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.