T. S. Rue: Nightmare Inn: Room 13

nightmare inn room 13
This is a WAY better cover than my Kindle copy. It looks like Mary Anne from The Babysitters Club is dating a ghost now.

I know that Nightmare Inn was the first book in this series, but I’m not sure about the rest of them. My paperback copy of The Attic claims that Room 13 is the second book in the series, but the large number of creepy teenagers in the Inn makes me suspect that maybe The Pool came first.

I guess it doesn’t matter. Wikipedia says they all came out in the same year, so maybe they were plotted simultaneously and that’s how the characters are able to overlap.

I really wish I could find an interview or something with the author and learn more about what inspired these books. Because the overall theme seems to be “bad stuff went down in the 60s,” and Nightmare Inn reminded me, weirdly, of the Manson family–the idea of a group of hippies actually being murderous, I guess.

And Room 13 has another backstory involving that period of the Arcadia Inn’s history when it was overrun with hippie squatters, some of whom failed bigly at the whole peace, love, and patchouli oil thing.

The main character, Erin Naughton, is being forced to spend a weekend at the New Arcadia Inn with her parents and her younger brother JUST because her father has blocked arteries and might, like, die at any time. She’s angry at her father for this because a guy she likes asked her to the dance and now she’ll have to miss it. Erin’s…kind of horrible, even by selfish-teenager standards. Continue reading “T. S. Rue: Nightmare Inn: Room 13”


Laurie Bridges and Paul Alexander: Devil Wind (Dark Forces #4)

There’s an absolutely terrifying ghost story by M. R. James called “Oh Whistle and I’ll Come to You, My Lad.

Don’t be impressed: I didn’t remember that title, just the story, but searching for “ghost story whistle” brought it up. It still terrifies me on rereading it, too.

(It also contains one of my favourite sentences ever, when a youngish professor is about to leave on vacation and someone jokes about coming with him: “The Professor quivered, but managed to laugh in a courteous manner.” My introvert heart understands completely.)

Anyway, Devil Wind puts me in mind of that, only it’s American, and has more witchcraft and demonology in it.

Scan_20170627 (2)In keeping with what must have been the theme of the Dark Forces series, messing around with ANYTHING (in this case an antique whistle) is just basically asking to have something show up and possess you. I imagine if you sat down and read them back to back you’d be afraid to ever leave the house again.

Before we get down to demons, though, I have to point out the world’s most confusing author note. Amazon informs me: “Writing under the pen name of “Laurie Bridges & Paul Alexander”, he wrote several titles in the Young Adult “Dark Forces” series of teen horror novels (published as mass market paperback originals by Bantam Books), including “Devil Wind”, “Swamp Witch” and “Magic Show” while he lived in New York.

That…makes it sound as if Laurie Bridges DOESN’T EXIST, except as part of a pen name. Right?

Except Laurie Bridges has a goodreads page (though one WITHOUT A PICTURE), and one of the books in this series (The Ashton Horror) lists her as the author, so…how did that happen?


Have I found a LITERAL ghost writer?

Or is that Amazon author note about Paul Alexander Zink just unnecessarily confusing?


But back to the book. Devil Wind opens with a one-paragraph prologue in which Simon Wardwell is executed, but not before dropping a whistle and casting a curse. Excellent. Continue reading “Laurie Bridges and Paul Alexander: Devil Wind (Dark Forces #4)”

T. S. Rue: Nightmare Inn

nightmare innI read this a year ago (and a clever online friend asked if the nightmare was those pants, ha; now I can’t look at this cover without remembering that), but I didn’t post about it then, so I just reread it. And I’m STILL not sure if this boils down to ghosts or reincarnation or what. I’m leaning towards ghosts, but…the whole thing is odd.

It’s also hilarious. Not the deaths, obviously, but the SEETHING SEXUAL TENSION which is entirely in Sarah’s head because the guy isn’t interested.

We open with Sarah getting packed for a week-long camping trip, distracted the entire time because she’s thinking about a mysterious “something” that happened the night before between her and Adam. Her sort-of friend Jodie is in her room (Sarah thinks to herself that they aren’t really friends, but they’ve hung out a lot in the year since Sarah moved to town because they’re dating guys who are best friends).

