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Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Nightmare Hall #1: The Silent Scream

The Original Cover
Written by Diane Hoh
Originally published in the mid-nineties.
Republished in 2013.

Cover Blurb:

Jess can’t wait to start freshman year at Salem University—but her new dorm room has a terrifying past

There’s a reason why they call it Nightmare Hall . . .

Jessica Vogt gets a rude awakening when she moves into Nightingale Hall and learns that the previous spring, a student named Giselle hanged herself from a light fixture—in Jess’s new room. Campus officials pronounced it a suicide. But did Giselle really kill herself? Or was it a setup?

Strange things are happening to Jess. One night, she is awakened by a terrifying scream. A photo taken of Jess and a classmate reveals a third person in the shot—a girl with long, pale hair and a sad face. Is Giselle trying to communicate with Jess? As Jess moves closer to what really happened that fateful night, someone starts targeting her. Is she being haunted by a ghost, or is there a killer on the loose?


My Review:

Jessica Vogt has just moved into Nightmare Hall, the cheapest off-campus living available at Salem University.  The house is foreboding to begin with...dark and nestled atop a hill by it's lone.  Shutters bang lose, and what's worse is she doesn't know a soul on campus.

But she tries to relax as the kids all get to know each other.   Theres Linda (the swimmer), Cathy (the academic nerd), Jon (the ladies man) Ian (the nice guy), Milo (the reclusive poet), and Trucker (the handyman who also takes night classes).  Then there's Miss Coates, housemother who accidentally trips down the stairs and is forced to leave the seven students to fend for themselves.


The kids decide to have a small party their first night there.  They order pizza and introduce themselves to each other.  Things are going smoothly until Ian spills the beans that, in fact, a former student (Giselle McKendrick) hung herself in Jess's very room just last Spring.  

Jess tries to forget about the story, but soon weird things begin to happen.  Everytime someone mentions Giselle's suicide, doors and windows slam.  Then there's the eerie coldness of Jess's room that not even the humidity of summer seems to touch.  She even awakes one night to the shadow of a girl swinging across her wall.  Then weird things begin to happen to everyone...muddy footprints that disappear, Linda's swimsuit is destroyed, Cath's term paper goes missing and is later found in Milo's notebook.  Later on Linda's mirror explodes and she barely saves her face from mutilation.

Later on, Giselle's brother comes to retrieve a trunk of her belongings.  He states he's sure that whatever happened to Giselle, he knows it was not a suicide.  

Then one morning Jess finds a photo of Giselle, along with a creepy letter, obviously written by an ex.  Convinced the letter is by someone who did Giselle harm, Jess feel's there's probably more letters to be found if she could just look.  No one else in the house seems as concerned, but Jess finally finds an opportunity to search for the letters on a night when everyone else goes to a party.  She feigns a headache and stays home to search for the letters.

She's just begun when suddenly the electricity leaves her blinded by darkness.  She thinks Tucker must be working on the cellar but as she nears the old cellar door, someone pushes her down the stairs!  She hears a last sickening crack of her head hitting concrete before she passes out.  When she awakens later, she's sick with the putrid smell of gas and knows the furnace has been rigged.  Minutes seem like hours as she struggles to stop the leak, and then break out of the only window of the locked cellar.  Just as she thinks she's finally freed herself from the trap made by the suspected killer, she finds herself pinned to the ground by him as he attempts to strangle her.

As he does so, he admits he killed Giselle because she betrayed him.  Because she broke up with him and refused to speak to him.  He said she got her warning but did not listen.  Grasping for a way to save herself, Jess finds a piece of glass and attacks the perpetrator.  She's saved as a car comes up the drive.

Later that night, as the kids discuss who could have attacked Jess, they come to the conclusion that it must have been Milo since he did not attend the party.  He hastily packs his things and leaves.

All seems well and the students go about their lives, trying to forget the recent mayhem.  Jess is finally able to trust Ian again and they attend the fall dance together.  As a matter of fact, they had a wonderful time and came home early to catch a bit of time alone before the others got back.

When they arrive back to the old house, Ian goes inside to find Jess a jacket...but fails to come back.  Then a friend of Milo's stops by to return his jacket that he forgot in the library as they studied a few weeks ago...on the same night she was attacked!  Jess is terrified as she realizes that had Milo spent most of the night in the library with the girl, he could not have been the one who attacked her!  But then who was?

When she hears someone calling her name,  she finds herself out back, near the river with Tucker, whom has appeared out of nowhere.  Tucker points to a floating picture of Giselle in the river, and says he saw Milo do it.    Suddenly Jess just knows Tucker is her attacker...Tucker is the person responsible for Giselle's death!  But now she's trapped...Tucker says he has Ian tied up and that Jess must die.   

As Tucker advances on Jess with a necklace-shaped wire, ready to strangle her to death at last, the wind begins to howl.  Then the most fantastic thing happens...Giselle's picture floats from atop the creek water and plasters itself across Tucker's face.  He screams and scratches at the photo but cannot remove it...until, smothered to death, he topples into the creek.  And Giselle has her revenge at last!




The New 2013 Cover
My Thoughts:

This was a fast-paced mystery that kept you reading.  I admit I wasn't really sure which character was the real killer.  I found myself suspecting every guy except Milo.

It was sort of disheartening to see that everyone just generally suspected poor Milo just because he was different.  And let's face it, he seemed to be a common day New Age hippie.  Of course, let's just blame the weird guy!  Totally unfair.  But then, with the help of Giselle's restless spirit, the true killer was brought to light.

This is the very first book in the Nightmare Hall series.  The books were written for teens, but I feel they also hold great entertainment value for college students and adults, alike.  I look forward to reviewing the complete series.