Our favorite pre-teens apparently have a great-aunt Helen, who’s never mentioned before or after this book. She just inherited a fancy/old hotel from an old friend and requests that the kids come and help her clean up. She even lets Steven bring Joe Howell along for help and she’s also invited their other cousins Robin and Stacey. Steven and Joe have been playing a bunch of tricks on the girls, trying to make them believe in ghosts. Jess always falls for it, but Liz is never fooled.
The boys get to clean out the old boathouse, while the girls work on the attic. Liz finds an old diary and it’s the diary of her aunt’s old friend. She was born in the house, but moved away as a young girl and refused to go back. Jessica meets a worker named Bill, who keeps popping up and giving everyone advice. When she finds a bunch of old clothes, he points out that one of the pieces is a wedding bonnet and has a sad look on his face.
Weird things start happening and most of it is centered on the twins. The portrait in their room changes and when Liz tries to show it to Jess, it changes back. They hear odd noises and start seeing things, but Liz is constantly suspicious. The boys announce that they found a secret cave and the girls try to find it. They wander into an abandoned gold mine and see a ghost, but Liz still isn’t fooled.
She goes back, finds footprints and compares the sizes against everyone in the house, discovering that the girls and guys are working together. She confronts the boys and they agree to help her prank the other girls. They set up a raft on the lake, with a white figure on it. Bill shows them how to do it, but when they pull it off, the figure explodes in a bright light. Jess freaks out and Liz finally tells her that it’s all a prank. That same night though, they see letters on their mirror and a ghostly figure. It’s their cousin Robin sneaking through a hidden passage behind the mirror, but she swears she didn’t do anything with a face.
There’s some kind of old mining festival going on in town and Liz meets the town historian. He tells her about the ghost that supposedly haunts the hotel. Her aunt’s friend Alexandria fell in love with a poor working guy, but her father didn’t approve. He demanded that she marry a rich guy and set up their wedding. Her ex-suitor showed up, rang the bell in the bell tower during the ceremony and promptly died of a broken heart.
Liz refuses to believe that the hotel is haunted. Then she finds old pictures and sees a worker that looks exactly like Bill! They go to the foreman and he reveals that he has no one by that name working for him. Robin decides that they need help from the guys, but the guys think it’s a big joke to make them look stupid. They finally agree to sneak into the bell tower and look for clues.
Just as they get to the door, all of the lights in the house go out. They go inside and find Bill waiting for them. He reveals that he did a bunch of tricks and pranks, in the hopes of keeping them away from the tower. He tells them that he loved Alexandria and when she never came back for him, he grew angry.
There’s a big and boring confrontation between the two sides and then Liz pulls out the diary. She reveals that Alexandria had planned on calling off the wedding and announcing to her father that she loved Bill. He died before she had the chance. He gets all sad and then asks the girls to ring the bell one last time and let him get some peace.
A few days later, their parents all come back to pick them up. Jess sees something and points it out to Liz. They see Bill’s ghost and suddenly Alexandria’s ghost meets him and they walk off into the sunset together. Jess makes a comment about whether she believes in ghosts and Liz tells her that she believes in true love. Oh and apparently the Wakefields have a mini-van in this book, but I’m pretty sure they never had a van before and never have a van later!