The Trespassers

The Trespassers

by Zilpha Keatley Snyder

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Halcyon House has everything: a beautiful location, incredible amenities, and life-threatening danger
In the beautiful Northern California coastal town of Monterey, Halcyon House is exactly the kind of place that any kid would want to explore. It’s huge, abandoned, and— rumor has it—haunted. Neely and her little brother, Grub, are…  See more details below


Halcyon House has everything: a beautiful location, incredible amenities, and life-threatening danger
In the beautiful Northern California coastal town of Monterey, Halcyon House is exactly the kind of place that any kid would want to explore. It’s huge, abandoned, and— rumor has it—haunted. Neely and her little brother, Grub, are determined to get inside. The two siblings climb through an open window and find an old nursery, filled with old toys and, possibly, a ghost. The siblings’  trespassing ends, however, when the mysterious Hutchinson family arrives and reclaims the house. Neely and Grub should be in trouble, but instead Curtis Hutchinson welcomes the siblings in with open arms. But as Neely spends more time at Halcyon House, she realizes that this mansion and its inhabitants are far more dangerous than she could have possibly imagined. This ebook features an extended biography of Zilpha Keatley Snyder.

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Editorial Reviews

School Library Journal
Gr 4-7-The trespassers are Cornelia (Neely) Bradford, 11, and her 8-year-old brother Gregory (Grub). When they climb inside the open window of an old, formerly grand estate, they find a dusty nursery, fascinating toys, a mystery, and-perhaps-a ghost. Then relatives of the original builder, including troubled sixth-grader Curtis, move into the house. Although now a welcome guest, Neely discovers that she must protect Grub from an unexpected enemy. As in Snyder's books about the Stanley family, particularly The Headless Cupid (1971) and Blair's Nightmare (1984; o.p., both Atheneum), The Trespassers is a rich blend of fantasy and realism. Snyder's evocative descriptions of Halcyon House bring the place alive and leave readers as captivated, and as curious, as the Bradfords. Some of the characters veer toward stereotypes (the dysfunctional rich family; the beautiful, odd little brother), but Neely is unique-a bright, confident, caring girl anyone would love to have as a sister or friend. The book is tinged with enough suspense to keep the pages turning, and the ending is both hopeful and satisfying. The Trespassers is a well-written alternative to mass-market thrillers, appropriate for youngsters who like to shiver-but not too much.-Ann W. Moore, Guilderland Public Library, NY
Ilene Cooper
Halcyon House sits along the Monterey coast, a handsome old edifice that fascinates 10-year-old Neely Bradford and her 7-year-old brother, Grub. They know that it is the familial home of the Hutchinson family, but no Hutchinsons have lived there for years, so exploring the grounds doesn't seem very dangerous to the children. And when they find an open window, the inside of the house has an irresistible allure, especially for Grub, who forms a bond with the ghost of a former young occupant. When a current crop of Hutchinsons moves in, Neely and Grub expect to get the boot. But odd, troubled Curtis Hutchinson, who is Neely's age, has his own reasons for wanting their company. Writing in a style that is immediate and completely true to the point of view of her characters, Snyder offers a story that has both a ghostly gloss and the real-life horror of an unloved boy who is willing to take his unhappiness out on those around him. Snyder is also an exceptionally fine writer of description, a talent put to good use here, where Halcyon House, with its grand staircases and evocative rooms, is almost a character itself.

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Product Details

Open Road Media Teen & Tween
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Age Range:
9 - 12 Years

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The Trespassers

By Zilpha Keatley Snyder


Copyright © 1995 Zilpha Keatley Snyder
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4532-7198-8


Toward the end of Cornelia Bradford's sixth-grade year at Carmel Middle School she wrote a very successful report for Mr. Hardcastle's language arts class. Mr. Hardcastle liked it a lot. When she got it back it had a large red A at the top of the page and beneath that the words, "Good for you, Neely. Well written and fascinating material. Particularly fascinating to me and to everyone in my core class this year." The title of her paper was "The Tragic Story of Halcyon House."

She began the report by explaining the origin of the word halcyon. "The word 'halcyon,' " she wrote, "originated in Greek mythology. In those olden days of ancient Greece, halcyons were believed to be seabirds who built their nests on the ocean waves. These beautiful birds were so beloved by the gods that during their nesting season the gods stilled the winds and waves so that their nests would not be disturbed. This is why the word 'halcyon' came to mean a time of beautiful peace and tranquility."

