Recap #180: Graveyard School #10: There’s A Ghost In The Boys’ Bathroom by Tom B. Stone
Title: Graveyard School #10 – There’s a Ghost in the Boys’ Bathroom, a.k.a. “Okay seriously, who the fuck is watching the door? How did a ghost get in here?”
Author: Tom B. Stone, a.k.a. Nola Thacker, a.k.a. D.E. Athkins
Cover Artist: Cam DeLeon
Summary: Is Graveyard School Going Down The Drain?
Toilets exploding! Paper towels floating in midair! Disappearing soap! There’s no doubt Graveyard School is haunted. But why did this ghost choose the boys’ bathroom, of all places? A few determined students are ready for a ghost hunt? Can they flush it out?
This. This is where it all began for me. A chance purchase at a grade school book sale that evolved into devotion to one of the best and grossly underrated horror series of all time.
For most of the last couple of decades I only put this book in a special place because it was the first I acquired, even though it wasn’t really my favorite. I used to think Alex, the main character, was one of the blander protagonists. However, re-reads over the years have changed my opinion and this is one of the most action packed entries I can think of. And I’m impressed by how much Alex is willing to buckle down when other people are in danger.
[Wing: This series is a blast, and I can’t believe I missed it growing up.]
Alex Lee was minding his own business in the boys’ room at Graveyard School, the first floor bathroom way in the back and closest to Graveyard Hill, when he smelled it. It was a smell. A smelly smell. A smelly, smoky smell. A smell unlike anything he’d ever smelled before. Not your usual bathroom smell either, unless someone REALLY needed to see a doctor.
He inspected the stalls to see if something was oozing out of one of the toilets, but could find nothing. Still, the stench was overpowering and Alex had to get out of there. He burst out the door and ran into Tyson Walker, Bentley Jeste, and Park Addams. The minute Alex saw the Prankster King of Graveyard School, he inquired as to how Bent managed to stink up the bathroom so badly. Bent doesn’t know what Alex is talking about, but suggests if someone left a “Nose bomb” in the bathroom maybe it was Alex…
[Wing: Awww, he who smelt it dealt it. Been awhile since I saw that sort of thing reference.]
Alex insists it wasn’t him, and the boys believe him once they get a whiff of the foul odor for themselves. The boys declare it smells like a number of things died in that bathroom, and something is definitely wrong. Maybe a pipe got clogged or gunked up or something. Park proposes someone tell Basement Bart, which was a pretty good way to kill the conversation. No one wants to go near the dreaded janitor, especially Alex as the boys suggest since HE discovered the stench he should be the one to tell Bart. Or he could tell Dr. Morthouse if he’s completely tired of living. Park tries to reassure Alex by acknowledging Basement Bart has never actually killed a kid.
That they know of.
The bell rings and Alex declares he has to get to class, until Bent and the others ask what if the smell doesn’t go away on its own? What if the stench only gets worse and ends up killing some unsuspecting first grader or something? And it would all be Alex’s fault.
Alex had a vision of a tiny little first-grade shape with tiny little first-grader shoes being carried out of the boys’ bathroom. People were crying. They were pointing at Alex. “He did it,” someone said. “Coward,” someone else whispered.
Not wanting metaphorical blood on his hands, Alex decides to tell his teacher Mr. Dovitch. Certainly he’ll come up with a solution that doesn’t involve Basement Bart.
Mr. Dovitch had said, “Really? Hmmm. Sounds like a job for Mr. Bartholomew.”
Alex is unable to tell Mr. Dovitch why he really, really, REALLY doesn’t want to go near the janitor or his office in the school’s basement. As he exited the classroom, hall pass in hand like a death certificate, Alex was told not to dawdle and wondered if vanishing without a trace counted. Reaching the top of the basement stairs, Alex called down to Basement Bart and got no reply. In fact…
There was no echo. Alex’s voice disappeared as if something living at the bottom of the stairs had eaten it up.
Calling for the janitor once more, Alex tried not to use his real name out of fear Bart would know Alex was the one who threw up on the school stairs that one time in fourth grade. When he received no answer, Alex had no choice but to go down and talk to the janitor in person. The only thing creepier than the fact the stairs made no sound at all was Alex being unable to determine if something had skittered away on the bottom step as he descended. In front of him loomed Bart’s office door, his name written on top with the words “KEEP OUT” inscribed in red. To the left and right of Alex were the dark tunnels going into the school’s basement. Many theorized the basement was like a labyrinth which ran underneath the school. Alex wondered if Dr. Morthouse used to send kids down to get lost and never return as a punishment.
