Recap #246: Nightmare Hall 14: The Initiation by Diane Hoh

Cover for Nightmare Hall 14 - The Initiation by Diane HohTitle: Nightmare Hall 14: The Initiation by Diane Hoh

Summary: Joining the Others, a group of outcasts whom she thinks are just lonely students like herself, Salem University freshman Molly Keene realizes that there is something very wrong about the group, but finds there is only one way to leave it.

Initial Thoughts

I’m excited to pick up recapping Nightmare Hall, though I’m not nearly as informed about the history of the books, ghost writers, etc., as Dade was, alas. The Initiation is not one of the Nightmare Hall books I read growing up, and in retrospect, that’s a very good thing, because I hated it, thanks, good times.

Read on to see why, I guess. Or save yourself. Whichever you prefer. Insert evil cackle here.


Oh, good, a prologue. You know how much I love those. Group of people hanging out around a fire. They call themselves the Others, because that’s always a sign of completely normal gatherings. Molly thinks that Norman, who seems to be the leader, looks like a pumpkin her grandfather carved one time in a tall, skinny pumpkin that became the scariest jack-o-lantern Molly’d ever seen.

Norman explains the purpose of the Others, but we don’t get to see that just yet. Then he starts the initiation. We don’t get to see that just yet, either.

Dr. Theodore, an English professor at Salem University, asks Molly Keene to stay after class. Molly tries to figure out what she’s done wrong and decides she must not have worked hard enough on her last paper, “Solitaire”, about the difficulties of transition from a popular high school senior to a lowly college freshman. Well that’s pretentious and overdone all at the same time.

Molly knows she didn’t do her best writing. She’d been distracted by a party across the hall, one that she and Kayla, her roommate, had been invited to. Kayla is always invited and always attends. Molly decided to stay home to do work and because she wouldn’t know anyone at the party. Except Kayla, I mean. And also, as Kayla says, going out is how you meet people, so….

Though Molly also makes a good point that she’s not good at meeting a bunch of people at work, she likes to meet them one at a time and get to know them slowly. This is also how Wing likes to do it.

Molly agrees to stay to talk to Dr. Theodore, even though Normal will be mad. She’s supposed to meet him at Goldwin Hall at 3 p.m. to talk about the Others, a campus group he created. Again, that’s a pretty weird name for a campus group. She hasn’t yet told him that she won’t be joining.

Molly’s new friend, Phoebe Sayward, offers to wait for her after class. Phoebe doesn’t like Norman; she finds him creepy and full of himself, and she “wouldn’t be surprised if he had a few bodies hidden in the basement of his house.” Probably a good call.

Norman simply says that Phoebe isn’t one of them.

Molly doesn’t understand why, though, because everyone likes Phoebe, who’s involved all over the place, in a piano recital the next week, featured in the literary magazine, Odyssey, about talented students at Salem, thinks like that. Molly doesn’t understand how anyone couldn’t like Phoebe and thinks that Norman is too judgment.

He was kind to Molly during the first week of school, back when she thought she’d never make friends at school. When Norman introduced himself, she thought he was intellectual, smarter than most.

Phoebe tried to talk her out of going to the second meeting of the others, because Molly doesn’t know anything about them, their name doesn’t make sense, etc. I like Phoebe. What I don’t like is how much backstory Hoh’s dumping on us in the first few pages.

The first meeting of the Others was normal, people sitting around talking about classes. The second meeting was weird, the one at the state park near campus, the initiation from earlier, I guess. Norman and his friend Bat (who is not nearly as wonderful as our bat) set up the fire so that Norman could run the initiation and finally tell them the purpose of the group.

Our purpose in being together is twofold. First, we are together because while no one else recognises our special talents, we recognise them in each other. Perhaps some of us haven’t yet discovered what our special abilities are. But we know they’re there, waiting to see the light. It’s true, every one of us is exceptional in some way. Superior. But we are not the ones getting the attention on campus. We are the Others, those whose talents have not yet been recognised. And that brings me to our second purpose in establishing this group.

Our purposes is this. From now on, we will be the ones who decide if those people on campus getting all the attention really deserve the accolades thrown their way. We will be the ones who decide if the football star really is a superior athlete, if the musician delivers a superior sound, if the artist paints a superior picture, if the writer pens a superior piece of material, if the student politicians are superior leaders.

We are the ones who will decide.

When we judge that the person in question is not deserving of the attention and praise he or she is getting on campus, we will then decide on a righteous course of action.

That doesn’t sound at all like a charismatic leader who will end up killing people, not at all.

The initiation starts with thunder and a bolt of lightning lit up on the dark, bare branches of the trees, which of course is not part of the initiation but a stroke of luck for Norman.

Norman gives everyone candles because he wants to see their faces as they vow their allegiance to the Others. Molly thinks all the candles do is distort the faces further.

Bat talks about how they don’t look average, not like this, and how they’ll be noticed now.

Again, that sounds a lot like the prelude to a serial killer, but cool. Cool cool cool.

Molly decides then and there that if being angry at successful people is the point of the Others, she doesn’t want to be a part of it. She can’t tell Norman right at that moment, though, so she’ll do it later. She just won’t repeat any of the words because she isn’t really going to join.

No one notices that she’s not participating and mostly she tunes them out, thinking about that English paper she has to write. The only words she hears are “justice,” “fairness,” and “arrogance.”

I’m not at all sure I buy that she would completely ignore what is going on around her to the extent that she misses what I’m sure will later be important things vowed during the initiation, but whatever, I’ll try to roll with it.

She’s mentally outlining the paper when the initiation ends and a torrential downpour starts, sending them all fleeing to their cars. She never did get a chance to ask Norman what the Others would do to the people they judged and found undeserving. Seems like something you probably should have followed up on sooner there, Molly.

God, so much backstory. So. Much.

So much so that the classroom has emptied around Molly, who apparently has zero percent situational awareness, and Dr Theodore is standing in front of her.

