Growing up there weren't many things better than going to the local library. Unlike a trip to the toy or video game store, with the library you knew you were never going to come home empty-handed. A journey to the library meant wild adventures with seafaring pirates, chocolate factory crazed CEOs and magical phantom tollbooths. Your imagination had no limits and each book took you somewhere exciting and new. There was nothing like heading to the library when you were a little kid Books take us to amazing and thrilling places in our imagination
For kids growing up in the mid '90s, GOOSEBUMPS was a phenomenon. It was a monthly horror series for kids. The books were not really scary but R.L. Stine found lightning in a bottle. Dark humor, twist endings and spooky happenings that was as addictive as it was macabre. Many kids in the mid 1990s became readers because of R.L. Stine's tentpole series. I always liked reading but it wasn't until Goosebumps that I came to love it... as well as become interested in writing. I am far from the only '90s kid for which that rings true. 20 years ago all the kids were reading 'em and discussing the latest chapter (excuse the pun) in the famed franchise out on the playground. Looking back on it, the writing wasn't Hemingway or Fitzgerald, and there was a certain cheesiness to them... but in a way... it was all part of the charm. And a sign of the times. It was more about the feelings that these books evoked. Seeing a new Goosebumps book on the shelf sent a quick shiver down your spine. Be it mutant worms or sinister scarecrows, the books gave kids a rush like few other books could. Mention the word Goosebumps to any adult now aged 27-32 and they are sure to go "Oh yeah, I remember that!"
It all began in July 1992. Right away the embossed title grabbed your attention. It was the flashiest thing I had ever seen on any book cover ever. The artwork captured my imagination. At the time there really wasn't anything else quite like it. WELCOME TO DEAD HOUSE. Oh wait, is it called Goosebumps, or Welcome to Dead House? And just who is that creepy bedraggled figure in the window there? So many questions raced through my mind. And so too did it for Amanda and Josh, the two protagonists of the story. Arriving at their new home in Dark Falls, they can't help but feel this strange sense of dread about their neighborhood. Despite it being the middle of July, there seems to be an artificial darkness created by massive, overhanging tree limbs. Dark brown leaves, shade and shadows are everywhere. And who is that ghost in the house that Amanda saw? And with this classic first entry, the cult series was off and running And with it, the best selling book series EVER for kids was born
STAY OUT OF THE BASEMENT was its second entry in the series. Also released in the same month as Welcome to Dead House, it was a sign that R.L. Stine had some big plans for this new book series
It's a lovely warm winter day in California. Siblings Margaret and Casey Brewer are outside playing frisbee. Margaret flings the frisbee her dad's way as he passes through the backyard. Mr. Brewer gruffly declines, stating he has too much work to do in the basement. But, what exactly does he do in the basement, anyhow? Neither Margaret nor Casey knows, but something is happening down there...
Ever since he got fired from PolyTech, their dad has buried himself away in the basement. Slaving away at all hours of the night, he's been experimenting with plants. Once, Margaret tried to get a sneak peek at her father's laboratory, only for him to fire her a stone cold glare, yelling STAY OUTTA THE BASEMENT
One of the true classics and most iconic books in Goosebumps lore, Stay Out of the Basement proved one thing: that this Goosebumps universe had staying power Looks like he took 'going green' a bit too seriously
Goosebumps returned in September 1992 with its third entry, Monster Blood. This would turn out to be a staple of the series as it churned out a total of three sequels, the most in the franchise. It was also the first sequel to appear in the Goosebumps lineup and the last sequel, Monster Blood IV, was the final entry in the long running series. Monster Blood opens with 12-year-old Evan Ross being dropped off at his creepy old aunt Kathryn's for a few days. He soon bumps into Andy, a cute 12-year-old girl in the neighborhood who asks him to accompany her into town to pick up an early birthday present for her cousin. All too happy to oblige, Evan joins her as the two ends up at a toy store in town called Wagner's Novelties and Sundries. There they find a metal can with the words MONSTER BLOOD written on it. Naturally, the shopkeeper warns them not to buy it but they insist and pandemonium soon ensues
Did You Know... MONSTER BLOOD is codename for MUTAGEN
Goosebumps was quickly turning into a household name. Initially, I purposely avoided it. I was a quirky kid: if something became too popular and I was not there in the beginning as a fan, then I hated to hop on the bandwagon. So while everyone at my school was raving about Goosebumps, I stubbornly held out. That all changed one fateful day in late '93. It was reading time in Mr. G's 5th grade class. I chose The Girl Who Cried Monster. Figured it couldn't hurt to read a few pages. A few pages turned into the entire book. It was a spin-off on the classic tale The Boy Who Cried Wolf. Lucy is obsessed with monsters. Late one night, in search of her roller blades, Lucy gets locked in when the librarian closes up shop. She never realized how spooky it was until she found herself alone in the library shrouded in darkness. That's when she discovers a horrifying truth: Mr. Mortman is a monster!