Alex saw the office door was open ever so slightly but had no desire to ask if Basement Bart was inside. He knelt down and tried to slide the note under the door when it swung open. Next thing you know, Alex has been hoisted up by the back of his pants and brought eye to sunglasses with the legendary janitor. Dressed in his usual army camo and boots, Bart demands to know why Alex is spying on him. Alex frantically responds he had a note. Bart picks up the paper and drops Alex flat on the ground as he reads. Before Alex can make a getaway, Bart grabs his shoulder and declares they should go “Take a smell.”
Entering the bathroom, Bart smells nothing. Alex is adamant the bathroom did stink, when Bart stops dead in his tracks. Alex feels a chill before he notices how cold the bathroom has become. Bart suddenly says “Burning smell,” which shocks Alex because he never said it smelled like something was burning. Bart quickly leaves the bathroom, and Alex tries to follow him only to see the door has frozen shut! Literally, a coating of ice appeared over the only exit when Alex heard a horrible belching noise from one of the toilets. The burning stench came back, coupled with a wall of oily black smoke and a pair of claws!
Alex beats on the door as hard as he can when it swings open and he falls at Bart’s feet. Frantically Alex motions to the column of smoke only to see the bathroom has returned to normal. No ice, no smoke, no claws, only a lingering burning scent. Bart thinks for a moment that Alex is playing with matches, but believes the kid when he says he has none. However, Bart declares whatever is going on in the bathroom is not something he can fix. After signing Alex’s note, Bart advises him not to go back in there. [Wing: Helpful.] Alex turns around to see the janitor has vanished, and a faint red glow has appeared underneath the door to the boys’ room.
During lunch, Alex received some teasing from Stacey Carter and Maria Medina over the smell in the bathroom. Alex gets pissed at Park and Tyson, wondering which of them blabbed. Both boys deny the credit, and Tyson alludes to Bent as the culprit. Bent was currently sharing a lunch table with Tyson, Jordie “The Human Computer” Flanders, sixth grade class prez and totally not a ghost Kirstin Bjorg, as well as the skateboard king and queen Skate McGraw and Vickie Wheilson. Maria snarked it was the “High Achievement Table.”
Bent was regaling everyone with a recap of the stank and asked what Alex did to make it. Puke perfect Polly Hannah, dressed in what might be the only existing pair of pink jeans, [Wing: Definitely not the only pair of pink jeans.] arrived and asked why they had to talk about such disgusting things. When Park started cracking jokes about the flushability of the cafeteria food, Alex changed the subject by asking questions about Basement Bart.
- Has anyone been inside Bart’s office?
- Has anyone ever seen him leave the school?
- Does he live in the basement?
- Does he eat?
- Does he sleep?
Stacey proposed he probably lives in the tunnels underneath the school, like the Minotaur lived in his maze. Soon everyone forgot about whether or not Alex busted out a big one in the bathroom and discussed the mysterious janitor (except Polly, who kept complaining it was all gross). Alex received no answers to his questions about Bart or his thoughts about whatever happened in the bathroom. All he knew was that he was gonna stay as far away from the boys’ room as possible. Let someone else handle it.
And that someone just happened to be Park.
The following day Park had rushed into the boys’ room before the bell rang, not even thinking about what Alex said. One of the stalls was occupied when Park entered, but his sudden recollection of Alex and the Haunted Stench was the harbinger of the smell’s return. Only it was more recognizable. Like the smell of rotted hamburgers burning on a grill. Cautiously, Park looked down at the pair of feet visible in the other stall. Partially hidden by a web spun by a big black spider, Park saw a pair of red sneakers and socks. [Wing: Gross.]
As Park watched, one of the toes of the shoes began to tap slowly.
Tap. Tap. Tap.
But there were no legs coming out of the shoes. Above the socks, which seemed to be standing up of their own accord, was nothing but thin air.
Slowly, Park attempted to exit the stall when the sneakers stopped.
One of the socks drooped slightly. Then something seemed to pull it back up into pace. The smell of something rotten frying grew stronger and more disgusting.
Willing himself not to scream or run, Park took another step back.
Then the shoes shuffled forward.
The stall door next to Park began to swing slowly open.
MEANWHILE Alex was trying to figure out whether or not he left his science book at home when he couldn’t find it in his locker, only to realize he had it in his bag the whole time. He briefly wonders if gremlins keep moving his stuff around in his locker and if he can use that excuse for why his room is such a mess when Park barrels straight into him. Alex falls to the floor and winds up skidding between Polly Hannah’s legs.
