Fans will be spellbound by a fresh retelling of the original film, followed by the all-new sequel that continues the story with the next generation of Salem teens.
Shortly after moving from California to Salem, Massachusetts, Max Dennison finds himself in hot water when he accidentally releases a coven of witches, the Sanderson sisters, from the afterlife. Max, his sister, and his new friends (human and otherwise) must find a way to stop the witches from carrying out their evil plan and remaining on earth to torment Salem for all eternity.
Twenty-five years later, Max and Allison’s seventeen-year-old daughter, Poppy, finds herself face-to-face with the Sanderson sisters in all their sinister glory. When Halloween celebrations don’t quite go as planned, it’s a race against time as Poppy and her friends fight to save her family and all of Salem from the witches’ latest vile scheme.
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Part One Then
On All Hallows' Eve, when the moon is round, a virgin will summon us from under the ground.
We shall be back!
And the lives of all the children of Salem shall be mine!
— Winifred Sanderson October 31, 1693
The world was full of wild things then. It brimmed with oak and hemlock and dark whispering places that turned you round and round until there was no turning back.
The womenfolk said that on early mornings near the harbor you could hear echoes of witchsong, which sounded like birdsong but more bitter. The menfolk said godliness would save them from any witches, but they honed their axes and twisted new rope just the same.
The witches said there was nothing so sweet as the shinbones of little girls. Or perhaps a well-braised scapula with sparrow spleen compote. It was all in the preparation.
They lived near town, the witches, but not so near as to be a bother, until a milk cow died or a child took sick. Then the town would start to mutter about the Sanderson girls — Mary and Sarah and especially Winnie — who had not been girls for a very long time but who did not merit the title "ladies."
Someone always intervened.
They're no bother, someone would say. Just batty girls playing in the woods.
Leave them be, someone would say. Don't you remember how kind their mother was, and how generous?
It all made perfect sense at the time, but once the people of Salem left the town meeting and went back to work, not a one of them could remember who that someone had been.
That is, until Emily went missing.
"Knock-knocks," said Dani, grinning up at her sixteenyear-old brother as she trotted down the sidewalk. Leaves drifted through the air around them — thin slips of yellow and broad, shaggy orange things the size and shape of their dad's hands — and the morning was just starting to break open and turn the world gold.
Max rolled his eyes and swung his bike in a big loop to match her slow progress. "Can you please not?"
It was Halloween, and the houses on both sides of the little neighborhood street were decked out with cobwebs and tombstones, giant spiders and jack-o'-lanterns — some of which were already starting to sag a little with mold.
Dani giggled as she ran through the pale tendrils of a ghost horde gathered in a tree.
"Ta-tas," she said, a little louder. Her pointed black hat sported a thin orange trim around the brim, which matched her sun-patterned jacket and striped skirt. She'd dressed as a witch, but in her own words, "a fancy one." The grin she gave Max, though, was more impish than witchy.
Max glanced behind them to make sure the street was still as deserted as when they had left for school. "Seri- ously, Dani. Not the place."
He should've known better than to talk about Allison Watts to Jack, because Jack still lived in Santa Monica, and Max's house had a shared phone line and a nosy eight- year-old.
"YABOS," Dani squealed.
Max blushed hard, looking over his shoulder. "I'm going to leave you," he said. "Find your own way to school." He spun another loop, catching too much speed on the turn. He stopped short before hitting the curb.
Dani stopped, too, eyes sparkling with mischief beneath the brim of her witch's hat. A few strands of tawny hair stuck to her red lipstick. "Then Mom will ground you forever," she said.
"Maybe that wouldn't be so bad," he muttered.
Dani put a sympathetic hand on his shoulder. "Oh, don't be that way," she said. "Then how will you ever see Allison's bazookas?"
Max groaned, leaning forward over his handlebars. "Please stop," he begged. "It's not even like that."
"It sounded a lot like that." She tugged on his sleeve to get them moving again.
Max relented, bike wobbling as he pedaled slowly beside his sister. "That's why you shouldn't eavesdrop on people," he said. "You lose context. One day you'll know what that means."
"Does it mean you saving up to run away to Jack's house and become the next Fuzzy Gauzy? Because I heard about that, too."
"The X-Ray Spex," Max muttered. "You know, I don't have to walk you to school anymore if I don't want to."
It was true: one of the few perks he'd been promised about their family's move from LA to Salem was that they'd live far enough from school that Dani would qualify for bus pickup. But the previous night she'd said the bus made her lonely, and she'd begged him to bike ahead and meet her one stop early so they could walk the rest of the way together. He'd agreed against his better judgment. She was still his little sister, after all, and as long as she'd been going to school, they'd been walking together. But now he was paying the price for nostalgia.
"But you do want to," said Dani, dancing through the graveyard on someone's front lawn. "Or you would've said no." She stepped on a button, and a plastic corpse with matted black hair sat up with a shout, making her shriek and race back to the sidewalk.
