Recap #229: Sweet Valley Twins Super Chiller #2: The Ghost in the Graveyard by Francine Pascal by Raven
Title: Super Chillers 2: The Ghost in the Graveyard by Francine Pascal
Tagline: Is Sweet Valley Haunted?
Summary: Strange things have been happening to Sam Sloane ever since he moved from San Francisco to Elizabeth and Jessica Wakefield’s neighborhood in Sweet Valley. He can’t work out why everything in town looks so familiar—or why he’s mysteriously drawn to a crumbling old mansion in town. When he visits a cemetery in the dead of night and sees a ghost who looks just like him, he turns to Elizabeth and Jessica for help.
At first the twins think Sam is imagining things. After all, who believes in ghosts? But the more the girls get to know their new friend, the more they feel he’s telling the truth. Something is out there. The twins are going to have to do a little ghost hunting of their own. But what happens if they do discover the ghost? Or worse, what happens if it discovers them?
Although my chosen moniker is suitably gothic, I do not have a horror pedigree.
Sure, I like horror films. They are fun, and scary. And horror books? I love me a bit of Stephen King. I’ve screamed at Freddie and Jason, cowered from Samara, laughed at Chucky and was Finally Destined to face down Fate itself.
I enjoy it… but I don’t live and breathe it.
Both Wing and Dove have a much more visceral pull into the fright genre. They devour it whole, consuming all they can in a search for more thrills and for the love of the form. It’s a long love, from childhood, and it informs their nostalgia for this very site. Go check out all the fine work on point horror dot com for proof. [Wing: Well, he’s not wrong. Even our names come from a Point Horror book.]
But me? I’m a fairweather frightmeister. If pushed, I prefer a belly laugh or a pewpewpew space epic.
The point of this confession? A mere FYI.
This Super Chiller isn’t really in my wheelhouse. So take all you read with a hefty pinch of salt.
The book opens with Liz operating at around 30% Pure Liz: its’ the final day before term finishes, and she’s reading in the lunchroom. I like a book, and I do read in the staff canteen at lunchtime, but a school lunchroom? Surely it’d be raucous and noisy there? [Wing: Isn’t the staff canteen noisy? Also, I sometimes get so deep into my reading that nothing will interrupt me, including an earthquake or a tornado (both true stories), so I can see this being possible.] Jessica is suitably mocking, even when she discovers that Liz is reading a ghost story.
Next few paragraphs? Standard. Sing along with me…
This is the story of the two perfect twins
One is a monster, one died for your sins
One is warm hearted, while the other’s much colder
Both have a dimple, one’s four minutes older.
The first twin’s Elizabeth, she longs to be a writer
Unlike her other half, she’s a lover, not a fighter.
She fixes problems plaguing each and every waif and stray
If you’re new, you’re sure to be her Best Friend For A Day.
The second twin is Jessica. She likes boys and dancing,
The Unicorns and purple, parties and romancing.
She loves the thought of Hollywood, awash with glitz and glamour,
And caving in the skulls of fucking bitches with her hammer.
Together they are bulletproof, a family like no other,
With idiotic parents and dim incesty brother.
Blonde, blue eyed and Aryan, straight from a Nazi rally,
Sieg Heil to the Wakefields. Welcome to Sweet Valley.
Elizabeth tells her twin about the contents of her book, using a scary ghost-story voice and a predictable jump-scare that somehow sees them dissolve into a puddle of laughter. Tick one for the Mandatory Spook Reference Chart that must be in place for Super Chillers.
Caroline rocks up. She’s not scary. Her gossip du jour? Someone is moving into a house on her street, the street which also houses the Wakefield Compound. Jessica isn’t interested, so Caroline raises the stakes in the face of such indifference.
“Yeah, but did you know that they have a boy our age?” Caroline asked. She looked pleased with herself.
Attagirl, C. Know your audience.
Apparently, although they are not due to move their stuff into the new house until the following day, Caroline believes that someone may arrive tonight. Jessica comes over all stalky, while Elizabeth suggests they invite the new boy on the schools end-of-school-term boat trip that weekend.
Jessica didn’t move. She was biting her bottom lip as if she were carefully considering Elizabeth’s idea. “Let’s not invite him until we can find out a little about him,” she said slowly.
Elizabeth gave her sister a startled look. “You mean, you want to wait until you see whether he’s cute enough to invite?”
“That’s not what I meant,” Jessica said, blushing.
C’mon Liz. Give your sister the benefit of the doubt. She could be thinking that the boat trip might be too public a place to kill the new guy. After all, he may be…. *gasp* … ugly. [Dove: What if he’s… FAT?]
Back at the Wakefield Compound that evening, Jessica places herself in prim Nosy Neighbour position by the living room window, hoping to spot the New Boy arrive. She masks her intentions with a copy of Teen Idol, much to Stephen’s amusement.
Two hours later, with no New Boy in sight, Jessica thinks “fuck this for a game of canasta” and flounces off to her room. Apparently, it becomes too dark to see anyone, because of course there are no bloody street lights in Sweet Valley.
Next morning, Jessica wakes Elizabeth at 8:07. The New Boy has arrived! He’s also brought his family, which is boring. Caroline Pearce has informed Jess (by phone at 8am, that antisocial fucknut) that the New Boy is Suuuuuper-Cute.
Our twins trot over to the thus-far-vacant house to interrogate the New Boy. There he is, all black hair and brown eyes. Elizabeth goes first.
“Welcome to the neighborhood. You’re moving into a great house,” she said. “We knew the people who used to live here. I hope you get the room with the round windows.”
I believe there’s a history to the people who used to live in the house with the round windows…
Hell, it’s Sweet Valley, California. It definitely can’t rain all the time.
The boy, it seems, is Sam Sloane. He’s from San Francisco.
Seriously, have the Jamie Suzannes got a ladyboner for San Francisco? It seems it’s the de facto Other Place when another place is needed. I love the place, fog globes and all that, but sheesh. Isn’t anyone from Minnesota? [Dove: Ginny-Lu Culpepper was from… *thinks* … somewhere they say “y’all”. Probably not San Francisco.] [Wing: I still want to both stab that ghost writer in the eyes and set them on fire for the bullshit that was in that book.]
After some inane small talk, Liz asks Sam if he’d like to join them on the Sweet Valley Middle School boat tour, set for the following day.