Molly starts babbling about how she knows “Solitaire” isn’t her best work and she will rewrite it, etc., but of course Dr Theodore is actually telling her that it’s great, one of the better pieces of writing since she taught Joan Graham 15 years ago. Joan Graham is apparently a Pulitzer Prize writer, and Dr Theodore knew from day one that Joan would do well. She thinks Molly might have that same spark.

Molly’s never done a lot of writing before; she was invited to join the school newspaper back in high school, but she had to get an after-school job and never found out what kind of writing she could do. Aww, Molly, despite your ridiculous lack of awareness of anything going on around you, I adore you.

Dr Theodore selects a group of students to work on Odyssey, mostly as copy person, file clerks, etc., and someday they work their way to writer or editor. But she also chooses one person with great potential who gets to write from the beginning, to see their work published. Dr Theodore hasn’t chosen anyone yet, but “Solitaire” made the decision for her.

Yay for Molly, but at the same time, this is kind of a shit way to handle things. Writing goes to the older students who have “paid their dues” but that’s not how it should be done. Writing should be chosen not because of how much work the students have done for the magazine, it should be chosen by the editors based on the writing itself. And choosing work is always subjective, always, and that has its own inherent problems, but it should not be based on age or work done, etc. Paying their dues is a bullshit way to handle it.

This makes Molly happy because Dr. Theodore has shown her that she’s special, just like Norman said the Others would find their light, and she’s thrilled to be able to tell him. She rushes out to meet him, he calls Dr. Theodore an idiot, and then shoots Molly down when she tells him her good news.

He can’t believe she’s thinking about writing for “that rag” because that sort of “rah-rah” stuff isn’t for the Others. Molly is shocked that he’s not elated for her, but he continues to belittle the work she’ll do there and even calls her a nobody. When she demands to know why he’s not excited for her because he told her that people would recognise their talent, he says that her talent belongs to the Others now, the whole idea was to form their own group and stay together. She took an oath, her talent is for them.

She finally tells him that she didn’t take the oath and will not be joining the Others.

He goes cold and hard and tells her that she took a lifetime oath during the ceremony. She tells him again that she didn’t repeat any of the things he said, she wasn’t even really listening. She’s sorry that she didn’t tell him sooner, but really, one little nobody like her won’t make a difference. Way to throw his words back at him, Molly. I like you more and more.

When a group of noisy students walk past and mostly ignore them, Norman uses this as an example: superior quarterback is overrated, superior dancer is overrated, superior artist overrated, etc.

He softens his voice when he tells her that he’s trying to protect her, but Molly is having none of that. She doesn’t need protection, she didn’t take the oath, she’s not joining the Others, and she is working for Odyssey.

He complete switches up after that and says that he’s happy for her, she absolutely has the right to develop her talent, and the door is always open for her when she’s ready to join the Others. He talks about how she was one of the first friends she made on campus and he thought their friendship meant something. He got mad because disappointed.

Nope, no emotional manipulation going on here, not one bit.

He talks a little longer about how the Others will always be there, which sounds more like a threat than a comfort to Molly.

The Odyssey office is packed full of people and busy as anything. Is this a weekly literary journal or something? Because I ran a literary journal for several years, and it’s rarely hectic like this. A newspaper, sure, sometimes, but not a lit journal.

Molly feels ignored for awhile, until Hank Seagrove introduces himself. He knows that Dr. Theodore sent her over. Molly likes how he looks (tall, broad-shouldered, long bronze-colored hair, white shirt button down with sleeves rolled to the elbow [hell yes, that’s a good look], dark brown eyes, and high cheekbones flushed with sunburn or stress). He’s the managing editor, and tells her that she would have been featured in that talented freshmen feature if Dr. Theo sent her earlier.

Hank introduces her around the room. Most of them are freshmen from her comp class because a lot of the staff graduated last June and Hank had a ton of spots to fill. We get a flury of names: Donovan Capwell, copyboy, Ava Dennis typist, Ken North, Hank’s assistant, Dana Washington, art department assistant. None of them are rude to her, none of them ignore her, not like Norman warned.

Of the older students, we meet Tommie Lang, but no idea what they do, Dana Washington, the “artists’ drill sergeant”, and Tony Scaparelli, artist, also hot. He jokes around that Hank wrings everything out of them every month for Oddities and that’s why they’re all pale as zombies. Okay, a monthly literary journal still doesn’t really explain that much frantic energy unless they’re right on deadline, but again, I’m going to roll with it.

Tony recognises her as one of the people who hangs out with Norman who “walks around campus like the Pied Piper.” I like Tony. Molly doesn’t want to get off on the wrong foot, so she says that she knows Norman but doesn’t hang out with him. This makes her feel guilty, and she tries to convince herself that it’s okay because she doesn’t even know if they are still friends after that last conversation. 

Molly, girl, I need you to reassess whether you were ever friends.

She spends the next hour and a half talking about what Hank wants to do with “Solitaire” and getting to know everyone. This makes her feel guilty all over again, because she remembers what Norman said about Odyssey, and though she doesn’t understand why she feels this way, she can’t shake the feeling that Norman knows that she denied their friendship earlier.

Finally, she says she’d love to work on Odyssey. She won’t let Norman stop her.

Immediately, Hank gives her a deadline for her revised article: three days.

Aww, Hank, I love you.

When Molly has to leave to meet Phoebe (to find the perfect dress for Phoebe’s piano recital), Hank says he needs a break and offers to walk with her. They talk a little about that talented freshmen article and how good Hank thinks her writing is. There’s a little wish-fulfillment to this, but I like Molly a lot anyway.

When they get to the parking lot, almost all the lights are out and it’s very dim. Hank offers to wait with her until Phoebe arrives, but she knows he has a ton of work to do and waves him off.

And then we get this paragraph:

Because she was looking up, and because the parking lot was dark, and because she had jumped inside the old beige Audi Fox a thousand times without checking inside first, she pulled the door all the way open and jumped in without looking.

Which turned out to be a big mistake.

Hello cliffhanger chapter ending. I’m not sure why I dislike this so much. I think maybe it’s the way we suddenly have a lot of distance from Molly; it sounds more like someone telling us about her and not us reading her story.

