Read The Howler Online

Authors: R. L. Stine

The Howler

The Nightmare Room

The Howler

R.L. Stine



Do you believe in ghosts?


I remember the gray-white ice that covered the lake—so smooth…


I don’t remember the rest. It’s all a cold blue…


The lights blinked furiously.


“Wh-who’s there?” I choked out.


Scott’s cheeks turned pink: “Uh…I can’t right now,” he said,…


Another eerie howl floated into the room. Then more scratching…


I swallowed. Was I really seeing a ghost?


After dinner, I was fiddling with the specter detector, when…


I was still tugging on my coat as I raced…


“AAAGGGH!” A scream of horror burst from my throat.


I pushed open the door. A bell attached to the…


I crept up the stairs to my room, keeping the…


“Nick!” I cried. “You jerk! Let go of me!”


I kicked the blankets off and struggled to my feet.


“But where are you?” I asked. “Who are you?” I…


“No!” Vanessa uttered a cry and grabbed the back of…




On Monday, Vanessa, Ed, and Justin met at my house…


Carrying the Howler in front of me, I led the…


“Oh, wow.” I stared into the empty closet.


“Pay them back! Pay them back!”


The next few days whirred past in a blur. I…


“Huh? What’s your problem?” Nick stepped out of his room.


I called Scott. I told him about the red paint…


“Spencer—what’s wrong?”


“Don’t you understand? Don’t you see how stupid I’ve been?”…


Scott greeted us at his kitchen door. He appeared very…


We both twisted our hands. And tugged. I gritted my…


Shrieking and cackling, the ghosts faded away.


I pushed the emergency number, then pressed the phone to…


We watched their blue Saturn crunch up the snow-covered driveway,…


We made our way up to the attic. Outside, the…


The Howler exploded without warning.


I tried to move. But I could feel the ice…


The ghost family stopped twirling. They huddled in a line…



I’m R.L. Stine. This month I have a story for you about a boy who
his house was haunted!

That’s him huddled in his room, turning the dials of a strange, little machine called
The Howler
. His name is Spencer Turner, and he just bought the gadget at a ghost supply store. Will it pick up the howls of real ghosts?

Spencer is desperate to talk to a ghost. There’s just one problem. Sometimes it’s best not to disturb a howling ghost. He may be howling because he’s
real angry

Be careful, Spencer. You may not find the ghost you seek. But you may find

Do you believe in ghosts?

I didn’t believe in them for most of my life. But ever since last winter, I want to believe.

It’s my dream, my most important wish. I think about it every day.

I want to see a ghost. I want to talk to a ghost.

The ghost’s name is Ian.


I remember every detail of that frosty cold day last December. The snow was deep, and it had a crust on top that crunched when we walked on it.

The sun hung low over the trees. It made the snow gleam like a sheet of silver. Snow clung to the branches of the evergreen trees, and the hedges were topped with blankets of white.

I remember the frozen air burning my cheeks. The fat, puffy clouds floating like snowmen high in the bright sky.

We carried our skates to Wellman Lake, a block
from my house. It’s not really a lake. It’s only a pond.

My friend Vanessa was there. We teased her about her pink snowsuit. Such a babyish color. She didn’t care. She said it was made with real goose down and kept her very warm.

I remember Vanessa’s red hair glowing in the sunlight. And the reflection of the snow in her green eyes.

Scott came along too. Chubby, red-faced Scott, with his black hair wild about his head like a furry hat.

He lives in the run-down old house next door to mine. He was bragging about his new CD player, and kicking snow on us, and telling dumb jokes.

Typical Scott.

I didn’t invite Scott to join us. I don’t like him very much. Neither does Vanessa.

He’s so loud, and always bragging. And he always wants to pick fights and make bets about stupid things no one else cares about.

I think Scott has a special radar. Or else he spies on my house all day. Because whenever I go out, there he is. He comes running from his house, ready to join in.

So there were four of us that day. My cousin Ian was the fourth. His family was staying with us for a few days before going on to Florida for Christmas.

I was happy to see him. Ian was my age, thirteen. And even though we didn’t see each other very often,
we always got along really well. We were like brothers.

Yes, I already have a brother. Big Jerk Nick.

Nick is three years older than me. And he treats me like an insect he wants to squash under his shoe.

Nick says that in every family, the big brother is the boss and the little brother is the slave. It sounds stupid, but Nick really believes it.

So, it’s “Spencer, go to the kitchen and make me a sandwich.” And “Spencer, I have to go out. Type this homework into the computer for me.”

“Spencer, bring me a Coke. Spencer, go see who’s at the door. Spencer, get a move on!”

Nick is a lot bigger than me. And he works out. And he’s on the wrestling team at school. So I try very hard to stay out of his way.

And that’s one reason I liked to think of Ian as a brother.

And now, just about every day, I remember Ian walking with us to the lake. His boots crunched on the crusty snow. And the ice skates I found for him bounced on the shoulders of his down vest as we trudged up the hill on Marlowe Street.

Ian looked a lot like me. Dark brown hair. Brown eyes. Serious face. Average height. Kind of skinny.

He had a lot of energy. He was always bouncing up and down and drumming his fingers on things. He couldn’t stand or sit still for a minute.

