Sixteen-year-old Gretchen, whose mother, a renowned specialist in spiritualist photography, has been missing for years, inherits a derelict mansion in upstate New York.
The white girl joins her great-aunt, Esther, who has been living alone there. She tells Gretchen that she will be leaving and that Gretchen must finish the work that she and her mother had started. Aunt Esther is a famous war photographer, but now she photographs what she believes to be ghosts trapped on the property. It will be Gretchen’s job to discover why and free their souls. Once she agrees, Gretchen finds herself in a whirlwind of catastrophe. The ghosts originate from an atrocity committed in 1864 by the Ku Klux Klan, who deliberately burned a church full of African-American worshipers, including two little girls who have become extremely nasty and active spirits. To solve the mystery, Gretchen unites with banjo-playing black neighbor Hawk, who can also see the ghosts, and his sister, Hope. After a slow and exposition-heavy start, Olson provides chills and thrills as she concocts some truly original hauntings inside the house. Although the author depicts the Ku Klux Klan operating in the North during the Civil War, before its actual founding in the South, its anachronistic presence in the story helps to elevate the tension.
A well-meaning though unsubtle ghost story. (Horror. 12-18)