Also, Molly, girl, you’ve got to be more careful. Check the backseat every goddamn time.

Her car is filled with river mud, and she struggles to get out of it. Hank hasn’t left yet and comes back when she shouts for help. He gets her out of the car, tries to make a joke to cheer her up some, but then asks a good question: who would do something like this?

The only person Molly can think of is Norman, but surely he’d meant his apology. And if he didn’t, well, she couldn’t admit even to herself that she’d know someone who would do something like this. (She says “crazy enough” and fuck you, Molly.)

Phoebe turns up, shocked at what happened; Molly tries to wave it off as a prank gone wrong. Molly is determined to clean it because it’s all she has, and Phoebe immediately sets in to help. When she asks Hank if he’ll help, too, he runs off toward the Odyssey office. Molly assumes he’s abandoning them; Phoebe thinks he’s gone to get supplies or something.

While they wait a few minutes to see if he comes back, they talk a little about what happened and whether Molly really believes it was a prank. Molly starts to feel like someone’s watching them even though she can’t see anyone.

Sure enough, Hank comes back with cleaning supplies and Ava and Donovan. They joke about how they know how to do scut work because they’re peons, but before they get started, Ava says she, too, feels like someone is watching them.

They work for hours, helped by different Odyssey staff members. It makes Molly feel good, but then she keeps remembering why they’re there, that someone messed with her car bad enough that it can’t be a joke.

Everyone gets cleaned up and then most of the Odyssey staff plus Phoebe head to Vinnie’s for dinner. Molly’s excited to be with these people who might become friends until she gets to the restaurant and finds Norman at a table in the center of the room.

She holds herself back from asking him about her car, and wonders why he’s there when he told her he hated because a place that close to campus can’t possibly have good food.

Tony notices that Norman is staring at Molly. She changes the subject, but then Norman comes over to ask if she’s okay because she seems upset. While he’s there, Phoebe calls him out on her boots being caked with dried mud. Go Phoebe go!

I’m going to be real damn upset if she ends up dead.

Norman explains that he was hiking along the river path. He then pushes at her, asking if she’s going to stay at Odyssey in a way that makes her think there’s a threat behind it. When she says yes, he gives her shit about being one of the Special People, the campus literati. She ignores him as best she can, and he finally leaves, but not before he tells her the Others are meeting the next night and that she should have introduced him to her new friends because not doing it is rude.

When Hank asks if she belongs to the Others, Molly says no, that she was thinking about writing a story about them, maybe even in Solitaire. Which is not an article, goddamn it, but whatever. 

Phoebe changes the subject to music, to Molly’s relief, but Molly can’t shake the feeling that Norman’s not as ready to give up on her as he claimed.

Hank walks Molly back to her dorm in the Quad. He wants to talk about the mud in the car, because he doesn’t believe that it was a joke because it was too mean, and again asks if she made anyone really mad at her. She doesn’t tell him about Norman, though, because she’s afraid he’ll go to the campus police and she wants to wait until she has some proof.

Sounds like a great plan. I’m sure everything will go perfectly.

In the room, Molly tells Kayla about the car, but gets frustrated because she can’t answer any of Kayla’s questions, so instead she tells her about joining Odyssey.

Norman, of course, hated Kayla and called her a party girl who couldn’t be happy without being the center of attention and that Molly should be careful never to upstage her or else.

Kayla and Molly are apparently supposed to go down and do laundry together tonight? Because — why? It’s not like roommates have to do laundry at the same time, and I’m not sure that Molly would have made these plans if she already had plans to go shopping, but sure, okay.

Kayla then offers to do Molly’s one load of laundry, too, when Molly says she’s too tired to do laundry that night. Molly goes to bed and wakes sometime later to Kayla coming back, clearly upset. She went to get a snack, spent a few minutes talking to Boomer, and when she got back, well, Molly’s clothes have been destroyed. The first thing Molly sees is a pretty pink sweater (that she normally wears with black velvet stirrup pants, oh, fashion), which is now stained with ink. A white dress is inked with smiley faces. More than half her wardrobe has been destroyed with stripes or polka dots or smiley faces, all in ink.

Kayla thinks Molly is blaming her and storms off. Molly doesn’t try to fix things because she’s too tired, too overwhelmed. Instead, she goes back to bed.

In the morning, Molly apologises for making Kayla think she blamed her, and then asks if Molly saw anyone around the Quad, maybe Norman. She didn’t, though there was a group of people at the back of the room with their backs to her, so he could have been a part of that group, maybe.

Kayla offers Molly the use of her clothes and heads off to class. Molly burns the damaged outfits into the incinerator, because that’s a thing that all dorms have. Then she finally goes through the mail on her dresser, the pile Kayla brought up the day before.

Mail: notice about a Sigma Chi boat cruise and party on Bottomless Lake, a letter from a friend back home, a bookstore bill, and a long, white envelope with her name but nothing else. The paper inside is a copy of the article about freshmen talent from the first issue of Odyssey, but with a Polaroid of her face added, one taken at Vinnie’s the night before.

She wonders if maybe Hank did this, to tease her about not being chosen early enough for the article, but thinks it is not up to his handiwork. She’s not sure who did it, or what it means, whether it’s congratulations or … not.

Molly heads to the Odyssey office before class, but is distracted on the way by a crowd of students staring at the doorway to the office. She hopes something wonderful has brought the crowd together, but come on, Molly, that’s not really how this works and you know it.

Sure enough, the office has been completely trashed. Not only trashed, but black ink has been splashed and poured and puddled everywhere.

(She describes it as a war zone, which, come on, Hoh, that comparison is terrible.)

Most of the staff is there, too shocked to do anything. How in the world does the staff have a similar enough schedule that most of them can be there at any time?

They’re all waiting on the campus police; Hank won’t let them start cleanup until the campus cops show up. They’re also all in a kind of shock. Donovan talks about how nothing like this ever happened back at The Flame, his high school newspaper where he was editor. Interesting that he’s working on a lit mag now and not the campus newspaper, though I did both, so. Dana also won writing awards in high school, and gives him shit about how far they’ve both come, him a copy boy and her supervising temperamental artists.

