Disneyland Daddy, n: “a guy who hasn’t seen his kids in months and feels really guilty” (page 3).
^ I haven’t heard that one before. Some raw realness coming from Dawn Schafer right off the bat as she discusses the trip she and her brother Jeff took to visit their dad in California. (They hadn’t seen him since their parents divorced months earlier.) As Dawn says, their father treated them to a whirlwind of fun things; still, “a Disneyland Daddy doesn’t feel like your father anymore… but I guess he’s better than no father at all” (page 3).
Dawn goes home and is a little creeped out by her big old house. Even though the rooms are all small, the house is old and Dawn knows a lot of people have lived there – and maybe some have died there – and while she’s making dinner (DID YOU KNOW DAWN LOVES HEALTH FOOD?!) she hears creaking noises and is like “uhhh… yikes bikes”. She’s still convinces there’s some kind of secret passage in her house.
Stoneybrook has a couple of days of creepy thunderstorms, so Dawn invites the other girls in the BSC over to her house so they can all look for a secret passage. They have strategies like tapping on walls to listen for hollow sounds, feeling around for springs and catches, and shining flashlights on walls to look for openings and compartments. They poke around the house for a long time but, despite freaking out themselves and each other, they don’t find anything.
Dawn baby-sits for the Pikes with Mallory (whose parents have decided that, at eleven, she’s mature enough to be the “second sitter”). Dawn says that she and the other girls have thought that maybe Mallory could join the BSC someday. Nicky is still having trouble – he feels left out because the triplets don’t include him, yet he doesn’t want to hang out with the girls (Mallory, Vanessa, Margo, and Claire). His parents have allowed him to go off on his own as long as he stays within two blocks of home. So while Dawn’s baby-sitting he goes off and she later finds him coming out of the woods all dirty and sweaty, bragging that he’d cooled off from the late-summer heat. She is mystified as to where he’d been and what he’d been doing, but the Pike house has virtually no rules so she’s like “whatev, Nicky!”
At home, Dawn grabs a creepy book and goes out to the barn to read. She finds a cool spot and sits down and, before she knows it, she’s falling straight down into a cool dark basement-like area. But wait… it’s not a basement! It’s a secret passage! She gets a flashlight and follows the secret passage underground from the barn all the way up to her own bedroom. (Let me just say that Dawn is braver and/or stupider than me, because I would never creep around in a narrow passage like that alone. Hello, perfect hiding spot for a murderer!) Dawn is stoked beyond belief, since she’s been dying to find a secret passage. She feels like Nancy Drew (take that, Claudia).
As Dawn heads back through the secret passage toward the barn, she finds a few items along the way: a slightly squashed button with a shield-like design on it, a large tarnished buckle, and an old-looking key. Dawn decides that these tokens are the remnants of someone who was locked in (and died in) the secret passage and that her house is haunted by THE GHOST OF THE SECRET PASSAGE. That would explain the weird noises she hears… right?
Meanwhile, Kristy is baby-sitting for her younger siblings, Karen, Andrew, and David Michael, and it’s storming outside again. Karen begins to tell the tale of “old Ben Brewer”, her dead great-grandfather who she claims haunts the third floor of their mansion. Karen is notorious for freaking out the other kids with her scary stories, but this time she freaks out Kristy, too. And the result is that all of them end up sleeping in Kristy’s bed that night – even Louie and Boo Boo. Of course, Kristy is mortified when Sam and Charlie find them the next morning and make fun of her for being scared of the storm.
Back chez Schafer, Dawn and Jeff are annoyed that their mom is dating men besides Mr. Spier, and they’re home alone in the storm. Dawn still hasn’t told anyone about the secret passage, but when the power goes out and she and Jeff are super bored, she decides it’s time to clue him in. They grab a flashlight and Dawn shows Jeff where her bedroom wall swings in toward the secret passage. Once they’re inside, Dawn steps on an ice cream cone and Jeff finds an old Indian-head nickel. Dawn could swear those things weren’t there when she was in the secret passage two days ago, and tells Jeff that she thinks the passage is haunted. He’s skeptical, but if she was the only one who knew about the passage and she hadn’t told anybody, where did the new stuff come from?! All of a sudden they hear a creak and a moan and it’s high time to freak the fuck out and get out of that passage. They hightail it back to Dawn’s room.
