The Headless Cupid

The Headless Cupid


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When the four Stanley children meet Amanda, their new stepsister, they're amazed to learn that she studies witchcraft. They're stunned to see her dressed in a strange costume, carrying a pet crow and surrounded by a pile of books about the supernatural. It's not long before Amanda promises to give witchcraft lessons to David, Jamie and the twins. But that's when strange things start happening in their old house. David suspects Amanda of causing mischief, until they learn that the house really was haunted long ago.

Legend has it that a ghost cut the head off of a wooden cupid on the stairway. Has the ghost returned to strike again?

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781416990529
Publisher: Atheneum Books for Young Readers
Publication date: 07/07/2009
Series: Stanley Family Series , #1
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 240
Sales rank: 336,703
Product dimensions: 5.10(w) x 7.60(h) x 0.70(d)
Lexile: 900L (what's this?)
Age Range: 8 - 12 Years

About the Author

Zilpha Keatley Snyder is the author of The Egypt Game, The Headless Cupid, and The Witches of Worm, all Newbery Honor Books. Her most recent books include The Treasures of Weatherby, The Bronze Pen, William S. and the Great Escape, and William’s Midsummer Dreams. She lives in Mill Valley, California. Visit her at

Read an Excerpt

The Headless Cupid

  • DAVID OFTEN WONDERED ABOUT HOW HE HAPPENED TO BE SITTING THERE on the stair landing, within arm’s reach of the headless cupid, at the very moment when his stepmother left Westerly House to bring Amanda home.

    When Molly appeared at the foot of the stairs, David knew she was leaving because she had her shoes on and there was no paint on her hands and clothes. Molly, who at that time had been David’s stepmother for about three weeks, was an artist, and around the house she dressed like an artist, very informally.

    “Oh, there you are,” she said to David. “I’m going now to pick up Amanda. Would you keep an eye on the kids while I’m gone? They were down by the swing a minute ago.”

    David said he would and Molly left, smiling back at him from the doorway. He sat a minute longer enjoying the deep silence of the big old house, empty now except for him. Even then, before anything happened, he felt there was something unusual about that spot on the landing. There was a central feeling about it, as if it were the heart of the old house. It was also a good vantage point, with a view of lots of doors and hallway, both upstairs and down.

    David got up after a while and went outside and found his little brother and sisters. He pushed them in the swing until he got tired and then he took them all upstairs to the room that he shared with his brother, Blair. The kids got out some toys, and after they’d settled down, David took a book and stretched out on the window seat where he could see the driveway. He read some, but mostly he watched for Molly’s car and wondered about the future—and Amanda.

    Amanda, who was Molly’s twelve-year-old daughter, had been staying with her own father since before Dad and Molly’s wedding; but now she was coming to live with her mother and the Stanley family. Suddenly to get an older sister—David was still eleven—after so many years of being the oldest, would make anybody wonder about the future. And David had a strong feeling that Amanda might give a person more to wonder about than the average stepsister.

    That feeling about Amanda came partly from a few specific clues, but mostly from a premonition. Premonitions ran in David’s family—on his mother’s side—and the one David had about Amanda was one of the strongest he’d ever had. What it felt like was a warning, a warning to expect some drastic differences when Amanda joined the Stanley family.

    Some of the specific clues came from little things Molly or David’s dad had let slip, but the strongest one came from one particular facial expression. The expression had been on Amanda’s face the only time David had ever met her.

    David had only met Amanda once because, in all the time Dad and Molly had been going together, Amanda had managed not to be around very much. Of course Dad had seen her; but whenever something was planned for both families, Amanda usually had something terribly important come up—like a test to study for, or a sudden attack of stomach flu. All but one time when they’d all gone to the zoo together, way back when Dad and Molly had first met.

    David hadn’t paid much attention to Amanda that afternoon because he had had no idea then that she was going to be his stepsister, and besides he’d been busy keeping Blair away from the animals. Blair and most animals understood each other, so there really hadn’t been too much danger—except from the zoo-keepers, who didn’t understand about Blair at all.

    David did recall saying “Hello” to Amanda when his father introduced them—and Amanda not saying anything. He could conjure up a vague picture of brownish hair and a red dress, but what he could remember best was the expression on Amanda’s face. She had looked at him that same way every time he got near her all afternoon. It was the kind of look, that when people keep doing it at you, you start feeling you ought to check the bottom of your shoes—particularly when you’re at the zoo. David had checked and his shoes were all right, but he hadn’t forgotten that expression.

