First Chapter: The Haunting of Waverly Hall

The sequel to The Haunting of Pitmon House is almost here! The Haunting of Waverly Hall will be released on Halloween, 2016, and you can pre-order your copy here. Amazon usually delivers pre-orders a day early (but that’s not guaranteed.) It will also be available in paperback format, and on Kindle Unlimited.

If you’d like to get a jump on the novel, here’s the first chapter!


The Haunting of Waverly Hall

Chapter One


October 1998

“Will you come? Please?”

Eliza felt like reaching up to check if her jaw was open. It was one thing to find Rachel on her door step after a long final workday before her vacation; it was another to hear her ask that she accompany her up north. It had been months since she’d seen her last, lying in a hospital bed.

“Why did you run off from the hospital?” Eliza asked.

“I was angry,” Rachel replied, then paused. “When I got burned at Pitmon House, it seemed like bad things were happening to me all over again. I had to get away from it.”

Eliza recognized the elusive answer; it was vague, just as Rachel had always been about her past. “What do you mean, ‘bad things’?”

“The thing I told you about,” Rachel replied. “The incident several years ago where I lost someone.”

Eliza waited for her to go on, to explain more about the incident, but Rachel didn’t continue. “You never told me much about it,” Eliza said. “I tried to reach you, you know. I was worried about you.”

“I got some of your messages,” Rachel replied. “I’m sorry I didn’t respond. I didn’t know what to say.” She looked down. “You obviously succeeded at Pitmon House.”

“Thanks to Robert and Granger,” Eliza replied. “Granger was hurt, too.”

“Is he alright?” Rachel asked, still not looking up.

“He is now. We were worried for a while, but he pulled through. Looks like you did too.”

Rachel absently raised her hand to her head, running her fingers through her short hair. “It took a while, but my hair is coming back. Still sore.”

Eliza wondered if Shane, her younger brother, was in the house. She hadn’t had time to perform her usual routine upon arriving home, having found Rachel standing on the porch when she arrived. The October sky was almost dark, and her porch light popped on.

“Why don’t we go inside,” Eliza said. “That light will draw bugs, whatever’s left of them.”

She opened the door to the house and they walked in. She called up the stairs for Shane and listened for a response, but there was none.

“Not home yet,” she said to Rachel.

“How is Shane?” Rachel asked.

“Perfectly fine. Have a seat. Do you want something to drink?”

“What I want is for you to come with me to Waverly,” Rachel replied. Eliza could hear anxiety in her plea.

“I’ve got iced tea or beer,” Eliza replied, smiling, letting her friend know she wasn’t prepared to answer the question.

“Iced tea,” Rachel replied, and turned to find a chair in the living room.

First time I’ve seen her turn down booze, Eliza thought, making her way to the kitchen. She pulled a pitcher of iced tea from the fridge, filled two glasses with ice, and returned to the living room, choosing a seat opposite Rachel. She sat the drinks down between them.

“I know it’s a lot to ask,” Rachel said, “me showing up out of the blue like this, not having spoken to you in months.”

“I was worried,” Eliza replied, pouring the drinks.

“I know, I know, and I’m sorry,” Rachel continued. “As I sat in that hospital bed, I hit rock bottom. I could feel the same mistakes happening all over again, and I began to think it was all because of me and my past. I left without talking to you or Robert or Granger because I knew you’d try to convince me that I was wrong, that the events in Pitmon House weren’t because of me, and I didn’t want to hear any of that. For your safety, I knew I had to leave.”

“So you think the reason we were successful at Pitmon House is because you bailed?” Eliza asked.

“I don’t know,” Rachel replied. “That’s just where my head was at. I am glad things worked out.”

“Well, there’s no way to know if we succeeded because of you leaving,” Eliza said, handing Rachel a glass. “Is there?”

“No, I suppose not.” Rachel took the drink and held it in her lap, looking down at it. “I understand why you’re upset with me. I really do. I hope you can believe me, I thought I was acting in your best interest. I thought about Marc and Waverly and all of the past, and I just couldn’t let that happen again.”

“Marc?” Eliza asked, detecting signs that Rachel might start to open up.

Rachel raised her head. “It haunts me every day. I told you I lost someone, remember? Someone I thought I was helping with my gift. His name was Marc. He lived in Waverly.”

“What happened to him?”

Rachel looked down again. “He’s gone. Dead. How he died was eating at me while I was sitting in the hospital. I made a huge mistake in Waverly, and it cost him his life. That’s why I hung it all up for a while. I felt toxic.”

“Until you decided to help me out with Shane,” Eliza said.

“Yes. You seemed so upset about your brother, and I could tell you had the gift. It just seemed like the right thing to do, to help you figure out how to use it and save him.”

“I appreciate that you did,” Eliza replied, meaning it. There was a time when she wondered if Rachel’s help in discovering her ability to enter the River had been a blessing or a curse, but she’d come to believe it was definitely a positive. At first, entering the River and seeing the things that other people could not — particularly the ghosts — was unnerving. Now, she was more practiced at entering the River, and it didn’t seem so strange and frightening as her first few experiences. Robert and his father, Granger, had been instrumental in helping her become more comfortable with it.

