September 19, 2018

The Beast

Judging a Book by its Cover

Heyo folks, I'm back after slacking on updates for the summer. I have brought something interesting back with me this time though!

Now, while his blog has focused primarily on Goosebumps books I have from time to time featured non Goosebumps books. So far these "other" books have been from other authors, such as Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark by Alvin Schwartz. Well it has come time to go the other way and feature a book by RL Stine that is NOT a Goosebumps book. Now though Goosebumps was one of his big hits, RL Stine has been known for several different series. Fear Street is a big one, aimed at slightly older readers than Goosebumps. He has also done series like Mostly Ghostly, Rotten School, and even several joke books under the name "Jovial Bob Stine."

This book, however is not part of any series! (Well except that it has it's own sequel.) It's called The Beast, and it's own thing. Perhaps it is aimed at the Fear Street audience though. The font for his name on the cover is the same as the Fear Street books at the time. Also Fear Street books are advertised in the back of the book.

So what will this mysterious stand alone book be like? Perhaps it's just a Goosebumps book in disguise? Maybe it's something absolutely completely different? Maybe he just had a story that didn't fit in with any of his existing franchises? Well we'll see I suppose.

Now let's talk about the cover art. It was done by Tim Jacobus who did almost all the original covers for the first run of Goosebumps. The illustration doesn't feel that much like his Goosebumps art though. A little bit less cartoony and bright. I wouldn't exactly call it scary though, more like... Confusing.

The titular beast seems to in fact be a roller coaster. If the illustration is accurate, the spooky character in this book may not be a beast at all, but a ghost. "Is the roller coaster really haunted?" The cover asks? Well... I'm not sure what's so scary about a haunted roller coaster. I suppose there are some hijinks a ghost could get into. Messing with the safety systems perhap? Pull the brake at odd times? The ghost itself is a bearded man that reminds me a bit of depictions of a neanderthal man. He is beastly in his own way I guess.

Now I fear I have been yammering on too long about the cover. It's been awhile since I've written one of these. I think I am out of practice. Let's just read the damn book.

Getting Beastly

We begin appropriately enough of the roller coaster called The Beast. Young teens named James and his cousin Ashley are having an invigorating ride in the amusement park.  They are at Paramount's King Island. I had to google this, to see if it's a real place. It is (though no longer owned by Paramount) and The Beast is in fact a real and very popular coaster. Not being a roller coaster aficionado like young James here, I had no idea!

By chapter two while waiting in line for the very last Beast ride of the night, we find out that rollercoaster is in fact... HAUNTED. It seems every night a ghost rides the coaster after hours. I gotta say that isn't very scary by haunting standards but it seems like a lot of fun for the ghost.

The ride ends. The park closes. James can't find Ashley. Did the ghost get her? This is page 17 so I'm going tos ay no. My intuition is right and the cousins do find each other. Each blames the other for being the one who got lost. Both are a bit unsettled to be in the vacant park late at night. It only gets worse when they realize they're locked in. Since this is the 90s instead of pulling out their cell phones they start to search for a pay phone. Then it dawns on them, what could be more fun than having an amusement park to yourself all night? Unless of course... it's haunted.

Thus there is a bet. 10 dollars goes to Ashley if there is indeed a ghost that rides The Beast. After a brief run in with security and clumsiness by both kids they are there to witness the ghost for themselves. Surprisingly, the cars are running down the track. Could a ghost be aboard.

They notice a strange man in overalls at the controls. Could he be the ghost? If he is, he is pretty solid. He talks to the kids and tells them his name is P.D. Walters. Do ghosts introduce themselves? Whether or not he is a ghost, he is pretty strange. He says he's been coming to the park for 60 years. That's longer than King Island has existed! Apparently before the current park, there was one named Firelight Park, named for all the torchest that lit it. It was a beautiful place before a tornado came and caused a fire. June of 1931, hundreds of park goers lost their lives in the tragedy.

After that somber story, P.D. wants to cheer them up with a ride on The Beast. Who could say no? Not these kids, that's for sure. And who wouldn't be cheered up by a foggy night time rollercoaster ride while chased by security guards?

Off the ride, things have taken an odd turn. Everything is different. There are no guards, no P.D., and there is music and children even though it is after hours. It doesn't even seem to be the same park anymore. Everything looks... Old. Like, I bet if this was an episode of a TV show this part would be in black and white. I have the distinct feeling that at any moment someone will say "23 skidoo!"

In fact they do use old timey speech. They also are disturbed by the kids' attire. The past isn't so bad though, ice cream cones are only 2 cents a piece! Plus there is a barber shop quartet. Eventually a park guard they consults ends up getting angry that Ashley is in her "undergarments." Apparently they don't have shorts and shirts in the past. Time to flee! A brief delay in the freak sideshow and it is off again to lose the fuzz.

Thankfully, the guard gets distracted by a missing baby the teens bump into a helpful boy named Paul. He leads them to a pile of used clothing, donated due to the great depression. Hey is this book EDUCATIONAL? On the search to find P.D., they treat helpful Paul some hotdog, since they only cost 3 cents. Plus some rides wouldn't hurt while they search for P.D. right?

But amidst all the fun they find a newspaper with the date on it. The date it is awfully familiar... It is indeed the date where a tornado causes the park to burn down. Sadly, a couple of kids find it awfully hard to convince park guards that they are from the future so they know there is going to be a tornado. Whilst arguing with some workers at the main office they make a startling discover: young Paul is none other than P.D Walters, the man they have been looking for this whole time! Unfortunately for them all, Paul. D. Walters doesn't know how to send them to the future nor has he ever heard of The Beast.

The wind kicks up. The kids frantically try to convince everyone of their impending doom. No dice. Paulie D escorts them out through a secret way he uses to sneak into the park. Miraculous standing outside is none other than The Beast, roller coaster cars at the ready. The two cousins enter, but P.D. doesn't make it. Some guards leap into the seats, and their last exciting coaster ride begins.

At the end, the kids seem no worse for wear, but the guards have turned to skeletons. They are back in their own time. They figure the guards have aged to death.... which really doesn't make any sense but let's forget that for now. P.D. is nowhere to be seen. Modern guards at the park of the present catch them and begin to usher them out of the park, arranging for their parents to get them Strangely though, they have never heard of P.D. No one by his description has ever worked at the park.

Before leaving they notice a plaque. It honors the victims of the tragedy in 1931. The very last name on the list of those that died is P.D. Walters...

Their parents drive up to get them. Quietly they leave the park.

My Thoughts

I am increasingly at a loss at what to say when I review these books. They all sort of start to blend together and feel the same. But what about this one, it's not a Goosebumps book after all? So I guess I can start with a comparison of this to a Goosebumps book.

Is it just another Goosebumps book in disguise? Well... kind of. It is about the same length as a Goosebumps book. It follows the same basic format. Short chapters, lots of "cliffhanger" scares to get you hooked. Young teens getting into trouble. Certainly if this book was titled Goosebumps #63: The Beast it would not feel terribly out of place. That being said, it did feel ever so slightly different. I would say it was a little less goofy. There are less ridiculous leaps of logic. Though there were some plot twists they didn't feel as if they were trying so hard to come out of left field so much. They made more sense.

There are a couple of specific books I'd like to compare it to. The first would be the HorrorLand books, for the obvious reason that these both take place in an amusement park. This one differs for a few reasons. Firstly, HorrorLand is supposed to be scary. It's a little bit like going to a haunted house and then finding out it is ACTUALLY haunted. The park The Beast takes place in is just a regular old amusement park. The fact that it ends up being scary is more surprising in that way I guess. Also, for that matter, the park in The Beast is a real life park. I have never been to Kings Island park but I bet for kids that have ridden the actual roller coaster this is about it would be an extra little bit of enjoyment. I had to google to find out if the park they travel back in time to is real as well. Sadly it is not.

But that brings me to the next book I'd like to compare this to: A Night in Terror Tower. The reason for this one of course is the aspect of time travel. I think it's handled better and more interestingly in this book. Night in Terror Tower was more of a mythical ancient setting with sorcerers. The details didn't pop as much. In the Firelight Park featured here, we get a more real feeling of the times. It takes place during real historical events (The Depression) and features a relatively accurate depiction of an amusement park of the era. The lingo they use is a little silly but it's probably relatively close to legit.

Can I judge this book without comparing it to its Goosebumps brethren? Well it is a pretty fun book for kids. It's interesting in that you don't necessarily know what to expect from it just from the cover and title. It doesn't aim to go all out crazy to surprise you though. I think it would get the interest from any kid who loves roller coasters and maybe sucker them in to learning a little bit about history. Not that this is a history lesson or anything, but it brings up some topics kids of the era could have asked their grandparents about. I wouldn't all this the scariest book your kids could ask for, but I think its thrilling in its own way. Sure the ghost doesn't want to eat their souls, or murder their parents, but it does give them a bone chilling glimpse of a disaster of the past. Events they are doomed to be unable to alter. There is a little chill you get when you realize P.D. has been dead all these years and they were powerless to stop it. They were just lucky to escape with their lives.

