This was a young-adult book, paperback, I'm pretty sure. I read it somewhere between 1986 and 1990 in my elementary school, although it might have been older than that. There were a series of short stories, each of which asked the reader to solve an aspect of the stories. Unfortunately, only two stories have stuck with me, only one of which I remember clearly the ghost aspect.

First story

At least two boys (there might have been more) come upon a house, which they decide to explore. They found a room with plates and cutlery set out as if for a meal long-deserted. There's a thick layer of dust and webs indicating that it had abandoned for some time. One of the boys picks up an item from the table, then immediately shouts for his companion to leave with him. I don't remember if something actually pursued them, but outside, the second boy asks how the first boy knew of the danger.

The answer was that, when he picked the item up, it was still warm, as if someone had been holding it shortly before the boys entered. In retrospect, it might have also been candle wax that was still warm... but the hint was indeed the warmth indicating recent usage.

For some reason, part of me wants to suggest that this story was re-used for some kid investigators, maybe The Three Investigators, with the implication being that the building held mundane criminals, but that might be a false memory.

Second story

The second story had a family entertaining a ghost inspector. They said they'd had a number of strange incidents, things being moved, odd sounds, including a piano being played in the living room. There was an illustration of an overhead view of the living room. The inspector quickly dismisses their claims, giving reasons why there might have been strange noises, and concluding that their cat must be the source of the piano playing. After he leaves, the piano starts playing again and the family discuss how the inspector didn't even stay to hear the important detail to prove he was wrong about his conclusion.

Namely, the overhead view shows the fact that there is no piano in the room.

  • Not sure if the mystery machine is involved with these...
    – SDH
    Oct 5, 2016 at 13:22
  • I assume you already checked all of the Usborne puzzle books?
    – Adamant
    Oct 5, 2016 at 20:44
  • I was unaware of them.
    – FuzzyBoots
    Oct 5, 2016 at 20:45
  • I also found this, but I can’t find any more information about it. I suspect the title is too generic to know whether it’s the right one.
    – Adamant
    Oct 5, 2016 at 20:52
  • 1
    Anyway, I ordered the book and got it shipped overnight and it seems to be the right one.
    – Adamant
    Oct 7, 2016 at 10:38

1 Answer 1


Solve It Yourself - Ghost Story Mysteries

enter image description here

This is a collection of short mysteries by Carol Beach York.

The two stories mentioned in the question are most likely “The Yellow House” and “The Living Room” respectively.

  • “The Yellow House”

    We have two boys (more like college-age men) exploring an abandoned house:

    “Where is everyone?” Ron whispered.

    The house seemed to be completely deserted.

    “I think we came to the wrong place,” Dave said with a weak grin. “I don’t think anybody’s home.”

    Of course, one of the boys notes the presence of a ghost from the fact that the wax was warm:

    “Maybe there isn’t anybody here to help us, but something was here a lot more recently than weeks ago. Something was here just a few minutes before we came—and it’s probably still here. We’re getting out fast.”

    “What do you mean—” Ron started to ask, but Dave grabbed his arm and pulled him out to the front porch.

    Behind them, the open door swung shut with the sudden, vicious sound of a trap closing—just a moment too late.

    According to the solution in the back of the book:

    But Dave knew that the two wax candles had been recently lit when he touched the melted wax. Being able to leave his fingerprint in the wax meant it was still warm and soft, not hard the way it would be if the candle had melted a long time ago.

  • “The Living Room”

    Here’s the picture of the living room:

    enter image description here

    Indeed, the inspector did not stay to hear the most important detail:

    Mr. Baxter laughed. “I bet you forgot to tell him the most important thing.”

    “I didn’t forget,” Ginny said. “I tried to tell him, but he wasn’t listening anymore. He just left.”

  • You have earned the bounty. Congrats! Now I need to find my own copy of this.
    – FuzzyBoots
    Oct 7, 2016 at 12:55

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