“Eeek! Quit trying to look up my skirt, Alex Lee!”
“Get a grip, Polly. You’re not wearing a skirt,” Alex said desperately.
As Polly harumphed and stomped away, Park hoisted Alex up and told him they needed to talk about the bathroom. Mainly that Alex was right and something’s wrong. Alex thinks Park is joking before Park reveals he saw something. Alex asks if it was smoke or part of a person, which Parks finds odd because he did indeed see part of a person and would like to know why Alex asked. However, Stacey and Maria walk by and Park forces Alex to pretend like everything’s chill. Stacey, of course, recognizes something’s most certainly NOT chill but Maria hurries her along before they’re late. Once the girls depart, Park demands to know what Alex isn’t telling him. Alex decides Park should meet him by the bathroom after school if he knows what’s good for him.
By the end of the day, Alex was hanging around the vicinity of the first floor boys’ room and trying not to seem too conspicuous. He even went to the trouble of dropping a Susan B. Anthony coin on the floor so he’d have an excuse if someone asked what the hell was he doing. Wondering where Park was and if this was all some elaborate joke, Alex looked out the window towards Graveyard Hill and thought something moved when he heard someone behind him!
Oh wait it’s just Park and Stacey-huh? Alex wants to know why Park brought Stacey; Park explains he wanted an impartial witness when they go back into the boys’ room. There’s no way Alex is going back inside that bathroom and Stacey has no idea what the boys are talking about. Park suggests Alex fill them in on what they’re up against.
Alex opened his mouth.
A soft, horrible groan filled their corner of the hall.
Stacey jumped back, her eyes wide. “How did you do that?” she demanded. “Is this some kind of joke?”
Alex closed his mouth. The groan sounded again – faint, but not very far away. A kind of buried-alive sound.
Park grew pale. Stacey gulped. Then she said, “Y-You’re not a ventriloquist or anything, Alex? Are you?”
“No,” said Alex with regret.
The groan sounded a third time. But this time it wasn’t just a moan. Words were mixed with the sound.
Stacey realized the cry for help was coming from the boys’ room and ran towards it. Alex and Park tried to stop her when the door slammed open and smoke began to billow out. Only the smoke seemed to be sucking Alex and Stacey inside. We reached “Poltergeist” territory super quickly huh? DO NOT GO INTO THE LIGHT, GUYS, THE LIGHT IS NOT GOOD!
Alex could see claws extending from the smoke to drag him and Stacey inside the bathroom before Park tackled them out of the way. The door slammed closed and only the faintest trace of a smokey stench remained. Park calmly inquired if Alex had anything to share.
Riding their bikes from the school, the kids wonder how Basement Bart didn’t hear them. Stacey’s sure Bart was listening to their screams and didn’t give a shit. Alex’s mind goes to some really far-fetched tangents and wonders if there’s treasure buried beneath the bathroom and Bart is trying to scare everyone away ala Scooby Doo. The boys are sure there’s a logical explanation, earning a laugh from Stacey who reminds them they go to GRAVEYARD SCHOOL. Alex finally gives them all the details of what he experienced, and realizes [INSERT TITLE HERE].
Stacey thinks this is nuts because what kind of ghost would haunt a bathroom of all places? As they reached Alex’s house, the juxtaposition of the normalcy of his family during their usual afternoon routine with the haunting in the school lavatory. Park wondered why a ghost would haunt a bathroom. Stacey mused if it was the ghost of Elvis.
“Maybe it died in there, like poor old dead Elvis,” said Stacey.
Park and Alex were both startled. “What are you talking about?” asked Park.
“Elvis Presley. He died in the bathroom. That’s where they found him,” said Stacey.
“Forget Elvis,” said Alex. “He’s not haunting our bathroom.” He paused. “At least I hope he isn’t.”
Crossing off Elvis for now, Alex asked if it the ghost really would have to be someone who died in the bathroom in order to haunt it. Stacey thinks that’s the rule, so now they’re wondering if it was a kid and how they could’ve died. What could possibly kill you in a bathroom?
“Ex-Lax attack!” said Stacey.
No one laughed.
Not even Stacey.
Well I did.
