The cover illustration features a phantom holding a magenta curtain in the auditorium.
Brooke Rodgers and Zeke Matthews are in the school play called The Phantom. Later on, Brooke hears a story from a girl in the play that does the scenery. The girl tells Brooke a story about how a boy who was supposed to be the phantom in 1923 disappeared. Everyone including his parents got worried. The police looked everywhere and never found his body. If they try to do the play again his ghost appears on the stage.
Brooke and Zeke are aspiring thespians, having appeared in the previous school year's production of Guys and Dolls. When Brooke and Zeke go to look at the cast list for the new, scary show that they tried out for, Brooke discovers a note pinned to the board telling her that she has been suspended. Upon whirling around, Zeke laughs and reveals he set up the joke.
The play, called The Phantom, is a heavily edited version of The Phantom of the Opera. Zeke receives the lead role as the Phantom and Brooke is cast as Esmerelda. A seventh-grader named Tina (who does not much like Brooke), discovers she is Brooke's understudy and also is in charge of scenery. At the script reading the next week, Tina reveals that the play is cursed. Tina starts to tell about how there is an actual phantom in the school. But she is interrupted by Ms. Walker, the director, who tells her that the story is, "Very scary... very upsetting." However, she gives in and reveals the old legend to the class. The legend reveals that seventy-two years ago, a student found a copy of the play called The Phantom in the basement. The boy showed the play to a teacher who decided the school would perform it. On opening night, however, the boy disappeared, and was never found again. After that night, all copies of the script were destroyed (except one, which was kept locked in a safe). The play was never performed again.
Ms. Walker tells the class that they will be ignoring the rumor that the ghost of the boy-the 'Phantom' will not let them perform the play. She then disappears out of nowhere. As students worry and scramble, Ms. Walker reveals that she had used a trap door below the stage. She has the children help her up and then excitedly tells them that they will be using said trap for theatrical effect during their play, but to not use it before it is fixed, due to safety reasons.
Brooke gives us a brief synopsis of The Phantom. A man named Carlo owns a theater. Beneath the theater lives a phantom with a scarred and hideous face. Esmerelda-in the original book, Christine-the daughter of Carlo, falls in love with the Phantom, but her handsome boyfriend Eric finds out...and kills the Phantom. Esmerelda runs away and the Phantom haunts the theater forever.
After everyone leaves rehearsals, Zeke and Brooke stick around to try out the trap door in secret. They go down the trap door, but instead of stopping at a certain height, they keep going...and eventually they are beneath the school, in a vast, dark corridor. Suddenly, the platform begins to move up again and the two jump onto it as it goes back up. The platform stops a little short of the stage, so the two have to hoist themselves up. Once on the stage, they run into Emile, the "night janitor", an old man with a big purple scar on his face. He chides them on using the trap door and tells them to leave. Later it is found out that the school does NOT have a night janitor.
The next day at school, there is a new boy sitting in Brooke’s chair named Brian, claiming to have just moved from Indiana. He compliments Brooke on starring in the play and tells of his past theatrical, albeit small roles; she finds him attractive. Brooke runs out to her locker after talking to Brian and inside her locker there is a note written in red crayon, written:
"STAY AWAY FROM MY HOME SWEET HOME."
Brooke thinks Zeke is behind the letter. Despite her belief, he vehemently denies it.
After school, Brian asks Ms. Walker if there are any parts left in the play. She tells him that unfortunately, there are not; however, he can work with Tina on the stage crew. Suddenly, the lights go out, and there is a terrifying scream in the auditorium. A masked man comes swooping down from the catwalk and disappears down the trap door. This time, Brooke is absolutely certain it is Zeke. Afterward, Tina tries to blame the incident on Brooke, since, "Zeke is YOUR friend, after all."
Ms. Walker lets rehearsals out early and Brooke goes out to the parking lot, where she sees Zeke in his mother's car. Apparently, he had a doctor's appointment. Brooke then asks him if he simply performed his antics and THEN went to the appointment... Zeke simply laughs.
The next day at play rehearsal, Brooke forgets her lines at the purposeful fault of the malicious Tina. But then, the Phantom appears again from the platform and begins violently shaking Brooke before disappearing again. This time, it could not have been Zeke, for he was watching from the front row. Later, Zeke and Brooke decide to go to the school's main office and ask if perhaps Emile, the "night janitor" had turned in a book Zeke had left in the auditorium. While shutting the computer and preparing to leave, the secretary informs him that the school does not have a night janitor.
Brooke and Zeke later talk the new guy, Brian, into helping them catch the Phantom in the school. Planning to break into the school, they find no entrance. Then, Brian finds a ground-level entrance; the home-economics room. With the faint aroma of cranberry muffins, the three sneak from the cooking room into the school. Trekking the very dark halls, they eventually come upon the dark, damp auditorium. With a good look at the stage, however, and in dim light, they see the backdrop slowly lowering itself. Aviolently-written message in splattered red paint reads the same as Brooke's mysterious note:
"STAY AWAY FROM MY HOME SWEET HOME."
