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Hidden in the Haunted School
By Gertrude Chandler Warner, Anthony VanArsdale
Albert Whitman & CompanyCopyright © 2016 Albert Whitman & Company
All rights reserved.
Crunch! Benny Alden took a big bite out of his crisp, red apple as he sat in the backseat of the family's minivan. It was a late-fall Saturday, and he and his brother and sisters had helped their grandfather run errands in Silver City, the town next to Greenfield. They'd made a lot of stops, including at the farmers' market. Benny, who was six years old and always hungry, was munching on his second apple, which he'd retrieved from one of the bags of fresh fruits and vegetables tucked nearhis seat. Now it was late afternoon, and the Aldens were headed home.
Twelve-year-old Jessie put her hand on the cool glass of the minivan's window. She watched trees with red, orange, and yellow leaves whiz by. She thought the leaves looked even prettier than usual in the setting sun. Just then, she remembered the notebook in her backpack. She pulled it out and opened it to check the list of errands they'd made that day. She liked making lists and used her organizational skills to help her family.
"Grandfather," Jessie called to the front seat. "I think we forgot to pick up the dry cleaning."
"You're right!" her grandfather replied. He clicked on the turn signal and turned the van down a side street. "It's a bit out of the way, but I think I know a shortcut to the cleaners."
Benny looked around the minivan.
"I don't think we have room for one more thing," he said. "It's crowded in here!" He was sitting next to Violet, his ten-year-old sister, who was busy doodling with her favorite purple pen in her sketch pad. They were surrounded by bags and boxes holding everything the Aldens had bought or picked up on their errands.
"We'll make room," Henry told his little brother. At fourteen, Henry was the oldest of the Alden children. He sat in the front seat, tinkering with the radio. "Watch can sit on your lap!"
Watch, the Aldens' terrier, replied with a small yap — as if he knew everyone was talking about him. They all laughed as the dog jumped into Benny's lap and curled into a ball.
A few miles and a couple of turns later, the minivan drove down a narrow road that ran along the edge of town. The street was very quiet. The children didn't see any other cars, just rows and rows of trees in the woods on either side of them.
"What's that?" Benny asked, pointing out his window. The Alden children turned to see an old brick building surrounded by a black iron fence. The fence had spiked posts, and overgrown vines hung from the roof. Henry looked beyond the locked gate to read the letters carved into the stone above the entrance.
"Hawthorne School," he said. "I've heard stories about it."
The dark shadows behind the school's broken windows made Violet shiver in her seat.
A few minutes later, Grandfather drove the minivan into the lot of Silver City Plaza, a shopping center with half a dozen stores. The spots in front of the dry cleaning shop were full, so he parked in front of Weaver's Flower Shop.
"I'll be right back," he told his grandchildren.
Grandfather had been gone only a moment when Benny spoke up. "Tell us about Hawthorne School," he said to his brother. "It looks spooky."
"Do you mean Haunted School?" Henry asked. "That's what they call it."
"Why?" Violet asked. Although she certainly thought the school looked haunted.
"Well, it's been abandoned since the 1950s," Henry said. "The gates haven't been opened since the day it closed."
"That doesn't make it haunted," Violet pointed out.
"Of course not," Jessie agreed. "But now that you mention it, wasn't the ghost story we heard last weekend about this school?"
Last weekend, Grandfather had treated Henry, Jessie, and a few of their friends to a campfire. Violet and Benny had stayed in the house to watch a movie with Mrs. McGregor. As the group sat around the small fire pit, they roasted marshmallows and exchanged their scariest ghost stories. Jessie's friend, Rose, had told everyone the tale of a haunted school — a school that she said was nearby. It had to be Hawthorne School.
Henry nodded. "I remember. The story says the ghost of the former principal still walks the halls of the school."
"A ghost?" Benny asked.
"That's right," Jessie said, recalling the story. "She was fired from her job because a teacher reported that she was stealing money from the school. After weeks of insisting she didn't do it, the principal was still told to leave. As she walked out of the building, she put a curse on the school!"
