Ghost Soldier

Ghost Soldier

by Elaine Marie Alphin

Paperback(First Edition)

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The ghost of a young soldier from the Civil War haunts a troubled teen.

"I sat up. The jagged trenches were only soft grassy depressions in the sunny battlefield park. I felt tears burn my eyes, the relief was so strong, and then the misery of losing the ghost hit me."

Alexander has the ability to see ghosts. But it's been several years since his last encounter. When he reluctantly joins his father on a long trip away from home, a surprise awaits him. In the unfamiliar territory of North Carolina, Alexander is confronted by the ghost of a young soldier who lost his life in the Civil War. As an unusual friendship develops between the two, Alexander is drawn into a new reality where he comes face to face with the haunting past of his soldier friend. But can Alexander help this troubled ghost, and can he, finally, come to terms with his own disturbing past? With deftness and insight, Elaine Marie Alphin tells a gripping story that weaves the supernatural with the historical. Ghost story fans and Civil War buffs alike are in for a real treat.

Ghost Soldier is a nominee for the 2002 Edgar Award for Best Juvenile Mystery.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780805099379
Publisher: Henry Holt and Co. (BYR)
Publication date: 08/01/2001
Edition description: First Edition
Pages: 224
Sales rank: 335,835
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.40(h) x 0.80(d)
Age Range: 10 - 15 Years

About the Author

Elaine Marie Alphin is the author of several acclaimed novels, including The Ghost Cadet and Counterfeit Son. Elaine lives in Madison, Indiana.

Read an Excerpt

Ghost Soldier

By Elaine Marie Alphin

Henry Holt and Company

Copyright © 2001 Elaine Marie Alphin
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-62779-648-4


Window Through Time

"Need a hand with your bag?" Dad asked over his shoulder.

"No." I looked at the wreck of a house in front of us as he started down the driveway to Mrs. Hambrick's home.

"Come on, Alexander. You'll see — this spring break is going to be special — for both of us."

For him, maybe. I slung my backpack over my shoulder, but I didn't pick up my duffel bag. "What if Mom comes back and finds our house empty? She'll never know to look for us down here in North Carolina."

Dad's knuckles whitened on the handle of his suitcase. He was already puffing a little from his own suitcase and computer bag — he doesn't work out except when he runs with me, so he's kind of overweight. "It's been over three years," he said, not turning back to me.

Three years, two months, and twenty-three days, I thought to myself. She left on New Year's Day, just before I turned ten.

Dad finished, "I've told you before — she's not coming back."

He keeps saying that, but I don't believe it. My dad's okay — he writes computer software for a living. That makes the other kids back home in Indiana think I'm the luckiest guy in the world, because our house is wired with the latest computer stuff. I agree it's great to mess around with new systems and know all the Easter Egg secret programs and jokes the programmers hide in their software. But Dad has lived with computers so long he expects everything to work out logically, like programming code. Mom isn't anything like computer code. She's like the music she plays on her recorder and like the flowers she grows — one minute bubbling over with happiness, then sad and droopy the next. I was sure she'd just appear one day, the way she'd left, so I'd tried to keep everything perfect for her.

I picked up the duffel and glared at Mrs. Hambrick's overgrown yard — the sight of this disaster made me feel even worse about getting dragged here. The ivy and Virginia creeper grew thick, choking any flowers that even thought about pushing up through them. Shrill crickets hid in the undergrowth, but the grass was really sparse — only a few limp blades trying to grow in the shadows of oaks and maples that hadn't been pruned in what seemed like forever. I hadn't let our yard grow wild like that. Our bulbs had already come up.

"This place is falling apart," I muttered.

But Dad just said, "Look at these quiet streets — it's a great place to run." He grinned. "I bet you'll get a ribbon at your next meet."

I remembered him cheering the last time I competed. It was embarrassing and great at the same time. The only thing that would have been better was if Mom had been there, too. And if I'd placed, of course.

But I wasn't going to let him change the subject, no matter how important track was to me. "I mean it — look at the bricks, with all those white smears. How hard can it be to keep two stories' worth of bricks red? And look at those overgrown trees —"

"The Hambricks bought the place to fix it up," Dad said. "The walls used to be whitewashed — that's why the bricks look funny. They'd barely stripped the whitewash when the accident happened."