Hank is determined that they will get the next issue out on time, no matter what, even if they have to work around the clock. Yeah, okay, pretty sure things like classes still exist, dude.

All the bad things started happening after Molly joined Odyssey, after she fought with Norman and he apologised, but she wonders if he really meant it or if he’s taking his anger out on her and on Odyssey. 

She’s embarrassed when Tommie talks about it being an odd coincidence that it was Molly’s car last night and their office this morning. She asks if Molly has a history of bad luck, which surprises Molly, because how can she think it’s just bad luck? Hank’s of a similar mindset, because it is vandalism, not luck.

After the campus cops do their thing, the Odyssey staff works on getting things back together, everyone skipping their classes. Other students bring them food and drinks, supplies, offers to help, and even some of the professors offer their help, too.

Phoebe actually asks Molly if she thinks Norman might be a part of it, but Molly’s so shocked that Phoebe’s thoughts match hers that she snaps that he’s eccentric but he wouldn’t do it. (“Eccentric, he’s not crazy!” and fuck you, Hoh.)

Molly finally talks to one of the campus cops about her car and laundry, but he says there’s nothing he can do because she didn’t report the incidents. This is why campus cops are considered useless. It’s been less than 24 hours. She’s giving you a statement. You are the goddamn report, jackass!

He waves it off as pranks, too, and refuses to believe that mud trashing her car and ink ruining her clothes has anything to do with a trashed office ruined with ink. I mean, why would he consider it? Clearly not the same at all.

If she figures out who pranked her, he’ll give them a talking-to. Thanks so much for your help. Molly, too, is annoyed by this, and frustrated.

Eventually Hank sends everyone but Molly home. Molly’s terrified that he’s about to fire her, but instead he asks her on a date to that Sigma Chi party. Someone’s got a cruuuuush. And so far it is adorable.

Molly admits that she thought he was going to fire her, that maybe he thinks of her as bad luck like Tommie does or wants her out, like Dana does. He says he’s not superstitious like Tommie, and Dana wants Molly’s job, she doesn’t want to handle the artists, she wants to write.

They’re almost all disappointed, which Molly really should have known considering it’s been brought up at least three times now, and she wonders just how disappointed they are. Good god, woman. Good god.

Molly comes home to more mail, including another envelop and picture. Same article, another fifth picture added, this time one of her taken just as she entered the Quad. That’s not the only thing different, though.

This time, Stacey’s picture is different, too. The original photograph was her leaping through the air, her long legs fully extended. In this photograph, her legs have been cut off at the knees.

Molly sits in silence until the sun sets and the room grows dark. She finally decides to call the police first thing in the morning. Why not now, Molly? Why not now?

She wonders again if Norman is possibly that good at hiding his true self, because she’s seen him around campus a few times that day and he was always casually friendly, not like someone who is destroying things all around her. What exactly does someone who does that look like, Molly?

The next day, that same campus cop shrugs off the photograph as a prank. He keeps them, though, and tells her that if she gets any more papers, to bring them to him. Good god, he’s incompetent as hell.

The Odyssey staff spend all day Friday and Saturday getting the office back together and finishing the next issue. Molly’s article (still not an article! Creative nonfiction at most. This is still a lit mag, not a newspaper) gets approved, and finally, Saturday afternoon, they’re able to drop everything and go to the Sigma Chi party. Apparently the entire staff.

The party is on a huge paddlewheel boat trimmed with red and white, Salme’s colours. PHoebe’s there, too, as are Kayla, Boomer, and Stacey. Molly’s worried about Stacey after seeing that photograph, but Stacey is fine and happy to be at the party.

Stacey leads them to the upper deck to enjoy the sun for awhile before she has to judge the dance contest later. There are cushioned bench seats around the railing so they can sit and look at the water, the lake is smooth, and everything is lovely, but Molly can’t stop thinking about how the lake is called bottomless for a reason and whether they could even retrieve a body from the depths. 

You’re morbid, Molly. I like it.

Hank and Molly go down to the lower deck for food and dancing. Mostly together, though Molly does dance briefly with Donovan. She gets reminded a couple times that some of the staff are envious of her position, which in turn reminds her that someone out there hates her, but she makes herself forget it each time.

Back at dock, Stacey wants Molly to come with her to judge the dance contest; she doesn’t want to sit alone on the upper deck looking down at the dance floor. Dana offers to go instead, but Stacey only wants Molly for some reason. They sit with their legs dangling through an opening cut in the floor of the open deck.

Gee, I wonder if something’s going to happen to Stacey’s legs at this point.

Stacey loves high places because they make her feel like she can fly. She even walks the high balconies on the campus tower. She’s also terrible at sitting still; she moves with the music and leans forward to watch the dancers closely, despite Molly repeatedly reminding her how far up they are.

Molly is, of course, extra worried because of that picture of Stacey from before. Poor Molly. 

There are only six couples left when a cloud covers the moon, darkening everything, and something slams into their backs, pushing them over the edge.

Molly reaches out in panic and grabs a smooth beam of wood and something burning hot, and manages to cling to it. Stacey does the same, but she catches Molly’s left elbow and dangles by one hand. Molly’s grabbed a wooden beam decorated with small, sparkling lights that have hot bulbs. Fire threat right there.

Molly begs Stacey to hang on, but Stacey’s really struggling. And of course she would be! Hanging by one hand would be nearly impossible when you’re terrified and have no practice at it. God, this is terrible and tense for both of them.

Hank and Donovan (and a bunch of other people) rush upstairs and try to reach through the opening to grab them, but they’re too far away.

Molly tries to talk Stacey through climbing up onto her back. She’s certain that she can hold Stacey while she does it and then after. Stacey’s too precarious, though, and she’s clinging with the wrong hand to make anything easier.

Finally Hank demands someone get a rope, which really should have been requested much freaking earlier. That and people putting tablecloths together to try to create an impromptu safety net.

Donovan apparently has run back downstairs, because he starts yelling that they’ve found a ladder, but it’s too late, and Stacey falls, breaking her legs into impossible angles.