As they rounded the corner, Max saw, at the top of the hill, the skinny blond and the no-necked bonehead known as Jay and Ernie. In the two weeks since his family had moved to Salem, Max had avoided any run-ins with the town bullies, but he could already tell they were the kind of boys whose kindergarten teachers, searching for something nice to say during parent–teacher conferences, would've settled on persistent.
Jay and Ernie's lackeys seemed to appear out of nowhere as they swaggered down the middle of the road, the embellishments on their faux-leather jackets glinting dully in the morning light.
"You know," said Max, wheeling around, "I think Mom told me they're handing out candy at the side entrance."
He felt bad about lying to Dani, but she'd get more than enough Airheads and Pixy Stix later.
"Hey!" she protested as they approached the annex door. "There's no candy —"
But her brother was already gone, speeding off toward Jacob Bailey High.
It was not unlike Emily Binx to stray so close to the wood.
Her mother had often scolded her for doing precisely that, though she tried not to scold too hard, for nine-year-old Emily was a serious child, and pious, paging through her prayer book without minding where her footsteps took her.
Emily was old enough to know the rumors about the Sanderson sisters, but she also knew that whenever she ran across any of them in town, they were kind to her. It was rare to see Miss Winnie or Miss Mary or Miss Sarah smile, what with their crooked backs and twisted, dusty faces, but when they noticed her, they beamed and clapped — well, Mary and Sarah, anyway — and praised her pink cheeks and pretty hands. Her mother never praised those things, for fear of encouraging vanity and sin. Even skeptical Miss Winnie would pat Emily's shoulder awk- wardly and tease that she should return to her mother lest Winnie eat the little girl right up.
All this to say that Emily was not afraid of the wood as others were, and was especially less afraid than her brother, Thackery, who, like his best friend, Elijah, was seven years older than Emily and of an age when boys found anything at all to do with girls or women highly suspect.
So when the wood began to creep into her dreams, it didn't startle Emily.
In the dreams, the field between Salem and the trees smelled of warm hay and fresh flowers, and its waves of trailing sweetgrass tickled her arms and legs as she walked. In the dreams, the edge of the field ran right up to the edge of the wood and then stopped, as if perplexed about where to go next.
In the dreams, the wood was cool and welcoming, and the air tasted faintly of damp soil and crumbling bark — a taste that seemed as sweet as almond cake to young Emily, for it promised an adventure to rival her well-worn copy of Pilgrim's Progress.
Thackery had begun to dream of that place, too — that knife's edge between the world he knew and the world of witches — but his dreams were thick with moss-colored smoke and the press of hands upon his skin and the taste of sweat and bile and river muck. The dreams made him wake, night after night, more tired than the day before, but he didn't tell his parents or his sister or even Elijah, for he feared the dreams meant something dark about his mind — or worse, about his heart.
Emily didn't tell because she was afraid her mother might scold her for letting her imagination run beyond the pages of her prayer book.
And the other children didn't tell for their own reasons, each of them more personal than the next.
Max was kneeling beside his bike, tying his shoelace, when a shadow spilled over his shoulder and onto the grass.
He tensed, expecting Ernie's hot pickle breath to hit his shoulder any minute. To buy time, he undid his laces and tied them again, carefully. The pristine white toe and accents of the otherwise black Nikes started to blur as Max considered the best way to slip away unscathed. He wasn't about to let some mouth breather spit on his new sneakers just to get a rise out of him. He'd only gotten them as a pity gift from his parents when they'd announced their surprise move to The-Place-with-the-Witch-Trials, Massachusetts.
"You dressed up!"
Max turned to see Allison Watts smiling down at him. He glanced down at his shirt. A burst of tie-dye swirled up at him.
"I didn't, actually," he said.
Allison smirked. "Just that California lifestyle?"
Max grinned. He hated when other people made lame California jokes, but Allison earned a pass because she'd helped him find the chemistry lab on his first day — not that he expected her to remember that now. Allison was the kind of person who helped classmates with homework in the hallway before first period; who always waited the appropriate amount of time before answering teachers' questions, which turned her into a classroom hero instead of a show-off; and who had an intensity about her that made Max feel like he wanted to be part of her story. He could tell she'd become someone great one day — a president or an inventor or the CEO of a company that made flying cars. So when Allison cracked a joke about California, Max found that it made his stomach flip in a way that interfered with his ability to grimace.
He opened his mouth to introduce himself, but no sound emerged. That day, like the past three days, he thought about asking her out, but then he thought about her rejecting him and how he'd have to awkwardly extract himself from the situation, which made walking through town with his sister howling about bazookas sound like a fun weekend activity.
Allison watched his face, which must've been cycling through expressions of both hope and abject fear. When he still didn't speak, her smile softened. "Well," she said, "I'll see you around, California."
