The Bookworm: The Second Horror
The Second Horror, by R.L. Stine. 147 pages. Pocket Books. September 1994.
I can live without basketball, Brandt thought. I’ve got plenty of other activities to keep me busy. Mainly, girls! (p. 70)
Since my last Bookworm post, I realized I can’t finish my original Fear Street collection before moving on to the “new” books I bought — at least not without reading one trilogy out of order. The one book I have from The Cataluna Chronicles, The Dark Secret, is the second book in the trilogy.
That solves that “problem.” However, I still plan to finish the 99 Fear Street: The House of Evil series and my last single novel before moving on to the new books.
Up next in the re-reads was the second book in the 99 Fear Street trilogy: The Second Horror.
A year after the Frasiers left 99 Fear Street, the McCloy family moves in under the watchful, malicious gaze of Cally Frasier’s ghost. The McCloys have spent the past couple years living on the Pacific island of Mapolo where Mr. McCloy studied the islanders’ native rituals. (I am not sure if Mapolo is a real place. A Google search gave me a number of Pinterest links to photos of a resort on “Mapolo Island, Fiji.” However, I think “Mapolo” is a misspelling of the Fijian island of Malolo.) While hanging native spears in the living room for good luck, one of the spears mysteriously jumps from young Brandt McCloy’s hand and plunges to the ground, point down, killing the McCloy’s cat. Aww. (Once the cat was introduced, though, I knew he probably would not last too long.)
After their cat’s death, the McCloys are mostly spared the house’s horrifying terror at first. Little things start to add up, though. Brandt battles a crazed raccoon in the attic one night. Later, he is overpowered by the smell of rotting flesh — which mysteriously disappears once his mother comes to investigate his cries for help. Brandt meets Abbie, a cute girl who says she lives next door, and she tells him that the house is evil. While investigating the sound of footsteps in the attic on another night, he discovers Cally Frasier’s diary and reads about the home’s history and the Frasiers bad luck there. Brandt slowly realizes that something is amiss and wonders if a ghost haunts the house.
Brandt is easily able to attract the attention of two girls at school, Jinny and Meg, and he even joins the basketball team — a fact he conceals from his parents. Brandt has a “condition” and his parents do not want him overexerting himself physically. What is his “condition”? It is unexplained until the end, though readers are given a couple clues. At basketball practice one day, he falls to the floor and severely bruises his elbow. During another practice, his shoulder dislocates during a layup drill. He also wears a necklace with a small pouch at all times. Hmm…
Brandt also has another problem: a shadowy figure, which he assumes is the evil from the house, stalks him.
Cally begins to shift her haunting into a higher gear. When Brandt invites Jinny to his house, her wrists are cut when a glass shatters in midair. (Nobody else is present to see it happen, of course, and nobody really believes her.) Later, Brandt checks Cally’s diary again and notices that a new entry has been added, threatening Abbie. He intends to warn her, but he doesn’t even know where she leaves or her last name (to look up her phone number in the once indispensable phone book). Brandt then starts hearing James’ voice, calling from inside the house. Brandt breaks open a wall in the spare bedroom, much like Mr. Frasier had done, and finds the skeleton of a small boy clutching the remains of a dog: James and Cubby.
After James’ remains are taken away, things quiet down and the McCloys are sure they are now in the clear. But then Abbie has a heavy suit of armor pin her to the floor, and Jinny and Meg have hunting darts from Mapolo shot into their throats. (Don’t decorate your haunted house with sharp hunting tools, people!) When Brandt finally warns Abbie that the evil spirit in the house intends to harm her, Abbie turns out to be Cally in disguise.
Cally intends to kill Brandt so his spirit can keep her company. When Cally reveals herself to Brandt, she takes one of the hatchets from Mapolo and buries it in Brandt’s head. However, Brandt does not die. Instead, he laughs and informs Cally that he cannot die because he is already dead.
Yep. Brandt is dead. That is his “condition.” He tells Cally that he was accidentally poisoned on Mapolo and then brought back to life by a sorcerer who stole the life force of a drifter. (Let that sink in: a drifter on a small Pacific island. I laughed out loud when I read that. I suppose there can be drifters on small islands, but when I think of a drifter I think of someone who moves from place to place with no permanent home. I assume it is very hard to “drift” from island to island in the Pacific.) The pouch Brandt wears at all time contains the drifter’s nail and hair clippings.
After Brandt finishes explaining his “condition,” the shadowy figure emerges. Instead of being Cally or the evil in the house, the shadowy figure turns out to be the spirit of the island drifter, who has come to reclaim his life force. The drifter takes the pouch containing his hair and nail clippings from Brandt and, I guess, regains his physical form. (He conveniently runs downstairs and, presumably, out onto the streets of Shadyside — a long way from Mapolo — to start drifting again.) Brandt decomposes right before Cally’s eyes and she is left alone. In the epilogue, she watches Brandt’s remains being taken from the house and reveals that the McCloys are moving.
The Second Horror was a little quirky. Though it tied back to The First Horror in a number of ways, most notably with Cally, and the evil of the house was the dominant theme, there seemed to be a lot of tangents and side stories, making The Second Horror more about Brandt than 99 Fear Street. (By the way, rats still infest the basement, the same handyman is hired unsolicited, and the same maid is hired. Hmm…) A lot of attention is given to the rivalry Brandt develops with Jinny’s boyfriend, Jon, and Brandt’s love interests get a lot of attention, too, as well as the attention Brandt gives them. In one chapter, Brandt takes the family Honda for a joyride and nearly drives the car off a cliff — an event that is completely unconnected to the rest of the story.
However, The Second Horror was still an enjoyable read. The novel is set in October, so I especially savored the short descriptions that evoked the month’s spookiness. (Fall is almost here!)
Speaking of October: it was announced last year that R.L. Stine is reviving the Fear Street series and Party Games, the first new Fear Street book published since the nineties (I think), will be released next month. Six more new Fear Street books will follow.