    All of David’s clues, and instincts, seemed to indicate that he should be prepared for almost anything, and he thought he was; he hoped he was. When Molly’s little VW finally turned off the highway onto the long dusty driveway, David got up on his knees on the window seat and unlatched the window. He opened it just wide enough to see out through the crack. The glass in the old lattice windows was wavy and not much good for looking through when you were interested in details.

    The car pulled up in front of the veranda steps, and for several minutes no one got out. David supposed that Molly and Amanda were in the midst of a discussion. Obviously they would have a lot to talk about. Since they’d seen each other, Dad and Molly had gotten married, gone away on a honeymoon, and come back and moved all their stuff and all the Stanley kids into the old Westerly house in the country—which happened to be the only house they could find that was big and cheap enough. And all that time Amanda had been staying with her own father in Southern California.

    David was still waiting and watching when, in the room behind him, there was a loud clatter followed by a scream that sounded like a stepped-on cat. David could guess what had happened without even turning around. The last time he’d checked the kids, Janie had been building something in the corner, Esther had been cleaning the floor with her toy vacuum, and Blair had been curled up on David’s bed fast asleep. Now Esther came running and climbed up beside David, and across the room Janie was standing up slowly with a clenched jaw and mean-looking eyes. Esther crawled behind David and peeked out at Janie who, as usual, was getting ready to throw things.

    “Stop that, Janie,” David said. “Put that down. What’s the matter?”

    “Tesser kicked over my horse corral,” Janie said, between tight teeth. Tesser was what Esther had named herself before she could pronounce Esther.

    “No,” Esther said from behind David. “I didn’t kick over it. I fell over it.”

    Janie kept coming. “Janie,” David said, “if you throw that horse, you’ll break it.”

    “You’ll break Tesser,” Esther said.

    David laughed, and, after a moment, Janie looked at the china horse in her hand, and the red started going out of her face. David turned back to the window, thinking that Amanda was probably in the house and he’d missed seeing her, but she wasn’t. Both Molly and Amanda were still sitting in the convertible. Just about then the door on Molly’s side banged open, and Molly jumped out. She slammed the door behind her and walked fast across the driveway and up the steps, leaving Amanda sitting alone in the car. David couldn’t see Molly’s face very well, but something about the way she held her head and shoulders made him wonder if she were crying.

    For another minute or two Amanda went on sitting in the car; but then her door opened very slowly and deliberately, and she got out. As soon as David got a good look at her, he leaned forward quickly, squeezing Esther into the corner of the window seat.

    “Wow!” he said under his breath. Esther heard him and she shoved under his arm so that her face was under his in the crack of the window.

    “Wow!” Esther said. “What’s that?”

    David didn’t answer until Esther banged her head back against his chin and got his attention. “What’s that?” she asked again.

    “That?” David shook his head slowly. “That’s our new sister, Tesser.” And they both went on staring.

    For the first second or two he’d actually thought there were a bunch of springs and wires coming out of Amanda’s head, but then he realized it was only her hair. It seemed to be braided in dozens of long tight braids and some of them were looped around and fastened back to her head. The rest of her was almost covered by a huge bright colored shawl with a shaggy fringe, except for down below her knees, where something black with a crooked hem was hanging. She stood still for a minute after she got out of the car, looking after her mother; and David could see most of her face. He remembered, seeing her again, some things he’d forgotten—the very dark eyebrows, smallish nose, and the way her mouth moved now and then into what looked like an upside-down smile. But he didn’t remember the spot in the middle of her forehead. It seemed to be shaped like a triangle, and when she moved, it caught and reflected the light like a tiny mirror.

    She stood for a minute staring after her mother with her mouth in the upside-down smile, and then she turned back to the car. First she got out something that looked like a large dome-shaped cage covered with a beach towel, and then a couple of big suitcases. Next she opened the trunk and began lifting out boxes, lots of cardboard boxes that seemed to be filled with something very heavy. She put all the boxes and suitcases and the big cage together at the side of the driveway. She was getting two smaller cages out, when her eyes flicked upwards, and for a moment David wondered if she’d seen him in the crack of the window. But she only went on with what she was doing until everything was gathered together beside the driveway. She turned then, slowly and deliberately, and looked directly at David and Esther. There was no doubt about it. She went on looking long enough for David to be sure she really knew they were there, and then she nodded and made a motion with her hand. Both the nod and the wave meant, “Come here.”

    David jumped. He jumped back from the window and shut it. Esther looked up at him questioningly.

    “That new sister said—like this,” Esther said, making a “come here” motion with her hand.

