Between 1995 and 2004, when I was a teen, I have rented a book from the library.I think was YA fiction book which got some sort of an award. I think it was written either in 70s, 80s, or 90s. The original book was written in English.

It was either a novel or novellete length. It had a sort of Tom Sawyer feel, as in, a boy had an adventure and ended up growing as a person after having it.

It starts like this: In the prologue, a ghost or a poltergeist shows up in woman's house and starts breaking things and generally being a nuisance. I think the prologue happens in 19th or 18th century or something like that. She calls her neighbor, who is somewhat of a local handyman that fixes fences and things around the house. The handyman solves it by taunting the ghost that he can't enter the glass bottle and move it from the inside, only from the outside. A ghost responds to the taunting by entering the bottle, the handyman corks it and wires it shut. Then he gives the bottle to the woman and tells her to keep it safe and do not open it or break it under any circumstances!

A few decades or centuries pass and it is now start of the 20th century. The woman from the prologue is either very old or very dead. A new family moves into the neighborhood. A neighbor boy of that family wanders around and somehow finds the bottle. It is possible that the original owner's house is either being destroyed or renovated and he finds it in a hole in the wall. He either uncorks it or breaks it somehow and the poltergeist is on the loose again, haunting the new family's home.

Some time passes (days or weeks) and the ghost turns into a genuine nuisance. Slamming doors and windows, breaking the plates, the whole nine yards. The boy's mother calls a local handyman (different one this time, his name might have been something common, like Tom or Nick. Or it might have been the original handyman's name.) to solve it.

He remembers something his father told him how to solve the ghost problems and does the same thing with the bottle that the original handyman did. Only, the ghost breaks the bottle this time and writes on the piece of paper they are using to communicate.

"You can't trick me the same way twice."

or maybe

"You can't get me the same way twice."

So the boy and the handyman have a chat if he found a glass bottle of sort and the story starts proper. They need to find out who the ghost is, what is his unfinished business and how to make it pass to the other side.

I think that one character might be Archangel Michael or Raphael in disguise, but that might be a different book. I remember the handyman and the boy going down some stairs into the darkness with the ghost guiding them or something like that.

That's all I remember. My google fu has failed me.

  • 1
    You were a teenager for 9 years? What science-fictional number system is this?!? Oct 18, 2020 at 9:13
  • 3
    @PaulD.Waite memory overflow :) I was also a precocious kid, reading things above my age range.
    – jo1storm
    Oct 18, 2020 at 9:34
  • If anybody remembers a similar book which matches my memories better, please post an answer. Otherwise, I am accepting the current answer because it matches 75% things I remember.
    – jo1storm
    Oct 18, 2020 at 15:31

1 Answer 1


The Ghost of Thomas Kempe by Penelope Lively.

The Ghost of Thomas Kempe is a low fantasy novel for children by Penelope Lively, first published by Heinemann in 1973 with illustrations by Anthony Maitland. Set in present-day Oxfordshire, it features a boy and his modern family who are new in their English village, and seem beset by a poltergeist. Soon the boy makes acquaintance with the eponymous Thomas Kempe, ghost of a 17th-century resident sorcerer who intends to stay.

Lively won the annual Carnegie Medal from the Library Association, recognising the year's best children's book by a British subject.

I read it years ago at a similar age. I remember the haunting started when someone uncorked an old bottle. I think it was workmen renovating the house, who found it bricked up in a wall they were repairing. And then later a different workman helps the boy to exorcise the ghost.

  • 7
    "He opened the door. The bottle he and Bert Ellison had used in the exorcism attempt was in the middle of the floor, smashed. Beside it was Thomas Kempe's latest message, written in felt pen on the back of an envelope. Doe not thinke that I am so dull of witte that I may be thus tryeked twyce." Oct 18, 2020 at 14:51
  • Looks a lot like it is correct. It was published in my country in 1991. I'll see if I can loan it on internetarchive to confirm.
    – jo1storm
    Oct 18, 2020 at 15:08
  • 1
    Hm... Handyman's name is Bert in this book. I don't know. It looks a lot like the book I have read but some things are missing that I remember reading. I'll wait until tomorrow before accepting the answer, just in case there is another book inspired by this one which matches my memories better. In case there isn't, I am accepting the answer. Thank you.
    – jo1storm
    Oct 18, 2020 at 15:20

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.