Someone recently asked me where I got my love of all things spooky. I thought on this for a while and realized that the answer is books! I read a ton as a child (still do!) and while I didn’t read exclusively scary books, I did read a few that stand out to me still today. One was THE DOLLHOUSE MURDERS by Betty Ren Wright. The book released in 1983 when I was seven, but I don’t recall reading it until a few years later when I was ten or so. While it has had several different covers, here’s the one I most vividly remember.
While it isn’t the most terrifying cover image I’ve seen, it did the trick. One summer, Little Lindsay snatched this up and read it until the wee hours of the night. The basic premise of the book is that the main character, Amy, desperately needs a break from her own stressful life and therefore moves in temporarily with her Aunt. In the attic of her aunt’s home, she finds a gorgeous dollhouse – a dollhouse that is an exact replica of the home she’s staying in! Now, that idea alone was enough to put ten-year-old Lindsay on edge, but what happens next really sealed the deal.
The dollhouse comes alive at night. *cue shivers*
Yes, playing with the dollhouse causes the dolls to move at night and Amy soon realizes though a serious of terrifying encounters, that they are re-enacting the grisly murders of her great-grandparents some 30 years earlier.
Guys, this book terrified me. It was well-written and so suspenseful that I could not put it down. I’m pretty sure it also created a healthy fear of my own dollhouse. Even more than that though, it taught me that I like to be afraid! Not for real, of course, but within safe confines, a little fear is exhilarating. Challenging!
I credit THE DOLLHOUSE MURDERS with a lot of things, but especially with inspiring me to write my own spooky books for middle-grade readers. I want others to experience the same rush I did back in 1986, to hide under the covers late at night and read even though their heart is racing and their hands are clammy. I want others to feel the thrill of finishing a spooky book and knowing they survived, and maybe even managed to solve part of or all of the mystery!
If you have time this summer and want to read a throwback to 80’s middle-grade horror, pick up THE DOLLHOUSE MURDERS. Then get yourself a good nightlight. You’re gonna need it.
*Heads-up, friends: one storyline in this book deals with mental illness. Since it was written in the 80’s, it’s quite possible that the representation is different and outdated. Keep this in mind if you choose to read. My love of this book stems from how well Betty Ren Wright handled the suspense/thriller elements, so that’s what I’ve chosen to focus on for this post.*