Chapter 1 Summary

The Graveyard Book begins as a creepy figure called “the man Jack” has just finished killing three people in a dark house. He moves silently, and he has successfully murdered a woman, a man, and an older child without even waking them. The only person left to kill is the baby, a little boy who has just learned to walk. The man Jack creeps toward the crib, but the baby is not there. The man sniffs the air and follows the smell of the child down the stairs and out the front door, which he left open when he came in.

The baby is a curious child, a wanderer. He finds the door open, so he goes out. Now he toddles up a hill through the fog, and he slips through the slats of a gate into a graveyard. Inside, he draws the attention of Mrs. Owen, a plump woman who is “only moonlight, mist, and shadow.” She calls her husband to look, and three other ghosts appear to them. They are the baby’s family, panicky figures who have not yet grown used to being dead. The mother begs Mrs. Owen to protect her son, and then she disappears.

When the murderer arrives in the graveyard, Mrs. Owens honors the mother’s wish. She picks the baby up and hides him in her ghostly form. An odd, dark figure named Silas approaches the murderer, claiming to be the caretaker of the graveyard. He asks what the man is doing inside a locked park at night, and the murderer tells him about the baby. He claims he is worried about the child and wants to return it to its family. Silas has the power to confuse people, so he makes the murderer think the baby went toward town.

When the man Jack is gone, three hundred ghosts convene for a meeting. Mrs. Owens says she should be able to keep the baby because the mother—who will shortly be confined to her own graveyard, as these ghosts are confined to theirs—asked her to protect him. She suggests giving the boy “the Freedom of the Graveyard,” which will allow him to live safely among them. The other ghosts object that Mrs. Owens will not be able to feed the boy, so Silas—who is neither alive nor dead—volunteers to bring food. The ghosts debate the issue until Death herself, who looks like a grey lady on a grey horse, appears. She says, “The dead should have charity.” Her advice is final, so the ghosts agree that the baby can stay. They name the child Nobody Owens.