It’s an awkward situation, because Jodie is Adam’s girlfriend. Oops. Also, last summer Sarah started dating Matt, but before that Matt and Jodie dated for years. So the four of them are going to spend a week seething with jealousy and resentment in a cabin deep in the woods, and honestly that would be my idea of a nightmare even WITHOUT supernatural elements. Continue reading “T. S. Rue: Nightmare Inn”

Rex Sparger: The Doll (Dark Forces #3)

dark forces the dollWell, this was disturbing in every possible way.

I’m creeped out by dolls anyway (even perfectly ordinary dolls are a little bit spooky to me), so the “this is what Chelsea Clinton would look like if she were inanimate and also possessed” thing going on in the cover art really freaks me out.

The book lives up to the cover.

Cassie, our heroine, is a doll collector. She persuades her father to go to the State Fair a day early, because she’s eager to share every possible moment with her long-distance farmboy boyfriend, Jack.

Cassie’s attending the fair to enter her doll collection in a competition, and Jack’s there, because his kid brother, Nate, has entered his cutting horse, Pebbles.

Jack and Cassie met at the previous year’s fair, and Cassie’s father is an agricultural agent, so we’re in wholesome rural territory here.

A fortune-teller warns Jack that he’ll have to be strong, and sees “very black clouds” in Cassie’s immediate future. The presence of a fortune-teller on the “good” side of things temporarily ruined my theory that this entire series sprang out of someone’s desire to write a whole bunch of Chick-Tract style religious fears into a horror series, but she’s…awfully Christian for a fortune-teller:

She hesitated. “Do you believe in God?”

The question surprised Jack. “Yes, I do,” he replied a bit warily.

“So do I.” She stared at him. “Why do you look astonished?”

“But I thought—I thought you believed in—”

“The occult?” she prompted.

“Right,” Jack responded, nodding.

“But why is that so strange? The occult is concerned with supernatural forces. And what is more supernatural than God?” (p. 26)

I mean, I’m pretty sure Jack Chick would still say she was putting her soul at risk by reading Tarot cards, but that’s pretty Christian-ish for a random fortune teller. When you add in the part where the Protestant minister who does the end-of-book exorcism is her adoptive father, it kind of reinforces my theory that these skewed heavily towards Christian superstition/indoctrination territory.

Anyway. Cassie sees a doll being offered as a prize for a dart game, and immediately becomes obsessed with it. Jack promises to win it for her. When the game finally opens another guy almost wins it for his girlfriend, but Cassie distracts him by throwing her darts into his leg. Yeah. I’m not sure if that’s meant to be “the evil doll is influencing Cassie,” or if it’s “the doll wants to be with Cassie because Cassie is already a little bit evil.”

Pebbles wins her competition, but then something awful happens. There really should be warnings for animal deaths in books. This one is particularly horrible. I only teared up a little when the cutting horse (it’s a skill set, not a breed) went crazy at the sight of Cassie and her evil doll, ending up breaking her leg and having to be killed, but I flat-out BAWLED at this part:

Hearing something, Jack looked up. He recognized the man who had been sitting in front of him in the grandstand. He was holding a gangly colt in his arms.

He put the colt down, and the little mare stood on shaky legs.

Puzzled, Nate looked at the colt, then at the man, who seemed somewhat embarrassed.

“Son, this here colt is a direct descendant of Powder Puff. Her daddy’s that stallion Warrior. I want you to train her.” The man paused. “We’ll go halves if you’ll do it.”

Nate stood up, and reached out to the colt. The little mare nuzzled him. Nate could not help smiling.

“Will you do it, boy?” the man asked.

“Is she weaned?” Nate asked.

“We lost her mom, she’s being bottle fed.”

“What’s her name?” Nate asked.

“Ain’t named her yet,” the man answered. “You do that.” (p. 58)

Also this:

“Yes, the working cowboys. They want a stone, and they have decided on what it should say—that is, with your approval, of course.”

Nate started to say something, but the fair official continued, “They want the marker to say, ‘Pebbles—the best damned cutting horse we ever saw.'” (p. 60)

Other bad things happen—Cassie’s other dolls get destroyed, and her and her fathers trailer is trashed (except for the doll. DUN DUN DUN)—but since I was still literally crying over the dead horse and the kindness of various strangers, the increasing creepiness had less of an effect on me than you’d expect.

