The Headless Ghost

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One of the many reasons I love The Haunted Mansion ride at Disneyland is the lore. There's the Stretching room at the beginning, and after you board the Doom Buggy, you see the Endless Hallway. There's a row of rattling doors. Madame Leota's Seance Room. The Ballroom. The Bride's Attic. The Graveyard. Each room's lore is a puzzle piece for an overarching story known collectively as The Haunted Mansion.

That's kind of the theme of this week's book. A pair of best friends may be the protagonists, but the house is the real main character. It has secrets, history, and a cast of wacky characters. Just like The Haunted Mansion.

Stephanie and Duane haunt their neighborhood. No, they're not the titular headless ghosts. They're just some little jerks who run around at night throwing fake spiders and howling outside people's windows.

And I love them.

They have such a great friendship based on mutual respect and similar senses of humor. He likes her costumes. She likes his jokes. This is the most balanced relationship I've seen so far in a Stine novel. But not everything is rosy.

Stephanie is growing tired of scaring everyone in the neighborhood. She needs a challenge. She needs a change of venue. She needs Hill House.

No, I'm not talking about either the Shirley Jackson house or the Netflix series. Neither one of those houses offer tours. This Hill House has guided tours. Stephanie and Duane have been on the house tour so many times that they have a favorite guide, Otto, and they have each stop memorized, including the story of the headless ghost.

Basically, a sea captain left his wife back at the house, but he never returned - at least - he never returned alive! See, he was lost at sea and his wife waited for him, but she gave up and left. He returned as a ghost and kept calling for his wife, but she never returned. Many years later, another family moved in with a son named Andrew. Andrew was a real jerk and he tormented the sea captain, so the sea captain pulled off Andrew's head and hid it somewhere in the bowels of the house.

That was more gruesome than I expected in a Goosebumps book.

Anyway, Stephanie wants that head, and they're willing to sneak away from the tour to get it.

And that's exactly what the kids do. Eventually. The tour mostly consists of teenagers and the tour guide for the night is the aforementioned favorite, Otto. He brings them to the room that once belonged to a young girl named Hannah:

"After her brother was killed, Hannah went crazy," Otto told us in a hushed voice. "All day long, for eighty years, she sat in her rocking chair over there in the corner. And she played with her dolls. She never left her room. Ever."

He pointed to a worn rocking chair. "Hannah died there. An old lady surrounded by her dolls."

That's how I want to go - only with books. An old lady surrounded by her books. And her k-pop photo cards.

Duane sees a kid staring at them from the bottom of the stairs. Before Duane can confront the kid, Stephanie grabs his arm and leads him away from the group. It's time to search for that head!

I didn't think the chances were too good. How do you find a hundred-year-old head? And what if you do find it?

Duane has a point.

They enter the Green Room, which is so named because the wallpaper contains green vines. Clearly, the owners weren't thinking about the resale value of the house, otherwise, they should have chosen a neutral color like white or beige. It's like these people were thinking about living in the house instead of selling it in a few years at a 300% markup.

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