    “Yeah,” David said. “I know.” He opened the window again and leaned out. “Wha—who—d-did you want me?” he called.

    Amanda tucked her lips in the upside-down smile and nodded, very slowly and definitely. She motioned towards the pile of boxes and bags. David got the point.

    “Okay,” he called. “I’ll be right down.”

    “Right down,” Esther said. She slid off the window seat, too.

    David looked at her and frowned, but then he shrugged. If he stopped to argue with her, Janie would be sure to get interested, and Blair might even wake up and want to come along. And to have just one tag-along would be better than to have all three.

    David nodded at Esther and said to Janie, “I’m going down to help carry boxes and things.”

    Janie only glanced at them and then went on rebuilding her horse corral. David had put it that way on purpose, so as not to arouse her interest, and it worked. Everyone in the whole family was sick of carrying boxes and things.

    On the way down the curving staircase David held Esther’s hand because if you didn’t she still had to put both feet on each stair, and it took forever; but as soon as they reached the bottom he pulled his hand away. He knew from experience that some people his own age thought it was funny the way the little Stanley kids followed him around and hung on him. Of course there was a reason for it—even before she died over a year before, their mother had been sick for a long time, and a lot of the time the kids hadn’t had anyone else to hang on. But you couldn’t go around explaining that to everyone.

    David cringed inwardly remembering the time Esther had called him Mommy, right in front of a guy he used to know named Skip Hunter. Esther hadn’t meant to, of course. She was very young at the time, and Mommy was one of the few words she knew. But Skip had made a big thing out of it, and a bunch of his friends had called David “Mommy” for a long time.

    Esther was still tagging along, a few feet behind, when David went down the porch steps. He could see from there that the spot on Amanda’s forehead was a triangle of some kind of metallic substance, which seemed to change colors when you looked at it from different angles. Amanda stood perfectly still watching them come, with only her eyes moving from David to Esther and back again—a long blank look from unblinking eyes.

    “Hi,” David said; but Amanda went on staring silently for so long that he began to wonder if she was still going to refuse to speak to him, even now that they had to live in the same house. It was so weird that David had to concentrate to keep his hands and face from doing nervous twitchy things while he waited.

    At last Amanda sighed and said, “You’re David,” making the words a part of the sigh.

    Because he was so glad to have the creepy silence over with, David nodded much too enthusiastically.

    “And that one?” Amanda said, pointing at Esther. “Which one is that one?”

    Because of the tone of Amanda’s voice, David checked Esther out to see if there was something wrong with her, like maybe her nose was running or she’d forgotten some of her clothes; but everything seemed to be in order. Esther wasn’t particularly gorgeous, but she looked about average for a four-year-old girl—short and solid with straight brown hair and fat pink cheeks.

    “That’s—” he started, but Esther drowned him out.

    “That’s Tesser,” she said, pointing at herself right between the eyes.

    “What did she say?” Amanda asked.

    “She said Tesser,” David said. “That’s what she calls herself.”

    Amanda looked a little bit more interested than David had seen her look before. “Why does she do that?” she asked.

    “I don’t know,” David said. “Why do you call yourself Tesser?”

    “Because I am Tesser,” Esther said.

    “It’s the way she pronounces Esther,” David explained.

    “Oh,” Amanda shrugged, “is that all. I thought maybe it was her spiritual name.”

    “Her what?” David asked.

    “Her spiritual name.”

    “Oh,” David said.

    Esther was jerking on the back of his shirt. He told her to stop and pushed her hand away, but she started in again. Finally he said, “What is it?” and she motioned with her finger for him to lean over.

    “Whisper,” she said.

    David sighed. Esther never screamed and threw things like Janie, but she was terribly determined. He knew he might as well let her whisper or she’d go on asking for hundreds of times. He squatted down so she could reach his ear, and she leaned over and went, “Whizawhizawhiza,” in it. You never could understand a word of Esther’s whispers, but this time it was pretty plain what she meant, because she kept pointing at Amanda’s head.

    “I think she wants to know about your hair, or that thing on your forehead,” he said.

    “My hair?” Amanda said, as if there weren’t anything unusual about it at all.

    “Why it’s all—uh, all in those tight braids.”

    “Oh that,” Amanda said. “That’s part of my ceremonial costume. So’s this,” she added, pointing to the triangle on her forehead. “This is my center of power.”

    “Power?” David was starting to ask, when suddenly Esther gave an excited squeal. She had lifted the corner of the beach towel and was peeking into the dome-shaped cage.

    “It’s a bird,” she said. “David, look. It’s a great big bird.”

