I was recently toying with the idea of trying to write a book for the first time (the idea is both terrifying and wonderful), and was reminded of a collection of books I used to buy frequently as a child: Goosebumps. Written by American author R. L. Stine (and advertised as a series of children’s horror fiction novels), Goosebumps – in my opinion – are fabulous stories to read, even if you are over the age of 12. The frightening imagery, great storylines, colourful characters and scary humour – by the horror maestro, Stine – are enough to keep a grown man in raptures for hours (whilst at the same time, bringing back fond memories of reading said books in his youth).
The books include fictional children involved in scary situations (with twist endings), and themes include horror, humour and the supernatural. From 1992 to 1997, 62 books were published under the Goosebumps umbrella title, and various spin-off series were written by Stine: Goosebumps Series 2000, Give Yourself Goosebumps, Tales to Give You Goosebumps, Goosebumps Triple Header, and Goosebumps HorrorLand. Since the first novel, Welcome to Dead House was released in July 1992, Goosebumps has gained immense popularity and commercial success worldwide. As of 2008, the series has sold over 350 million copies in 35 languages, and has been listed in the New York Times Best Seller list for children. The series has also spawned a TV spin-off and numerous merchandise.
Some of the underlying themes tend to involve characters, who have either recently moved to a new neighbourhood or are sent to stay with relatives. I can recall numerous titles from my childhood, and remember the novels vividly. Stay Out of the Basement, involves a father working on his botany experiments, and his children (Margaret and Casey) become concerned that his plant-testing may not be entirely wholesome. The green imagery of the cover will stay with me forever. Another favourite is Say Cheese and Die! This is about four friends called Greg, Michael, Doug (nicknamed Bird) and Shari, who decide to investigate the Coffman House (an old, abandoned house that several spooky stories revolve around), and discover a strange camera within a hidden compartment in a basement wall. Greg takes a picture of his friend Michael, who is leaning on the stair railing. The railing then collapses, and Michael falls. The photograph does not show a picture of Michael leaning however, but an eerie prediction of him falling. Creepy!
Another memorable title is Night of the Living Dummy (the 7th book in the series). This features twin sisters Lindy and Kris Powell, who are taking a walk, when they decide to check out the house that is under construction next door. Lindy finds a ventriloquist dummy in the dumpster behind the house, and decides to call it Slappy. Kris and Lindy like to compete for everything, so Lindy finding great success with Slappy makes Kris jealous. Lindy is soon offered $20 to perform at birthday parties, so Kris eventually gets her own dummy, called Mr. Wood. Before long, unpleasant and destructive pranks (and eerie situations) involving the dummies, ensue.
The Haunted Mask is the eleventh book in the Goosebumps series, and follows Carly Beth – a girl, who buys a Halloween mask from a store. After putting on the mask, she starts acting differently, and discovers that the mask has become her face, and she is unable to physically pull it off. Stine says he got the idea for the book from his son, who had his own mask that he had trouble getting off.
Suffice to say, I could go through all the books in the series at this rate! They bring back so many memories for myself (and I’m sure, many others) and – as I mentioned previously – my idea of trying to write my own book, has recently inspired me to purchase Goosebumps HorrorLand, which is advertised as, ‘An All-New, All-Terrifying Series From The Master Of Fright!’ I am absolutely delighted! As someone who is admittedly, not an avid book reader (and is, quite evidently, a big child), Goosebumps is easily digestible for me, to learn from, and be inspired by. I now have ten, new books to rekindle memories of my youth with, and there is even a third installment of Say Cheese – and Die (which simply adds the word ‘Screaming’ onto the end). Good old, R. L. Stine. His fright never fails.