I rank this book pretty favorably. I mean, it's no timeless masterpiece by any stretch. But in the endless slew of R.L. Stine books he has churned out, I would rank it pretty highly. I think perhaps because it wasn't put in one of his known series like Goosebumps or Fear Street that it may have been overlooked by some. I certainly didn't know it existed until my friend sent me a copy she found at a thrift store. I say if you're a fan of Goosebumps or children's horror, give it a go. It holds up pretty decently.

Rating: 4 fire tornadoes 5

Up Next

What do I have in store for my next review? Well frankly I am not 100% certain. What I do know is it won't be quite as delayed. Next month is Halloween and I will definitely have SOMETHING for Halloween. I'm just not sure what that is yet. I definitely have a lot of options. A lot of it boils down to how motivated I think I can make myself. So... I guess that doesn't necessarily bode well. I'll give it my best though! Until next time, thanks for reading.

June 28, 2018

Goosebumps Comics: Monsters at Midnight

Here I am, back to Goosebumps but a little bit different. This time I am covering some Goosebumps comics. Now some time ago I reviewed Goosebumps Graphix #1 which was a collection of 3 adaptations of Goosebumps novels into comic form. What I'm talking about now is a little different.

Goosebumps comics published by IDW Comics are instead original stories inspired by the classic books. So far they have published 2 stories which are comprised of 3 comics a piece. If you don't want to track down back issues the first story, Monsters at Midnight which I am gonna talk about a little here has been collected into a hardcover collecting the 3 comics.

I am not going to write up a complete synopsis of the story like I do for my regular reviews. Those reviews are for books 20 years old I want to relive. This is a modern book, out this year, and I think you should all go out and buy it to experience it for yourself.

Of course... I should tell you a little about it. So Mia and Ginny are spending their summer vacation with grandma and things aren't quite going as thrillingly as planned. When Ginny spots a creepy book store and wants to find a copy of a book that should be quite familiar to Goosebumps fans, the girls sneak out at midnight to find it but get more than they bargained for! I will say they wind up ultimately in a place which faithful readers should be quite familiar with, and some characters that they should be familiar with to.

This isn't just a rehash though. The story is all new, and they find some new characters along the way quite important to the plot. Ultimately it is a nice mishmash of things old and familiar with some newness mixed in.

I think this book would be great both as a way to introduce kids to Goosebumps or to excite someone who is already really familiar with the brand. If they have read a bunch of Goosebumps they'll see a lot of references they know and love. But it isn't just a "remember this!?" book. Example, at one point the girls get served a nice big bottle of Monster Blood. If you're familiar with that book you'll get a smile of seeing the ooze appearing. If you aren't familiar it'll still be a gross bottle of slime, and maybe if you get into the series later on you'll be familiar and then love the reference when you figure it out.

The plot is fairly solid for a comic book. It manages to both feel like a Goosebumps yet not feel entirely shackled down by the format. It has some trademarks the series is known for. Comic book versions of jumpscares for example. But also the plot doesn't really play out in a way I think a Goosebumps book traditionally would... and I think that's fine! After how many hundreds of Goosebumps books there are it's ok for there to be a little difference in the series. It is not different enough to feel "not Goosebumps" but different enough to feel... different.

Of course for a comic one must talk about the art. The art is really good and fitting in my opinion. It is bright, fun and cartoony with just and edge of scare. I admit a few panels are actually kinda freaky to an extent. A lot of it is in the eyes. Scary eyes!

Ultimately I'd recommend Monsters at Midnight. If you have a comic book shop you could check for back issues, or you can just see if your local book store carries the hardcover collection. All else fails, you can always get it online.

As I mentioned there are 2 series so far. The second is called Download and Die which I may cover at some point, but regardless should mention and recommend. It has many of the same strengths as the first one, while providing new characters and story. Currently Download and Die is only available in the individual 3 comic books but I imagine soon it should be out as a hardcover collection as well.

So thanks for reading, I'll be back with one of my more traditional reviews next time. I just really enjoyed these comics and thought I'd write up something to let you all know I give them the thumbs up. So until next time... stay spooky.

April 2, 2018

Don Cheadle Wants My Goosebumps!

So yesterday which was April 1st (hint hint hint about my update yesterday) and guess who happened to call me asking to borrow my Goosebumps? Don Cheadle himself! What an odd coincidence that such a famous actor would call me on April Fools Day! Sadly I was too buy stuffing my face full of ham and peeps to answer the call but he left me a nice voicemail you can listen to here.

April 1, 2018

It Came From the Cafeteria


Happy Easter. Or unhappy Easter for some of you. You may not like what I have to say. So I've been reviewing Goosebumps books for quite awhile now and they are sort of starting to feel all the same. I took a look at my collection and I found tucked away another book. A book that isn't Goosebumps. A book that is... Better. That book is It Came From the Cafeteria by Peter Lerangis. And you know what? I don't think I'm ever going to review another Goosebumps book again!

Judging a Book By Its Cover

Look at this beauty. No need for a "scary" font. No oozy borders. No trying to sell you on other products like a TV Show or a special edition calendar in little blurbs. Nope. None of that. What we have is the bold title in red, and the illustration letting us know what this is all about.

It Came From the Cafeteria. What did? Well just look at it. Slimy green feet. Goosebumps covers may try to scare you with piercing eyes or a grasping hand. This book knows the scariest part of any monster is the feet.

And how scared are these kids? Very, is the correct answer. Look at that girl doing the "Macauly Culkin" from Home Alone. Does she look more confused than scared? Maybe. But who wouldn't be confused by slimy green feet in the class room?

Will this be the book that puts me off of Goosebumps forever? Let's find out.

Getting Goosebumps Reading the Book

You know how around chapter 8 or 9 in Goosebumps R.L. Stine likes to use a phrase like "he tried to scream but no sound came out?" Well Peter Lerangis does not fuck around. This happens in the very first paragraph of the book. He makes R.L. Stine look like an amateur. Who is doing this attempted screaming? Ethan Katz. Ethan Katz is at the very beginning of the Universe. The big bang. It's a little bit scary. It's even scarier when his teacher wakes him up and tries grilling him on the big bang theory that they've been discussing in class. You see Ethan Katz is a very average kid. However, the other students of Eulenspiegel Middle School for Math and Science are far from average. In fact, they are pretty much geniuses.

First there is Hardy. He is a poet, and the sole member of heavy metal band Smashed Brains. He is also what the British would refer to as "a bit of a wanker." He explains the big bang theory in slam poetry style. Wanker.

Then there is Cecilia. Not only is she brilliant for her age, but Ethan also has a bit of a crush on her. Of course she'd never like a regular kid like Ethan... right? She explains the big bang theory a bit less artistically. Ethan doesn't really understand it.

The teacher goes on to explain the primordial soup. Ethan can't quite believe people came from soup. Ethan may not be average. Ethan may be a bit of a simpleton. In the middle of this lecture he gets passed a note from Hardy to give to Cecilia professing his love in a ... uhh... lovely poem. Of course the teacher gets it and reads it aloud. Cecilia, naturally, believes the affection comes from Ethan. During the resulting conversation we learn a few things. Firstly that the city was built on a nuclear waste site. Second, Ethan has a younger brother named after the hobbit from Lord of the Rings. Thirdly, Cecilia likes horrible poetry. And lastly, there are weird 2 headed grasshoppers around. A result of the nuclear waste? You be the judge!

The Next day Hardy who has a bit of an ego problem strikes up a convo with Ethan. He is drawn to Ethan's normalcy. In exchange for tutoring, Ethan promises to teach Hardy about normal kids. Lesson one, things that are neat are "cool" not "cold."

Now we are off to the eco bubble! What is that you ask? Well the 8th grade students built an environment to recreate the primordial soup. Jeeze, my 8th grade class just dissected a worm. Anyway, the 7th grade class is there to observe. There he meets a strange red headed girl named Philomena, or Phil for short. She begins the conversation the way most conversations go, by telling Ethan about her time machine in the boys bathroom.

So at the eco bubble Ethan sees some scary plants. Hardy finds this hilarious. Scared? By plants? Hah. He recites some shitty poetry about it. Next he tells Cecilia that he, not Ethan, wrote tha tshitty love poem. Ethan finds a unique way to mock the poet extraordinaire. He demonstrates the ingredients to a poem via dangerous chemicals from the lab. The result? A horrible smelling concoction that gets him kicked out of class.

He decides to dump it out in the bathroom. There he discovers Phil and her toilet wormhole. This is great stuff. The length of the flush determines how far back in time you go. Brilliant. Ultimately he decides not to dump it in the toilet. It's against the rules.

But where can he dump it? In Hardy's locker? That would be delightful and smelly! Bad timing though. Hardy just showed up. Bummer.

In the cafeteria the lunch lady is serving spinach-garlic-garbanzo bean casserole. The kids are all mortified by this, except of course for Hardy. Hardy does some embarassing of Ethan in front of his crush. There is only one thing Ethan can do... Dump his smelly, possibly deadly concoction into Hardy's casserole. Ultimately Hardy decides to dump it back in with the rest of the food. Oh no, everything is contaminated! Well what is the worst that could happen...

Update: the worst that could happen is that the spinach-garlic-garbanzo bean casserole comes alive! Or at the very least oozing across the floor and bubbling out of the pans! Thankfully they get the situation under control and decide to put this stinky mess into the incinerator. PROBLEM SOLVED. Plus school gets dismissed. Everything great.