Still, the idea of a kid dying in a bathroom was both sad and unpleasant for a variety of reasons. Alex feels a chill similar to the one he felt in the bathroom, and wonders if Basement Bart was the one who died…
While washing up for dinner Alex’s thoughts are a million miles away and his older brother Michael tells him to move his ass. Alex’s thoughts snap back when he thinks something moved in the mirror, and then the toilet starts to gurgle. Gurgle in a way the school toilet did. Alex tells himself to get a grip when the medicine cabinet door flies open and he hauls his ass out of there. Sitting down to dinner with Michael, his little sister Jenny, and their parents, Alex asks if anyone ever died in their bathroom.
Park and Stacey cannot believe Alex did that. Waiting outside the school the next morning, Alex recaps how much his family laughed at his question before his dad replied he hoped no one died in there since the house was new when they bought it. Mrs. Lee added Alex has clearly been watching too much TV and playing too many weird video games. Ugh, parents. There should be a law.
Thinking about Dr. Morthouse and Vice Principal Hannibal Lucre lurking on the other side of the school’s entrance, Alex reviews how Basement Bart never enters the school with the rest of the teachers. Does he use the basement entrance? The kids know Bart is somehow mixed up with the ghost in the bathroom, but Stacey refuses to ask him any questions. Alex thinks Stacey is involved until she points out the ghost isn’t in the GIRLS’ bathroom. Park indignantly responds he’d help her if there was!
No one believes him.
Stacey relents in helping the boys but she still refuses to speak to Bart even though it’s the next step to solving this mystery. Park asks if there’s something else they can do first, like looking Bart up in the newspaper. Wiz kid David Pike just happened to be walking by and mentioned “Library.” David stopped and explained the best thing they can do to look something up is use the library, either the public one or the school library. Alex proposes they use the public library so they won’t have to worry about Bart finding out about their investigating his background. Now all they had to do was avoid the bathroom and survive another day in school.
Unfortunately, despite the friendly librarian’s helpful instructions on how to look things up on the newspapers saved in the building, the kids find nothing useful. Which makes sense because they have little info to work with on Basement Bart and there’s nothing to find on anyone named “Mr. Bartholomew.” Their search a bust, Alex fears he has no choice but to revisit the dreaded janitor.
Alex was in the school hallway the same time a little kid ran as if his life depended on it. Unfortunately, running in the halls is against the rules and the kid is snatched by Dr. Morthouse. Herr Doktor would like to know what the dilly-o is, yo. Alex watched as the kid turned his neck ever so slightly in the direction of the first floor boys’ room, and for a moment smelled a familiar whiff of smoke. The kid was unable to say much beyond “Bathroom” and “Late to class,” so Dr. Morthouse offered to walk him to class to make sure he isn’t late. Isn’t that nice?
As Doc M and the doomed child marched to the kid’s class (10 to 1 she eats him when no one’s looking), Alex inched closer to the boys’ room as the rotten smell got stronger.
From inside the bathroom came a rumbling sound that reminded him of the belches he’d heard in the toilet at his house – only this was much, much louder and more menacing.
The door of the bathroom was glowing a faint red, the color of an ember on a barbecue grill.
And from under the door, tiny fingers of smoke were curling along the floor. Actual fingers that were snaking out toward him, tap, tap tapping, reaching for his feet…
Alex stomped on the horrible groping fingers just once. He felt something tug at his foot.
He turned and ran for his life.
Alex grabs Park out of the lunchroom and tells him they need to talk to Bart now, because shit’s hit the fan. Alex didn’t have a problem pretending there wasn’t a ghost before, but now he knows there are lives at stake and he’s not letting a little kid get iced. Alex does a quick review of what happened with Dr. Morthouse, and Park decides to join him feeling lunch is a bust.
“Lunch looked pretty strange today anyway.” He made a face. “I knew there was something wrong with it because Jaws kept saying how delicious it was.”
Although Alex still has some qualms about heading down to the basement first and the boys argue about who should go first. Alex eventually leads the way to find the office door firmly shut. Park thinks this means Bart is out and attempts to leave before Alex grabs his shirt. Alex calls into one of the tunnels.
“Mr. Bartholomew?” said Alex, as he had before.
As before, no one answered.
Park glanced around. “Remember in Tom Sawyer how he got lost in the caves and-”
“This isn’t a book,” said Alex grouchily.
“And we’re not going to get lost down here… Mr. Bartholomew!”
A sudden, single mocking echo brought his voice back to him from one of the tunnels.
Or was it an echo?
“Mr. Bartholomew,” mocked a hoarse, seldom-used sounding voice fro the tunnel of darkness to their far left.
“That’s not an echo,” said Park.
