Title: The Baby-Sitters Club #9: The Ghost at Dawn’s House by Ann M. Martin
Summary: Dawn has always thought there was a secret passage hidden in her house. But she never thought there was a ghost… until now. All kinds of creepy things go on whenever Dawn’s at home. There are even spooky noises behind her bedroom wall!
Dawn is sure there’s a ghost in her house. And so are the other baby-sitters. But they’re so busy with their baby-sitting jobs that they hardly have time for a ghost hunt. Will Dawn and her friends ever solve the mystery, or will Dawn have to share her house… with a ghost?
Tagline: Creaky stairs, spooky noises, secret passages — it must be a ghost!
That tagline sure did escalate quickly! I’m thrilled to be recapping this one. I love Dawn, I love ghost stories and secret passages and spooky noises. It’s September, which means my Halloween horror season has already begun, because I believe in long celebrations. [Necromommycon: Me too, me too! I’m already into my ancient-horror-movie binge, which starts up in late summer with monster beach movies and continues on through Halloween. And we’ve got costumes and some interior decorations happening, too. I hold off on the outdoor stuff until the end of the month because the neighbours have enough to put up with, I think.] [Wing: Some of my neighbours have put up their decorations and I am so thrilled I’m actually considering sending them a thank you card.] [Dove: *sigh* Being English sucks.]
We’re going to have a good, good time.
We open with the first meeting of the BSC after they’ve been apart for two whole entire weeks, the longest they’ve been apart since the club began (but for those months before Dawn even moved to Stoneybrook, which I suppose don’t count). Claudia and family went to a resort in New Hampshire. Mary Anne and Stacey were off in Sea City working for the Pike family. Kristy and her family stayed put to bond. And Dawn went out to California, with her brother Jeff, to visit their dad.
I — I don’t even know what to do with this level of continuity. This sure isn’t Sweet Valley.
Dawn talks about the special attention they got because they were flying alone. Now, I flew for the first time in my teens, and I flew alone, and I certainly did not get any sort of special treatment. THIS BOOK LIED TO ME.
While she enjoyed her trip, she’s also feeling a little down about it, because her dad was Disneyland Daddy — you know, the dad who rushes around doing everything he can for them over their short visit because he never sees them otherwise. The problem is, Disneyland Daddy doesn’t feel like her actual father. Better than no father at all, she decides, and moves on.
Recap of the club, responsibilities, rules, roles, etc. Claudia provides chocolate kisses that were hidden in a hollow book that she bought at a flea market. She also bought a ring with a green dragon’s head on it, which prompts Dawn to talk about how Claudia is Japanese and therefore exotic-looking. See, Why I Hate Being Called an “Exotic Beauty” by Beth Shapouri.
Claudia also has crackers for Stacey and Dawn, but the wording is kind of hilarious: she passes around the candy, but tosses the crackers to Stacey and Dawn. Subtle, Claud.
Mary Anne and Stacey talk about their time in Sea City, and Dawn is feeling jealous over how close they are. Mary Anne is her BFF in Stoneybrook, and though Dawn is cool with Kristy being Mary Anne’s other best friend, it’s harder to know that Stacey and Mary Anne now share something that the rest of the club doesn’t. And that is fantastic. I love the realistic tension here, and how the girls aren’t perfect (at this point), but still struggle with problems and pettiness and jealousy, etc.
Update from Mary Anne and Stacey: Vanessa Pike now speaks in rhyme, Byron is afraid of water, and there’s something going on between Nicky and the triplets, who never want Nicky to hang out with them even though he wants to and doesn’t really have anyone else to play with.
Dawn’s baby-sitting adventure: she sat for her next door neighbours who have two kids named Clover and Daffodil because their parents were hippies in the sixties, flower children, her dad calls them.
Claudia’s baby-sitting adventure: She mostly sat for a kid named Skip, took him wading and stuff, and then a couple other kids, too. Because god forbid you go to a resort with your family, including your grandmother who is still recovering from a stroke, and baby-sit rather than spend time with them. (I know, I know, things are tense in the Kishi household, but still.)
