Monday, December 03, 2007

#20 the Scarecrow Walks at Midnight

#20 the Scarecrow Walks at Midnight

Front Tagline: It's a field of screams!
Back Tagline: They're Alive!

Official Book Description:
Jodie loves visiting her grandparents' farm. Okay, so it's not the most exciting place in the world. Still, Grandpa tells great scary stories. And Grandma's chocolate chip pancakes are the best.
But this summer the farm has really changed. The cornfrields are sparse. Grandma and Grandpa seem worn out. And the single scarecrow has been replaced by twelve evil-looking ones.
Then one night Jodie sees something really odd. The scarecrows seem to be moving. Twitching on their stakes. Coming alive...

Brief Synopsis:
Siblings Jodie and Mark have arrived at the train station for their annual month-long visit to their grandparents' farm. Stanley, the hired help, is a forty-something man described around the edges as being slightly mentally retarded, and naturally he's the one you send in a truck to drive the kids home. Stanley makes some small talk about people who have died and then drops the novel's titular line into conversation.

Pulling into the farm, Jodie notices a lot of new scarecrows lining the fields. Upon arrival, Grandpa Kurt and Grandma Miriam greet their grandkids sort of half-heartedly. Grandma Miriam serves some sandwiches to the famished kids, although there is the promise of corn with dinner. Given the acres of corn fields encircling the farm, I imagine that promise is going to lose its novelty pretty quickly.

Jodie and Mark readjust to life on the farm. Stanley shows the kids the scarecrows, which he made by following the instructions in his special superstition book. Oh The Bible, you are a book of a million uses! He also drops the titular line again, in case the reader forgot the incredibly subtle first time that Stanley said it for no reason. Stanley sees that the corn in the field is covered in some sort of fungus and freaks out, as apparently his superstition book had warned him about corn growth. Stanley tells the kids that he also made the scarecrows walk with the help of his book. Then a scarecrow comes to life. Oh wait, it's actually Sticks, Stanley's teenage son, playing a prank on the kids! Sticks, who carries on in the book like Goth Huck Finn, has a good laugh. The book then takes a turn for the erotic as Sticks shoves a corncob down Mark's pants.

After dinner, Jodie and her brother wait anxiously in the living room, hoping Grandpa Kurt will tell another one of his scary stories. But, much like the book in which he appears, Kurt provides no scary stories, opting instead to go to bed early. Jodie turns away from the 8-ft stuffed bear in the corner of living room to share a private moment with the reader. A lot of things seem different to Jodie on the farm, and she has become suspicious. Her sleuthing skills have shown her that her grandparents seem less energetic and more tired than last year's visit. Hey Veronica Mars, it's called aging.

The next morning, Instead of finding ways to help their beloved relatives ease into their golden years, Jodie and her brother whine about not getting served chocolate chip pancakes. Grandma Miriam tells the kids that she no longer makes pancakes, as they are too fattening-- even though she served fried chicken and butter-smeared corn for dinner last night. She sets down a bowl of corn flakes in front of Jodie as Stanley pours himself a second bowl of the cereal. The night before, Jodie and her brother had seen the scarecrows moving in unison. She tells Grandpa Kurt about this astonishing occurrence but Stanley immediately insists that it was only the wind. Jodie tries to press the issue but her grandparents swiftly change the subject and suggest that Stanley take the kids fishing after breakfast.

Stanley leads the way towards yonder fishing hole, but before they get very far, he makes the kids circle the barn three times for good luck, as mandated by his book. Once they finally get to the pond, Jodie spots a scarecrow spying on them and tells Stanley. Stanley gets very worried and runs off, leaving the kids behind. Jodie tries to run after him but he ignores her. Jodie decides to tell Grandpa Kurt, but when she goes to look for him inside the silo, a scarecrow closes the door behind her, locking her inside. She climbs up to the loft and leaps out of the building, spotting a scarecrow perched outside, watching her. She runs into Sticks and accuses him of setting all of the scarecrows up to scare her. When Sticks hears that his father got spooked, he immediately runs off to find Stanley.

Before dinner that night, Stanley comes up to Jodie, his superstition book under his arm, and asks her not to tell her Grandfather about the scarecrows, that he'll take care of them. At the dinner table, Stanley slowly reads from his book to himself between bites. More sleuthing from Jodie at dessert reveals that while apple pie is Grandpa Kurt's favorite, Grandma Miriam is instead serving cherry pie, which Stanley happily announces is his favorite.