A pair of familiar looking shoes shuffled forward in the darkness and Park flips his shit thinking they’re the ones from the bathroom. They’re not, it’s Bart. Alex tries his best to sound friendly, for whatever good it will do. Park pushes him to the front which reinforces Alex’s desire to make Park the newest school ghost if they get out of this alive. Bart said nothing, standing perfectly still and perfectly frightening in the dark and silent basement tunnels. Finally, the janitor told Alex to speak, and told him to stop smiling. Alex stumbled before finally asking if he knows of anyone who kinda sorta might’ve been accidentally killed or died in the boys’ bathroom on the first floor.
At which point Basement Bart did this scariest thing he’s ever done in the entire series.
He opened his mouth to try again.
But he didn’t get a chance. Because a terrible, terrible sound was coming out of Basement Bart’s mouth.
In spite of himself, Alex took a step backward.
Park groaned as if he were in pain.
The janitor bent forward and slapped his knees.
And kept on laughing.
Park wants to get the fuck out of there, but Alex has reached the point where he’s done being scared and asks the janitor to fucking help them out already. Bart stopped laughing as abruptly as he started and stared Alex down. Alex didn’t back away, but a smidgen of fear did return. Sounding almost bored, Bart asked if they knew of any missing kids, but admits the idea of someone going missing is pretty interesting…
Bart finally asks why they think someone died in the bathroom. Park advises Alex to tell the janitor, giving Bart Alex’s name. Alex returns the favor before listing off the weird shit that’s been going on as to why they believe someone died in the boys’ room. Bart reveals no one’s ever died in that bathroom, especially since the bathroom is brand new. He adds they had to rebuild it after the so-called “Earthquake.”
You remember, the “Earthquake” that trashed the school in “Revenge of the Dinosaurs?” The earthquake which was totally not because David Pike’s little brother Richie ordered some dinosaur figurines which grew and came to life and possibly ate a teacher? That earthquake.
So now the boys were left wondering why the haunting was occurring now. Alex knows Bart isn’t telling them something and calls the janitor out on it. Bart doesn’t care, and turns off the only dim light in the basement. Submerged in total darkness, Park and Alex knew Bart was gone but they were NOT alone.
“Mr. Bartholomew?” called Alex. The echo came back a mocking stammer. Alex couldn’t tell if it was an echo, or the janitor.
The echo came back, faint and fading. They were alone in the darkness in the basement.
Alone with the rats. And the bats. And whatever else lived in the tunnels or crawled down from the graveyard. What did bony feet sound like, walking through the darkness? Did the joints of skeletons click and pop as they walked? Or did they move as silently as…
Alex feels cold air brush his cheek and fears the bathroom specter has followed them. The boys tell each other not to panic.
Something howled from the depths of the basement. Something inhuman. Something hungry.
Okay now’s a good time to panic. The boys scream and try to make their way back up the stairs into the school before the door slams closed and traps them with whatever the fuck is in the darkness. Park stops and believes the door is a trick; Alex has to practically drag him up the steps before screaming something’s right behind him!
The boys don’t stop running until they reach the doors to the lunchroom. They have no idea what the hell was in the basement, but Park doesn’t know Alex didn’t actually see anything behind him and simply shouted to make Park move. Calming down, Park notes Basement Bart didn’t even sound surprised when they mentioned the bathroom is haunted. Unfortunately, Bart’s gonna be of no help.
“Basement Bart knows something,” Alex said. “But he’s not gonna to tell us. He doesn’t care if the bathroom is haunted. That just means less work for him.”
“Unless the ghost starts bagging kids for real,” said Park. “That’s gonna make an awful mess.”
The boys understand they have to stop the ghost before it kills someone. They just don’t know how.
During lunch the boys sulk as Stacey joins them and asks how everything’s going. She’s shocked to learn they went back to see Basement Bart, but points out he actually did give them a clue. He did mention the bathroom was brand new, that it had to be rebuilt after the so-called earthquake wrecked it and other parts of the school. Stacey gets them to realize the old bathroom was never haunted, but the new bathroom is. Which means the haunting is either connected to the earthquake or to the repairs.
“What? They hired a plumber who installs haunted toilets?” Park cracked up at his own wit. “Flush! Boo!”
Polly Hannah sat down and asked if Alex was pleased with the rumors he started about the haunted bathroom. Alex claims he didn’t start any rumors, but Polly reveals all the little kids are terrified of the first floor bathroom and won’t even use the back door near it. Polly warns Alex Dr. Morthouse is gonna kill him if she finds out, and unfortunately Park knows Polly’s right about that. Alex reminds Park he’s involved too, as is Stacey who decides now is the time to skedaddle. Alex accuses Stacey of being a coward and a traitor before she announces she’s never had to use the boys’ room but is still up for helping him decipher more clues. Park reminds Alex they do indeed have a lead, which means they have to find out who built the new bathroom.
