The Ghost of Graylock
by Dan Poblocki
MG (Ages 10-14)
Neil and Bree’s mother needs some time to herself. Her recent divorce really hit her hard, so she sent the kids to stay with their aunts Claire and Gladys for a while. Her emotional state creates a spooky parallel for the kids’ encounter with a spirit that was institutionalized for mental illness.
The Ghost of Graylock has some of the creepiest moments I have experienced from Dan Poblocki. An abandoned asylum on an island in a still, seaweed-tangled lake lures the kids to do some urban exploration, and the quiet isolation of the ruin invites the shivers. The basement is flooded with dark, stagnant water and there are cages around the stairwells. The dismal atmosphere is disturbing not only because it is decaying, but in that the hospital was abandoned suddenly, leaving behind a snapshot of life unnaturally forsaken, preserved in a museum of death.
They say she smiles as she holds you under– her face blurred as you stare up through the silvery surface, her teeth glistening white– delighted to continue her murderous quest to end the suffering of the insane.
While exploring the Graylock Mental Hospital with their friend Wesley and his older brother Eric, to whom Bree seems to take an immediate liking, their electronic devices go dead and they encounter the ghost of Nurse Janet as the door behind them slams shut! It’s a good thing Neil has so much experience with the supernatural given his die-hard fanaticism for the show Ghostly Investigators.
When they discover that Nurse Janet is really still alive, the whole crew goes to visit her. But Janet’s son is there and he becomes suspiciously irate at the kids’ bothersome questions. But if Janet Reilly isn’t the ghost of Graylock’s room 13, who… what… was sitting at the foot of Neil’s bed, dripping wet, in the middle of the night? The water puddles on the floor weren’t his imagination. Nor was the lake-weed in the bathtub that tried to drown Bree.
A scream filled the night. It took Neil a moment to realize where it came from. The aunts turned toward the house too. The light in the upstairs bathroom looked stark, alone. “Help me!” Bree cried out, before screaming again.
The ghost, they discover, is really that of Rebecca Smith, a girl who was an inmate at the asylum. What does she want of Neil and Bree? Why does she keep sending visions? The kids are pressured to solve the mystery of the of the antlers, the sheet music, and the andirons… (Did you see what I did there? A little John Bellairs humor…) before their father drags them back home.
They know the history of the ghost, but they don’t know if she’s there to help them or harm them in a rage of vengeance. The ending is exciting enough for film. Rebecca’s murderer appears, determined to keep his secret even if it means killing again –and again– as the murky water entangles Bree and Neil in the dark.
This book is one of Poblocki’s best. It should not be missed by fans of John Bellairs or TAPS!