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Literature / The Beasts of Clawstone Castle

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The Beasts Of Clawstone Castle is a 2005 book by Eva Ibbotson.

Madlyn and Rollo live with their parents, a designer and the leader of an experimental theatre troupe. They are offered a job in America which is offering a lot of money and could solve their money problems. When nothing is mentioned about the children, their only choice is to send them to their uncle George and aunt Emily in Clawstone Castle, an old castle which George and Emily open once a week for a guided tour along with a woman from the village named Mrs Grove. But George and Emily have problems of their own - rival castle Trembellow Towers is taking all their visitors. Which is because the most interesting thing Clawstone has to offer is some furry thing with "Hoggart" written on it. However, Madlyn and Mrs Grove's son Ned have a brilliant idea which, with the help of the withdrawn Cousin Howard, could save Clawstone from having to close. Madlyn also discovers that there are cows on the grounds which George believes are from God, so he is holding open days to pay for their upkeep.

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Cousin Howard goes to a woman who used to hold performance nights every Thursday, before the people who attended them passed on, and eventually came back as ghosts and rebooted the nights. The ghosts find some others to help, and they end up with a skeleton named Mr Smith, a bride named Brenda who was shot by her fiance on her wedding day, a sawed-in-half girl named Sonita, and a man who was starved to death in a dungeon, named Ranolf Du Torqville who has a rat-gnawing at his chest. Oh yeah, and some Feet who won't go away. However, on the first day, they scare a man named Major Henry Hardbottom into fainting. This isn't a bad thing - the Major wakes up in hospital raving about Clawstone, leading to the visitor numbers quadrupling. Trembellow Towers finds "ghosts" in London, but their open day fails miserably.

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Then something terrible happens - a group of vets arrive at Clawstone and claim that the cows have been inflicted with "Clappart's Disease" and will need to be tested. About a week later, the vets return and say that they need to euthanize the cows. However, Sonita, who is a Hindu, searches for the cows in Lord Trembellow's gravel pit where they allegedly are buried and doesn't manage to find them. The children steal the car of Ned's currently hospitalized uncle and drive to the island where the cows will be.

It turns out that the men work for Doctor Morris Manners, who has been hired by the fairy tale-obsessed ruler of a foreign country to create real fairy tales. With the help of some illegal immigrants working for Manners who fled their home country Mundania to escape from a dictator, they free the animals with some ghostly goings-on, and discover that they were attempting to put a horn on the youngest cow's head to turn him into a unicorn.

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With Manners defeated, the Mundanians discover that the dictator is dead and they may return to Mundania. George has recently been to the Ministry and discovered for himself that the men were frauds. The Feet are revealed to be that of a Scotsman who lost them after death so returned as a ghost to possess them. The Feet are given a burial with their owner, which Lady Trembellow attends after defecting. Ranolf recovers his rat that was lost on the island. Finally, the Open Days quiet down, until a billionaire comes to have a look around. It turns out that the Hoggart is his grandfather's wig which blew off decades ago, and that "Hoggart" is actually their surname. He buys the Clawstone Hoggart for 2 million dollars.

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