Also, Cassie is being bitchy and horrible. I know this is meant to be because she’s starting to be possessed, but honestly if someone got a horse killed right in front of me and then snapped at me every time I criticized her increasingly-large (yes, it’s growing) doll with it’s creepy human hair, I’d just abandon her to her evil hobby. Jeez. So I guess I’d be less than useful in a case of possession.

Aside from growing, the doll is also changing its hair and eye colour until it looks like Cassie.

Eventually Jack confides in Maria, who drives them out to visit an elderly minister. He turns out to be her father, and also an experienced exorcist. Cue typical exorcism scene.

The demon tempts him by pretending the minister’s dear friend and co-exorcist, a now-deceased Catholic priest, sold his soul and is “here with me.” The minister recognizes bullshit, proceeds with the exorcism, and dies in the end—but he dies untainted, and is reunited with his dead friend, so…happy ending? I guess?

Also Cassie’s saved from the demon inhabiting the doll, although I found it slightly hard to care.

Richard Lee Byers: Joy Ride (The Nightmare Club #1)

This is the first Nightmare  Club book I’ve ever read. I’d never even heard of them until I started seeing them on Instagram. Naturally I was unable to resist yet anotScan_20170620her Point Horror/Fear Street clone.

The premise tying this series together is that a non-alcohol-serving teen club called “The Night Owl Club has opened in Cooper Hollow. Well, outside Cooper Hollow, in what used to be an orphanage. There are also three schools provided for future hijinks: Cooper High School, Hudson Military Academy, and Cooper Riding Academy for Girls.

Joy Ride pretty much lays everything out on the back cover:

Mike doesn’t see anything wrong with drinking and driving. He thinks he’s totally in control. But his girlfriend Karen knows he has a problem.

Then Mike meets a pretty new girl in a slinky red dress at The Night Owl Club. Unlike Karen, Joy doesn’t mind if Mike drinks. In fact, she encourages him to drink—and then to get behind the wheel.

Mike doesn’t know it yet, but Joy isn’t a real, live teen. She’s a dead one. Killed by a drunk driver decades ago, Joy has come back for one reason—to get her revenge. And unless someone can stop her, Joy is going to help Mike drive himself right over the edge…

The only thing you can’t predict from that description is how large a role Karen plays in this: she’s actually the one who figures out that Joy died in the 1920s (because she’s wearing a flapper dress), has her computer-geek tall friend Joan (Joan is a proto-Barb) locate Joy’s grave and her family home, and destroys the talisman (a gin flask) that ultimately gets rid of Joy.

Mike, meanwhile, is an idiot. Actually I guess that’s a slightly unfair criticism, since he’s drunk most of the time we see him. So it could be the booze making him ignore the way Joy appears and disappears, the part where no one else sees or interacts with her, the ever-full gin flask, and the outdated slang (“bathtub gin” and “roadhouse” and “tommy guns,” for instance).

Mr. Lamb, the guidance counselor, presumably isn’t drunk, so there’s no damned excuse for him. When Karen has a full-blown ghost encounter in school (ending with her bolting from a music room and then knocking herself unconscious on the floor), he makes one feeble attempt to confirm her story by calling Mike’s chronically-depressed mother, who naturally assures him Mike is fine. (She sleeps all day, every day, and hasn’t noticed Mike’s newfound alcoholism). After that one phone call Mr. Lamb checks out:

Karen said, “I’m not imagining things! Joy is real! Other kids have seen Mike talking to what looked like an empty chair. Just ask them!”

Mr. Lamb sighed. “We already gave you one chance to prove your story. Considering the circumstances, one was enough….” (p. 71)

I understand not believing her about the ghost, but considering she’s just told him that Mike (also a student at Cooper High) is drunk and absent from school, couldn’t he look into that part a little more? Or just, I don’t know, call one of the other students in and ask them what’s up?

Anyway, in spite of the adults in this town, Karen defeats the ghost and Mike sobers up just in time to survive a drag race and then rescue Karen from the massive fire she caused by trying to burn a silver flask in the attic of an old house.

…okay, everyone in this thing is an idiot. Except Joan.




Dark Forces #1: The Game

Title: The Game

the game
My own copy is even more battered than this one. Because I read it MULTIPLE TIMES. Not entirely sure what long-term effect that had on me.

