A mother carries her six-year-old daughter into the tiled bathroom where the bathtub is already running, is still running, is overflowing, and for a moment the girl calms, seeing her little brother floating facedown in the water, his hair a golden halo around him, but then this mother is guiding her face-first down into that water, that, as it turns out, isn’t just water but scalding water, and eleven years later her scream is the drawer screeching out of the counter by the sink.
When high school senior Charlotte agrees to babysit the Wilbanks twins, she plans to put the six-year-olds to bed early and spend a quiet night studying: the SATs are tomorrow, and checking the Native American/Alaskan Native box on all the forms doesn’t mean jack if you choke on test day.
But tomorrow is also Halloween, and the twins are eager to show off their costumes—Ron is a nurse, in an old-fashioned white skirt-uniform, and Desi has an Authentic Squaw costume, complete with buckskin and feathered headdress. Excitement is in the air.
Charlotte’s last babysitting gig almost ended in tragedy, when her young charge sleepwalked unnoticed into the middle of the street, only to be found unharmed by Charlotte’s mother. Charlotte vows to be extra careful this time. But the house is filled with mysterious noises and secrets that only the twins understand, echoes of horrors that Charlotte gradually realizes took place in the house eleven years ago. Soon Charlotte has to admit that every babysitter’s worst nightmare has come true: they’re not alone in the house.
I listened to the audiobook of The Babysitter Lives by US horror author Stephen Graham Jones.
The Babysitter Lives follows the protagonist Charlotte on the eve of Halloween and the night before her SATs. It’s also her first babysitting job for the Wilbanks family and she’s determined to make a good impression looking after the twins for the night.
Although Charlotte has been warned the twins will play a joke on her, she soon discovers the house she’s in has more than two charges that night. Eleven years ago, a mother murdered her children and then committed suicide. Or so that’s the story. But Charlotte quickly discovers the story isn’t quite true but the ghosts from eleven years ago never left the house and linger on the other side, the “wrong side” of the house. Because Charlotte finds out very quickly that a real evil lurks within the “wrong side” and once trapped there herself – it’s not the mother accused of drowning her children who is the true root of darkness seeping through the house but the one the twins call ‘the grey mummy’.
The Babysitter Lives is a haunted house story like no other I’ve come across. This was a masterful novel that reimagined the concept of the haunted space and the “heart” of every haunting. There were the common tropes of ghosts and violent deaths but coupled with a complexity of a vengeful ghost and the ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ sides of parallel existences that all originated from the house itself. Truly a fascinating exploration of haunted houses in literary horror.
A highly recommended novel for horror lovers and especially literary horror, or those who enjoy a good haunted house and ghost story. Check this out! It’s fabulous!
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