That night, Jodie is awakened in the middle of the night by Grandpa Kurt, who climbs in through her bedroom window and reveals himself to be a scarecrow. Jodie runs away and bumps into Grandma Miriam, who is also revealed to be, yep, you guessed it, a dog or something. Jodie wakes up from the dream sequence, one which was insultingly bad, even by Goosebumps standards, and heads down for another bland breakfast. Grandma Miriam tells the kids that everyone else has gone into town, but they saddled up some horses in case they wanted to ride after eating. Feast your peepers on the level of literary craftsmanship at work in this book:

Grandpa Kurt always called Betsy and Maggie the "old gray mares." I guess because they were both old and they were both gray.

The kids take the horses down the trail along the corn fields when suddenly a scarecrow jumps in front of the horses. They get spooked and knock both kids to the ground. Stanley runs over and helps the kids up. He thinks Mark's wrist might be broken and tells Jodie he saw the scarecrow that caused the trouble. They debate keeping their promise not to tell their grandparents about the scarecrows, as Jodie is convinced that somehow Sticks is still behind these pranks. When they finally spill it to Grandpa Kurt, he and his wife just laugh it off as no big deal, arguing that Sticks "loves his jokes."

Jodie hears the truck pull into the guest house's driveway and goes out to confront Sticks. She peeks her head inside a barn near the guest house and spots a pile of scarecrow clothes, a stack of unlit torches, and a bottle of kerosene. Sticks shows up and shoos her away from the supplies, insisting that he's not trying to scare her. Jodie has had enough and decides that she's going to scare Sticks in retribution.

Jodie's plan is to dress Mark up as a scarecrow and have him hang from a pole with the other scarecrows in the field. Jodie will lead Sticks to the field and then Mark will "come to life," scaring Sticks. Jodie gets one of the costumes from the barn and dresses Mark, then sets off to get Sticks. As she's walking through the cornfield though, she sees that Mark is following behind her. She's confused as to why he's left his post when it dawns on her that this scarecrow is just Sticks in disguise. She yells out his name, only to see him appear on the stoop of the guest house. Sticks runs over and pummels the scarecrow. It was an actual scarecrow that followed her!

Sticks explains just what the h-e-double-hockey-his-name is going on. A few weeks before Jodie and her brother arrived, Stanley read an ancient spell from his book and brought the scarecrows to an awakened life. This terrified Jodie's grandparents and they made Stanley promise to undo his spell. He agreed, but on the condition that they adjust their life to doing the things he likes and making the food he enjoys. Stanley recanted the incantation but can't account for what's occurred: some of the scarecrows never went back to sleep! Sticks has been keeping it a secret from his father though because he doesn't want Stanley to recast the spell, thus re-waking all of the scarecrows. Stanley of course bursts out of the house, having heard bits of their conversation. He prepares to recite the spell so that he can exert authority over the legion of scarecrows, but Sticks talks him out of it, telling him that no more scarecrows are awake. Cue Mark coming off his pole in the scarecrow costume.

Stanley flips and runs off with his book to bring the scarecrows back to life. Sticks gives quick chase and the two kids bring up the rear. Jodie spots Stanley and Sticks standing in front of a pair of scarecrows. Sticks, frozen in fear, remains motionless as his father brings the scarecrows to life. Sticks snaps out of it and yells at the kids to run and tell their grandparents what Stanley has done. As the kids run towards the farmhouse, they see a wave of scarecrows making their way out of the fields.

The adults had heard the screaming of the kids and were waiting for them in the backyard. Grandma Miriam buys her grandkids a pair of first class tickets for a guilt trip, wailing that they did everything they could to make Stanley happy and now it's all ruined. They hear screaming as Stanley and Sticks run towards the house. Stanley hollers, "They won't obey me!" as they pull up to meet with the others. Stanley is panicked and can't figure out how to stop the coming onslaught as dozens of scarecrows encircle the family.

Jodie gets too close to Mark in his scarecrow costume and sneezes, causing him to jump up. The approaching scarecrows also jump. Jodie tests her theory by having him raise his right arm. All the scarecrows raise their right arm. Well, this is a pretty great premise for the spookiest Simon Says game ever but how does this solve anything? Jodie thinks quick and tells Mark to pull off his mask. He does and then all the other scarecrows follow suit, their heads dropping to the dusty ground. But this doesn't stop them, in fact it only causes them to advance quicker, as Mark no longer resembles one of them. Way to not use your head! LOL OMGZ BURND BY WIT !~~!!!~!~

As Jodie prepares to be murdered by walking straw dolls, she notices Sticks is no longer in the victim circle. Suddenly a bright flash appears from behind the line of advancing scarecrows: It's Sticks, and he's got lit torches. Well that's great, after he takes care of those scarecrows, he can chase Frankenstein and go to a lynching. Sticks wields the torches like baseball bats and burns every scarecrow to ashes. Never again, says Stanley.