Which means asking one of the school officials.
The boys call school secretary Mr. Kinderbane under the name “Mr. Alexander,” but Kinderbane immediately recognizes Alex’s voice. The boys quickly ask the surly secretary who did the plumbing repairs for the school, for a report they say, and Kinderbane answers it was Deep Six Plumbing before hanging up. [Wing: The names in this town are ridiculous.]
The boys find the plumbing establishment is set up in an old house in downtown Grove Hill. On the front lawn is a claw-footed bathtub filled with dirt and flowers, and inside the first floor is full of multiple displays of state of the art bathing and toilet supplies. There’s even a prominent display for environmentally efficient green toilets. Alex and Park meet Ralph Smith, the owner, and tell him they’re doing a report on plumbing for an assignment on jobs people do. Unfortunately, they have to sit through Ralph’s life story before he gets to the bathroom repairs at Graveyard School.
“Biggest challenge of my career. School budgets are always small, y’know. People expect their kids to get educated, but they don’t want to pay for it. Well, you get what you pay for, is what I say.”
I have no idea whether to agree with this or boo. [Wing: Eh, he’s not wrong. Ostrich works in education, for a poor district, and the stories he tells me. Phew.]
Anyway, Ralph reveals the job was so difficult because the bathroom had to be rebuilt from scratch AND the contractor screwed everything up. Turns out the bathroom’s in the wrong place. The boys are confused saying the bathroom is where it’s always been, but Ralph tells them they only THINK it is. Seems the first floor bathroom is now six feet to the left of where it should be, which called for new pipes, new everything. It’s on new ground. Frankly the whole thing was a mess. Dr. Morthouse even forced the contractor to put in a brick planter to hide the school’s now lopsided. Ralph shows them the blueprints and lets them make a copy for their “Report,” but the boys aren’t sure what this new clues means for getting rid of the ghost.
A strange, familiar gurgling sound awoke Alex at 5 A.M., and he found his room was filled with water. Wading through the water Alex expected a flood outside the bedroom window, only to see the outside world was bone dry. As soon as Alex noticed this, the water started to ebb away towards the bottom of the closed bedroom door. He knows this can’t be good. Alex made his way out of the room and saw the water was flowing from the bathroom and figured it was a broken pipe. Well, he REALLY hopes he’s not standing in toilet water… until he realizes the water is running INTO the bathroom and not OUT of it. Alex tries to shut the bathroom door as the water begins to suck him in.
The toilet lid lifted like the upper lid of some nightmare animal. The sound that came out as the water was sucked back into it wasn’t nice.
It was laughter.
Alex screams as he slips in the water, waves rising up and down in the bathroom and slamming him on the floor. The laughter got louder and the burning smell returned when something grabbed Alex’s leg. Screaming again, Alex was shocked when the lights went on and Michael asked what the fuck is he doing. Alex looked around to see the water had vanished and the toilet was not trying to murder him. Michael asks why Alex is taking a shower in the middle of the night and doesn’t really listen as Alex tries to tell him what happened. Going back into his room, Alex changed into dry clothes and stuffed the soggy ones underneath the door. He was taking no chances.
Jaws “The Boy Who Could Eat Anything (Even Roadkill)” Bennett mentioned Alex looked pretty bad during recess. Washed out, you could say. Alex drags Park away from the impromptu game of catch and tells him the haunting followed him home last night. The boys still don’t understand why this is happening when Park asks how does one usually stop a ghost. Alex mentions you have to lay a ghost to rest, but why? Why is it so pissed off?
“I don’t know,” said Park. “But I’m not about to go in the bathroom and ask it.”
Alex said, “Park. You’re a genius.”
“No I’m not,” said Park instantly.
“No it isn’t,” said Park.
[Wing: Ahahahaha, I love you, Park. And Alex is being amazing.]
Alex declares they’re gonna march right into the boys’ room and ask why the ghost is so angry. Park is SO sure that’ll work, but will it tell them before or after it freezes, burns, and/or drowns them? Alex suggests they try reasoning and Park is wondering if Alex has inhaled the fumes from the guidance counselor’s office. Of course the idea Dr. Morthouse would allow a guidance counselor in this school is the most unbelievable thing I’ve read in ANY of these books.
