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!

October 2, 2017

Goosebumps #35 A Shocker on Shock Street

Judging a Book by It's Cover

At first glance it seems this book is about a giant praying mantis wrecking up a town. When you look a little bit closer you see that the mantis is metallic. So why is there a giant metal mantis? Is it some kind of alien race? Did a mad scientist build a robot for revenge? Did a regular giant mantis fall into a giant puddle of molten metal? Also, who names a city street "Shock Street?"

According to the tagline Shock Street is a "real dead end." Get it? Like literally dead, because you will die on that street. It actually works as a pun. Good job. The back tagline is "talk about shock treatment!" I assume because the monsters will give you a figurative shock rather than a literal electric shock. Though they do seem to be robot bugs. Genuine shocks could be in store. Who knows. Lets find out.

Getting Goosebumps

We begin with best friends Erin and Marty being scared witless by a wolf headed crab monster. A crab monster with a wolf head? I am imagining what that looks like and it seems really really stupid. Like isn't the dangerous part of a huge crab monster the claws? What good is a wolf head without the mobility of a wolf? Crabs just kind of scuttle around. Oh hell, whatever. The wolf crab is on a movie screen. They are watching a horror movie. It's Shocker on Shock Street VI. The cinematic masterpiece ends with the wolf crab being boiled alive and the citizens dining like kids. I expect it to sweep the Oscars. Erin's dad works with "movie people" and got them tickets to an advanced screening. While they talk about how great the special effects are they ponder what it would be like if they monsters they saw were real. Then they walked into the wolf crab monster! He of course turns out to be a guy in a costume. Chapter 3 and already someone tried to scream but no sound could come out. I should keep track of the earliest instance of this Goosebumps trope.

Up they go to dad's office. He has a sweet job designing rad theme parks. His office is filled with toys and awesome stuff. He is basically the coolest. Unfortunately he has bad news. Very bad news. The bad news is that he tricked you! Heeeyoooo what a kidder. He actually has supremely good news. He's been designing Shocker Studio's tour and the kids get to go on a test run of it. In their excitement Erin asks if mom can come too. Dad seems perplexed and a little concerned by this question. It's decided they should go alone. Not even dad is going with. They are slightly dismayed to learn they have to stay on the tram and all times so they can't go walking around on Shock Street. Mostly though they are psyched. What kid wouldn't be? They are even armed with Shocker Stun Ray Blasters which seems like 1 word too many for the weapons. Apparently they can freeze monsters at up to 20 feet. So they don't even have the range of a Super Soaker? Lame! They are effective though, Linda who handed them out fumbled with one and shot herself, freezing up instantly. Oh wait, she was joking. Isn't any mother fucker in Goosebumps capable of not kidding around?

Onto the automated tram they go. First stop, the Haunted House of Horror. That sounds both super generic and also a little redundant. It seems pretty much like a regular haunted house. Skeletons, jumpscares, general spookiness. Erin is already getting freaked out but Marty thinks it's pretty funny. The lights go out. Marty Disappears, except not really. Some kind of special effects or something? That doesn't really make sense to me. Oh well. The tram turned into more of a rollercoaster zipping around the house in darkness. The tram goes out of control and they bounce around the seats flopping all over. Marty thinks it's great. Marty is an idiot.

They burst outside coming to a stop between two bushes. Then the monsters come out. Luckily, they are just there to sign autographs. Autographs aren't very scary. Still who doesn't want an autograph from "Ape Face" or "the Toadinator." I better not see those autographs on E-Bay, kids!

Next stop, Cave of the Living Creeps! Erin is worried there will be bats. She should have been worried about the bunches of foot long worms that fall all over them. Are those real worms? PETA is
gonna be pissed! Next they are covered in spiders. Is this a studio tour or an episode of Fear Factor? Won't get get expensive to keep buying tons of spiders and worms to dump on people?

Finally the tram comes to a stop and then... nothing. While pondering what the deal is, Marty spooks Erin by disappearing again, this time merely stepping off the tram onto the cave floor. Dad said stay in the tram at all times. This can't be good. It could start back up any moment now! It doesn't though and they decide to walk and find help.