A flash of lightning interrupted Sam before he could answer. Sam, Elizabeth, and Jessica looked up. One, two, three, four, five, six, Elizabeth counted to herself before the thunder came. When it did, it rumbled through the air for a long time.
Ah, more cookie-cutter spooky stuff. Nice. Unless this is heralding the deaths of the entire sixth grade the following day as their boat strikes an iceberg and sinks. [Dove: Spoilers for Sweet Valley Twins #91: Deadly Voyage and #92: Escape from Terror Island. No, I didn’t make those titles up.] [Wing: OH MY GOD. I cannot wait.]
Sam accepts, and vows to join the Wakefield Family the following morning for a ride to the marina.
Then the rain falls, and everyone fucks off home.
Is this the first rain in Sweet Valley? Over forty books down?
I remember there being a storm at the camp in The Big Camp Secret, but that wasn’t actually our happy little town, was it?
Are the raindrops reserved for super editions? Inquiring minds want to know!
[Dove: I did mention in Jessica’s Bad Idea, that Sandra Ferris was a moron for buying leather gloves, because outside of the Super Chillers, the weather is always perfect!]
We conveniently skip into Sam’s head for the next scene. The rain has subsided, although the storm still brews, and he’s on his bike and exploring. During this, we learn his backstory:
- He was born in Sweet Valley, but moved away when his natural parents died in a car crash when he was a baby.
- He was adopted by the Sloanes when he was nine months old.
- Since he returned the previous day, he’s been plagued with the notion that he recognises Sweet Valley from a life before.
- He feels like he belongs in Sweet Valley, which is odd because he’s not blonde or blue-eyed.
Sam rides around, without a direction, but being inexplicably drawn to a place he’d never knowingly been. He is terrified. Eventually, he feels he’s reached his destination.
It was a spooky house. It sat in the middle of a large yard filled with dead flowers and overgrown weeds. A high wrought-iron fence surrounded the property, making it look almost like a jail. Many of the windows were broken, some of the frames were rotting, and the dull gray paint was peeling. It was clear that no one lived there.
Why am I here? Sam wondered.
The wind blew a sheet of newspaper into the spokes of Sam’s bicycle. He suddenly felt an overwhelming desire to get away. He jumped on his bike and rode as hard and as fast as he could, heading back to the safety of his own house. But all the way he kept thinking, I know something about that house. I can feel it. If only I knew what it was.
This isn’t Sweet Valley. It’s weird.
I mean, I like it. But it’s weird.
It ticks some scary boxes, and does bring a shiver to the proceedings.
Dove, Wing… is this a bit like Point Horror?
[Wing: A little, yeah. To me, it reads more like a watered down gothic mystery, though.]
The chapter ends with a throwaway twin scene where our heroines glibly discuss twin ESP. Jess and Liz seem to be on the same page, in a spooky and mysterious way. I’m sure, if they are mentioning it now, they will have some bizarre twinny bullshit later in the book. Which is a bit rich, when you consider that Steven was roundly mocked for faking ESP right back in One of the Gang. [Dove: The series cannot make its mind up on twin magic. Some books are vehement that they are just ordinary people without the faintest hint of shine about them, others are like OMG TWIN MIND READING MAGIC IS SO EVERYDAY. I think it’s most likely that they can’t read each others’ minds. Liz would die of shock if she even caught a glimpse of Jessica’s mind.]
Next, Sam is caught in a nightmare. Surrounded by crashing waves, an unrecognisable old man is trying to save him, but he’s getting further and further away. Waking with a start, he bemoans the fact that this apparently recurring dream has not been excised from his mind in the move to Sweet Valley.
He freed himself from his twisted covers and went to the window to look outside. Forget about the nightmare, he told himself firmly. Today is going to be terrific. It was the day of the sixth-grade boat ride, and even though it had stormed during the night, the sky was clear and blue.
Yeah, that’s an idea. Don’t dwell on the recurring nightmare involving a storm at sea… instead, go on a boat trip the day after a big storm. That’ll do it. Moron.
Over breakfast, he confides in his parents about the weird old house, apparently located on McClarendon Street. They know nothing, so Sam puts it out of mind.
On the ride to the boat trip with the Wakefields, Sam is happy that nothing seems familiar… until they reach the marina. That place starts the klaxons blaring immediately.
Sam sat perfectly still, as if frozen. The boats, the docks, the pier, the restaurants, Sam thought. It’s all so familiar. He felt as if he’d spent hundreds of afternoons at that very marina.
As Jessica fucks off to join Lila, Sam confides in Elizabeth about his concerns. Ever the guardian angel, Elizabeth attempts to calm his mind by explaining déjà vu. For those that don’t know, déjà vu is the feeling that you’ve done something before. A bit like what we all feel when we read about how the twins are so similar yet different at the beginning of each fucking book.
Heading to the boat, there are more surprises for Sam. A wizened fisherman recognises him, and addresses him directly.
“Hello there, young man,” he said slowly, nodding as he spoke.
Elizabeth nudged Sam. “I think he’s talking to you,” she said.
“No, he’s not,” Sam answered. “I don’t know him.”
“You’re taller by a head every time I see you,” the fisherman said.
Every time? Sam thought. What’s he talking about?
More creepy shit going down. I’m pretty sure Sam’s going die at this point. Except not. Obviously.
On the boat trip, Sam has trouble mixing with his new classmates. He tells the Unicorns that unicorns don’t exist, and commits the cardinal sin of Sitting In The Unicorns’ Seats. [Wing: Because he’s kind of the greatest.] He’s eventually forced into eating lunch alone. It isn’t much fun.
Eventually, Liz spots him and takes pity, as she always does. She invites him to the Wakefield Pool Party, conveniently happening the following day. Sam, thoroughly bored, accepts regardless.
In the Unicorner, Lila mocks Sam for being a dud. By extension, she pokes fun at Elizabeth too.
“Elizabeth is always so nice to everyone,” [said Lila.]
Jessica lifted her chin. “That’s right. She is,” she retorted.
“Elizabeth Wakefield, the nicest person in the world,” Lila went on in a singsong voice.
Great stuff. She’s nailed it. Go Lila!
For some reason, this makes Jessica angry. She vows to get her revenge on her best friend, by teaching her a lesson. This is a little tame for the Jessica we know. I’m surprised she isn’t plotting to have Lila killed.