"The money was later found," Henry continued. "It turns out she didn't steal it after all."
"Did she get her job back?" Benny asked.
"No," Jessie replied. "Nobody could find her after she was asked to leave. She seemed to just ...vanish."
"Now," Henry added, "if you look through the old windows, you can see her walking back and forth through the halls. Or that's what they say, at least."
"Wow!" Benny exclaimed.
"A real ghost!" Violet said.
"We don't really believe the story," Henry said. "It's probably just a local legend."
The Alden children looked at one another, deep in thought. They heard the clicking sound of the door being unlocked and turned their attention back to Grandfather. He had returned from the dry cleaners with an armload of plastic-covered shirts.
"Look what I found," he said, climbing into the minivan. He handed a yellow piece of paper to Jessie. "You might want to consider this for service work."
Jessie read the paper. She smiled and handed it to Henry.
"Volunteers needed," he read aloud. "Thanks, Grandfather!"
Henry and Jessie's middle school required them to work ten hours of community service every year. In return, they received extra credit. They both enjoyed helping in the neighborhood and meeting new people, and they were looking for new places to volunteer.
"I was thinking about helping the teachers at Greenfield Day Care Center," Jessie said as Grandfather started the car on the journey home. "They can always use an extra pair of hands."
"And the Rec Center is looking for junior camp leaders," Henry added. "Taking little kids on adventures would be fun!"
Benny looked out the window and into the woods as they drove past them again. He thought about his own exciting adventure.
Years ago, the children's parents had died, leaving them without a home. They knew they had a grandfather but had never met him, and they had heard he was mean. So, when they thought they would be sent to live with him, they ran away into the woods. There they found an old boxcar, which they made their home. They found their dog, Watch, while they were living in the boxcar. When Grandfather finally discovered the children, they learned he was actually a very kind man. He loved them very much. They became a family, and Grandfather moved their boxcar into the backyard of their home in Greenfield so they could use it as a clubhouse.
"I wish I could help with the little kids," Benny said. The Aldens laughed, since Benny was not much older than the campers.
"It would be great to find a place where we could all work together," Jessie added.
"Any other ideas?" Grandfather asked.
The Aldens were quiet for a moment as they tried to think of places where they could all volunteer as a family.
Suddenly Violet gasped. "Stop!" she cried. "Look!" Grandfather pulled the car over to the side of the road.
"What's the matter, Violet?" he asked.
They were sitting in front of Hawthorne School.
Violet pointed a shaky finger out the window.
"The door to the school is open!" she exclaimed. "It wasn't before!"
The Aldens peered out to see that the iron gate of the old school was wide open. And so was the front door!
"I thought the school has been locked up since it closed," Benny said.
"It has been," Henry replied.
The siblings looked at the old school. The sun was setting behind the trees, casting a long shadow across the front of the building. In the darkness, the children could clearly see a flickering light in one of the upstairs windows.
"Is someone in there?" Violet asked. "Is this school really haunted?"CHAPTER 2
The Old Becomes New
"Well, would you look at that," Grandfather marveled. "Nobody's been in that place for over fifty years. I wonder what's happening."
"Do you think it's haunted?" Benny asked.
"I saw a light flickering!" Violet said.
"So did I," Jessie added. "Look through the upstairs window!"
Through the window, everyone saw a dim flicker of light. Then, the school went dark again.
"Wait," said Henry. "I think I know what's going on."
He unfolded the yellow piece of paper that Grandfather had given them. "I saw something on this flyer, and now it all makes sense." He read the flyer over before reading it aloud.
"'Volunteers needed,'" he began. "'For a renovation project and cleanup at the new Hawthorne Art Center.'"
"That's right," Grandfather said, scratching his chin. "I remember reading something about this in the Greenfield Gazette. Silver City has been planning to fix up an old building for their art center. They must have picked the old Hawthorne School."