Kristy was the only one in Stoneybrook, of course, and she had a couple of good adventures: first job for the Perkinses, new clients who moved into Kristy’s old house and have two kids, Myriah who takes all kinds of lessons and Gabbie who is younger and a little formal with names and precious.
Next chapter, Dawn tells us how different she, Jeff, and her mom are. Sharon is forgetful and absent-minded and messy, though not a complete slob. Dawn’s room is neat and put together, “the calm eye in the center of a hurricane.” Jeff isn’t as bad as Sharon, but he’s not neat, either. Things have gotten worse around the house since Sharon started working, because now she doesn’t have time for a lot of cleaning or cooking dinner or, and the worst part to Dawn, dating. Specifically, dating Mary Anne’s dad, Richard Spier.
Dawn goes looking for Jeff so they can start dinner. A storm is blowing up, and she’s both a little creeped out and a little delighted. Their house is old, built in 1795, and while she loves them, they creep her out sometimes, too, particularly the thought that some of the people who lived there over the years must have died there, too.
Jeff’s hanging out in the barn, swinging on the rope in the haymow, and he and Dawn each manage to scare the other, which is kind of adorable.
Their dinner: salad with cottage cheese, pineapple, peaches, and coconut topping; vegetable casserole (Sharon made it over the weekend, they heat it up); and herbal tea. That actually sounds delicious but for the coconut topping; Dawn says that Kristy, in particular, likes to tease about their food, but they like health food.
It’s hot and muggy enough that they eat outside, and while Dawn finishes the tea, alone in the house, she thinks about how she’s certain that there’s a secret passage somewhere in it and she wants to find one. This is in part inspired by Claudia lending her the Nancy Drew book The Hidden Staircase.
They eat outside, enjoying themselves, right up until the storm hits and they have to race to get everything inside. Dawn curls up in bed that night with a library book that she’s been waiting on all summer: Ghosts and Spooks, Chills and Thrills: Stories NOT to be Read After Dark. So … the BSC version of Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark? She loves reading something creepy while the storm rages, the wind howling, the rain pelting the windows, and lots of thunder. I love it, and I would like to be reading a horror story during a storm immediately. Come on, weather. It’s time for autumn storms!
Dawn freaks herself out when the lights flicker and the windows rattle, actually screaming so much that Sharon runs upstairs to check on her. This is adorable. I love you Dawn. Dawn’s not completely convinced, though, because the tapping isn’t coming from the windows but from the wall between her room and Sharon’s room.
She baby-sits for the Barretts the next morning and though the big storm ends, the rain itself doesn’t, so Buddy, Suzi, and Marnie are cranky and wild and noisy. Dawn’s glad to only have them for the morning, and by the time she gets home, she has a great idea: she’ll invite all of the BSC over to search the house for a hidden passage.
God, I love the friendships in this series.
They arrive within the hour and Dawn takes charge, telling them she wants to be scientific about it. Kristy is skeptical over whether that is possible considering what they’re doing, but come on, you know she means methodical. They’re going to tap on walls and floors listening for a hollow sound, feel around for springs or catches; shine flashlights over the walls to show secret openings, etc. Claudia is super helpful here, because she’s read pretty much every Nancy Drew to exist at this point.
Conveniently, another loud storm hits as they’re making plans, which I love. They know they’re creeping themselves out, but as Mary Anne points out, it’s fun to do that and they should take advantage of the creepy weather. I love this Mary Anne and I hope some of that adventurous nature threads through later books, but I don’t really remember if it does or not.
They agree to split up for the first and second floors and to check the basement and the attic all together later, though Dawn is reluctant, because she’d read this story, “Things Unseen,” about a man who moved into an old house, hears spooky things coming from the basement, and learns that awhile back an old lady (“crazy” she says and fuck you and Martin both) buried her — but we don’t get to know what, because Mary Anne and Stacey both leave the room, too scared for the rest, so of course we don’t get the end, either. Damn it, Martin.
