Spirit Hunters

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Spirit Hunters
by Ellen Oh

Readers Theater

Book Trailer

Author Interview

Related Activities & Resources:

Informational Resources:

Author Information:

Q&A with Ellen Oh (interview in Publishers Weekly):

Ellen Oh interview (about writing Spirit Hunters in School Library Journal):

Activities & Resources:


Be creative!

An epilogue is a brief chapter or scene that is sometimes added after the final chapter to provide additional information about the characters or story. The epilogue often gives the reader a glimpse into what the characters will do in the future. Write an epilogue to Spirit Hunters that offers a window into what happens to the Spirit Hunters characters.

Select an object that had an important function in Spirit Hunters and think about why this object was meaningful in the story. Draw the shape of the object on a piece of blank paper. Inside the shape, write a poem about the object and its importance to the story. Illustrate your creation.

Create a small illustrated poster, featuring one of these two quotes from the book:

“Wisdom opens the spiritual pathways, for knowledge is power.” (­­­p. 236)

“Truth reveals what is hidden, for a spirit cannot hide from the sound of

truth.” (p. 236)

Using events from the book, create a newspaper as a group or individual project. In addition to news articles, the newspaper could also include an advice column, weather report, editorial cartoon, editorials, recipes, comics, and interviews. Display the newspaper in the classroom or library, or share the document electronically on the class website.

Write an original ghost story and share it with a friend. Illustrate the story, if you want to add another dimension to the writing project.

Select a scene from the book that has many powerful visual images and create a comic strip that illustrates this passage. Experiment with an anime style of drawing as a tribute to the Totoro and Spirited Away figures that Harper treasures in her room. Don’t forget speech bubbles!

Create a personal coat of arms for one of the characters. Possible sections could include the character’s name, a personal motto, a symbol that represents the character, and/or a favorite pastime, animal, or place associated with the character. Write a paragraph explaining each section as it relates to content from the book.


If available through your library, check the TexQuest digital resources for articles on the topics below. These resources include Britannica Online School Edition, National Geographic Kids (Gale), Kids InfoBits (Gale), ¡Informe! (Gale), and ProQuest SIRS Discoverer. See the librarian for login information for TexQuest resources.

Use the sites below to gather information for student/class projects or just to find out more about these topics from the book.

Korean culture:

Try out these recipes for kid-pleasing Korean food:

Here’s the recipe for Harper’s favorite Pepero sticks:

Spirit communication

Information about mudangs:

The role of the medium:

Washington, DC:

Take Mrs. Devereaux’s suggestion and explore Woodlawn Cemetery:

The Victorian homes in the photos are similar to Harper’s house in style:

Harper’s health concerns:

Read more about migraine headaches from KidsHealth.org:

Read this article about dissociative amnesia, written for kids:

In the kitchen with Mrs. Clayton:

Quick and easy cookie recipes:

MakerSpace Activities:

Create a book trailer for Spirit Hunters, using digital tools like iMovie or Animoto.

Select several Korean snack recipes and prepare after-school treats to serve:

Working individually, or with a team, and using a digital tool like Prezi, Google slides, PowerPoint, or iMovie, create a presentation that explores an event or idea in the book.

Using materials in the makespace or brought from home, build a haunted house that fits on a tabletop. Create a script that guides visitors through the rooms and describes the scary events that will greet them.

Working with a team, design and make a quilt with squares that tell the Spirit Hunters story.

Discussion Questions:

Examine the cover of the book. What details in the artwork give clues to the kind of book this is going to be?

In an interview, author Ellen Oh said about writing Spirit Hunters, “I wanted to write something that would really creep out and terrify my kids.” Did she succeed in writing a creepy and terrifying story? Explain your opinion with examples from the book.

What are some ways in which the house becomes a character in the story, rather than just the setting for the book?

Harper’s psychiatrist asks her to keep a journal until she can get a new therapist. Even though Harper calls the journal “stupid,” explain the positive effects of recording her feelings and dreams.

Spirit Hunters is a book in which the characters have many secrets. Choose one secret in the story and share how keeping the truth from another character causes serious problems. How did the situation change when the secret is finally revealed?

Harper has a rare power  — seeing the spirits of people who have died. Is this psychic power a gift or a curse? Give reasons to support your answer to this question.

Describe Harper’s attitude about moving to Washington, D.C. from New York City. What does she miss about her former home in New York?  Have you ever moved or changed schools? Share your reaction to this change and how it affected your adjustment to the new situation.

Harper remembers hearing her father say that her mother needed to “make peace” with Grandmother Lee. (p.18) What does this phrase tell the reader about this mother/daughter relationship? How does the tension in this relationship cause damaging effects in the story?  Describe the events that help the mother and the Grandma to finally make peace.

