For what feels like the twentieth time during our conversation, I give Marta a look of utter confoundment. “What thing? On what auction sites?”

“You’ve been selling things online. Items from Baneberry Hall. Authentic Baneberry Hall artifacts. That’s what you’ve been calling them.”

“But I haven’t.”

“Someone has,” Marta says. “Several people have brought it to my attention, including my lawyer. He advised me to sue for part of the profits on the grounds that it’s exploiting my tragedy.”

I yank my phone from my pocket and open the web browser. Three search words later—Baneberry Hall artifacts—brings me to an auction site listing at least a dozen items claiming to be from what the seller calls “the most haunted house in America.” I swipe through the wares on offer, seeing a fountain pen, several plates, a pair of candlesticks, and, the most recent addition, a silver letter opener.

I tap the image to enlarge it, paying close attention to the handle. It’s not until I see two familiar letters engraved in the silver—W.G.—that I realize the seller isn’t lying. This letter opener is the same one that went missing from Baneberry Hall.

And I know exactly who took it.

“I’m sorry,” I tell Marta. “I need to go.”

“Did I say something wrong?”

“Not at all. In fact, you helped me more than you know.”

Marta wears a confused expression as I walk her to her car. I thank her for the pie and tell her I’ll explain everything later. Because right now, I need to talk to a ghost.

Or, to be more precise, a ghoul.


Day 17

I didn’t tell Jess about the bells or my talk with Marta Carver or my fear that something terrible was brewing inside Baneberry Hall. I knew she wouldn’t want to hear it. She’d made up her mind that everything happening there was, if not normal, then at least benign. Denial was a powerful force, and Jess was fully caught in its grip.

Once Jess left for work, I walked with Maggie to Elsa Ditmer’s cottage to again convince Petra to babysit. But instead of Petra, it was Elsa herself who answered the door. We hadn’t spoken since the night of the sleepover, and I detected residual traces of anger in her pinched expression.

“Do you need something, Mr. Holt?” she said, looking not at me but at my daughter.

I explained that I needed to do some work in my study and wondered if Petra could watch Maggie for a few hours.

“Petra’s being punished,” Elsa said, not elaborating why. But it was clear how she was being punished. Petra’s voice, coming from somewhere deep inside the house, drifted out the open door.

“Lord have mercy on me,” I heard her murmur. “Do not look upon my sins, but take away all my guilt.”

Elsa pretended not to hear it. Instead, she finally looked my way and said, “I can watch Maggie, if you’d like. But only for an hour.”

“Thank you,” I said. “I really appreciate it.”

Elsa retreated inside the house for a minute before returning. As she closed the front door, I could still hear Petra’s feverish prayer.

“Create in me a clean heart, and renew within me an upright spirit.”

Together, the three of us left for Baneberry Hall, strolling up the twisting, wooded drive in relative silence. Elsa spoke only when the roof of the house popped into view.

“Your daughter is still seeing things, yes?”

“She is,” I replied. “Her doctor says she has a very active imagination.”

“If only that were true.”

I looked to Elsa, surprised. “You think Maggie’s lying?”

“On the contrary. I think she can see things most of us aren’t able to.”


That’s what Elsa was talking about. That Maggie was seeing ghosts. I already knew that. What I didn’t know—and what I had failed to learn from Marta Carver—was if I needed to be worried. As we reached the house, it was clear I had talked to the wrong person. I should have gone to Elsa Ditmer all along.

“Do you think my daughter’s in danger?”

Elsa gave a solemn nod toward Baneberry Hall. “In this house, all daughters are in danger.”

I thought about the articles I’d found at the library. “You know its history, then?”

“I do,” Elsa said. “My mother worked here. As did her mother. We’re well-acquainted with the tragedies that have taken place inside these walls.”

“What should I do?”

“You want my honest opinion?”


“I would leave as quickly as you’re able,” Elsa said. “Until then, watch your daughter closely. And be as careful as possible.”

Rather than go inside, Elsa suggested that she and Maggie play in the backyard. After what I’d just been told, I thought it was a great idea. Part of me wanted to forbid Maggie from ever entering that house again, even though I knew that was impossible.

While they played, I went to the study and sat at my desk, sorting through the articles I’d photocopied at the library. Not just the ones about the deaths of Indigo Garson and Katie Carver, but all the others, too. Those unnerving incidents no one had bothered to tell us about.