The cover illustration shows The Haunted Car driving near the woods at night.
PlotMitchell Moinian is a car fanatic. The shelves of his bedroom hold multiple model cars, racing posters adorn his wall, and he even once mistakenly rented Separate Tables. Mitchell is such a natural when it comes to the automobiles that he claims he can identify any car just by closing his eyes and listening, a skill he brags about picking up from reading a lot of car magazines. Unfortunately, all the car knowledge fails to prepare Mitchell for the trick his younger brother, Todd plays on him. Todd makes him believe that a bag of laundry is a ghost. Todd is convinced that ghosts exist. Mitchell is convinced that ghost cars probably do not make noises he can identify with his eyes closed so why even bother considering their existence.
Suddenly, the two boys hear a crash from the basement. It does not sound like any car Mitchell's ever read about, so the two go down to investigate. The origin of the noise in the basement was indeed not car-related, but a poorly-constructed bookcase their amateur handyman father built that collapsed. Todd insists ghosts were behind the damage, but their father disagrees, as he knows it is the poor craftsman who blames his ghouls. He then announces a trip to the hardware store and that means that Mitchell and his brother get to ride in one of the "flyest" vehicles on the block. A "puke green" '85 LaBaron. They do not seem to pay much attention to the dark, stormy clouds hovering over them. Not until the brakes go out and the car rams into a tree!
The crash has made Mitchell's father a bit ill and he goes to vomit, while Mitchell waits a few minutes to mention the brakes. Sometime later, Mitchell spots a totally awesome classified ad for a car with no model or manufacturer name. He thinks it sounds great, even though it is literally the only car in the entire book to not be labeled. However, they go to look at the car. The seller, Mr. Douglas, who is dressed like a train conductor, interrupts his breakfast to show his visitors the car. The amazing white sports car is locked in the garage behind six padlocks. Mr. Douglas claims the extra precautions are due to the bad neighborhood.
Mr. Douglas giddily shows off the sports car. Mitchell thinks the blue automobile looks like a Corvette, only with twice as many seats and without the hassle of being a totally awesome Corvette. Father and son admire the car, which appears flawless. The vehicle has less than a thousand miles. Surely there must be something wrong with the car, for this shifty man to be so insistent on selling it. But since Mr. Douglas tells them there is nothing wrong with it, they believe him despite the initial concern. Mr. Douglas insists the two go for a test drive. But he refuses to ride along, claiming it is because he has yet to finish his breakfast.
They do not even grow suspicious as the old man stands right there watching them drive around. As they finish, he also reveals the catch: If they buy the car, they have to take it with them right away. He then reveals the price to be five thousand dollars. But they consider it a good price and Mr. Douglas goes inside to get the bill of sale and title ready.
That night, Mitchell can barely get through dinner without talking about the car. His parents bar him from even mentioning the car due to the fact that he has homework due, nor do they buy his excuses to not do the homework. They will not even let him go to the car to DO the homework. But nevertheless, Mitchell decides to sneak out to the car anyways. He figures no harm can come from sitting in a motionless car but he accidentally gets himself locked inside!
A mysterious girl happens along and lets Mitchell out of the locked car. Marissa Medding, the girl, claims she just moved in the neighborhood and ominously points to the requisite Old Abandoned House as her new home. Todd then comes out and having caught them, he blackmails Mitchell into letting him try out the car. They argue and Marissa mysteriously vanishes, so the both of them head back inside. Accidentally mistaking their electrocuted father for a ghost...
That night, Mitchell dreams about the car. He then takes a quick break to wake up, then goes right back to sleep. Dreaming that Marissa goaded him into crashing the new car! Todd believes the dream to be a sign the following day however. But despite that, Mitchell is not the least bit afraid of the car. He goads his father into going for another nighttime ride, this time to buy some milk. But this brief trip does not do anybody good. On the way back, torrential rain begins to fall. Unfortunately Mitchell's father cannot find the button to turn on the windshield wipers. He directs his son to look for the car's manual in the glove compartment. But the glove compartment is empty except for a single sheet of paper with two words written on it: I'M EVIL. Mitchell is terrified by the turn of events and the following night, his two friends, Steve and Allan come to visit. The two convince Mitchell to show them the new car. Todd tags along and all four pile into the car, shut the doors behind them, and once again the doors lock on them! Suddenly the interior of the car gets colder. The boys can see their breath and the windows begin to frost.
Marissa, exhibiting the most convenient of timings yet again, pops up and opens the car door, but not before Mitchell believes to have heard a faint sound of a girl giggling. Todd runs inside to warm up, while Mitchell's friends leave, convinced that Mitchell was playing a mean trick on them. Marissa expresses exaggerated concern over the danger of faulty car locks.
Todd wakes Mitchell up from a dream to tell him that the car is haunted and possessed. Mitchell tells him he is crazy and to go back to bed. Giving it some thought, Mitchell then goes down to investigate if the car is haunted and discovers that it is, indeed haunted! Mitchell shows little apparition, as when a girl's voice tells him to climb inside the car yet again, he does. In a familiar act, the car locks and drives off with him inside. There is little joy to be found in this ride, as the ghostly car with a girl's voice drives poor Mitchell onto the railroad tracks.