Next morning, we learn of the latest thing that Elizabeth is getting stiffed on by her sister: No-Cooking Monday. The twins had given The Sainted Alice four No-Cooking Monday vouchers for her birthday, stating they would do all the cooking and cleaning up so Alice could concentrate on the gin. [Dove: Presumably these vouchers replaced the earrings Jessica stole (for use on her un-pierced ears) back on book 5?] This, the second, saw Liz lumbered with the tasks while her sister is in absentia. Standard.
Seven enters and declares he is starving, even though he is actually eating a pizza at the time. Also standard.
“What are you making, a seven-course dinner?” Steven asked, surveying the messy kitchen.
“It’s broiled flounder, Mom’s favorite. And don’t even try to be funny,” Elizabeth said.
WHO IN THE BLUE FUCK CAN CLAIM THEIR FAVOURTIE FOOD IS BROILED FLOUNDER?!
I’m not even sure what broiling is. The dish sounds like a bloody Indie band.
“And now, opening for REM, it’s Broiled Flounder!”
[Dove: For those not familiar with the dish, here…
[Wing: If it involved butane and fire, it’d be my favourite meal, too.]
Jessica arrives, and banter happens. Apparently, Jessica was detained at a Unicorn meeting. Elizabeth tasks her with the considerable cleanup. Yeah, that’s not sticking.
The dinner is a success, but Jess shirks the dishes to watch a Kent Kellerman about reincarnation. Then the scene ends.
On the phone to Lila after the film, they discuss reincarnation.
“Do you believe in that stuff?” [Lila asked.]
Jessica twirled the phone cord around her finger while she thought. “Well, maybe. What if you woke up one day and you suddenly remembered you used to be Jack the Ripper?”
I’m sure it’s just a matter of time before your repressed evil past comes back to haunt you, Jess. You can’t wash that much blood off your hands. [Dove: Yes she can, Liz will take the blame because she lacks a spine.] [Wing: I love that Jessica thinks about Jack the Ripper instead of, say, Cleopatra. Thanks, Lila.]
Lila, it seems, believes she’s the reincarnation of Cleopatra. If I’m not mistaken, that takes the number of reported reincarnated Cleopatras in the world to around 2.6 million. Why is no one ever the reincarnation of a bloody dental nurse? It’s always a historical figure.
Once the call is over, Jessica fumes at her snobby friend. Again, she vows a great and terrible revenge on Lila, once she comes up with something suitable. Knowing Jessica, it will be a fine prank indeed.
Elizabeth begins setting up for the pool party. This involves furniture placement, Johnny Buck Album playing, and water temperature gauging. Liz is playing the latest Johnny Buck album, which either means she’s borrowing Jessica’s bootlegged copy or she’s purchased one legitimately. Knowing Elizabeth as we do, I’m plumping for a third option: she’s using a gifted copy she received from the orphanage at which she volunteers, as a thank you present for being so fucking perfect.
Once the part starts, Jessica and Lila discuss the likely past lives of their classmates.
“Peter Burns,” Jessica said, giving him a wave. “He’s good in science. Who do you think he was?”
“Probably Albert Einstein,” Lila decided.
Who the fuck is Peter Burns? This guy? [Dove: THAT’S THE SIXTH FUCKING PETER IN THIS UNIVERSE. JUST FUCKING STOP, OK? I CAN’T TAKE IT ANY MORE. Peter DeHaven, Peter Jeffries, Peter Sampson, Pete Stone, Pete Moore and now Peter Burns. FUCKING OVERKILL. New tag.]
“I hope I was Florence Nightingale,” Elizabeth said with a grin.
“Who’s Florence Nightingale?” Jessica asked.
“She was a famous nurse,” Elizabeth replied. “She helped a lot of people.”
“Figures,” Lila mumbled. She looked at Jessica and faked a wide yawn.
THIS IS WHY LILA IS AWESOME, PEOPLE.
Eventually, Elizabeth (and Amy) tire of Lila and her ludicrous claims of being Cleopatra, and go for a swim. Liz eventually touches base with the New Boy Sam Sloane, who is once more alone at poolside.
Is Sam Sloane a ghost? He’s always by himself. Sixth Sense
Oh hang on. He’s spoken to the Unicorns. And we’ve met his parents.
Stupid idea. Please ignore.
Talk between the two turns to reincarnation, and Sam thinks this may be an explanation to his strange sensation of déjà vu. I mean, it doesn’t explain why he’s Known To Fishermen, but whatever. Maybe he’s a reincarnation of a fish. OH MY GOD HE USED TO BE A FLOUNDER AND ALICE ATE HIM.
Sam tells Elizabeth of the creepy old house on McClarendon Street, and how he’s drawn to it like a moth to a flame. What if he used to live there in a previous life?
While helping Jessica serve up hotdogs (Jess, is that really you?), Elizabeth shares Sam’s thoughts with her evil twin. Sam’s apparent belief in reincarnation gives Jessica a great idea on how to prank Lila, who is sleeping over that evening. She asks Elizabeth to help, who acquiesces on the proviso that she doesn’t have to do “anything mean.” Oh, FUCK OFF Elizabeth. You’re on holiday, let your bloody hair down for once.
The party proves to be a great success, especially for Sam. He manages to ingratiate himself with the Unicorns by displaying prodigious circus skills. He juggles a beach ball, a sneaker and a jar of mustard. [Wing: … why those things? They seem very unbalanced for juggling.]
Juggling… what’s the point? As the stand up Ed Byrne once commented, if you want to keep three things off the ground at once, put them on a shelf.
(Disclaimer: I can juggle. A bit. I can do three balls easily, with some tricks, and can probably still manage three clubs. I used to manage four balls in my youth, but a broken arm and lack of desire to practice made that skill fade like a tapestry in direct sunlight.)
Sam, full of smiles and energy, offers to help with the party cleanup if Elizabeth will do him a favour…
“If you help me clean up, I’ll do anything,” Elizabeth said. “Just name it!”
“Go with me to the old house tomorrow,” Sam said. “I want someone else to see it.”
The chapter ends with Jessica putting Operation Prank Lila into effect. She searches a book called Notorious Women of Sweet Valley for an appropriate candidate from whom she could possibly have reincarnated.