After school Phil has set up things for Ethan to move forward with his crush. He meets Cecilia and thanks to Phil's smoothing things out it goes well... UNTIL THE PRIMORDIAL SOUP-SPINACH-GARLIC-GARBANZO BEAN SALAD BURSTS FROM THE DUMPSTER. Oh. Wait. It's Hardy. But that's strange, the dumpster was full of the gross goo when school let out.

Then the eco bubble explodes. Unexpected! Ethan knows this is their lunch's fault but no one believes him. They call the cops but soon learn a harsh life lesson: the cops are no help. In fact the police believe the kids are to blame for the damages. Pigs!

The cops aren't the only ones to blame them. The next day at school Ethan gets hauled into the principals office. Thankfully Phil is there to act as his attorney otherwise Hardy's accusations that Ethan is the culprit would go unanswered. While his lawyer was arguing out points of policy with the principal, the slimy lunch monster dropped out of the ducts in front of Ethan. It appears to have a least basic intelligence because it starts trying to mimic the boys speech patterns. Ethan runs out of the room and the principal notices a horrible smell. School is going to have to be canceled again. Back to the room they go, yet all that remains is a broken bowling trophy from his interaction with the casserole.

While the principal weeps the kids find traces of the beast and vow to handle things themselves. It seems this all leads back to the basement. The basement inconveniently seems to be locked and the elevator broken. Using common courtesy they simple knock on their door. To everyone's surprise they get a response. Yes indeed, it is the spinach-garbanzo-whatever monster. It seems to talk pretty well now. As it closes in on them it seems to be sucking the smarts from their beings. Phil is reciting algebra. Ethan, doesn't seem to have enough brains to be properly hindered.

They flee as best they can and make it all the way to the boy's room. The lunch monstrosity backs them up into a stall. Cowering, Ethan makes contact with the flusher. It just so happens the stall he is in contains Phil's time traveling toilet. They went back in time to yesterday before Ethan poured his mysterious chemical compound into that awful cafeteria food. In fact the test tube is still in his pocket. But they remembered everything that happened... Is that how time travel really works? I am not actually sure. I guess maybe a time machine based on a worm hole localized in a toilet may have wonky physics. I am not going to scrutinize.

Ultimately they decide the way to get rid of his concoction without doing damage is to burn the contest. There is a vent in the science lab that harmless distributes the smoke of it outside. Things didn't turn out too badly for ol' Ethan. Hardy proved himself to be a bumbling coward during their encounter. He made a true and loyal friend out of Phil. Plus, Cecilia even asked him out! I mean, Phil and Hardy were coming too but I say it counts. Of course they need make it to the mall before it starts raining out too hard... Hey... why is the rain green!

The End!

What I Thought

How is this better than Goosebumps? Let me count the ways! No seriously, this book blows anything R.L. Stine has done out of the water. It's got character, and quirk. It's got a sense of humor and is original. It's... Good!

First lets talk about the characters. They actually have personalities. In Goosebumps you basically get 3 character types. There is the "generic tween" the "scaredy cat" and the "likes to play pranks and scare people kid."

Now Ethan could certainly be called the generic tween of the book, but the way he is used is different. In Goosebumps he would merely be the subject of repeated jump scares for 25 chapters straight. However, the author here uses him as what is known as a "straight man." He is regular to highlight just how crazy everything and everyone is around him

For example, Hardy. Hardy seems all the more kooky because he has Ethan to play off of. Hardy has an ego, and is insufferable. He always speaks in poems and raps and acts like he knows everything but doesn't even know simple slang. Ethan serves as a counter point as "regular kid."

Then there is Phil. She is strange. I mean just look at her full name, Philomena. It's not a name you hear often. Though she is kind and nice like any other child, her intelligence merits Ethan's disbelief. I mean a toilet time machine? Come on!

But there isn't just the characters. There is the fun, and quirks of the book. There is wordplay. The lunch lady's name is Mrs. Gastronome, which is a word that means gourmet (and sounds pretty silly.) There is the basic essence of the plot, a slimy broccoli-spinach-whatever casserole causing havoc.

This leads me to another point in which this book is superior to Goosebumps. R.L. Stine fills his book with all kinds of monsters. You have werewolves, ghosts, aliens, vampires galore. But Peter Lerangis? He knows what truly scares kids. School lunch. Who hasn't had a sloppy joe or congealed mashed potatoes and gravy they were sure would come alive at any moment?

Pretty much this book is better than Goosebumps in every way. Even in length. Goosebumps are always around 115 to 130 pages. This book is 100 pages exactly. He knew  what the perfect length for a book is and he stuck to it.

Screw R.L. Stine. Screw Goosebumps. I'm a Peter Lerangis blog now!

Rating: 5 out of 5 gross vegetables

Up Next

Tough call. Now that I have forsaken R.L. Stine for all times, I am not sure where to go. Since Peter Lerangis was so good at writing this I assume he has just as many amazing children's horror books out there as his competitor. They usually list other books you can buy by the author in the back of the book. Let's check back there and see what Scholastic has to offer...

GOOSEBUMPS!?!?!? THIS MAN JUST GAVE YOU GOLD AND YOU ARE JUST PIMPING OUT THE INFERIOR R.L STINE IN THIS BOOK? Surely this can't be right. If I just turn the page surely there will be a long list of Lerangis originals...


Sigh. Oh well. Happy Easter.

March 16, 2018

Goosebumps #37 - The Headless Ghost

Judging a Book by its Cover

That right there is my childhood copy of The Headless Ghost. It definitely evokes thoughts of Sleepy Hollow and the headless horseman. Why do the headless ghosts always carry their heads? Can't they like, duct tape them on or something?

It has this kind of neon pink/purple vibe going on, both in the borders and in the picture itself. It is definitely competently done and is pretty much what you'd expect the cover to be for such a story. It lacks some of the kookiness that the more memorable Goosebumps illustrations have though.

There are some alternative cover pictures from around the globe. Take France for instance.

This head is kind of more zombie/skeleton than it is ghostly. It kind of makes me think of the cover of How I Got My Shrunken Head. It doesn't really fit the expectations I have when reading a Goosebumps book. It is simultaneously more serious, but also a kind of silly. It's hard to put into words really.

Unlike France, Japan is simply not fucking around with its cover.

Look at that! That is bad ass. That doesn't look like the cover to a kid's book. It looks like it belongs on a heavy metal album. It reminds me of some of the more haunting illustrations from Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark. It is absolutely creepy and revolting. Full points for this. It might be a little too serious and grotesque for how silly Goosebumps is but god damn is it awesome.

So what are we getting in this book? Certainly a ghost without a head. That much is very clear. All illustrations involved make it look like an olde timey ghost instead of a newer one. The American one makes it seem as though he'll be haunting a house. Will some kid move into a haunted house? Is there a spooky house on the corner all the neighbors warn him about? Let's see!

Getting Goosebumps

Meet Stephanie and Duane. They are known as the Twin Terrors. I think mostly they refer to themselves by this name, I don't imagine anyone else does. Anyway, they both look similar despite not being related and they like to go around town scaring people. Twin terrors. Got it? They adopted the spook life last Halloween when they got old enough to realize scaring people is cooler than trick or treating. Of course terrorizing the neighborhood doesn't have to be done just on Halloween.

Now the Twin Terrors find one place in town scariest of all. Hill House is a creepy old tourist stop that is, of course, haunted. Duane and Stephanie have been on the tour so often they know it all by heart. A sea captain built the house 200 years ago then left his bride to go off and sail. He never returned. Or maybe he did... AS A GHOST! He haunted his old lady up pretty good and scared her right out of their home. His ghastly calls for his wife Annabel where frequently heard but no one ever saw the ghost. Of course a haunted house with just one ghost isn't good enough. One hundred years after it was built the Craws moved in with their son Andrew. Andrew was... how shall I put this... kind of a dick? No one liked him, not even his parents. Long story short, the sea captain's ghost ripped off his head. Why? Well because Andrew saw him. That is pretty good grounds for ripping off someones head I suppose. Anyway, no one has really heard from ghost captain since and now ghost Andrew is the talk of the town. His head has never been found.

Anyway, back to the Twin Terrors. After a year of throwing fake plastic spiders on people while they sleep, they're starting to get bored. Stephanie comes up with a brilliant idea. They are going to go to Hill House and find the Andrew's missing head. Duane seems a bit scared of the idea, but ultimately decides to go along with it.

Inside they are greeted by their favorite tour guide Otto. He tells them the story of Captain Bell and his bride Annabel. After she fled in terror people in the city saw a figure that looked just like him holding a lantern aloft in the window. This directly contradicts the Duane narration which states that people heard his cries but never saw the ghost. I thought these kids knew the tour by heart?

Captain Bell and Headless Andrew aren't the only sad stories the house has to offer. Andrew's younger sister went mad after his death. She sat in her room playing with her dolls every day for 80 years. I hope they had a bathroom put into her room. Also, their mom tripped and fell to her death in the house shortly after Andrew's death. I suppose that couldn't have helped his sister's sanity.

