Welcome to the Dark House


By Laurie Faria Stolarz

Formats and Prices




$9.99 CAD




ebook $7.99 $9.99 CAD

This item is a preorder. Your payment method will be charged immediately, and the product is expected to ship on or around July 22, 2014. This date is subject to change due to shipping delays beyond our control.

What’s your worst nightmare? For Ivy Jensen, it’s the eyes of a killer that haunt her nights. For Parker Bradley, it’s bloodthirsty sea serpents that slither in his dreams. And for seven essay contestants, it’s their worst nightmares that win them an exclusive, behind-the-scenes look at director Justin Blake’s latest, confidential project . Ivy doesn’t even like scary movies, but she’s ready to face her real-world fears. Parker’s sympathetic words and perfect smile help keep her spirits up. . . at least for now. Not everyone is so charming, though. Horror-film fanatic Garth Vader wants to stir up trouble. It’s bad enough he has to stay in the middle of nowhere with this group???the girl who locks herself in her room; the know-it-all roommate; “Mister Sensitive”; and the one who’s too cheery for her own good. Someone has to make things interesting. Except, things are already a little weird. The hostess is a serial-killer look-alike, the dream-stealing Nightmare Elf is lurking about, and the seventh member of the group is missing. By the time Ivy and Parker realize what’s really at stake, it’s too late to wake up and run.


Cover photograph © Paul Knight / Trevillion Images

Cover design by Room39b

Author photo by Joseph Puleo

Excerpt from Return to the Dark House copyright © 2015 by Laurie Faria Stolarz.

All rights reserved. Published by Hyperion, an imprint of Disney Book Group. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without written permission from the publisher. For information address Hyperion, 125 West End Avenue, New York, New York 10023.


ISBN 978-1-4231-9032-5


Visit www.hyperionteens.com

For those who face their nightmares with eyes wide open.

I wake with a gasp, covered in my own blood.

It's everywhere. Soaking into the bed covers, splattered against the wall, running through the cracks in the hardwood floor, and dripping over my fingers and hands.

I touch my stomach, searching for a stab wound. My chest heaves in and out. I'm breathing so hard that it hurts—so hard that I wish for my lungs to collapse and my heart to stop.

I wish that he'd killed me along with them.

The moonlight shines in through the open window, enabling me to see.

I'm in my present-day bedroom.

It's six years later.

I'm seventy miles away from the crime scene.

There is no blood, only sweat. There are no hardwood floors, either. A shag carpet covers unfinished plywood. I reach down and run my fingers over the thick wool threads, just to be sure. Then I check and recheck my comforter, looking at it from different angles. It isn't pink paisley, like the one I had when I was twelve. This one's dark, dark blue.

And there are pale green walls.

And angled ceilings.

And there's an armoire in place of a vanity.

There are no music posters on the wall, nor is there a single reference to the soccer I used to play.

I'm seventy miles away.

It's six years later.

This isn't the same room.

There is no blood.

This was obviously another nightmare.

Still, I make sure of everything by switching on my night table light. I make sure of everything by going through these rituals one more time: by saying the alphabet forward and backward one more time, by touching the pendant around my neck—an aromatherapy necklace that was supposed to be a gift for my mother—one more time.

I'm eighteen years old, not twelve.

I dreamed about him again, because I fear that he'll come back for me one day and do to me what he did to my parents.

Six years ago now.

In a room unlike this one.

Seventy miles away.

It's Saturday afternoon, and I'm sitting in Dr. Donna's office. I've been sitting here, on this same leather chair, surrounded by these same four walls.

On the same day.

At the same hour.

For the same reason.

For the past six years.

I'm not sure if it helps, but I never skip a session, because coming here gives me hope that one day I'll no longer live in fear.

Dr. Donna sits across from me. Her legs are crossed at the knee, as usual. Her beige leather clog bops up and down to the ticking of her mantel clock as she waits for me to say something. But coming here—doing this—is starting to feel like watching a rerun. It's the same episode on the same channel, with the same actors, saying the same dialogue. Again and again. And again.


DR. DONNA: So, what do you think?


ME: What was the question?


DR. DONNA: It's been six years, Ivy.


ME: Six years and my parents are still dead, and I still feel like I'm rotting away in purgatory, waiting for a killer to determine my fate. Will he come back and kill me today? Or wait until tomorrow? Or will he put it off until next year? Or perhaps he'll surprise me on the ten-year anniversary?


DR. DONNA: And maybe he won't come back at all. You've changed your name. You've changed your address. You've even changed your family.


ME: What choice did I have with that last one?


DR. DONNA: My point is that maybe he's done.


ME: That depends. Do serial killers retire? I think he's waiting for the opportune moment, watching me, studying my habits. Sometimes when I'm shopping in town or walking home from school, I can feel his eyes on me.


DR. DONNA: Do you still think he's the one who sent you the gifts?