I’m sure if they reprinted that book today, it would boast entire chapters dedicated to Jessica Wakefield’s eventual capture, trial, and execution.
After midnight, Jess’s nefarious scheme hit full speed. Setting her alarm for 12:30am, she tricks her sleep-addled friend by pretending to be sleep-talking about missing gold, and claiming she’s Lillian Barnes. Elizabeth, entering as planned, convinces Lila that Jessica does this all the time, and it’s best not to wake her. Lila, hopped up on talk of reincarnation, falls hook line and sinker into this delightful subterfuge, and she gently wakes the “sleeping” Jess to delve deeper. Just as Jessica planned, she asks if the Wakefields have any books on Sweet Valley History… and Jessica points her to Notorious Women of Sweet Valley.
Jessica waited while her friend flipped through the pages.
“Here it is,” Lila whispered. “Lillian Barnes owned a gold mine near San Francisco in 1850, but two guys tried to steal it from her. She took four boxes of gold nuggets and came to Sweet Valley, where she had been born. They found her and shot her!” Lila’s eyes were huge. “But they never found the gold!”
Lila is convinced. Jessica is obviously the reincarnation of Lillian Barnes, and thus she must subconsciously know where the gold is located! She vows that they must find it.
I love this. Great B Plot action, much more engaging than the main plot so far.
However, two things I must point out:
- I don’t buy Jessica’s motivation to begin this vendetta. Lila has done much more that “mock Elizabeth” and never faced the focussed flame of Jessica’s ire before.
- Lila would NOT, IN ANY WAY, agree to sleeping on the Wakefield’s floor.
(Actually, she might. She’s lonely, and Jessica is her best friend. Maybe this is a sign that she needs Jessica’s friendship more than she lets on… if so, THIS PRANK IS HEARTBREAKING.)
Next morning, after Lila has left, Elizabeth asks Jess how Lila took the joke once she had been let in on the whole thing. Jess confesses she plans to string Lila on a while longer, and Elizabeth is appalled. Again, FUCK OFF ELIZABETH.
Liz asks Jess to accompany her and Sam to the spooky house later that day.
Suddenly, it’s later that day!
Sam, Liz and Jess head to the McClarendon house in silence. Jess eventually tries to lighten the atmosphere with small talk, during which she learns more of Sam’s backstory – born in Sweet Valley, dead parents, yada yada yada. Elizabeth believes that reincarnation isn’t the reason behind Sam’s connection with the Scary House… maybe it was the house in which Sam lived before he left Sweet Valley!
As they mill this over, a chill catches the air. Or does it? They approach the house in trepidation, and Sam spots something or someone moving in the upstairs window! Perhaps it’s Marvellous Marvin teaching Nora Mercandy how to do a magic trick. Whoops, sorry… wrong book.
Oh wait… it’s nothing. How scary!
Elizabeth decides to quiz the neighbours on the history of the Scary House.
“We should ask the neighbors,” Elizabeth said. “They’ll probably tell us everything we want to know.” She led the way to the porch of one of the houses next door and rang the doorbell.
“Who’s out there?” a man’s voice called a moment later.
“My name is Elizabeth Wakefield,” Elizabeth called back. “Could I talk to you, please?”
“I don’t know you. Go away,” the man said.
Hah! Loving this. Actual adults in Sweet Valley who are being deliberately obstructionist and difficult. So much of this series shows adults as being inadvertently terrible, so it makes a delicious change to have them being actively terrible instead! Get fucked, Wakefields, you don’t own this damn town.
At the next house, the woman is more forthcoming. She tells the trio that the house was owned by one Jeremiah Seever, a rich old man that died a few months earlier.
Apparently, Jeremiah wasn’t a bullfrog; he was a bellend. He was reclusive, and miserly, and generally cantankerous.
Sam wanders off to the house. He stands, holding the iron bars of the fence, and sends the girls back home on the bus without him. He stayed until darkness threatened, searching his mind for something – anything – to connect himself to the house in some way. Then, without explanation, he knew where he had to go…
I guess this shouldn’t really be a surprise, what with the book being called “The Ghost in the Graveyard”.
While blundering around the gravestones in the semi-dark, Sam is grasped roughly by the brusque caretaker, Clayton. In a delightful and creepy exchange, Clayton continues the “I’m an adult, so you kids can get fucked” vibe that the book is running with. And he comes out with dark phrases like this:
“Nobody comes visiting at this hour. What’ve you got, boy? A can of spray paint? A hammer?”
“I know everyone who’s come in here the last thirty years. I buried them all.”
“Sometimes dead people are a lot friendlier than the living.”
Clayton offers to help Sam locate his parent’s graves, but Sam is determined to do it himself. Really, Sam? I mean, Stranger Danger is real, but apparently so are scary ghosts in graveyards.
After studying the only picture of his parents – their surname is Burroughs – Sam eventually stumbles across the Burroughs wing of the graveyard. And there, he hits paydirt. [Dove: Also, confusingly, he finds a Lillian Burroughs who baby!Dove immediately confused with Lillian Barnes (from the b-plot), and on my first read I was very confused as to why these plots didn’t tie up at the end when it looked like they should.]
He looked down at the inscriptions on the gravestones. Theodore Burroughs. Next to it was a marker with the name Julie Burroughs. The gravestones said they had been born in the same year and had died on the same day.
He also discovers the grave of an eleven-year-old relative, who died thirty years ago:
There was one more grave with the name Burroughs. Sam could make out the name Michael Burroughs in the dim light. He studied the marker, which was inscribed with the year of Michael’s birth and death. Michael Burroughs had died thirty years ago. He’d been just a kid when he died—only eleven years old. That was Sam’s age also. He wondered about Michael Burroughs. What did he look like? When was his birthday? Was he good at sports?
Behind him, he hears footsteps! Is it Clayton? Is it the twins?
It’s a ghost!
Sam caught his breath and held it so long, he started to feel dizzy. He couldn’t believe what he was seeing. A figure about his size was coming toward him. No! Sam told himself. It was too unbelievable. It was a ghost! It was a ghost with Sam’s face!
WHAT THE ACTUAL FUCK?
It’s a ghost that has SAM’S FACE?
Okay, so I didn’t expect that. [Dove: You asked about Point Horror, quite often this trope comes up, “Oh, Elizabeth died 100 years ago today, and you look just like her.” (Dead tragic women are often called Elizabeth in my experience.)] [Wing: So why isn’t our Elizabeth dead by now? Jessica is slacking.]
