Old Favorite: Double Spell

Twins in books always fascinated me…I’m not sure why.  The first chapter books I can remember finding and reading were The Bobbsey Twins, with Lucy Fitch Perkins’  Twins series coming shortly afterward, so maybe that was it.  Or maybe it was because my best friends from first grade on were identical twins. Or maybe it was because people always thought my two youngest sisters were twins (they weren’t) and I wanted an almost-twin of my own.

I don’t know what it is, but there are some great books featuring twins around. One of my favorite twin stories that I read again and again was Double Spell, by Janet Lunn. (Although when I read it originally, the title was Twin Spell.)

* * *

Twins Jane and Elizabeth Hubbard are just walking down a street in the city when, for no apparent reason, they are drawn to a tiny shop with the sign: Antiques, Dolls Mended. Neither girl is interested in dolls or antiques, but the little wooden doll in the window  seems to have grabbed both their attention.  It’s not beautiful or special in any way–in fact it’s rather ordinary looking. Still, it’s strange enough that even practical Jane says they should go check it out.

Inside the shop, they learn that the doll is not for sale. The owner lets them hold it though, and the twins suddenly feel a sense of belonging come over them. It seems to affect the shop owner too…she asks them how much money they have, and after giving her two dollars and fifty-three cents, Jane and Elizabeth walk out a few minutes later, the proud new owners of the small wooden doll.

They bring the doll to Aunt Alice, an elderly distant relative who has just moved into her old family home on the outskirts of the city. When Elizabeth pulls out the doll, she tells Aunt Alice her name is Amelia…and Jane says that was just what she thought to call it too. Aunt Alice admires the doll, then offers to give the girls a tour of the house. In the oldest part of the  house Elizabeth trips, falls down a flight of stairs, and breaks her leg.

More mysteriously, a week later, Aunt Alice breaks her hip…falling in the same exact place Elizabeth did. While in the hospital, she decides that the big house is too much for her, and she gives it to Jane and Elizabeth’s family, which also includes their parents and three brothers. All the Hubbards are excited about the move from a cramped bungalow to the three-story house, with towers. But once the family moves in, strange things start to happen.

Jane and Elizabeth decide to share one of the towers, and suddenly they start having strange dreams. Shared dreams, about two identical girls dressed in old-fashioned clothes. It’s almost like someone is trying to communicate with them, and all the messages seem to be centered around the doll and it’s twin, and the two other girls who may have once lived in the house. But when strange accidents start to happen to the twins, it seems like the messages are no longer friendly memories, but instead, more like someone …or some *thing* is trying to hurt them.

Is there a ghost in their new home? Can Elizabeth and Jane solve the mystery of the strange little doll before it’s too late?

* * *

Originally published in 1968, Double Spell is an intriguing ghost story.   I loved the characters of imaginative Elizabeth and practical Jane. In one scene, the girls braid their hair together, which was something my sisters and I tried. (It’s fun, but it makes it very difficult to get around!)

Double Spell is set in Toronto, Canada, which made me want to visit there. (Alas, I still have only driven on the outskirts.) It also made me much more interested in old houses, and the events which took place in them over the years.  I kept hoping to someday find a mysterious doll, but again, that never happened.

If you like ghost stories or books about sisters, you’ll like this book. It’s probably best for fourth through sixth grade readers. If you like it, let me know!  And if you want any other stories about creepy dolls, haunted houses or twins in trouble, just ask.



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