The train narrowly misses hitting the car and the girl's voice laughs menacingly. Mitchell continues to go where the spirit moves him, all the while pleading for her to stop.
Mitchell's father is furious when he sees his son pull into the driveway and he grabs him by the arm and violently pulls him inside. He then proceeds to lay into him the dangers that came with what he did, as well as the fact that theft isn't good. Before he can face more of his father's wraith, Marissa pops up again and tries to smooth things over with Mitchell's parents. He tries to tell them that the car is haunted but they do not believe him. Marissa meanwhile, believes him a little too well...
Mitchell gets grounded for life and mopes around the house for a while until Todd admits that he does believe Mitchell about the ghost car, and he knows who the ghost is: Marissa...
Mitchell thinks Todd is crazy and to prove it he calls Marissa's house. But the operator can find no listing for Marissa or her family!
Mitchell and Todd sneak across the street to peek into the Old Abandoned House and discover it is old and abandoned. But there are not any ghosts hanging around. Mitchell decides he'll pay Mr. Douglas, the car's original owner, a visit. Upon seeing the boy at his door, Mr. Douglas insists that he is very busy doing nothing and can't be interrupted. Before he can close the door though, Mitchell sees a picture in his living room..
It is of Marissa, with the words "In Loving Memory" written on the frame!
Mitchell chooses dinner time to tell his parents the big news. But they're more interested in pizza than the ghosts their son has apparently seen. Mitchell gets sent up to his room to eat his pizza alone. But suddenly, the telephone rings. It is Marissa! Mitchell tells her he knows her big secret and she demands to know what he is going to do with it. He then hangs up, having no idea what to do about the problem soon after.
Soon after, Mitchell's entire family informs him that they're getting picked up to enchant sick Cousin Ella with a visit and he's not invited. The moment his family leaves, Mitchell climbs into the haunted car and the doors lock behind him yet again. The interior light turns on and he realizes he isn't alone...
A blonde girl is in the passenger seat, wearing all black. He assumes it is Marissa. The blonde figure has taken the form of a rapidly decaying ghost and she begins to tell him she is evil once more, then sends the car rapidly careening down the city streets!
The ghost transforms into a vapor and wafts into the car, speaking to Mitchell from the speakers. She tells him that she died in this car and now it was his turn. She was only fourteen, when she took the car on a joyride and died in a crash. Ever since, she has been lonely and desperately wants some company. Mitchell, far from being flattered, continues to plead with her to take him home. She agrees, as he can just as easily die in front of his house. She causes the engine to rev up and the car careens forward. Mitchell can tell that she intends to crash the car through the living room. As the car gets closer though, both can tell something is happening in front of the house and the car slows down.
Orange flames have engulfed the house! Mitchell gleefully tells the ghost that if it had not been for her kidnapping him, he would have died in the fire. This however makes Marissa very angry and she howls in anger. Now she will be punished in the afterworld and rips herself apart.
His parents run up to the car and pluck him from the vehicle and he tries to tell them how a ghost saved him but they do not believe him. They are just happy that Mitchell did not listen to them!
Todd asks Mitchell if the ghost was Marissa and he tells her that of course it was. Then he sees Marissa, standing on the front lawn. He yells at her for being evil and a ghost until she grabs him by the arm and forces him to follow her away from everyone else. It dawns on Mitchell that perhaps ghosts can't grab humans, which Marissa reveals that the ghost was her evil twin sister, Becka.
Marissa's father, Mr. Douglas, went sick with grief and wanted to be rid of the car his daughter died in as soon as possible. One afternoon while hanging around the empty car in the garage, the decaying ghost of her sister appeared to her and laid out the whole scheme. Marissa tells the hurt Mitchell that she tried to figure out how to tell him and that once he said on the telephone that he knew what was going on, she thought he actually did know already, so she did not have to say it.
She then begins to cry and Mitchell tells her how her sister accidentally saved his life. She smiles a little and he tells her he has lost interest in cars. The next morning at the O'Conners' house, Micthell and his mother are auguring about the car when Mr. Moinian comes in saying the car won't start. A mechanic comes by and examines the engine.
The mechanic points out that the car has no battery. Mr. Moinian looks under the hood and wonders how did it run without a car battery. Hearing about the car having no battery, a grin spreads over Mitchell's face as he tells himself that it will take his parents a while but he's think they'll finally believed him.
Reprints and rereleases
The Haunted Car received its first reprint on April 28, 2015, as the thirty-first book in the Classic Goosebumps series. It and Attack of the Graveyard Ghouls are the only Series 2000 books to receive reprints.
||April 28, 2015||Standalone||Paperback|
- The Haunted Car is similar to one of Stephen King's horror novels, Christine, which is also about a possessed car.