Wednesday, September 30, 2015

“What were we accusing them of? Being Scottish?” BSC Super Mystery #1: Babysitters’ Haunted House (1995)

Lisa and Seth Engle, Karen and Andrew’s mom and stepdad, call the BSC needing two sitters to be parents’ helpers during a ten-day vacation in Maine. The four eighth grade BSC members (Dawn, Claudia, MA and Kristy) are all fighting over who will take the job, so Lisa offers to let all four of them come along; they get a free vacation in exchange for sitting the six kids all day long. The sitters keep seeing and hearing ‘ghosty’ things and try to find an explanation for it. Meanwhile, the kids are being kids (One hates Karen because she’s overbearing; one follows Dawn around everywhere; the third is mad because the only other two boys are five years older and five years younger than he is, respectively.) They find a mystery about an alleged treasure and ghosts in the attic, but it turns out that the caretaker couple are really just trying to scare the Menders family away because if they don’t move into the home, then the caretakers will inherit it.
Meanwhile, Jessi and Mal are trying to hold down the BSC fort with Shannon and Logan not able to make meetings or sit very much, which is actually more interesting than the A plot.
Interesting Tidbits
The cover: Friggin’ Karen. The funniest part, though, is that everyone’s looking stage left…except Kristy.

The book starts with Claudia handwriting! Ooh! Allready, evry, entertin, hopefuly, vacatin, whith, ful. She also uses for for four. Heh.
Claudia ‘didn’t exactly pass’ English. That sounds like the way they phrase things these days to preserve kids’ self-esteem bubbles. Honestly, I can understand that in elementary school, but by middle school kids need to accept the consequences of failing. (In this case, though, I think it might be Claud’s phrasing rather than the school’s.)
More Claudia! Fourever, tempratur, ninty, freinds, finely (instead of finally), celabrate, whitch (which). I can’t figure out part of what she’s saying, either: “[We] were jumping out of our sivety skins with exsitment.” I might be reading ‘sivety’ wrong though.
Claudia bought Dawn some rice cakes but suggests that she’d get the same effect from chewing on paper. This is pretty much true.
Karen and Andrew get into a fight over which babysitters they’ll sit next to. Karen wants to sit next to Kristy and Mary Anne, while Andrew wants to sit next to Kristy and Claudia. Ha ha, no one wants to sit with Dawn (until they see her. Then Andrew wants to sit with ALL the sitters.)
Mary Anne recognizes the name of the town the Engles are visiting because she ‘read about it in a travel guide.’ Mary Anne does seem the sort who would just sit at home, reading travel guides, waiting for the day when she’s old enough to actually go places.
Ha! The convoy gets lost on the way to Maine and detour through Vermont. Instead of getting mad, Mary Anne actually likes it.
Dawn makes up for the fact that neither Karen nor Andrew wanted to sit with her by attracting the interest of Jill Menders, who decides she wants to be Dawn Jr. and copy her in every way.
First part of the ‘mystery’: Mary Anne and Kristy see candle light and hear ‘ghostly wailing’ their first night in Reese.
The oldest Menders son wants to be an actor when he grows up, so he goes around speaking in character. He scares the shit out of Dawn by coming up behind her and asking her, “Sleep well, my pretty?” Dawn says his acting is as good as Jeff’s comedy, which is obviously not a compliment.
Claudia decides that Georgio, the gardener, is a babe, but she capitalizes it: “He’s a Babe.” Makes me think of the pig…

