Spirit Naughty John is released into the world at a party where careless patrons walked away from an Ouija board without first bidding him farewell.
Evie’s gift is that she can hold another person’s object and read their secrets from it. Unfortunately, her latest read caused a scandal, and she is sent to New York City to live with her Uncle Will, owner of a peculiar museum. Her first experience in the city is to be pickpocketed by a boy named Sam. She is quickly reunited with a childhood friend, Mabel and together they plan to have the best three months of their lives. They learn that the building they reside in was built on a burial ground of sorts. One elderly neighbor says that Evie is “one of them.”
Memphis and his little brother Isiah live with their aunt. Memphis has strange dreams and is followed by a black crow. When he was younger, he was able to heal with a touch, but the gift left him when he tried to heal his dying mother. She passed anyway. Since then he has been followed by crows and is drawn to the house on the hill.
Evie has nightmares of her brother James’s death in the war.
She happens upon Sam and steals his coat, demanding that he come to the museum and bring her the $20 that he stole from her if he wants it back.
Miss Addie and Miss Lillian know that “they are coming.” They even sprinkle salt on the window sills to keep them out.
Evie and Jericho follow along with uncle Will, who has been asked by detectives to take a look at a murder scene. Naughty John has murdered a girl named Ruta. When Evie touches the girl’s shoes, her gift shows her Ruta’s horrible time with Naughty John. Evie decides not to say anything. Naughty John has used symbols and Ruta’s eyes to summon spirits.
Memphis takes his brother, Isaiah, to a card reader known as Sister Walker. Isaiah can guess the cards most of the time. Isaiah sleepwalks and says that the Diviners are coming. Sister Walker believes that the power is coming back.
Sam goes to the museum to steal his coat back, but when he sees a newspaper clipping about Project Buffalo, he takes an artifact from the museum instead. He later uses the object to land a job at the museum. He is hoping to find his missing mother, who was involved with the project.
Evie finds a helpful book and learns that the Diviners see the dead, speak to spirits, walk in dreams, and read meaning from every held thing. There is also a sketch of an eye surrounded by rays like the sun with a lightning bolt beneath.
Naughty John murders again, and this time, his victim is a boy named Tommy, and he takes his hands.
Evie knows she shouldn’t but she makes a deal with a reporter to feed him information on the investigation and in return, he will give the museum and Evie herself some publicity.
A recurring symbol in the murders is the “Pentacle of the beast,” and they find a lead at a church called the Pillar of Fire Church. They investigate but don’t see anything particularly useful and are run out by the brethren of the church for snooping around.
They follow a lead and come across a book that contains the ritual steps to raise the Beast, the Dragon of Old, the anti-Christ. It coincides with a passing comet. Unfortunately, a comet will pass by in only a few weeks. The ritual depicts images of both murders that have occurred, starting with the 5th step. They scramble to figure out where the next step, the 7th step, might happen. There is a page missing from the book. They think this page contains instructions on containing the anti-Christ when he rises.
Jericho has a secret that requires the use of tonics and serums. Evie tries to set Mabel up with him with very little success. It seems Jericho likes Evie instead.
Blind Bill’s powers were stolen from him. He overhears that Isiah, Memphis’s little brother is a diviner.
We learn that about 50 years ago the former owner of the house on the hill, Ida, was once in money trouble and sold her grand house to Mary White and became a tenant. Mrs. White and a man named John Hobbs began having strange meetings late in the night. Eventually, she disappears, and John is hung for her murder. Several other bodies were also found in the house.
Evie, Sam, Mabel, Theta, and Memphis attend the same party which gets raided. Evie and Mabel spend the night in jail but Sam is able to escape, and Memphis helps Theta escape but not before discovering that they have both been having the exact same dreams of late.
Uncle Will threatens to send Evie packing but she shows him her object-reading trick, and he decides to let her stay. Mabel however, is furious with Evie after their night in jail. They don’t speak for a long while.
Jericho tells Evie that when he was young, he was near death and was kept in a metal box for a very long time as the machine breathed for him. His mother eventually stopped coming to see him. When he was able, Will allowed him to come live and work with him.
A Masonic brother named Eugene is Naughty John’s next victim. This time he takes his feet. Evie tried to get a reading from his ring but can’t quite get what she needs. Only the tune of whistling. Later they learn that the tune is from the song “Naughty John” that came into popularity after John Hobbs was hung for the murder of Ida.
Memphis visits the museum to find out about the eye in his dreams. Evie doesn’t have any info for him, but he also asks her about the house on the hill. Evie puts it together that this was where Naughty John did his dirty work. Her elderly neighbors mention that Mr. Hobbs had asked to be hanged on the night of the comet fifty years ago. When a comet passes is when the divide between the spirit world and the mortal world is thinnest. The neighbors also tell Evie that she will be faced with a terrible choice.