From their very first meeting in the park, Harper and Dayo become good friends. What qualities of a friend does Dayo demonstrate? Explain why you might choose to be Dayo’s friend, too.

How do the haunted house stories that Dayo tells about the Raine’s old/new house affect Harper? Share how you would react if one of your neighbors told you similar stories about your house.

What do we learn about Harper in the scene where she easily trains the very stubborn dog, Pumpkin? What does her statement, “It has nothing to do with size, it’s all attitude,” (p. 38) tell you about Harper’s character?

For Harper’s new friend Dayo, the way to deal with a problem is to seek information on the subject. Share an example of how Dayo’s research helps Harper understand how to combat the evil spirits in the house.

When Billy’s spirit pushes Harper down the stairs and hurts her with the firetruck, the family tries to find logical explanations for the accident. Why doesn’t Harper share what she thinks really caused her to be hurt? How do you think her family would have responded, if she had been honest with them about the accident?

After the fall down the stairs, Harper hears Yuma says, “It’s starting all over again.” (p. 76) What clue does this statement give the reader to Harper’s past? Explain what emotions Yuma might be feeling when she makes this observation.

Yuma indicates that she believes that Harper started the fire in her school’s art room, when Harper knows that the spirit Maddie was responsible. Upset, Harper cries, “I want Grandma Lee. She’s the only one who never judges me.”(p. 82) Describe what the reader learns about Harper’s relationship with these two family members in this dramatic scene.

When Harper returns home from the hospital after the firetruck attack, she and her father have a serious conversation about the changes in Michael and Yuma’s comments about the art room fire. Describe the qualities the father demonstrates in this scene with his daughter. What parenting differences do Yuma and Peter demonstrate?

Michael comes to Harper to ask her to make Billy go away. Instead of talking to him about Billy’s spirit in the house and the dangers he is causing, Harper tells him that Billy is imaginary and that Michael has the power to tell him to go away. Why does Michael choose Harper as the family member to help him? Why did Harper decide not to tell Michael that Billy is a real threat? If Harper had told Michael the truth about the spirit, how might the story’s plot have taken a different turn?

What discoveries do Harper and Dayo make when they go into the attic to find the firetruck? What information about Professor Grady, the first owner of the house, do they find that is helpful to their investigation? What other objects in the attic affect their feelings about the house? Share whether or not you would have made the trip to the attic with them and explain your reasons for this decision.

As Billy’s spirit begins to take over Michael’s body, the little boy’s violent and destructive behavior becomes increasingly distressing to the family, Dayo, and Pumpkin. What are some of the strategies family members use to correct Michael’s behavior? If you were Harper, would you tell the family about Billy’s spirit and the hurt it is causing? Explain your decision whether or not to share this information.

As the story progresses, the dreams that Harper records in her journal and the voices that she hears become more vivid and terrifying, with detailed descriptions of William’s death in the well, the monster in her room, Dahlia’s attack in the basement, and Maddie in the art room. Explain possible reasons for the increasingly horrible details in the dreams.

When Billy’s spirit locks Harper in the basement, what does she learn about herself through her dream and the voices? (p. 150-153)  Describe how the scene in the basement is a turning point in the story.

Through the reappearance of her spirit friend Rose in the antique mirror, Harper feels that she has found “the missing jigsaw pieces of her memories.” (p. 158)  Explain how Rose has helped her during her time in the house and how that makes Harper’s memories whole again.

While the visit to Our Lady of Mercy’s cemetery would traditionally be very scary, Harper instead finds talking with the spirits to be informative. Define what the spirit Phoebe means when she calls Harper a “medium.” Instead of being frightening, describe how Mrs. Devereux’s spirit is reassuring and helpful to Harper.

What does the reader learn about Mrs. Devereux when she suggests that Harper visit Woodlawn Cemetery to find more spirits like herself? Give an example from this chapter that demonstrates how prejudice exists even in the spirit world.

Share a reason for Harper to have only a blank page for Entry #18 in her journal.

Harper is surprised to learn that her grandmother is a mudang (shaman) who is the spirit hunter that Mrs. Devereux promised. Were you also surprised to learn this information, or had you already guessed that Grandma Lee possessed these special gifts? What clues in earlier chapters led you to wonder about Grandma Lee’s identity?

The reunion of Yuma and Grandma Lee is a very dramatic one, with Yuma accusing her mother of filling Harper’s head with lies and Grandma Lee blaming Yuma for not accepting her mother’s special gifts as a mudang. Why does Harper choose to go with her grandmother, even though she knows her mother would not approve? What does this decision reveal about Harper’s character?