Of course the Twin Terrors aren't here for the tour, they are here for the head. Duane has a problem escaping the tour though. Some creepy pale kid (who may or may not be a ghost) is watching them.Stephanie gives no fucks and drags Duane off in search of the head.

First stop, the green room. It's called that because it has green wallpaper. Clever. 60 years ago some people stayed there and got a horrible rash that never went away and no doctor could cure it. It just so happens that Stephanie is starting to itch horribly. How terrible, unless of course it's a prank, which it is. But don't worry she'll never prank Duane again and OH MY GOD THERE IS THE MISSING HEAD. Dammit, pranked again. In another room Duane checks out a bed and OH MY GOD THE BLANKETS ARE MOVING oh wait never mind Stephanie is just looking in the bed for the missing head. Man, that time she wasn't even trying to prank him. Get a grip Duane.

All this tomfoolery paid off though. They found the missing head. Unless of course it was actually an antique bowling ball. Oh damn, it was. Did you know they used to only have 2 holes with none for your thumb? Well now you do, thanks for that lesson Mr. Stine.

This calls for desperate action. They are going to the... TOP FLOOR! The tour never goes up there. That MUST be where they hide all the disembodied heads. Or where they keep all the ordinary house cats. Either way. Also cobwebs. I mean I guess these things are kinda creepy in a Halloween decoration kind of way? More rooms, more ghastly visages like... SHEETS COVERING OLD FURNITURE. Finally someone comes to get them. It is either a ghost or the tour guide. I'll give you two guesses.

So after Otto the tour guide shows them out they hear spooky voices asking about the head. All the find however, is the creepy blond kid from the tour. His name is Seth and he is in town visiting. Also, he wants to show them some real ghosts. Turns out ghosts hate tours and only come out at night. Makes sense I guess. They all make plans to sneak out at night and meet up there to see some real good old fashioned specters.

The next night at midnight (the spookiest hour of the day) they all sneak out. Immediately Seth tries for a jump scare prank but for once in a Goosebumps book it doesn't work. Inside Seth assures them that it needs to be dark because ghosts don't like the light. I guess maybe it hurts their eyes? Do ghosts have eyes? Immediately they contradict this by getting some candles? So I guess ghosts are ok with like... mood lighting? Or maybe they only like candles because they are appropriate the the time period they were alive in. I suppose electric like would freak me out too.

A new spooky tale is revealed in the kitchen. The dumbwaiter, it seems, is HAUNTED! The chef would put food on it in ye olden times the cook would put food on it and try to send it upstairs but when it arrived the food would be gone. Now my first thought would be that it is malfunctioning or maybe their are rats or raccoon in the house or something but nope it's definitely gotta be ghosts. Everyone knows ghosts are hungry all the time. Like Slimer from Ghostbusters. A creepier story for the dumbwaiter is that some kid was showing off using it for an elevator and when it came back he was gone. All that remained were three bowls containing various organs of his. Which is pretty gross.

For more immediate concerns though we look to Seth who has locked in our protagonists. Did I say Seth? Actually, he is now saying his name is Andrew. But... isn't Andrew the name of the ghost. It sure is. Stephanie points out the obvious. Andrew is missing a head and this kid has a head therefor, not Andrew. He explains that he actually borrowed this head. Sadly, he has to return it. He has a new head to borrow in mind though. Duane's. He needn't worry though. It will be returned when Andrew finds his own head! Well that's nice and considerate.

I guess Duane isn't down with this plan. The twin terrors scramble away and in the tussle reveal a hidden passage. Try try to escape via ladder but the wall it is on breaks away. This reveals yet another hidden area. A room. A room containing a ghost head. Andrew's ghost head. And then another ghost shows up. This ghost has no head. So the NEW ghost is Andrew, who turns out to just be pretty glad to have his head back and then part this earthly existence. So who is Seth then? Conveniently Otto the tour guide shows up. Or, as Seth calls him, UNCLE Otto. Apparently this isn't the firs time Seth has pretended to be a ghost. Wacky kids!

After all this Duane and Stephanie decide to lay off the spooky stuff. Of course they just can't totally stay away. After a while they return to the house for the tour for old time's sake. Otto was glad to show them around another time. When finished some police officers come to see what the kids were doing at that old house. The kids tell them they were taking a tour. How can that be, the officers wonder. There haven't been any tours in that house for months. It's been abandoned for awhile. Scoping it out, the kids see the ghosts of tour guides Otto and Edna. That's the spooktastic ending.

What I Thought

36 Goosebumps came before this one. We are in a little bit of a rut at this point. The formula for these books is pretty clear, and he's sticking to it. The books that stand out at this point, have to have some unique aspect. That is usually in what monster appears. A ghost in a haunted house just isn't that creative at this point. So while the book is as solid as a Goosebumps book can be, does the one with some ghosts in it really stand out among the living dummies, lawn gnomes, monster bloods, and haunted masks? Not really.

So what things does this have going for it? Well it has kids who love scaring kids in turn getting spooked. I believe that's call comeuppance and that is good stuff to read about. A tour of a haunted house is interesting. Usually when you have a haunted house in these things it's one that a family unwittingly moved into or one that has been abandoned. Having one so notoriously haunted that it has a tour but without ever having any actual evidence of ghosts until some kids go snooping. That's fun.

I can't help feeling he could have taken things in a more unique direction though. It's pretty much what you would expect out of a book called The Headless Ghost. He could have turned it on it's head (no pun intended) a little bit. Get a little bit unexpected. He loves his twists, but the "it was ghosts the whole time" is pretty meh.

Overall, this book is perfectly acceptable but not exceptional. If you love ghosts over other types of scary things, perhaps you'll really dig this one. Otherwise, it's just a pretty ok book in a very very long series of other ones.

Rating: 2 and 1/2 heads out of 5

What's Next?

I don't know! The next book of the original series is The Abominable Snowman of Pasadena. But frankly I'd like to do something different. What? I don't know. There are a fair amount of options. I have several books for other series in Goosebumps. Any thoughts? Leave a comment on what Goosebumps stuff you'd like me to review next. Until then, thanks for reading, and catch ya next time.

October 31, 2017

Goosebumps #36 - The Haunted Mask II

Judging a Book by its Cover

First things first. I am pretty sure I hinted or perhaps outright said I was going to do a Give Yourself Goosebumps book for Halloween as I often do. However, after awhile of thinking I realized that I had just read a Shocker on Shock Street was The Haunted Mask II. I remembered that this book takes place on Halloween. What better book to read now? It would feel kinda silly reading a book based on Halloween for Thanksgiving. So here we are.

The cover of my original copy from the 90s features a kid in a hideous green mask. It is a different mask from the first book. I think the illustration is better too. It's more detailed. Instead of just a girl with a mask standing in front of a color gradient we have this trick or treater with bag in hand going up the stairs next to a Jack-o-Lantern. It evokes strong feelings of Halloween. It's got kind of an unsettling angle that these covers often do, making sure the mask is front and center. Also I think two tone border colors fit the book very well. I am not sure if the artist got to pick what the colors for the border are or if they are random, but they work really well on this. The blue and orange matching colors in the picture, his jeans, his shirt, etc.  The tagline "new face old nightmare" confirms that this is indeed a new mask.

But the cover of my original book isn't the only cover art that exists. You may have seen my update "Covering Covers" where I showed some of the alternate art around the world for Welcome to Dead House. I decided maybe in my book reviews I should show some of the alternate art. Today we shall look at France's covers. Yes plural. France had 2 different illustrations for different versions of the cover. Shall we see #1?

Oh my. Well unlike the American cover this is far more... uhh, I hesitate to say realistic. Less cartoony? Lets go for that. It's certainly not realistic. The spider, the wound, all come across as silly instead of scary. Which is weird because you would think the cartoonier American art would feel more silly... but somehow it doesn't. Also what is with that smirk? It doesn't come across like an evil grin. It is like the model smirking at how shitty he knows the cover sucks. Lets see if the second cover fairs any better...

Oh my, not an improvement. The mask is certainly far more silly than it is scary. It looks like he is more frightened of the girl than she is of him! And they've been sitting there having a staring contest long enough to have a spider build a web between them. I'm sorry guys, you have not won me over. Still team America here.

Now, on to the book!

Getting Goosebumps

You may remember that the original Haunted Mask starred a young girl named Carly Beth. Well this time around the sequel stars her friend (or least a bothersome compatriot) named Steve Boswell. He was present in the previous book but was not the focus.

So it's about a year from last time. Steve is now the coach of a 1st grade soccer team. You may think he is a fine upstanding young man to volunteer to do such a thing. In reality it was punishment for releasing a squirrel in the school gym. His friend Chuck talked him into it but got let out of coaching the team by claiming he had an after school job. Who is hiring 12 year olds? Is that even legal? Anyway, soccer team. They are the hogs and they are terrible. Not terrible at soccer, just terrible in general. Well probably at soccer too but mostly they are just pains in the ass. Because they are kids and all kids are terrible. Like all kids they live to make older people's lives miserable. That older person is Steve. Want to know how evil they are? They painted a big hunk of concrete to look like a soccer ball and convinced Steve to kick it. He did. It hurt. Apparently he didn't kick it as hard as he claims though because he didn't break any toes. How first graders were clever enough to come up with this and strong enough to carry a soccer ball sized hunk of concrete I don't know. They were fueled by their little person evil. Here is the thing. That's not even the only thing they did to him that day, they also glued feathers to all his school books in his backpack.

