The Deadtime Stories by "Twisted Sisters" Annette and Gina Cascone—they'll scare you silly.
Katie and Andy Lawrence thought moving to a new town—especially one named Appleton—was awful enough. They were wrong. When their parents take them to Appleton's famous apple orchard for a haunted hayride, weird things start happening.
The ghouls who haunt the orchard seem spookily real. The kids they see are acting very strangely, like robots or…zombies. Then Mr. and Mrs. Lawrence disappear—and in their place, Katie and Andy find creepy shrunken applehead dolls!
Now Katie and Andy have to find a way to turn their parents back to normal—before it's too late!
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About the Author
"Twisted Sisters" ANNETTE and GINA CASCONE have written more than twenty-eight books and two movies, including the successful Deadtime Stories, which are being filmed as a live-action feature series. The sisters live in Central New Jersey.
"Twisted Sisters" ANNETTE CASCONE AND GINA CASCONE have written more than twenty-eight books and two movies together. Their books include young adult thrillers, as well as the Deadtime Stories series for middle-grade readers. They have also produced and written numerous treatments and books for series packagers such as Parachute Publishing, where they worked on the mega-successful Goosebumps series by R. L. Stine. They both live in Central New Jersey.
Read an Excerpt
Invasion of the Appleheads
By Annette Cascone, Gina Cascone
Tom Doherty AssociatesCopyright © 2012 Annette Cascone and Gina Cascone
All rights reserved.
Katie Lawrence was sure the torture would never end. She had to struggle to hold back the scream in her throat. Because she knew that if she screamed, things would only get worse.
That is, if things could get worse.
"Isn't this fun, kids?" Katie's mother asked cheerily.
No! Katie wanted to yell at the top of her lungs. This is not fun! This is the worst possible way to spend a day!
It was a beautiful, sunny Sunday. It was also the day before Halloween. That's what made things really bad.
Katie wanted to be home putting the finishing touches on her Halloween costume and getting ready for the big parade. The Halloween parade was the biggest event in Appleton. All of the kids in Katie's school were excited about it.
Katie was excited about it, too, especially since she'd been invited to a party by Christine Baker, the most popular girl in her class. Starting the fifth grade in a new school had been hard enough, but making new friends had been even harder.
Unfortunately, Katie wasn't at home right now working on her Halloween costume. Because Katie was crammed into the backseat of the car with her eleven-year-old brother, Andy, who didn't want to be driving around Appleton any more than she did. All because their parents had insisted they spend the day together visiting the town's historical sights.
"Are we going to stop soon?" Andy moaned.
"Yes," Mrs. Lawrence answered. "We're almost there."
"Almost where?" Katie whispered to her brother. "What stupid thing are we going to have to look at next?"
"Probably the biggest rock in Appleton," Andy whispered back.
They both snickered.
Katie and her family had moved to Appleton just a few months before. They used to live in the city, but Katie's parents had decided that a small town would be a much better place for them to grow up.
Appleton was a small town. It was a small creepy town, in Katie's opinion. It had been founded in the 1600s, and most of it still looked four hundred years old. Even the neighborhood Katie and her family lived in looked like a page from a history book.
Traveling through Appleton was like driving through a time warp. Except for the mall, there was nothing modern-looking at all.
Katie hated it.
But her parents adored it. They thought Appleton was the greatest place in the universe.
The morning before, Katie's mother had picked up a little guidebook at the library that told about all the historical sights in their new town. Before the day was over, they were going to visit every single one of them.
"I can't believe we spent twenty minutes looking at a stupid piece of cement," Katie complained to Andy.
Even though Katie had whispered, her mother heard her. "What piece of cement?" she asked.
"The one that said 'George Washington crossed here,'" Katie answered. "What was so interesting about that?"
"That was very interesting," Mr. Lawrence answered. "It was the route that Washington took on his way to an important battle of the Revolution," he started to explain. "He —"
"I know. I know." Katie stopped her father. She couldn't stand to hear the story again. History was just about her least favorite subject in the world.
"So what are we going to see next?" Andy asked, sounding as impatient as Katie felt.
"The next stop is the Appleton Orchard," Mrs. Lawrence said, checking the guidebook.
Katie and Andy rolled their eyes.
"Do you want to hear what the guidebook says about it?" their mother asked.
"Nooooooo!" Katie and Andy answered at the same time.