So in the end, Kristy suggests the scaredy-cats, Mary Anne and Stacey, team up and take the first floor, while Claudia, Dawn, and Kristy handle the second floor. Stacey is offended by that, but Mary Anne latches onto the idea.
Dawn splits up the assignments in their group and they start in Jeff’s room. All they find is a bit of molding near Jeff’s bureau that looks different than the other walls, but they can’t get it to do anything. Dawn’s room has a better result. She’s tapping on the wall between her room and Sharon’s room when there is a thud instead of a tap. Claudia searches the fancy molding on the wall, but can’t get anything to open. Alas.
Even though they haven’t done any of the rest of the rooms (there’s at least Sharon’s bedroom, a spare bedroom, and a bathroom, if not more), Kristy suggests they show off for Mary Anne and Stacey and go check out the attic. Dawn’s even more reluctant at this point, both because of that short story and because of another one which is basically a hitchhiking ghost story.
Kristy gets her way, at least until they’re halfway up the attic stairs and the door slams shut behind them. They race back down, but the door starts to open all by itself and they hear a low moan followed by a growl — and then, apropos nothing else, the three of them start screaming.
It is, of course, Stacey and Mary Anne getting back at them for that whole scaredy-cat comment. They haven’t found anything downstairs, but they haven’t checked the den yet, either, so they go back to do that and Dawn says they have to get back at them. There’s a vent in Sharon’s room that goes into the den, so they go there and wail and moan into it until the girls start shrieking.
While this is happening, Jeff sneaks up on the threesome wearing a Halloween costume and scares them into screams, too.
Ridiculous. And adorable.
It’s Mary Anne’s turn to sit for the Perkinses, and it’s a little weird for her, because they live next door instead of the Thomases, and Mary Anne misses her BFF. I don’t blame her. She ends up having a great time, though, especially when she learns that Mrs Perkins is pregnant. Gabbie lets the news slip when she draws a picture of her mom with a baby growing in her tummy. (We also meet their Perkins animals, R.C. the cat [for Rat Catcher] and Chewbacca the dog.) Mary Anne takes the girls around the neighbourhood, because they haven’t met anyone their own age, and they really bond, which is sweet. She even shows Myriah that their bedroom windows face each other, so they can talk in secret. Which, to be fair, is a little creepier when she’s doing that with a kid instead of her BFF, but I’m going to let it roll. [Dove: Yep, I raised an eyebrow here too.]
Dawn heads over to the Pike’s, leaving Jeff at home in the one room with an ac unit. God, that would suck in the hot, humid summers. (It’s nearly 100 degrees during this chapter, which Dawn says is too hot even for them. When it comes with that much humidity, I agree.)
When she gets there, Mallory, the oldest Pike, is thrilled to be the second baby-sitter; with eight kids, the Pikes always have two sitters (see: Mary Anne and Stacey in Sea City), but they’ve finally decided Mallory is old enough. That’s cool. The kids are all finding ways to keep cool, except for Nicky, who is in a bad mood and is sulking. They’ve given him a two-block rule, which is that he can go off on his own during the day as long as he stays within two blocks of the house. Dawn sends Mallory out to check on the girls and goes to check on the triplets, who are playing in the dark with their glow-in-the-dark space creatures while the ac blasts. I don’t blame them for any of those choices. Nicky, meanwhile, is holding a book but not reading it; when Dawn invites him to come play in the backyard, he says he’s a boy, he won’t play with girls, he’s supposed to play with boys. Cool, cool, the gender divide sets in so young. Poor kid.
Just when Dawn is going to see if the triplets will play with Nicky, they head off to go swimming and have invited Jeff to join them. Nicky storms off on his own, and though Dawn knows he can go off like that, she feels bad for him and wants to find him and talk to him. He doesn’t answer when she shouts, so she calls Mary Anne over to baby-sit with Mallory while Dawn goes to look for him. This is … a little weird, considering Mrs Pike literally just told her not to worry if he takes off on his own.