God, this is horrifying.

Molly’s crying too hard to use the ladder at first and then is terrified. The rest of the staff who are there try to talk her into moving, gently and angrily in turn, but it’s not until Ken tells her that they can’t get Stacey to a hospital until she comes down that Molly finally manages to move. UGH MY HEART.

After Molly’s released from the hospital, she remembers that she and Stacey were hit and she tells the others about it. She also tells them about the mutilated photograph. Molly doesn’t want to hear any questions about it, though, she’s too freaked out. I feel for her.

An actual police officer shows up to take her statement this time; Molly tells her about the defaced photographs and how she handed them over to campus police, etc. She doesn’t talk about Norman and the Others, though. She wants to approach Norman herself first.

Molly is an idiot.

The next day, Molly sleeps until noon and then checks on Stacey, who is in fair condition, per the hospital. Oh, wow, if the hospital really would give out information like this back then, which I don’t know for sure, it’s a far cry from today. When my dad was recently in hospital, we were given a passcode to use to get any information at all. I had to do this, too, even though I’m his medical proxy if he can’t make decisions for himself.

Molly checks in with the Twin Falls case, but no one there knows anything about the case. They promise to have the officer in charge call her, but she’s skeptical that anyone is actually looking into it.

While she’s on her way to the Odyssey office, she runs into Norman who asks about Stacey because he heard what happened to her. She starts to ask him if he knows anything about it, but then stops because she realises it’s not necessarily safe to make accusations like that when they’re alone. Instead, she’ll wait until she has proof.

…yes, yes, that’s the lesson you should learn here. Goddamn it, Molly.

He mentions that she didn’t come to the meeting and when she reminds him that she said she wouldn’t, he was hoping she would change her mind. She reassures him she hasn’t, but he still doesn’t take off. 

Instead, he asks if she’s going to write about the Others in Odyssey. He heard about it, he says, but she’s not sure where because she only told the other staff members and surely none of them would have told Norman. He then tells her that none of them would be happy if someone wrote anything bad about them.

She point blank asks if he’s threatening her, but he’s not making a threat, he’s making a promise. (God, such a trite pairing.) He promises her that if she writes about the Others, she’ll regret it. Molly turns on him with that, though, because she doesn’t like threats, they make her angry.

And you won’t like her when she’s angry.

(I’m here for Molly!Hulk.)

He grabs her and tells her that it’s a warning. He can’t stop her from leaving the Others or working on Odyssey, but he will stop her from writing about them, no matter what it takes.

Molly jerks away from him and runs into the office.

Molly clashes a little with Dana for being disappointed that she came in and with Donovan for being tactless in asking her, again, whether she knows what pushed them. She nearly laughs at him when he talks about watching Phoebe dance, because she’s tall and vivacious and he’s short and rotund. Well fuck right out of here, Molly. Goddamn.

She feels sorry for him, even, because he must have been a big deal in high school but now isn’t. Hank confirms that later, that he was a football star in high school but apparently got out of shape over the summer.

Jesus fucking christ, Hoh, back the fuck off. You can be fat and a powerful athlete. You can be fat and awesome. You can be fat and attractive. You can be fat and have great sexual relationships. Fuck.

Anyway, Donovan and Ken were both football stars, but they weren’t good enough to make the college team. Donovan’s pretty chill about it, but Ken’s not. He thought he’d get an athletic scholarship, even.

Molly wonders if Norman ever talked to either of them about the Others, because it sounds like a perfect group for them. Oh, and what if he did? Norman gets new members all the time, either of them might have joined after she left, and that could be how Norman knew what she was writing.

But, uh, would he really be down with them still working on Odyssey? Unless he’s solely using them to spy on her.

Melanie comes rushing into Hank’s office, freaking out because the proofed copy for the whole magazine is missing. Hank says he gave it to Dana, but Dana doesn’t have it. Not only is the print copy missing, which is frustrating but survivable, but the disks are missing, too.

(Oh, god, disks. Proofed copies and the terror when they go missing or get damaged. I’m having even more nostalgia than ever over her.)

They search frantically, the entire staff, for more than an hour, but can’t find a single proofed article or a single disk, much less the entire second issue. It’s gone.


I’ll admit, I’m far more sympathetic to this dramatic chapter ending than I usually am for Stine’s because this is a HUGE deal to a publication. HUGE.

Well, I was right up until the first line of the next chapter is literally: Everyone joined in the search. THEY’VE ALREADY BEEN A PART OF THE SEARCH. THEY’VE BEEN SEARCHING FOR MORE THAN AN HOUR. COME ON, HOH, DON’T BE LIKE STINE.

Apparently the only thing they have left is the classified section. WHY THE FUCK DOES A UNIVERSITY LITERARY MAGAZINE HAVE A FUCKING CLASSIFIEDS SECTION?!

Hoh, did you really just want to write about a newspaper and then decide that was too boring or something?

Oh, apparently the entire staff is searching except for Ken, who hasn’t shown up. Hank knows that Ken had a copy of Molly’s article yesterday, and maybe Ken reread everything and locked it up somewhere they don’t know about.

They can’t reach him in his dorm, so Hank and Molly take off together to go find him. Not before Dana snarks at them about whether they’ll even come back.

They search for Ken all over campus, and about twenty minutes in, Molly starts to feel like they’re being watched, just like she felt that night with her car. She starts to wonder if the missing copy is tied to Norman’s threat to stop her from writing about the Others.

Before she figures out how to tell Hank about Norman (good god, woman, just spit it out, you are the WORST when it comes to telling people things they actually need to know), they notice people crowding around the low stone wall that surrounds the fountain. The fountain’s not been turned off yet for winter despite how cold it’s become, which I call bullshit to, but again, letting it go, and they find Ken pulling their missing copy out of the water.

God, that sucks so fucking hard. I feel for them.

They rescue the pages, Hank and Molly both devastated with it. Ken tries to reassure them that they can retype it all and then reprint it, but Hank is having none of that, because it will take forever to retype it, edit it, and proof it. He’s not wrong, but look, at least Ken is trying to find a solution, dude.

