Home » A Legacy of Fear: Remembering The Late Wendy Haley’s Work On ‘Fear Street Sagas’

A Legacy of Fear: Remembering The Late Wendy Haley’s Work On ‘Fear Street Sagas’

R.L. Stine’s teen horror series Fear Street focused on the town of Shadyside as it was plagued by serial killers, ghosts, and monsters. Most of the people of Shadyside believe the hamlet was cursed by the Fear Family, who funded most of Shadyside’s development in the late 1800s. The charred remains of Simon Fear’s mansion are often mentioned in the main Fear Street books.

Following the release of Fear Street Saga, a trilogy delving into the history of the cursed Fear Family and how their power tainted the town of Shadyside, a continuation was released entitled Fear Street Sagas. The Sagas line put more focus on the other branches of the Fear Family, including when their surname was originally spelled “F-I-E-R.” A few of these books shed more light on the lives of Simon and Angelica Fear, another revealed the origin of the family’s power in ancient Ireland, and another showed the truth behind the evil spirit haunting the Fear Street Cheerleaders.

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Similar to Ghosts of Fear Street, pretty much all of the Sagas were ghostwritten (except for the first and second books). Sagas stuck with a core group of writers for its 16 entries. This included Brandon Alexander, Cameron Dokey, Eric Weiner, and the late Wendy Haley.

Wendy Haley was an author of horror and romance, including the two-book Southern Vampires series released in 1994. Unfortunately, she passed away due to cancer in 1998. She co-wrote the second Sagas book with Stine and fully wrote books #5, 6, and 11. In my investigation to determine authroship of the unreleased 17th and 18th books in the Sagas line, I was inspired to spend a moment speaking to her contributions to the series. Let’s start with House of Whispers

House of Whispers

Amy Pierce is sent to live with the wealthy family of her paternal cousin Angelica Fear in New Orleans. While Angelica’s husband Simon is away on business, Amy gets the chance to get to know her cousin. She even forms a bond with Angelica’s awkward daughter Julia. However, Amy learns of the dark secrets buried within the Pierce Family and the Fear Family. Angelica is eager to teach Amy about the power in their bloodline, but the cost of such power frightens Amy. Unfortunately, Angelica is not taking “no” for an answer.

House of Whispers opens with R.L. Stine acknowledging Wendy Haley’s work as co-author. Set in 1863 before the Fear Family moved to Shadyside, it puts the spotlight on Angelica as the Fear Family’s matriarch. With Simon off on business pertaining to the Civil War, it allows for more focus on Angelica’s capabilities as a witch and villainess.

There’s something bittersweet in reading about Amy bonding with Julia Fear, knowing Julia’s eventual fate in The Burning. Haley and Stine focus on Julia’s awkwardness and resignation to her role as second banana while Angelica dotes on her sister.

House of Whispers features something haunting the shadows of the Fear Mansion, a creature or creatures capable of devouring flesh and bone. Julia warns Amy about wandering the house at night due to seeing this entity, described as a shadowy wall of faces, devouring an unlucky victim. Aside from this creature, there’s Angelica’s machinations in regards to Amy, Hannah, and a young man named David Hathaway. Angelica dispatches of David’s would-be lovers in gruesome ways. One is burned alive, another is drowned, and one is tossed headfirst through a window. There’s graphic descriptions of the drowned girl being eaten by fish, and the other girl’s broken face and head when she hits the ground.

Tarot cards are utilized as a tool for Angelica to demonstrate her power. While Haley and Stine go with the old stereotype of The Death card in horror fiction being taken at face value, Amy is assigned the Page of Swords. As one of the card’s upright meanings is “thirst for knowledge,” it subtly works as Angelica’s way of manipulating Amy to join her side by enticing her with knowledge and power.

The Hidden Evil

One late winter afternoon, Timothy Fier gathers his friends together after a day of playing in the snow to tell them a ghost story. It’s a story which has haunted Timothy for years, but it’s also a story he feels must be told. The story concerns Maggie Alston, a young heiress framed for the murder of her father by her secretly vindictive older sister. Maggie is saved from execution at the last second and given a chance to start over. Under a new identity she gains the position of governess for the Malbourne Family. While little Andrew is a dream, his brother Garrett warns Maggie she might end up like their previous nannies if she doesn’t leave.

This might be one of the closest examples of a traditionally Gothic romance novel within the Fear Street Sagas line. You’ve got Maggie, a haunted heroine forced to hide her past while finding refuge in a place that has new dangers for her to face. As she falls in love with the mysterious Mr. Malbourne, she learns more about the death of Mrs. Malbourne and the way her influence has lingered over her family. Then there’s Garrett, the troubled son who lashes out at Maggie while giving her veiled death threats and warnings over the fates of his previous nannies. To emphasize the “creepy child” trope, Garrett shows Maggie crude drawings he’s made depicting what might’ve happened to the previous women who held the governess role.