"Bye —" Max called after her, deflated. He told himself she was a human being, not some otherworldly goddess. He told himself he should just talk to her, but the thought made him feel the way the ferry ride to Catalina Island had on his ninth birthday: weak-kneed and queasy. How was it possible that he'd fallen for her so hard in just two weeks?
As Max shouldered his backpack and walked up the concrete steps, he cut past six of his classmates, all of them crowded together and gossiping about the old Sanderson house at the edge of town.
"I'm telling you, we should go there before the party," said a girl in an orange turtleneck. Over the turtleneck, she wore a slouchy blue sweater patterned with pumpkins.
"No way," whined her friend, who wore a red vest over a white sweater and looked more excited for Christmas than Halloween. She leaned against the front steps' metal handrail. "I'm not going anywhere near that house. It's creepy." Max had to agree with the second girl. He'd seen the Sanderson house the previous weekend on a ride, and its rotting walls and sagging windows seemed to peer out of the woods as he cruised past. He'd also noticed the closed indefinitely signs tied along the wrought-iron fence that separated the Sanderson house — and much of Salem Wood — from the actual town of Salem.
A boy who wore a brown sweater over a white shirt threw an arm around the shoulders of the girl in the red vest. "I'll just have to hold you closer, Tess," he teased, grinning.
Tess beamed up at him. "My hero," she sighed, and then snorted. As her head settled on the boy's chest, their semicircle of friends laughing along with her, Max felt the seed of a plan begin to take root....
Another Glorious Morning. Makes Me sick!
When Emily Binx woke to the dreamy light of dawn, she first believed it was due to the cocks crowing in the yard — but for whatever reason, the animals weren't making a single sound.
Emily crept to the window and found the roosters asleep — even the chickens, who clucked softly as they dozed. It was so strange that she slipped out of the house without changing from her bedclothes, an act that would surely scandalize her mother if she caught her.
There was a soft song in the air that sounded nothing like birds, but also not quite like the hymns the pastor's wife led at church. It sounded more like the delicate crust on sugared almonds or the sweet cream of Christmas custard. It sounded like something that could melt or sour if it wasn't used up right away.
Emily stepped into the yard and past the clustered chickens and nodding family of sheep whose coats were thickening for winter. She petted the nose of Mopsie, the black pony her father had brought back from last year's trip to Boston, and giggled when he released a happy little snort.
She passed the milliner's house, and the butcher's, but their curtains were drawn and their houses stood silent. A downy rabbit was napping in the yard of the town's best baker, as if it had settled down to sleep in the open — unafraid of hungry foxes or rowdy boys with sticks. Elizabeth, the baker herself, was awake, though. There was a smell of boiling fruit and sugar, and Emily spotted her through the shutters of her kitchen window, humming to herself.
Elizabeth lived in a small cottage on the edge of town with her husband and daughter, though they were scarcely seen since the witch trials had begun in Salem. Those who did see her when she dropped off baked goods remarked on her simple beauty. She was a tall woman in her early twenties, with dark curly hair, and she wore her pale yellow cloak in almost any weather.
A little girl around Emily's age peeped her head just above the sill. The girl had clear chestnut eyes and a chipper smile, and she gave Emily a friendly wave.
"Ismay, get away from the windows," came a man's voice from within the house, hushed and urgent.
The little girl ducked away.
Elizabeth stepped up to the open window and locked eyes with Emily. "What brings you outside so early this morning, Miss Emily?" Elizabeth inquired, pushing the window open to better see the girl. "And how on earth did your mother let you outside without shoes, my dear?"
Emily giggled. "The whole world seems to be asleep."
"John Barker's ale must have been strong last night," said Elizabeth. She held up the apple she was slicing. "I'll have pie later, but you won't be allowed in until you've changed."
Emily nodded somberly. "I'm going to find the music first," she said.
Elizabeth's demeanor turned suddenly grave. "Don't follow it," she warned.
"But it's prettier than any tune I've ever heard before, miss," said Emily.
"Beautiful things have a way of obscuring danger, my dear girl. Don't —" She stopped short as the smell of burning fruit filled the air and the sound of clumsy gurgling reached her ears. She hastened to remove the delicate preserve from the stove, but when she returned to the window a moment later, Emily was already gone.
Max wasn't sure why everyone filing into US History at the end of the day had grins on their faces. The classroom looked as it had for the past few weeks, with orange construction paper tacked to the pushpin boards that flanked the chalkboard at the front of the room. On one side was a silhouette of a frightened black cat, and on another a silhouette of a witch on her broom. Above the chalkboard, Miss Olin had replaced the framed portraits of her four favorite presidents with pen-and-ink drawings of four people involved in the Salem witch trials.
Miss Olin herself sat at her desk while the class filed in, scribbling notes to herself among an array of miniature pumpkins. There was a creepy little witch doll propped up at the front edge of her desk. It was dressed in a black-and-white Pilgrim's costume and a pointed hat with an orange ribbon for decoration — exactly like the one Miss Olin herself wore that day.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Hocus Pocus & The All-New Sequel"
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