Steve wants revenge. I am with you Steve. You swear vengeance on those twerps. Spitballing with Chuck for the perfect means of getting back at the kids they come upon Carly Beth from the first book. Then Steve has the perfect idea. If he had a mask like Carly Beth had a year ago he could scare the crap out of those rugrats. I am not sure if it ranks up there with "getting a guy to almost brake his foot on concrete" but I suppose it will do. They used to try to scare Carly Beth all the time but after the fiasco with the mask, no more. Chuck decides that it might be a good time to bring back the old tradition. It was not to be, however. The spookers became the spookees. When they tried to scare her HER HEAD FUCKING FELL OFF. Her friend Sabrina screamed and screamed. Carly Beth just laughed. With her real head. Because the one that fell off was fake. Duh. Sabrina joined in the laughter after her performance. There is no scaring Carly Beth these days. Anyway after the scaring the get down to business. Steve wants to know where she got the mask. Carly Beth isn't gonna tell. For good reason too, if you remember the last book. It came alive and took control, giving her orders and terrorizing her more than anyone else. Steve wont take no for an answer and kidnaps her head. Her mom made that, thus Carly Beth needs it back. In the end she relents and tells him.

The next day Steve has to deal horrors, not of haunted masks as Carly Beth warned, but of life's one true terror: little kids. Back to Hogs practice. They are still animals. He wore his best blue sweater for school picture day. The hooligans tripped him in mud and got it messy as shit. After practice Chuck comments that he looks like a mud monster. Sorry Chuck, the mud monsters are in Goosebumps #15 You Can't Scare Me.

At home he cleans up and changes into a Georgetown Hoyas shirt. He comments on how he has no idea about the team but likes the shirt. I get that. My aunt used to always give me Notre Dame Fighting Irish stuff, and I liked it but had no idea about the team. This shit happens when you're a kid I guess. It's like people who wear Nirvana t-shirts but have no idea who sang Smells Like Teen Spirit.

I digress. To the Party Place to get a totally not haunted mask. Just one problem, it's closed. Not closed for the day either, closed for good. This is nothing that a little breaking and entering can't solve. They go into the basement and find all the merchandise boxed up. They find the masks in a box all spooky and gross as ever. Unfortunately the owner of that box isn't too keen on thieves. Chuck runs away like a true friend leaving Steve alone to face the music. The owner is a strange man who refuses to sell a mask asserting that they are "too real." He also threatens to call the police which is a totally reasonable thing to do when hooligans break into your store. Not content with one crime, Steve decides to rob the strange caped owner and runs away in a hurry with the mask of a creepy old man hidden beneath his shirt. He doesn't even tell Chuck about it. No doubt it will be quite the surprise on Halloween.

He was home free. Literally, at home. His parents were a bit upset he was late for dinner but he manages to run upstairs with mask hidden. Safely in his room he admires the mask and all it's grotesqueity. A big evil grin with a single gross tooth. Long nose dripping ooze. Scabs. Missing skin. Forehead bone. Spider infested hair. This mask is PERFECT. Steve goes to try it on but mom calls him down to dinner. Later. He can try it on later.

Next day, the day before Halloween, soccer practice continues on as horrible as usual. The Hogs are monsters. Almost. But Steve will show them what a real monster is like. He unfolds his plan by offering to take them all out trick or treating with him as a team celebration. The kids take the bait.

The next chapter begins with a false scare where the mask had moved of its own volition except then Steve remembered that he moved it earlier. Oh well. They can all be winning scares. Steve decides to practice his scaring for Halloween by putting on the mask and spooking Chuck today. He slides on the creepy mask and it tightens on his face. Plus it smells terrible. He tries remove it but it won't budge. Then he notices he feels really weak and... old. The mirrors reflection shows the mask is truly terrifying but not only that, the lips seem to move with his. He practices a creepy cackle, but it comes out in the voice of a withered old man. His dog Sparky doesn't care for the transformation and bites at him. He tries to pet his pooch but scares the beast off. He tries in vain to remove the mask. No doing. It's not coming off.

Mom calls up to Steve but his raspy voice can't reach her. She decides to come up stairs. A logical kid might think gee, this is great, now she can help. Not Steve though, he doesn't want her to know. She just wanted to give him some delicious black and white cookies she bought specially just for him. He tells her he is sick and just wants to stay in his room for now. She believes him and doesn't even go in to check on him.

Steve decides his salvation is with Carly Beth. She had one of these masks and got it off. She warned him what would happen if he got one. He dials her up on the phone but her dad assumes it's a prank call when he hears the croaking old man voice the mask has given him. He must have fallen asleep at his desk because some time later his dad calls him to dinner. Steve explains that he must be getting sick and just wants to nap.

Thankfully the next morning he wakes up in bed to beautiful weather and sunshine. He feels his face and discovers no mask, just his own face. It was all just a dream. A terrible dream. And it's over now. Actually the notion that it was all a dream was a dream. The mask is real. This time truly awake he feels the disgusting mask on his face. Bummer. There is a note from his parents that they went to go visit his Aunt Helen. So wait, they just left a kid that was sick all night and didn't eat dinner alone unchecked and ditched him? Parents of the year right there.

It's time to make the best of it. There is no reason he can't scare those bratty kids BEFORE getting help from Carly beth is there? His parents come back at night expecting to help him with his usual hobo costume. His dad is delighted at how scary his mask is. Mom is just grossed out. They take some pictures and he is off. Off very very slowly. His now age ravaged body aches as he shuffles along.

Eventually he manages to get there and see his soccer team dressed up as ninja turtles and power rangers. Aw the 90s, was there a better era for Halloween costumes? Now is his big chance to scare them. He shows themselves and those little bastards are filled with... pity? They just see a tired old man and try to help him out. Ok come on, no first grader would do that. They would look at him and be like "WHY ARE YOU SO OLD?!?!" Frustrated he raises his cane which only makes him fall over and increase their pity. They ask him if he needs to be somewhere. He has them take him to Carly Beth's house.

The little rascals manage to get him there. Carly Beth is in her duck costume she wears every year except for last years infamous mask. Carly Beth also only seems him as a disgusting old man and begs him to leave her alone. After much convincing she realizes he got a haunted mask of his own. She brings him in and explains the backstory of the mask. The creepy caped party store salesmen made them but something went horribly wrong. The faces are actually alive. They are known as the unloved. Thus the only way to remove them is with a powerful symbol of love. Carly Beth used the replica of her head her mother made her last year to remove hers. Steve must find his own symbol.

Time for Steve to go home with Carly Beth and find his own symbol of love. Steve decided those yummy black and white cookies his mom bought just for him was a symbol of love. Yeah, painstakingly recreating your daughters face with hours of work and dropping by the bakery are totally the same level of love. Doesn't matter anyway because the dog Sparky at them. Lets hope there wasn't too much chocolate in that frosting or old Sparky is gonna be awfully sick. Carly Beth decides Sparky himself is a symbol of love. Sure why not. He loved him so much he ate his cookies. The dog runs around hard to catch before he leaps into Steve's arms so he can bring him to his face.

It didn't work. They decide there is nothing left to do but go back to the Party Store. they look through the boxes seeing if there is anything to help them. Carly Beth finds a suit crawling with spiders. It looks like it fits right along with Steve's mask. To demonstrate she holds it up to him. His face feels like it's on fire. The mask lifted itself off of his face and connects with the suit which begins thrashing around. The old man found his body at last! She shuffles off into the night as Steve erupts with glee at having his own face back. Then they see a ghoulish figure with fiery red eyes and jagged broken teeth! It's Chuck and he snuck away with a mask of his own during their break in. Now he is just having trouble getting it off...

What I Thought

First of all, I like the premise of the book. I enjoyed the first Haunted Mask and I think by keeping it with the same group of kids but moving the main protagonist from Carly Beth to Steve was smart. It wouldn't have made sense for Carly Beth to get another haunted mask. She learned her lesson. Time for someone else to learn theirs.

Another thing that I like is it kinda changed things up from the first one in regards to the scares. Carly Beth originally wanted to scare the pants off everyone, and succeeded. Too well even. Steve's old man mask grosses some people out but he doesn't get much scaring done. The terrible 1st graders feeling pity on old man Steve was great. His plans totally blew up in his face.

Though the solution was a little bit weird, I also appreciated that they didn't use a symbol of love to get it off this time. You can't have the same solution twice. Now of course the resolution they used was odd and kind of out of nowhere, but I think it worked. It also seemed like it could have paved the way for another sequel that didn't really happen. There is another Haunted Mask book in another series of Goosebumps but it isn't Part 3.

There are maybe a couple inconsistencies between this and the first one. One example, Carly Beth was able to remove her mask once before it became stuck to her face. The owner warned her if she put it on a third time it would never be able to be removed. This doesn't seem to be the case with Steve's mask. Maybe it's just because it's another mask?