"Of course we do," Mr. Lawrence said, shooting Katie and Andy a scolding look over his shoulder.
"I think you kids are really going to like this," their mother told them.
She'd been promising that all day. It hadn't been true yet.
"'The Appleton Orchard was originally owned by a woman who was accused of being a witch,'" Mrs. Lawrence read.
"Sounds pretty spooky, kids," Mr. Lawrence chimed in, trying to stir up their interest.
"Listen to this." Their mother continued to read. "'The townspeople believed that the witch was putting some kind of magic potion into her apples, a potion that turned all the children of Appleton into zombies. On Halloween Night, three hundred years ago, the angry parents burned the orchard to the ground.'"
"Pretty cool!" Andy said.
Katie agreed the story was cool, but she still wasn't sure about going there. "If the orchard was burned to the ground, what is there to see?" she pointed out.
"The book says that the witch's house is still standing," her mother told her. "It's the oldest house in Appleton. And it wasn't even damaged in the fire."
Who wanted to see another stupid old house? Katie slumped against the car door. Things had gotten worse.
"Look at that," Mr. Lawrence said a second later as the orchard came into view.
A banner stretched across the road. It read WELCOME TO APPLETON ORCHARD.
There were hand-painted signs posted every few feet. Free Candy Apples! Free Apple Cider! Free Haunted Hayrides!
"I thought this place was supposed to be deserted," Katie said.
"Well, it certainly looks full of life today," her father replied as he drove toward the huge iron gates that led into the orchard. "Maybe someone has taken over the place. This looks like some kind of grand-opening celebration."
"That's funny," Mrs. Lawrence chimed in. "I didn't see anything about it in the paper this morning. If I had, we could have skipped the sightseeing tour and spent the day here."
Katie shot her brother a look. Too bad there hadn't been anything in the paper. The orchard sounded a little more interesting than anything else they'd seen so far. Maybe they could have been spared a whole day of torture.
"Well, we're here now," Mr. Lawrence said, turning through the gates. "And we've still got a couple of good hours before it gets dark."
As they entered the grounds, Katie felt something strange. Something that made her shiver. It was as if she'd passed through some kind of invisible wall, or like diving into a pool and breaking through the surface of the water. And it happened just as quickly.
Strangely, outside the gates, the trees were turning colors and losing their leaves, but inside the gates, the apple trees were at their prime — green and loaded with fruit.
Katie turned around in her seat to look back at the gates.
Something else was wrong. But it took Katie a minute to figure out what it was.
Outside the gates, where the leaves on the trees were dying, it was a beautiful, sunny day. But inside the gates, where everything flourished, it was dark and dreary.
Katie shivered again. "Creepy," she said, talking to herself.
"What's creepy?" her mother asked.
"The trees," Katie answered. "How come they've still got apples?"
"Maybe the apple season is longer out here in the country," her mother said.
"But look how dark it is in here," Katie pointed out.
Her father laughed. "Of course it's dark," he said. "We're in the shadow of all these trees."
Katie caught a glimpse of the sky above the trees. It was steely gray, with no sunshine at all.
But before Katie could point that out to her family, the words stuck in her throat as a hideous creature stepped out from between the apple trees that lined the drive. Its head was swollen, and the green, putrid skin that covered its face was rotting right off its skull. Bloodshot eyeballs hung from their sockets. And a blood-covered ax stuck out of its chest.
"Look!" Mrs. Lawrence exclaimed as another grotesque creature appeared ahead of them. "Everyone is dressed up for Halloween!"
Katie took a good look at the creature with the ax in its chest. If that was a costume, it was very, very good.
"This is excellent!" Andy said. "I definitely want to go on the haunted hayride."
"Didn't I tell you this would be fun?" Mrs. Lawrence said.
They pulled into the parking lot under a giant old shade tree where several other cars were already parked. But there were no other people in the parking lot, just the biggest, creepiest-looking scarecrow on a pole that Katie had ever seen.
Its head was the size of a basketball, and it was covered with a dirty white sheet that was tied around its neck with a thick, heavy rope dangling to the ground like a leash. Its face was painted onto the sheet.
The second her father parked the car, the creature started to move!
Katie let out a loud, startled cry.
So did her mother.
"It's all right," Katie's father assured them. "It's just someone dressed up in a Halloween costume."