Evie and Mabel make up and go to the house on the hill together. They find a trap door to the basement and Ida’s old journal. Unfortunately, Eve snags her jacket, and some of the fabric is left behind.
Memphis and Theta meet up again and are beginning to fall in love.
A religious fanatic, Brother Jacob Call is arrested for the murders and even confesses to it. Evie and Sam visit him in jail and don’t believe that he is the guilty party. Mr. Call thinks that he can bind his spirit to the talisman that he wears.
Sam tells Evie that his mom was involved in the government program Project Buffalo and that he and his dad were told that she was dead. But he has a postcard that makes him believe that she is alive.
Mrs. Walker comes calling for Will, but he pretends he doesn’t know her.
Naughty John strikes again. At first, Evie’s detective crew believes that the murderer is a copy cat of the notorious John Hobbs, but after Memphis’s friend, Gabe is the next victim, Evie uses an item of his to see that the man responsible really is Naughty John come back from the dead. They connect other murders from 50 years ago to the first steps in the ritual. They need to find the missing page of the book to stop him.
Naughty John finds the piece of Evie’s coat in the basement and says that she will pay for her violation.
Evie figures out that the next murder is going to take place at the Globe Theater. They rush over and find one of Theta’s dance colleagues murdered as the 9th offering, this time taking her skin. The cops show up at the same time and arrest Evie and her friends, but they are later allowed to leave. They find that the woman, Mary White, that bought the house on the hill from Ida is still alive. Evie pays her a visit. She says that John had told her never to sell the house so that he could come back to it someday. Evie swipes a ring that once belonged to John before leaving. They learn that Mr. Hobbs was buried with his pendant on Brethren hill where a massive fire killed all but him. They need the pendant to bind the beast when he rises.
Isiah runs into Blind Bill who uses a trick he learned from those that stole his gift to take some of Isiah’s power. No one sees him do it. Isiah does not wake up.
Evie, Jericho, and Will travel to Mr. Hobb’s burial place and retrieve the pendant. But the brethren see them and plan to kill them. They getaway, but Jericho is shot. Evie sees that Jericho has machinery in his body. Will gives him several shots of a mysterious substance, and he is made well.
Naughty John kills Mary White as the 10th offering. She had thought she would be the 11th, the bride to marry the beast and become immortal. John takes her tongue and plants a note on her that says that Uncle Will is the murderer. He had also planted evidence in Will’s office.
HOW IT ENDED?
Will and Sam are arrested just as they are about to start the procedure to bind John to the pendant. The police take the relic, and it’s up to Evie and Jericho to figure out what to do before the comet passes in only a few hours.
They go to the house on the hill to look for what might be binding John’s spirit here. They find a room where the walls have been marked and realize that this is it. They douse it in kerosene, but Jericho is knocked out. Naughty John shows up and plans to offer Evie as the 11th sacrifice. She uses her necklace that her brother James gave her to bind John and numerous other spirits to it. Before he is gone, he says that Evie will never know what really happened to her brother. The necklace turns to ash. She and Jericho narrowly escape as the house burns to the ground.
The police make up a story to tell the press, and Will and Sam are released.
Memphis gets his power back and heals Isiah. He then writes a letter to someone (presumably Theta) pouring his heart out. Theta and Henry are on the verge of becoming very famous for their show. Blind Bill comes to steal more of Isiah’s power and realizes that someone even more powerful than Isiah is out there. He is just starting to be able to see again, but he will be patient.
Sam meets with a mysterious man about Project Buffalo. He won’t say much, but he does tell Sam that his mother is alive, but it’s best just to move on and forget it. Sam is relentless, and the man finally gives him a name (that he recognizes) to check into it. The reader never sees the name.
Mabel meets a handsome young man named Arthur Brown, who is charismatic about change and asks Mabel to join him and his group. She will think about it.
Evie interrupts a discussion between Will and Sister Walker. They were talking about Diviners and Evie and her need to be prepared. Will refuses to tell her more and plans to send Evie back home to Ohio. In a desperate act to be able to stay, she tells the press about her abilities and how she helped solve the case. Later, Will looks through a hidden file that is labeled Project Buffalo.
A gray man in a stovepipe hat steps onto the land for the first time in many many years. He speaks to the crows and the hills and the rocks. He captures a rabbit and lets the blood drip onto the ground. The dead hear. He says the time is now.
For the first time, in her dreams, Evie’s brother speaks directly to her. He says, “They never should have done it.” When she wakes, Jericho finally tells Evie how he feels, and they kiss.