    “Yeah,” David said. “It sure is. It looks like a crow. Isn’t it a crow?”

    Amanda picked up the cage and wrapped the towel back around it. “Not exactly,” she said. “I’ll carry the cages, and you can carry that box of books.” She pointed to Esther. “And you carry that little train case.”

    The box of books was big and very heavy. David staggered a little going up the stairs. Behind him, Amanda was carrying the big cage in one hand and one of the little cages in the other. Behind them both, Esther came slowly, one step at a time.

    When they got to the room that Molly had chosen for Amanda, David sat down on the box he’d been carrying to catch his breath. It was a small room but interesting, with dormer windows and a ceiling that slanted in all directions. Amanda looked around, blank-faced and cool-eyed as ever. David couldn’t begin to guess if she liked the room or not.

    He remembered then what he’d been about to ask before they started upstairs. “What did you mean—‘not exactly’?” he said. “It’s either a crow or it isn’t. How come it’s ‘not exactly’ a crow?”

    Amanda unwrapped the beach towel, and the crow sidled across its perch and pecked viciously at her fingers. “It’s not exactly a crow,” she said, “because it’s actually a familiar spirit. I don’t suppose you’ve heard the term before, but this crow is my Familiar.”

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    The Headless Cupid 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 24 reviews.
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    AWESOME BOOK!!!!!!!!!
    ashley23AL More than 1 year ago
    David, an eleven year old boy figures out who the real poltergeist is. David, the oldest out of four kids; Janie, and the twins Esther and Blair learn to deal with the ways of their new stepsister Amada. As Amada teaches the supernatural ways to the children strange happenings occur. Amada finds out the secret of the house they are living in, it was believed too be haunted before. I liked the book because it builds up suspension. The thought of what might happen next just encourages me to turn the page. If you like a mysterious, haunting novel, heres one you can float Right into. Also it includes how siblings can learn to get along to keep a secret David, the oldest until Amada comes along, figures out who the real ghost is. At First Amada doesn't talk too anyone, but learns to over come her problems, and Becomes more social. I recommend this book to anyone who likes a mysterious, Haunting. You can float right in to the pages. It's so easy to imagine what's going On in the book in your head.
    Guest More than 1 year ago
    This book is about a girl that finds out that her house was haunted by a poltergeist, and does these horrible tricks that will scare everyone into moving into the city. In the end she gets scared herself, and confesses to everybody. (very interesting, a bit scary too, but logical)
    Guest More than 1 year ago
    when i first read this book I was in the six grade i believe all childrens who love a mystery book will really luv the headless cupit .
    saroz on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
    This is probably Snyder's second most well-known book, falling short of the success of that other Newbery Honor novel, "The Egypt Game," but in no way falling short of its quality. This is a book that couldn't be written in today's overly sensitive social climate: four children (with a focus on the oldest, David), exposed to a new stepsister who believes herself a "witch," complete with various initiation tests for the younger kids and apparent supernatural happenings. This is all part and parcel of a good Snyder novel, and the underlying theme here is about the pain of divorce and learning to accept new situations. Amanda, the stepsister, is furious at everything that is changing about her life; David is more accepting but certainly very confused. The characters were clearly drawn well enough here to inspire three sequels from the author, but the original remains the best; this is one of her classiest works, deftly mixing the possibilities of the super-normal with the extravagances of imagination, and relishing in her much-loved theme of the big, spooky house. Definitely a children's book to read again and again.
    pbadeer on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
    The Headless Cupid is a 1972 Newbery Honor Book which has truly stood the test of time. Unlike other children¿s titles from the same era, Cupid could easily have been written today ¿ assuming you could find a family who didn¿t live in front of their TV¿s and Video Games.Amanda¿s mom remarries, and they move away from the city and into an old house in the country along with David, the oldest brother of Janie and twins Esther and Blair. Amanda is ¿different¿ ¿ or at least she wants to be different ¿ and she¿s sure that the country will be boring and no one will like her. To her surprise, her new brothers and sisters show an interest in Amanda¿s fixation on witchcraft and go along with her versions of occult initiation. Then, when a poltergeist appears ¿ the same poltergeist which may have visited the house 80 years ago¿when the wooden cupid on the bannister lost its head ¿ the entire family gets a new insight into what the occult may really mean.Although the work remains timeless, the ¿wholesomeness¿ of the story kind of stands out as a little antiquated ¿ but I would like to think in a good way. Picture life as a kid 30 years ago, and what passes for an initiation rite seems appropriate for the book, but lame in a child¿s eyes today. I listened to this with my 11 year old daughter, and she frequently guffawed at both the blatant plot and descriptions of family life ¿ but admitted that the author¿s use of a subtle subplot which pops up on occasion was enough to keep her engaged throughout. With all of that said, maybe my initial rating of 4 stars seems a little high, but I give the stars to represent the spirit in which the book was written and should now be read. A great, quaint family read to reminisce on how life used to be.
