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The Empty Lot Next Door by Arthur Mills



Whether or not you believe in ghosts, the true-life experience of Arthur Mills deserves consideration. Find out who Candle Face was, her taunting behavior, and how she turned a boy’s childhood into a living nightmare in The Empty Lot Next Door.


In an Austin neighborhood, Ray (Arthur’s childhood name) and his family excitedly moved into a small house in the midst of a big, green lawn. Beside their house is a strange, vacant lot where a house once stood, and a huge hole in the back lies mysteriously. As a young boy with many new friends, Ray considers the empty lot an exciting playground. But the tale behind the lot keeps the boy intrigued and frightened as he learns that the house that was once there was burned down years ago, leaving a girl dead amid the fire. As the neighborhood kids say, the little girl will haunt anyone who dares to jump into the hole. Determined to validate the authenticity of this tale, Ray daringly and mistakenly challenges the ghost, a challenge that he will forever regret. Soon, he becomes haunted by the little girl, whom he named Candle Face, due to her charred face and body. The apparition began visiting his dreams and leaving handprints and other signs around the house, even when Ray was awake.


The Empty Lot Next Door is more than a ghost story. It’s also a story of the desperation, pain, and helplessness experienced by children whose parents work long hours away from home, necessarily leaving them to fend for themselves against real and imagined evils. It's about sibling abuse and the scars that such abuse leaves on the victims and the abusers. The Empty Lot Next Door is also a story of an intense struggle of a child to make sense of the world without communicating his fears and thoughts to the adults in his life since he doesn't want to add to the family's problems.


Woven with a mind-boggling plot and hair-raising play of words, The Empty Lot Next Door follows Ray in confronting the past to move on to the future. The award-winning memoir, with a dash of fiction, will never fail to hook readers with every turn of the page.


What the critics are saying


Critics agree that The Empty Lot Next Door is a ghost story at its finest, perhaps all the more so because it’s a true story. Professional book critic Lisa McCurley says, “After the first night of sleeping with the light on, I ended up taking off two afternoons from work to finish it which is all it took because I couldn’t put this book down.” Kirkus Reviews agrees, “In a coming-of-age story that’s well paced and layered with emotion, Mills creates moments of true suspense through guileless prose as he unearths a family tragedy.” Anyone who enjoys being scared or wants to investigate whether ghosts are real will add The Empty Lot Next Door to the must-read list.


Award-winning book


When Arthur Mills wrote The Empty Lot Next Door, some neighbors and family quit speaking to him; they didn’t want to acknowledge the local element of his true-life story of ghosts, suicide, and bullying, but that didn’t stop his new book from winning awards.


Reviewers Choice Awards (First Edition)

  • Kids Award for Best Teen / Young Adult Book of the Year

  • Teen (12-16) – First Place

  • Regional South – First Place

  • Parenting, Family, and Relationships – Honorable Mention

How can The Empty Lot Next Door Contribute to your Personal and Intellectual Growth?

The Empty Lot Next Door immerses readers in an intriguing mystery laden with supernatural elements that provoke thought and challenge perceptions. The coming-of-age story offers a unique lens into the multifaceted nature of growth, while the exploration of trauma fosters deeper emotional comprehension. With its engaging writing style, the story captures attention and encourages reflective thinking. Moreover, the weight of it being a true story amplifies its impact, enhancing both personal and intellectual growth.


Characters drive a story, enabling readers to connect emotionally, explore diverse perspectives, and engage with the story. Their journeys offer insight into human nature, making abstract themes tangible and relatable, thus enriching the reader's experience and understanding of the story's core message.

Candle Face (The Empty Lot Next Door by Arthur Mills)

Candle Face is a symbolic and/or supernatural character that represents fear, trauma, and the enduring impact of childhood experiences.


Candle Face's true nature and purpose remain ambiguous throughout the story. Readers are left wondering whether Candle Face is a product of Ray's imagination, a supernatural entity, or a symbol of repressed trauma. This ambiguity adds to the story's eerie atmosphere and leaves room for interpretation. Candle Face's ambiguous nature adds uncertainty and unease, while also serving as a catalyst for Ray's personal journey toward closure and understanding.

Griffin (The Empty Lot Next Door by Arthur Mills)

Griffin is Ricky's imaginary friend who acts as a protector and comforter for Ricky.

Griffin also symbolizes tragedy and lost innocence in the story. His role in the story contributes to the mystery surrounding Candle Face and the traumatic events of Ricky's and Ray's childhoods. Griffin's revelation brings about a sense of closure and understanding for Ray as he reflects on the past.

Ricky Mills

Despite many traumatic experiences, Ricky remains silent, even in the presence of his family. His internalized pain and reluctance to speak about his feelings or defend himself are defining aspects of his character.

Ricky can be seen as a symbol of innocence lost and the vulnerability of childhood. His creative spirit mixed with his traumatic experiences, underscores the story's themes of the supernatural and the psychological impact of fear.

The Empty Lot  (The Empty Lot Next Door by Arthur Mills)

The empty lot serves as a symbol of mystery and intrigue throughout the story. It is a place where rumors and legends circulate among children, including Ricky and Ray, and their friends. The rumors about the empty lot being haunted and associated with tragic events create an aura of uncertainty and curiosity.

The empty lot plays a significant role in the story's exploration of Ray's past and the supernatural elements woven into the story. The empty lot ultimately represents the journey of self-discovery and the quest for closure.

Arthur Mills

Ray is Ricky's younger brother and haunted by Candle Face. Ray is both the narrator and a participant in the events in the story and an introspective commentator, providing insights into the emotions and dynamics of the situations the characters find themselves in.

Throughout the story, Ray evolves as he seeks answers to the mysteries surrounding Candle Face and the traumatic events he witnessed. His quest for understanding drives the story forward and serves as a vehicle for exploring the supernatural elements.

Handprint (The Empty Lot Next Door by Arthur Mills)

The handprint represents the supernatural, the persistence of childhood traumas and memories, and the unsettling presence of Candle Face. It triggers fear, uncertainty, and emotional turmoil, impacting both Ray and the story's themes.

The handprint symbolizes the unresolved questions and mysteries that linger in Ray's life. Despite his attempts to understand its origin and meaning, he is left with uncertainty and a sense that there is more to the story than he can comprehend.

Candle Face


"I bought this book, thinking it would be the normal haunting book. It was far from it. The storyline was unique and sad. The authors' style allows the reader to very easily become entwined in the story. I'm not sure if the story was true, but definitely worth the money. It weighed on my mind about Ricky's actions and life as a whole. Good book for all to read." - Amazon reviewer


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