Authors: R. L. Stine
PHANTOM of the
A mysterious phantom haunted our school.
No one ever saw him. No one knew where he lived.
But he haunted our school for more than seventy years.
My best friend, Zeke, and I were the ones who found him. We found him while we were doing a school play about a phantom.
Our teacher told us that the play was cursed, but we didn’t believe her. We thought it was all just a big joke.
But when I saw the Phantom for myself, I knew it was no joke. It was all true. Every bit of it.
The night we found the Phantom was the scariest night of our lives!
But I should start at the beginning.
My name is Brooke Rodgers, and I’m in the sixth grade at Woods Mill Middle School.
Zeke Matthews is my best friend. A lot of the other girls think it’s weird that my best friend is a boy, but I don’t care. Zeke is cooler and funnier than any girls I know. He is also a big horror movie fan, like me.
Zeke and I have been best friends for nine years. We know just about everything about each other. For instance, I know that Zeke still wears Kermit the Frog pajamas!
He hates it when I tell people that. His face always turns a bright shade of red. Then his freckles stand out even more.
Zeke hates his freckles almost as much as I hate my glasses. I don’t know why he’s so hung up over a couple of freckles. After a while, you hardly even notice them. And in the summer when he gets tan, they practically disappear altogether.
I wish my glasses could disappear. They make me look so nerdy. But if I don’t wear them, I walk into walls!
Some girls at school think Zeke is cute. I never think about him that way. I guess it’s because I’ve known him for nearly my entire life. Ever since our moms met in their bowling league and discovered they lived on the same street.
The excitement about the Phantom started a couple of Fridays ago. School had ended for the
day, and I was trying to get my locker open. I pushed my hair off my face and turned the combination dial. The stupid lock always jams, and it drives me crazy.
After trying the combination four times, I finally got it open. I threw my books inside and slammed the door shut. No way was I dragging home any textbooks over the weekend. As of right this second, I was on vacation! Two whole days of no school. Excellent.
Before I could turn around, a fist came whizzing by my ear and punched my locker with a loud
“What’s up, Brookie?” a voice called from behind me. “No homework this weekend?”
I didn’t have to turn around to know who it was. Only one person in the whole world can ever get away with calling me Brookie.
I turned around to see Zeke’s dopey grin. His blond hair, which was really long in the front and very short — almost shaved — in the back, fell over one eye.
I smiled, then stuck my tongue out at him.
“Real mature, Brookie,” he muttered.
Then I flipped my eyelids up so they stayed that way. It’s a really gross talent I have that usually makes people scream and gag.
Zeke didn’t bat an eye. He has seen my eyelid trick at least a zillion times.
“Nope, no homework!” I replied. “No books. No nothing. I’m totally free this weekend.”
Then I got a great idea. “Hey, Zeke,” I said, “do you think Rich can take us to see the
I was dying to see the three
movies playing at the Cineplex. One was supposed to be in 3–D! Zeke and I go to scary movies all the time just to laugh at the scary parts. We have nerves of steel. We never get scared.
“Maybe,” Zeke answered, brushing his hair away from his face. “But Rich is grounded. He can’t use the car for a week.”
Rich is Zeke’s older brother. He spends most of his life being grounded.
Zeke shifted his backpack onto his shoulder. “Forget about the
festival, Brooke. Aren’t you forgetting something?” He narrowed his eyes at me. “Something big?”
I scrunched up my nose. Forgetting something? I couldn’t think of a thing. “What?” I asked finally.
“Come on, Brookie! Think!”
I really had no idea what Zeke was talking about. I pulled my long hair into a ponytail and tied it together with the scrunchie that was on my wrist.
I always wear a scrunchie on each wrist. I like to be prepared. You never know when you’re going to need a scrunchie.
“Really, Zeke, I don’t know,” I said, making a tight ponytail. “Why don’t you just tell me?”
And that’s when it hit me. “The cast list!” I yelled, slapping my forehead. How could I have forgotten? Zeke and I had been waiting two long weeks to find out if we got parts in the school play.
“Come on! Let’s check it out!” I grabbed hold of Zeke’s flannel shirtsleeve. And I pulled him all the way to the auditorium.
Zeke and I had both tried out for the play. Last year, we had small parts in the musical
Guys and Dolls.
Ms. Walker, our teacher, told us that the play this year was going to be scary.
That’s all Zeke and I had to hear. We
to be in this play!
We found a big crowd of kids at the bulletin board. They were all trying to read the cast list at once.
I was so nervous! “I can’t look, Zeke!” I cried. “You check, okay?”
“Yeah, no prob —”
“Wait! I’ll do it!” I yelled, changing my mind. I do that a lot. Zeke says it drives him crazy.
I took a deep breath and pushed through the crowd of kids. Biting my left thumbnail, I crossed the fingers on my right hand and stared up at the list.
But when I saw what was posted up there, I nearly bit off my whole thumb!
