Mystery Twins part 1: Mild Summer Camp Horror

Spectral Salutations, Boooookwyrms! Today we’re tracking two sets of grade-school ghost hunters as they infiltrate haunted summer camps. One is a totally fictional set of California blondes with Pacific blue eyes, while the other is a fictionalized set of strawberry-blond child stars with…uh…clue blue eyes?

The blond-haired Alicia Silverstone as Cher from Clueless, shrugging and squinting her eyes in awkwardness.
I tried.

Both the Wakefields and the Olsens fancy themselves Grade A detectives who can “solve any crime by dinnertime” (though not necessarily that day’s dinnertime). In this episode (book-isode?), they have to bust some spoilsport specters who are threatening to shut down summer camp for good. Can these pint-sized Scoobies solve The Case of the Haunted Camp before summertime turns into a real…bummer-time? #sorrysorrysorry #notsorry #maybealittlesorry

Anyhoo, Playlist!

  • “Cruel Summer,” by Bananarama. Why did your parents send you to this dumb place? Arts & Crafts are BORING.
  • “Building a Mystery,” by Sarah McLachlan. If only something cool would happen…like a crime!
  • “Ghostbusters theme,” by Ray Parker Jr. There’s something strange in this cabin in the woods.
  • “Hotel California,” by Eagles. The mission bell can’t ring if it has no ringer. Can it?
  • “Steven,” by Alice Cooper. Steven Wakefield’s in this one. And Mrs. Wakefield’s name is Alice. What are the oooooods?

SPOILERS AHEAD.

Cover of Sweet Valley Kids: The Case of the Haunted Camp.  Elizabeth and Jessica are facing the viewer, but their heads are turned toward the mission's bell tower in the background.  Liz is pointing at the window at the top.  They both look spooked.

Molly Mia Stewart. Sweet Valley Kids Super Snooper #3: The Case of the Haunted Camp. New York: Bantam, 1992.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5 drops of orange paint the same shade as the “GO AWAY!” message on the supply room wall.

Genre: Children’s Mystery Spinoff of Soap Operatic Book Series Starring Blond-Haired-Blue-Eyed Twins.

Liz and Jess are spending a week at day camp, along with the rest of their mystery club, the Snoopers. Liz loves ALL the activities, while Jess thinks they’re boring. She hates getting hot and messy and carrying her wet swimsuit home every day (c’mon, Jess, you get to swim in a modern pool, not a radioactive, leech-filled pond. Not that I’d know anything about that…). But she is looking forward to sitting outside on a log at night and roasting sticky marshmallows. She’s three-dimensional!

Srsly, it’s kind of refreshing.

Jess also likes spooky ghost stories, so she finally comes around when the director of the Mission San Benito museum — after which the adjacent camp is named — tells them about the monk’s ghost who, according to local legend, still rings the bells whenever there’s danger. But don’t worry; the bells are deactivated — the ringers were removed ages ago — so the totally-non-existent ghost can’t ring them anymore, which means there’s no danger anymore!

A woman doing an exaggerated stage wink, complete with exaggerated open-mouthed grin.

Of course the lights go out at that very moment, complete with thunder and lightning, and a mysterious figure that looks just like an old-timey monk runs past the window. Hooray! The Snoopers have solved the mystery of the missing mystery! Camp is fun now!

The adults act weirdly annoyed and/or confused by the kids’ excitement. If I’d been in charge, I’d have played along, at least in a non-committal way that validates the kids’ storytelling instincts without actually scaring them. I mean, it wasn’t necessarily not a ghost, riiight? 😉

Anyhoo, ish starts to get even spookier after that. Someone messes up the art supplies in the storage room and writes “GO AWAY!” on the wall. The mission bells start ringing even though there are no ringers and the tower room is empty. Parents start pulling their kids out of camp, which means there might not be enough kids for the big campout and also the camp might shut down. The twins overhear some guy pressuring the director to sell him the camp…

That red-haired guy from Futurama, narrowing his eyes in suspicion.
That last one’s probably nothing.

Determined to solve the mystery (and roast marshmallows), the Snoopers very easily convince the director not to cancel the bonfire just because of a few “scaredy-cats” (those are the director’s words. She’s a professional!).

And of COURSE everything comes together that night. The bells start ringing again, the counselors very responsibly ditch their campers to check it out, the un-supervised Snoopers run after and tackle the monk’s ghost (Lila and Ellen sit on his chest 😆) who turns out to be the not-so-undead cook, who was helping that aggressive businessman try to scare campers away with tape-recorded bells and scary messages, so the businessman could buy the land, and those darn meddling kids get all the credit for saving the camp and their picture is published in the paper.

Phew! Oh, and Jessica decides she loves day camp now. Hooray!

*

Cover of The New Adventures of Mary-Kate and Ashley: The Case of the Haunted Camp.  The Olsen Twins stand back to back with their arms crossed jauntily, grinning at the viewer.

In the background is a lit cabin in front of a silhouetted pine forest under a full moon with bats.  Their basset hound Clue is in the bottom left corner with his cute Sherlock hat.

Nina Alexander. The New Adventures of Mary-Kate & Ashley: The Case of the Haunted Camp. New York: Scholastic, 1998.

Rating: 5 out of 5 canoes mysteriously set adrift.