ME: I don't think; I know. He knows what I like. He knows where I live.


DR. DONNA: You're not into makeup, Ivy. So, how do you explain that elaborate cosmetic kit?


ME: And how do you explain the paisley-covered journal, the pink soccer jersey, and the Katrina Rowe CD? My love for those things was apparent from my bedroom that night.


DR. DONNA: A lot of people like Katrina Rowe's music, Ivy. And the color pink, paisley designs, and soccer…all of those things are popular too…as are stars….That star necklace pendant you received, it doesn't get much more generic than that. Anyway, my point is that perhaps a secret admirer sent you the gifts.


ME: Except I haven't played soccer in six years, nor have I listened to Katrina Rowe. And no one who knows me now has any reason to believe that I used to like either.


DR. DONNA: You haven't told a single person? Even in casual conversation?


ME: You still think I'm being paranoid, don't you?


DR. DONNA: I think you have a lot of fear, and I want to help you to defuse it. But I'm not sure what else we can do here. We've talked about that night. We've talked about your nightmares. We've gone over every possible scenario—good and bad—of what could happen in the future.


ME: I need to try something else—to learn to live with fear, rather than in fear. I mean, lots of people live with fear, right? They put down good money for it. They seek it out from the front row of movie theaters and on roller coasters. They wait in long lines for ghost tours and to go inside haunted houses. They don't let it control their lives.


DR. DONNA: Interesting point. So, how do you propose we get there?


ME: I need to learn from those people. I need to see fear the way they do.

I don't know how I became a subscriber to the Nightmare Elf's e-Newsletter. I'm not a fan of the movies, and there's no chance that I'll ever become one, but with a subject line that hints at ridding my nightmares for good, I can't resist rescuing it from my spam box.


I click on the link for Justin Blake's Web site. I've certainly heard his name before. Most of his titles ring a bell from movie trailers I've seen on TV—those I've tried to avoid with quick reflexes on the clicker.

There's a drop-down menu that lists some of his films and characters:



Nightmare Elf

Eureka Dash, Pudgy the Clown, Piper Rizzo, Jason Macomber


Nightmare Elf II: Carson's Return

Farrah Noyes, Danny & Donnie Decker, Meg Beasley, Candy Lane


Nightmare Elf III: Lights Out

Susan Franklin, Max Tarple, the Kramer family (Steven, Lara, Montana, Blakely)


Nightmare Elf IV: Don't Fall Asleep

Eureka Dash, Pudgy the Clown, Janson Dailey, Jed Clive, Betsy Wakefield


Forest of Fright

Sebastian Slayer, the Targo triplets (Ted, Mario, Selena), Joseph Newburger, Frederick Linko


Halls of Horror

Lizzy Greer, the Targo triplets (Ted, Mario, Selena), Glenn Sullivan, Ava Murray


Night Terrors

Little Sally Jacobs, the Baker family (Josie, Carl, Diana), the Robinson family (June, Roger, Daniella)


Night Terrors II

Little Sally Jacobs, Peg & Jessie Miller, the Ernesto family (Thomas, Juanita, Paulina, Kai)


Night Terrors III

Little Sally Jacobs, Jonathan Sumner, Felicia Thomas, Jake Willoby, Reva Foster


Hotel 9

The Scarcella family (Sidney, Darcie, Phillip, Jocelyn), Paige Rossi, Matthew Julian


Hotel 9: Blocked Rooms

Sidney Scarcella, Darcie Scarcella, Midge Sarko, Dorothy Teetlebaum, Carmen Roberge


Hotel 9: Enjoy Your Stay


Sidney Scarcella, Robert Scarcella, Midge Sarko, Emma Corwin, Enrique Batista


I click on the first Nightmare Elf movie title and an elf pops up on the screen: a blond-haired boy dressed in a red suit, a floppy hat, green gloves, and boots that curl up at the toe. With his rosy cheeks and bright blue eyes, he's kind of cute on first glance. But then you notice the way his ears spike up to look like devil horns and the pointy sword that is his tail.

Below him, there's a link with background information on the series' legend. I click on it.



One summer, many years ago, the Tucker family went on a camping trip. Deep in the woods, they came across an abandoned cabin with dark clapboard shingles, nestled in a grove of trees. A wooden plaque over the front door read WELCOME TO THE DARK HOUSE, written in red crayon.

The Tuckers decided to stay in the cabin instead of setting up camp. During their stay, six-year-old Tommy began to hear a voice inside his head. He didn't tell his parents—the voice told him not to. Tommy became withdrawn and secretive, often sneaking off into the woods to an old, abandoned storage shed. He called it the nightmare chamber.

"Make sure to visit the chamber three times a day," the voice told him. "There, you will do important work."

The voice belonged to a ten-year-old boy named Carson. While staying at the Dark House three months prior, Carson died from a seizure during a nightmare.

