The Old Willis Place: A Ghost Story

The Old Willis Place: A Ghost Story

by Mary Downing Hahn


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Known for her spooky stories of ghosts and secrets, Mary Downing Hahn weaves a tale of two children who live near a decaying Victorian mansion, bound to the place by a mysterious set of rules. Only by connecting with the new girl who moves into the old Willis place can Diana and little brother George be free—but making contact with this girl would be a violation of the rules. The pursuit of friendship is at the heart of this haunting novel, and brilliant plot twists make The Old Willis Place an irresistible page turner.


Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780618897414
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication date: 07/18/2007
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 208
Sales rank: 72,124
Product dimensions: 5.12(w) x 7.62(h) x 0.54(d)
Lexile: 630L (what's this?)
Age Range: 9 - 12 Years

About the Author

Mary Downing Hahn, a former children’s librarian, is the award-winning author of many popular ghost stories. Her work has won more than fifty child-voted state awards.  An avid reader, traveler, and all-around arts lover, Ms. Hahn lives in Columbia, Maryland. Visit her online at

Read an Excerpt

The Diary of Lissa Morrison

Dear Diary, Is this how you start? I never kept a diary before, so I’m not sure. Up till now I thought my life was too boring to think about, let alone write about, but that’s changing. This is the second day Dad and I have spent here, and already strange things are happening. First of all, the old Willis House is the creepiest place you ever saw. It’s got to be haunted. Dad says the old lady who owned it was really eccentric, maybe even crazy. Anyway, she died in the house—in the front parlor where she slept because she got too old to climb the steps to her bedroom. She lay there dead for a week before anyone found her. Ugh. It seems like the perfect setup for a ghost, don’t you think? She died there—all alone. Think about it. I can almost see her, can’t you? A weird old lady, white hair, a scary face, roaming around from room to room, up and down the steps, watching, waiting—oooh, I’m scaring myself. Do you believe in ghosts, Dear Diary?
   Dad definitely doesn’t. I talked to him after dinner about Miss Willis—that’s the old lady’s name—and I asked him if he thought she haunted the house. He laughed. I hate it when he laughs at me. Like he thinks I’m silly. Or dumb maybe. If my mother was here, I know she wouldn’t laugh—but she died when I was so little I can hardly remember her. Someday I’ll write more about how much I miss her, but I don’t want to make myself feel sad. So I will just say I wish she was here right now and we were sitting close together reading a book or something.
   I know this sounds odd, Dear Diary, so don’t tell anyone, but I’d love to see a ghost—just to know for sure they exist. I wouldn’t be scared. At least, I don’t think I’d be. How could a ghost actually hurt you? They’re just ectoplasm or something, not solid.
   Maybe it’s because of my mother; maybe that’s why I wonder so much about what happens when you die and where you go and if you can stay on earth for a while. I’d really like to know. Now here’s something else to tell you, something different. Not supernatural but scarier in a way because it’s real. The first day we came to the farm, there was someone in the woods spying on us. Kids maybe. I’m sure of it. I could feel them watching me. I swear my scalp prickled. I had the same feeling while we were eating dinner last night—they were back, spying again. I told Dad, but he says it’s my imagination. I’m in a new place, I’m not used to woods all around, I hear birds and squirrels and think they’re people. The way he talks, you’d think I didn’t have an ounce of sense. Maybe I should give Dad some of my spare imagination. It might help him finish that book so he can get a better job and we can live in a house with a yard and neighbors and I can go to school and have friends— instead of spies in the woods.
   But that’s not all—someone stole my bike last night. Dad can’t blame that on birds or squirrels! We searched all over, but there’s not a sign of it. My beautiful new blue bike is really and truly gone. Dad called the police and they came out and talked to us. They said teenagers sometimes sneak onto the property and most likely that’s who took my bike. When I told them I thought someone was spying on us, one of the policemen said it must have been the same kids who stole my bike. They live in a development just across the highway from the farm. The police have had trouble with them trespassing before. The other policeman shook his head.
   “Funny things happen out here,” he said. “None of the caretakers stay long. Place gives them the jitters, they say. Some of them claim it’s haunted by the old lady who used to live here. Her and the poor—” The first policeman coughed and said, “We’d better get going, Novak. We’ve got other business.” I had the funniest feeling he didn’t want us to hear what Officer Novak was about to say. In case you haven’t noticed, that’s how it always is with adults—just when someone starts telling the interesting stuff, someone else shuts him up. I glanced at Dad, hoping he’d ask Jim what he was talking about, but he was watching MacDuff chase a squirrel. Officer Novak jingled his keys and looked at me. “Don’t go too far from the trailer,” he said. “There’s no telling who might be hanging out in the woods. And stay away from the old house.” “I hear there’s a bunch of snakes in the cellar,” the first policeman said. “And the floorboards are rotten in some of the rooms.” The two of them got in the police car.
   “Keep your eye out,” the first one told Dad. “If you see anytthing suspicious, give us a call.” Officer Novak looked at me as if something was worrying him, but all he said was, “That’s a real nice dog you’ve got.” We watched them drive away. I was hoping they’d turn their lights and the siren on, but they didn’ttttt. I guess they only do that in movies.
   So now Dad thinks I might have been right about kids hiding in the woods, spying and stealing stuff. Three hundred acres—there must be a ton of hiding places on this farm. I’m going to look for them. If I find them, I’ll tell them to give my bike back—or else they’ll end up in jail or juvenile detention. They can’t scare me. And neither can Miss Willis.
   Well, I’ve written so much my hand hurts, so I think I’ll stop and read in bed for a while. It sure is dark outside. Not a streetlight. Not a house light. Not even a headlight going past.

