Obsessive Halloween Nostalgia Disorder: Wait Till Helen Comes

Wait Till Helen Comes: A Ghost Story by Mary Downing Hahn.
Houghton Mifflin, 1986.

I don't think I'll ever outgrown my excitement for Scholastic book club order forms.  I am just a big kid.  I remember combing through them, looking at the latest paperback offerings, cool if impractical school supplies, Dynamite magazine, and movie tie-in product.  Through the club, I read silly young readers' adaptations of Space Camp and The Karate Kid, Part II.  My best friend and I discovered The Baby-Sitters Club.  And I discovered my favorite ghost story.

A few days ago, I dug out my battered paperback copy of Wait Till Helen Comes by Mary Downing Hahn.  I hadn't read it in years, but I remembered it well, probably because I read it about ten times as a fifth and sixth grader.

The story is narrated by twelve-year-old Molly, who moves with her family into an old converted church outside of a small town in Maryland.  Molly and her brother, Michael, are frustrated by the move and their family in general.  Their mom is a painter and Dave, their stepfather, makes pottery, and the two of them just want to move to the country and concentrate on their work.  They expect Molly and Michael to play babysitter to Dave's seven-year-old daughter, Heather.  Heather is a real pain.  Her mother died in a fire when she was only three, but it's hard to feel sympathy for her now.  She is constantly stirring up trouble, lying about how badly the older kids and their mother treat her.  She acts much younger than her age. Poor Molly is stuck watching Heather most of the time, as her brother skips out every morning to collect specimens for his nature collections.  To make matters worse, there is a very old graveyard on the property, and Heather is drawn to a tiny hidden grave marked only by her own initials.  She talks to someone, a girl she calls Helen, and Molly is convinced that Heather has been befriended by a ghost.  Of course, no one believes Molly, who seems jumpy and afraid of everything anyway.  (Not just the graveyard - the nearby cows make her jumpy, too.)

I loved this book as a kid.  As an adult, there are things that make me giggle now.  I recognize some of more stereotypical plot conventions:  old church and graveyard, ruins of an old house, etc.  Moreover, I wonder how these two artists can afford this move.  I want to scream at them to watch Heather themselves, instead of foisting her onto poor Molly and Michael, especially since Heather is such a monstrous little brat.  The ending of the book, especially Heather and Molly's relationship, seems too neat and simple.  But for a kid wanting to be spooked, this book is still rather perfect.  It's scary, but not too scary.

Mary Downing Hahn is best-known today for her ghost stories.  When I was a bookseller, the only books by her that lined the shelves in the Young Readers section were the scary ones, including this one with its latest cover.  (I placed a hold on the other book I remember from the late '80s, The Doll in the Garden. Hope it arrives soon!)  The only other book I own by Hahn is a non-ghost story, Daphne's Book, which I loved even more than this one.  It's sitting on the shelf in the reading nook closet, in fact.

I know some of you probably know this one.  What "scary" books did you love as a kid?

Follow along with Silver Shoes & Rabbit Holes on FacebookBloglovinInstagram, and/or Pinterest!

Comments

  1. I can still see this book on my library's bookshelf staring out at me, 20 years ago! I still get the shivers thinking about it!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Awesome! I knew it had a lot of fans. I'm actually getting the audio book, since we have a road trip at the end of the week. I can always turn it off if it's too much for the girls. ;)

      Delete
  2. Awesome awesome awesome! And I never read it! Ok here's mine, and I'll do a post on it if you like :) b/c there is no image on Amazon for it....i looooooooved this on: 'Mirror of Danger' by Pamela Sykes and it's about a girl falling prey to a mean Victorian girl ghost, and it is SO GREAT! I've read that book at least 30 times. Ok off to find yours.....you made my day with this, I loved/love books like this!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I saw the picture on Google images. That looks so great! I love old YA covers like that. The description on Amazon sounded fantastic. My library does not have it, of course. I may check the used book store, or I'll order it. On Amazon, you can get it for 9 cents, plus shipping, which is almost 4 bucks. Figures. ;)

      Delete
  3. I loved spooky stories at that age too... I'm going to have to track down the paper back of 'real life ghost stories' I repeatedly read at that age :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I found my book of "real life" scary stories at my grandma's. The "real life" books used to freak me out the most. However, considering this book started with two of the oldest urban legends in circulation - the When a Stranger Calls baby-sitter gets a phone call and it's coming from inside the house! and the guy with the hook on top of the parked car - it seems more funny than scary now. ;o)

      Delete
  4. I definitely want to read this one too! Not really scary or a ghost story, but I remember being spooked by Moondial -not that long ago either!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's spooky, but the ending makes it less scary. I'm picking the audio book up from the library today. Thought we'd try it on the drive to my mother's tomorrow morning...

      Delete

Post a Comment

Comments are welcome! I'm a shy blog commenter, too, but I do love to read what people have to say. All I ask is, please be kind, to me and to each other.