The giant creature climbed down from its pole and started clomping its way toward them, flailing its arms and moaning. It looked like Frankenstein's monster dressed up as a scarecrow.
No one made a move to get out of the car.
"If he's trying to scare us away, he's doing a pretty good job," Katie's mother said nervously.
The scarecrow fell onto the hood of the car, moaning and groaning even louder than before.
"Let's get out of here!" Katie cried.
But it was too late.
Within seconds, the car was surrounded by cackling witches and blood-covered ghouls.
And Katie had the horrible feeling that they weren't just people in Halloween costumes.CHAPTER 2
"OOOOOOOO-WAAAAAAAY!" the scarecrow moaned, peering through the windshield at them. "OOOOOOOO-WAAAAAAAAY!"
Katie could see the scarecrow's beady black eyes glaring at them from behind the sheet with his painted-on face. His body was so huge and bulky, it covered the entire hood of the car.
Katie's heart pounded against her chest even harder than the scarecrow's massive fists were pounding the glass.
"Do something, Dad!" Katie yelled.
"Everybody just stay calm," Mr. Lawrence said, sounding anything but calm. "I'm sure he's just acting scary for Halloween."
"Then he's a really good actor!" Katie shot back. "Cause he's scaring me half to death!"
"OOOOOOOOOOO-WAAAAAAAAY!" the scarecrow kept moaning.
"What in the world is he saying?" Mrs. Lawrence said. She sounded pretty scared herself.
"I don't know," Mr. Lawrence answered, shooting Mrs. Lawrence a worried look.
Katie didn't want to know. She just wanted to get out of there. Fast!
"Back up, Dad!" Katie cried.
"He can't back up!" Andy said. "He'll run over all those ghouls on our trunk!"
The ghouls weren't just climbing on the trunk. They were banging on the windows and hanging off the roof.
Just then another voice screeched through the air.
"OOOOOOOO-WEN!" the voice bellowed. "Get away from that car before I turn you into a tongueless little rat! All of you! Away from the car!"
The wrinkled old woman who raced toward the car looked even more horrible than she sounded. She was dressed in a witch's costume.
But Katie didn't think she had on any makeup at all. Her shriveled old skin really was a sickly green color. And the hairy wart hanging from the end of her nose wasn't glued on.
"Oh, look." Mrs. Lawrence relaxed as the witch swatted the ghouls with her broom. "They're just putting on a little show for us," she said.
"Get away from the car, Owen," the gnarled old woman growled. Then she grabbed the rope hanging from the scarecrow's neck and gave it a tug. "Keep it up, and I'll lock you back in the dungeon!"
The scarecrow quickly climbed down from the hood. He was shaking and cowering. Katie had the feeling he really was afraid of the witch.
"Bad Owen," the witch hollered, waving her gnarled finger in front of his face. "Bad, bad Owen."
"Owen?" Andy rolled his eyes. "The scarecrow's name is Owen?"
"He looks more like Frankenstein to me," Katie said.
Mrs. Lawrence laughed. "You see?" she said. "Everything is fine!"
"Welcome to Appleton Orchard!" The witch cackled as she pressed her hairy wart nose up against Katie's window. "Come out, dear," she said, beckoning Katie with a crooked finger. Then she reached into her pocket and pulled out a huge clump of peanut brittle. "I have lots of goodies for you!"CHAPTER 3
Katie shot her parents a look that said, Please don't make me get out of this car! But her parents were already climbing out themselves.
"Don't be afraid," the witch said as she pulled open Katie's door. "We're just having fun. Aren't we, Owen?"
The scarecrow let out a nervous moan as the witch bit off a piece of the peanut brittle she held in her twisted fingers.
Katie drew back at the sight of the gooey brown gunk swishing around the witch's stained yellow teeth.
"That's one heck of a welcoming committee you've got there," Mr. Lawrence said as he headed toward the witch.
"It sure is," Mrs. Lawrence agreed. "For a second, you even had us fooled."
"I hope we didn't scare you too badly," the witch said. "Our scarecrow loves Halloween. And he loves trying to scare all the children away. Don't you, Owen?" she growled.
Owen didn't answer. He just lowered his head as if he were ashamed.
"Don't mind him," the witch said. She winked at Andy. "The cat bit off Owen's tongue when he was just a little boy. And she swallowed it right up!"
Katie and Andy exchanged nervous glances as the witch started to cackle.