They track down their mother, who’s on a date with a dude named Trip, and tell her to come home because they have a ghost emergency. Trip and Sharon come home and Trip checks out the passage, reporting back that there is nothing and no one creeping around in it – although he does also advise them to find a way to lock both passage doors, as it is a way into the house. (That’s what I’m saying! Any rando could crawl from the barn right into Dawn’s room!) They end up locking the entrance in Dawn’s room but can’t figure out how to lock the barn’s trap door, so they just cover it with a bale of hay.
Dawn finds a book called The History of Stoneybrooke (you know it’s old because of that e on Stoneybrook) in which she finds the legend of a man named Jared Mullray who was “never quite right in the head” and who refused to leave his family’s farm after they were evicted because they couldn’t pay their debts. The legend says that, even after the rest of the family left, Jared’s voice could still be heard yelling from the house that he wouldn’t leave – but no one could ever find him, even though the whole house was searched. They believe he died in some secret hiding place and now his ghost haunts it, collecting little trinkets in an attempt to pay off the debt on his family’s farm. Dawn puts two and two together and decides that her house must have been Jared’s family farm, and that he is the ghost of the secret passage! DUN DUN DUN.
Dawn and Mary Anne are hanging out in the barn a day or two later, and Mary Anne first mentions her crush on teen heartthrob Cam Geary. She also admits to Dawn that she thinks she’s too afraid of things. (No shit, Sherlock.) Dawn, of course, is like “WELL I HAVE SOMETHIN’ SCARY FOR YA!” She tells Mary Anne about the secret passage and convinces her to go in it with her. Shockingly, Mary Anne agrees. Dawn is freaked out by two things in the passage – one, that she can’t find the nickel that she knew was down there, and two, that there were grimy peanut shells on the ground that she knew hadn’t been there before. Then she tweaks and tells Mary Anne there’s a ghost, and Mary Anne tweaks and runs out of the passage, so Dawn has to chase her, and then Dawn tells her the whole story, including the Jared Mullray legend. Mary Anne tells Dawn she has no proof, but is also still shitting her pants. During this confessional, Dawn and Mary Anne hear two thuds from the passage. Dawn runs in to see what’s going on, and finds a book called Great Dog Tales that she has never seen before and that wasn’t there the last time she was in the passage. Commence pants-shitting.
We finally get a Stacey chapter! Seriously, not enough McGill in this book. She’s sitting for the Pikes and Margo and Vanessa create a Claire/shampoo disaster, during which Nicky goes missing on one of his “two-block radius” disappearances. Stacey calls Dawn to help find him. Dawn, who has been at home hearing strange noises (and who has not yet put two and two together here), jumps at the chance to help. Once again Nicky appears suddenly, dirty and with a “vaguely familiar odor” (come on, Dawn, get there!). Dawn walks him back to the Pikes and then, finally, she starts to figure out what’s going on.
The next time she sits for the Pikes (a few days later), it’s just the triplets and Nicky, plus Mallory is there to help Dawn. The triplets are, as per uzsh, being dicks to Nicky and Nicky finally snaps and runs off. Dawn finally thinks she’s figured out where he’s going, so she leaves Mallory in charge of the triplets and heads out after Nicky. Where does she head? Directly to her own barn. Sure enough, the bale of hay over the trap door has been moved and the door is open. Dawn jumps down in to the secret passage and begins looking for Nicky. She finally catches him and shows him where the passage ends up, in her bedroom. They have a chat in which she learns he’s responsible for the dog book, the peanuts, the ice cream cone, and the Indian-head nickel (it’s from his coin collection). He, however, is not responsible for a second old key that Dawn found… and he was never in the passage at night, when she also heard weird noises… so a lot of the mystery is solved, but there are still a few things to freak out about.
Dawn hosts a BSC slumber party, at which the girls watch “Ghostbusters” and “Sixteen Candles” and eat junk food (well, Kristy, Claudia, and Mary Anne do). Dawn and Stacey decide to get back at the junk fooders by scaring them with the secret passage, so they sneak off by themselves to “get soda”.
“You have soda?” asked Claudia skeptically. “Or do you mean Perrier or sparkling, saltless mineral water from an artesian well or something?”
Dawn and Stacey creep through the passage, scratching and rapping on the wall to Dawn’s bedroom and making wailing noises until they thoroughly freak out the other girls, at which point they reveal themselves by opening Dawn’s wall panel. Good joke, right? Except then, with all the girls in the bedroom and Jeff, Sharon, and Nicky all accounted for, the girls hear more rapping on the walls from the secret passage. OH, SHIT. So is there really a ghost? The world may never know.