In an interview, the author says that she did much research to understand the Korean shamanism that is described in Grandma Lee’s shrine and purification ritual. Spirit Hunters contains a very detailed description of the Korean shrine in Grandma Lee’s home (p. 232-238). Ellen Oh also includes details on the former prayer room in the Raine’s house and the use of holy water from Dayo’s church. What might be the reason that the author would include religious experiences from two cultures in Spirit Hunters?

Chapters 21 and 22 contain the exciting account of Harper’s battle with Billy and Professor Grady’s spirits for her little brother’s body. After an exhausting struggle for control, what tools and words did Harper use that finally made Professor Grady’s spirit explode and disappear? How do the names of these tools (Wisdom and Truth) relate to this powerful fight?

Although Dayo doesn’t possess the gift of seeing spirits, she plays an important role in this final battle in Michael’s room when she brings salt to Harper for purification. What does this action reveal about Dayo’s character?

Based on the last chapter of the book, predict what will happen next to Harper, Michael, Dayo, and Grandma Lee. Identify the clues in the text that lead you to make this prediction.

Grandma Lee tells Harper, ““People reject things they don’t understand.” (p. 218)

Do you agree or disagree with this statement? Share reasons to support your opinion, including examples from the book, if you choose.

Throughout the book Harper is upset that she is so different from other people she knows. At one point she says, “I’ve felt like such a freak all my life.” (p.218)  Explain how Harper comes to accept her differences by the end of the story.

Book Talk Teasers:

Show the book trailer for Spirit Hunters. After viewing, ask for predictions for what will happen in the story.

Present the Spirit Hunters readers theater. At the conclusion of the presentation, ask the students what they think will happen next in the story.

Read Alikes:

Fiction and haunted houses

Hahn, Mary Downing. The old Willis place: a ghost story. Tired of the rules that have bound them ever since “the bad thing happened,” twelve-year-old Diana ignores her brother’s warnings and befriends the daughter of the new caretaker, setting in motion events that lead to the release of the spirit of an evil, crazy woman who once ruled the old Willis place. (NoveList Plus)

Klise, Kate. Dying to meet you. In this story told mostly through letters, children’s book author I. B. Grumply gets more than he bargained for when he rents a quiet place to write for the summer. (NoveList Plus)

Naylor, Phyllis Reynolds. Jade Green. While living with her uncle in a house haunted by the ghost of a young woman, recently orphaned Judith Sparrow wonders if her one small transgression causes mysterious happenings. (NoveList Plus)

Talgemeier, Raina. Ghosts. Catrina and her family have moved to the coast of Northern California for the sake of her little sister, Maya, who has cystic fibrosis–and Cat is even less happy about the move when she is told that her new home is haunted, and Maya sets her heart on meeting a ghost. (NoveList Plus)

Stroud, Jonathan. The screaming staircase. When London is overrun by malevolent spirits, a talented group of young psychic detectives compete against other ghostbusting agencies in the debut of a new series that finds three intrepid colleagues investigating one of England’s most haunted houses. (NoveList Plus)

Fiction and spirits

Avi. The seer of shadows. In New York City in 1872, fourteen-year-old Horace, a photographer’s apprentice, becomes entangled in a plot to create fraudulent spirit photographs, but when Horace accidentally frees the real ghost of a dead girl bent on revenge, his life takes a frightening turn. (NoveList Plus)

Baptiste, Tracey.  The Jumbies. Eleven-year-old Corinne must call on her courage and an ancient magic to stop an evil spirit and save her island home. (NoveList Plus)

DeStefano, Lauren. The peculiar night of the blue heart. Lionel, a wild boy, and Marybeth, a good girl, are best friends at the orphanage, and when a mysterious spirit possesses Marybeth they will do anything to stop it. (NoveList Plus)

Frost, Helen. Diamond Willow. In a remote area of Alaska, twelve-year-old Willow helps her father with their sled dogs when she is not at school, wishing she were more popular, all the while unaware that the animals surrounding her carry the spirits of dead ancestors and friends who care for her. (NoveList Plus)

Hotta, Yumi. Hikaru no Go. Vol. 1, descent of the Go master. Sixth-grade Hikaru Shindo’s discovery of a bloodstained game board leads to an encounter with the ghost of Go master Fujiwara-no-Sai and the formation of an unbeatable Go team. (NoveList Plus)

Rhodes, Jewell Parker. Ninth Ward. In New Orleans’ Ninth Ward, twelve-year-old Lanesha, who can see spirits, and her adopted grandmother have no choice but to stay and weather the storm as Hurricane Katrina bears down upon them. (NoveList Plus)