Sure enough, she starts freaking out when she can’t find him DESPITE BEING TOLD NOT TO DO THAT, and is both relieved and angry when he finally turns up, looking dirty and sweaty but pleased that he found a way to cool off.
When Dawn gets home, Jeff is gone, and she’s still a little freaked out over Nicky disappearing. And, okay, she is still shaken up by that time Buddy Barrett actually did disappear while she was baby-sitting for him, so I guess I should cut her some slack.
Dawn takes “The Haunting of Weatherstaff Moor” out to the barn to read, even though she knows it’s not the coolest place to be, but it is the most relaxing. She stays on the ground floor instead of going up to the hayloft because heat rises and even manages to find a spot on the floor that feels a little cool —
— because it’s actually a trap door and she falls into a tunnel about five feet down. No wonder it’s cold. And, oh yeah, SHE’S FOUND A SECRET PASSAGE. She doesn’t allow herself to believe it at first, but it soon becomes clear that she’s found it. She manages to find a ladder back into the barn (and has a gross moment thinking about all the spiders she could touch, UGH), but then immediately gets a flashlight and goes back down to explore. She’s much braver without the dark, stormy weather.
The passage heads toward the house for a good distance, until she thinks she’s somewhere inside the house because she has to go up a narrow wood staircase. She feels around the walls and finds the right spot that opens one wall straight into her bedroom. Sure enough, it’s that one wall with the fancy molding that sounded hollow the last time they all searched.
Dawn goes back through the tunnel to explore one more time and finds a metal button that she thinks is absolutely ancient; it’s squashed in the middle, but it looks like there’s a shield stamped on it. A few feet farther and she finds a large tarnished buckle that is too big for a belt buckle and not the right shape — a shoe buckle, maybe, but no one has worn those since the 1800s, she tells herself. The last thing she finds is an old key.
She immediately starts imagining why those things are in the secret passage and decides that someone must have died there, maybe someone locked inside trying to escape using the key. So, of course, this means their house is haunted, and now she knows what’s really making those creepy sounds she hears.
Dawn. I love you.
By Saturday, Kristy blames Dawn for everyone having ghosts on the brain, including Karen, Andrew, and David Michael while Kristy is sitting for them. More storms have come in, and while Dawn and Jeff have a ghostly adventure at their house, Kristy and her siblings have one at her house.
It starts by Karen telling a scary story about what made old Ben Brewer so weird. He’s the ghost that haunts the third floor of the mansion, and one night, during a big storm, a headless ghost was coming for him no matter how he locked himself into a room; the ghost came down the chimney. Just as Karen gets to that part, Boo-Boo, the old fat cat, goes flying out into the hall and the dog starts chasing him. Karen is certain that Ben Brewer is now haunting them and making Boo-Boo act weird. [Dove: I’m not attached to much in this series at all, but Karen is amazing. I love her. I mean, she’s a pain in the neck, but she’s awesome.] [Wing: (a) Most of the BSC recapping fandom hates her, so this delights me. (b) She has her whole entire own series.]
The kids and the pets all end up sleeping in Kristy’s bed, and the next morning, her older brothers wake her up laughing at her, everyone else still piled around her in the bed.
Meanwhile, Jeff and Dawn had their own adventure. Dawn hasn’t told anyone about the passage, at first because she was excited and feeling like Nancy Drew and then because she’s terrified of the ghost. But that same night as Kristy’s adventure, Dawn is sitting for Jeff and can’t stop thinking about the haunted passage. (She’s already grumpy because Sharon is on a date with Mr Gwynne rather than Richard, Mary Anne’s dad; Dawn only likes it when her mom dates him, she doesn’t want anyone else in her mom’s life. Which — I get that you don’t want Mr Gwynne as a stepdad, maybe, but Sharon can date whomever she wants to date, come on, kid.)