Author: Les Logan

I’m not sure where to even BEGIN describing this book, or the series it belongs to. I’d honestly forgotten these books existed, and then someone in a Facebook group posted a link to an article called What Children’s Book Do You Remember That No One Else Does? and suddenly I had to go digging around to find my copies.

To really get into the spirit (ha) of this series, you need to read some satanic panic stories, check out what backwards masking was, and read up on how nuts people went over D&D.

To prepare yourself for this particular book? Maybe go watch The Exorcist and then envision a version of it aimed at eleven year olds. Because that’s what this is: it’s The Exorcist minus the copious vomit, and with the hardcore self-abuse replaced by “making a pass at my twin sister’s boyfriend.”

Also [SPOILER ALERT] the priest lives in this one, which was vastly reassuring to me when I was young. For some reason I’d read my parents’ paperback copy of The Exorcist BEFORE I read this (I sneaked it off their bookshelf, it wasn’t a reading choice they’d approved or anything). I vividly remember being terrified the first time I read The Game, because I thought the priest might die. Like, I guess I just thought that was how all exorcisms ended: with the patient saved, but the priest dead.

The book starts with teenager Julie Mitchell driving in a rainstorm at night, while her father worries that he should be driving and her twin sister Terri daydreams in the back seat. Julie sees a shadowy figure in the road, crashes the car, and ends up in a wheelchair.

She’s angry and self-pitying, and her parents are having fights (her father feels so guilty that he wants to coddle her, while her mother wants to push her toward recovery or at least independence). That felt fairly realistic, actually. She’s also jealous of her sister, which again is believable, and has a bit of a crush on Terri’s boyfriend Scott-the-lifeguard.

Julie rallies briefly when an old family friend, Mrs. Barnes, visits. But then Mrs. Barnes unexpectedly dies of a heart attack. It’s never stated that this is BECAUSE of the evil spirit, but it feels that way, as though having caused the car accident it’s now trying to further isolate Julie by eliminating the one person whose company she enjoys.

At the estate sale of her stuff Julie buys an ominous dark trunk. Terri is suspicious, because she doesn’t remember ever having seen it at Mrs. Barnes house. At home they break it open and it’s full of fabric scraps and…DUN DUN DUN…a Ouija board.

So now Julie has two new hobbies: talking to a spirit using the Ouija board, and using a pair of binoculars to spy on Terri and Scott on the beach. I’m not sure which is creepier.

She sees Terri talking to some new boy and immediately assumed Terri is flirting and doesn’t appreciate Scott, when Terri is actually hoping the new boy will turn out to be a match for Julie. Julie, meanwhile, has made her own match, thankyouverymuch:

Only the spirit knew how much she suffered. Only the spirit knew how alone she was. In a life on earth, the spirit had been a handsome young man. It remembered what earth was like, it told her. It heard her cry of pain across the cold black silence and came to her, drawn by her pain and by her beauty. Julie watched hypnotically as the words were spelled out. (p. 44)

Terri, meanwhile, notices Julie’s bedroom is always cold now and smells like rotting meat. Their parents notice…nothing. On the twins’ birthday they give their daughters identical gold crosses, and when Julie puts hers on she starts to choke; later, Terri sees the burn mark on her sister’s neck.

Before she could knock, a voice boomed in her ears.

“Get away!”

Terri jumped back.

It wasn’t Julie’s voice. It wasn’t even a human voice. It was a voice straight out of hell. (p. 61)

Terri confides in Scott, and Scott takes her to see Father Shea. I’m not sure why Terri just didn’t go see Fr. Shea on her own, since she notes that his office hasn’t changed since she was a child, so obviously her family are Catholic too. But, whatever. Scott’s our hero.

Well, no, actually Fr. Shea is our hero. He listens seriously to Terri, and agrees to come see Julie.

No, he thought, it couldn’t be. Not possibly.

But the seed of fear was already there. It had been since he first heard of the Mitchell girl’s accident. Now it was coming into flower. (p. 66)

Father Shea visits the Mitchells, and when the girls’ father is showing him around the garden they discover all the tomatoes have withered. At dinner Julie can’t eat, and then gets sick (in the bathroom), and before he leaves Fr. Shea hears the evil voice telling him to go away. And THEN we get to see the priest’s thoughts, which are about the family who originally owned the house the Mitchells live in:

If Joe Campbell had lived, he’d be forty-one now. Old enough to have married. Old enough to have children. Old enough to have done a lot of things–if he hadn’t died on his sixteenth birthday. (p. 73)

Joe was (clearly) possessed, and died in a car crash on the same road where Julie had her accident.