I became a hopeless Goosebumps fanatic after reading this one
October 1993. In time for Halloween, The Haunted Mask is one of the greatest Goosebumps book of all time. It tells the tale of Carly Beth, a shy, overly trusting, reserved girl bullied by some guys at school. Carly Beth is often a target for torment. After being scared yet again by the bullies, Carly Beth decided it was time to deliver a little payback. Riding into town she heads for the local costume shop. Distraught that it's closed for the evening, fate stepped in. The mysterious owner of the store opened the door, ushering her in. As the owner tends to his shop, Carly Beth stumbles into the backroom where she finds the most hideous and grotesque masks one could ever hope to see. The owner refuses to sell her the one she wants, but she throws her money at him and takes off. Racing home, she puts the mask on and it feels horribly warm and flesh-like. Her voice changes as well as even her demeanor when adorning the foul mask. The more she put it on, the harder it became to take off... what follows is one unforgettable Halloween night of mischief, revenge and terror. Steve and Chuck get the scare of their lives, and Carly Beth relishes her ultimate conquest. However, Halloween is now over... and the mask just won't come off... this book is packed with Halloween atmosphere and remains one of the finest Goosebumps
By December 1993, there was not a single kid who didn't have Goosebumps fever. The last entry that year was The Werewolf of Fever Swamp. One of the gnarliest covers in the series, the book opens with this chilling intro:
We moved to Florida during Christmas vacation. A week later, I heard the frightening howls in the swamp for the first time. Night after night, the howls made me sit up in bed. I would hold my breath and wrap my arms around myself to keep from shivering. I would stare out my bedroom window at the chalk-colored full moon. And I would listen. What kind of creature makes such a cry? I'd ask myself. And how close is it? Why does it sound as if it's right outside my window? The wails rose and fell like police car sirens. They weren't sad or mournful. They were menacing. Angry. They sounded like a warning STAY OUT OF THE SWAMP. YOU DO NOT BELONG HERE
You Can't Scare Me opened up 1994 with a bang. The 15th entry in the franchise, it sported a strikingly creepy cover that you couldn't help but stare long and hard at. The aesthetic of the design is perfect. From the embossed title to the memorable artwork to the cheesy little tagline, each book's cover was special in its own way. Courtney is a total show-off. She thinks she's so brave and she's always making fun of Eddie and his friends. But Eddie's had enough. Eddie is going to scare Courtney once and for all. And he's got the perfect plan. He's going to lure her down to MUDDY CREEK. Because Eddie knows she believes in that silly rumor about the monsters. Mud monsters that live in the creek. It's too bad Eddie doesn't believe the rumor
Because it just might be true...
If you thought the last two covers were amazing, you have not seen anything yet. #16, One Day At HorrorLand, still haunts me to this day. As a little kid I always fancied amusement parks and small town carnivals. It always spooked me to think... what if the attraction site holds a terrible secret... a secret no one is supposed to ever know. What if there was a bloody murder or mishap years ago that haunts the grounds? I mean, working in a carnival has GOT to drive one a bit nutty. Who knows what kind of death trap we could be stepping in? One Day At HorrorLand examines those childhood fears and more. When the Morris family got lost trying to find Zoo Gardens Theme Park, they stumbled onto another amusement park instead. Never seen or heard of before, there are no lines, no crowds and no hassle at HorrorLand. It seems to be everything one could ask for: killer rides and none of the wait. But as the Morris family is about to find out, the rides are killer indeed. Because there's something weird about the rides in HorrorLand
Something a little too creepy... a little TOO REAL...