   Your Friend, Lissa

Copyright © 2004 by Mary Downing Hahn.

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

"Hahn is a master at...suspense....Kids will love this; it's just the right mix of chilling and thrilling." BOOKLIST Booklist, ALA

"The young characters...are sympathetic and believable...Spooky, but with an underlying sweetness." KIRKUS REVIEWS Kirkus Reviews

"Hahn's sure hand at haunting is evident...creepy and'll need no ghostly assistance to fly off the shelves"BCCB Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books

"Masterfully constructed...taut, spooky, and fast-paced with amazingly credible, memorable characters...riveting...a story of friendship and redemption" StarredSLJ School Library Journal, Starred

"a mystery intertwined with a ghost story...a delicate message of guilt, forgiveness, loyalty, and friendship...a satisfying ending." VOYA VOYA (Voice of Youth Advocates)

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

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Old Willis Place 4.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 248 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I'm an 11 year old girl, and I loved this book! It was a ghost story, a super scary one at that! It was also filled with adventure. In give this book 2 huge thumbs up!!
Kelli Carr More than 1 year ago
Mary Downing Hahn is one of my favorite authors! Her books have amazing twists and turns. This book is an amazing book that ends in a way you will never expect. If you like this book I also recommend Deep and Dark and Dangerous, Wait Till Helen Comes, All the Lovely Bad Ones, and The Ghost at Crutchfield Hall ( all by Mary Downing Hahn also). I have read all of these books too. They are great as well.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Diana and Georgie have been living in Oak Hill Manor better known as The Old Willis Place, left by Lillian Willis over 10 years ago. Rules and re gulations have kept them locked up there ever since the bad thing happened. When new caretakers arrive Diana is willing to break the rules for once in her life, to finally find a friend. Can she do it or will the rules interfere once again. ¿The Old Willis Place¿ by Mary Downing Hahn, is a spooky fantasy story with spin chilling flashbacks. This book is a cliff hanger, can¿t wait to read, page turner. The theme of this book is trust, regret, forgiveness, hope, perseverance and love. It will change your complete point of view on people but most importantly love and how precious it is. Over 2 million copies sold this book is great, and over ten awards won for just this book some of the names of the awards are the ALA reviewers choice award and a other award is Best book Library of Children¿s Congress Mary is a professional spooky book writer. This isn¿t Mary¿s only book there are several more she has written four of them are Wait Till Helen Comes, Time for Andrew, Deep and Dark and Dangerous and last but not least The Ghost of Crutchfield Hall. Mary¿s most famous quote is ¿you look back on some little decision you made it could be whether you sit or stand but no what you will reflect on that decision for the rest of your life. Mary Downing Hahn gets the idea for her books by previous experiences in her life, stories passed down for friends and family and by movies and people that have given her inspiration. She has been writing scary books for over 20 years, but has been writing books for 40 years. Mary is currently retired living in Maryland and has 2 grown up daughters. Her last book was made in 2010, it was also a ginormous hit and won many awards. Mary Downing Hahn uses lots of colorful language for example, the front lawn was a field of knee high weeds and thistles the size of small trees. Paint peeled from the front door and wood trim. The steps and porch had rotted long ago. Shutters hung crooked from the boarded windows; some had fallen off and leaned against the house. Slates from the roof littered the yard. Two tall double chimneys tilted to the right, giving the place an un-stable look, as if it might topple over at any moment in a tumble of bricks. I would recommend this book too detectives like me who love a good mystery. It will leave an impression on you for the rest of your life. If you like this book you will like The Old Willis Place you will also like the book The Hunger Games. I think this book is an amazing, fast passed thriller that will make you never want to put down the book. It has a shocking surprise twist that will lock you up with thoughts that you will never forget.
Guest More than 1 year ago
it was a very good book and don't worry, it wasn't scary!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This was the first book of hers that i had read and i loved it so much that i went online and bought all of her books. She is my favorite author and im currently reading witch catcher.
Guest More than 1 year ago
It's the coolest book I've heard of in the whole universe and I think the texture is great too!!!! I love to sort my fav books and then tell them that I don't so they don't think I'm a maniac! It's also fun to make funny words out of it and draw pictures that you think might happen!! Thanks for listening!! Have a great day!!!!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Good read couldn't put it down
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I absolutley love this book. It will be worth your money!!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Its an amazing book. Im almost 10 and i love it. The person who said shes almost 11 and she doesnt like it grow up and quit crying ya baby. Stupid girl. Shes an amazin author. Youve got to read her books. I say if you not a stupid baby like her and youre in lets say 2nd grade or up you should like totally read her terrific wonderful amazing works of art of books. If this was art shed be someone like Vermeer or Van gouh or Warhal or you know sombody really smart and extremely good at what they do. This author has an exciting fantastic great terrific amazing fine excuzine beautiful taste in books. YOU HAVE TO READ HER BOOKS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I swear to you they are terrific. Gotta love them. I K N O W I T O T A L L Y D O A N D S O W I L L Y O U ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! !
