Usborne Children’s Books
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by Ann Evans
Daniel's dad is taking his ghost-hunting team to investigate stories of a terrifying beast that haunts the Valley of Shadows. Daniel goes along just for the holiday; he refuses to believe the rumours. But when the group's paranormal instruments start to shoot wildly off the scale, Daniel is plunged into doubt ... and danger. Could there really be something out there? Are the hunters about to become the hunted?
“This book is a must read.”
The Nuneaton Tribune
Key Stage: KS2/3 E; Age 9+ (info)
198 x 130mm
Ann Evans first started writing for her parish magazine, and went on to write scripts for her children's school pantomimes (she even played the back end of a cow in one of them!).
She is now a successful children's author, as well as an award-winning feature-writer on the Coventry Evening Telegraph. She divides her days between writing mystery and suspense novels for young readers, and non-fiction articles on a whole range of different topics - from animals to antiques - for various magazines and journals.
She was inspired to write thrillers set in the haunted Valley of Shadows after holidaying in Scotland, where she noticed how the light over the lochs can play tricks on your eyes ...
Visit www.annevansbooks.co.uk/ to find out more.
With the golden-brown puppy secure in his arms, thirteen-year-old Daniel Glenn joined Beth and the others in the ghostbusting van.
Not that the grown-ups liked any of their stuff being referred to as ghostbusting – especially Melissa. Melissa was secretary of the ghostbusting team – or rather the Psychic Study Society. And this wasn’t a ghostbusting van at all. It was a specially converted Volkswagen Transporter, equipped with all the latest mobile psychic-phenomena-detecting equipment, with seating for five passengers and one puppy named Scooby.
Daniel turned briefly and waggled the puppy’s paw in the direction of his mum, who was standing at the front door waiting to wave goodbye to him, his dad and the others.
Dad was Andrew Glenn, Chairman of the Psychic Study Society – or PSS – and he was in the front seat next to Melissa. She was squeezed next to Len Moran, driver-owner of the ghostbusting van. Len’s normal job, when he wasn’t chasing ghosts, was as a builder. He was a big, muscled guy who didn’t look the sort to believe in ghosts at all. Although actually, neither did Daniel’s dad, who was a police sergeant in his day job.
Melissa looked batty enough though. Melissa Iona Isis, if that was her real name. Daniel thought she’d probably made it up to go with her profession as a herbalist and ghostbuster.
Len put the van into gear and everyone waved to Daniel’s mum as they set off for the Highlands of Scotland in search of a ghostly sabre-toothed tiger and some ancient battling warriors. At least that was the grown-ups’ reason for this trip. As for Daniel, it was a great way to spend a week of the summer holiday. He and Scooby were going to have a fantastic time.
Len’s daughter, Beth, had come along for the trip too. She’d just had her eleventh birthday and was starting at Daniel’s school in September. Her eyes lit up at the sight of the puppy.
“Oh! How gorgeous. What’s its name?”
“Scooby. She’s only four months old and already sits and gives you her paw...you’re a clever girl, aren’t you, Scooby?”
After licking Daniel on the nose, the puppy decided to investigate the other passengers and nuzzled excitedly into Melissa’s mop of tousled grey-black hair, possibly in search of a dangly earring. Daniel dragged her back, easing strands of hair from the pup’s mouth as Melissa’s face screwed itself up in pain.
“Sorry, she’s just a bit excited,” Daniel apologized.
“A puppy!” Melissa wailed, throwing her hands up in despair so that all her bracelets tinkled and the rings on her fingers caught the sunlight. “Andrew, it’s hardly a good idea bringing a puppy with us! It’s going to be so distracting.”
Andrew Glenn spoke with his usual calm authoritative voice – his policeman’s voice, was how Daniel’s mum jokingly described it. “She’ll be fine. She’ll keep the kids occupied. Besides, it’s good for them all to get some fresh air and exercise.”
Melissa looked unconvinced. “And children too! Andrew, I told you I had reservations about bringing children along. I’m still concerned that they’ll create too much of a disturbance. Children aren’t renowned for keeping quiet or still.”
“The kids will be fine,” Andrew assured her. “They’ve promised to be on their best behaviour.” He cast a warning glance over his shoulder. “Haven’t you, Daniel?”
“Of course!” Daniel exclaimed innocently. “I’m going to be busy training Scooby anyway. I’ll be teaching her to fetch, and come and stay—”
“Yes, stay well out of the way,” Melissa interrupted. “This is a serious field trip. I intend to write an article for the national psychic press about our findings. We need to be fully concentrated on this expedition.”
Behind her back, Daniel did an impression of Melissa’s stern expression, making Beth giggle. Melissa took her ghostbusting activities very seriously. She was “very sensitive to supernatural phenomena”, or so he’d overheard his dad telling Mum one day. Daniel thought she was just peculiar.