One of my favorite things about Goosebumps was reading the back cover. It always sported a lovely caption along with prose below that made you want to read the whole book in one sitting right then and there. But the best part was down at the bottom. It actually revealed the title of next month's entry! Why I'm Afraid of Bees, #17 in the series, is one I will never forget. My best friend Nelson received the book one cold morning as class began. Book orders had come in. Nelly and I sat across the room from each other. I was staring his way since I knew his mother had bought him the latest Goosebumps edition. I wanted Nelly to show me the next title. I saw his jaw drop as he read the back cover. What could it be? Nelly showed me the back cover... but being across the room I couldn't quite make it out
Then Nelson had the brilliant idea to flip to another preview page
The first sequel of the Goosebumps franchise, I was mesmerized!
#20 in the series holds a distinct soft spot in my heart. I have always been big on round numbers and coming out in May 1994, it was the last book order of 5th grade. Heading into the summer with the latest Goosebumps rendition sounded like a pretty bang up way to kickstart one's summer. And one of the coolest things about these books was hoping and wishing that R.L. Stine would write one centered around a certain monster or nightmare you were particularly fond of. For me, it was scarecrows. I'd always been fascinated by them, and the idea that evil spirits could possess them was a scary thought. With their hideous burlap faces and twisted bodies, scarecrows are the last thing I want to stand next to under a full moon. Most children were scared of clowns growing up. For me, it was scarecrows
You coulda sworn that the scarecrow was facing the other way...
October 1995. The long awaited sequel to The Haunted Mask finally arrives, a full two years later. This time, Steve (the bully from the first book) finds a horrible mask and it latches onto him like a facehugger. Yeah, sure, it makes Steve the king of scares on this Halloween night, but the problem is, the longer Steve wears the decrepit mask, the older and older his body feels...
I prefer the original, but this was no cash-in effort. But the best thing about it has to do with the fact that my brother surprised me when he randomly bought this book for me as a gift. It was oddly touching. Those of you who have read Memories of Renting have commented that my bro sounded like an ass. Well, he kinda was from time to time. But make no mistake about it, he was also a decent guy. And the day he bought me this, unexpectedly, was one I never forgot. He gave it to me and said, "I know how much you loved the first one, so yeah." Coincidentally, 19 years later I was the best man at Kevin's wedding (earlier this month), toasting to my brother and my sister-in-law before a crowd of hundreds. It was an honor to see my brother marry the love of his life. Thanks Kevin for The Haunted Mask II, and thank you for everything else
R.L. STINE BEFORE GOOSEBUMPS...
In the early '90s it was a weekly tradition for my mom to take me and my old best friend, Nelson, to our local library. On our way to the children's section we had to pass by the aisle containing teen novels. They were all displayed on movable glass panels. That way, their cover would stick out and you could see some of the books. One day in late '92 Nelson and I were strolling by when we caught sight of a cover so incredibly disturbing and creepy that it would forever haunt us. A high school cheerleader, seemingly possessed by an evil spirit, clutches her pom pom. But there was something eerie and unnatural about the pom pom. We did a double take and realized there was a skull staring back at us. Nelson and I, in our typical exaggerated dorkiness, looked at each other, looked back at the book cover, then looked back at one another and our jaws collectively dropped in stereo. We forced ourselves to enter the teen section to get a closer look. It stood high on the top glass panel, as though it was not to be touched. I remember telling Nelson how that book must be scarier than his mom's meatloaf. He dared me to read it. Naturally, I countered by double dog daring him. Finally, after some back and forth ribbing, we agreed to call it a tie. Maybe one day in the future we'll both read it, but for now, hey, we were only 9...