"A community art center?" Violet asked. "I wonder what art programs they'll offer." She motioned for Jessie to hand her the flyer. "Art and dance classes," she read aloud from the paper. "And, they will have a theater for plays and music recitals!"
"What a nice addition to Silver City," Grandfather said.
"I really want to know more!" Jessie agreed.
Henry looked up at the old school, imagining how the building would look when it was fixed up. He noticed a rusty blue pickup in the school's parking lot. The truck had a ladder and a big toolbox in the back. Silver City Electric was written on the truck's side in silver letters. Henry pointed it out to his siblings.
"That truck looks familiar," he said.
"As a matter of fact, that's my old friend Bob's truck," Grandfather told them. "Remember when he fixed the lights at our house? He's an electrician here in town."
"That's right," Henry said. "Will he know about the restoration project?"
"We should ask him!" Violet said. As shy as she was, she was the one who was the most excited about the new art center.
"Sure," Grandfather replied. "I've known Bob for years. It will be good to catch up with him."
"Do you think the school is as creepy on the inside as it is on the outside?" Jessie asked.
"I hope so!" Benny said.
Jessie slid the minivan door open.
"Come on, Watch!" Benny called. Watch trotted happily alongside the Aldens as they made their way past the iron fence and gate.
As they approached the stone front steps, Bob stepped into the doorway and waved. "Hello!" he called.
He wore a blue and silver T-shirt with Silver City Electric on it and carried a flashlight. He stepped out onto the stairs and closed the school door behind him.
Grandfather waved back. "Hi, Bob! We saw your truck. Do you remember my grandchildren?"
Bob greeted Henry, Jessie, Violet, and Benny, giving each a friendly handshake. Suddenly, the school's door swung open with a loud clank. A young man appeared. He was wearing a T-shirt like Bob's. His sandy-brown hair matched Bob's too. He held a large camera that hung from a brown leather strap around his neck.
"There you are, Ansel," Bob said to the young man. "I must have lost you inside." He introduced the young man as his son. Ansel gave them a quick wave before turning away and fiddling with his camera.
"We must've seen your flashlight!" Henry said. He remembered the light they saw flickering in the window.
"I'm sure you did," Bob replied. "Ansel and I just stopped by to look at the old place. I'm overseeing the renovation project and need to make sure it's safe for our volunteers. The inside isn't too bad, just needs a little elbow grease."
Jessie's eyes grew wide, and so did her smile. "Bob," she started. "Are you still looking for volunteers?"
"We'd love to help," Violet added. She didn't want to miss an opportunity to work on the new art center.
"We sure could use volunteers," Bob replied. "We'd love for every one of you to pitch in." He nodded to all of the Alden children.
"Can you tell me more about the project?" Grandfather asked.
He then pulled Bob aside to ask about the specific jobs his grandchildren would be doing.
While Grandfather and Bob were talking, Ansel was still busy with his camera, staring at the digital screen. He carefully studied each photo as he clicked through them.
"Will you also be working here, Ansel?" Henry asked.
"I'm on the arts committee," Ansel replied, though he didn't look up from his camera. "So, I'll be around."
"Let's look inside," Benny suggested. He pointed to the grand door of the school. "Just a peek!"
"First," Henry said, "let's ask Bob if it's safe."
Grandfather gave his approval with a brief thumbs-up gesture.
"Grandfather agrees with Bob," Henry said. "The structure is safe."
"Let's go!" Benny said.
Henry opened the school's door. Jessie found a large stone and propped the door open with it.
"Come on, Watch!" she called.
Inside, Violet instantly noticed a trophy case. It was covered with a layer of soot, dust, and grime. A few trophies remained in the case. Through the dirty glass, Violet saw a tall, tarnished old cup. On another shelf, smaller trophies were draped in cobwebs. She frowned.
"At one time," she said, pointing to the trophies, "these were shiny and new."
The Aldens continued walking along the dark hallway.