Overall there isn't a lot to complain about in this book. Sure there is inattentive parenting. That tends to happen. Also I do wish those bratty 1st graders got what was coming to them. That is just kind of a personal wish though. Damn kids. I admit it wouldn't have been as good for the story. Maybe if someone else scared them? Like Chuck or Carly Beth? Or maybe one of the kids could have followed them to the store and put on a mask without them knowing instead of Chuck having the mask as the end? Just a thought.

Basically I think the Haunted Mask was one of the goto classics of Goosebumps and I think this book is a very fitting followup to that. It itself is one of the better books in the original series and is worth giving a read, especially around Halloween.

Rating: 4 out of 5 masks

Up Next

First of all, Happy Halloween. I hope you enjoyed this review and had a festive day. As for what I'm planning for my next update? First I'd like to do another Covering Covers and show off some more of those weird foreign alternate illustrations.  I meant to do one this month but my Scary Stories to Read in the Dark ended up taking a lot of time. After that I'm unsure of what to do. I could read the next story in the series which is The Headless Ghost. I also could do the Give Yourself Goosebumps review I was planning for today. Tough call. Feel free to let me know what you think in the comments below. As always, thanks for reading and I'll catch you next time.

October 13, 2017

Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark

It's October, the spookiest of all months. This particular October we must determine which is the scariest day. Could it be Friday the 13th which falls in October this year? Or perhaps it is October 31st, Halloween! If we were to battle it out via their movie franchises it would be Jason Vorhees vs Michael Myers. A frightening battle if ever there was one.

But for the kiddos in my youth, there would be different battles of scary franchises. Undoubtedly Goosebumps was the biggest and the baddest. It's why my blog is mostly dedicated to it. But I have to admit that not Goosebumps alone in frightening young me. There were other franchises that played their part. For example there was the 3 book series of Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark. Today I'll be reviewing book 1 in that series. Now I had actually assumed this came out in the 90s as it was so well known to my friends at the time. Turns out it actually came out in the early 80s but just had a long life span.

Now Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark is a different beast than Goosebumps. For one it's a collection of short stories. At that, it's not even original stories. Folklorist Alvin Schwartz researched an array of scary stories told throughout history and retold them here.

There is an interesting thing about this book though. While there are plenty of scary stories to read it may be that the most memorable thing is actually the illustrations. I think if you talk to anyone about the book they will bring up the pictures. They are extremely creepy, and not in a very "child friendly" style. Some are downright gruesome. These pictures are so well remembered that when fairly recently they were redone by a new artist for their most recent re-release of the book there was outrage from many fans.

I have flipped through these pages, and the art still is creepy. It holds up very well. But I have very little recollection of the stories. I do remember a tale or two, mostly in that they are more well known scary stories I had problem heard elsewhere at camp-outs or sleep overs. But how well do these stories hold up to me as an adult? Lets find out.

Strange and Scary Things

We begin with a forward. It discusses how scary stories have been around a long time. American pioneers told scary stories. It even discusses a young prince named Mamillius brought out in Shakespeare who would tell a scary story but never got his chance. More that, it suggests how to tell a scary story. Speak softly, darkness helps. Through this you realize that this book is more than a collection of scary stories for you to read, but ones for you to share. To retell to your friends. Perfect for the youths it is aimed at. Surely a slumber party or camp out could use these tales. Let us begin.

Chapter 1 "Aaaaaaaaaaah!"

This will apparently be featuring "jump scare" stories. The Five Nights at Freddy's of literature perhaps.

The Big Toe

A kid finds a big toe while gardening and naturally picks it up. His mom decides they should eat it.... What? Mom, dad, and son each get a piece of the toe then tired out from all that cannibalism they go to bed. The owner of the toe shows up demanding to know where it is. Seems reasonable. Kids try to sleep it away but angry toe guy is relentless. "Where is my to-o-o-o-o-e?" he questions several time. Then there are directions for you jump at the person you are telling the story to and shout "YOU'VE GOT IT!"

But wait, not only do we have director cues, we have an alternate ending! The directors cut if you will. In this version the voice comes from the chimney, and there is a strange looking creature inside. Going through your typical "wolf dressed as a grandma" questions he asks "what you got such big eyes for" with some spooky replies. Why does he have big claws? To scratch up your grave. And those teeth? there for chomping on your bones. Make this clear by jumping at your friend.'

So now it is very clear, these aren't stories to just read alone in your room. These are stories you are supposed to spook your friends with. But is it scary? Well this first story seems to think the scary part is a weird man/creature coming to look for his toe. I think a family that finds a human toe in their garden and immediately eats it is the scary part. That dude clearly deserves his toe back. Frankly. neither version of the end is particularly scary.

Spookometer rating: 1 toe out of 5.

The Walk

My uncle was walking and met a guy. They just look each other and get scared. Then they do it again, over and over into the night getting gradually more and more scared. AHHHHHHH! (the book told me to scream.) And that is pretty much it.

Very little substance to this story. I think perhaps the repetition of the uncle looking at the man, the man looking back, and them both getting scared is supposed to lull you, perhaps even bore you, to make you susceptible to the startle of a scream? It is hardly even a story though.

Spookometer rating: 1 scream out of 5

"What Do You Come For?"

An old lady wishes for some company in her kitchen at night. Rotten feet fall down her chimney. SANTA? NOOO! Legs fall after the feet, and attach themselves mystically. Then the body, arms, etc. Terrorized the woman asks "What do you come for?" Well of course, he comes FOR YOU! (do the jump scare bit here.)

Well rotten body parts falling out of your chimney is a bit freaky, I'll give you that. I wonder if these are just supposed to be rough outlines of a scary story and you are supposed to fill in more details yourself? It's kind of lacking so far....

Spookometer rating. 2 feet out of 5

Me Tie Dough-ty Walker

People claim there is a haunted house where a bloody head falls down the chimney every night. I am getting a distinct chimney theme with this part of the book. So does the same bloody head fall every night? Or is it a different one and they all just keep piling up? No one has stayed there to find out. A rich guy offers two hundred bucks to anyone who will stay in this house overnight. A boy and his dog take him up on the offer. To cheer themselves up they light a fire in the fireplace. They hear strange singing in the night that says, "me tie dough-ty walker." His dog replied "lynchee kinchy colly molly dingo dingo." Damn modern music, you can't even understand the words.  Naturally the boy is kinda surprised his dog sang. It happens several times, because apparently repetition is scary. The kid is worried his dog keeps replying is gonna get the weird singer to show up. Then a bloody head falls out of the chimney and scares the dog to death. And then a scream because, ya know, jump scare.

Ok, nonsense words are not scary. Unless it is like, the devil making you speak in tongues? I don't know. A bloody head falling out of a chimney is scary. Everything that lead up to it is dumb. I am losing my patience with this book.

Spookometer rating: 1 head out of 5

A Man Who Lived in Leeds

This is a rhyming poem that ends with a simile about getting stabbed with a penknife and then you scream.

This is kinda bullshit.

Spookometer rating: 1 penknife out of 5

Old Woman All Skin and Bone

This one is actually a song. It has sheet music for the little ditty and everything. Basically an old woman goes to church and then finds a dead body crawling with worms. Dismayed she asks the preacher if she'll look like then when she's dead. He tells her she will. AHHHHH. This one really didn't need a scream. Oh well.

Anyway, contemplating your own mortality IS actually pretty scary. Who hasn't failed to go to sleep at least once while contemplating ones own death. And to come face to face with it via a corpse at church, and have the priest who you look to for comfort and guidance. I am not sure that making it a song helps make it scary though. Maybe if you had a creepy arrangement of it? Got some creepy church organ? I don't know. No kid is going to do that.

Spookometer rating: 2 corpses out of 5

Chapter 2: He Heard Footsteps Coming Up the Cellar Stairs

Thank christ, we are out of the jump scares. This one promises ghosts, murders, and other strange occurrences. This may be just the thing I was looking for.

The Thing

I don't think this is the John Carpenter movie, or even its remake. Two friends shoot the shit near a turnip field. Some strange figure lurks there but disappears. Next time it appears it comes closer, and scares them. Finally it approaches them and they are determined to see what they are so scared of. It's a skeleton wearing black pants and suspenders. This scares them pretty good and they run home. A year later Ted dies and looks just like the skeleton man.

Wait.... so did the skeleton cause him to die a year later? Or is that unrelated. Is the scary thing the death of a friend or a walking skeleton man? I'm sorry, this is just no good. So much for hoping better of this chapter.

Spookometer rating: 1 dead friend out of 5

Cold as Clay

A farmers daughter falls in love with a farmhand named Jim. Dad doesn't think he's good enough so he sends his daughter away. Lovesick Jim got literally sick and died. On the other side of the county daughter hears a knock at the door. It's Jim. He says her father sent for her. On the horse ride home he complains of a headache and she says he is as cold as clay, wrapping him in a handkerchief to keep him warm. Dad was shocked to see her, and she was surprised he hadn't sent for her. Jim, it now seems, is absent. Dad tells her about his death and they dig up his grave because what is a little desecration between friends, and his corpse is still there... but it is wearing daughters handkerchief.

Ok this one has a little spookitude. It's not just mindless repetition or nonsense. Though short there is a little actual story going on. Based soley on the fact that this one is better than everything that preceded it...