“I see our field trip plans made last night’s Gazette, folks,” Andrew remarked, showing Melissa a newspaper cutting. “It’s actually not a bad write-up. For once we haven’t been made to sound like a bunch of crackpots. Although the press have picked up on the sabre-toothed tiger angle, rather than the main reason we’re going.”
“Well, we knew they would,” said Len. “Sabre-toothed tigers coming back to life is slightly more sensational than ghostly battle sounds being heard.” With a wry smile on his face he steered the van out onto the main road and headed along the northbound highway. “Anyway, what have they said?”
“I’ll read it, shall I?” Melissa suggested, adjusting her purple-tinted spectacles. “Now, let’s see... A group of ghost hunters—” She instantly tutted. “How I detest that expression. Andrew, I thought you said the article didn’t make us sound like crackpots!”
“Just read it, Melissa,” grinned Len.
She tutted again before continuing. “A group of...ghost hunters are heading for the Highlands of Scotland in search of a prehistoric beast thought to be roaming a Scottish valley. The Psychic Study Society is planning a field trip to coincide with the date that two ancient Highland clans fought a bloody battle in 1314.
“It was around this particular time last year that the beast, described as the ghost of a prehistoric sabre-toothed tiger, was reported to have stalked and attacked two children camping with their parents.
“Andrew Glenn, chairman of the PSS, said – and I’m quoting you now, Andrew – ‘This valley is reputed to be haunted. The sounds of a battle have been reported on numerous occasions. Regarding the beast incident, I have interviewed the children involved and found their account of the whole event to be most convincing. We are intrigued by their encounter, and while it does seem highly unlikely that a prehistoric ghost could still be around, we are going in with open minds.’” Melissa glanced up from the newspaper cutting. “End quote!”
Beth leaned towards her dad. “It didn’t actually hurt those children, did it? I mean, it couldn’t, could it? It was a ghost...”
“Of course not!” Len laughed. “We’d hardly be bringing you kids if there was any danger, would we?”
“I’ll read on, shall I?” Melissa interrupted. “Now, where was I? Ah yes! Members of the Psychic Study Society, which was founded six years ago, range from doctors to engineers. Three of them will be setting off fully equipped with the latest ghostbusting devices such as electromagnetic field detection meters, infrared motion sensors and ion detectors, which measure disturbance in the air when spirit energy is present. Mr. Glenn, who is a police sergeant in his day job, added – another quote from you, Andrew – ‘We have state of the art technology behind us. If there is anything supernatural hanging around the Valley of Shadows, then believe me we will find it.’”
Melissa folded the newspaper cutting and passed it back to Andrew. “It’s quite exciting, isn’t it? You know, I have a distinct feeling that this trip is going to produce some very interesting findings.”
“So you think we might really see a ghost when we get to Scotland?” Beth asked quietly, fiddling with her long blonde ponytail.
“Spirit, dear, not ghost,” Melissa corrected her. “Spirit entities. A ghost is only able to repeat an action over and over again, like a video player replaying itself. Whereas a spirit has the ability to progress, to interact, to make contact with living beings, to manifest itself even.”
“What does manifest mean?” Beth asked, looking puzzled.
“Become real,” Melissa announced, taking another newspaper cutting from her embroidered shoulder bag. “If you read this original report, those Laird children say that the spirit of this beast gradually manifested itself and tried to kill them.”
“Kill them!” Beth gasped, making the puppy dive for cover under Daniel’s armpit. “I thought you said a ghost can’t hurt you?”
“It can’t!” stated Len, casting Melissa a stern glance. “And I think you’d better stop scaring the kids, Melissa, or they’ll be having nightmares.”
“I’m only repeating what we’ve been told. Andrew’s the one who went off and interviewed the Laird children – and you believed them, didn’t you? Besides, our life force is energy,” she went on, giving Andrew no chance to speak. “Energy is neither created nor destroyed. It’s simply transferred from place to place or from one form to another.”
Beth’s eyes were like saucers. “So we might actually see a sabre-toothed tiger – in real life...or death, rather?”
“Wouldn’t that be incredible?” Melissa sighed, turning in her seat, sending a waft of herby, flowery scent all through the van. For a second the sunlight glinting through the window caught her spectacles, making her eyes look wild and excited.
“Steady on now,” Andrew Glenn said calmly. “Let’s not let our imaginations run away with us. We’re simply going to collect data which might indicate the presence of such a spirit. We’ll weigh up our findings and make our judgements from that. Personally, I don’t hold out much hope of finding evidence of something that lived ten thousand years ago – it’s interesting, though, and those Laird children seemed level-headed enough. I don’t think they were lying. They experienced some kind of phenomenon, I’m sure, though it’s very unlikely they actually saw a sabre-toothed tiger. I think any paranormal experience was probably linked with the battle.”
Beth clutched her dad’s shoulder. “But what if they were telling the truth? What if the tiger is real? What if it manifests itself and comes after us?”
“Nothing is going to hurt you, Beth,” Len said, patting her hand reassuringly. “We won’t be fighting off prehistoric wild animals, I promise! We’ll just be noting temperature changes, electromagnetic disturbances, that sort of thing, which may or may not indicate some paranormal goings-on. No different from what we usually do. And we haven’t been chased by a ghost yet!”
