I know that Nightmare Inn was the first book in this series, but I’m not sure about the rest of them. My paperback copy of The Attic claims that Room 13 is the second book in the series, but the large number of creepy teenagers in the Inn makes me suspect that maybe The Pool came first.
I guess it doesn’t matter. Wikipedia says they all came out in the same year, so maybe they were plotted simultaneously and that’s how the characters are able to overlap.
I really wish I could find an interview or something with the author and learn more about what inspired these books. Because the overall theme seems to be “bad stuff went down in the 60s,” and Nightmare Inn reminded me, weirdly, of the Manson family–the idea of a group of hippies actually being murderous, I guess.
And Room 13 has another backstory involving that period of the Arcadia Inn’s history when it was overrun with hippie squatters, some of whom failed bigly at the whole peace, love, and patchouli oil thing.
The main character, Erin Naughton, is being forced to spend a weekend at the New Arcadia Inn with her parents and her younger brother JUST because her father has blocked arteries and might, like, die at any time. She’s angry at her father for this because a guy she likes asked her to the dance and now she’ll have to miss it. Erin’s…kind of horrible, even by selfish-teenager standards. One nice element, though, is that she and her twelve-year-old brother Bobby get along well. He helps her sneak around without their parents knowing, and she gives him money for the arcade. It beats the usual vintage YA trope where siblings hate and avoid each other, at least.
Better than the main characters, though, are the ghost cameos:
Erin shrugged. A girl around her age, wearing black pants and a white blouse, pushed a cart toward their table. She had curly, bright-red hair and a gold name tag that identified her as Sarah. As she cleared some of the plates and refilled the water glasses, she stared at Erin. Erin felt a strange chill and looked away. (loc 206)
It’s Sarah from the first book! Okay, maybe she’s not a ghost exactly, since I don’t think she died in the book. But she’s stuck at the Inn forever.
Erin’s sunglasses are missing after dinner, even though she left them right on the table. She suspects Sarah might have stolen them (which is a bit of a recurrent theme in these, because in The Pool someone thinks she’s stolen a necklace). Sarah denies it, and someone leaves a note for Erin telling her “your glasses are in room 13.”
On her way to room 13 she runs into Sebastian, the caretaker from the first book; he’s the guy with the long, grey ponytail. He stares at Erin the same way Sarah did.
No one answers when she knocks at the door of room 13, but she hears a voice call her name. She opens the door but there’s no one there, and the room is empty and unoccupied.
Bobby’s in the “video room” watching some guy play a video game extremely well, and Erin’s sure she recognizes the guy’s voice as the one who called to her outside room 13.
Erin checks out the volleyball court, where “a stocky young man in a black and white New Arcadia outfit” also stares at her (and knows her name) the way Sebastian and Sarah did. I have a feeling he belongs to one of the other books, so I’m making a note of him in case he turns up later:
The young man walked around the perimeter of the court toward her. As he came closer, Erin read his name tag. He was Martin. (loc 341)
And then the boy is there! He’s wearing a black t-shirt which he will never take off during the course of this book no matter how hot it is.
Erin’s still irked at her parents, especially when she finds out she has to spend the afternoon antiquing with them.
Her father’s face darkened, as it usually did when one of his children attempted to express the fact that they were individual human beings and not domesticated pets. (loc 382)
Bobby manages to persuade their parents to only make them spend half an hour antiquing and let them do something they want to do for the rest of the afternoon. Since she’s free until three, Erin heads to the pool, where she runs into The Guy again.
He introduces himself as Sam Hopkins, and he’s there with two friends, Amy and Phil. Neither one of them will figure into the story in any way, except for some brief jealousy from Erin before she finds out Sam isn’t interested in Amy.
Sam is staying at the hotel alone; his parents have left him there, he says, because they’re on a long business trip and the owner is a friend of theirs. Okay. Obviously he’s a ghost, right?
Erin also finds out that there’s going to be a cookout “for teens only” with “a DJ and everything,” and instantly wants to convince her father to let her go.
Sam takes her exploring and disappears, and she crawls into a cave and then falls into a river looking for him. Then he grabs her by the ankle and pulls her underwater, and Sam, you better be dead already or else she’s going to kill you, and rightly so.
Erin tries to be “the perfect daughter” during the antiquing trip, but her father still says no to the cookout. Even Bobby can’t convince him. But during dinner she slips away to get a sweater from her room, and wanders past just in time to see Sam talking to Amy. She blames her father, reasoning that if she’d been at the cookout Sam would be talking to her instead, and oh my God this is tedious and she’s SO WHINY.