But the Twist is:
Ever again, says Stanley. Jodie is sitting alone in the living room, relaxing, as she hears Stanley reading quietly in the other room. The stuffed bear in the corner moves its paws and licks its lips as it moves towards her.

the Platonic Boy-Girl Relationship:
Jodie and her brother Mark, whose wrist flexibility disappears halfway through the novel.

Questionable Grandparenting:
Did it never occur to these two that maybe they should not invite their grandkids to the farm in the midst of Stanley's dangerous spells?

Get Off the Stage! Alert:
"I like to watch the tall stalks of corn, all swaying together in the wind.
Corny, huh?"

Early 90s Cultural References:
Walkmen, cassette tapes, Gameboys, Nirvana t-shirts, scarecrows

Politics Alert:
As if we haven't already heard enough about straw poles this election season. Cross-posted in Get Off the Stage! Alert

Memorable Cliffhanger Chapter Ending:
Ch. 6/7:
Jodie realizes why Grandma Miriam doesn't want to talk about the scarecrows: Her hands are made of straw! Oh wait, she's just holding a broom.
Look, I know that's stupid, but only one chapter later,
Ch. 7/8:
A straw scarecrow hand has grabbed Jodie's ankle at the fishing hole! Except it's only some weeds. It's only some weeds.
You lose again, human race.

Great Prose Alert:
"That was a killer bear," Grandpa Kurt remembered, rocking slowly, his eyes on the angry-looking beast.

Fun fact: I read this book a year and a half ago for the blog and was so bored that I never even bothered to write the update. Sixteen months later, I hope you enjoyed this "Lost" Entry. Something something straw that broke the camel's back.

Starting... now, the Goosebumps Blog is updated every Monday. See you next week!


Brodie said...

Brilliance! Props for the Veronica Mars comment, as well.


DIrector714 said...

Aww man that was great! And hurray for double updates!

Anonymous said...

I actually laughed at the "Get Off the Stage! Alert". I wonder why the grandparents didn't try burning the scarecrows when Stanley started blackmailing them in the first place. Then again, this is a kids novel.

Anonymous said...

I lolled at the great prose. Every Monday now...? Sweet!

Anonymous said...

Awesome, updates every week!

"The book then takes a turn for the erotic as Sticks shoves a corncob down Mark's pants."

Couldn't stop laughing at that, I think this is one of the best yet!

Dan Luffey said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
eponine said...

Every Monday! SWEET! I love this blog...

Stanko said...

This book does seem truly bad. Don't think I ever read it.

Anonymous said...

Spectacular update. I loved the terrible puns.

Ashley said...

Every Monday? I love you!

Anonymous said...

Every Monday--best Christmas present ever. We love you, Troy, oh yes we do...

In the TV version, it's some crazy tractor that comes to life at the end. I'm not sure if that's better or worse than the bear "twist" ending.

Anonymous said...

You know what's really sad? They made this one into a graphic novel. It was just as boring.

eric said...

A semi-retarded character in a Goosebumps book? I think the real question is, how will we know the difference?

I've been waiting for this one, as it was one of my favorites as a kid. Probably because the pseudo-Lovecraftian overtones represent a marked shift from scientists and/or moving into a new house.

And I don't know how I can survive with so many updates. Keep up the good work!

Anonymous said...

this book was one of the best in the series when it came to creating a truly creepy atmosphere. You are judging it compared to other Goosebumps books and not to Stephen King, right? Atmospheric means "boring"? If so then don't even try reading King's the Shining.

Rainbowfeet said...

This book didn't seem so boring when I read it years ago. Guess that's the case for most of these books, huh?

Yay for weekly updates! Fantastic news!

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

Do "One Day At Horrorland"next

Anonymous said...

Judging from the review, the comments, and my own memories of this story, I agree that the atmopshere was developed well, but for a short book, they really should have cut to the chase a little sooner.

shadowblaziken said...

Wow, the grandpa's named Kurt and the book references Nirvana. Hee hee, R.L. Stine.

troy steele said...

Now we know what prompted Cobain to take his life: this book.

shadowblaziken said...


Anonymous said...

I liked the ending of the TV version better where Stanley uses the magic to bring a wheat thresher to life instead of a bear.

Adam's Clayton said...

Bahaha, "What in the 'h-e-double-hockey-his-name' is going on." Brilliant.

Anonymous said...

This one was one of my favorites, though to be honest I don't know why! It did make me slightly creeped out by scarecrows, though.

Anonymous said...

A pair of first class tickets for a guilt trip? HA! I love this blog...

Anonymous said...

benny here. the episode was just as bad. 5/10 okay.

JFinley91 said...

Is it just me, or does Sticks seem to do all the work? The other kids just seem to complain and stand around like...oh wait.

Cookie said...

Totes one of my favorites as a kid, if not my favorite. I'm a country gal from Indiana, so it hit home and seemed very creepy to me at the time.