Dr. Fell and the Playground of Doom


The walk down Hardscrabble Street was excruciatingly slow. Gail's mother moved in spurts and stops, torn between the fear of arriving late and the embarrassment of arriving early. In the end, even stretching the five-minute walk out to twelve minutes, the Bloom women arrived on the porch of Dr. Fell with well over fifteen minutes to spare. 

As her mother straightened her hair and knocked on the door, Gail's eyes found themselves taking in the majestic playground beckoning a few yards away. Even now, in the middle of the school day, easily a dozen children clambered all over it, their giggles of merriment echoing off the structure and bouncing around in her ear.

What was it about that playground that had everybody so obsessed? It was a nice playground, to be sure, and there were a lot of really cool-looking platforms and gizmos and whatnots. And yes, she admitted to herself, it looked like there were some great places from which to jump to the ground. And there supposedly was an awesome rope swing in there somewhere, according to Hannah Festerworth. And Gail had to admit she was curious to explore the hollowed-out tomb Gabby Plaugestein had mentioned in passing the other day. And hadn't somebody talked about a zero-G section? That sounded totally-

"Ah, Madam Bloom," croaked Dr. Fell in a frog-like whisper. "I am invigorated to find your ever-pleasing beauty upon the threshold of my domicile. I yearn to verify the physical well-being of your sprightly little cherub."

Gail spun her attention back to the door, annoyed at herself for thinking... for thinking... What had she just been thinking?

"Oh!" responded a suddenly flustered Stephanie Bloom. "Oh! Well! I... that is... I..."

Dr. Fell's mouth struggled to transform into a smile beneath his purple top hat. "What I mean to say is... good morning."

"Yes," agreed Stephanie Bloom. "Yes, it is a very good morning."

The goodness of the morning agreed upon, Dr. Fell took a sip of yellow liquid from an orange glass through a chartreuse-colored straw and turned his rickety neck to look down at his patient--though for some reason, Gail felt it wasn't quite as rickety as it had been the other day. "Are you ready for your physical, my dear urchin?"

He pulled his door wide, inviting the Blooms to enter. Mother stepped aside to make room for daughter, but daughter hesitated. Gail did not want to go inside the home of Dr. Fell. Her feet did not want to step over the threshold, her legs did not want to walk into the beckoning darkness, and her arms did not want to let go of the porch railing she hadn't even known she was clutching. Every muscle in her body twitched with the desire to turn and run from the kindly old man dressed all in black. It was as if Dr. Fell were the negative electrical charge to Gail's positive on, pushing her away with invisible force.


By David Neilsen

Published by Crown Books for Young Readers

ISBN: 978-110193581-1

Age Range: 8-12

When the mysterious Dr. Fell moves into the abandoned house that had once been the neighborhood kids’ hangout, he immediately builds a playground to win them over. But as the ever-changing play space becomes bigger and more elaborate, the children and their parents fall deeper under the doctor’s spell. Only Jerry, Nancy, and Gail are immune to the lure of his extravagant wonderland. And they alone notice that when the injuries begin to pile up on the jungle gym, somehow Dr. Fell is able to heal each one with miraculous speed. Now the three children must find a way to uncover the doctor’s secret power without being captivated by his trickery.

Look for It If You Dare...

Local Library / Local Bookstore / Amazon / B&N


Dr. Fell's Word Search


DAVID NEILSEN is the author of two Middle Grade horror/comic/fantasies published by Crown Books for Young Readers: Dr. Fell and the Playground of Doom and Beyond the Doors. A classically trained actor, David works as a professional storyteller based in Sleepy Hollow, NY and spends much of October spooking the bejeebers out of people with chilling events at Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, telling haunted tales at Washington Irving's Sunnyside, and leading Ghost Tours at The Tarrytown Music Hall. Halloween is kind of his thing. He lives with his wife, son, daughter, and two very domineering cats.