The ambulance crew had to scrape Joe Campbell’s body out of the wreckage. (p. 79)

You just don’t see sentences like that in YA fiction anymore.

Anyway. Terri throws a party, and Julie thinks Jim Peterson (the new guy Terri has picked out as potential boyfriend for her creepy possessed sister) is boring. She throws herself out of his arms near the bonfire to make it look like he dropped her. Wow, I know she’s possessed and I still want to slap her.

Scott (her sister’s boyfriend) very nicely carries her up to her bedroom, where she kisses him. He’s sort of into it for a minute.

He couldn’t believe it, but he did. It was almost like kissing Terri. And, after all, if Julie wanted him so badly–

No. This was all wrong. The realization of what he was doing washed over him like ice water, killing his desire. Terri was the one he loved. And he was hurting Terri by being with her sister. (p. 99)

After Scott leaves the spirit comforts Julie by telling her they can be together forever if she invites him into her heart. Only then Terri shows up, horrified because Julie had promised her she’d thrown out the Ouija board. Julie grabs it and takes it outside, where she and Scott use up “a whole can of fluid” in order to get the board to burn.

Mr. and Mrs. Mitchell get called away by the sudden unexpected death of her brother-in-law.

So now the girls are alone, and the house goes full-tilt possessed, with a levitating bed and mysterious showers of rocks and mounds of foul-smelling garbage everywhere. They can’t phone out, and Julie’s wheelchair dies and their house is too far from everything for Terri to push her to safety.

But Scott can’t call Terri, either, and he realizes something is wrong. He goes to their house and is properly horrified, and promises to get help. He gets into a car crash on his way to get Father Shea, but the local cops get Father Shea for him, and then there’s an exorcism.

If I’m making that sound anti-climactic, it’s because it was. No description of a winged scaly figure or whatever is EVER going to be as creepy as the more subtle hints of evil (the voice, and the coldness, and the horrible smelling room) that preceded it. But Father Shea gets the job done and banishes the evil, and as I said earlier, he even lives through it.

Also, good news: the doctor calls to let them know that Julie’s nerves are regenerating and with lots of physiotherapy she’ll be able to walk again. Because in the 80s, disabled characters had to be “fixed” by the end in order to have a happy ending.



R. L. Stine: Seniors #11

prom date Finally! Graduation is here! That means we get an entire book of Jennifer Fear obsessing about not having a prom date and then coping with actually having one.

Only in Shadyside is “being asked to the prom” a terrifying ordeal.

I have to confess: I loved this book. It was ridiculousness turned up to eleven, and it won me over completely. I kept picturing Stine laughing maniacally as he wrote it.

So, Trisha Conrad’s parents leave her behind and go to Europe, as one does the year one’s only child is graduating high school while various of her classmates are killed in gruesome ways. I guess Shadyside people have unique coping mechanisms.

Before they leave, Trisha’s mother gives her a little glass wishing well. It’s a good luck charm that’s been handed down in the family, and since Trisha knows she’s descended from the Fears she worries about which side of the family it came from. Ha.

With all the sensitivity we’ve come to expect from Fear Street novels, there’s an acknowledgement of past events:

It’s good that Dana has the prom to worry about, Trisha thought. Dana’s twin sister, Dierdre, died a few weeks earlier. The prom would help take her mind off it. (p. 13)


Meanwhile Trisha’s still having visions and Jennifer is being crabby with everyone because she doesn’t have a prom date.  Trisha gives her the good luck charm, joking that maybe it will help her get a date. Ouch.

Also this happens:

After Ty was killed, his family moved out of Shadyside. Now the house had a For Sale sign in the middle of the front yard.

Jennifer felt a chill and quickly glanced away. Don’t think about Ty, she told herself. Don’t think about all the dead seniors. (p. 31)

I love it. Also, I’d like to propose Don’t Think About All the Dead Seniors as the official Shadyside town motto.

