inside for two days, but have only finished one wall. Fucking slackers.
The girls tell the boys about what’s been going on, but of course the boys assume it’s the setup for another prank, because this is totally a boy who cried wolf situation.
Next plan is for Elizabeth to read more in the diary. She’s so focused on it that she’s started when the rest of the girls come into the bedroom to let her know that Aunt Helen is gone to the town meeting and the boys left to watch a movie. How convenient all the way around.
Finally, Elizabeth decides it’s time for them to go into the tower. Of course, the second they get up into the attic, a storm blows up and knocks out the electricity. Aww, this is just the perfect creepy setting, isn’t it?
They keep trying to move things out of the path of the door, but one trunk keeps sliding back into place. Jessica’s terrified at first, and then gets angry, which is #bestjess. She’s not going to let some ghost scare her any more and they are going to get into the bell tower.
Ghost, you’d best be careful or she’ll drag you all the way back to Sweet Valley and bury you in the Mercandy backyard.
They start moving one piece at a time, which blocks off their escape, but they don’t care. Then they’re attacked by gowns flying out of a dresser; Stacey saves them by stabbing them with a sword she found when she was trying to hide. Well damn, Stacey, that is awesome as hell.
More lightning, another warning from a disembodied voice to stay away, and Elizabeth reaches through blue fire to open the door. Cold air hits her and they see the steps are crawling with spiders. Elizabeth is certain they aren’t real because none of it is real, it’s all just an illusion from the ghost, but ugh, that is still pretty horrifying.
Sure enough, the spiders disappear, not real, but Bill turns up, real. Elizabeth tells him that they have to come up there, and he says he can’t let them do that. He’s tried to scare them away, but it hasn’t worked, so now he has to kill them.
Elizabeth climbs the stairs, completely unafraid, and tells him all the things he’s done that stopped just short of hurting anyway. He agrees that life is precious and he doesn’t want anyone to get hurt, but he’s waiting for someone who has been away for a long time, but he’s certain she will return. If he can see her face one more time, he can rest.
It’s Alexandra, and she loved him as much as he loved her, which is not at all the impression I’ve gotten from any point in this book, but sure, okay, whatever. Oh, wait, apparently Alexandra did love him and wrote about it in her diary (conveniently not the parts we’ve seen before [Dove: How hard would it have been to add a few more paragraphs to make this epic romance a little less one-sided?]). She also swore that she would not wed anyone but Will and planned to say so in the middle of her wedding, which means no other man will have her.
Bill is heartbroken over this and learning that Alexandra has died and never married (because she’s been dating Aunt Helen for ages and gay marriage isn’t legal in the USA at this point). He asks them to ring the bell, Elizabeth and Jessica do it together, and when they’re done, he’s gone.
The Wakefield parents turn up for the family reunion, along with a bunch of the other family members, and in the last week since Bill disappeared, the inn has been turned into a gorgeous place again. I don’t believe that, considering how long it’s taken everyone to do everything else, but this had a ghost, let’s roll with magical renovations.
There’s a family barbecue, the girls giggle and laugh and talk together until Steve and Joe drop a rubber spider into Jessica’s lap. She’s completely chill about it, but even knowing it was a prank would not stop me from freaking out and then being furious.
Jessica says they’re not afraid of spiders — or ghosts, Robin adds, because of course they’re not afraid of no ghosts.
Before the trip ends, they see Bill and Alexandra together again walking into the center of the lake. Jessica teases Elizabeth to explain that logically, and Elizabeth, wistful, says that true love is very logical.
So even Elizabeth believes in ghosts by the end. You know, Elizabeth, THE GIRL NEARLY KILLED BY A GHOST.
This is a cute, fun story with a great creepy setting. Not as good as The Carnival Ghost, but what is. However: I can’t get past the point that ELIZABETH SHOULD ALREADY FUCKING BELIEVE IN GHOSTS.
Finally: SO DID THE DEVELOPER WANT THE INN OR WHAT?!
[Dove: Ok, so Wing did enjoy it. I was going to use her reaction as my benchmark. You see, I’m a bit “meh” about this book. I can’t really get into it – maybe because of the one episode of Saved By The Bell that I’ve actually seen, where everyone is dying one by one and Default Handsome Blonde Boy explains that it was a murder mystery weekend, and Screech keeps interrupting, trying to take credit for knowing the answers, except he gets them wrong, (and he’s smoking a pipe, because he’s a fucking knob) and Default takes twice as long to explain. And when he’s done, Screech adds more because when you’ve got a joke, just use it for 20 minutes straight because if it’s not funny the first time, people will surely laugh if you just keep making them listen. Unfortunately, every time Elizabeth explained something, I flashed to my irritation with that scene. Not the book’s fault, but still, it did taint the experience. Oh, and if I don’t, Raven will make a Saved By The Bell Tower joke here.]
[Raven: Saved By The Bell Tower? That’s all you, Dove. Personally, I thought this book was pretty meh. I expected the boys to have much more impact in the story, and was disappointed when they bizarrely faded from view. I too was irked by the whole “I don’t believe in ghosts” retcon nonsense, but then I guess that’s just something we have to live with in this series. And yes, the bloody developer story wasn’t developed (*ahem*) at all.]