"Check this out," Jessie said. She was peering at a framed black-and-white photo hanging on the wall. The picture was faded and torn around the edges. The students in the picture wore dark, formal clothes. The date March 14, 1920 was scribbled on the bottom. Jessie recorded the date in her notebook.
"They're not smiling," Henry noted.
"I don't think it was fashionable to smile in pictures back then," Jessie replied.
Benny followed his sisters and brother as they walked into a classroom. The first thing he noticed was a large clock on the wall behind an old teacher's desk. The clock's hands had stopped with the hour hand pointing to twelve and the minute hand to three. Benny shuddered. He wondered how long ago the clock's hands had stopped turning.
"This place is definitely as creepy on the inside as the outside!" he exclaimed.
Rows of smaller desks sat across from the teacher's desk. Jessie lifted one of the desks' tops. Inside, she found broken pencils and old papers. Shifting through the papers, Violet found an old cloth doll. The doll's hair was made of yellow yarn, and its clothes were faded fabric scraps. A small button had been sewn on for an eye, but the other eye's button was missing.
"This place is spooky," Violet said. "We'd better get back. Grandfather might be looking for us."
When the Aldens returned to the front steps, Grandfather was still talking with Bob.
"Good news," Grandfather said. "Volunteers start next week."
"We'll get this place looking brand-new!" Bob said.
"Sure," Ansel muttered.
He kept his head down, but it looked to Jessie like he was trying to hide a scowl.
She wondered why Ansel wasn't more excited to be a part of the project. After all, it was an art center, and he clearly loved taking photos.
"We're going to grab the volunteer paperwork from the truck," Grandfather said. He and Bob headed toward the parking lot.
While they all waited, Ansel sighed. He looked unhappy.
Jessie tried to break the ice. "Are you excited about the new art center?"
Ansel looked up. Then he turned and gazed up at the old school. His eyes narrowed. "This place should be kept the way it is," he said bitterly. And with that, he marched off to the parking lot.
"What was that about?" Henry asked.
Jessie shrugged. "I don't know," she said.
"I want to see the swings!" Benny said just then. He had noticed the rusty playground equipment near the front fence. "Can we wait for Grandfather on the playground?"
"Sure," Jessie said. "But be careful." They walked over to the broken-down playground. Violet and Benny sat on the swings, which creaked and screeched as they moved back and forth. They faced the school yard where the grass and shrubs were overgrown. Long vines wrapped around the fence. The untended yard added to the creepiness of the school.
Henry walked around looking at the old seesaws, while Jessie sat still on one of the swings. She was thinking about Ansel's odd behavior. Her thoughts were interrupted by Watch's loud bark, which startled her.
"What's with Watch?" Benny asked. The dog had tensed up, and now he nervously paced in front of the children. Then he stopped and growled in the direction of the school.
"It feels like ... like someone is watching us," Jessie said.
Benny looked at the dark windows of the old school. "There's no such thing as ghosts," he said aloud. "Right?"CHAPTER 3
An Important Lesson
It was the first day of volunteer work.
"See you in a few hours!" Grandfather called from the minivan. He waved to the children as they climbed the front steps of Hawthorne School.
Jessie stopped for a moment to look up at the old building. In the morning daylight, Jessie couldn't remember what about the place had her so nervous just a week ago.
"Hawthorne School doesn't look so spooky today," Violet said. She was thinking the same thing as her sister.
So was Henry, who gazed at the tower on the top of the school. It looked majestic against the clear, sunny sky.
Excerpted from Hidden in the Haunted School by Gertrude Chandler Warner, Anthony VanArsdale. Copyright © 2016 Albert Whitman & Company. Excerpted by permission of Albert Whitman & Company.
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.
Table of Contents
Contents1. Ghost Stories,
2. The Old Becomes New,
3. An Important Lesson,
4. The Locked Door,
5. A Mysterious Warning,
6. Unusual Business,
7. Behind the Curtain,
8. An Unexpected Discovery,
9. Unlocking the Past,
10. A Grand Opening,