I mean, I didn’t expect a wobbly white sheet, or a fluorescent yet transparent pirate, but I didn’t expect a twelve-year old doppelganger either. There’s only one set of twins in Sweet Valley, and they are blonde.
Oh hang on… it’s his twin, isn’t it. It’s his long lost undiscovered twin. Obviously.
Before we get to the bottom of it, Sam legs it. Fair.
Elizabeth is at the library, researching reincarnation as the night draws in. Suddenly, Sam arrives! He tells Liz about his encounter with the doppelghostie.
How the hell did Sam know that Elizabeth would be in the library at this time? I mean, it’s an educated guess for anyone that knows her, but he doesn’t bloody know her!
I guess he was there to research his parents’ family?
And why is Elizabeth suddenly wandering around Sweet Valley after dark?
It’s all a bit suspicious.
Elizabeth is skeptical, but agrees to visit the graveyard the following day so Sam can show her the truth.
Back home, Liz fills Jessica in on the proceedings.
“I just ran into Sam at the library,” Elizabeth began.
“He called while I was at Lila’s,” Jessica interrupted her. “Mom told him you were there.”
“Oh,” Elizabeth said, “I wondered about that.”
HAH! So did I, Liz. So did I.
Elizabeth asks Jessica to accompany her and Sam the following day.
“Come on, Jess. You’re not afraid of an imaginary ghost, are you?” Elizabeth asked.
Jess agrees. She ain’t ‘fraid of no ghost.
Next morning, the B Plot proceeds apace. Jess meets Lila on the steps of the library, where Lila explains she’s going to hypnotise Jessica to investigate her connection to Lillian Barnes. Yeah, I’m pretty sure Jess shouldn’t agree to this. She might reveal the last resting place of Sally Holcombe.
“Here’s what you do,” Lila began, frowning at the first page of Beginning Hypnotism. “Empty your mind.”
Jessica made a face. “How?”
“I don’t know how, just do it,” her friend said impatiently.
“OK.” Jessica stared into space and crossed her eyes. “It’s empty.”
That sure didn’t take long, Jessica.
Under ‘fake hypnotism,’ Jessica reveals the location of the missing gold: McClarendon Street. The pair head over there immediately. At first Jessica continues the deception, but quickly changes her mind when faced with the creepiness of the locale.
She looked up at the house. Sam said he had seen something in one of the broken windows. The overgrown weeds swayed in the yard. It seemed to be darker there than anywhere else on the street. Jessica began to feel uncomfortable.
Instead of pressing the issue, Jess reminds Lila that they were due to meet the other Unicorns at Casey’s Place.
At the mall, the Unicorns discuss Sam’s claim that he saw a ghost (after Jessica fills them in). Tamara and Ellen don’t believe him, but Lila does. In fact, she’s seen a ghost herself.
“He was floating up near the ceiling. I could see him perfectly and see through him at the same time. He said that a hundred years ago he had been murdered in that very same room. His brother stabbed him to death just before the clock struck midnight. Because he couldn’t sleep peacefully in that room, he saw to it that no one else did, either. He killed everyone who came to sleep in that room.”
“Gross,” Tamara commented.
“What did you do?” Ellen asked.
“I had the servants move my things into another bedroom, of course,” Lila said. “The villa had twenty-three bedrooms, so there was no reason to stay there.”
PEAK LILA RIGHT THERE. [Dove: Outstanding. Lila is too fabulous.]
Jessica becomes scared for her sister, and dashes home to persuade her not to go anywhere with Sam. Before she can convince Elizabeth, Steven arrives and spills some bullshit about two of his friends spending the night in the graveyard and being plagued by noises from under the ground. Either this is just the usual Steven “mess with my sister” bollocks, or Whyte Memorial Cemetery is built over the Caverns of Isengard.
THEY’RE TAKING THE WAKEFIELDS TO ISENGARD!
THEY’RE TAKING THE WAKEFIELDS TO ISENGARD!
THEY’RE TAKING THE WAKEFIELDS TO ISENGARD, GARD, GARD, GARD!
Liz and Jess meet Sam at the graveyard, and wait for the ghost to appear. While there, Sam discovers more graves of his relatives. Then, as Jess discusses the ghost in detail, her scream pierces the air. It’s the ghost!
Sam spun around and saw Jessica clutching Elizabeth’s arm. She was pointing toward the cemetery gate. Sam followed her gaze. Only fifty yards away the ghost stood frozen.
Sam was staring right into its eyes. The ghost’s hair, his face, his expression, everything about him looked exactly like Sam.
Then, bizarrely, the ghost runs off.
And more bizarrely, Elizabeth runs after it.
Eventually, she shouts for it to stop. AND IT DOES.
“Why were you chasing me?” the ghost asked. He looked scared and ready to start running again in an instant.
“Because I knew you weren’t a ghost,” Elizabeth said. “Ghosts don’t wear Johnny Buck T-shirts or have suntans. Who are you?”
See, even the dead know decent music when they hear it. #JohnnyBuck4Afterlyf
Apparently, the ghost is not a ghost. He’s a boy called David Barton.
Like Sam, he’s eleven.
Like Sam, his birthday is next Thursday.
Like Sam, he’s adopted.
DING! Motherfucking TWINS, y’all!
Finally Elizabeth spoke. “I think you guys better go home and talk to your parents.”
FUCK OFF, ELIZABETH.
(Actually, it’s the right advice. But anyway.)
As the double-twinny foursome wait for the bus, they discuss the nature of Sam’s déjà vu, and what it means to be a twin. They conclude that there is a mystical connection between twins, and hopefully this is something that has developed between Sam and David.
“Really?” David said. He sounded interested but not quite convinced.
“It’s true,” Elizabeth said. “Sometimes when Jess is in trouble, I can sense it. Or sometimes I’ll come home from school and Jess will know, before I even say anything, that something bad happened to me that day. It’s like ESP.”
So… I guess that some actual twinny ESP bullshit will take place in the remainder of this book. How thrilling.
After a bus ride, Sam and David head over to Sam’s house. There they meet Sam’s dog, a St Bernard named Terry. Apparently, David has a dog called Terry too!
Terry is a fantastic name for a dog. Kudos. Or Andrew! That’s a great dog name too! [Dove: Or Mike Hat.]