Guest More than 1 year ago
This was a great ghost story that was very suspenseful. The author does a great job at dropping subtle clues to the reader that the two children are ghosts and not real children! I couldn't put it down! Exciting until the very end!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I like it better when mary downing hahns books just chill u 2 the bone.
Cougar_H More than 1 year ago
"The Old Willis Place" by Mary Downing Hahn was a very interesting, suspenseful, and scary . well there are many ways to describe this amazing book and when I was reading it I kept thinking in my head "what's going to happen next". Even when my eyes were so tired from reading I could not put it down, when I was finally finished with this book I actually did not really want it to end, I wanted the story to go on. I recommend this book to anyone that loves a good mystery that always leaves you hanging and constantly leaves you asking questions. One of the main questions I really wanted to be answered was what is the "bad thing" that Diana and Georgie would never speak of? For example in the book Georgie asked Diana to tell him the story about the two of them, Diana told him how they were very happy and they lived on a farm. She also told him that they had their own bicycles, lots of books, warm beds and plenty of sweets to eat. And then she started telling him about their parents how their father always used to take them fishing and their mother used to read to them every night, Georgie was enjoying the story of their past until Diana said "those were the best times, except for Miss Lilian". Then Georgie freaked out, covered his ears and said "stop Diana! Don't tell the bad part "and then ran off. This book has personally taught me that when you have people like your friends and family you have to cherish them because they could be gone one day and you will not have them anymore.
Poptart_Chick More than 1 year ago
The Old Willis Place, a work of fiction by Mary Downing Hahn, is a mystery that intrigues you when you look right at the cover if you like a good scare. Diana is a twelve year old girl who is willing to do any thing to have a friend. Georgie, Diana's little brother, an eight year old, very wild child who tries to keep his sister from doing any thing against the rules. Miss Willis, a ninety-four year old woman, is very wicked and very greedy.Lisa, a twelve year old girl, was dragged to a haunted farm house. She is tall, slender with dark brown hair, and also gets embarrassed by her father. Lisa's father, late thirties, and works on the old house when he is not working on his book. Niro, a thirteen year old cat, has been with Diana and Georgie for a very long time.This story is in the modern time with ordinary people or so they think. The old house is very creepy during the day and night. You can hear the house creek when the wind howls through it. If you listen closely you can hear a faint voice telling you to come closer and closer. There is a lesson and a moral to this story that people may agree on. There aren't too many good people in this world any more. Its like the saying "what goes around comes around". Diana and Lisa became really good friends,but Georgie didn't like lisa that much. Lisa let out Miss. Willis from the Parlor. Then Diana told Lisa where the childern were at. Diana made Lisa tell her father. Thats all i can tell you readers. Get the book and find out what happens to Diana, Georgie, Lisa, her father, and Miss. Willis.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Sounds awesome hae to read it !!!XD!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I remember a few years back, when this book firsr came best friend lexy had checked this out of the libary. I was shocked she actually liked these books. But now i know why..i frickin love Mary Downing Hahn! I have read deep,dark,and dangerous,wait till helen comes,all the lovely bad ones,the ghost of cruchfeild hall. And now this one! I actually checked this book out of my libary.but my old friend lexy dosent even read anymore! But i love MDH. Always will be my favorite author!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Try to find the u Vvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvuvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvv
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is one of my favorites! Just so good. You will cry, laugh, and love the charecters. This proves that the pursuit of happiness can be obtained no matter your history. Great for all ages!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Good book
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I absolutly just loved this suspenseful book im 12 and i read this book in 4-6 days and i lived it from the first page i recomend that if you like suspenseful intense ghost and gripping stories read this book!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I thought this book is awsome cause i thought it was mysterous and entertaing and at the end mysterous
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Im 11years old and i love this book its sooooooooo good
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I remember the first time I read this book I thought it was huge but that was when I was little.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is sooooooooo good my teacher read it to the class in forth grade soooooooo good the best book ever and i mean it
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Here is yet again anoth han book. Its good kept me interested. But once youve read one of here books youve read most-if not all of her books. All of them end the same. Find body. Save ghosts. Rest in peice. I was in utter dissappointment when i read the ending. However the climax was epic and you have a good plot twist. But come on get a better ending
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A great book it is awesome and thrilling