Monday, April 18, 2016

Nancy Drew Mystery Stores #33: The Witch Tree Symbol (1955)


Nancy is such a nice young girl that she offers to drive her new neighbor, Mrs. Tenney to Follett Mansion. Her Aunt Sara lived there for years before passing away. Tenney tells her all about how her aunt had a ton of antiques, but when they get there, everything of value is gone. Aunt Sara apparently split the furniture between Tenney and her cousin Alpha Zinn. Zinn is an antiques dealer, but Nancy doesn't think that's enough evidence or proof. Nancy does find a weird symbol. It's the witch tree symbol, which is a curse in Pennsylvania Dutch communities, and Zinn just so happens to live in that area.

Tenney also tells her about an antiques dealer she met. He heard about Sara's death and stopped by to say he was interested in buying anything the heirs didn't want. She says that he left at the same time she left with the estate lawyer but isn't totally sure that the door was locked behind them. Nancy calls local hotels to see if the dealer – Roger Hoelt - stayed in town and finds that he was there but abruptly checked out earlier in the day.

Nancy heads back to River Heights, stops by the police station, and asks the chief if Hoelt is in his records. Turns out he was arrested in the past for jewel theft. She also learns that he made a few calls while staying at the hotel and all were to a pay phone in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Carson warns her to be careful, and Hannah worries about the whole hex/curse thing. Nancy then takes her dog for a walk and sees a car come out of nowhere. It almost hits her dog and leaves behind a note that has the witch tree symbol on it and a threat to stay out.

This just makes her decide to take a trip to Lancaster for herself. Bess agrees to go because she heard the Amish make great food, and George goes wherever they go. They're on their way to Zinn's house when their car gets stuck in the mud. Manda, a random Amish girl just walking by, stops to talk to them, but she has some serious problems of her own.

She confesses that she was raised Amish but left because she grew tired of their ways. Manda left town, moved to Lancaster, and went to school while working. Though she eventually came home, she thinks her dad won't let her back in the house. Manda agrees to find a mechanic for them and leaves again. When the mechanic shows up, he gives them directions to Manda's house.

They get their in time to see Manda's dad about to be gorged by a bull and distract it. Even though he doesn't like “modern” women and seems to hate George's name, he invites them to stay for dinner. His wife then asks them to spend the night, which he says is a good way to pay them back for saving his life. Manda's little sister tells them that Manda came back and left again because her dad said she could stay but that no one in the family could talk to her. He then asks them to help them find his missing daughter, and his wife asks them to come by every day for dinner as payment.

While Nancy wants to find Manda, she also wants to find the missing antiques. She uncovers a threatening note with the witch tree symbol on it. Manda's family says they have no idea where it came from, and her dad says it's an old-fashioned symbol that the Amish no longer use. They then go to Zinn's antique store. Bess and George distract him while Nancy searches around and finds a table that exactly matches the description Tenney gave her.

Not knowing who they are, Zinn tells them that it's a replica of an authentic George Washington table. He made it to match one that his aunt had. He also tells them that the original tables had a hidden drawer that contained something expensive but that he never knew what it was. Nancy eventually tells him who they are and believes him when he says that he had nothing to do with the theft. They also learn that Roger Hoelt – who I'm calling Roger from now on – once lived in the town. He stole from Manda's family and went to school with Zinn.

While driving one day, Nancy sees a man rush past them in a carriage. They then come across a bunch of concrete blocks in the road that she can't avoid. Bess passes out in the crash but wakes up pretty quickly. Nancy find a note that calls her a witch and has the same symbol on it. When she tells Manda's parents, they act really strange around them, which leads them to check into a small boarding house.

The local police even show up to talk to her after getting a call that she was a witch. It was clearly a slow day. They stop by the antiques store and learn that Zinn sold the Washington table. When he describes the couple who bought it, Nancy realizes it was Roger and a woman posing as his wife. They also learn that the couple stole a carriage and paid for the table with fake money. To make things even worse, Zinn later accuses them of stealing. He got a call from an unidentified woman who told him to check their car. Though he finds two of his lamps in the trunk, his wife convinces him that Nancy and her friends would never steal.

Nancy starts worrying that no one in town will want to talk with her soon, so she decides to help the woman who owns the boarding house. The girls help the woman make a bunch of treats and pick vegetables that she sells in town. At the market, she jokes with them about how they might get picked up by some local guys. Nancy laughs until she thinks she sees Manda in the crowd. Am I the only one starting to think Manda is working with Roger?

