The cover illustration shows a ghost emerging from the lake.
Camp is supposed to be fun, but Sarah hates Camp Cold Lake. The lake is gross and slimy. And she's having a little trouble with her bunkmates. They hate her. So Sarah comes up with a plan. She'll pretend to drown--then everyone will feel sorry for her. But things don't go exactly the way Sarah planned. Because down by the cold, dark lake someone is watching her. Stalking her. Someone with pale blue eyes. And a see-through body...
Sarah Maas doesn't particularly like the idea of swimming or going to camp. However, her parents have signed her up for Camp Cold Lake, which is located near a lake and focuses on water-based sports. Sarah's brother, Aaron, is enthused by the idea of going to camp. When the siblings get to camp, Sarah is disappointed to find that her bunk-mates — Briana, Meg, and Janice, better known as Jan — have taken all of the best beds. Sarah complains to a counselor and gets the beds reassigned, but this annoys Briana. Later, Sarah accidentally offends Meg and knocks over Jan's backpack, unintentionally revealing Jan's asthma inhalers. Jan is upset that others will know about her asthma.
That night, all of the campers meet around the campfire. Meg and Briana tell Sarah that someone threw fireworks into the campfire. Sarah runs, but she quickly learns that there were no fireworks. She is mocked by many of the other campers. Eventually, the campers are introduced to Liz, one of the camp counselors. Liz shares the camp's rules. After this, Briana and Meg drop a snake into Sarah's shirt. Sarah throws the creature away and leaves the campfire. On the way back to her bunk, Sarah finds some spiders, and she scoops some of them up by trapping them in a hollow compartment in her flashlight. When Sarah gets back to her bunk, she pours spiders into the beds of Briana and Meg. Sarah's bunk-mates return, and they go to their beds. When Briana and Meg lie down, they are bitten by spiders. However, Jan had seen Sarah planting the spiders earlier, and she tattles on Sarah. Briana and Meg are taken to the infirmary to have their spider bites checked.
The next day, Sarah wants to go canoeing. According to the camp's rules, she will need to find a "buddy" to go with her. Sarah asks Jan if she would like to be partners, but Jan declines. Sarah complains to Liz, and Liz forces Jan to partner with Sarah. While canoeing, Sarah begins to lose control of the canoe. During this time, Jan reveals that — because everyone knows about her asthma — she won't be allowed to go on the six-day canoeing trip that she had wanted to go on. Jan jumps off the boat and swims back to shore. Jan's jump flips the canoe. When Jan gets back to shore, she tells Liz that Sarah intentionally flipped the boat.
Sarah devises a plan to garner sympathy; she will pretend to drown. When Sarah goes swimming, she takes a deep breath and dives down. Sarah stays underwater for a long time, but nobody comes to rescue her. When she resurfaces, she finds that everyone has vanished. Sarah leave the water and notices that it has begun snowing, which shouldn't be possible given that it's supposed to be summer. Sarah follows the sound of singing until she finds a girl. The girl introduces herself as Della, and Della says that she's been waiting for Sarah. Della asks if Sarah will be her buddy. Della begins floating, and Sarah notices that she can see through Della. Sarah assumes that Della drowned at Cold Lake. Sarah refuses to be Della's buddy and runs away. Suddenly, Sarah's vision fades to black.
Sarah regains consciousness after being resuscitated by Liz. Everything seems to be normal again. Later, Sarah is preparing to join a camp meeting. While she looks for a seat, Sarah sees Della. Sarah cries out, which prompts the counselors to check on her. The counselors don't seem to see Della. When Sarah gets back to her cabin, her bunk-mates surround her. They apologize for their mean treatment of Sarah. The four girls spend the next few hours talking and having fun. The next morning, Sarah and the other campers go swimming, and Liz supervises from atop a motorboat. Sarah tries swimming alongside Jan, but she realizes that the girl she's following is actually Della. Della tries to catch Sarah, so Sarah swims towards Liz's motorboat. When Sarah looks aboard the boat, she sees Della. Della vanishes, and she is replaced by Liz. Worried by Sarah's behavior, Liz takes Sarah to talk to Richard, the head counselor.
Sarah meets with Richard, and she asks him if any camper has ever drowned at Camp Cold Lake. Richard says that no campers have. Sarah sees Della, but Richard isn't able to see her. Richard suggests that Sarah focus on sports to take her mind off of ghosts. Later, Liz teaches Sarah how to water-ski. As Sarah is water-skiing, she looks towards the boat that's towing her and sees that Della is controlling the vehicle. Sarah lets go of the tow-rope. She begins sinking, but she is held up by her life jacket. Della tries to hit Sarah with the boat, but she only rips through Sarah's life jacket. Sarah makes it back to shore. She runs back to her cabin and gets changed. Sarah is about to leave, but she is stopped by Briana. Briana asks Sarah if she is leaving, and Sarah answers positively. Briana wishes Sarah luck.
While Sarah is trying to find her way through the woods, she is met by Della. Della begins explaining to Sarah how she actually died. One night, Della sneaked into the woods by herself. At the time, Della didn't know that many deadly snakes lived in the woods. Della reveals that she had tried to scare Sarah away from the lake so she would go into the woods. A snake begins coiling around Sarah's leg. Before the snake can attack, Briana appears and removes the creature. Briana explains that Della had tried to kill her during the previous summer, and now she is back to protect other campers from Della. Sarah and Briana agree to be buddies. Della wails and falls to the ground before disappearing completely. Sarah tries to hug Briana, but her arms pass through the girl. Briana reveals that Della had successfully killed her last summer, but she refused to be Della's buddy. Briana begins moving toward Sarah while holding a snake. She asks if Sarah will be her buddy forever...
Reprints and rereleases
2003 - 2007 reprint series
- In France this book is the 71st of the Goosebumps series. Its title was translated into "Frissons en eau trouble", which means "Shivers in murky water".
- This book reportedly went under the working title The Ghost of Camp Cold Lake.
- The digital rerelease makes multiple small changes to the original book.
- Notably, two lines about Meg's weight are removed. The first of these lines compared Meg's cheeks to "squirrel cheeks"; the second line compared Meg's figure to a bowling ball.
- Additionally, a reference to wolf-whistling was removed, and Liz's outfit is no longer described in detail.