Adam and his family just moved from the big city to the small town of Springville. While helping his dad carry furniture into the new house, his dad throws out his back and gives him some money to run and grab a pack of Coke from the store. He runs into a girl who introduces herself as Sally, helps herself to one of his drinks, and offers him a tour of the city.
Sally tells him that all the kids call the town Spooksville because so many weird things happen there. She tells him about the girl who disappeared when a cloud came out of the sky and swallowed her whole, which her friend Watch saw happen. As they go near the grocery store, he sees a gorgeous black Corvette. As a shopping cart careens toward it, he throws himself in front of the car and Sally screams at him to stop.
The woman is Ann Templeton, and she seems to know everything about Adam. She tells him that he’s much more polite than the other kids in town, makes a few cryptic comments, makes rude comments about Sally, and then tells him that she’ll see him soon. Sally asks her about her castle home, which is right next to the cemetery and a big park, and she snaps and leaves.
Sally convinces him to meet Watch even though he kind of wants to just go home. Watch introduces him to an older man named Bum who starts talking about the secret path. Supposedly it leads to other worlds, and Watch wants to look for treasure, but Sally worries about what might happen to them. Bum gives them one clue, which leads them to the cemetery and a tombstone marking the grave of Ann’s ancestor.
The woman founded the city and was a witch who they burned to death. Watch disappears, and they try figuring out the clue. Eventually, Adam realizes that they need to walk around the tombstone backwards, which sends them into a weird world that looks like a darker version of their own. Sally heads to her house and finds that a tree fell down through the roof. Then they go to Adam’s house, and he finds bugs crawling all over and a huge spider the size of a cat in his bedroom. He also discovers the skeletons of his parents in their bed.
Before they can get too far away, they hear a horse outside. A black knight riding the horse comes at them and Adam passes out. He wakes up inside a jail cell next to Watch who disappeared when he found his way into town. A woman who looks like Ann with red hair brings them out of the cell and announces that she is a witch. They’re inside that world’s version of the castle where Ann lives.
The witch shows them a huge hourglass with mystical sand inside, and she tells them that in this world, time runs backwards. Sally manages to find them when they go back in their cell, and they try to get her to climb through the metal bars on the window to save them. After jumping onto a huge chandelier, she helps them escape and they run back to the cemetery.
The witch stops them before they can reach the tombstone. She threatens to rip Adam’s eyeballs out, and he somehow realizes that they need to walk around the tombstone the right way to get back home. She claims that he’s smart but he will never find his way there once she blinds him. She starts to poke out his eyeballs and he reveals that he stole a handful of magic sand from the hourglass. He blows it in her eyes and she screams in pain as they run away.
They get back to the cemetery, walk around the tombstone, and wind up back in their world. Sally realizes that the day looks even brighter, which means that it’s actually earlier than when they originally left. He heads home and his parents are surprised that he got home so fast. And then Sally calls to reveal that she likes him and wants to see him again.
*I’m not sure why I’m surprised that this book is a little dark given that it’s from Christopher Pike, but there are a few moments way darker than a Goosebumps book!
*There’s a whole subplot about how Sally likes Adam. His dad jokes with him about finding a girlfriend, but he says that he doesn’t want a girlfriend until at least seventh grade. In the end though, he decides that he wants to hang out with her some more.
*Bum is the former mayor of Springville, but he says it was a long time ago. No one finds it weird that he hangs out with a bunch of kids either.
*I read one of the later books in the series, and that book was a lot different than this one. I think as the series went on, you kind of needed to read each one to understand/follow the next.