At the most inconceivably inappropriate time, Ms. Walker coincidentally enters the auditorium and catches the three of them staring at the now badly-vandalized backdrop. She firstly accuses them of of the crime, but several genuine explanations later, and Ms. Walker almost believes them. As proof, she sees a trail of red paint leading from the backdrop into the hallways. Relieved, the group starts to follow the trail before discovering that the trail leads to Zeke's locker. Now furious, Ms. Walker demands Zeke to open the locker. Flustered, he quickly undoes the lock and as Brooke and her teacher peer in, they see a can of red paint. Now, no matter how much protesting Zeke does, he cannot explain himself out of such a purely incriminating situation. He's not only grounded, facing charges, and in deep trouble with his parents...he is also ejected from the play.
Robert Hernandez, Zeke's understudy, takes his place. Brooke thinks he is much too serious a person and is just not the same as Zeke, whom she can joke around with. At rehearsal, Ms. Walker finds her script's pages glued together. In a fit of pent-up rage, she chucks her script and declares that the play is canceled. After calming down from her irrational behavior, however, she retracts her former statement and allows the play to continue production,
Afterward, Brian and Brooke go to visit Zeke at his house (since his parents are at the movies), where he is still grounded. Outraged, Zeke vows to try one last time to catch the Phantom. The trio goes back to the school at night again, and find their way down the trapdoor, this time into a tunnel. Brooke has another one of her long sneezing fits, which scares and alarms them all in fear of the Phantom hearing. Even worse, the trapdoor starts rising by itself back to the top again....and this time, they can't catch it on time. They are stuck in the basement. So, they decide to explore the tunnel. Finding a slightly smaller-than-average door, they decide to open it. To their strange surprise, they find a small, but fully-furnished room. There is even a fresh bowl of corn flakes on a table. Zeke figures that since the flakes aren't soggy yet, the Phantom must be nearby. They enter, but discover that they are then locked out. After slamming and pushing on the door with all their strength, Brooke eventually figures out that the door must be pulled, not pushed,
The door then opens with ease and, standing in front of them in fury, is Emile. As it turns out, he's simply a homeless man whose father actually worked for the school many years ago. He knew about the underground room, and after losing his actual home, decided to make a clandestine move-in. After finding out that people started fooling around with the trapdoor and getting nearer and nearer to discovering him, he started painting the warnings. However, he does not understand why Brooke keeps referring to the Phantom. As she tells him about the play seventy-two years ago, he smiles bitterly and admits that he is only fifty years of age. The three are astonished as it dawns upon them that it is impossible for him to be the Phantom. But then, Emile starts moving towards them and telling them that he warned them. Obviously scared, they dash away from him and find that oddly enough, he is not chasing them. They find the trapdoor at the bottom, and as they ride the top, they discover Zeke's father waiting for them. Asking how he found them, he says that upon coming home, Zeke was not there. Even though still grounded, he figured that Zeke would be back at school fooling around with the trapdoor again. As he says Zeke is still grounded, though, the three begin to rapidly explain the situation. Calling an officer in to go down and investigate, he finds the room still furnished...but no books, cornflakes, or sign of Emile.
Zeke gets his part back, as it is now obvious that he was not the culprit. As Brooke prepares her makeup for closing night, she sees Zeke in full costume, and looking impressive. She wishes him good luck, but in a quite un-Zeke-like manner, he simply gives her a very formal bow. The play goes very well...but halfway through Act I, when the Phantom makes his dramatic appearance, Brooke figures out that the Phantom isn't Zeke. It is the real Phantom.
In the final scene of the play, after the Phantom dramatically rises in dry-ice mist and from the trap door, Esmeralda (really Brooke) asks the Phantom a question. Instead of answering with the correct lines, the Phantom gives a short speech about how he died on opening night and had been haunting the stage, excitedly awaiting for his chance to play the role. The audience goes wild, as the scene turns out to be very good. While the audience fervently applauds and cheers, Brooke snatches the mask and tries to look at the Phantom's face. Strongly refusing, he covers his face. To his advantage, a spotlight is shone directly at Brooke and she is temporarily blinded. Not able to see either since he is covering his face, the Phantom slowly walks backward...straight into the open trapdoor. Falling into deep darkness, Brooke runs and peers into the opening, able to see nothing. The audience by now is going insane, since they all think it is part of their rendition of the show. After the curtain closes, Zeke shows up in regular clothes, confused and inquiring as to what had just taken place. As it turns out, he had been knocked out cold by the Phantom, so he could play the part instead of Zeke.
Brooke stops off at her locker with Zeke. As she opens it, another strange thing falls out, but not a note. It is an antiquated yearbook of their school, from the 1920s...exactly seventy-two years before. They flip through it, and encounter the theatrical production page titled "'The Phantom' to be performed in the spring". Instantly interested, they look at the lead role cast picture for the Phantom. The boy who had found the script in the basement, the boy who won the star role...was Brian.
Cover Art Gallery
- The title of this book spoofs the title of the classic piece of literature, The Phantom of the Opera and its movie adaptations; particularly, the 1925 movie starring Lon Chaney Sr. as Erik the Phantom. The TV episode is more a spoof of the 1986 musical by Andrew Lloyd Webber.
- At one point, the movie Friday the 13th is mentioned.
- The fact that the boyfriend in the play's name is Eric could be considered a pun, due to the fact that the phantom's name in "The Phantom of the Opera" is Erik.
- In the US, this book was unreprinted in for 16 years. However, a Classic Goosebumps reprint was released in 2011. The only books in the original Goosebumps series to still be unreprinted are Legend of the Lost Legend, Werewolf Skin, I Live in Your Basement!, and Monster Blood IV.