So at this point are you confused as to why the cover of the book has a giant metal mantis on it? Well just then a giant metal mantis shows up. Two actually. They try to go back to the tram now that the spooking seems to have resumed but their exit is cut off by the bugs. Two more mantises appear. One of them headbutts Erin. You would think a headbut from a 16 foot tall robot bug would hurt more than Erin lets on. They're surrounded and the mantises are spitting super hot black goo at them. They consider using the stun guns but realize they are still in the tram. They decide to deal with them the way you deal with real bugs, by stepping on them. A stomp to the toes makes them reel back and allows them to make a break for it. Why would you program robot bugs to feel pain? And if they aren't robots, they are still metal. Surely a meager stomping wouldn't hurt?

Thankfully they finally get outside. But wait, one of the mantises is eating Marty. April fools. Seriously? Fuck you Marty. Now is no time to be joking around. Also "April fools" is a dumb line. Come up with something clever kid. After some consideration as to whether or not the whole ride has gone haywire they realize they are on Shock Street. THE Shock Street. Soon they find the cemetery from the movie Cemetary on Shock Street. Marty wants to see it. Erin has a bad feeling about this. Bullheaded Marty wins. He openes up the gate, takes a few steps, and falls straight into an open grave. Serves him right. Erin should just leave his ass there. She is a better person than I am though. She checks on him and the moron thinks falling into an open grave is super cool. They examine their surroundings and find spooooky gravestone names like, "Jim Socks" and "Ben Dover." Classic.

Suddenly hands shoot up from the ground. Voices beckon them to come down. They grab at them but Erin breaks free. Marty is not so lucky. Thankfully once again Erin proves she is a good friend and doesn't ditch him. Then heads start rising up from the ground. The zombie hordes are enough to finally scare Marty and they book it on out of there.

Running for their lives they find an unfamiliar mansion. Unfortunately it is not their salvation it is their doom. They sink into the ground. Mud covers them and they nearly abandon hope but they are rescued. Who is their savior? Dad? No of course not, it's Wolf Girl and Wolf Boy. It seems their rescuers are more interested in scaring and possibly eating them though. Erin has had enough of their shenanigans. She goes to rip off their masks but discovers only real fur and real flesh. They climb a wall to get out of reach but that won't keep them at bay for long. Erin takes out Marty's ray gun. Because I am terrible at what I do I neglected to mention that while escaping the mantises they grabbed their guns. Sadly it proves to be utterly useless.

But wait! What's that? The tram is coming back! They run to the vehicle as fast as they can, motivated I assume by sheer terror. They manage to catch up to it, saved at last! Except Marty falls over his own fucking feet and then trips up Erin. I told her to leave his ass behind! But you didn't listen to me, did you book? Up fast Erin  manages to catch it again and jump in. Marty is behind her but manages to do the same after a while. How did the Wolf People not catch them? Are they slow as shit? They are supposed to be unequaled killing machines! I am disappointed. Two kids can catch up to a tram but Wolf People can't? For shame.

It is then they realize they aren't alone on the ride anymore. Dad said they would be the only passengers but it looks like the tram made a detour and picked up some skeletons. Also the tram seems to be going the wrong way. Also the tram is now going too fast for them to jump out. Also the tram is going to smash into a wall. They jump after all. Wait, they said it was going to fast to do that. And they said it picked up even  more speed after they decided that. Well either way they jumped and the tram went THROUGH the wall somehow, and everything seemed to be fine for it. Holograms perhaps? They go up to the wall to check but it is totally solid. Confused and frightened, Marty wants an explanation. Erin just wants to get the fuck out.