Once the Elder Sloanes have been filled in about that day’s shenanigans, it seems they are as surprised as the twins (and the other twins). At the time of adoption, they were told there was only one child. The Elder Sloanes are rather upset, as they think it’s very sad the two boys were separated. They would never have stood for that had they known. Bless.
Next, the twins head over to David’s house. They plan to surprise the Elder Bartons, as they had surprised the Elder Sloanes. However…
When David and Sam walked into the Bartons’ house, Mr. and Mrs. Barton were sitting in their living room watching the news on TV. A large dog lay sleeping with its chin on Mr. Barton’s foot. Terry, Sam thought, and smiled to himself.
David’s parents looked at the two boys.
“Sam!” Mrs. Barton cried after a moment of silence. “What are you doing here?”
Ooh, the sneaky scheming Barton bastards! [Wing: And just when I thought we’d avoid parents keeping terrible secrets from their kids about adoption, here we go. Not my most hated trope (which is surprise!secret!adoption), but too close.]
Their son is suitably distressed, so the Elder Bastards spill the beans. Apparently, after the death of their parents, custody of Sam and David went to their great aunt Bea, a neighbour of the Bartons. After a while, she realised she was too old to look after twins, so Sam was put up for adoption. The lawyers involved weren’t told there was a second child, to keep the whole situation secret so there would be no backlash in the future. Great job, Bea.
Next, she broke her hip and decided that even one baby was too much for her, so she put David up for adoption too. Then she presumably hit the gin. I hope she’s dead now, she sounds like a right twat. [Dove: Seconded. All decisions made were about what was best for Great Aunt Bea, not the kids.]
David asks why the Elder Bartons couldn’t adopt both children once he himself was adopted, but apparently at the time they all felt it was too far down the track to reverse the original adoption, so left things as they were. And they vowed to tell David about everything, in the future when there were flying fucking cars and pizzas in pellet form.
The Elder Bartons then decree to invite the Elder Sloanes for dinner, to sort everything out.
Fucking hell, this is all a bit contrived.
I blame great aunt Bea. She can strongly do one.
Next up there’s a frankly incomprehensible scene in which the Wakefield twins banter, Steven pretends to be a ghost, and pizza is eaten. That’s all I’m saying about that, thank you very much. Also, I resent that the addition of a second set of twins in this book means I have to specify which twins I’m talking about.
We then cut to the New Twins (Burroughs Twins? Sloane / Barton Twins?), who have left the Elders to discuss logistics and decamped to David’s room. They chat about their shared favourite film (Galaxy of Doom!), which has a scene set in San Francisco (ooooobviously), and then move onto the topic of ESP and shared dreams. Would you believe it, but both boys have the same scary dream about the old man in the storm!
That night, with the New Twins on a sleepover at David’s house, they both had the scary dream. At the same time. Waking up at the same moment. BULLSHIT.
Sam asks his brother if he has any picture of their birth parents. David does, hidden deep in his sock drawer near his porn collection. The picture he has sees the Elder Burroughses stood in front of the scary house at McClarendon Street! Finally, all things are becoming clear and making sense. And by “all things”, I mean “nothing.”
They both agree to visit the scary house together later that day.
In the following B Plot interlude (Jessica vowing to teach Lila a lesson, etc), Lila seems concerned about the Jessica Wakefield / Lillian Barnes connection. She has a wonderful line:
“But you were murdered in your past life!” Lila reminded her. “What if the same things happen to you in all your lives, Jessica? What if you—”
“Don’t be silly,” Jessica said quickly. “Nothing like that is going to happen to me.”
There was a pause. “You never know,” Lila said.
WOW, Lila! That is such a transparent threat. Get me the gold, or I will have you killed. Seriously, that will be used in evidence against her in a court of law one day.
At the mall, before they head to the scary house, David and Sam meet Jessica and Elizabeth, and invite them to meet up on Clarendon Street at 3pm. How terribly convenient. Before the action heads over there, we have an exchange between Sam and his adoptive mother in which she worries that she might lose her boy. Sam, to his credit, reassures her with a hug and decrees that’ll never be the case. Lovely.
The action turns to McClarendon Street, at 3pm. The Twin Twins meet up, and finally enter the ground of the scary house. There, they meet an elderly man…
They walked slowly toward the back of the house. When they turned the corner, they saw an elderly man hoeing a patch of the garden. He wore baggy blue jeans and a plaid work shirt, and a large straw hat covered his thick white hair. [Dove: He remarks how odd it is to meet four people with only two faces. Ever since I first read that, I’ve remembered it, and would love to blow PJ’s mind with an identical twin convention or something.]
Sam believes this is the man from the shared dream, but David isn’t so sure. The man introduces himself as the caretaker, PJ. He does not, however, have another helper called Duncan.
(I apologise for the quality of the above video. In every sense)
(I don’t however, apologise for the song. It’s FUCKING AWESOME.)
This guy is obviously something odd. He talks in a mannered style, and offers cryptic bon mots like cheap sweets. Sam is onto him, but David isn’t sure. Elizabeth prattles on about flowers, and the difference between annuals and perennials leads to the following:
“Well,” Elizabeth said, “I know that annuals live only one season. You plant them, they bloom, and then they die. But perennial flowers grow back year after year, don’t they?”
“Yes. And I am fondest of the perennials,” the caretaker said. “I marvel at the miracle of their coming back to life. It’s like having a second chance.”
Yup. The guy’s a ghost.
To be fair, this is pretty well done. Actually feels pretty nuanced. Nice work, Jamie Suzanne!
Sam and David press PJ for information on their birth parents. PJ reveals that Ted and Julie used to own the house, adding credence to Sam’s belief that it’s all connected.
PJ then spills the beans on the Burroughs / Seever connection. Long story short, Granddad Burroughs and Jeremiah Seever were friends and business partners, until Jeremiah screwed his friend over before Peter died. The house should have gone to Ted Burroughs, but Jeremiah had “proof” that Peter had signed the deeds to him. Friends can be fucking dicks when money’s involved. [Dove: How long ago was this? Doesn’t the USA have something similar to the Land Registry, where all of these things need to be lodged?]
Sam asks about Michael, the boy his age that died. PJ does not like such questions, and fucks off immediately.
Of course, Sam gives chase.