I didn't answer. I just stared at the dingy white louvered doors, half hidden behind once-white columns whose paint was now cracked and peeling. Wind chimes hung from the front porch, jangling shrill musical notes and flashing unexpectedly when a ray of sunshine squeezed through the trees and hit them. Was I supposed to say I was sorry Mr. Hambrick died? I was. He'd been killed in a car accident. Some driver who wasn't paying attention ran a red light and hit him. Sure I was sorry it happened. If he were still alive, we wouldn't be here visiting Mrs. Hambrick and her kids.

Before Dad could say anything else, one of the louvered doors creaked open, rattling the wind chimes, and Mrs. Hambrick came out. Her short blond hair stuck up in every direction like she'd forgotten to comb it.

"Bill!" Mrs. Hambrick smiled at my dad as if she'd just gotten the most terrific present. "Even after your last e-mail, I could hardly believe you were really on your way!"

"Hi, Paige," he said, his voice so low I could barely hear him.

Then she tore her eyes away and looked at me. "Alexander — I was delighted when I got your father's e-mail saying that you'd decided to come. Carleton and Nicole are excited to meet you!"

Her voice was the same soft Southern drawl I remembered from meeting her in Indianapolis. I hadn't bothered to listen to it then, but now that soft heavy accent threatened to smother me. I couldn't think of anything to say, so I kept my mouth shut. But it didn't matter. She wasn't paying attention to me. She was smiling at Dad, and he was smiling back at her. They looked kind of weird together — Dad with his balding head and what rust-colored hair he did have pulled back in a ponytail, and her with her hair standing up all over the place. Dad's stocky and she's skinny, and both of them were wearing faded jeans and sweatshirts. That's what Dad wears all the time, but he doesn't go to an office or anything — he just writes his software programs at home and sends them in by FedEx, so nobody sees him. Anyway, all computer gurus dress that way. It's like a uniform. But Mrs. Hambrick is some kind of professor at Duke University — you'd think she'd look, well, more dignified.

The front door banged behind them, setting the wind chimes ringing again, and a little kid, who looked about seven, with curly brown hair and a big grin ran down the dirt path toward us, jumping over the roots that stuck up in his way. It had to be Carleton.

"Hi! You're Alex, aren't you?" he cried, leaning back to look up at me. I wasn't that tall yet — just about Dad's height, but I had a lean runner's build. I guess I looked tall to Carleton. "You get to share my room! You even get to sleep on my dinosaur sheets — they're my favorite! Mom said you like history. Do you like dinosaur history, or only people history?"

Did this kid ever run down? And why did I have to share a room with him? I looked at my dad, who wouldn't meet my eyes.

"Well, do you?" Carleton insisted.

"People history, I guess," I said, thinking about the history stories Mom used to tell me. His smile kind of shrunk away, so I added, "Dinosaur history, too."

He lit up again. "Stegosaurus is my favorite," he told me.

Dad still hadn't said anything, but he was smiling at Carleton, and I suddenly wished I hadn't said anything good about dinosaur history.

"It's just for the week, Alexander," Mrs. Hambrick said quickly. "Carleton is so excited at the idea of sharing with you. We have another room upstairs, but it doesn't have furniture yet."

"Are you Mr. Raskin?" the kid asked, turning to my dad. "Are you going to be my new father?"

Mrs. Hambrick's neck flushed bright red, and my dad practically dropped his suitcase. Even the crickets stopped chirping. I felt like saying, No. Never. He's my father. And I hate dinosaurs.

But I kept my mouth shut. What was the point? Dad never listened to me anymore. He'd even made me go to a counselor at school for a while.

I dropped my duffel bag, stepped over the tree roots, and went around Carleton, who just stood there grinning happily. It didn't matter anyway. Dad wasn't going to marry Mrs. Hambrick. I was going to wait for Mom to come home, no matter what — like the family in this story she told me. Mom always told me history stories at bedtime instead of fairy tales. She really liked to tell the one about Odysseus, who went off to war and took ten years to get back home. His wife and son vowed to wait for him. Other men wanted to marry Odysseus' wife, but she told them she couldn't say yes to any of them until she finished weaving a special cloth. She spent all day weaving and all night ripping out what she'd stitched. That way she'd never finish, so she and her son would be waiting for Odysseus when he came home.