Fiction and Korean American families

Choi, Yangsook. Behind the mask. Kimin, a young Korean-American boy, has trouble deciding on a Halloween costume, but as he looks through an old trunk of his grandfather’s things, he suddenly unlocks a childhood mystery. (NoveList Plus)

Park, Frances. Good-bye, 382 Shin Dang Dong. Jangmi finds it hard to say goodbye to relatives and friends, plus the food, customs, and beautiful things of her home in Korea, when her family moves to America. (NoveList Plus)

Park, Linda Sue. Archer’s Quest. Twelve-year-old Kevin Kim helps Chu-mong, a legendary king of ancient Korea, return to his own time. (NoveList Plus)

Park, Linda Sue. Project Mulberry. While working on a project for an after-school club, Julia, a Korean American girl, and her friend Patrick learn not just about silkworms, but also about tolerance, prejudice, friendship, patience, and more. Between the chapters are short dialogues between the author and main character about the writing of the book. (NoveList Plus)

Fiction and siblings

Davies, Jacqueline. The lemonade war. Evan and his younger sister, Jesse, react very differently to the news that they will be in the same class for fourth grade and as the end of summer approaches, they battle it out through lemonade stands, each trying to be the first to earn 100 dollars. Includes mathematical calculations and tips for running a successful lemonade stand. (NoveList Plus)

L’Engle, Madeleine. A wrinkle in time. Meg and Charles Wallace set out with their friend Calvin in a search for their father. His top secret job as a physicist for the government has taken him away and the children search through time and space to find him. (NoveList Plus)

Mazer, Norma Fox. Ten ways to make my sister disappear. Ten-year-old Sprig no longer gets along with her twelve-year-old sister, Dakota, but the two pull together during their father’s extended business trip to Afghanistan, sharing concerns about his safety, an elderly neighbor’s health, fights with their best friends, and boys. (NoveList Plus)

Telgemeier, Raina, Sisters. In a semi-autobiographical graphic novel, Raina’s disappointing bond with a cranky, independent younger sister is further challenged by the arrival of a baby brother and an estrangement in their parents’ marriage. (NoveList Plus)


Oh, Ellen. Spirit Hunters.  Harper, and imprint of HarperCollins Publishers, 2017.               School Library Journal (May 1, 2017)    
Gr 4-6- Harper Raine suffered through a series of accidents but has no memory of them. She and her family have just moved to Washington, DC, but this is no fresh start: Harper begins hearing rumors that their new home is haunted. Is that why her little brother Michael is acting so strangely? The mysteries build into a truly frightening thriller, with some brutal scenes that may scare more sensitive readers not familiar with horror tropes. A spirit attacks Harper by throwing her down the stairs and stabbing her with a toy truck. In a memorable scene, the walls pulse with dark liquid and a ghost presents himself as a rotting corpse. The straightforward, direct language tempers the drama, though it occasionally results in stilted dialogue. For instance, Harper’s new friend Dayo invites her to eat “jerk chicken with rice and callaloo, which are delicious Jamaican stewed greens.” Dayo’s Jamaican background and Harper’s Korean culture aren’t the main subjects of the story, but they add depth. Harper’s pride in her grandmother’s Korean traditions helps her defeat the house’s evil spirit, and she learns that racial divisions can exist even after death: the white ghosts in a segregated graveyard don’t trust a ghost who is buried in the neighboring African American graveyard. VERDICT This mystery thriller infused with diverse characters and intriguing themes will appeal to horror fans and to reluctant readers who enjoy a good scare.-Lisa Goldstein, Brooklyn Public Library © Copyright 2017. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.  Reprinted with permission from School Library Journal , 2017.

Oh, Ellen. Spirit Hunters.  Harper, and imprint of HarperCollins Publishers, 2017.           Booklist starred (May 1, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 17)
Grades 4-7. Harper feels it from the second her family moves into the creaky, old house: there is something deeply evil lurking there. She’s always been attune to the spirit world, a fact that has frightened her parents into denial. She even had an encounter with a ghost so terrifying and damaging that she was sent to a mental institution for a while. This relocation to D.C. was supposed to be a fresh start for their family, but Harper soon realizes with horror that her sweet little brother Michael is being possessed by the malevolent ghost of an evil boy who died in the house years before. As Michael grows more and more violent under the spirit’s control, Harper realizes that her family is in grave danger. Can she learn to master her powers and conquer her fears to defeat the spirit before it overtakes her brother completely? Oh’s book is truly and deeply creepy, with increasingly haunting and disturbing imagery culminating in a wonderful and terrifying battle of spirits. Even more impressive than the shiver factor is the way the author skillfully uses the compelling premise to present a strong, consistent message of not rejecting what you don’t understand—a most welcome message. Used with the permission of Booklist  https://www.booklistonline.com/