And of course, PJ HAS DISAPPEARED INTO THIN AIR! CHEEKY GHOSTLY BELLEND!
All bow before the Great and Powerful PJ!
Next chapter / morning, Jessica puts all thought of the disappearing PJ well out of her scheming empty mind, and turns to thoughts of her prank on Lila. Which is good, because the B Plot is more exciting than the A Plot at this point.
Jessica decides to plant a note saying “Fooled you, Lila!” in a small wooden box, and bury it under a tree at the McClarendon house before luring Lila there with the promise of illicit gold. Nice plan!
While executing the prep-stage – planting the box at the scary house – there’s a nice section where the wind whistles and the vines creak, and Jessica thinks she’s being watched (by PJ…?). She isn’t, but it’s good old horror cliché writ large. Can’t really complain, it’s actually pretty neat.
So yeah. She wakes, she plots, she buries a box, she legs it.
Suddenly, it’s Monday evening, and Liz is scuppered with the No Cooking Monday chores. Jessica is nowhere to be seen. Cue banter with Steven about eggs. I’m sure he would love to fertilise Jessica’s.
Finally, Jess breezes in with a story about a Unicorn meeting in the mall. She then says she can’t stay to help, or even to eat, as she has a sleepover at Lila’s house and she has to go early to make tacos.
“You’re cooking at Lila’s house?” Elizabeth couldn’t believe her ears.
To be fair, this is particularly dickish. It’s a new level of asshattery. Again, good work Jamie Suzanne! [Dove: I’m starting to theorise that Jessica is just doing this for her own amusement, to figure out how obnoxious she has to be to get her twin to snap.]
Elizabeth vows to have her revenge. Yes, that’s right. ELIZABETH. I’m sure that revenge will take the form of “apologising to Jessica with crossed fingers” or something equally sickening.
At Lila’s, we see Jessica progress the B Plot by deftly convincing Lila that Lillian Barnes’s gold will be under a tree in a scary house on McClarendon Street. Scheme Hard, you magnificent bitch!
Today I’m going to find out more about my relatives, Sam decided on Tuesday morning.
And we’re off!
Sam, with Elziabeth’s help, decamps to the Clerk of Courts offices at City Hall. There, they discover some interesting things about the mysterious Michael Burroughs.
Sam read the entry slowly and then reread it because he couldn’t believe his eyes. It was no mistake, but it was almost too amazing to be true.
Michael Burroughs had been born on the same day as Sam and his brother David. The year was different, but the day was exactly the same.
But the part that was really strange was Michael’s date of death. Michael Burroughs had died exactly one day before his twelfth birthday.
And tomorrow was the day before Sam and David’s twelfth birthday!
Oooh, how exciting!
I’m presuming that this means we are building to something dangerous and special happening to Sam and / or David the following day, something from which the ghost of Michael Burroughs will likely save them. Cool!
The next record is smudged beyond belief, so Sam and Elizabeth head to the Sweet Valley Library to continue the search. The Library closes at 5.00pm
They got to the library at exactly 5:01.
“I’m sorry, but the library is closed,” the young librarian standing at the door said.
“I’ve got to look up something in an old newspaper,” Sam told her. “It’s very important.”
“Sorry, the library’s closed. You’ll have to come back tomorrow. We open at ten.”
“But I’ve got to see those newspapers,” Sam pleaded as people filed past them on their way out.
“It’s really important to him,” Elizabeth chimed in. “We’re trying to find out—”
“I really am sorry. We close at five. I can’t let anyone in now.” The librarian pointed to the large clock on the wall. It said 5:03. “Come back tomorrow.”
“But tomorrow may be too late,” Sam said. Deep inside he had the feeling that something was going to happen. He gave the librarian a desperate look.
“Come back tomorrow,” she said firmly. She stepped inside the library doors and locked them behind her.
I LOVE it when the adults in Sweet Valley are basically dicks!
I literally smiled a mile wide when reading this bit!
(Also, if you’ve not seen this film – In Bruges – GO WATCH IT. It’s brilliant. It’s the first film by the bloke behind Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. If you’re easily offended, be warned. But either way, watch it.)
Sam vows to return first thing the next day.
Meanwhile, at the McClarendon house, Jessica and Lila conclude the B Plot is spectacular fashion.
- Jessica leads Lila to the mansion.
- Jessica “discovers” a pine tree that hoses the stolen gold.
- Lila scrabbles in the dirt and uncovers the planted box.
- Lila finds the box!
- Lila finds the note.
- Jessica laughs.
- Lila isn’t impressed.
- Lila runs off.
- Jessica gets locked in the grounds!
I really enjoyed the B Plot in this one, despite the shaky foundation upon which it was built.
It has Best Jess, with schemes and plots and fun.
It has Great Lila, and there are Feels when she’s upset by the subterfuge,
If all Sweet Valleys had these things, I’d be a very happy Raven.
Jessica is locked in the gardens of the Scary House, and she is not happy. There’s some fun scares going down, with banging shutters and rustling ivy. Who will help her in her time of need?
Elizabeth Wakefiled, that’s who!
Elizabeth was riding home from the library when a strange feeling came over her. She stopped her bike at an intersection and frowned. She felt nervous, and a prickly sensation went up and down her spine. Why did she feel like going in a different direction all of a sudden?
Ah, get fucked, ESP twinny magic bollocks.
Jess is saved, but believes the house is under the thrall of some ancient and terrible evil. Sam and David, she posits, are in the eye of the mother of all supernatural shitstorms. Elizabeth goes along with her.
The next morning, the day before his twelfth birthday, Sam rises early and dashes to the library. It’s a glorious day, but he has one thing on his mind (no, not that… he’s not Steven Wakefield). Upon arrival, he meets my favourite character in this book: the pedantic librarian.
Sam got to the library twenty minutes before it opened. The librarian was just arriving. She gave Sam a big smile and nodded. Sam felt relieved.
“Great day,” the librarian said, taking a deep breath and looking around. “Almost a shame to go inside.” She unlocked the door and Sam raced up the steps to go in with her. But she turned and blocked his way. “It’s not ten yet,” she said. “Wait outside, please.” She closed the door behind her and locked it.
When he finally gets inside, he discovers the truth about Michael Burroughs. From an archived newspaper article from thirty years earlier…
Peter J. Burroughs, 59, and his grandson, Michael Burroughs, 11, drowned yesterday in a boating accident during a severe storm.