In the second paragraph of the report she began to tell about the history of Halcyon House itself. "And so," Neely had written, "in 1910 when Mr. Harold Hutchinson the first, an, extremely wealthy businessman, built his magnificent mansion on the coast a few miles south of Carmel, he called it Halcyon House, because he hoped to find there the peace and beauty that he could not find anywhere else."

She didn't actually go into the fact that, according to rumor, old Harold the first had spent most of his life trampling all over anyone who happened to get in his way and that, along with his millions, he had earned an awful lot of hate and fear and jealousy—and not much peace and tranquility. But she did tell about some of the sad and tragic things that had happened to various members of the Hutchinson family in the years that followed. After admitting that most of the stories were based only on rumor, she told about the guest who had drowned in the swimming pool, the car accidents and serious illnesses—like pneumonia and alcoholism and insanity—that, over the years, had disturbed the tranquility of Halcyon House.

She finished the report by saying, "Now, once again, the Hutchinsons are gone from Halcyon. Harold Hutchinson's dream of the beautiful bird of peace is gone forever, and only a hawk haunts the wind that sweeps down Halcyon Hill."

She thought the ending, which was only slightly borrowed from her father's favorite poet, was especially good, and Mr. Hardcastle seemed to think so too. And he also mentioned that his whole core class would find the report particularly interesting, since they had all known a member of the Hutchinson family, if only for a very short time.

Of course, he was referring to Curtis, and of course, Neely hadn't said anything at all about Curtis in her report. She didn't mention Curtis or Monica and she certainly didn't mention some other facts that Mr. Hardcastle might have found particularly fascinating—the true facts about the strange and awful things that had happened at Halcyon House only a few months before.

So, even though "The Tragic Story of Halcyon House" earned a big red A, it certainly wasn't the whole story.


It all started on a Monday in June not long after the beginning of summer vacation when Neely had just finished fifth grade. During breakfast that morning she noticed that her little brother, Grub (Gregory actually, but Grub to family and friends), was acting peculiarly, not eating anything and staring off into space with wide, unfocused eyes. She was just beginning to suspect that he was having another attack of what Aaron called Grubbie's sky-is-falling syndrome when Connie Bradford, their mother, looked up from writing on her calendar, and told him to eat his scrambled eggs before they got cold.

"I can't, Mom," he said. "I can't eat them." His mother erased something she'd just written, before she said, "Why not? What's wrong with them? They look perfectly all right to me."

Grub was staring down at the eggs as if he expected them to leap off his plate and attack, like a small yellow version of the Blob. "Cholesterol," he whispered.

"Cholesterol?" Mom asked. "What do you know about cholesterol, Grubbie?" She got up to get some more coffee and came back to her chair. But when Grub just went on silently poking at his eggs, she said, "You know you'll just have to sit there until you finish your breakfast, don't you, dear? So you might as well get started." Then she tucked a strand of her long gray hair behind her ear, and went back to sipping her coffee and scribbling down notes about the things she had to get done that day.

Neely bit her lips, wanting to say, "Look at him, Mom. He's really working himself up again," but she didn't. It wouldn't have done any good. Instead she only said, "Grub, Mom asked you what you know about cholesterol."

Grub sighed and rolled his big, beautiful eyes tragically. "Everything," he said in a mournful tone of voice. "I read all about it in the Times."

He probably had too. Even though Grub was only eight-and-a-half years old he really could—and did—read everything, including the daily newspaper and the Encyclopedia Britannica. A fact which thrilled teachers and other intellectually inclined types like his father, but wasn't all that great really because a lot of what he read just gave him something else to worry about.

Just last week, for instance, he'd been certain that they were all about to be squashed by a falling meteorite, and before that it had been the disappearing rain forests. The rain forests thing had been a really major sky-is-falling attack—the kind that could last for days, and it was beginning to look as if this might be another. Unless something wonderful happened, like ... Neely looked around, vaguely hoping for something wonderful to come to mind. Like, for instance, if the weather would just get better. Grub, who had always been strangely affected by the weather, usually was much easier to cheer up when the sun was shining.

But it was a typical June morning on the northern California coast—cold and damp, with a heavy ocean fog that was clearly going to hang on for hours. Not very good weather for moody types like Grub, that was for certain, but on the other hand it was a perfectly good day to stay indoors and read, which was exactly what Neely had been planning to do.