Melissa seemed oblivious to the fact that she was worrying Beth, and gushed excitedly on. “But don’t forget we’ll be camping directly where the Battle of Endrith took place seven hundred years ago – on the very anniversary, no less! Mysterious sounds have been heard on many occasions; it’s well documented.”
Daniel glanced at Beth. She already looked like she’d seen a ghost. “It’s all rubbish,” he whispered, placing Scooby on her lap to take her mind off all this paranormal stuff. “I’ve read that newspaper article and I reckon those kids were making it all up.”
Beth didn’t look too convinced. “I don’t mind ghostly sounds,” she murmured, stroking Scooby so vigorously that the puppy was practically splayed flat on her lap. “It’s the thought of something trying to kill us that scares me.”
“It’s not real!” Daniel groaned. “Even my mum thinks it’s rubbish. She says the only reason she doesn’t mind Dad being involved in all this is because it’s a break from the stress of being a police sergeant.”
“But my dad believes in ghosts,” hissed Beth. “Or he wouldn’t waste his time doing this. So ghosts must be real.”
“Of course they are real!” Melissa interrupted, overhearing them. “And this spirit of an animal absolutely intrigues me. Those Laird children actually saw it. They were able to describe its colour and markings and its size. Just imagine how fantastic it would be if we could catch it on camera or video. It would give our group such an important standing in the world of paranormal investigation.”
Daniel shook his head. The story was a hoax. Those Laird kids had invented the whole thing just to get their names in the paper. Ghosts were stupid. Figments of people’s imaginations – even intelligent and sensible people, like his dad and Len. It was just their hobby, like some people collected stamps. Their dads investigated the paranormal. They were always off to some haunted house or other, looking for paranormal evidence. All his dad ever came back with was weird photos of empty rooms, with maybe the occasional glow of light, or sometimes recordings of strange noises like electrical interference. No see-through figures wailing and clinking their chains.
And certainly no ghostly sabre-toothed tigers.
The mid-August sunshine glinting through the windows, coupled with the monotonous drone of the van’s engine, eventually made the passengers sleepy. Heads lolled dozily as the landscape flashed by.
Gradually the skyline changed, as jagged mountain peaks crept over the horizon. The multi-colours of towns faded into great expanses of browns, purples and greens. Hills grew larger and more impressive at every twist and turn in the road. Valleys became deeper, more lush and sweeping. Woodland turned into forests, studded with exquisite shimmering lochs. By late afternoon the ghostbusting van with its passengers and paranormal equipment seemed like a dinky toy surrounded and overshadowed by towering mountains.
“Welcome to the Highlands of bonnie Scotland!” Len announced, changing down a gear to manoeuvre around a sharp bend.
Daniel opened heavy eyes and his stomach lurched. The land alongside the road seemed to have slipped steeply away so that treetops were practically at eye level as they followed the curve in the road. “Oh, wow! That’s some view!” he exclaimed.
Beth sat up suddenly. “Don’t go too fast, Dad,” she fretted, leaning forward and holding on to his shoulder.
“No problem, love,” Len said cheerfully. “Now keep your eyes peeled, folks. Any time now, there should be a signpost to Endrith Valley.”
“Endrith!” Melissa spluttered, waking suddenly. “Are we there yet?”
Andrew exploded into laughter. “Funny, I was expecting the kids to be asking ‘Are we nearly there yet?’, not you, Melissa!”
“Just getting my bearings,” she remarked dryly.
The road to Endrith Valley turned out to be a narrow single-tracked lane, which threaded its way around gigantic mountains like a slender golden ribbon, while ahead, shadows lengthened.
Changing up and down the gears, Len climbed hillsides so high that everyone’s ears popped, and then swept down into picturesque valleys where rushing streams cascaded over rocks, and white frothing waterfalls caught the late afternoon sunlight, creating tiny rainbows.
“I’ve heard they’re building a dual carriageway through here next year,” Len remarked, glancing across a meadow. “It’ll be a shame to cut up the landscape.”
“That’s progress, I guess,” Andrew mused as he studied the map. “Okay, now somewhere along here we turn left...”
Endrith Valley finally emerged, and everyone, even Scooby, sat bolt upright to take in the view.
A sweeping green, grassy valley spread out spectacularly before them. It was bordered on the right by a dense forest of tall pine and gleaming silver birch trees, while to the left towered a mountain – imposing and majestic. And between the two lay a great expanse of grey-blue water that sparkled and shimmered beneath the pale sunlight.
Daniel’s eyes were drawn towards the mountain that dominated the valley. Its lower slopes were grassy, but higher up it turned into pure grey granite, pitted with caves and ridges. Its peak was white, dusted with snow. It stood defiantly – as it had since time began.
“The Valley of Shadows!” Melissa breathed.
And for no apparent reason, Scooby started to whimper.
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