There is a direct route from outside into the bedroom.

It’s why my father had felt it necessary to nail those boards across the armoire doors.

It’s how Hannah Ditmer got into the house unnoticed and without disturbing the doors and windows.

It’s how anyone with knowledge of the passageway can get inside.

Another wave of shock strikes. A real wallop that leaves me tilting sideways, on the verge of being bowled right over.

This entrance into Baneberry Hall isn’t new. It’s been around for decades. Likely since the place was built.

Someone had access to this room back when we lived here.

When I slept here.

It wasn’t Mister Shadow who crept into my room at night, whispering to me.

It was someone else.

Someone real.


Day 19

The first bell didn’t ring until shortly after two p.m.

The sound of it snapped me out of the waking stupor I’d been in and out of since sitting down the day before. In all that time, I’d barely moved. I hadn’t eaten. I certainly hadn’t showered. When I did leave my post, it was only to relieve myself. By midmorning, I’d even stopped doing that, fearful I’d miss an all-important bell chime. Now two bottles of my urine sat in a corner of the kitchen.

I understood—as best as one could in a state of such extreme exhaustion—that I was probably going crazy. These weren’t the actions of a sane man. But each time I was on the cusp of leaving the kitchen, something happened to remind me that I wasn’t insane.

Baneberry Hall was.

During my twenty-hour vigil in the kitchen, the house had been alive with noise. Sounds no home should make under normal circumstances. Sounds that I had nonetheless grown accustomed to hearing.

Music trickling down from the third-floor study and quietly drifting through empty rooms above.

“You are sixteen, going on seventeen.”

The sound of William Garson walking up and down the second-floor hallway, punctuating each step with a strike of his cane.


And at 4:54 in the morning, a familiar noise from the study, so loud it reverberated through the house all the way down to the kitchen.


Curtis Carver, I now knew. Hitting the floor when life left his body. An action his spirit was doomed to repeat every day for as long as Baneberry Hall was still standing.

But no sound caught my attention more than that single ring at two p.m. It was, after all, what I had been waiting for.

“Hello?” I said.

The same bell rang again. The Indigo Room.

Other bells began to chime a total of four times, repeating the pattern that made me understand the ringing in the first place.


More bells rang. Four of them. One on the first row. One on the second. Back to the first, where the first bell in the row rang. Then again at the second with the chiming of the row’s second bell.

Together, it spelled out my name.


“Hi, Curtis.” I coughed out a rueful chuckle. Yes, I was now on a first-name basis with a ghost. “I’ve been waiting for you.”

One bell.


Four more bells from all over the wall.


“Then you also know I need your help.”

The last bell on the second row chimed—the start of a three-ring answer I knew well.


“Then help me, Curtis,” I said. “Help me stop William Garson.”

One bell rang.


Then another.


I waited for more, inching forward in my chair. After ten seconds passed without the sound of any other bells, I said, “Why not?”

The same two bells rang again.


“But he killed your daughter.”

I got those same two rings in response.


“He didn’t?”

One ring. Two rings.


“Then who did?”

Three bells rang a total of four times, the second one chiming twice on the second row.


“At what?” I said, growing frustrated. “What should I be looking at?”

There was a pause during which I sat staring at the wall, waiting for a response. When it came—six bells ringing throughout the wall, two of them chiming twice—I could barely keep up. It was only after they had quieted that I had time to match the bells to their corresponding letters.

The word it spelled was PORTRAIT.

“William Garson’s portrait?” I asked.

The second and third bells on the second row rang one last time.


I was about to respond, but then the bells sprang to life again. Three rings followed by the shortest of pauses and then the same run of six bells and eight letters I’d just seen. Again, it took me a moment to figure it out.

When I did, I let out a gasp so loud and sudden that it echoed off the kitchen walls.