Park refuses to go back in the bathroom with Alex, and Alex deploys the dreaded “Chicken” card before going to find the bathroom pass to his destiny.
Standing in the dark hallway, Alex contemplated if maybe everyone was imagining things. This IS Graveyard School. Those thoughts vanished when he saw the water trickling from beneath the door to the boys’ room, which now bore an “OUT OF ORDER” sign courtesy of Basement Bart. Alex did his best not to run when Park dragged him into the bathroom. Park?! Park held up a bathroom pass demanding to know where Alex has been. Alex reveals he came prepared, opening his backpack to show off the tools he brought to school. A pipe wrench, a blow dryer, a plunger, and a drain opener (the one that uses air, not the chemical kind). Park can’t believe they came to exorcise a ghost with toilet tools.
“It’s almost enough to make me laugh.”
“Don’t say that!”
But it was too late. As if the ghost had been waiting for a cue, it made its entrance.
A horrible, gurgling laughter began to bubble up out of all the toilets in the bathroom.
Okay, here’s where shit gets real.
The door’s frozen shut, the lids on all the toilets are flapping up and down erratically, and the stall doors are slapping open and shut. Alex hands Park the bag to take out the blow dryer as Alex introduces himself. Everything stops as Alex announces they want to talk to… whoever the fuck this is. The rotten smell manifests, so strong it brings tears to Alex’s eyes. Alex says they want to know why the ghost is so upset and they’re offering to help it. Water shoots up from a sink and the stench gets stronger. The ghost stops again when Park says he’ll plug the blow dryer in. Alex stops Park from killing himself as he points to the puddle of water near the outlet and the label warning not to use the dryer near open water. They immediately put it away.
The bell to end recess starts and the boys wish they were with everyone else, but Alex won’t back down.
“Can’t we be friends here? Don’t you think you’re being a little bit unreasonable?”
It was a phrase Alex’s father was fond of using whenever he was trying to make Alex do something Alex had complained about.
For that reason alone, Alex should have known it wouldn’t work.
Park said, “I think we could make it through those windows.”
Instantly the windows froze over.
“Good going, Park,” said Alex out of the side of his mouth.
The doors and lids start slamming open and close again, the noise becoming interminable until Alex screams at the ghost to stop. Park immediately thinks Alex should ask it to open the door, but Alex is trying to ease their way to that. Alex asks why the ghost is here when Park tries to get his attention. Something red is dripping out of the walls. Alex thinks it’s not real blood, just a ghost trick, when the boys get confirmation they aren’t alone.
The red shoes are back.
The shoes stood there, underneath the stall door and slowly tapping. The faucets began to drip in sync with the tapping, but were dripping yellow slime as the walls oozed red. Park advises Alex they need to run when the shoes charged towards them. Before they could move, the shoes began to rapidly kick Alex’s legs, his shins, were running up his back. They were merciless. Alex cried for Park’s help as he swatted away one of the sneakers. As the other shoe zoomed past Alex, he saw Park raising the plunger above his head like a sword. Alex dove while the sneakers tried to regroup with each other and grabbed the pipe wrench.
Alex seized the pipe wrench. He whirled and brought it down hard on he first sneaker, shattering the tile floor with a blow.
A horrible scream split the air. Molten yellow gunk began to bubble furiously up out of the sinks. The other shoe kicked the wastebasket like a football into the air. It went into end-over-end orbit around the room, spewing garbage.
Smoke boiled up out of nowhere, filling the room with the horrible smell of burning rotten meat.
Park suction-cupped the other sneaker against the wall with the plunger. “Gotcha!” he shouted.
The toilet lids all flew open, and geysers of toilet water shot into the air.
Alex kicked the other sneaker but lost his balance and broke another tile with the wrench. The sneaker under the plunger began to hop around, dragging Park along with him and drenching him with the red and yellow boiling hot slime. Alex chased the sneaker around, swinging the wrench as hard as he could to get it. Walls were cracked, metal dented, a toilet lid launched into orbit. It was then Alex noticed all the other cracks in the walls and ceiling as Park tried to stop his respective sneaker. Caught in a gigantic ghostly temper tantrum, Alex realized the scariest ghost of all is one that hates him personally.
The cracks got bigger as smoke began to pour out of them while the ooze sizzled and boiled. The room began to shake, like an earthquake for real, while the shoes danced around in glee and the far end wall crumbled apart. Alex began to hear the fire alarm as Park collided into him and things got worse.