Lost they wind up back on Shock Street. Strange wisps of smoke with eerie faces start popping up all over. Unable to take it anymore Erin freezes up totally. Thankfully their scene is over? Huh? Russ Denver movie director explains that it is all special effects. Really her dad should have told them in his opinion. He directs them to where dad is, in Shockro's House of Shocks. They are a bit worried they'll get shocked, like in the movie, but he puts their minds at ease. He turns away to go about his business and Erin notices a power cord plugged into him. He's a robot! And not even a good robot, he needs an external power source! And Marty entering Shockro's House! Exclamation point! She tries to save him but in a flash he is laid out on the floor. Too late!

Unable to save her best friend she realizes quickly she is not alone. Dad is here. He is confused why the kids are also in the building. She tries to explain quickly how everything has gone wrong. As she looks closer, she realizes it isn't her father after all. She can't function anymore. She has a complete system failure. Literally. Because she is a robot. Yup. Mr. Stine you've done it again! "Dad," has a conversation about the two kid robots malfunctioning. Such a shame because all the monster robots were working perfectly. Oh well, with some repairs they'll be good as new in no time.

What I Thought.

Oooooh boy, what a ride. Literally. Get it, cause the book was about a ride? Anyway this story reminded me in some ways of HorrorLand. Obviously because it involves rides, a studio tour instead of a theme park this time but they are a little interchangeable. This comparison is good, because I think this sort of book works well. You have a good excuse to throw in several different types of scares. It also works to take something that is purposely scary but turn it up a notch when the fake frights prove to be real.

The premise of the kids being movie fanatics and getting to experience things first hand goes over well. I think Stine misses opportunities on this though, as they should be able to get themselves out of some trouble based on their previous movie knowledge. For example, to get away from the giant mantises they decide to stomp on them because they are bugs. This is stupid logic that only flies in a Goosebumps book. I think it would be more clever if they thought back to how the movie monsters were defeated in their movies, and tried it out for themselves. At least once. You could even subvert the trope and have them try it only to fail.

So the plot. It's very "on rails." Almost literally, though the tram has been described as railless. The plot is literally that all these events in a tour are happening to them. It's like you're experiencing the ride for yourself. I don't think this kind of plot would work if repeated too often in the series, but I think it does it's job here. Frankly the plots of these books are never outstanding, so having it just be a sequence of scares that happen one after the other doesn't hurt.

Of course there is the twist ending. Now some twist endings make me groan. This one make me chuckle and say to myself "Stine you son of a bitch!" I think the kids turning out to be robots actually kinda works. Of course it doesn't bare a whole lot of scrutiny. When you think about it you're like, "well why would they need to program robotic kids just to test a ride?" When it gets right down to it it actually doesn't make any sense at all. But I'll allow it this time. It's ridiculous in a way that entertains. He did drop a couple of stupid hints early on. First he described the kids as both looking extremely similar even though they weren't related. Also, Erinbot mentioned her mother and "dad" got confused but at the end he mentioned he should have realized they were malfunction then since obviously the robots have no mother.

Now I like to talk about how I'd try to fix these books, but besides the little details  I've already mentioned I don't know that there is much I'd do. I think it works for what it is. It's the most enjoyable Goosebumps I've read in quite awhile.

Rating: 4 movie monsters out of 5

Up Next

It's October! Scientists have proved that October is the spookiest month of the year. Because of that I am HOPING to get out 3 new updates to my site this month. Two special book reviews and another entry looking at alternate cover art. I can't guarantee it, but I'll try my darnedest. Until next time.

August 17, 2017

Goosebumps: Covering Covers Part 1

So what is the deal here? I am not reviewing an actual book here but instead going to talk a little bit about the cover art. I like to talk a little bit about the covers of each book I review, but did you know a lot of the books have several different covers? There are the original cover, reprint covers, re-reprint covers, foreign covers, etc!