Anyone surprised that Claudia really gets into the idea of making a float for the Founders’ Day parade? Me neither. Moving on.
More Claud spelling: beleve, thats, Saterday, wrighting, evrybody, notebok, rite (write), compositon, somthing, intresting.
Georgio is in college (University of Maine) and thinks Claudia is sixteen. He’s clearly hitting on her but she’s so busy suspecting him of being the ghost that she doesn’t even notice. Not to mention the fact that him being nineteen or older and hitting on fake-sixteen year olds is icky (and illegal).
Eww, Karen chapter. Can I throw up now or do I have to wait until it’s over?
Martha is reading The Secret Garden.
Heh. Logan and Karen have the same handwriting. In a letter to Mary Anne, he relates a BSC meeting he wasn’t even at, attended by Mal and Jessi. They get so desperate for sitters that Janine agrees to take a job. Then they forget to tell Logan about a sitting job they lined up for him, so Mal actually shows up at the Rosebud Café to get him to go. She grabs a loaf of bread from him, shakes it at him and then wrings it ‘like a handkerchief.’ I’m going to quote Logan’s letter: “Mal—acting president of the Babysitters Club—was still holding on to that pathetic loaf of bread when I rushed her out of the restaurant.” She then tells him she loves him and that the Stoneybrook Ambulance Services (which was having an auction, hence the need for so many sitters) should name an ambulance after him. Logan doesn’t love her much, but he puts up with Mary Anne’s ‘goofy friends.’
The babysitters keep confiding in the couple who are caretakers of the house, Elton and Margaret Cooper, about their suspicions about the ghost and the house. Which, for anyone who has ever read any of these books before, makes them the number one suspects. BSC members always tell the wrong things to the wrong people.
Elton tells the girls the story of the granddaughter of Reginald Randolph—that name’s a real tongue twister!—Lydia, who fell in love with the gardener. Her parents locked her up on the fourth floor to keep her from the gardener, who made a fortune and then came to rescue her. By the time he found her, she had white hair. Sounds like any ghost story you could find in any book for kids. Oh, and it's not true. Dawn’s supposed to be a big fan of those books, but she eats the story straight up. It’s kind of pathetic.
There’s some other malarkey about Reginald going off to sea and never coming back, and how his wife walked the widow’s walk at the top of the house for the rest of her life, until she was flung to her death in a storm. I can’t remember all the details, because I actually read that part a couple days ago….
Part of the reason the BSC went as a group to Reese was to try to convince the Menders kids that they liked Reese and help them adjust and make friends. This is a problem for several reasons:
1.                  Martha is shy and doesn’t want to talk to the other kids. She’d probably be fine if she were on her own, but Karen keeps trying to goad her into making friends. Of course Karen is completely unhelpful and annoying.
2.                  Jason doesn’t want to be near the girls, so Kristy keeps trying to take him to meet the other boys in the area. But since Karen is being obnoxious, the other boys won’t come near him. He calls them stuck up.
3.                  Jill only wants to be with Dawn. She says she doesn’t want to move to Reese; she’d rather move to Stoneybrook and live next to Dawn. (I keep waiting for Dawn’s patience to end and for her to wind up telling Jill off.)
4.                  Lionel thinks he can’t become a ‘real’ actor if he’s stuck in Reese…despite the fact that they have summer stock productions and he could act in them.
Honestly, I can’t decide why Lionel is the sitters’ responsibility. He’s older than they are and has been spending most of his time following Dawn around as much as Jill does. (He’s figured out she’s very easy to spook.)
Dawn thinks the cat Jill found is a ghost. Because that worked out so well the firsttime she thought that.
Kristy manages to get Jason to make some friends…by agreeing to coach all the boys in a game of softball. Bo-ring!
Mallory and Jessi feel like they’ve ruined the club by not having sitters available for all the jobs that pop up. But really. What do they think happens when they whole BSC goes on vacation all those other times? There are going to be times when there are no sitters available. The BSC can’t be the only sitters in town.
Claudia spelling! Disapointed, freind, sory, grandparrents, scarey, midle. She also uses steel for steal.
There’s actually an Andrew chapter, about the mini-fair held by the swim team Mary Anne was trying to convince Jill and Martha to join. Because Mary Anne had asked about the Randolph house at the historical society and was told a ‘woman with an accent’ had asked about the same thing not long before, the babysitters are tracking women who ‘sound like Mary Poppins.’
After Dawn decides to play in the dumbwaiter (which was hidden behind a painting), she finds a couple of interesting things. Someone had put a tape recorder in there, and it had to be open somewhere because the cat was able to climb in and have a seat in the elevator part. Also, Mrs. Cooper, who supposedly had no voice and was unable to speak, could in fact talk. (In fact, Dawn eventually admits she had an accent…which most likely makes her Mary Poppins.)
The final key to the mystery comes when Mr. Menders states that the will stipulates he only actually inherits the mansion if he lives in it full time; otherwise, it goes to his cousin Charles, who had moved overseas years before.
The title quote is a paraphrase of why Kristy doesn’t tell Lisa her suspicions about the Coopers before all the adults leave for the day.
“I almost wish I still thought the house was haunted.” I’ll give you three guesses who wrote that, and the first two don’t count.
Jessi and Mal found out that the meetings were slow (after the first one) because a lot of clients went on vacation, not because they’d ‘ruined’ the club. But there’s a mistake in among that mess: Mal is scheduled to take both her siblings and the Rodowskys to the fair that’s going to be held in Stoneybrook, while Jessi is supposed to supervise Becca, the Braddocks and the some other kids. Yet when Jessi calls the Braddocks a few days before the fair, Mrs. Braddock tells her they’re leaving right that moment on a two week camping trip. It’s as if they didn’t keep track of which family was which and meant to mention someone else was going on vacation.
Ooh, one last set of Claudia spelling: Wat (twice), nigt, forgit, evrybody, floot, sory, scard, costum.
So the Menders kids all end up liking Reese and so they decide to move there. Lionel joins the summer stock and agrees to coach Jason and his new friends in baseball. Jill becomes a junior babysitter by supervising Martha at swim practice (this lets her be like Dawn a little); they both make friends on the swim team.
In the epilogue, Georgio writes a letter to Claudia, who responds…by typing him a letter. Probably so she could use spell check! (She also finally tells him she’s thirteen.)
There was this whole lame thing about Uncle Randolph dying and mentioning his treasure in the attic. The BSC looks but doesn’t find any jewels, but the Menderses let Andrew keep a toy boat he finds. The boat’s name? Treasure. Yep.
Claudia: blue lycra bike shorts, lacy black tank top, man’s white dress shirt, purple and white checked socks, red high tops, hoop earrings with parrots on them (sounds positively nauseating); pink and red abstract floral pattern sundress, pink baseball cap, yellow glass earrings, red high tops; black gauzy skirt, black leotard, dangly glass earrings; same black skirt with a red tank top
Dawn: t-shirt and shorts over swimsuit; sundress and sandals (Jill asks her every day what she’s going to wear so they can be matchy, hence the attire); pink tank top, long skirt, fake pearls
Jill: Dawn’s skirt and a tank top (so she looks like Dawn, natch)
Lionel: seventy year old tux; white linen pants and beige shirt; cutoffs, Red Sox t-shirt, sideways ball cap
New characters
Lionel, Jillian (Jill), Jason and Martha Menders (14, 10, 9 and 7)—34, 30, 29 and 27

Next: Farewell, Dawn


  1. I get that AMM wanted Karen in the story - but really, Lisa and Seth calling the BSC? And agreeing to take Lisa's ex-husband's step-daughter with them on vacation? Not sure why this couldn't have worked with Watson and Elizabeth, especially since it's established that Watson knows everyone.

  2. Maybe Claudia meant "shivery skin"? I'd check my copy of the book, but it's in a storage locker about 3,000 miles from here...

  3. I think Claudia meant sweaty skins.