“I’m hoping you’ll think that what I’m asking you to do is the right thing, too,” Rachel said.

“You’re asking me to come with you to Waverly,” Eliza replied. “I’d need to know a lot more before I’d do that.”

“Waverly is where I lost Marc,” Rachel replied. “It’s a little town south of Green Bay. Do you know Rush Lake?”

“Drove though there once, I think.”

“You wouldn’t have noticed it,” Rachel said. “It was never a big town, but it’s only a few houses now; most of the older homes fell apart years ago. There’s a couple of families still living there. One of them is Marc’s.”

“How big is his family?”

“Not big. His mother, an aunt, and his younger sister. They all still live in the house there. They desperately want to leave. That’s why I was helping them.”

“Why don’t they?”

“Can’t afford to,” Rachel replied. “That house is all they’ve got, and they’ve tried to sell it, but no one will buy. It doesn’t help that it’s in a little town in the middle of nowhere. The reputation of the town, though, is the real reason. For a hundred years, people have moved out of Waverly, but not in.”


“It’s haunted.”

Eliza sat her glass on the table, intrigued. “How?”

“It’s a long story,” Rachel replied. “How about I tell you on the drive up there?”

“Up there?” Eliza said. “What makes you think I’m going there? I have work.”

“No, you don’t,” Rachel replied with a sly grin. “You’re starting a week off.”

“How did you know that?”

“I still have spies at House on the Rock!” Rachel said, smiling broadly.

“Well, I know it wasn’t any of the women in the gift shop,” Eliza replied. “They are all still pissed at you for your sudden departure.”

Rachel’s smile broadened further and she looked down at her drink again, then raised it for a sip.

“It was Randy!” Eliza said, remembering the maintenance worker. “You always had him wrapped around your finger.”

“Regardless, I know you have the next week off,” Rachel said. “So will you?”

Eliza felt a sudden surge of impulsiveness. It had been a long summer at House on the Rock. Rachel’s replacement, the shift manager’s niece, hadn’t worked out, and Eliza had been tasked with long shifts and occasional doubles. Now that the tourist season had come to an end, she’d managed to arrange a week off — but she hadn’t had the opportunity to plan anything to do with her vacation. As it approached, she figured she’d use the time to catch up on chores around the house.

Hmm, she thought. House chores? Or visit a haunted town?

“Come on,” Rachel said. “Come with me to Waverly for a couple of days.”

“A couple of days?” she replied, feeling her will cave in.

“That’s all it’ll take.”

“What about Shane?” she muttered, thinking aloud about her younger brother.

“He’s not a child anymore,” Rachel replied. “He’s old enough to take care of himself for a few days.”

“Where would we stay?”

“With the Hockers,” Rachel replied. “That’s Marc’s family.”

“Seems a little awkward.”

“Not really,” Rachel said. “They know that I’m trying to get you to come. They’re more than happy to have us.”

Eliza got a handle on her building enthusiasm. “I want to know why, first. What are you trying to accomplish?”

“When I left the hospital, I went to a doctor I knew years ago in Green Bay,” Rachel said. “I had a lot of recovery time, and the more I sat and thought about things, the angrier I became.”

“I hope not angry at me,” Eliza said.

“No, angry at myself,” Rachel replied. “I decided I didn’t want to feel like a threat to everyone all of the time. I knew that before I could come back and apologize to you and Granger, I needed to go back and resolve what happened with Marc and his family. I realized that I had been trying to solve things by ignoring them and running away. I had to reverse that if I wanted any chance at normality. So, I went back to Waverly and talked to his family, tried to straighten things out. They were very supportive, and the more time I spent with them, the more I realized I had become a coward, and I needed to step up.”

She paused. Eliza could feel Rachel’s eyes on her, looking for a reaction.

“It’s become a life and death kind of thing for me,” Rachel continued. “Running away is killing me, and making me a liability to others, even if it is all just in my head. I have to stop running and fix this, Eliza. This is no way to live. I hated myself so much, I thought about ending it all. It was bad.”

“Please tell me you didn’t…” Eliza started, but Rachel held up her arms, showing her the scars along her wrists. Eliza nodded silently and looked down.

“That’s where things stand for me,” Rachel said, lowering her arms. “I’ve got to resolve this. What I saw you figure out at Pitmon House made me realize you’ve got special skills, skills I don’t have. I think with your help, we can figure out what happened to Marc and help his family get out of Waverly for good. Then I can move on and try to live a normal life.”

Eliza looked at her friend. Rachel’s short hair reminded her of how badly she’d been burned, and Eliza pictured her in a hospital bed, remembering the events that had placed her friend in the emergency room.

She was helping me out, Eliza thought, even though she thought it was a bad idea. Maybe I need to return the favor. I didn’t have plans for this vacation anyway…was just going to find things to do around the house.

“How far is Waverly?” she asked.