These books were taboo to us back in the day
R.L. Stine's teen horror novels from that point on became the stuff legends were made of. Nelson and I would peek at the covers whenever we went to the library, but neither one of us dared to even so much as pick one up. We definitely made 'em out to be scarier than what they were, but it was all part of the fun of being a kid and being best friends with someone who also loved monsters and horror as much as you did. Throughout '93 and '94 it became sort of a running joke between the two of us to see who would read the first teen horror novel. By then, we were both heavily engrossed by Goosebumps. Nelson and I both saw Stine's teen novels as Goosebumps on steroids. While they scared me as a kid, that didn't stop me from admiring the covers whenever I stopped by the book store or the library. And one of the most gripping and memorable covers was the one for the book CURTAINS. The image of the lady trying to stab the guy as he threw his hands up in self-defense is one that never left me. Goosebumps was more fun and cheesy than actually scary, but these teen novels seemed legitimately disturbing, especially when you were 9 or 10. Even more than 20 years later, most of their art covers are still firmly embedded in my mind. If I could, I'd love to get giant-sized posters of some of those crazy ass covers, especially Curtains One of those childhood images that haunts you
To this day those haunting covers are embedded deep in my soul
Fall 1995. I just began the 7th grade. It was silent sustained reading (SSR) time in my language arts class. I thumbed through my teacher's library of books, trying to find something decent to pass the time with. That's when I first stumbled upon The Babysitter. It's actually one of the older books R.L. Stine wrote. The Babysitter tells the awful tale of a high school babysitter being stalked by a stranger in the night. It was creepy stuff, and I loved every second of it. The back had the best description: From the minute Jenny accepted the Hagen babysitting job, she knew she had made a mistake. First there was the dark and disheveled Hagen house, moaning and groaning with her every step. Then the crank phone calls started. "Hey babe. Are you all alone? COMPANY'S COMING." When Jenny discovered a creepy neighbor prowling in the backyard and a threatening note in her backpack, she realized this wasn't just a harmless game. But who would want to hurt her? What kind of maniac wanted to scare Jenny... to death? I love this book, and actually reread it about four years ago. It holds up well and I believe it to be one of Stine's finest works. Published in the summer of 1989, it also has the distinction of being one of Stine's earliest efforts. The Babysitter made ya think twice, even thrice, about babysitting
SEND IN THE CLONES!
As with anything else that catches fire, inevitably you'll get some clones popping up in an attempt to get their own slice of the pie. Goosebumps inspired a string of horror novel series for kids. The first I can recall was Betsy Haynes' Bone Chillers. Even the title was embossed! There was no shame. The Bone Chiller series opened with Beware the Shopping Mall and ran for a solid 20-plus entries. Of all the clones, I liked this one the most. I'm particularly fond of Frankenturkey. It's as absurd as it is abominable. Like the other clones, I never chose Bone Chillers over Goosebumps, but they were a decent alternative whenever the latest Goosebumps book was checked out at the library. Hell, there was even a 13 episode run of Bone Chillers on ABC television in the mid-late '90s. Not bad, Miss Haynes, not bad at all
Talk about shop til ya drop...
Ah, Shadow Zone. My least favorite of the clones, it does hold a special spot in my heart, though. My mom took me and Nelson to the library as usual one day, and we saw Shadow Zone sitting there. Another clone, I thought to myself, and I know Nelson thought the same. There's something unspeakably awesome about discovering something alongside your best friend. I don't know what it is, but there's something to be said about that. The books themselves weren't very good. They seemed to lack the charm or twists of Goosebumps, or so I recall, anyhow. The artwork was also quite awful. The Goosebumps covers were more often hit than miss, but Shadow Zone had some terribly unappealing art that made us want to read it even less. Nevertheless, Shadow Zone was a sign of the times: a time when seemingly everyone and his brother was hopping on the youth horror novel bandwagon. If nothing else, it gave us kids plenty of choices to choose from
Shadow Zone's art = Mystery Theater 3000 material
Deadtime Stories. Again with the popular embossed letters, this series was written by the Cascone sisters. I felt DEADTIME fell somewhere in-between Bone Chillers and Shadow Zone. It wasn't bad... but it was not my favorite of the clones either... it was just... kinda there. They did have some pretty bad-ass covers, though, so I'll give them that much. The Faerie Tale one sticks out in mind... it was genuinely creepy to see back in the day, and even now it remains a bit unsettling to look at
Yes, that is CHUCKY if I ever saw him. How they didn't get sued...
Finally, we have Graveyard School. They were unique in the sense that all the stories revolved around the students of Graveyard School. It was cool to see some sort of connection from one book to the next. Plus, as a kid I got a huge kick out of the author's fake name, Tom B. Stone. Oh Mr. Stone, you are a funny one, good sir. I was not a huge fan, though. Like Deadtime Stories it was just kind of there for me. Still, not a bad read from time to time when Goosebumps was not in Tom B. Stone. So hilariously b-movie bad that it's freaking EPIC
It was huge on puns. Or maybe Tom was 'stoned' writing it. Sorry
When I was 10 I decided that I wanted to become an author one day. It was all thanks to R.L. Stine. I wanted to write my own horror series for kids. And I had the perfect name: HAIRAISERS. I made the design as a kid 20 years ago using the same classic embossed look, with "hair standing up" on each letter. I have to admit that it was a very sleek look. I made a list of 50 or so book titles I wanted to write, and I actually wrote the first one in 5th grade as part of my huge write-your-own-book project. The Boy Who Cried Ghost (a nod to Goosebumps book THE GIRL WHO CRIED MONSTER) opened to rave reviews from my fellow classmates. I remember my teacher said our book had to be at least 12 pages. I shattered that by writing 40. My second book in the series, Play Guy, was about a normal kid living in suburban America who finds a strange looking doll outside his house. It turns out this doll is haunted and chaos ensues. Unfortunately, like so many childhood dreams, it died and shifted with time. Who knows, maybe one day HAIRAISERS will rise again; for now, it remains a fond boyhood memory
AND A SUPER SPECIAL SHOUT OUT TO...
