John Paulits is a former teacher in New York City. He has published five other children’s novels, four about Philip and Emery, as well as two adult science fiction novels, HOBSON’S PLANET and BECKONING ETERNITY. His previous Gyspy Shadow book, PHILIP AND THE SUPERSTITION KID, was voted best children’s novel of 2010 in the Preditors and Editors readers poll.
Philip and Emery are scared out of their wits when they learn their community service assignment involves dealing with a haunted house, but it gets worse! Circumstances force the boys to sneak inside the haunted house, and when they do, they receive the shock of their lives!
Philip and the Haunted House
The rumble of a heavy truck caused Philip to turn in his bed and open his eyes. He felt his heart pounding. He had been trapped in some dark, awful house. He immediately recognized his own bedroom and sighed in relief. Only a dream! The sound of the truck stopped briefly and started up again. Turning a corner, thought Philip. As he listened, the truck noise ended suddenly, instead of fading little by little. Philip guessed the truck had stopped somewhere in his neighborhood.
He sat up in bed, turned, put his feet on the floor, and stretched. A long Saturday loomed ahead of him. No school. What a great feeling! Philip thought of his dream again. Yesterday, his teacher Mr. Ware read the class the part of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer where Tom and Huck look for treasure in the haunted house. While they’re looking, they hear someone coming and run upstairs to hide. One of the two men who enter the haunted house turns out to be Injun Joe, who wants to kill Tom for identifying him as Doc Robinson’s murderer at Muff Potter’s trial. Injun Joe gets suspicious, takes out his knife, and starts to climb the stairs. Tom and Huck lie frozen in fear on the floor, peeking through a chink in the wood as Injun Joe, step by step, gets nearer and nearer. Then, CRASH! The old, rotten stairway collapses and tumbles Injun Joe to the floor.
When Mr. Ware read it, he’d shouted the word “crash” as loud as he could. Everyone, including Philip, jumped out of their chairs. For once he’d been paying close attention, and the teacher rewarded him by almost giving him a heart attack. Philip blamed Mr. Ware for his frightful dream.
How could Tom and Huck even want to go inside a haunted house, Philip wondered, even if they thought they’d find some buried treasure? Buried treasure. Philip thought he might go into a haunted house to get rich, but not for fun. No way. He decided he’d go back to daydreaming in school next week and stop listening to the teacher’s heart-attack reading lessons.
Philip dressed and went downstairs. His father lay on the sofa reading the newspaper.
“Well, look who’s awake,” his father said, sitting up. “Your mother went to the supermarket. Becky’s still sleeping.” Becky was Philip’s baby sister. “Emery called twice already.”
“What time is it, Dad?”
“A little after ten.”
He had slept a long time. Maybe if he’d gotten up earlier he wouldn’t have had the dream about the haunted house. Stupid reading lesson.
“Give Emery a call, and I’ll get your cereal.”
Philip called Emery, who said he’d be right over.
As Philip dropped his cereal bowl into the sink, Emery walked into the kitchen.
“Are you sick?” said Emery.
“No, I’m not sick. Why?”
“You slept so long. I only sleep long if I’m sick. My two baby sisters cry so much I can’t sleep late anyway.”
“No, I’m not sick. I had this weird dream, though.” Philip led Emery into the living room.
“You, too, eh?”
“Me, too? You had a dream?” Philip asked in alarm. Maybe something’s going around, he thought.
“No, I mean putting the dishes in the sink.”
“Oh. Yeah, something new.”
“My mother, too. She must have talked to your mother. They do these things together sometimes. What did you dream about?”
“The haunted house Mr. Ware read about yesterday.”
“Oh, yeah. When the stairs crashed, and he made everybody jump. Cool!”
“I didn’t jump,” Philip lied.
“Well, everybody else did. Haunted houses are spooky.”
“Only around Halloween,” Philip said boldly.
“All the time,” Emery replied with a sharp nod.
Philip felt he’d established his bravery, so he dropped the topic.
“Weird, though,” said Emery.
“A big truck pulled up around the corner, and they’re taking everything out of the junky, empty house.”
“The one with all the grass growing around it?”
“Yeah. It’s still got a “Sale” sign on it so I guess nobody bought it yet. That’ll be an empty house now and look even more haunted.”
Philip pictured the house—dark, empty, and surrounded by tall weeds. It could be haunted for all he and Emery knew; and there it sat—right around the corner from where they lived.
“Want to go watch them take stuff out?” Emery asked.
“They’re still there?”
“Yeah. They only got there a little while ago.”
Philip thought of the truck that woke him up.
“Okay,” Philip said. He’d go now, but once they’d emptied the house and left it empty and lonely and scary looking, he planned to stay away from it. Far away.
John’s book is available at: http://www.gypsyshadow.com/JohnPaulits.html#HHouseExc