"I'm Yaga," she said, sticking out her hand to Katie. "And you're my next victim."
Yaga had the worst breath Katie had ever smelled. It was so foul, Katie wanted to cover her nose. Only she wasn't about to touch her face. Not after shaking Yaga's hand. The witch's palm was as slimy as an eel.
"So, how long have you been here, Yaga?" Mrs. Lawrence asked.
"Hundreds of years," Yaga answered, biting off another piece of peanut brittle.
Katie's mother laughed. "I mean, how long has the orchard been open?"
"Today," Yaga answered. "It's our grand opening. That's why everything is free."
"That's what we thought," Mrs. Lawrence told her. "But we didn't see any announcement in the paper this morning."
Yaga chuckled. "We don't like to advertise," she said. "We have plenty of other ways to get customers."
Just then another old witch headed toward them, carrying a tray loaded with candy apples and steaming hot cups.
"Can Drusila and I offer you some hot apple cider and sweet candy apples before you set off on the scariest hayride of your lives?" Yaga asked.
"I'd love some hot apple cider," Mrs. Lawrence said.
"Me, too," added Mr. Lawrence.
"I brewed it myself," Yaga said, handing over the cups. "It does wonders for your head."
Mrs. Lawrence looked at Yaga, confused.
Yaga's lips twisted into a ghoulish grin. "It clears the sinuses," she said.
"Oh." Mrs. Lawrence nodded politely, then took a sip. "Mmmm ... it's absolutely delicious."
"How about some candy apples for you two?" Drusila, the other witch, asked Katie and Andy. She smiled, exposing her four rotten teeth.
"I'd like one," Andy said, reaching for an apple.
"And you, my little pretty?" Drusila leered at Katie.
"Sure," Katie said, taking one. "Thanks."
Drusila kept right on leering. "You have beautiful eyes," she told Katie. "Look how green and full of life they are!" Drusila seemed so excited by Katie's eyes that she was actually snorting with glee.
"They are full of life, aren't they?" Yaga grinned, leering at Katie, too.
Yaga's stare sent shivers racing across Katie's flesh. Yaga's eyes were the creepiest part of her. The left one was grayer than charcoal, but the right one was so blue and sparkling, it looked like crystal. Katie couldn't turn away from her hypnotic stare.
It was as if Yaga's eyes were trying to suck the life right out of her.
"Katie has her mother's eyes," Mr. Lawrence said, pulling Yaga's attention away from Katie.
"She does at that," Yaga agreed, peering at Mrs. Lawrence. "Your eyes are as green as emeralds, too. They're enticing," she told Mrs. Lawrence.
"Thank you," Mrs. Lawrence acknowledged the compliment. Then she glanced at the house that stood at the far side of the parking lot. "After the hayride, I'd love to go inside the house. I understand it's the oldest house in Appleton."
Katie looked at the rickety old building. The huge gray stone walls were cracking and crumbling, and the wooden steps that led up to the door were rotting away. Thick, heavy grime covered the windows, and the shutters were hanging half off. Katie couldn't understand why in the world her mother would want to go in there. It didn't even look safe.
"Yes." Yaga smiled her ugly smile. "Of course you'll see the house. Our little gift shop is inside. That's where everyone ends up. But first, you must go on the hayride." Yaga clapped her hands loudly. "Owen!" she bellowed. "Prepare the next cart!"
"Oh, no," Andy whispered to Katie. "Not Owen."
Katie didn't want to get in a cart with Owen, either. But it didn't look like they had a choice. In the far distance, Katie now saw that the only other cart was already loaded with another set of parents and their two kids. Katie had never seen so much red hair in her life. It looked like a carriage full of rooster heads.
"Just go on over to the barn," Yaga said. "Owen will take real good care of you folks."
"Thanks, Yaga," Mr. Lawrence said. "I haven't been on a hayride in years. This is going to be great!"
Mrs. Lawrence giggled. "A haunted hayride," she reminded Mr. Lawrence. "Good thing you'll be with me," she added, taking his hand. "In case I get scared."
"I'll be listening for your screams." Yaga laughed.
Mr. and Mrs. Lawrence grinned as they raced for the barn.
Excerpted from Invasion of the Appleheads by Annette Cascone, Gina Cascone. Copyright © 2012 Annette Cascone and Gina Cascone. Excerpted by permission of Tom Doherty Associates.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Short but epic
Fun book loved the show though