With his beloved elf doll in tow, Tommy would use a rock to scratch crude images into the walls of the shed—images of people with missing eyes, bleeding mouths, and stakes jammed through their hearts. The Tuckers grew concerned with Tommy's behavior. At the dinner table, he wouldn't speak. He refused to engage in any camping activities, like hiking, swimming, or sitting by the campfire.

One morning, Tommy's father followed him to the abandoned shed and saw the walls. "Explain yourself," he demanded.

"Go to hell," Tommy replied in a deep, slow, creaky voice, per Carson's instructions.

After five days at the Dark House, Mrs. Tucker, so disturbed by her son's worsening behavior, announced that they were cutting their vacation three days short. That same night, she dreamed about a thief in their apartment back home. Tommy had been experiencing nightmares too—recurring visions of a pack of snarling wolves tracking him through the woods.

Carson, still angry that he had died during a nightmare, wanted others to share his fate. His spirit, unable to pass on, had become quite powerful. He could see into the dreams of anyone who stayed at the Dark House—and make their nightmares come tragically true.

Tommy was the first victim. He died before the Tuckers finished packing, mauled by a wolf lurking near the nightmare chamber. Weeks later, Mrs. Tucker was killed by an intruder in their home.

After the Tuckers left, only Tommy's elf doll remained. Carson giggled at the sight of it, delighted to have a souvenir. And so he decided to inhabit the doll, dubbing himself the Nightmare Elf. Into his bright red sack Carson would collect the frightful dreams of the Dark House's guests, overjoyed to eventually release their nightmares into reality, making room in his bag for more.

So let this be a warning to all you campers: if you happen across the Dark House in the middle of the night, feel free to stop inside, but do remember this: IN HIS HEFTY ELF SACK, YOUR NIGHTMARES WILL KEEP. BETTER THINK TWICE BEFORE FALLING ASLEEP.

In a thousand words or less, describe your worst nightmare.

For the record, I'm not one of your Dark House Dreamers, nor have I seen even one Nightmare Elf movie—or any of Justin Blake's films for that matter—but I've been receiving your e-newsletters for years now, and this last one caught my eye.

I guess you could say that you found me in a weak moment, because the idea of telling an elf my nightmare, and having him magically take it away, sounds pretty amazing right now, especially at four in the morningnot that I actually believe a word of your BS. But, at the very least, maybe writing about my nightmare and sending it off into the black hole of cyberspace will trick me into believing that it'll never come back.

So, here goes.

For the past six years I've dreamed that my parents are being murdered in their bedroom across the hall. I'm haunted by this vision because it happened, in real life. I was in my room, sleeping soundly—until I heard it. A thrashing sound across the hall.

I sat up, able to hear more noises: a gasp, a sputter, an agonizing moan. Then silence, broken by an unfamiliar male voice: "And now it's your turn. You won't feel a thing."

My mother screamed. "Please, no," she begged. "Don't do this. I have a—"

There isn't a day that goes by that I don't try to guess at her missing words: "I have an idea"? "I have something to tell you"? "I have a daughter"? "I have a wallet full of cash"? I'll never know for sure. Her voice was cut short with a thwack. Then music began to play. String instruments. An eerie blend of violin and viola that reverberated in my heart.

I grabbed the phone on my night table and dialed 9-1-1. "I think someone just killed my parents," I told the operator, hearing a hitch in my throat, hearing words come out of my mouth that no one should ever have to say.

"Where are you?" the operator asked.

"In my room, across the hall."

"Is the person still in the house?"

"I don't know," I replied, keeping my voice low. "I mean, I think so. In my parents' room."

"Okay, I have your address. I'm sending help right over. Can you tell me your name?"

My name? My mind scrambled. My pulse quickened. And suddenly I couldn't get enough air.


"Ivy," I choked out. "Jensen. My name, that is."


    "Stolarz takes a delicious cast of characters on a terrifying thrill-ride. A harrowing adventure in an abandoned mental hospital, Project 17 is sexy, funny, poignant and blood-chilling."—R.A. Nelson, author of Teach Me and Breathe My Name
    "A funny, yet poignant book. The author demonstrates the ability to identify with today's teen experience, portraying the accompanying behavior and language realistically."—School Library Journal
    "Romance and suspense: a winning combination."—Kirkus Reviews

On Sale
Jul 22, 2014
Page Count
320 pages

Laurie Faria Stolarz

About the Author

Laurie Faria Stolarz is the author of Welcome to the Dark House, Return to the Dark House, and the Touch series, as well as Project 17; Bleed; and the highly popular Blue Is for Nightmares; White Is for Magic; Silver Is for Secrets; Red Is for Remembrance; and Black Is for Beginnings. Born and raised in Salem, Massachusetts, Stolarz attended Merrimack College and received an MFA in creative writing from Emerson College in Boston. For more information, please visit http://www.LaurieStolarz.com.

Learn more about this author