Spookometer rating: 2.5 graves out of 5

The White Wolf

The wolf population is out of control. Farmers are losing cattle, so the state puts a bounty out on the animals. Bill the butcher decides to make some money killing wolves instead of cutting up already dead beef. He is pretty darn good at it. So good in fact that not too long after the wolf population is seriously hurting. Bill decided that was a good time to retire and vowed not to kill any more wolves because killing wolves made him rich and... I don't really understand his reasoning ok? Oh well. Anyway, a white wolf shows up and kills his cow. IMMEDIATELY Bill forsakes his vow and takes a new vow of vengeance against this wolf. He ties a lamb to a tree to bait it and waits with his gun. Bill goes unheard from for awhile before his friends check up on him. His lamb is fine. Bill however had his throat torn open. There was no sign of a struggle. The white wolf was never seen again.

This is some man versus nature shit right here. Don't fuck with nature guys. It will tear your throat out. Obviously we are left to wonder, was that a real wolf or a ghost wolf. I am not sure if one is scarier than the other. Either one will apparently tear your throat out.

Spookometer rating: 2 wolves out of 5

The Haunted House

A preacher wants to unhaunt a house. Naturally he takes a bible and he builds up a fire. In the cellar he hears some sounds like someone walking around, trying to scream, struggling, then silence. He tries to go back to the bible but someone is coming up the stairs. Before he could be spooked the preacher asks the thing what it wants. This spook doesn't like questions so he goes back downstairs. Later it works up the courage to go up the stairs again. Again the preacher gives it the third degree. It's a ghostly young woman who fades away. Preacher bibles it up again before she returns. He invokes the holy trinity this time before asking her what she wants. Apparently she was murdered by her boyfriend who wanted her money. She's buried in the basement. It'd be awfully nice if the preacher could dig her up and give her a proper burial. She'd like that. Also if he put the end joint of her little finger in the collection plate at church he'd find out who killed her. A little weird... but ok.... Plus if he comes back she'll tell him where the money she had is hidden and he can give it to the church. Wait... is this one of those Nigerian prince scams? He gives it a go. At church the bone sticks to the murder as he reached to the collection plate and he screamed his head off before confessing. Ol preachy went back and the ghost told him where the money was. Where she had touch him on his coat was forever burned with the print of her bony fingers.

At 2 and a half pages this is probably the longest story yet. Length helps. (That's what she said.) It's nice to get some details, and some room to build up stuff. Now I'm not saying I'm not going to fall asleep because of this tale, but I have to admit to a little bit of eeriness.

Spookometer rating: 3 bones out of 5

The Guests

A young couple is traveling later than expected and in the dark of night decide they should stop for the evening. Nearby they find a house and go to ask if the would rent out a room to them. The elderly couple says they don't rent out rooms but would be glad to have them as guests, refusing any offer of money. The next morning the young couple departs but not before leaving an envelope of cash on the table as thanks. The next town over they stop for breakfast and tell the owner of the diner about the nice place they stayed the night at. The owner was confused, explaining that the house they were talking about burned down and killed the couple inside. Surely he was talking about the wrong house? To get to the bottom of it the couple returned to the house, only to find its charred remains. They did, however, find the table scorched but in tact and the envelope of money they left that morning was still upon it.

Ok, so the "they were really ghosts the whole time" thing is a bit played out, but it is a scary story staple. If M. Knight Shamalayamalaananan can get away with it and be called a genius why not allow it for a story like this? If you are collecting ghost stories that have been passed on through generations there are bond to be some like this. No doubt there will be more in this book.

Spookometer rating: 3 fires out of 5

Chapter 3: They Eat Your Eyes They Eat Your Nose

This seems to be miscellaneous stories. It promises stories about graves, witches, and your (the readers) corpse being eaten by worms. Cheery!

The Hearse Song

Another song? Ok lets get on with it. Basically it tells you shouldn't laugh when a hearse drives by because you're gonne die some day. Not only are you going to die but they are gonna toss you in a grave and you are going to rot, decay, and be eaten by worms. There is some pretty good imagery used in this song I must admit. I do appreciate the line "the worms play pinochle on your snout." The tune ends with an assertion that all the slimy gross puss corpse juice your corpse makes is what you use for jelly on toast when you're dead.

Ok this is just kinda gory fun. It's morbid silliness. It's a song you would use to bug your younger sibling with and freak them out. Or that you'd get in trouble for spreading around at school. Perhaps you could go around at Halloween singing horror carols?

Grossometer rating: 4 worms out of 5

The Girl Who Stood on a Grave

A rowdy co-ed party some youngsters discuss the nearby cemetery and how creepy it is. A boy details how if you stand on a grave there you'll be grabbed by a corpse and dragged down. " A girl denounces this as superstitious hogwash. A dollar bet is made that she will be too scared to do it. To prove she had done it she has to stick a knife in the grave and leave it there for them to check on later. She overcomes fear and goes there sticking the knife in as instruction. When she tries to leave something holds her back. She struggles and isn't seen again. When they go to check and see what happen they find her dead body on the grave. She had accidentally stuck her skirt to the ground with the knife and that is what was holding her back. She evidently died of fright.

Ok I have some problems with this. I mean playing on superstitions and stuff is fine and graveyards are plenty disturbing but if you are going to dare someone to stand on a grave wouldn't you go there to witness it? Wouldn't you want to be there to try to freak them out as they were trying to do it? Who hands someone a knife and says, here stick this in a grave and walk away. Also what kind of idiot girl knifes her dress and doesn't notice it? Plus, can you really die of fright? I have never read someones obituary and it listed the cause of death as "fright." Come on scary story, try harder!

Spookometer rating: 2 graves out of 5

A New Horse

A couple of farmhands are roommates. One sleeps at the back of the room and one sleeps near the door. The one that sleeps near the door was awfully tired, and explained that at night a witch comes and turns him into a horse to ride him all over during the night. In disbelief the other farmhand says he'll sleep in that bed tonight and see what happens. Sure enough he got turned into a horse and the witch rode him to a party. She tied him up and went to boogie down. Meanwhile he managed to get his bridle off and it turned him back into a human. Now that he knew the magic words to turn someone into a horse he turned the witch herself into a horse. Naturally he took this new horse and got her fitted for horseshoes. Then he decided to trade his new horse with the witch's husband. When he took the bridle off his new horse he was shocked to find his wife standing there with horseshoes nailed to her hands.

Now again, I'm confused by this story. So do the magic words turn someone into a horse or is it the bridle? Do the magic words infuse the bridle with magic? Why doesn't the witch just buy a horse? Surely it's cheaper than a magic bridle? If the previous horse-man disliked getting turned into a horse so much why didn't he move? or confront her at night or something?  I don't get it.

What I have to say positive about the story is it is always nice when the would be victim pulls one over on the villain. Also the thought of horseshoes nailed to human hands and feet is pretty gruesome.

Spookometer rating: 2 out of 5 humans turned into horses


A young couple get married and the husband likes to go swimming at night. They have 2 sons and soon the dad takes the sons out swimming at night. Sometimes they go the whole night. The wife gets lonely and soon theorizes that he is turning them into alligators. People told her that's crazy, there aren't any alligators around here. Now that retort doesn't make any sense to me. Like the craziest thing about the notion that her family turned into alligators is that alligators don't naturally live in the area? Anyway one day the lady comes running from the river dripping wet claiming her family were alligators and were trying to get her to live with them and eat live fish. They locked her up in the loony bin. Though still to this day, people claim to have seen 3 alligators out in the river. But that's crazy, there are no alligators around here...

So uhh. I don't know. I don't know what to say. Alligators? This story is about her family turning into alligators? Like... how? Why? Is it a family lineage thing? Why is this scary? Are people worried about their sons turning into reptiles? I'd be a lot more scared of being eaten by a gator than by my son turning into one.

Spookometer rating: 1 gator out of 5

Room for One More

A guy was staying at a friend's house and having trouble sleeping. He couldn't sleep and saw in the window a black hearse pulled into the driveway. The creepy driver exclaimed to him "there is room for one more." When the guy didn't jump at the chance to go into a creepy hearse in the middle of the night the car went away. Next day he is about to get onto an elevator and the driver from the hearse is there saying "there is room for one more." The guy decides he'll wait for the next elevator which is good because that elevator crashed any everyone died.

So uhh, I guess premonitions are spooky? or omens or uhh, whatever this is? Like some many of these very short stories it feels like there just needs to be more meat on its bones... Which is funny because skeletons are spookier without meat on their bones...

Spookometer rating: 2 hearses out of 5

The Wendigo

A hunter goes to northern Canada to hunt with a native to guide him. There is a wind storm but when he opens the tent there is no actual wind, which is odd because it sure sounds like wind. The wind sounds like it is calling his guide's name. The guide is clearly distraught but claims it is nothing, before running out of the tent in a madness. In the morning the hunter follows his tracks in the snow before they get inhumanly far apart. They go out onto the ice and stop. But there is no hole in the ice where he could have fallen in. Confused he leaves supplies for his guide and takes a long journey back to civilization. The next year he goes hunting in the same are again and asks the locals about the guide. None of them know what happens but tell him about the Wendigo. It is a strange being that comes with the wind and grabs you along with it, dragging you on the ground until your feet start to burn. Later the hunter goes to the trading post and sits by the fire. A native comes and sits next to him. He seemed familiar so the hunter asked him if he was his guide. After no response came he took of the native's hat to see his face only to find a pile of ash.