She sneaks out that night and goes to a disco. She shows up at 8:45 to find Sam chatting with some other girl.
“Hey!” Sam said as Erin joined him at the bar. “I want you to meet my buddy, Alexandra, the bartender.”
Alexandra was wearing the standard black and white New Arcadia uniform. Her blond hair was cut in a page-boy. She reached over the bar and extended her slim hand.
“Hi, Erin,” Alexandra said as they shook hands.
Erin stared back at her. “How’d you know my name?” (loc 713)
Sam says it’s because he was just talking about her.
Later they’re dancing when Bobby shows up. He’s been sent to find Erin, of course.
Suddenly her thoughts tumbled out. “Sometimes I’d like to kill my parents.”
Sam smiled at her. “I know exactly how you feel.” (loc 571)
Bobby leaves first, and when Erin tries to follow him she can’t find their room (all the even-numbered rooms have disappeared on her first try). When she finally gets back she’s really, really late, but she acts innocent and calmly keeps insisting she didn’t know she’d done anything wrong.
The next morning Sam shows up in line at breakfast and goes on about how unfair it is that her father gives her such a hard time. He convinces her to come along and play a prank; at the gold course they keep hiding Erin’s father’s balls (that came out wrong), or dropping them in the sand trap or whatever. Poor Mr. Naughton is more and more frustrated, but he refuses to take his wife’s advice and just not count this game, preferring to let it screw up his handicap rather than be dishonest. I actually like him somewhat more than Erin.
The whole family go sailing that afternoon, and Erin sees Sam in the water with a snorkel doing something to their boat. What he’s done is loosen a bolt on the rudder, and Mr. Naughton falls in while trying to fix it.
Erin suddenly understood why her mother was so concerned. Her father’s heart might not be able to take the exertion of swimming all the way back in.
Go ahead, Erin thought with a smirk. Try to swim back. (loc 1010)
Sebastian saves him, though.
There are several other scenes of Sam ranting about how unfairly Mr. Naughton treats Erin, although by now I’m convinced she deserves it. There are also other “accidents,” including capsizing a canoe with Erin in it (Sam’s in it too, but he conveniently disappears) so her father thinks he has to rescue her. She has a life jacket on, though, and swims in herself.
She misses a chance to dance with Sam because she’s hotel-room grounded, and then later checks out room 13 again.
Sarah nodded. “That’s what they say. There’s an old story that something really bad happened in this room a long time ago. Like back when the inn was vacant and homeless people squatted here. They say some people beat their kid to death or something, and now his ghost haunts the inn.”
“Do you think it’s true?” Erin asked.
Sarah shrugged. “I don’t know. Hang around this place as long as I have, you’ll believe just about anything.” (loc 1483)
Mr. Naughton has a talk with Erin, and tells her he’s realized that he’s making her miserable, and that as long as she’s back by ten she can do whatever she wants. He admits he’s over-protective, and says that since his heart diagnosis he’s realized life is too short to do things you don’t want, so she doesn’t have to join the family on a nature walk.
Meanwhile, fed up with trying to induce a heart attack, Sam goes for the more direct approach. He’s gone out with a gun and buckshot, according to Martin, who says he must be “gunning for some big game.”
Erin is an idiot, because it takes her several more pages to figure out what’s happening, even when some guy at the reception desk checks the computer and tells her there’s no one staying at the hotel called Sam.
In room 13 she finds a half-empty box of cartridges and a piece of paper with a map on it, conveniently labelled “Nature Walk.” Ha.
She catches up to Sam before he can actually shoot her father, and he lifts his ever-present t-shirt to show her the raw wounds all over his chest and back, as though someone has whipped him.
The boy whose parents beat him a long time ago, Erin thought. No, it wasn’t possible. But she knew it had to be true. She knew Sam was the boy who had been beaten to death. Now his ghost was haunting the inn. (loc 1710)
Sam and Erin fight over the gun, and she unloads it and then chases him back to the hotel. He tries to get her to say she hates her parents and wants them to die, but she won’t. She leaves him “trapped in room 13,” though I don’t get why he’s any more trapped than he was before. I mean, she removes the pack of matches that was keeping the door ajar, but would that really trap a ghost?
Erin joins her family on their nature walk, feeling sorry for Sam, but knowing that she really does love her father.
When they get home from their weekend there’s a message on the phone; the guy she didn’t get to go to the dance with wants to take her to a baseball game.
Meanwhile back at the inn, a boy named Matt arrives, angry with his parents and wishing he could kill them for dragging them on this vacation. He hears a voice in room 13 calling his name, and asking him to open the door…