A sequence which always stuck with me in this book is when Maggie is thrown into a well and has to claw her way out. Haley goes into detail has Maggie damages her hands trying to escape, with a description of her nails being ripped off.

Daughters of Silence

Jenna is eager to visit the growing town of Shadyside to see her best friend, Hallie. Even though Hallie’s family moved away it did little to shake the bond between the two girls. While exploring Shadyside, Jenna hears the rumors about the mysterious Fear Family. Specifically, she hears the story of Julia and Hannah Fear, sisters whose bodies were found in the woods with all their bones missing. Rather unexpectedly, Jenna and Hallie are invited to the Fear Family Mansion. Simon and Angelica Fear have taken an interest in Jenna and Hallie. They remind them so much of Julia and Hannah. Hallie likes the attention, but Jenna wonders what the Fears really have in store…

Interestingly, Daughters of Silence is built off a reoccurring legend regarding the Fear Family which is mentioned in several other books. Following their deaths, people heard that the bodies of Julia and Hannah Fear were found in the woods with all their bones removed. This book provides answers to that piece.

For some reason, this tome has often given me the vibe of a very dark episode of Little House on the Prairie. There’s even mention of a barn raising! Simon and Angelica Fear’s desperation to regain their daughters leads them to victimize Jenna and Hallie, employing trinkets which belonged to their dead progeny to establish a connection with the two girls. Haley gives us a very vivid image of Jenna shoving her hand into Hallie’s chest to remove a heart shaped locket which belonged to Hannah Fear. This results in Hallie developing an ugly black scar in the exact shape of a heart.

Circle of Fire

Mia Saxton wishes she were anywhere but Miss Pemberthy’s School for Young Ladies. Her only friend is her roommate, Clara, and every day she’s bullied by the haughty Alicia Bainbridge. One evening, Mia stumbles upon Alicia’s rival Joanna Kershaw and her clique reciting strange words from an old book. Joanna invites Mia to join her group, and together they achieve amazing things using the book’s power. Mia’s amazement turns to fear when she realizes the girls will do anything to keep their power, and they won’t allow anyone to stand in their way.

Circle of Fire was the first of the Fear Street Sagas books to be released when Gold Key took over as distributor. And it’s probably my favorite of the four Haley worked on. Yes, it can be described as a “period piece version of The Craft” but it also avoids making the same mistakes The Craft made in regards to the power struggles between the protagonists. Joanna Kershaw and her little group are clearly not meant to be sympathetic, as Joanna is more invested in gaining an edge over Alicia Bainbridge and solidifying her grasp on the school. Mia however, struggles with what Joanna’s group dictates going at odds with her friendship with her roommate Clara.

Haley delivers more striking visuals in this book, including a sequence where Mia is aware the girls are summoning something unspeakable within the woods and stops them before it fully materializes. The only evidence it leaves behind are angry claw marks in the trees. Haley continues with Alicia Bainbridge’s dead body being found underneath a swarm of tarantulas. Mia gets to watch as the biggest spider she’s ever seen crawls out of Alicia’s mouth.

Finally, there’s a scene where Mia is attacked by bewitched funeral roses left at Alicia’s coffin. The roses grow thorny vines which latch onto Mia’s arms and legs and suck out her blood, turning their yellow petals red.

One of the most intriguing elements of Circle of Fire is the mystery surrounding Emma Fier Reade. She’s introduced in the prologue, leaving a final note in her book of spells before hiding it in her attic. There’s not much said about who she was, other than the fact that she managed to live out her life before dying of natural causes. Not many members of the Fear Family get that mercy. Mia tries to learn more about her, but Miss Pemberthy seems almost afraid to talk about the woman. It leaves a lot to the imagination of who Emma Fier was and what she used her power for, which makes her one of my favorite members of the family.

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Written by Jude Deluca
Jude Deluca is a Capricorn who identifies somewhere under the ‘asexual' banner. Their gender identity is up in the air at the moment. As a horror lover, Jude's specialty is the discussion of young adult horror fiction like Goosebumps and Fear Street. Jude proudly owns the complete Graveyard School series by Nola Thacker. Jude's favorite horror sequel is A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child. Their favorite final girl is Alice Johnson. As a child, Jude was the only nine-year-old at their school who knew everything about 1959's The Bat. Jude's dislikes include remakes that take themselves too seriously and torture porn.
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