Grub was still staring at his eggs when Neely left the room. There wasn't anything she could do about it, so she put him out of her mind and went looking for the book about Joan of Arc that she'd just started reading the night before.

It was at least half an hour later, and Neely was curled up on the window seat in the living room, alternately reading and daydreaming, when Grub came in. She had just finished an excruciatingly tragic scene, and was busy imagining herself as Joan of Arc, calmly and courageously facing the English judges and then being led away to the stake, when Grub stumbled in and collapsed on the floor.

At first she tried to ignore him, but it wasn't easy. The way his arms and legs were flung out every which way made him look like the victim of some horrible disaster, and every few minutes he let out a long, pitiful sigh. She looked away and tried to bring back that tragic scene in the marketplace in Rouen, but it was no good. At last she gave up, put down her book, and asked Grub if he would like to do something. Like go for a walk, maybe.

Grub groaned again, rolled over on his back and looked at his watch before he said, "Well, all right. I guess I have time for a short walk."

"Time?" Neely asked. "Before what?"

Grub sighed. "Before I have a heart attack."

Neely got up, threw down her book, and yanked Grub to his feet. "Listen, Grubbie," she said. "If you don't shut up about your cholesterol, something's going to get attacked all right, but it won't be your heart. Come on. Let's go." Then she whacked him on his bottom and pulled him toward the door.

A few minutes later, as they were going down the back steps, Neely actually said—word for word—"Okay, which way shall we go? The ocean or the hills?" Which pretty much proved beyond a reasonable doubt that she started out that morning with absolutely no plans concerning Halcyon House. It was Grub who had chosen the hills—by way of the old Hutchinson Road, which, of course, passed right by the entrance to the estate—and Halcyon House.


As they started up the hill it was obvious that, even though Grub had agreed to the walk, he hadn't agreed to cheer up. They passed the Jensens' property, with its great hedge of ancient cypresses, and went on up the steep slope that led to the top of the rise, with Grub trudging along silently, ignoring Neely's attempts to make conversation. After trying out several of his favorite conversational topics—such as his pets, word games, and the meaning of life, Neely more or less gave up and quit trying to get through to him. When they reached the top of the rise she stopped and turned toward the sea.

From there on the crest the land fell away in a long green slope. It leveled a little at the Bradfords' property and the highway beyond, but then it began to slope again. The green plain, covered with chaparral and brightened by splotches of lupine and Indian paintbrush, became steeper as it approached the sharp drop to where the waves crashed and foamed against the great gray rocks. And beyond that the Pacific Ocean stretched out everlastingly to meet and blend with the sky. Sometimes the view from the crest blazed with color—sea-blue, foamwhite, and grass-green—brightened by clumps of red, yellow, and lavender. But today the drifting fog veiled both land and sea, fading everything into an endless dreary gray.

Stopping there on the crest to rest a moment and look down to the sea and listen for its distant roar had always been a part of any visit to the Halcyon Grove. Here, where a sloping boulder offered a thronelike seat, Neely had often stopped to sit, sometimes all by herself, but many other times on her way to the grove with Grub. Mostly just with Grub, but once in a while with their father, who sometimes came with them as far as the rocky throne. He always stopped there to recite poetry and tell stories about the early days on the Big Sur coast when only a few brave pioneer families had homesteaded on what some people called "the edge of the earth."

"Come on, Grub. Let's rest a minute." Neely scooted up onto her usual seat on the boulder. "Look. Look at the hawk. Look how ... She stopped, trying to remember a line from one of the Robinson Jeffers poems that Dad always quoted. "How does that poem go? The one about the air being haunted by hawks?"

Grub was usually interested in hawks and poetry, too, but today he only glanced up and then went plodding on. Sighing impatiently, she hurried after him and together they started down into the valley.

Below the crest the pavement ended and the road narrowed to a rutted and potholed lane. John Bradford, Grub and Neely's father, said that years ago the unpaved section was regularly graded and graveled, but that was when the original Harold Hutchinson was still alive and he and his family spent every summer in the mansion. For as long as Neely could remember, however, the road had been, as it was now, a narrow, weed-grown pathway that wound its way down into the heavily wooded valley.