    greytfriend on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
    A wonderful book about family, siblings, new marriages and families, a spooky old house and a frightening mystery. The children are marvelously portrayed with depth of emotion and are very easy to relate to. Despite being 30 years old, there is nothing in the book that would keep it from feeling relevant to children today.
    EmScape on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
    One of the rare books that I loved as a kid that still holds up upon reading as an adult. David's new step-mom has a daughter, Amanda, who is quite taken with the occult and also not terribly pleased with being moved to the country to live with her new family. Amanda decides to make the kids her "neophytes" and initiate them into magic and spells. However, a real supernatural occurrence is more than she, or anyone, bargained for. I never knew when I was a kid that this was the first in a series about the Stanley family. Now, I've acquired them all and am excited to read them.
    astults on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
    This book is at least twenty years old but still reads well. The parents are mostly absent but they are always there for family meals. The father has a long commute to the university and ends up going out of town for three weeks. The stepmother is an artist who uses one of the rooms as her studio. It's obvious the parents care for all of the children and that Amanda is acting out. She's unhappy that she needs to go to a new school, has a new family, is living in a new house and that her biological father is too busy for her. Usually the parental figures in young adult books are nonexistent or swept aside so it was a pleasant surprise to have two of them make several appearances throughout the book. David is close to his father and really likes having Molly as a parent though it took a while for him to get used to the idea. I think the book realistically deals with a child's feelings about remarriage.The "occult" Amanda studies is really a bunch of hocus pocus. It's an interesting contrast to Blair, the cherubic twin, who can talk to animals and ghosts but doesn't say much to people. This was an enjoyable and fast read.The Stanley family and Amanda have also been featured in The Famous Stanley Kidnapping Case, Blair's Nightmare and Janie's Private Eyes if you want to read about more of their adventures.
    t1bclasslibrary on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
    David's dad has just married Amanda's mother, and she's moving into a big old house with him and his three younger siblings. She has decided to train them in "the occult," which she has decided she's an expert in (she's not). She fakes a poltergeist, but the mystery is solved by David with help from his (actually psychic) little brother, Blair. Amanda decides to give up the occult and be part of the family.
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    I only read at night so most BOOks are creapy to me,and i am just 10!!! (Ha ha,get it? Boo are creapy! Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha R.O.F.L!)
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    Its so sweat i love amanda
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    This book is amazing! Amanda was really cool! I reread it a lot. It gets better every time. In my opinion, Zipha Keatly Snyder is a really good author.
    Guest More than 1 year ago
    I read The headless cupid many years ago, and then I haved never really read any book by Zilpha keatley snyder, but this one I would say is her best one.
    Guest More than 1 year ago
    I loved it!!! You have to read this book!!! Zilpha Keatley Snyder really did well in this book!!! This just might be the best she's ever done.
    Guest More than 1 year ago
    This book doesn't fail to please the general audience. Besides being well-written, the characters and their attributes are described vividly. I don't remember much about this-I read it when I was 10. I bought the book and have it somewhere. What I do remember is that this novel was extraordinarily well done and should have almost everyone reading it in one sitting.
    Guest More than 1 year ago
    The plot is interesting, the attributes of the characters are in vivid description, and the writing itself is wonderful. I read it at 9, and now own a copy. Suspenseful, yet realistic, this story will be enjoyed by 10-12 year olds.
    Guest More than 1 year ago
    Read it now! If you don't read it now but you read it later,you'll be kicking yourself for not reading it sooner! I did a free book report on it in the 4th, 5th, and 6th grades! I'm planning on doing another in the 7th grade! This is a great book if you love the supernatural which I do! It's also appealing for the mystery lover.
    Guest More than 1 year ago
    I recently read The Headless Cupid for a program at my school called 'Excellerated Reader'....I really enjoyed it and liked how it was writen! I would say its one of my most favorite books of all time!
    Guest More than 1 year ago
    The book is wonderful. It was so good that it was hard to put the book down because it always kept you in suspsnce.
    Guest More than 1 year ago
    This book was really dissappointing, I thought it would have been an interesting book, but really it was nothing special.