The storm hits while Dawn and Jeff are eating dinner and watching a rerun of All in the Family, because of course they can’t watch anything modern for them (All in the Family aired in the 70s), and as soon as they get the windows closed, the power goes out.
Jeff gets bored, and Dawn starts to feel “deliciously scared” about the secret passage, not the awful scared she felt earlier in the week. She reads him a couple of stories from that ghost story collection she’s been reading, but he keeps being bored. Alas, Dawn, not everyone loves ghost stories. (And they are allowed to be wrong. *g*)
Finally, she shows him the secret passage in an attempt to give them something they can do by flashlight. Dawn’s put the button, buckle, and key in her bureau and without that evidence, the ghost seems to be less scary. Honestly, I’d think that would make it scarier, because now you’ve taken their stuff, but you do you, Dawnie. [Dove: I’m with you here. Is there a ghost story where taking one of the dead person’s items has ever ended well? There probably is, but I can’t think of one. Don’t take things from the dead. They get cross.]
Jeff loves the secret passage at first, but when he finds a Buffalo nickel, they both start to get a little freaked out. That gets worse when Dawn steps on something that crunches; she swears it is part of a skeleton, but really it’s an ice cream cone. One that Jeff doesn’t recognise, because it is not yellow with a flat bottom. Now, I’d make fun of them for this, but they’ve had maybe two ice cream cones in their lives what with all that health-food focus (dude, ice cream is amazing, embrace it), so I will refrain. Anyway, this ice cream cone seems to be old-fashioned, pointy and brown. WAFFLE CONE. The very best kind. Though I actually prefer a waffle bowl.
Dawn tells Jeff that she thinks the passage is haunted, and he demands that she prove it. She tells him about the moaning she’s heard, which does freak him out a little, and the other stuff she’s found, and how the cone and the nickel weren’t there when she found those things — and he finally gets nervous.
Dawn also decides that they should never have moved anything, so they need to put everything back. They’re just about to do that when there’s a creak and a moan, so they bolt back along the tunnel to Dawn’s room; Jeff drops the nickel while they run.
Back in Dawn’s room, they’re still in the darkness because the power is out, though they’d forgotten about it, and when they start hearing a bunch of creaking, they both freak out. They call Sharon because they’re so scared, and this is such a fun little Lost Boys moment (when Sam calls Lucy home from her date because he’s terrified, ruining the date and making him look kind of ridiculous). Sharon comes home as soon as she hears about the secret passage, bringing Trip with her (that is quite a first name). [Necromommycon: I’ve seen people make jokes about Sharon being a stoner for years, but this is the FIRST TIME I ever noticed she dated a man named Trip. ]
Jeff and Dawn make fun of the preppiness of his name while they wait, which makes me laugh, then they realise that the ghost could be sneaking into Dawn’s room at any moment so they have to block off the wall.
UMMMMM. Why would a wall stop a ghost? Why would anything? They are incorporeal. Your logic is failing you here, Dawn.
Sharon and Trip arrive home just in time for the lights to come back on and all four of them scare each other, which is kind of adorable. Then Sharon points out the flaw in that whole barricading the wall plan, which makes me like her a lot. Trip explores the secret passage and finds no one in it, though he does bring Dawn the nickel again. The adults agree they will lock both ends of the tunnel just for safety, because it is an entrance into the house, but that doesn’t make Dawn feel better, because it does nothing to stop the ghost.
When it’s time for bed, Dawn throws the nickel back into the passageway (but not the other stuff) and goes to sleep on the couch because she can’t stay in her bedroom. Dawn finds a book that Sharon brought home from her parents’ house, A History of Stoneybrooke, and is super intrigued by it. (The author is Enos Cotterling, which is a great name, and it was published in 1872, more than 100 years before Dawn is reading it.) There’s a lot of kind of boring sections (tax, imports and exports, property laws), but the last chapter is about legends, and, of course, Dawn jumps there first.