I remember we were passing the low stone wall in front of the Faulkners’ house. The top of the wall
was iced up. Vanessa, Scott, and I started to walk beside it.

But Ian leaped onto the top of the wall. He did a crazy balancing act, slipping and sliding. His arms waved wildly above his head.

We screamed at him to jump down. But he only laughed. He was still laughing when he fell off. Luckily, he fell onto his back in a soft clump of snow-covered bushes.


Thinking about it now makes me feel really sad.

I guess that was the only lucky thing that happened that day.

I remember the gray-white ice that covered the lake—so smooth and glassy. Several cawing black birds took off from the ice when they saw us coming.

A clump of snow fell off an evergreen branch and shattered over the ice. I remember the soft
it made.

So many sounds I remember from that day. Some of them so horrifying, I want to hold my ears and shut them out forever.

We hurried to pull on our skates. Scott insisted on making us all take off our gloves and run our fingers over the blades on his new skates. He said they were made of titanium, which made them stronger and faster than any other ice skates.

Ian had trouble with a knot in his laces. The skates weren’t his. They were a pair that Nick couldn’t wear anymore. So they didn’t fit Ian that well.

Vanessa helped him with the knot. Then she was the first one onto the ice.

Vanessa is a very graceful skater. She skates like a pro. She’s a natural athlete. She’s a forward on the girls’ basketball team at school. And she does track.

But she says she’s not really into sports. She would rather stay in the studio her parents made for her in their garage and paint. She wants to be an artist someday.

I watched Ian go slipping and sliding onto the lake. His legs were wobbling like crazy, and he went down laughing, skidding on his stomach. “These skates won’t work, Spencer,” he called to me. “I can’t lace them tight enough.”

“Have you ever ice-skated before?” I called.

He laughed again. “Not really!”

He pulled down his wool ski cap. And then he was on his feet and skating unsteadily toward Vanessa. She grabbed his hand and guided him slowly over the ice.

Soon, all four of us were skating. I leaned into the wind, my face burning from the cold. I pressed my gloved hands on my knees and moved beside Vanessa and Ian.

We were all gliding easily now. It felt so great. The frozen lake shimmered beneath us. The cold air smelled fresh and sweet. The fat white clouds were so pretty against the sky.

“We need music,” Scott declared. He was skating backward, doing fast loops, showing off as usual.

None of us had brought a radio. So we started to
sing. We sang some songs we knew from the radio and skated along to them. We were singing and laughing at the same time.

When did it all go wrong?

I guess it started when Scott swiped Ian’s wool cap off his head. “Keep away!” he shouted, tossing the cap to me.

I missed it and it slid across the ice. Ian and I both swooped toward it. But I came up with it and heaved it to Vanessa.

“Hey—give it back!” Ian shouted. His face was bright red from the cold. His dark hair was wet and matted to his forehead.

He made a wild grab for the cap. Laughing, Vanessa held it up in front of him, then tossed it to Scott.

Scott leaped for it. Started to fall. The cap flew onto the ice right in front of Ian.

He grabbed it up and skated away from us. “You guys aren’t funny,” he said. He leaned forward and skated away.

He still had the black cap in his hands when the ice started to crack.

It made a loud, long, ripping sound. Another sound I’ll never forget.

I saw the ice breaking under Ian’s skates. I didn’t even have time to shout.

I saw a long block of ice slant up. I saw Ian’s shocked expression. Saw his hands fly up.

Water splashed onto the ice. Another loud
echoed off the trees.

Ian started to drop.

It happened so fast, so terrifyingly fast.

I saw his legs sink into the hole in the ice. More water splashed up. His head disappeared. His hands groped for the surface.

His black cap sat on the cracked ice like a small, dark animal.

But Ian was gone.

screaming like that?

I don’t remember screaming. And I don’t remember skating.

But before I realized it, I was racing to the broken ice, racing to the hole, racing to rescue my cousin.

And then I was on my knees. Leaning over the hole, peering into the dark, splashing water. Shouting his name over and over. “Ian! Ian! Ian!”

I cried out when his hand appeared. Like a pale fish in the dark, tossing water.

I grabbed his hand. Already so cold.

“Ian! Ian! Ian!”

I was on my stomach, leaning over the jagged hole. On my stomach, holding on to Ian’s hand. Tugging. Pulling with all my strength.

The hand so cold. So slippery.

“Ian! Ian! Ian!”

I had him. I had his hand. I gave it a hard jerk.

“Ian—your head! Where is your head? Lift your head out! Ian—please!”

His hand started to slip from mine.

I grabbed his wrist, grabbed it with both hands.

“Ian—I—I can’t hold on! I—”


I felt the ice move beneath me.

A fat plank of ice rose up in front of me. And then the ice below me dropped.

I let out a terrified cry.

I struggled to hold on. Struggled with all my strength.

But Ian’s hand fell away. Fell so lightly, it didn’t make a splash.

And then I dropped. Headfirst. Headfirst into the dark, frozen, churning water.

The last thing I saw was the black cap, still sitting safely on the ice. Ian’s black cap, safe and sound.

And then I plunged down.

Down…down into darkness.

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