IT'S SUPER SNOOPER THREE, Y'ALL!
But, wait. Maybe you're new to the community and you don't know what a "Super Snooper" is. Well, remember how SVH and SVT had random mystery books that often got weird?
The "Super Snooper" is the junior version of that. So the cases have to be even dumber and the parents have to be even more clueless. It is amazing. Once there was an alien princess, I kid you not. And often Santa is involved. (Yeah, apparently Santa loses shit left and right in Sweet Valley.)
Alas, this one doesn't have aliens or santa. It is a ghost story. The Case of the Haunted Camp. Insert spooky sound effects here!
The Wakefield twins are attending San Benito day camp, which is kind of training wheel camp where you don't have to sleep over. Jessica doesn't like it. She's not arts and craftsy and will never have a shop on Etsy. But Liz is good at everything, which makes me kind of want to kick her. She doesn't even mind that their group (all seven-year-olds) is called the "Porpoises." I don't know why the groups are named after marine animals if they are not on the ocean. I'll have to assume that whoever is in charge doesn't know what a porpoise is.
Who's part of Team Porpoise, you ask? Well, Liz, Jess, Todd, Winston, Amy, Lila, Ellen, Eva Simpson--basically all the Super Snoopers. Don't you love how the SV kids always go away on trips or vacations with the exact same people they usually hang out with? I mean, god forbid they extend their friends network.
Anyway, the leader of their group is Jennifer. Jennifer is 17. The kids agree that she is nice. But since they are bored, they are going to try to create a mystery where there isn't one.
Jennifer makes them go outside to play kickball. Jessica doesn't want to. She stands far away, near a wall and asks what it is. Jennifer says that is the San Benito mission, and Camp San Benito is named for it. Never would've made that connection on my own.
Right then, there is a "large clap of thunder." The ghostwriter has probably seen bad horror movies and thinks that is the only way you can foreshadow something. It rains and the kids get wet so they have to run into the San Benito Mission Museum. (Aside, I think Jennifer is a pretty shitty counselor. She made them get up and leave arts and crafts to go outside and it started raining two seconds later. She should've just looked outside, thought, "Looks like rain," and left the kids where they were. I don't know why I obsess on these details.)
A man who works there, Mr. Sanchez, appears. He offers to show them around the museum. He also says he has a ghost story to tell the kids. ...of course he does.
He tells the kids that there once was a missionary monk who lived at San Benito. Some "dangerous bandits" appeared at a nearby village, so to warn Sweet Valley (notice there is no thought given to helping the village in actual danger) so he ran up to the bell tower to ring the bells and warn the town. This made the bandits mad and they chased him, but when they got to the top of the bell tower--the monk was nowhere to be seen. He had disappeared! And now people swear they see a ghost of that monk lurking around, and that whenever there is danger he rings the bells.
That's it, that's the tale. I don't think it's really a ghost story though. There's no grisly death or anything so maybe he's not dead. He's kind of like a good monk fairy.
Also we're told this happened in 1790. So we can only assume that the Spanish missionaries were told to found Sweet Valley IMMEDIATELY upon their arrival. Wakefields first, god later. Also call it "Sweet Valley" even though that's not your language. (I wonder if the indigenous people lied to the Europeans and said they were white too? Then when asked what they called their home they said, "Uh... Sweet Valley? That sounds super white, right?")
You'll never guess what happens after Mr. Sanchez finishes his story! There is a BOOM of thunder.
Then the lights go out and the kids FREAK. I think they are wussy. Even though it's raining, it is still day camp. Some lightning illuminates the sky, and the kids swear they see the monk. Jennifer and Mr. Sanchez say it was probably just someone in a poncho. But the kids decide it's a MYSTERY in need of their SUPER SNOOPER SKILLZ.
The rain conveniently stops. The kids return to camp where the director, Mrs. Bramson, was actually worried that the class was missing. I think she must be trouble if she actually cared--responsible adults in my Sweet Valley? I side-eye the dickens out of her.
There is a shout from the supply room. Mrs. Bramson goes running and the nosy kids follow her. Someone has messed up the entire storage room and written "GO AWAY" in orange paint. Lila asks what it means. I shake my head. I know you're seven, Lila, but you're better than this. Pretty sure it means go away.
The kids decide the culprit must have been the ghost because Mrs. Bramson keeps the key to the supply room in her pocket and ghosts don't need keys. LOGIC!
The twins return home for dinner. Actual line from this conversation: "We saw a ghost at San Benito Museum. And then it wrecked the art supplies." Ned and Alice, for some reason, don't think this is strange. They are like "Sure you did" and keep eating, but Steven teases the twins about ghosts.
At camp the next day, we learn that Sandy Ferris and Lois Waller are absent that day--their mother's won't let them go to a haunted camp. We're supposed to feel bad for those two losers, but I kind of think that means their parents love them and don't want them to go to a crazy-ass camp.
Winston finds a rag with orange paint on it in the trash. Lila thinks someone wiped their paint-covered hands on it. Liz says that means it's not a ghost since ghosts don't need to wipe their hands. She seems to know an awful lot about ghost hygiene.
Jessica thinks it is the same shade of orange she used in arts and crafts the previous day. You know, just before Jennifer made them randomly abandon their arts and crafts projects for no good reason.