Tacked on the board beside the cast list was a sign:
ATTENTION BROOKE RODGERS: PLEASE REPORT TO MR. LEVY’S OFFICE. YOU HAVE BEEN SUSPENDED FROM SCHOOL.
I gasped in shock.
Had Mr. Levy found out that I was the one who let the gerbil loose in the teachers’ lounge?
I felt sick to my stomach. My parents were going to be so horrified.
Then I heard giggling.
I spun around to find Zeke laughing his head off. Other kids were laughing, too.
I stared angrily at Zeke. “Did you put that sign up?”
“Of course!” he replied, laughing even harder.
He has a sick sense of humor.
“I didn’t believe it for a second,” I lied.
I turned back to the board to read the cast list. I had to read the list three times. I couldn’t believe what I saw. “Zeke!” I shouted over the other kids’ heads. “You and I — we’re the stars!”
Zeke’s mouth dropped open in surprise. Then he grinned at me. “Yeah. For sure,” he muttered, rolling his eyes.
“No. Really!” I cried. “We got the two biggest parts! Come check it out for yourself! You got the part of the Phantom!”
“No way!” Zeke still didn’t believe me.
“She’s telling the truth, Zeke,” a girl behind me said. Tina Powell, a seventh-grader, pushed through the crowd.
I always get the feeling that Tina Powell doesn’t like me very much. I have no idea why. I hardly even know her. But she always seems to be frowning at me. Like I have a piece of spinach caught in my teeth or something.
“Let me see that list!” Zeke demanded, pushing past everyone. “Wow! I
get the starring part!”
“I’m going to be Esmerelda,” I read. “I wonder who Esmerelda is. Hey, maybe she’s the Phantom’s crazy old stepmother, or maybe she’s the headless wife who comes back from the dead to —”
“Give it a rest, Brooke,” Tina said, frowning at me. “Esmerelda is just the daughter of some guy who owns the theater.” She said it as if Esmerelda were a nothing part.
“Uh, what part did you get, Tina?” I asked.
Tina shifted uncomfortably. A few other kids turned to hear her reply.
understudy!” she muttered, staring down at the floor. “So if you get sick or something
and you can’t be in the show, I’ll play the part of Esmerelda.
“I’m also in charge of all the scenery!” she boasted.
I wanted to say something mean and nasty, something to put Miss High-and-Mighty Tina Powell in her place in front of everybody. But I couldn’t think of anything.
I’m not a mean, nasty person. And it’s hard to think of mean, nasty things to say — even when I want to.
So I decided to ignore her. I was too excited about the play to let Tina Powell get to me.
I pulled on my denim jacket and swung my backpack over my shoulder. “Come on, Phantom,” I said to Zeke. “Let’s go haunt the neighborhood!”
On Monday afternoon, we started rehearsing the play. Ms. Walker was in charge.
She stood us on the stage in the auditorium, staring down at us. She clutched a tall stack of scripts in her arms.
Ms. Walker has curly red hair and pretty green eyes. She is very skinny, as skinny as a pencil. She is a very good teacher — a little too strict. But a good teacher.
Zeke and I chose two seats next to each other in the third row. I glanced around at the other kids. Everyone was talking. Everyone seemed really excited.
“Do you know what this play is about?” Corey Sklar asked me. He was playing my father. I mean, Esmerelda’s father. Corey has chestnut-brown hair like me. And he also wears glasses. Maybe that’s why we were playing relatives.
“Beats me,” I answered him with a shrug. “Nobody knows what the play is about. I just know it’s supposed to be scary.”
“I know what it’s about!” Tina Powell announced loudly.
I turned around in my seat. “How do you know?” I demanded. “Ms. Walker hasn’t passed out the scripts yet.”
“My great-grandfather went to Woods Mill Middle School a long, long time ago. He told me all about
I started to tell Tina that nobody cared about her great-grandfather’s dumb story. But then she added, “He also told me about the
on the play!” That shut everyone up. Even me.
Even Ms. Walker was listening now.
Zeke nudged me, his eyes wide with excitement. “A curse?” he whispered happily. “Cool!”
I nodded. “Very cool,” I muttered.
“My great-grandfather told me a really scary story about this play,” Tina continued. “And he told me about a phantom in the school. A real phantom who —”
“Tina!” Ms. Walker interrupted, stepping to the front of the stage. She peered down sharply at Tina. “I really don’t think you should tell that story today.”
“Huh? Why not?” I cried.
“Yeah. Why not?” Zeke joined in.
“I don’t think this is a good time to listen to scary stories that may not be true,” Ms. Walker replied sternly. “Today I’m going to pass out the scripts, and —”
the story?” Tina demanded.
“Yes, I’ve heard it,” Ms. Walker told her. “But I wish you would keep it to yourself, Tina. It’s a very scary story. Very upsetting. And I really don’t think —”
“Tell us! Tell us! Tell us!” Zeke started to chant.
And, instantly, we were all grinning up at our teacher and chanting loudly: “Tell us! Tell us! Tell us!”