On a bright, clear day Halcyon Grove was an enchanted place, its mysterious green-tinged shadows spangled with filtered sunlight, but today the light was dim and gray, and wisps of ocean fog drifted among the trees in ghostly veils. They walked silently down the steep slope among live oak and madrone trees and then into the deeper forest of redwoods and ponderosa pines that grew along the bed of the creek. Great towering trees that were native to the Monterey coast but which, in this particular place, had actually been planted years ago by gardeners so that the Hutchinsons could have their own private forest.

As they made their way through the dense grove Neely stole a glance now and then in her brother's direction to see if the old familiar magic was working. But today nothing seemed to help. Grub just went mooching along, his face puckered into a pug-nosed mask of tragedy.

For a moment Neely felt angry. Why should it always be her responsibility to cheer Grub up? After all, she was just his sister and only three years older than he was. But somehow it had always been more or less that way. She didn't know why exactly, except that she and Grub were a special case, being what some people called afterthought children and therefore almost like a separate family. After their parents had had Aaron and Julie and Lucinda, almost ten years had gone by before Neely was born, and then three years after that came the final afterthought, Gregory Bradford—or as Aaron called him when they brought him home from the hospital, "the Grub."

So maybe it was just that by the time Grubbie came along no one had the time or energy left to cope with things like his gloom-and-doom attacks. No one except Neely, and from time to time even she ran out of the kind of patience it took to deal with Grub's weird personality.

It did help, of course, that he was so gorgeous. If you're going to be a pain in the neck, it helps to be a beautiful one—though, of course, the opposite is true too. From very personal experience Neely knew that if you're not beautiful you'd better not be a nuisance—not if you know what's good for you.

If, for instance, you happened to inherit a square jaw and straight, noparticular-color hair instead of the fine features, masses of dark curls, and enormous long-lashed eyes of the Bradford side of the family, you really needed to work on your other talents. Talents such as poise and personality, which Neely apparently had plenty of, if poise and personality accounted for the fact that her classmates had elected her class president or secretary or treasurer more times than she could remember.

But having to make up for a lack in the appearance department was one problem Grub would never have to deal with. Even today, trudging along with his curly head bent down and a gloomy frown dipping the ends of his eyebrows and the corners of his lips, Grub somehow managed to look disgustingly charming. It really wasn't fair. Neely sighed and looked the other way.

They were climbing again on the far side of the valley where the road wound its way up toward the entrance to the Hutchinson estate, when Neely suddenly realized that Grub wasn't there beside her, nor anywhere on the road behind her—as if he had suddenly faded away into the drifting fog.


For a moment, looking down the empty fog-dimmed lane, Neely felt a twinge of anxiety, but she had barely started back the way they had come when she noticed a movement in the underbrush. And there, on the ground behind a tall clump of ferns, was Grub. Crouching down on his hands and knees, he seemed to be completely engrossed in something on the ground in front of him.

Good, Neely thought. Grub had always been so fascinated by every kind of living thing that sometimes all it took to cure one of his depressions was an unusual bug, or butterfly, or even a particularly gruesome slug. All prepared to make an enthusiastic fuss over whatever it was he'd found—Wow! Look at that! Isn't that the most beautiful ... or interesting ... or slimiest ... or whatever seemed appropriate—she hurried over to squat down beside him—and immediately realized that what Grub had found this time wasn't going to help at all. It was a tiny baby squirrel. A tiny dead baby squirrel. And death had been high on Grub's anxiety list since he was about four years old, when he'd started asking everyone to explain death, and tell him why God allowed it to happen.

Reaching out with one finger, Grub touched the tiny furry head between its pitiful little sunken eyes and then looked up at Neely.

"Why?" he said in a quavering voice. "Why did it have to die, Neely?"

"Look, Grub." Neely knew she was sounding exasperated but she couldn't help it. The "why death" question was one Grub had pestered her with for so long she'd pretty much run out of answers. "I've told you before, and so have Mom and Dad, that there's just no point in—"

But at that very moment she heard something that made her lose track of what she was saying ... the nearby stutter and chug of an approaching car. Crouching down beside Grub she whispered, "Shhh. Get down. It's Reuben."


Excerpted from The Trespassers by Zilpha Keatley Snyder. Copyright © 1995 Zilpha Keatley Snyder. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Meet the Author

Zilpha Keatley Snyder (b. 1927) is a three-time Newbery Honor–winning author of adventure and fantasy novels for children. Her smart, honest, and accessible narrative style has made her books beloved by generations. When not writing, she enjoys reading and traveling. Snyder lives in Mill Valley, California.     

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