(Honestly, I would love to have to retype it all. I love typing like that. We used to play typing games all the time when I was a kid. Hell, I still play some today. I both enjoy the act of typing and love the sound of typing.)

The only thing missing is Molly’s article. I’m sure you’re shocked.

Molly keeps thinking about Norman and his threat and how he might have possibly done it and whether someone else might have done it instead and if so why, all those thoughts roiling around.

Back in the office, once they confirm that Molly’s article is the only thing missing, Dana slyly points out that it looks like Molly’s writing was the only thing they were after all along. Molly lashes out at her over this, understandably, but Dana keeps pushing, asking Hank who Molly knows who wouldn’t want her to publish “her little article” which is such a fucking dismissive phrase. Damn, Dana, you’re well on your way to pulling out the big guns.

When Molly says she has a longhand version of her article, Donovan makes fun of her for writing longhand. She says it gives her more time to think. I can respect that. For a long, long time, I did my outlining by hand still, because the physical act of writing it out longhand helped me work through my thoughts even though I type significantly faster than I can write. I will still do that once in awhile if I get particularly lost in a story.

Donovan escorts Molly back to her dorm to get her copy. While they walk, she wonders at him having been a high school football star, because he’s broad, he’s only about 5’5” tall, which is pretty short for a guy, especially a football player. She’s not wrong.

In her room, she finds an envelope on the floor just inside the door. She doesn’t want to look at it, but she knows not looking at it will just bother her until she does. Again, it’s a copy of that talented freshmen article. Again, a picture of her added, this one taken that morning while she hurried toward the office. Stacey’s photo is normal. Tony’s. Boomer’s.

But not Phoebe’s. Her hands have been cut out of the picture entirely.

Molly doesn’t want Donovan to see the page, but she knows she has to do something with it. She hides the page in one of the pockets of her raincoat, determined to find a campus cop as soon as she can get away from the Odyssey office.

Ava retypes Molly’s article, but Molly still sticks around to do work instead of going to talk to the goddamn police. Look, I am skeptical of law enforcement at best and outright afraid of what some of them will do to the people I love, but you’ve already decided you need to go to them. At the very least, you need to get the other copies from the campus cops and then go to the local cops. What the fuck are you even doing right now, Molly?!

At the very very least, fucking talk to Phoebe about what’s fucking going on. She’s your friend! She saw Stacey fall! She might very well believe you. Do anything other than what you’re actually doing WHICH IS NOT A GODDAMN THING.

She even goes to dinner with Hank rather than doing anything about it WTF WTF WTF. 

They go to the student center, and the second they walk inside, Molly knows that Norman is there. This time, he’s with only six people, not the big crowd he had at Vinnie’s. 

Hank awkwardly tells Molly that he and Dana talked about how maybe someone is targeting Molly’s article and asks if she knows who might want to do that. She knows this is the perfect opportunity to tell Hank everything and get help from him.


He does guess that she thinks it’s Norman, because she won’t stop staring at him across the room. Molly lashes out when Hank asks whether she’s gone to the police yet, because she doesn’t know it was Norman, she doesn’t have any proof.

You — you do realise that is literally their job, right? To investigate? Jesus christ woman.

Molly promises Hank that she’ll go to the police as soon as they leave dinner. UM. WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU WAITING FOR? GO RIGHT THE FUCK NOW.

Hank wants to go with her, but she tells him that he has too much work to do and says she’ll go on her own. 

Norman comes past while they’re sitting, but doesn’t really look at her, say anything, etc. She realises that he’s walking near them because he wants her to be able to read the papers he has sticking out of his back pocket. A copy of her article, ready for the printer.

Molly’s furious at him. She wants to know when he could have gotten it, because it wasn’t finished back when the office was vandalised and Hank swears security has been outside the office at night ever since.

She takes off to find campus security and ends up talking to the same campus cop who took the first two pages. He wants to know who she means by “them” when she talks about how he has to stop them. She can tell he’s still not taking her seriously. He doesn’t even have the other pages because a Twin Falls police officer took them.


The campus cop offers to fax the new one over to the real cops, and Molly grumpily heads back to her dorm room instead of, you know, calling the actual fucking cops again, jesus fucking christ.

Kayla gives her a message from Norman, that there’s a meeting tonight and she would know where. He also said that he knows Molly doesn’t go to those meetings, but she wants to come to this one because he has something to show her.

Molly doesn’t want to go alone but does want to confront him. When she says she’ll ask Hank to go with her, Kayla offers to go instead. Molly’s shocked by this, even though Molly herself would do the same for Kayla. Also, Kayla’s taller and stronger than Molly.

Kayla drives over to the parking lot at the national park. There’s at least six cars already parked there, and if they each held six people, there could be nearly forty people there. (Well, Molly says around thirty, but Molly, 6×6=36 which is much closer to 40.)

Molly’s nervous and tries to back out now that she knows so many people could be there (or there could be exactly six people, one per car. You don’t know!), but Kayla encourages her to keep going, in part because Norman didn’t sound angry at all.

It’s awfully convenient how helpful she’s being right now, Molly.

Kayla follows her into the woods, and it takes Molly awhile to find what she thinks is the correct path. When she tells Kayla, though, Kayla’s gone, and Molly realises she hasn’t heard anything from her in at least five minutes. Goddamn, Molly, for someone who is so worried about being in the woods alone, you certainly aren’t being aware of, well, anything.

She calls out for Kayla, until she realises that Kayla would have never left of her own free will, something had to have happened to her.

I mean, maybe, but how well do you actually know her? She very well might have left of her own free will.

She’s listening hard for Kayla but instead hears voices in the distance, laughter and people talking. She makes her way along the path, waiting for Kayla to jump out and scare her as a prank, but nothing happens.

When she gets close enough to see the glow of the bonfire, Molly slips into the bushes and peeks through to see what’s going on. There are far too many people for her to want to face alone, especially when she doesn’t know what Norman wants. She decides to retreat and get campus security to help her find Kayla.

Yeah, because they’ve been such a big help so far.