The tiles under his hands crumbled like cereal. The snaking cracks in the floor and ceiling widened into yawns. Sinks fell from the walls. Toilets heaved into the air. Water spouted, and red and yellow slime oozed. The wastebasket continued its orbit above the room. Paper towels shot out of the towel dispenser and became big wet spit-and-goo balls.
The floor cracked open and the boys feared they would be swallowed whole as laughter filled the air. Something loud and large rumbled and one of the shoes gave a final kick as the floor heaved and rolled like an ocean wave.
And then it stopped.
The boys tentatively opened their eyes to see the one thing left standing in the totaled bathroom.
Thrust up from the crevice where the wall had met the floor of the bathroom was a huge, ancient coffin.
THEY MOVED THE BATHROOM, BUT THEY DIDN’T MOVE THE BODIES!
Alex and Park were taken away in an ambulance even though they insisted, and the doctor concluded, they were fine. They stank to high heaven, but they were fine. Their parents got rid of their clothes because they knew the smell wasn’t coming out. The two were considered heroes for having survived and they didn’t mention anything about the haunting. A building inspector decided the bathroom collapsed due to structural instability brought on by a geological flaw. Ralph Smith essentially responded “No shit, Sherlock” as the facts about the moved bathroom were made public.
No one had any idea who the skeleton in the coffin belonged to, but the town historian figured the body came from one of the oldest graves on the hill, farther away from the rest for some reason. It had shifted and slid down the hill due to the earthquake, which was the cause of the “Instability.” The coffin and the bathroom were restored to their rightful places, and Dr. Morthouse held a special “Bathroom Opening Ceremony” with a ribbon and scissors and everything. Of course Doc M said nothing about the boys; when they found Alex and Park in the bathroom, all she asked as they were taken away was “Wasn’t there an OUT OF ORDER sign posted on that bathroom?”
Stacey was somewhat disgusted at the way the adults phrased the problem in that way adults do to hide they had no fucking clue. The bathroom had been built on top of a dead body and was thus haunted. But Alex had more questions. Like why this person, whoever they were, had been buried so far away from everyone else? What if this person was bad news when they were alive? And, what if they weren’t actually mad about the bathroom? What if the ghost just had an outlet to be the sadistic motherfucker they were when they were alive?
Park and Stacey didn’t know, and they didn’t want to know.
After everything was said and done, Alex was approached by Basement Bart. The janitor was smiling as he told Alex he had something that belonged to him. Alex was handed the plunger as the janitor walked away.
Attached at the end was a dirty red sneaker.
A sneaker that went tap.
So was I right? Was this book vivid and exciting or did it… circle the drain? 😀
This is probably the most prominent Basement Bart’s been featured, and I’m sorry I didn’t have a commission for this post. I didn’t make the Poltergeist reference in the beginning because I didn’t want to spoil the reveal, but I love the events of a past book were directly the cause of this one even though it’s not a sequel. And I love that Alex was determined to stop the ghost when he knew it was possible a small kid really could be hurt or killed.
[Wing: I was surprised when Alex’s motivation turned on not wanting a little kid to get hurt. That’s unusual, especially for a preteen boy character, and a great change of pace.]
Is your school haunted? Take this quick quiz and find out!
A typical noise in your classroom is:
- The drone of the teacher’s voice
- The chatter of happy students
- A snore
- Clanking chains and eerie moaning
In my school, one or more of the following objects has been known to disappear:
- Pens and pencils
- The occasional mitten or gym sock
- Bad report cards
- The entire fifth grade
- Keeps the floor spotless
- Wears a spiffy uniform
- Is friendly to teachers and students alike
- Has no head
The new kid in our class:
- Has really nice clothes
- Seems shy, but will probably get over that
- Moved here because her mother got transferred
- Levitates and spins her head all the way around
- Has cheery posters on the walls
- Is pretty boring
- Has a guinea pig in a cage
- Has cold spots and a hole in the floor where flames shoot out, usually during math
A typical school lunch includes:
- Spaghetti and meatballs
- A bologna sandwich
- Tasty rat cutlet with creamy vomit sauce, side of cockroach salad
If you have answered (d/4) to one or more questions, run for your life! Your school is definitely haunted!
Polly Hannah’s Wardrobe:
- Pink jeans, pink and green striped cotton sweater, pink headband, pale green socks, perfectly polished loafers
- Flowered tights, pink scrunch socks, incredibly clean white sneakers
Guys I think this is the only time Polly has ever included green in her clothes. [Wing: I love pink and green together ever since Sister Canary’s wedding, which had those colors.]