It turns out the girl is Manda's cousin Melinda. She tells them that a man in disguise approached her, warned her that Nancy was a witch, and then ran away. Ned, Burt, and Dave then show up, and the owner of the boarding house offers to let them stay there. She also tells them about a barn dance later that night and encourages the girls to take the guys out for a tour of the countryside. They later get split up, and Bess and George's group hears people whispering about the witch.

When they get to the barn dance, people tell them that the witch suddenly flew into the air and disappeared. Oddly enough, there's no mention of what happened to Ned. The couple actually saw Roger and followed him. They find all the missing antiques and the stolen carriage inside a barn on his property. After calling the police, they catch up with their friends and find out that people still think Nancy is a witch.

The girls go out on their own and discover an old abandoned farmhouse. George briefly gets stuck in the mud, which leads them to find a sluice that proves the house was once used. They also find a family bible that has the name Hoelt inside. The next morning, they wake and find that someone painted the hex on the barn with a female figure inside that looks like Nancy. The owner of the boarding house also finds a note on her door that says Nancy is a witch. Are you sensing a theme here?

Manda's mom tracks down Nancy to tell her that she needs to seek out an older man in the community for help. We'll call him Greg because his name is way too long to type out multiple times. Greg tells them to stay away from the farm they found because it's bad luck. The Hoelt family originally owned it, had a run of bad luck, and left. The current owner left too after all his crops failed. Though Nancy thinks Manda his hiding out there, he warns them not to go. Greg also tells the Washington table was actually brought over by gypsies.

Bess and George refuse to let her go alone and tell her she needs help. Nancy agrees to wait before taking off. Bess then gets a phone call that causes her to burst into tears. She tells Nancy that the person called to inform them that Carson was seriously sick. They rushed him to the hospital but doctors aren't sure if he will make it.

George is the only one suspicious about the whole thing. She says that if Carson was that sick, Hannah would be the one to call. Before she can do anything, Mrs. Glick, the owner of the boarding house, gets distracted. Her son is playing with a slingshot and hits Nancy, which knocks her out. She comes to and agrees to wait before heading back home. If Carson really is sick, this is a bad decision.

The girls do want to do some more investigating, but walk outside and find their car gone. Glick agrees to call the police for them and leaves the girls with her sons. While playing in the barn, Nancy looks up and sees a beam getting ready to fall right on the boys. She rushes across the barn and gets there just in time to save him.

Glick agrees to take them via carriage to the old Hoelt farm. There, they find a guy sulking around. Nancy knocks him down and discovers that he's a deaf mute who she believes is working for Hoelt. Bess and George later come around the corner with Manda in tow. Manda says she's been living there with Roger and their wife as they restore the old farm. She refuses to believe that their thieves until Nancy describes some of the missing antiques and she realizes there are all in the house. Manda agrees to leave and go back home but won't talk to the police. Todd, the deaf mute kid, was the one who left some of the notes and painted the barn.

All four girls go inside the house and find the missing antiques, including the Washington table, which is hidden in the attic. They hear a noise downstairs and find themselves locked in the attic when Roger comes home and catches them. Nancy finds a way to signal for help and then examines the table. Not only does she find the hidden drawer, but she finds a note inside. The note came from a gypsy woman forced to flee her home and leave behind her love. She left him instructions on how to find a crystal cave that would make him rich, which I assume is a diamond mine.

The police arrive to save them. Instead of Nancy summing up the case, we get a police report over the radio. Roger was arrested and admitted to stealing the antiques. He grew up in Lancaster and posed as an Amish man. Manda then tells the girls that she met a man while in the city, he proposed, and she's now bring him home to meet her parents before they get married NEXT MONTH. She also asks them to come back and be part of her wedding. Nice to see that she doesn't hate everything about being Amish!

*Carson should pay Hannah way more. For a regular weeknight dinner, she makes chicken noodle soup, a pot roast, and apple pie.

*You can tell this is an old book because tomboy George wears a tailored brown skirt with matching jacket and a white button up shirt for a road trip.

*Has Nancy always had a dog? She calls Togo – crazy name by the way – her treasured pet, but I swear I never saw mention of a dog before.

*According to Nancy, there is a group called the Church Amish. They have the same religious beliefs but use electricity. I'm thinking this is some old name used for the Mennonites.

*Zinn thinks Nancy might be a shoplifter because she disappears in his store. That actually seems pretty realistic.

3 comments:

  1. I was going to ask about the dog. I couldn't remember ever reading a Nancy Drew book where she had a dog.

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  2. I remember him, I think he was a terrier of some sort. I always thought of Toto from Wizard of Oz.

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  3. I didn't read a lot of the older books when I was younger, so that's probably why I didn't remember the dog. He does come back in later books though :)

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