In 1992, writer R.L. Stine unleashed the children’s book series, Goosebumps, to the world. With nearly over 100 books that range from the original 62 book series to spin off books like Give Yourself Goosebumps and Tales to Give You Goosebumps and even a TV series based the books…children loved getting Goosebumps.
With the up and coming Jack Black movie coming out this week, some of the Agents were asked to look back on their Goosebumps memories….
Goosebumps was never about the horrible and grotesque creatures that tumbled out of some maniac’s imagination. These books always revolved around something inane, some minutia from everyday life that went from ordinary to pants shitting terrifying… Okay maybe there was that monster blood… and that abominable snowman—okay the point is that the books that stood out to me was always the books where something normal became the material of nightmares. Whether it be a haunted Polaroid camera, a possessed dummy, or an innocuous game of hide and seek.
That’s why out of the entire anthology of books, the one that stood out to me was “The Beast from the East”. It’s about a brother and sister who are walking through a forest when suddenly an enormous bear looms over them. They cowered in anticipation of being brutally eaten piece by piece but instead the bear simply reached out, touched them, and said “Tag.” That’s when they discovered they had wandered into a homicidal game of tag and whoever was “it” at sunset was devoured by a pack of bears.
Insane right? At any time you could wander into a group of feral, sentient bears in a twisted game that ends in being devoured. Let me tell you, all of my games of tag carried a lot more weight after that. And that’s what Goosebumps was, it changed everything around me into something sinister. Perhaps that antique dresser in my father’s office was more ominous than it seemed? What about that freaky stuffed animal that somehow always ended up on the stairs? Everyday life was now tinged with the macabre. The thing that Goosebumps did was it pulled you into its world, forever altering perceived reality.
Goosebumps was a book series I didn’t think I would get into. Honestly. It was a “scary” book, and I was not a super brave kid. I liked my books adventurous, where the main character was doing okay, and didn’t have an unhappy ending. And Goosebumps was known for its dark endings. Well, as dark as a young adult series could get, at the time.
Imagine my surprise when I started reading all of them at my school, and local, libraries. They were fun, quick reads that I could burn through without much trouble. I’d grab two or so at a time, and read them between comic books. So it was a shock when Goosebumps kind of lost its edge.
Now… I am aware the fact that I said Goosebumps lost its edge very clearly paints the picture of me: A sad, scared little fanboy trying to act all tough. But it happened. Goosebumps started having neutral, less dark endings. It even snuck in a few straight up happy endings. Weird! Yet even more weird?
One of my favorite Goosebumps books was How I Learned To Fly… number 52 in the series. Fifty frickin’ two.
I was an odd kid.
Whenever I think about Goosebumps, I have to think about the truth as to WHY I started reading Goosebumps. It wasn’t so much that I was into reading scary stories (I was-and still kinda am- a scaredy cat.) but I knew that if I was gonna be accepted by my classmates…I had to read what they were reading. Back then, you weren’t anyone in my elementary school unless you were reading Goosebumps. EVERYONE at my school read Goosebumps.
So I had to pick my first book. Which Goosebumps book was I gonna start with? What story interested me the most? Thankfully, R.L. Stein was gonna release a new book that just so happens to be about a subject matter that I was very knowledgeable about.
The new story would be about a comic book nerd who fights the supervillain The Masked Mutant from his favorite comic book. That book was called ….
Ok, so it was an easy sell for me. My memories about the book now are a bit vague. I remember Stine referencing both Captain America and Spawn (my guess? He remembers Captain America when he was a kid, but probably had to look up Spawn.) but truthfully, I remember reading it none stop.I think I killed that book in a day, and was ready for more.
I read a ton of these but the ones I always think about first whenever I think of Goosebumps was Monster Blood and The Haunted Mask. I liked them so much I even read the sequels. They were the right amount of enjoyable “safe” scares. But the truth is, while I like those for being exactly what Goosebumps promised (scary fun for kids) I will always have a soft spot for Attack of the Mutant.
Believe it or not, I honestly think the TV show version of Goosebumps was the reason I started loosing interest in the series. Seeing the show and reading books became too much Goosebumps for taste, and I eventually walked away from the whole thing.
But hey, if Monster Blood and The Haunted Mask ( or even the Masked Mutant) were to make an appearance in the new Goosebumps film, I’m not gonna lie, that would put a little smile on my face.
I went to elementary school right in the middle of the Goosebumps heyday, so I read and owned many of the books. The funny thing is that I really can’t stand anything in the horror genre these days, and even looking at the titles of these books and remembering what they are about makes me a little queasy and fills me with anxiety!
My favorite book from the series was definitely Escape from the Carnival of Horrors. It was the first book in the “Give Yourself the Goosebumps” series where you’d read a chapter, and then make a decision and flip to a specified page to continue the story, make another decision and flip to a new specified chapter and so on. I remember the book well because I wore the hell out of that thing with all the flipping around and it had a shiny holographic cover. I am pretty sure I got every single last bad ending before I got the good, boring, non-scary ending.
The book is basically about how you’re stuck in this weird carnival gone wrong full of terrifying side shows, like monsters that are out to get you in the petting zoo, an evil psychic, or various scary rides. Among the “bad” endings you can get turned into a ghost, a dummy, get killed in a variety of ways, sent to Mars, get stuck on a trampoline forever, get glued to your friends and join the freak show, and get stuck in a mirrored hallway. I loved the thrill of not knowing what was going to happen next because it was really unpredictable.
I stopped reading Goosebumps books shortly thereafter because I became obsessive about the Star Wars EU books and The Hobbit/LOTR in the fifth grade instead. Even though I may not be able to stomach horror these days, I do fondly look back on the Goosebumps books and believe they have some responsibility for my love of literature in my childhood.