Someone calling himself Duke Carpenter who claims to live in Waynesbridge calls Jennifer and asks her to the prom. She has absolutely no idea who this guy is and is too embarrassed to admit she doesn’t remember meeting him.

Is this a thing that happens when you’re in high school? I mean, I’m old and have two children and am literally capable of forgetting the names of people I see regularly, but I don’t think that ever used to happen to me when I was in my teens.

Maybe all the years of studiously forgetting dead people affects the memory of Shadyside residents.

Jennifer at least has enough sense to suggest they meet at the Corner (it’s a restaurant, not an actual street corner) the next day before she agrees to go to the prom with him.

She has a dream that a huge glass ball falls from the ceiling at prom and kills her date.

He doesn’t show up the next day. But he calls and apologizes, claiming car trouble, and she gets his phone number. He says he can’t drive into Shadyside and see her that night, and she’s suspicious it’s just an excuse.

When she tries the number it’s been disconnected, and she can’t find him in the phone book.

But then he shows up at her doorstep! And he’s gorgeous in a way that EXACTLY MATCHES the dreamy description she gave Trisha back when she didn’t have a prom date. Uh oh.

I’m still worried about Jennifer’s memory but now I’m also concerned about her life in general:

“It’s just that I never forgot about that night when we … you know … I kept running it through my head like a movie.”

His arm brushed Jennifer’s, and her heart started to pound. What did “you know” mean? she wondered anxiously.


Duke’s eyes lit up as he gazed at her. “That was a wild night, wasn’t it?”

Whoa–a wild night! Jennifer felt herself blushing again. Something definitely happened between us, but what? Maybe we went to a party and partied a little too hard. (p. 69)

I’ve been assuming all along that the Shadyside kids don’t drink, because Fear Street never specifically mentions drugs or alcohol, but now I’m thinking they’re all hardcore alcoholics. Has Jennifer been having blackout-drunk sex? WTF, Stine.

Anyway. She ends up going to prom with him, and they’re sharing his (as in, he paid for it) limo with Matty and Josie and Will and Clarissa. Will jokingly asks Duke if he bought his tux at a garage sale, and I briefly got my hopes up that Duke was a ghost from some previous generation of Fear Street. But nope, that was too much continuity to hope for. Wouldn’t that have been cool, though? If someone who died in an original Fear Street novel showed up in one of the later series as a ghost?

Prom is magical and wonderful and a glass ball falls from the ceiling, luckily not hitting Duke like it did in Jennifer’s dream. Can we all just take a minute here to appreciate how damned stupid it would be to hang large glass balls from the ceiling of a gym? Honestly, even without the evil Fear family and the werewolves and whatever, the mortality rate would still be pretty high just from dumb-ass stuff like this.

After prom everybody’s headed to Fear Lake to tempt fate some more. Before they leave the school, though, Duke beats the shit out of Will. Looks like someone’s sensitive about his retro tux decision.

Duke grabs Jennifer and drags her into the limo, where Matty and Josie have been obliviously listening to music. Situational awareness is important, guys. They realize something’s up when Duke shoves her into the limo, but the (as yet unseen) driver is speeding away before she can explain that her date has turned psycho, so now they’re all trapped in a car with him.

The driver won’t listen to their pleas for help, and he turns out to be the skeleton-faced “evil” Josie summoned way back in book one.

They end up at the lake, and Duke drags Jennifer away from the others to explain that she wished him into existence. Also, because she was angry about people thinking she was a Fear, and jealous of everyone who had a date, all those emotions went into making him, too. ALSO also, he has a knife.

“Don’t be scared, Jennifer,” he murmured. “This is the way it’s supposed to be.”

“No!” Jennifer shuddered and took another step back. Duke stayed with her, matching her step for step, until finally he backed her up against a tree.

“You can’t get away from me,” he told her. “You made me what I am. And now you and I will be together–forever.” (p. 123)

She knocks him unconscious with a tree branch, and then Matty and Josie show up in time to help drag his unconscious body into the lake. Just another fun-filled night at Fear Lake.

But he rises up, still alive. He tries to choke Jennifer, but she flings the glass charm at him and he bursts into flame, vanishing forever. So this was even worse than the average prom date, really.  Although she comes out of this without being pregnant or acquiring a shiny new STD, so arguably I’ve heard of worse prom nights.