The Old Willis Place by Mary Downing HahnThe Old Willis Place by Mary Downing Hahn

I figured I’d add a timely ghost story for the Halloween season.

This is another ghost story by Hahn. You may remember the Caudill winner All The Lovely Bad Ones by the same author. This eerie story takes place on the grounds of an old Victorian mansion. Georgie and Diana are brother and sister. They live in a cave on the property of the Old Willis Place where Mrs. Willis used to wreak havoc on the kids because they were mischief makers. Now Mrs. Willis is dead and the kids still haven’t been able to leave the place year after year. Diana is aware of rules. She can’t go in the mansion. She can’t let anyone see her. Georgie is sick of the rules and angry that they are bored and can’t go out into the world. He is also very anxious about the house.

One day, a new caretaker moves in with his daughter Lissa. He is paid to look after the house while he works on his novel. Lissa feels the presence of other people on the property, but her father thinks she’s being silly. Lissa’s bike and teddy bear gets stolen. Her diary is read. She is mad. And a little scared.

All Diana has ever wanted is a friend. And Lissa has new toys and books that Georgia can “borrow” so he doesn’t get bored. In her loneliness, Diana finally decides to break the rules and show herself to Lissa. She wants a friend. Lissa doesn’t know the truth about the siblings, but eery events lead them to slowly piece together the truth together.

This book has a good mix of character introspection as well as thrilling action (found in the kids’ explorations). The narrator doesn’t reveal who the kids really are. Readers probably guess, given the subtitle, but the way it happened is the surprise in the book. And the telling of it is wonderfully chilling. Each of the characters has their own personality and motives. We even get to peak into Lissa’s mind with her few journal entries scattered throughout the story. The end is satisfying and it is a mild ghost story that middle grade readers will enjoy.

If you’re looking for a spookier one, try Wait Til Helen Comes by Hahn. Or for spooky yet girly, try The Dollhouse Murders by Betty Ren Wright.