Genre: TV Tie-In Mystery Series Starring Fictionalized Child Actors Blatantly Mimicking Another Mystery Series Spinoff Starring Blond-Haired-Blue-Eyed Twins.

Based on the 90s video series of the nearly-same name, The New Adventures of Mary-Kate and Ashley books (emphasis mine) follow the Olsen Twins’ imaginary doppelgangers as they solve next-level mysteries that take longer than a day!

Case in point: in today’s adventure, the twins have to figure out who’s committing random acts of vandalism at Camp Big Bear — ripping up the volleyball net, messing up their cabin, setting the canoes loose, and making the tire swing move on its own. And this time, it’s not just the camp at stake — it’s their lives!

See, the Trenchcoat Twins thought they were assigned to Cabin 7, but the door was locked, so they very understandably broke in through a window and found everything covered in dirt and spiderwebs. Whoops! They were actually supposed to be in Cabin 1 — the head counselor just has terrible handwriting.

But it’s toooo laaaaate…a fellow camper tells the twins that Cabin 7 is haunted by the ghost of a girl named Emma, who was eaten by wild mutant animals or something while playing on the tire swing one night. Anyway, she hates being disturbed, and anyone who enters the cabin disappears, never to be heard from again.

Luke Skywalker saying "I have a very bad feeling about this" as Chewy growls agreement.

Luckily, the Olsens are also next-level in how they solve their mysteries. They run an official detective agency, you see! Mary-Kate carries a tape recorder to keep track of clues. Ashley keeps a notebook for the same reason. They borrow a video camera to catch whatever’s moving the tire swing at night.

Of course the power goes out as soon as they try to watch the tape, and voices start calling “Bewaaaare!” and such. But the Olsens, like the Snoopers, are no scaredy-cats! They, along with their cabin-mates Jenny (who thinks everything is stupid and they should all just go home) and Brittany (she’s just along for the ride), chase after the ghosts and finally discover…that they’re a couple of jerks from the boys’ camp next door!

The Scooby Doo crew unmask three skeletons with giant eyes instead of heads, revealing someone who looks like George Lucas and two other men.

Apparently, the three boys also knew about the legend of Emma and decided to play a big prank on the girls by switching out their volleyball net with a torn-up one and setting all their canoes loose — things that Emma herself was believed to have done in the past.

So all’s well that ends well until the girls get back to Cabin 1 and find it trashed! Snails in their shoes! Rocks in their pillows! Those jerks from Camp Condor are really gonna get it now! *Cue upbeat heist music as the girls carry out a hilaaaarious scheme that ends in a pair of pink polka-dotted boxer shorts hanging from a flagpole.*

So now all’s well that ends well until Jenny suddenly confesses that she was the one who trashed the cabin! What the twist??? Turns out, Jenny hates camp and wants to go home. Who knew? It’s not like she’s been complaining about every stupid activity the stupid counselors make them do in this stupid stupid place.

A very bewildered, tearful woman in front of a blue geometric screen says “Nobody saw this coming.”

Srsly, I thought all the vandalism was going to be Jenny. The whole blond-twins-bust-plot-to-shut-down-summer-camp plot just feels so…familiar…

But the important thing is, Jenny thinks camp is great now! Nothing like a friendly revenge mission to bring cabin-mates together!

So NOW all’s well that–OH FOR THE LOVE OF S’MORES, why is the tire swing still swinging?!?! *Sigh* Fiiiine, Mary-Kate and Ashley have to fight this one final boss battle by… apologizing to Emma for breaking into her cabin. Ready, set—hey, wait. That ghostly figure on the tire swing looks an awful lot like Mia, the very sweet and definitely-not-dead girl who greeted them when they first arrived at camp!

Twist within a twist on top of a twist! Turns out Mia’s a sleepwalker!

*Emphatic sigh* Now. For Real. All’s well that ends well. The “ghosts” were busted, the boys got pranked, Jenny doesn’t hate camp anymore, and the girls all have a good laugh as Mary-Kate insists there could still be a real ghost haunting Cabin 7, she’s just sayin’, I mean it’s not not possible, right guys?

*Cue child sitcom quirky ending music*

*

So! The Super Snooper was, of course, a fun stroll down 90stalgia lane, but the Olsen Twins book stood out with its surprisingly multi-layered plot! I thought the villain was a no-brainer from the start, but then the story said “GOTCHA! There are actually FIVE culprits who were working SEPARATELY!”

That red haired guy from Futurama again.  The caption says “Well played.”

What do you think, Bookwyrms? Do you prefer a simple, straightforward culprit or a twist wrapped in another twist inside an enigma? What was your weirdest summer camp experience? Did you hear any fun camp legends?

~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Credits:

Clueless GIF from tenor.

Stage Wink screenshot of GIF from giphy.

Futurama Stare GIF from tenor.

Bad Feeling GIF from tenor.

Scooby Doo GIF from gfycat.

Nobody Saw This Coming GIF from tenor.

Well Played image from quickmeme.

4 comments

  1. OMG! I loved the New Adventures of Mary-Kate and Ashley –but low-key kind of forgot they existed xD When I was growing up, I watched and read EVERYTHING Olsen Twins.

  2. Now those sound like some seriously awesome stories! Inspiring, too! Thanks so much for sharing. I can’t help but reminisce about my summer camp days and the boxers on the flag pole. Classic. Terrible, and probably a bad thing, but a classic.

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