Women in Horror Literature Spotlight: Mary Downing Hahn’s Spooky and Engaging Ghost Story “Wait Till Helen Comes” Is Certainly Worth the Wait.
One of the most compelling writers of this genre is Mary Downing Hahn, whose novel Wait Till Helen Comes: A Ghost Story is the focus of this article.
Originally published in 1986, Wait Till Helen Comes: A Ghost Story remains in print to this day. In many ways it is the gold standard of ghost stories aimed at children /juvenile audiences. It has earned numerous awards (as well as some controversy), was adapted for the screen in 2016, and remains just as scary and engaging 32 years later.
Wait Till Helen Comes is told from the point of view of Molly. Molly is an aspiring writer. Molly’s little brother Michael is an aspiring scientist/naturalist, and Molly’s little stepsister Heather is an aspiring trouble maker. At least for Molly and Michael. Heather hates Molly and Michael and they’re not sure why. They’ve tried to be nice to her, but to no avail.
Heather, it seems, is bound and determined to make their lives (and the life of their mom) miserable. And just when they thought she couldn’t get any worse, she meets Helen– a ghost that shares many things with Heather, including her initials and the desire to have a friend who will love them unconditionally.
When I read Wait Till Helen Comes for this article, it was my first time. Unlike many children, especially those who sought out ghost stories growing up, I had not read the book as a child. This is strange considering I was aware of the book, but for whatever reason I never got around to it– that is, until now.
I found Wait Till Helen Comes to be a spooky read that not only engaged me with its plot and characters, but its simple yet evocative descriptions of the world the characters inhabit.
It captured me with its sense of growing dread and it surprised me with its frank discussions of death and suicide. Next to the ghost, these mature discussions of two topics that continue to be taboo, were my favorite aspect of the book. One of the great aspects of horror stories, especially ghost stories is that they let us discuss death and the means by which people die. They offer necessary discussions of mortality that, like it or not, children and parents need to have.
Ultimately Wait Till Helen Comes, is a book that not only offers chills, but insights into the finite quality of life.
If you, like me, have waited to read Wait Till Helen Comes stop waiting and read it now!