The Whisperling by Hayley Hoskins

It's 1897 and Peggy Devona has an extra special gift – she can speak with ghosts! She keeps her special ability hidden, wary of what her fellow villagers might think if they knew the truth... But when her best friend is accused of murder, Peggy will have to speak to the dead to save Sally from the gallows. Read this exclusive extract from Hayley Hoskins’ ghostly adventure The Whisperling.

Hayley Hoskins
An image of part of the front cover of The Whisperling. It is a close up of the title which has been written in spooky font alongside a drawing of an eye. Underneath the title it says, 'There's no such thing as ghosts... unless you need their help'

There are five rungs on the ladder to the bottom of the pit and by the time I reach the fourth the hatch is closed and pushing down on my head. My last view of the world was the vicar’s eyes peering over his glasses, a smug ghost of a smile playing on his lips. I hate him. I shouldn’t, and it’s a bad thing to feel, but I don’t care. How on earth can that monster claim to be God’s messenger?

It’s darker down here than the inside of a coffin. There’s no light, no air; there’s nothing beyond these walls but earth and water. I hear the fizzshh of the underground spring. The children say the cellar is haunted, which is nonsense, but all the same...

A noise.

There was definitely a noise. Already crouching in this tiny space, I scrunch down still further, close my eyes and stick my fingers in my ears to block it out, whatever it is... Oh! There it is again! No, not a noise. A voice.


The temperature drops. My scalp tingles.


Oof! My breath is whipped away. I force open my eyes, squinting as lights and shapes flicker in front of me like images in a zoetrope. The thing judders and flashes so quickly that I strain to make sense of what I’m seeing...

It’s a girl.

Fear knots in my chest. She is almost transparent, at times no more tangible than my frosty breath. Dust motes, disturbed cobwebs and dirt converge and layer over her as she jerks towards me, hair splaying, haloing around her as if in water. I tunnel into myself. A scream locks in my throat as I stumble in panic and – Ouch, my head... and then nothing.

She looked like me, I think.

I press the heel of my hand against my temple to quell its throbbing, wincing as I touch a farthing-sized bump already proud on my forehead. I attempt to stand, levering myself up against what I presume to be the thing upon which I hit my noggin: a chair, I think, placed against the wall.

She looked like me.

I have to get out of here. Heart hammering against my ribs, I bang my shaking hands on the hatch. Please, someone hear me! I need to find this dead girl. There must have been an accident close by! We need to help her! Unease prickles my neck. But... she was so different from all the other souls I’ve seen. Why was that? Spirits on their burn are generally as ordinary in appearance as you or me. Her juddery movements, the flickering lights, her odd clothing – a shapeless black tunic and what looked like a man’s work boots – none of it makes any sense.

And why did she look like me?

I have to get out. I pummel again at the hatch, drawing blood from my knuckles. Finally it creaks and opens, flooding the pit with light and air.

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