Something slithers across her ankle and she screams, though, and throws her flashlight into the clearing so it stops at Norman’s feet. Damn, girl, you don’t do things by halves, do you.

And, also, Kayla’s standing next to Norman, smiling. SHOCKED I’M SO SHOCKED.

Oh wait, no, the opposite of that.

Norman tells Molly that he really does want to show her something, Kayla wasn’t lying. Well, maybe not about that, but she’s clearly lying at least a little. He wants to show Molly that he keeps his word, that it wasn’t a threat, it was a promise, and he keeps his promises.

Shock of all shocks, Kayla inked Molly’s clothes and then pretended to be innocent. When Molly tells her that she should be an actor, Kayla’s bitter. She was in high school, and she came to Salem to study drama, but she didn’t even get a bit part in the first play of the year. She starred in every high school show but nothing here. She probably would have dropped out except Norman brought her into the Others.

Good god, Kayla, give it some fucking time. You’re there to learn how to be a better actor, not because you automatically know everything already.

Norman promised Kayla that he would fix it so she gets better parts. Molly turns on Norman then, wanting to know if he had Stacey pushed off the ledge so one of his followers could take her place. Norman tells her to prove that “we” ever went near Stacey, and it makes Molly furious. When she goes on to accuse him of vandalising the Odyssey office, he’s offended and says he never advocated violence.

Besides, he’s not mad at Odyssey, he’s mad at her for abandoning them. He then feeds the pages of her article into the fire because he’s keeping his promise to stop her from publishing anything. He’ll have to repay the friend who got it for him, but first he wants Molly to see his power in stopping her.

She manages NOT to tell him that it will be published anyway, which is one of the smartest things she’s done so far.

She tells him to stop taking pictures of her and Kayla to find another room, and then she runs back toward campus along the river path. Two things here: one, you never did figure out if he was the one taking pictures, and you’re making a lot of assumptions. Two, it’s not quite so easy to get a new roommate, so good luck with that.

Molly heads to Phoebe’s room and asks to spend the night. It works out well, because Phoebe’s roommate is spending the night over at Nightingale Hall. You know, Nightmare Hall, what this series is named after but which doesn’t always show up. Phoebe swears that she would never sleep there, but Sandy likes it.


Phoebe promises to help Molly get proof against Norman, even though SHE DOESN’T KNOW SHE’S BEEN THREATENED JESUS FUCKING CHRIST, MOLLY. I don’t care if Phoebe is the Muffin Man here, at this point you trust her and YOU SHOULD FUCKING TELL HER THE WHOLE STORY OH MY GOD WOMAN.

Phoebe falls asleep quickly, but Molly lies awake for a long time wondering who gave Norman the manuscript and what she’s going to do and how shocked she is at Kayla’s betrayal but then again you never really know anyone, etc. She dreams of being chased in circles through the woods by huge black bats with tiny yellow eyes.

The next day, Phoebe and Molly go clothes shopping because that’s exactly what needs to happen right now. While they’re eating lunch in the food court, Phoebe feels like they’re being watched. Molly tells her that she’s felt the same way for days.

Then Phoebe flat out asks her if she was lying about nothing being done to Phoebe’s photograph when she asked about it the night before. So you’re telling me that not only did you not tell her, YOU FUCKING LIED TO HER FACE WHEN SHE ASKED YOU ABOUT IT, CLEARING ALREADY THINKING ABOUT IT, CLEARLY ALREADY WORRIED ABOUT IT. WHAT THE GODDAMN HELL IS WRONG WITH YOU, MOLLY?!


I hope Phoebe is the Muffin Man, and I hope she fucking kills you. I have not cheered on the killer this hard in a long, long while.

There’s another envelop on her bed when she gets home. A photo of her taken the night before when she left the woods after her run back to campus takes up nearly the entire page, and her mouth has been ripped right out of the page.


Molly packs her clothes in a canvas bag, shoves the picture in her raincoat pocket, and flees to the Odyssey office. Hank tells her that the issue is on its way to the printer (YAY) and is disappointed when she doesn’t react. She’s too drained to react, though.


Hank says he was going to ask her to the movies, but she seems distracted. Damn, Hank, that’s a pretty dick way to go about it. Then he asks if Norman’s still bothering her and if she’ll let him talk to Norman and see if he can do anything.

She can’t go to a movie anyway because Phoebe’s practicing in the old rehearsal hall and Molly doesn’t want her to be alone, so she’s going to be there too. Then she invites the entire staff over to have a little party. Even though she’s not sure Phoebe will want company. Even though she knows that a huge part of the reason Phoebe’s going there to practice is for the privacy.

Jesus christ, Molly, you are a shithead.

Everyone’s excited about it, particularly Tony who’s interested in Phoebe and after some gossip at lunch, Molly’s pretty sure Phoebe will be happy to see Tony tonight. Before they leave, Dana grabs Tony’s camera, a Polaroid.

Molly of course freaks out over this. She does admit that someone’s been taking pictures of her without her permission. Tony says it’s not him, he hasn’t used it in weeks. Molly’s not sure she believes him, because both he and Dana have access to the office and the camera. Well, so do all of them, but okay.

Dana thinks the rehearsal hall is even creepier than Nightmare Hall, and I think she’s probably right, with its peeling wallpaper, exposed pipes, old fluorescent lights too dim to really help much — it sounds creepy and wonderful.

Phoebe seems delighted to see them. Ken, Hank, and Donovan run to get food, and Tony stays behind to “protect the ladies.” Cheesy, dude, real cheesy.

Phoebe takes them on a tour of the building. They eat when the guys get back and then Phoebe sits down to play for them. She starts with a wild version of “Shout” instead of the Schubert that Molly expects, and they all start dancing hard enough that they make the entire room shake, the walls, the floors, the ceiling.

Yes, yes, yes, this is a great idea, I’m sure, especially if you’re worried about something damaging your friend’s hands. Good god, Molly.

Sure enough, Molly throws back her head while she laughs and sees a light over the piano dangling from one end. She tries to call out to Phoebe, but the light falls. Molly swears she has no time to stop Phoebe, to scream for her, to do anything, but then a second later she throws herself at the piano bench and knocks Phoebe to the floor at almost the same time the light bulb crashes into the top of the piano and explodes.