I hadn't figured out a way to make Dad take up weaving in order to chase away women like Mrs. Hambrick, though. I'd have to work on that. I just kept telling myself everything would be okay in the end. Odysseus came home, and Mom would come home, too. And Dad and I would be waiting.

I followed the shadowy path as it climbed through damp, spongy soil and undergrowth. There had to be some quiet place where I could be alone. I turned the corner around the far end of the house, and suddenly a voice came down from right above me. "So — was the brat right? Is your father going to marry my mother?"

My heart jumped but I looked up, trying to keep my cool. A porch was nestled in an L-shaped cut in the house, and a girl sat there on a wooden swing, staring at me with a half smile. Not a friendly smile. I hoped she hadn't seen any reaction — she was probably trying to spook me.

"Nicole?" I guessed. I found myself fiddling nervously with the loose ends of the braided leather lariat I'd tied onto my left wrist before we left. Mom had made it. I used to wear it all the time, but I hadn't worn it much the last year or so. I'd made up my mind to wear it every day on this trip, though.

"And you're Alex," she told me, like I was an idiot or something. She fiddled with the ends of her short blond hair. "We've seen the photos, you know."

"It's Alexander," I said. I knew about the photos. Mrs. Hambrick had taken pictures while we went sightseeing in Indianapolis last fall, when she came for a computer conference. Dad met her that summer at some computer exposition.

Dad invited me to the Indianapolis conference but didn't give me any grief when I said I didn't want to go. He dragged me along to dinner on Saturday night, though, to meet Mrs. Hambrick. Then he made plans for all of us to spend Sunday together in the city before she flew back home. He'd actually worn a sports jacket and a tie to dinner, even though he pulled the tie loose before we got to the restaurant and had it practically off before the food came. She'd shown us pictures of her kids, but I hadn't paid attention. I never thought I'd meet them.

"Okay, Al-ex-an-der," Nicole said, dragging out the syllables. "So — is Carleton right about our parents? Mom's been hogging the phone lines Instant Messaging your father just about every night."

I stared back at her, not letting her see my surprise. Now and then Dad had mentioned something Mrs. Hambrick had told him, but I figured they just e-mailed once in a while. "What do you think?"

Nicole shrugged. "I don't care what they do. A couple more years of high school, then I'm out of here — and you can bet I won't be going to college at Duke! I'm going someplace far away, where nobody's ever heard of my mother or her probability research. If she marries your father, so what?"

Yeah, right. She wouldn't go so far away if it didn't matter to her. But she obviously didn't want to admit it. I steered clear of some poison ivy and climbed up the wooden steps to the porch. "You really should cut back some of those trees," I said, sitting on the top step. I thought I could smell sweet honeysuckle in the air, and I liked it. And since there weren't any clanging wind chimes back here, it was kind of peaceful. "I mean — shade is okay for some plants, but most flowers won't grow without sunlight."

"What's it to you?" Nicole said. She was playing with her hair again. "Gardening is for girls, anyway."

"Yeah?" I snapped. "Well, the best gardeners — the ones who plan out mazes and stuff like that — are men. And you girls have sure done a rotten job with this garden!"

A glass door slid open behind us. "I see you two have met," said Mrs. Hambrick. She sounded kind of nervous.

Nicole jumped off the swing, setting the chains jangling as loudly as the wind chimes. "Moth-errr!" she snarled.

She made the word sound like an insult, but my eyes suddenly blurred. It had been such a long time since I'd called anyone that.

Nicole slipped past her mother into the house.

Mrs. Hambrick stood there as if she wanted to say something. I just stared at the yard and tried not to think about her. I thought I saw some blackberry brambles in the tangle of vines. If they were cut back, they might actually grow some berries.

Finally Mrs. Hambrick said, "I've fixed a welcome supper for you and your father, Alexander. Not so fancy as the meal at that restaurant y'all took me out to, of course, but I hope you'll like it. Would you like to put your things in Carleton's room and clean up, then come back down? It's upstairs, the second door on the left — the one with all the dinosaurs."