I would be gravely remiss if I didn't give a special mention to SCARY STORIES to Tell in the Dark. Published in 1981, it's one of those infamous book covers we saw in bookstores growing up that we wanted to pick up, but were too scared to. Finally, I read through it in like the 4th grade or something, right around the time Goosebumps was starting to make some serious noise. And simply put, it scared the shit out of me. The stories were as disturbing as the twisted artwork itself. It seemed like something that crawled straight out of hell. Those eerie black and white drawings are firmly embedded in my soul. If you grew up in the '80s and '90s, you probably have a memory of Scary Stories as well. It was just one of those infamous books that everyone knew about. It was mythical
It was a harrowing collection of scary tales!
The one story that haunts me most, as well as many others, is the one about the lady who got bit by a spider. A red spot appears on her left cheek. She thinks nothing of it. One day she begins scratching it because it's so itchy. Next thing she knew, it popped and out came crawling dozens of baby spiders. Ugh. The drawing still creeps me out to this day. When I was a kid, I could barely look at it. I hated spiders then with a passion and I still do. This was the story my friends and I always referred to whenever we talked about Alvin Schwartz's Scary Stories book. In fact, they're making a movie about it. I'm excited to see how it turns out. If it's half as disturbing as the book was, it will be a mega-hit! Thanks to this, I had to check every corner for spiders before bed
Many things were hyped as scary. Few actually were. THIS WAS!
Here is an excerpt from one of my favorite entries in the entire Goosebumps legacy: Night of the Living Dummy
Kris rearranged her pillows, then glanced across the room to the window. The dummy's face was half covered in shadow now. But the eyes GLOWED as if he were alive. And they stared into hers... as if they were trying to tell her something. Why does he have to grin like that, Kris asked herself, trying to rub away the prickly feeling on the back of her neck. She pulled up the sheet, settled into the bed, and turned on her side, away from the wide, staring eyes. But still, even with her back turned, she could feel them gazing at her. Even with her eyes closed and the covers pulled up to her head, she could picture the shadowy, distorted grin, the unblinking eyes. Staring at her. Staring. Staring. She drifted into an uncomfortable sleep, drifted into yet another nightmare. Someone was chasing her Someone or SOMETHING very evil was chasing her. But who?
Goosebumps played a big role during my childhood. Not only did they cement me as an avid reader, but it grew my love for horror. Goosebumps came during a special period in my life. Right around 1993 and '94 when the SNES, Saturday morning cartoons and toys were all running wild; what a great time to be a child. My old best friend Nelson and I used to have friendly competitions where we'd see which one of us could read the latest book each month first. Then we would discuss our thoughts the next day out on the playground. It was all part of the fun. Talk to any kid who grew up during the mid-'90s and they're sure to fondly recall Goosebumps. Yeah, it was a little cheesy. But there is no denying the success the franchise enjoyed and the profound impact it had on a generation of kids who are now grown adults. Thanks in big part to R.L. Stine, we cultivated and formed a love of literature and lethal terrors that lurk in the dark from a very young age. We came to love books and things that go bump in the night. Simply put, Goosebumps struck lightning in a bottle, and it was one wave I'm very glad I was able to ride as it happened. Looking back, it was truly magic
It was awesome revisiting an old childhood favorite 12 years ago
It was such a legendary book franchise and even later a TV series
Nelly and I can't wait for the Goosebumps movie. SUMMER 2015!
Check out these cool mock covers inspired by Goosebumps fame
They're totally SICK. Based off real horror films like Halloween III
You can view these and many more excellent mock horror covers at IF IT WERE STINE