The kids suspect that the ghost write GO AWAY because he wants to warn them about danger, but the bells don't work anymore. I love how it doesn't even enter their minds that he actually wants them to go away.
RANDOM FACT OF RANDOMNESS: The eighth grade group is called "The Dolphins." Another marine animal. This blows my "doesn't know what a porpoise is" theory out of the water. Maybe someone--Mrs. Bramson?--just really likes SeaWorld or something. But I would think it'd be more educational to name the groups after animals indigenous to the mission area... but of course no one in SV cares what is educational so I don't even know why I bother making these statements.
Later, Jennifer asks Liz and Jess to take an attendance slip to the office. While there, they overhear Mrs. Bramson fighting with a mysterious man who clearly wants to buy the camp, but she refuses saying the camp has been in her family for generations.
At lunch, Elizabeth asks if she can have an orange instead of an apple--because she has to be difficult. The lunch guy, Joe, tells her that four bags of oranges were stolen this morning. Everyone thinks the ghost took them, but really why would a ghost need food? Orange paint. Stolen oranges. Someone clearly has it out for this color.
Jennifer decides they should have nap time outside that day--because she wants to give the kids sunburns, I guess. (That'll show them!) And when they are out there, they hear the bells chiming. Everyone is like, "Bwah? I thought the bells were broken. What a mystery!" They run to the bell tower, while Jennifer yells uselessly for them to stop, and break into the room. They find footprints in the coating of dust on the floor. Jessica examines the bells and notes that there are no "ringers" on the inside of the bells.
Dear ghostwriter, I know there was no such thing as Google in 1992, but the moving bit inside a bell is called a clapper. That is not that hard to find out.
At the end of the day, Todd announces he has a plan. I imagine he's going to suggest punching the ghost a lot. Instead, he says they should watch the bell tower all night, to see if anyone--like the ghost--goes in or out. Conveniently, the camp is having a camp-out that weekend, so they are going to turn said camp-out into a stake out. And we know no adult is going to supervise them during this overnight, so that won't be a problem.
The next morning, the Wakefield family has breakfast and Ned notices an article about the "ghostly" events at the camp in the newspaper. No wonder Liz seems like an ace reporter if that is the level of journalism SV is exposed to. The girls tell their mom that they are not scared and don't want to leave the camp. Ned, master of the obvious, points out that "something like this could be very bad for business."
At the camp-out, they run out of soda. A) Great idea giving seven-year-olds a lot of soda late at night when they will already have trouble sleeping since there might be a "ghost" on campus. I'm sure that will work out well. B) Mrs. Bramson sends the twins--alone at night--to get some more from the camp building. While on this errand, Liz and Jessica run into a suspicious man. He says he is a "friend" of Mrs. Bramson and not to tell her he was there because it is a surprise. I think Mrs. Bramson will be lucky if this suspicious man just wrecks her camp instead of raping these two unsupervised girls.
The twins, being super sleuths and all, know he's not really a friend of Mrs. Bramson's. That is the man they saw arguing with her the other day in the office.
Then the twins do the WEIRDEST thing. You should all sit down, this is going to be a shocker. They go to an adult, Jennifer, and tell her the story. I know! Fucking crazy, right? ...But you'll be relieved to know they don't tell her anything important--like "Hey, there is a creepy man lurking about." They just tell her about the ghost (which, really, she should've known already since it was in the paper and all). Jennifer says it sounds like someone is trying to make them all think there is a ghost.
... this would be a good time to bring up the creepy man who wants to buy the camp, right? Wrong. The twins say nothing of the man. They would never cut it on Scooby Doo.
Around the campfire, all the kids talk about what they'd do if they saw the ghost. Ronald Reese says he'd punch it in the nose. The book doesn't mention Todd crying because his place in the world has been usurped, but I can only assume that is what happens.
There is a "scary" bit where a hooded figure approaches. But it just turns out to be another one of the kids, playing a joke. This "scary" bit would be scarier if the illustration did not give it away.
A bit later, the campers hear the bells again. I can't help myself from hearing Poe's "The Bells" in my head. The bells, bells, bells, bells...
I think my brain is bored.
The campers are scared. But Mrs. Bramson stands up and announces she is calling the police. ... but that kind of makes sense?
Jennifer, on the other hand, announces she's going to catch the "ghost." She runs off toward the bell tower and, of course, the Snoopers follow her. They decide to split-up to cover more ground which is extra dumb. Naturally the group Liz and Jessica is in is the group that spots the "ghost." They grab him and it turns out it's not a ghost at all (I know you're shocked), it is... Joe, the lunch guy.
He is probably thinking that they are all vermin. They come in here and they eat and they eat...
Meanwhile, the other group catches the creepy guy. Winston says he had a tape recorder that played the sound of bells ringing.
Just then, after all the actual work is done, the police arrive. Naturally, Liz has to explain to the cops what is happening because they can't investigate anything themselves.
The newspaper comes to take a picture of the Super Snoopers. Joe and his friend (who was named Evan) were trying to make the camp appear haunted so they could get the land. No reason WHY they want the land so badly is given. I was hoping there would be diamonds or something. On Scooby Doo there was always something valuable.
That's kind of it. Mrs. Bramson says as a reward they can have another camp out. Yay?