Super dramatic imagery, and a great cliffhanger chapter ending EXCEPT MOLLY IS TERRIBLE AND I HATE YOU RIGHT NOW, HOH.

Phoebe’s hands are okay, but she hit her head on the bench. Everyone else has cuts from the glass. Tommie’s got the worst of it, a long, jagged gash across her left arm because she didn’t see it falling, couldn’t move out of the way.

Ken gets help, but as he comes back (maintenance, freshmen from the infirmary — because freshmen are totally helpful in this book — and that campus cop from before), PHoebe wakes up and immediately realises that her hands could have been cut to ribbons.

Maintenance says that he just put a new bulb in the fixture last Friday and there’s no way it could have been loose. He thinks they were messing around with the light, but Hank swears they weren’t.


Campus cop says he’s already checked out Norman and he has an alibi for the entire day. Molly wants to know why he looked into Norman, though, because she knows she didn’t mention his name. Campus cop got a tip that he might have something to do with it. She’s curious as to who did it, and asks Hank later, but he swears he didn’t do it.

The next morning, Molly realises that the next photo that was damaged was the photo of her with her mouth removed and now it’s her turn. She refuses to sit around and wait for something to happen. Instead, she goes to classes, she goes to the Odyssey office, and she goes to Phoebe’s recital.

She sees Norman there, looking solemn and unhappy. 

Molly slips out to see if Norman drove up from his dorm because it’s cold and raining and, if he did, to look at his truck. Sure enough, she finds his truck and looks through it. In the bed, covered by a tarp, she finds a shovel with dried mud, two black plastic pails with dried mud, and six copies of the first issue of Odyssey.

Norman catches her though, because of course he does. When she gets down, he denies that the stuff in the truck is his, but before he can finish, she takes off running. She almost makes it before someone grabs her and covers her mouth with one hand. She’s carried back to the truck and tossed face first into the bed. Something foul-smelling is tied over her mouth and her wrists are tied behind her back.

Molly stays covered by the tarp so she can’t see where they’re going, but she recognises the sound of the woods. When the truck stops and she’s made to walk, they keep the tarp over her head so she still can’t see anything.

This entire thing reads as if Hoh is trying real damn hard to make us think it’s absolutely without a doubt Norman, enough so that it actually reads as if Molly is an idiot for thinking someone not Norman sounds just like Norman. We’ll see which is the truth.

Whoever it is moves the cloth from her mouth to her eyes and then pulls the tarp off her. She tells them that she knows where they are so they can remove the blindfold, but she’s left standing alone. She tries to get loose from the rope around her wrists but has very little luck at it. While she’s doing that, she realises they’ve started a fire, and she’s suddenly terrified that she’ll stumble right into it.

She begs to be untied, and they say they’ll do one hand so she can take the oath, her last ceremony ever so it has to be right. He’s whispering into her ear throughout this which only drives home that Not Norman reading even more.

SURE ENOUGH, what they have her repeat is that “I, Molly Keane, have no talent whatsoever. I have no business writing for Odyssey or any other publication, and I stole that job from someone who deserved it more.”


Molly slams her elbow upward and drives it into their chin, stunning them. She tears off the blindfold and finds Donovan.

What a shock. I’m shocked. Are you shocked?

He screams at her for hitting him, like he doesn’t deserve that as more. He calls Norman a weakling and says that he’s setting Norman up to take the fall and then he shoves her toward the fire. He villain monologues, too, because he’s an idiot, and says that Norman did put the mud in her car and have Kayla ink her clothes, but everything else was Donvan, who was there at the first ceremony, she just never noticed him. Donovan destroyed the office, he gave the article to Norman, he talks on and on about being so special in high school and then his coach told him he wasn’t good enough to play college ball and he was a copyboy and not editor, etc. He’s in a rage over the talented people in the Odyssey. He hit Molly and Stacey, he didn’t go get food with Hank and Ken but stayed behind and loosened the light, he sent the photos, he did all of it.

Molly manages to unbuckle her belt to get her hand free enough to grab a log. He talks on and on about how no one has paid their dues here, none of the talented ones should get anything, blah blah blah so fucking boring. She slams a log into his head, putting all of us out of our misery at least temporarily and takes off running.

Donovan gives chase not too long after, though. He keeps shouting about how he’ll get her and Hank will let him write once she’s gone and she has to understand that he needs to get back what he had before, blah blah blah blah. God, this is so fucking boring, which is not what I want from the climax of the damn book, especially after Molly has annoyed me so much for so long.

He manages to get ahead of her on the path and she insults his writing, saying that Hank really thinks he writes like a little kid. He throws himself at her and she waits until the last second before she leaps across the path and lets him stumble into the cold, black water of the river.

Oh, god, epilogue.

Phoebe and Tony are flirting over his drafting table while she draws “stick figures” as he teases her. Hank and Molly are putting reviews of the second issue into a scrapbook, along with Ava, Tommie, Ken, and Dana. Wait, what the fuck, how many reviews does this goddamn campus journal get?

Molly’s going to room with Phoebe now, she’s going to write about the fragile human mind inspired by Donovan next, Ken talks about how Donovan is forever crazy now because yeah, fuck you Ken, and Molly starts ignoring everyone as she thinks about her next article.

Final Thoughts

Wing starts building a fire and looking for a match because she wants to burn down all of Nightmare Hall right now. I was so excited to pick up recapping this series. Why? Why was I excited about that? I should not have been if this book is any indication. Molly is terrible, lies to her alleged friends, and ends up saving the day and being a hero. Crazy = dangerous. Hoh is a dick.

The first half of the book was far too heavy with backstory, the ending was rushed as hell, Molly carried the idiot ball so, so often, and also she lied to everyone but especially her BFF FOR NO GODDAMN REASON WHAT THE FUCK MOLLY WHY WHY WOULD YOU DO THAT WHY WOULD YOU WRITE HER LIKE THIS HOH WHY.

I hate everything.