According to family members, Mr. Burroughs had taken his young grandson on a boating trip during fair weather to celebrate the boy’s twelfth birthday, which would have been today.
Accompanying the article are photographs of the deceased. Michael, predictably, is the spit of Sam and David, while Grandpa Pete is the spit of… PJ the caretaker!
GHOSTS, MO’FO! SPOOKS ON THE LOOSE!
Sam phones David, because twin reasons. To his horror, he discovers that David and his father have gone… sailing!
The day before David’s twelfth birthday!
Thirty years, to the day, after two relatives died in a siling accident, one of which was eleven years and 364 days old!
Predictably, Sam shits himself.
He dashes to the Wakefield Compound for help. Not to his parents, or to, I dunno, the police. To the Wakefields. Because they fix everything.
Jess and Liz believe his outlandish theory, and Jess suggests they call the marina to somehow delay the Barton Boat from leaving dock. If they can stop the boat heading to sea, they can avert a catastrophe.
Elizabeth calls the marina, in full on Saint Mode. And again, we have a wonderful piece.
A minute later, Elizabeth had dialed the marina. “Hello, this is Elizabeth Wakefield,” she said after a pause. “It’s extremely important for me to get a message to Mr. Barton. He docks his boat there at the marina. He should be with his son, David.” Elizabeth paused again and glanced at Sam and Jessica. “No, Wakefield. W-A-K-E-F-I-E-L-D,” Elizabeth said slowly while tapping her foot impatiently. She looked exasperated. Finally she said, “Never mind who I am. Do you know who Mr. Barton is? He’s with his son, David, and they’re going out on a boat.”
She had to spell her name!
She even said “never mind who I am”…!
This Jamie Suzanne is REALLY playing with the notion that the Wakefields rule supreme, and that Kids Are All Important. Fucking beautiful.
Unfortunately for all involved, it’s too late! The Barton Boat is already heading for open water
In a panic, Sam and the Wakefield Twins cycle to the marina as fast as they can. As they do, a storm brews overhead, lending more credence to Sam’s theories. As they arrive, the storm breaks from the black sky and the rain thrashes down.
On the dock edge, they frantically search the water for signs of a stricken craft.
“Look!” Elizabeth shouted. She pointed out to the ocean. “There they are!”
The small motor boat looked like a toy. It bobbed up and down in the waves.
“They’re yelling for help!” Sam said. “I can see them waving their arms!”
The ocean swells. The waves rise and fall.
Then an enormous black wave, like a moving wall, rose up behind the small boat and slammed down on it. The boat split apart as it turned over.
Instantly, Sam felt a chill. Even though he was aware that he was standing on the dock, he could feel everything David felt: confusion, splashing, the bitter taste of salt water. David was calling out in fear—he was drowning!
Sam felt the energy drain from his body. He couldn’t breathe. An instant later he fell to the ground, unconscious.
Wow. This is actually pretty powerful. Again, great work Jamie Suzanne!
When am wakes, we discover the Coast Guard are looking for David, having found Mr Barton alive and well. Things are pretty bleak. There’s no sign. After several hours, Sam falls asleep on a bench while the search continues. When he does, he as the dream that breaks the whole thing wide open.
The old man was there, but this time the wind whipped away his rain hat… IT WAS PJ!
PJ waded into the water, and as Sam’s dream-persona watched, the ghostly caretaker swam and swam and swam and swam and RESCUED DAVID.
Dream PJ dragged David to safety on an unfamiliar beach, with a small wooden boathouse.
Then Sam wakes up. Back on the bench, as the sun is setting. The search is about to be cancelled.
But Sam knows where David is!
Aren’t twins amazing?! And aren’t ghosts amazing too?!
Cutting a long story short, Sam persuades his father and Lieutenant Liang (in charge of the search) that David is safe in a wooden boathouse on a nearby beach. Lieutenant Liang (LL Cool Jay) knows of such a place, and confirms it makes logistical sense because the water would have carried the boat debris and battered corpse in that general direction.
They all check it out.
And would you believe it… GORDON’S ALIVE!
David, it appears, WAS saved by the ghost of PJ. Or so he’d have us believe. And the proof? He’s found with PJ’s shirt for a pillow. PJ, it seems, is the ghost of Granddad Pete, who needed to save David because he couldn’t save Matthew.
Wrapping this up, we have the following points to raise:
- PJ the Ghost, not content with saving David, also leads the New Twins to hidden documents in the McClarendon Hell House that confirm that Jeremiah Seever had fraudulently obtained the deeds to the house. It actually belongs to Sam and David!
- Lila and Jessica make up. Go Go Gadget Narrative Reset!
- The New Twins have a twelfth birthday party. Because SWEET VALLEY. They also try Twin Magic for the first time (bless!), but the Wakefields shut that shit down GOOD.
- Lila pranks Jessica with a scare at the party. Elizabeth helped, a bit, and felt guilty about it, because she can FUCK OFF.
- School opens on Monday.
- The final No Cooking Monday happens, entirely on Jessica’s watch. She makes cheese sandwiches. Under duress. Everyone laughs.
When I first read this book, I honestly thought it was pretty meh. It wasn’t my thing, it was a bit long, the scares were ludicrous, and Elizabeth pissed me RIGHT off.
Then I wrote this recap. And I realised this book was GREAT!
I loved the B Plot. I loved the scares. I loved the writing. And I loved loved LOVED the snarky obstructionist adults.
This Jamie Suzanne knew the form of the series, and played with it to great effect. And the changes made were totally in-keeping with the horror nature of the book.
Yeah, I liked this book a lot. Hmm.
I’m not sure I can add anything else, because Raven genuinely liked this book. I feel like I’ve finally backed up my claim that these books are good fun. I have a strong bias to another Super Chiller, and it’s high on a pedestal, so this one is unfairly judged for not being that book. Still, ACTUAL SUPERNATURAL. I was on PointHorror.com for years without a whiff of actual ghosts, and here I am in a tween school genre and this is our second ghost sighting.]
[Wing: I hope this is a trend for the Super Chillers, because both of the ones we’ve read have been delightful. There are plenty of ACTUAL SUPERNATURAL stories on Devil’s Elbow now, but there was a long, sad stretch of time where it never happened.]