Brooke and Zeke are best friends, who love horror movies. When their teacher Ms. Walker announces the school play will be scary, they both audition and land starring roles in the play, called The Phantom. One of their classmates Tina resents Brooke for getting the starring role and makes rude comments about the origins of the play. That’s when the teacher decides to tell them the true story of the play.
When the school was first built, someone found a copy of a play called The Phantom. They decided to perform it with the kids and even built a trapdoor in the stage. The boy playing the Phantom mysteriously disappeared and supposedly the play was cursed. They destroyed all copies of it, except for one and their class is the first to put it on. Just then, someone runs in dressed as a monster and scares the crap out of everyone, but it was just Zeke being an ass.
Zeke convinces Brooke to break into the school with him and check out the trapdoor, even though their teacher warns everyone not to mess with it. She even gets caught on the trapdoor herself and almost breaks her leg. Of course they do it anyway and find themselves trapped in the basement of the school. The two start fighting and get the lever to rise, taking them back up to the stage. They come across the night janitor Emile, who warns them about doing stupid stuff like that again.
The next day Brooke meets a new student by the name of Brian. He wants to join the play and ends up working on the scenery. Someone dressed as the Phantom ruins their rehearsal and everyone blames Zeke, except it wasn’t him; he actually had a dentist’s appointment and missed practice. Weird things keep going on around the school and everyone blames it on the phantom and on Zeke because they think he’s taking his role in the play too seriously.
To clear his name, the three kids break into the school again. This time they discover that someone painted over the scenery with a warning to stay away from “my home.” Ms. Walker pops up and blames all three for what happened. They keep trying to explain about the phantom and after awhile, she starts to believe them. They find a trail of red paint, follow it and it ends at Zeke’s locker. The teacher tells his parents, he’s kicked out of the play and grounded. To make matters worse, they also discover there is no night janitor and no one named Emile works at the school.
Once again the kids break into the school, hoping to clear Zeke’s name. They take the trapdoor downstairs and find a room filled with furniture, food, clothes and books. The trapdoor goes back up, leaving them stuck and then the door slams shut behind them. They get out, only finding Emile standing there. It turns out that his dad worked in the school years before and told him about the rom. He lost his job and house, so he just moved into the room. He was so worried about the kids finding him that he pulled all the pranks and did all the stupid stuff. They get away from him and the cops investigate, but discover that he’s already cleared out.
The play finally goes off, but as soon as Brooke sees the phantom, she realizes that it isn’t Zeke. The guy in the costume is the real phantom and reveals that when he disappeared, he actually fell through the trapdoor and died. He leaps through the door again and she hears him scream all the way down. Everyone applauds, thinking it’s part of the play.
Afterwards, Zeke tells Brooke that someone hit him over the head and stole his costume. He walks her back to her locker and she finds it open, with an old yearbook inside. She opens up the book to a page about the original play and the actor in the starring role. She gasps and shows Zeke that the original actor was Brian…
*How does someone live in a school for six months and no one notices anything?
*Better question: how did the school have a mysterious trapdoor that no one knew about? Their teacher explains that it was forgotten about, but it’s always there! It’s not like you can miss a huge trapdoor in the middle of your stage.
*This is the first Goosebumps book I ever read. I can’t believe I made it 30 years without reading a single one LOL.