I could think of plenty of reasons why I didn't want to leave my stuff in Carleton's room and come down to supper. But I just said thanks and crossed the living room to the stairs. Every flat surface in the room was crowded with crystal sculptures — stars and mountains and leaping animals — all cut like jewels. I felt like I was walking through the broken heart of a geode. I grabbed my duffel by the foyer and hurried up the stairs. From the music blaring behind a closed door, I guessed Nicole's room was at the far end of the hall.

I had no trouble recognizing Carleton's room. The kid hadn't just given me his dinosaur sheets — he'd put a weird green stuffed dragon on top of the bed. I guess it was supposed to be a stegosaurus. A zooful of animals sat on the other bed, some of them threadbare and squashed out of shape. The stegosaurus looked pretty good in comparison. Both beds were covered with quilts decorated with brightly colored dancing dinosaurs. There was even a dinosaur wind chime. I couldn't help smiling a little as I washed up for supper.

The sailboat wind chimes in the bathroom window clinked softly in the breeze. I stared at myself in the streaky mirror and saw my mother's black eyes under my father's russet hair, and my smile disappeared. Why hadn't Dad said anything when Carleton asked him about being his new father? And why wasn't I sharing a room with him, instead of with a little kid and a bunch of dinosaurs?

* * *

Dad was waiting for me at the bottom of the stairs and beckoned me down a hall, past the kitchen into a room near the garage. It must have been Mrs. Hambrick's office, since there was a computer on a desk. Dad's PowerBook laptop was set up beside her monitor. He'd really made himself at home — he'd even brought his little Space Warrior model and set him out on the desk.

Computer programmers put in these secret programs you can find if you hit the right combination of keys. Of all the ones Dad's written, his favorite is this Space Warrior he drew that erases whatever's on the screen. When you hit the right keys, the Space Warrior runs out and fires his ray gun at the place you want to erase until he's made it all disappear — sound effects and everything. Dad calls him the Defender of the Galaxy. He even found a metal gaming figure that looked like his drawing at the hobby store, and fixed him up with a little ray gun and painted him like the Space Warrior.

A sofa folded out into a bed, and Dad's open suitcase took up most of the floor space that was left. I felt a little better about rooming with Carleton. There sure wasn't room for me down here. More wind chimes hung in the window. Their clanging was getting on my nerves.

Dad sat on the bed and looked at me. "Alexander, I need your help this week. We've got to work together — be a team."

I picked up the Space Warrior and turned it over in my hand. Dad made a big deal out of teamwork. That was okay with me. I knew how important teamwork was from track. I even had ninth graders like Gary Shaw cheering me when I ran. But that was different.

"Look," Dad said. "I'm sorry you're sharing with Carleton. It's only for spring break. Later —"

"Later I'll be home," I told him, even though it was only Thursday night and it seemed a long time until the end of spring break. "So it doesn't matter."

He reached out and touched my arm. "Alexander, we talked about this. I want to marry Paige — I want you to get to know her."

Clenching the Space Warrior, I thought, We all want things we don't get. When I didn't answer, Dad sighed. "Just be polite and give her a chance. Okay?"

He didn't have to worry. Nicole was rude enough at supper for both of us. She slumped in her seat, gave long, exaggerated sighs when her mother asked her to pass a dish, made faces at the food, and answered in grunts. She'd said more to me on the porch than she said during the entire meal. Carleton wouldn't shut up, though, distracting the grown-ups. So nobody paid any attention to me, which was fine. I just enjoyed the food.

I ate my way through a spinach salad, which tasted a lot better than it sounded, and pork chops glazed with pieces of some sort of tart fruit. They looked weird, but tasted good. Dad wasn't much of a cook, so this was a treat. I just kept my mouth full so I didn't have to talk much, and passed dishes when I was asked. It was easy enough to fade into the background. Yes, ma'am, it's really good. Sure, a little more, thanks. The corn muffins are good. I'll have a piece of blackberry pie. That bramble must have some berries on it after all.


