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Item - The Haunted Baby

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Series: Choose Your Own Nightmare (1995-1997) — no. 13
Translated Into: La niƱa embrujada (Spanish)
Author: Packard, Edward
Illustrator: Schmidt, William (Bill)
Date: 1997
User Summary: You are called on to babysit for a 2-year-old girl named Katie. She behaves strangely.
Jordashebasics's Thoughts:

With a title like this, my expectations were low. For the most part, the book is a bit strange, but it still remains grounded in the way that Packard's books tend to be.

It turns out that Katie is legitimately haunted. A spirit is possessing her, and it seems to want to pass itself onto you.

A few of the paths lead to some of the normal Packard cleverness. There's one ending where it was all a dream, and you can choose to go back to the start of the babysitting gig. There's a sequence where you and Katie are playing inside a dollhouse, shrinking down... it's a strange bit, but it's much more interesting than some of the other bits.

So far, it's a middle-of-the-road book for the Nightmare line. Not terribly bad, but not terribly good.

More reviews by Jordashebasics

KenJenningsJeopardy74's Thoughts:

Edward Packard's The Haunted Baby isn't the first juvenile horror novel about babysitting, though it's among the weirder ones. You feel you've hit a mini lottery when Mrs. Harper requests you babysit her two-year-old daughter Katie this summer. And at the elevated rate of $7.50 per hour! You can't turn down that kind of money, but your danger sense kicks in when you visit Mr. Harper at his taxidermy shop. He has a creepy personality, and you're no longer sure you feel safe staying with Katie at his house. Should you phone and ask your friend Lisa to partner with you on the job, or do you not want to split your pay?

Mrs. Harper seems nice enough, if a little stressed. She cautions you that Katie's kitten died a few months back but the girl behaves as though it were still alive. After telling you this, Mrs. Harper is out the door. If you read the instructions she left, you are soon immersed in an environment where Katie is causing trouble everywhere at once, even perching atop the television. Can you settle her down? Going upstairs to check the sharp squealing when you hear it will spring a nasty haunted surprise, but ignoring it isn't much better. When Katie goes missing, you discover her bedroom is a place of surreal danger. If you get trapped in the nearby taxidermy room, what will you do after spotting Katie out a window on the front lawn? Try to save her and you may end up haunted by the spirit that haunts Katie, or turned into a grotesque taxidermy project. If you initially took a pass on reading Mrs. Harper's instructions, Katie finds other ways to torment you, or you may get caught up in a shrinking game within her intricately detailed dollhouse. Running off by yourself when you're only a few inches tall is an invitation to death by cat, but how far are you willing to indulge Katie once the two of you are shrunk down inside her dollhouse? If you don't know when to say no, your babysitting gig will not end in any way you like.

Lisa demands more than half your pay if you have her join you for the job, and this storyline is much shorter than if you go alone. Lisa is enamored of cute little Katie until the girl bites her; you're able to distract Katie into playing with a bucket of glass eyeballs, but you and Lisa are spooked when the two-year-old girl catches a live mouse in her bare hands. Mrs. Harper returns and pays you as promised, but will you return for more tomorrow or is Katie just too strange? If you accept the reengagement willingly, you and Lisa may become haunted shells of yourselves. If you try to quit, you'll say yes anyway to Mrs. Harper's begging, but your second day with Katie transfers a spectral menace that morphs you into a human-sized kitten. Is there a way to eject the haint, or are you doomed to be Katie's furry plaything?

Despite being dotted with a few atmospheric scenes, The Haunted Baby is a mess. It seems Edward Packard couldn't figure out what he wanted the story to be: did Katie kill her kitten by accident, and its ghost is haunting her? Is Katie evil in her own right? Do Mr. and Mrs. Harper desire to victimize you, or are they just tired and scared, wanting the horror to stop? All these elements and maybe more get tossed into the cauldron, and it bubbles over in sticky, unappealing globs. It's worth pointing out the title is misleading; Katie is young, but not a baby by anything but the loosest terminology standard. This book is slightly notable for its brief moments of atmosphere, but it isn't worth revisiting unless you have nothing to read.

More reviews by KenJenningsJeopardy74

Special Thanks:Thanks to user Jordashebasics for the plot summary.
Users Who Own This Item: bookwormjeff, Erikwinslow (HC), fraze, KenJenningsJeopardy74, kinderstef, knginatl (PB, HB), Radical347, The Mystery Squad fan, waktool (Original, 1st printing ($3.50))
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