Now if you're like me and you read the original series in the 90s you're probably familiar with the first run of covers. 60 of them were done by Tim Jacobus. For some reason I don't really know, 2 weren't though their reprints featured his art. Tim was the go to guy for Goosebumps for a long time, also doing the Goosebumps 2000 series, as well as some miscellaneous collections like Goosebumps Triple Header and Tales to Give you Goosebumps. His covers for the original series look a little something like this:

This is the OG Goosebumps. Book 1, Welcome to Deadhouse. All of them would feature this general layout with 2 toned border of slime and slimy ol' Goosebumps. These books would later be reprinted in 2004 with the original art (though the 2 not original done by Jacobus were done by him this time) but with a slightly reworked border and font like so:

Now maybe it's just my nostalgia talking or perhaps I'm a purist but personally I like the original borders better. Still it is nice that they kept the original art. I am a fan of the covers Jacobus made. Though Dead House is perhaps one of his less interesting ones because it's just a spooky house... but hey, it's a pretty good spooky house right? Later in the 2010s they would begin re releasing the original books again but this time with updated art that was more in line with the current series of new Goosebumps Stine was still releasing.

The art is totally redone but for Deadhouse it keeps the same basic idea and tone. Spooky house. Kinda bluish/purpish. Flashy fonts and whatnot though. This time there is no border, which is actually kind of nice because none of the art is cut off. It makes it look real nice. Of course reissues weren't the only reason to get different cover art. Goosebumps has been released in different languages all of the world. A lot of times they just use the original art but obviously translates the titles. This makes a lot of sense to me. Why spend time and effort to redo art when there is already perfectly good art to use already there. Maybe there were rights issues? Maybe it cost money to use that specific cover and they could save it by hiring someone else? Maybe they just thought a different market had different art sensibilities? I don't really know. In the UK it seems like they liked their covers to be... liquidy?

Like, the first thing I think seeing this cover is "wow, that is damp." That skull is swirling in a tub of some kind of viscous fluid. Are these Dracula's bath toys? I don't remember that being a thing in the book. Also, for a book titled Welcome to Dead House this UK cover has a lack of... house. I am really not sure why the UK needed separate covers. You would think they would have pretty similar sensibilities to North America as far as covers for childrens horror adventures would be concerned, but I guess not. They weren't the only European country to think Goosebumps needed new covers though. Check out this one from France:

Like the UK, France also seems to like using tombstones and bones for their cover. Unlike the UK however, the cemetery isn't fluid by a truckload of blue Gak. Instead we have a vaguely creepy looking girl looking confused as to why there are Halloween decorations trying to grab her. Let's go elsewhere in Europe. Here is the Dutch cover... Wait, where is Dutch from again? Dutchland? Holland? Oh wait, the Netherlands! The Netherlands actually kinda sounds like a spooky realm itself...

See this cover just seems kind of... UnGoosebumpy to me. It doesn't seem fun, it doesn't seem kid friendly. It seems like the cover of an unrelated book they just borrowed. Also what's going on here. Did the shadow of this girl's mother tell the girl to take off her headphones? Maybe they opened a haunted cardboard box and unleashed a ghost? I don't know..

Now that we've seen what Europe has to offer, what about Asia? Well Japan it seems, liked to stick with the cover of Welcome to Dead House actually having a... Dead House.

Now it's perhaps not as spooky seeming as a house as the US covers but it is still a bit eerie. It seems a little less dilapidated and more lived in. But who is living there? THE DEAD?!?! Plus that sky is also unsettling. Also there are some drops of blood next to the title. That is pretty badass. Maybe a little too badass for the pretty bloodless series of books this is... What does Korea have to offer though?

Well they thought that spooky house was pretty lonely without a pale little girl looking slightly perturbed. She is thinking "gosh dad why did you have to move us into the DEAD HOUSE? Didn't the name mean anything to you, god you're so embarassing!" But anyway this cover certainly has it's own style going for it. Slimey kanji look kinda funny.

So there you go, these books had lots of covers. Here is just the first in the series and look how many it has around the world. I am hoping to show off more from the rest of the series, but perhaps do multiple books in one post and just cover some of the more interesting ones. I admit that Dead House is perhaps not the most interesting book coverwise to go over but hey, it's book #1! So hey, if you found this interesting, feel free to let me know. Also if you know of any other alternate cover art for Welcome to Deadhouse I didn't cover, tell me about it. Until next time, when I'll have an actual book review, thanks for reading.