The legend she reads first is the unsolved mystery of Mister Jared Mullray: around 1810, the Mullrays fell into deep debt to Mathias Bradford. The only thing of worth they owned was their home and small form, Wood Acres. They were forced to sell everything, including their furniture and most of their belongings. Old Man Mullray took his family up to Peacham, Vermont — everyone but his thirty-year-old son, Jared. He loved Wood Acres a little too much, Cotterling says. How so? Was he fucking the trees? Anyway, the day the family left, Jared shouted that he was never leaving. His voice came from somewhere between the house and the barn, but no one could see him anywhere. HMMM. I wonder where he could have been.
No one ever saw Jared again. There are lots of rumours; one was that he ran off to Alaska, another is that he was still hiding somewhere in Wood Acres, until eventually he died and his ghost remained, prowling for food and trinkets and things he could sell to pay Mr Bradford and get the farm back.
Dawn twigs onto the fact that Wood Acres is probably her house and her barn pretty quick after that, which pleases me, but now she is even more freaked out.
Claudia baby-sitting chapter. She’s sitting for the Newtons, four-year-old Jamie and baby Lucy. Her job was late enough that all she had to do was put him to bed, but he refused to go to sleep, and it was keeping her from watching a good tv show she wanted to see. (a) Baby-sitting comes first, Claudia. (b) Awww, the days before streaming and DVRs, etc. Jamie does a lot of things to try to stay up, including singing Jeremiah Was a Bullfrog (or “big blue frog”), which he’s been singing all day, and showing Claudia a bunch of different things down in the rec room, and begging Claudia to wash his favourite pajamas, which are dirty, so he can stay up until they’re done, and then asking for multiple stories and lots of drinks of water. That’s — the extent of the chapter, really, and it does nothing to move the overall story along. Most of the sitting chapters don’t, but at least some of them tie into the overall story (Kristy and the ghost stories, e.g.), so this one feels particularly egregious. [Dove: I actually found them really eye-poking, probably because I don’t have the nostalgia factor. I felt like every time the plot moved along, we had to take a time out and listen to some pointless side-story. It was a bit frustrating and stopped me getting immersed in the story.]
Mary Anne and Dawn are hanging out in the hayloft one day when Mary Anne says that she thinks she’s too afraid of things and that makes things feel worse than they really are. See: being afraid of boys before Sea City with Stacey, afraid of making new friends before Dawn, afraid of the barn …
Mary Anne lets it go at that (to oggle over Cam Geary in a Sixteen magazine), but Dawn teases her to prove how brave she is now and takes her into the secret passage via the house instead of the barn, for three reasons: (1) more dramatic to watch the wall swing open (true); (2) with the wall open, there is some light in the passage (true); and (3) it’s a lot less scary (debatable).
Dawn makes Mary Anne lead the way, and Mary Anne has calmed down by the time they reach the stairs, but Dawn is panicking, because she threw the nickel back into the passageway after the Trip-Man gave it to her, but she couldn’t have thrown it too far, and now it is gone. The only answer, she decides, is that Jared took it because he wants to give it to Mathias Bradford.
They’re pretty far into the passageway when Mary Anne stops because she hears something weird. Dawn doesn’t hear it, but she does see peanut shells on the side of the passage, which had definitely not been in there the last time she was there and surely no one had been in there since.
This, of course, scares Mary Anne, enough so that she runs back to Dawn’s bedroom, leaving Dawn mostly in the dark, and tries to shut the wall on her. I cackle reading this every time. Once they’re both in the house, Dawn summarises everything for her, and we learn that despite Trip’s suggestion, they only lock Dawn’s bedroom wall, and only at night. They couldn’t figure out how to lock the trapdoor, so they put a bale of hay on it. [Necromommycon: For some reason Mary Anne almost shutting Dawn in reminds me of when my BFF and I were babysitting her younger brother. We watched The Shining, because obviously we were much worse babysitters than the BSC, and then decided it would be fun to put on identical nightgowns and stand at the bottom of the stairs (their bedrooms were in the basement) going “Come play with us…forever, and ever.” Only it completely backfired, because after an initial yelp he just went to bed, but by then we’d scared ourselves too badly to sleep and were still huddled up on the couch, more or less in tears, when her parents got home. It was completely our own fault and we completely deserved it. I still howl with laughter every time I remember it.] [Dove: Now that is a baby-sitting side-story I can totally get behind.] [Wing: This is the best.]