I don't know that this is at all a representation of what the actual belief of a Wendigo is but I guess it's nice to have some horror stories of a non anglo culture? This feels like a very shortened version of a longer tale. I think properly told it could be scarier.

Spookometer rating: 2 windstorms out of 5

The Dead Man's Brains

So this is basically an explanation of a game to play at Halloween. In the dark you pass around pieces of a corpse for people to feel while explaining them. Obviously you aren't passing around real organs but things like grapes for eyes and chicken bones and ketchup blood. This is something that people still do I think, or at least it is depicted on tv. Here's the thing, it's not very scary. Try passing around a real cadaver, now that's scary.

Spookometer rating: 1 grape eyeball out of 5

May I Carry Your Basket?

A kid goes out late at night and sees an older lady carrying a basket. As a nice gesture he offers to carry her basket. It seems that her head is inside the basket which is a surprise. He runs away but her head goes after him, biting him before it disappears.

How. How does a head follow him? Is it like, rolling after him? It says it chases him and bounds into the air to get him which makes me think it wasn't already flying. Does it have tiny little legs where the neck should be? This would be scarier if my mental image wasn't so ridiculous.

Spookometer rating: 2 severed heads out of 5

Chapter 4: Other Dangers

These are more contemporary stories told more recently in modern times.

The Hook

OH MAN! Is this the one where the hook is on the car? I think I know this one!

Let's see. A young couple go park on a hill to look in the city and if this was a book for adults they'd be banging but since it's for kids they are just listening the radio. A killer escaped from prison and he has a hook for a hand. That prison is pretty close. They decide to roll up the windows and lock the doors but argue about going home. They don't say it, but the guy wants to bang. The girl swears she hears some scratching on the car but that's crazy right? But when the guy lets her out of the car there is a hook on the door!

I feel like you lose something in the simplification of this story and the making it more appropriate for kids. I think this story is an extremely well known one, and for a lot of people it's what they think of when they think of a "scary story to tell in the dark." I guess it's nice that this book writes it down for future generations to take part in.

Spookometer: 3 hooks out of 5

The White Satin Evening Gown

A girl buys a dress for a dance, dances her heart out and dies. Turns out the dress was covered in embalming fluid which poisoned her, because the dress seller got it from a guy who robbed a mortuary.

Are dress so expensive that we need to be robbing them from corpses? I guess so. Can't you smell embalming fluid?  Isn't it really smelly? Wouldn't she complain about a smelly dress? I don't know. There are so many short stories. I'm getting overwhelmed.

Spookometer: 2 dresses stolen from a corpse out of 5

A girl is driving her car when she realizes a truck is following her. It shines it's high beams on her and speeds up to follow her. Creeped it follows her all the way home. When she arrives she runs into the house quickly yelling for her dad to call the police. When the cops get there they see the truck driver with a gun in his hand. As they start to arrest him they explain they want the other guy. The guy sitting in the back of the girls car with a knife. He only followed her because he saw the guy get in and was trying to save her. Each time the guy was gonna stab her he flashed his brights.

Oh man. This is some prime urban legend stuff right here. This is another story I am sure I heard. Now again it doesn't prosper from the abbreviated telling, but this is a classic of the modern era in urban legend scary story. The fact that it "could happen." Undoubtedly freaked a lot of people out. I feel like it's the kind of thing I could still to this day get a spam email about urging young girls to check their back seat each time they drive.

Spookometer: 4 trucks out of 5

The Babysitter

While babysitting a caller phones to say creepy and vaguely threatening things over and over. Scared and fed up the babysitter calls the operator to see what's going on. The operate says the call is coming from INSIDE THE HOUSE! Just then some strange man bursts from upstairs grinning creepily. Luckily the operator called the police and arrested him.

Again, a shortened simplified kid version is not everything it could be. Still this is a classic I have heard. If it was today someone would be texting them from the same wifi or something. damn kids. This whole story would be ruined with caller ID right?

Spookometer: 3 landline phones out of 5.

Chapter 5 "Aaaaaaaaaaah!"

Didn't we already read this chapter? Yes this chapter has the same name as the first one but apparently these stores are supposed to make you laugh.

The Viper

An old woman is terrorized by someone named "The Viper" who is coming for her. Turns out he is "the viper" that "vipes and vashes the vindows"

So is this racist? is this making fun of a specific accent? or is this making fun of a speak impediment? Maybe she really should be scared because it's Dracula. He used v's in his speech right? Like I vant to suck your blood? I don't know.

Laughometer: 1 V out of 5

The Attic

A hunter and trapper lives with his dog. He loses his dog to his dismay. While looking for him he goes up into the attic and screams AAAAAAH!

The end.

Oh wait, that's not the end. The audience is supposed to ask why he screamed and you are supposed to tell them he stepped on a nail.

BOOOOOOOOOOO. That's not a scary ghost booing either, that is me booing this bad story.

Laughometer rating: 2 nails out of 5

The Slithery-dee

A short rhyme about how the slithery-dee came from the sea and ate everyone else but not him, but then it ate him.

It's kind of cute. I guess that is neither funny nor scary, but it's something I guess?

Laughometer rating: 2 somethings out of 5

Aaron Kelly's Bones

Aaron Kelly died and they buried him and so forth. He didn't' feel like staying dead though so his reanimated corpse showed up at his widows place. She couldn't collect insurance money since he wasn't dead anymore, so that's a bummer. He didn't feel much like being in a grave. So a fiddler came to become a diddler with his widow but was cockblocked by the zombie. Aaron asked the fiddler to play to cheer them all up and that corpse danced up a storm until his rotting body fell apart. the fiddler was grossed out and left. The widow never got plowed by him. At least her former husband could go back in his grave.

It's 12:30 am and I'd really like to get this ready by morning so it's ready for Friday the 13th. I forgot there were so many of these damn stories. I guess the notion of a zombie dancing himself to pieces is funny. Kinda sucks for his widow though. She deserves to move on. Not cool Aaron Kelly, not cool.

Laughometer rating: 3 bones out of 5

Wait Till Martin Comes

An old man takes refuge in an abandoned house during a storm. A black cat greets him and he falls asleep petting the feline. When he wakes up there is an even larger cat there and they discuss whether they should "do it now or wait until Martin comes." The next time the old man is alert there is a third cat the size of a tiger and they ponder the same thing. The old man gets the hell out of there and tells them he couldn't wait for Martin.

Martin who? Martin Short? Martin Mull? Martin Scorsese? Doc Martin? Martin Sheen? Uhh I can't think of any more Martins.

Laughometer rating: 1 Martin out of 5

The Ghost with the Bloody Fingers

Guests check into a haunted hotel room heedless of the warnings. Each time the ghost moans about his bloody fingers. The last man to get the room is some hippy with a guitar who tells the ghost to get a bandaid.


Laughometer rating: 2 band-aids out of 5

I Read It All!

So there are the stories. There is all the text. But what about all the art? The art is eerie, creepy, and at times gruesome. Often times it doesn't fit the stories with at all. But yet it may be the best part of the book. Some scenes are truly disturbing even without the excellent execution, dead bodies and the like. But other scenes are made scary by Stephen Gemmell's unique style. Even "normal" humans seem disturbing and other worldly. Some of the contrast between silly stories and gruesome pictures is really stark. For example Dead Man's Brains is just an explanation to peel eyeballs and let people feel it. The illustration however is a gruesome picture of a creepy old lady with a steaming grotesque severed head with the top cut off. Truly gross.  I'm not going to scan the whole book but I'll try to sprinkle some illustrations here or there so you can see what I'm talking about.

So overall as a whole what do I think? It's interesting to get a collection not of uniquely authored stories but of folklore and urban legend that has been passed along for generations. The thing is, the execution isn't always excellent and the stories are frequently not that scary. Still as a resource for someone to use to start becoming a story teller this could be an interesting way to start. The art of the ghost story isn't in reading a written tale in a book after all. You take the part that work and weave the tale yourself, adding in the parts as you see fit, helping them to evolve.

This book was rather different from my usual Goosebumps. It was a good experience to try something else. I even remembered some of these tales from my youth. The more modern ones were easier because no doubt I had heard them outside the writing, but stories like the toe eating I remember. I guess a story about someone eating a toe in the garden sticks with you.

So perhaps this book is more silly than scary. I think that might be alright. It's still pretty fun. Just don't try to read it all and write a review for it all at once. You'll get burnt out. Trust me.

Overall Rating: 3 scared kids out of 5

Up Next

Well there are 2 more Scary Story books in the series but I don't know them and I don't think I'll be reading them any time soon. Truth is, it's back to Goosebumps for me for the foreseeable future. I got a special one planned for Halloween so check back for that one. Also between then and now I'd like to do 1 more discussing alternate covers for the Goosebumps books. Hope you enjoyed this and check back soon. Happy Friday the 13th! Or happy whenever you read this!