Excerpted from Ghost Soldier by Elaine Marie Alphin. Copyright © 2001 Elaine Marie Alphin. Excerpted by permission of Henry Holt and Company.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents


Title Page,
Copyright Notice,
Chapter One: Window Through Time,
Chapter Two: Who Your Family Was,
Chapter Three: The Siege of Petersburg,
Chapter Four: Steadfast to the Last,
Chapter Five: Private Richeson Francis Chamblee,
Chapter Six: Haunted,
Chapter Seven: When Richeson Came Marching Home,
Chapter Eight: Finding Stirrup Iron Creek,
Chapter Nine: A New Plan,
Chapter Ten: Surprises in Raleigh,
Chapter Eleven: The Archives,
Chapter Twelve: Making an Internet Connection,
Chapter Thirteen: Unexpected Company,
Chapter Fourteen: Rich's Journal,
Chapter Fifteen: Facing the Yankees,
Chapter Sixteen: The Face in the Locket,
Chapter Seventeen: Teamwork,
Chapter Eighteen: Louise,
Author's Note,

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Ghost Soldier 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 9 reviews.
bigdawg29 More than 1 year ago
This is about a boy who¿s name is Alexander! His parents are split up and his dad and he are moving to an old battleground! Alex see¿s a ghost. The ghost want him to help find something.This book is full of adventures! They travel to multiple places.I recommend this book to all people!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Alexander is a troubled teenager who lives with his dad in Indiana. His mom left him and he still thinks she will come back. His dad is computer programmer who is in love with a lady from North Carolina. They go down there for what is suppose to be just a visit. Her husband had died, but she had a son and daughter. Alexander wants to go back to Indiana. He always thought he saw ghosts as a kid, and when they go to Petersburg, an old civil war battle field, he sees the reenactment of the battle but, everyone is a ghost. But one of the ghosts can see Alexander and stays with him. His name is Richeson Francis Chamblee. He won¿t leave Alexander alone until he helps him find out what happened to his family because he died during the battle of Petersburg and doesn¿t know what happened to his family. So the two, Alexander and the ghost Richeson, go on a crazy search party that leads them across the state of North Carolina while his dad finds a now job and plans on staying in North Carolina. Alexander is left with problems in front of him. I liked how the book was told, which was from Alexander¿s point of view because the story is about him. It started out really slow but picked up once they got to Petersburg. Unfortunately, I can¿t relate this book to any other because it is very unique.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is the first book I have read to my 8 year old son, without pictures, that has held his interest. It's a great way to give a little history lesson, and story time. Mrs. Alphin is an extremely talented author!
Guest More than 1 year ago
This was a book about a boy that had to go with his dad to meet his dad¿s girlfriend, and ends up meeting a ghost while he is in North Carolina. The boy¿s name is Alexander and he meets a ghost soldier from the Civil War. Throughout the book, Alexander tries to help the ghost find out what happened to his family after he was killed. This search for the ghost¿s family leads the two back in time and all across the state researching and trying to find clues that might help the soldier figure out whether his family made it through the war alive or not. I thought the book had a good storyline with an interesting topic that I¿ve never seen before. I didn¿t like that the book drug on and on with the same things being written, and that it really didn¿t ever seem to pick up or take off for me. This book is not a part of a series as far as I¿m sure of but it could be read separate anyway. I would recommend this book for anybody that likes ghost stories that aren¿t scary and books that drag on and on. I didn¿t see this book relating to any other authors type of writing.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Imagine if you could see ghost. This is what 13 year old Alexander Raskin could do. Alex is on vacation in North Carolina, when he went to a Civil War battlefield and was teleported back into time. Alex is on a mission to help his new found ghost friend Rich find out what happend to his family after he died. I recommend this book to anyone who likes history or The Civil War. The book is a interesting read because its not to short or to long.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I thought this book taught me alot about the Civil War and the hardships were like. I loved this book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
it was one of the best books i ever read and i recomend it to everyone who likes mistorys ,the cival war,and mostly every one.
Guest More than 1 year ago
this story was amazing and mysterious! It will make your imagination go wild. I recommend this book for anyone who likes mysteries and spooky stories
Guest More than 1 year ago
Read the Ghost Cadet, by Elaine Marie Alphin. Its the best book in the world. There is a ghost cadet who is looking for something and Benjamin Stark helps him look for it. They dig where the cadet thinks he left it just seconds after he was shot in the war between the states (civil war). Benjy is the only one who can see the ghost so he's helping him. At mid-night benjy sneacks out his window and meets his dead friend in the battlefield. im not going to tell you if they found the thing or what the thing is, so read the book Ghost Cadet, by Elaine Marie Alphin.