… there are so many problems with this resolution. A few: (1) so you lock it at night, but anyone could come through it during the day and hide to murder you once you get home. (2) you can lock a goddamn wall but not a trapdoor? (3) you can’t lock a trapdoor? I can think of half a dozen different ways to do it just off the top of my head. (4) You know at least one end of the passageway is open at all times, but you’ve never considered that someone else might have found it? Really?
They hear a thump, they both freak out, but then Dawn runs into the passageway to check on things, though Mary Anne stays back to “guard the entrance.” This time, Dawn finds a book, Great Dog Tales, that looks about a hundred years old. This sends her bolting back to Mary Anne.
Stacey baby-sitting chapter. She’s at the Pikes, sitting for Nicky, Vanessa, Claire, and Margo. Nicki disappears off on his own, and Stacey is certain that he breaks the two-block rule but can’t prove it. And Vanessa and Margo use a weird new shampoo on Claire that foams up a lot and won’t rinse out for ages. It is a concentrated shampoo, but the used the entire trial-size bottle on Claire.
Then Nicky goes off on his own WHICH HE IS ALLOWED TO DO HOLY SHIT CALM THE FUCK DOWN and forty-five minutes later he isn’t back and Claire still has a head of foam which makes me laugh and laugh.
Stacey calls Dawn in to help, and Dawn is almost back to her house when she finds Nicky coming toward her, very dusty and with a vaguely familiar odour clinging to him. HUH I WONDER WHERE HE POSSIBLY COULD HAVE BEEN. He’s also chewing an enormous wad of gum, which bursts all over his face when he blows a bubble.
Dawn drops him off and then heads out, leaving Stacey with the four kids again. Vanessa and Nicky snap at each other, and Nicky tells her that she’s just jealous he doesn’t have a dog friend who can rescue people from avalanches.
Dawn, talking directly to us, the readers, says that she didn’t hear any of that, but if she had, it might have helped her stop worrying about the passage. Even without it, she’s finally getting an idea about what’s happening, and doesn’t believe she’ll hear anything else that day. And she’s right.
She goes to search the passage and the dog book is gone, which supports her theory, but when she finds an ancient key at the bottom of the steps, she doubts it a little. And then, late one night, she hears moaning from the passage, which sends her down to the living room to sleep.
The next day, she sits for the Pikes: Mallory is more a baby-sitter’s helper, but they also have the triplets and Nicky. For awhile the boys play together, they all have a lunch that is filled with what Dawn thinks is weird food (fried bologna and fried peanut butter and jelly are two of them; random baby!Wing fact: my dad loves fried bologna and when I was a wee child, I used to call it dirty bologna [Dove: True confession time: I’ve never had bologna, I didn’t even know what it was until I googled it.] [Wing: Well, next visit, we’ll have that.]). The triplets pick on Nicky a lot, until they finally trick him and pull his chair out from under him, which sends Nicky running off on his own and infuriates Dawn enough that she makes them clean up the kitchen and says she’s telling Mrs Pike about everything that’s happened.
She leaves Mallory in charge and goes off looking for Nicky; her anger turns to excitement, though, because she can test her theory, and she heads straight for the barn. The bale of hay is moved and the trapdoor is open. She gets a flashlight and goes looking for Nicky, after giving herself a long talk out of her being afraid. He runs from her until he runs out of tunnel, and then he’s super sad that she found his secret place. (…oh god, that can be read so dirty.)
Dawn shows him that it opens into her bedroom and they talk about how he found it; he ran off on his own sometime, and the back of the barn is exactly two blocks from his house, so he wasn’t breaking the rules to read in there. He found the trapdoor and went exploring, though mostly he stays right under the ladder, not wanting to go into their house. Aww, kid. Dawn tells him that she kept finding things and thinking it was a ghost; before he can get truly freaked out, she reassures him that he is the ghost. Everything is explained except for that last key that Dawn found, which she swears wasn’t there before but which Nicky didn’t bring with him. (Also, he never hid in the passage at night.)
They go back to the Pikes’ house and tell Mrs Pike everything. (Mallory handled the triplets really well while Dawn was with Nicky.) They decide that it’s okay for him to keep using the passage so long as Sharon approves, but he has to tell an adult about it, first, and someone has to make sure the passage is still in good shape.
Nicky proclaims Dawn his favourite baby-sitter in the world.
Baby-sitters Club sleepover at Dawn’s house. They argue over what movie to watch (Kristy: Ghostbusters, Claudia: Star Wars, Stacey: Mary Poppins (as we know, her favourite movie), Mary Anne: Sixteen Candles, and Dawn: The Parent Trap), and when they try to vote, they end up in a five-way tie, so Kristy pulls two movies out of a hat: Sixteen Candles and Ghostbusters.
Claudia, Mary Anne, and Kristy brought junk food with them (stuff to make s’mores, potato chips, M&Ms, and crackers for Dawn and Stacey). Dawn and Stacey still feel pretty left out, so Dawn tells her about the secret passage and they come up with a plan for teasing the others. Once the movie is done, Dawn talks them into waiting before they start Sixteen Candles and gets them to come up to her room to hang out for awhile. Stacey and Dawn go down to get sodas (Claudia is skeptical it isn’t Perrier or sparkling, salt-less mineral water from an artesian well, and I am dying — and now I want some sparkling water — but Sharon bought real soda with sugar just for the party). [Necromommycon: That is pretty hilarious. I love you, Claudia.] They sneak around to the barn and into the tunnel and then start rapping and scratching at the walls, listening to how their friends react.
Mary Anne shrieks that it’s Jared, the ghost of the secret passage; Kristy wants to know what ghost, but Claudia locks in on that whole there’s an actual secret passage. When they finally have their friends screaming, Dawn opens the wall and they find the other three girls huddling on the bed. At least they didn’t run out of the room, Dawn.
Dawn and Stacey laugh themselves to tears and then they are all about to go explore the passage when they hear something rapping on the wall. It’s not Sharon. It’s not Jeff. And it’s after midnight, so it’s not Nicky.
They spend the night in the living room, just in case. [Necromommycon: And so would I, honestly. I’m only a fully rational adult during daylight hours.]
The next morning, though, Dawn is all chill and happy because she has such good friends and they have very little time before school starts and a bunch of things to do, and no ghost is going to get in the way of that.
Friendships! Continuity! Possibly a ghost! I love this book so much. Sometimes I wish it was creepier — or, no, sometimes I wish I had a really good fic to read that made it creepier, because the book is great for what it is and I wouldn’t necessarily want to change that, but I would like it to go full horror.
I love Dawn, I love the friendships, I love the realistic sibling relationships — the only thing I don’t love is the lack of logic around the passageway and locking it and whether someone not a ghost is accessing it, but still. It’s fun, and I’m glad I got to recap this one.
[Dove: I’m going to say that I found this book a real slog to get through. Years ago – seriously, years – Wing told me that BSC never has real ghosts (we were having a babyfandom-off, Sweet Valley won on the supernatural, but fell down on the ridiculous plots), so I knew that there wouldn’t be ghosts. I don’t know if that made it better or worse. I think I’d feel really swindled if I had thought it would get supernatural, but on the other hand, I had to force myself to read it because I knew it was just humans. I found the baby-sitting side-stories to be really intrusive of the flow. Overall, I really didn’t like this book. I wish I’d read it when I was younger, because I think tween!Dove would have enjoyed it.]