Friday, September 28, 2007

Tales to Give You Goosebumps

Goosebumps Special Edition #1:
Tales To Give You Goosebumps

Front Tagline: None, but let's make up one: Moooooon Shiver...
Back Tagline: Reader Beware-- You're In For Ten Scares!

Official Book Description:
From an evil baby sister, to a remote control that can control more than just the television set, to a teacher who's obsessed with snakes, to a cute, cuddly, teddy bear gone bad, here are ten creepy, spooky stores guaranteed to give you Goosebumps all night long!

Brief Background:
Originally released at the height of Goosebumps mania in the fall of 1994, this "Special Edition" originally came with a special Goosebumps-Itty Bitty Book Lite. Look for my Itty Bitty Book Lite Blog next fall after I've worked my way through the rest of RL Stine's oeuvre. Without the book light at hand, the real question is, does this collection of short stories (the first in an astonishing series of six) still have any value? Upon release, the whole package cost something like $12 (the light and book were not sold separately), making it the most expensive RL Stine book at the time. Special included features listed on the back of the book include a single run-on sentence and the promise of Ten Scares.

Ten Spooky Stories:

the House of No Return
Three school kids have formed the Danger Club and are constantly on the lookout for a fourth member, their reasoning being that three people isn't a club, but four or more is. The only way to gain entrance into their club is to spend an hour in the local Haunted House. As the story opens, their newest potential member, Doug, has given up on the challenge ten minutes in, and as he runs away into the night, the three club members speculate who in their school they should get to try out next. They settle on Chris, a new student. Chris is very adamant about not joining their club, even after they carefully explain their 4 is more than 3 principle. He wants very badly to be their friend, but they'll only hang out with him if he joins their club.

The three members of the Danger Club trick him by inviting him to go trick-or-treating. In keeping with their club name, the three friends of course agree to eat any and all unwrapped candy they receive. Once Chris arrives, the three club members force him into the haunted house and wait to see if he will last the hour. Once the hour passes and Chris hasn't come out, the three go into the house to investigate. The three are accosted by some ghosts who tell them Chris left out the backdoor after making a deal with the ghosts that if they let him go, three more kids would soon be in to take his place. The ghosts tell the kids they should get comfortable, as they will be held prisoner in the house forever. Oh, like the title.

Running Total of Scares: 0

Teacher's Pet
It's the beginning of the school year and Becca is super-excited for starting the sixth grade. According to her schedule, her new teacher is Ms. Wenger, the coolest teacher in the whole school. Supposedly she takes her students out rollerblading so that when someone falls, she can teach the kids about gravity. And lawsuits. But all of Becca's excitement over falling down on a field trip is quelled when she discovers that her schedule's been changed and now her class is taught by Mr. Blankenship. Mr. Blankenship loves snakes and fills the entire classroom with cages of the slithering creatures, in addition to gearing all of his lessons towards snakes. Class topics include History of Snakes (Juliusssssssss Caesssssssssar) and Geometry (A squared plus B squared equals snakes). Becca begins to suspect that Mr. Blankenship probably won't even be taking the class to go rollerblading, since snakes don't even have feet.

One day one of the students accidently frees a white mouse that was to be food for one of the snakes, and Mr. Blankenship punishes the entire class. Incensed, Becca and her improbably-named friend Benjy plan to break into the school and free the mice to spite Mr. Blankenship. They decide to do this on a Thursday because that's their parents' Bridge Night (cross-posted under RL Stine Shows He is Down With the Parents). During their daring mission, the two kids accidently break several cages of snakes in the classroom. Suddenly a six-foot tall cobra rises up out of a cage and grows legs and arms. Oh it's Mr. Blankenship. He doesn't eat the kids but makes them a deal that if they feed him mice after class, he'll let the short story end on a really lame note. Good deal.

Running Total of Scares: 0

Strained Peas
Nicholas is killing time around his grandparents' house while waiting for his parents to come back from the hospital, as his mother has given birth to his new baby sister. Nicholas reads an issue of Iron Man wherein Iron Man battles an evil man with a birthmark on his face. When the baby arrives, she has the mark of evil on her face! Tragically this logic does not make Nicholas's alcoholic father Iron Man.

Nicholas becomes convinced that baby Hannah (another Hannah!) is trying to get rid of him, and for whatever reason he can't get his parents to believe him, not even when she eats his homework. The baby ate his homework, this story's humor is edgy. Eventually baby Hannah tries to stab Nicholas with a pair of scissors and when he finally gets his parents to notice this murderous act, they scold him for letting his sister play with scissors. Then the hospital calls and tells Nicholas's mother that whoops she took home the wrong baby. Evil baby is then reunited with evil mother who both have the same birthmark, and as the story closes, Nicholas relaxes as with his new, non-evil sister. But wait-- new baby sister suddenly says in a gruff voice that she's going to rip Nicholas's arm off!

Running Total of Scares: 0, though by this point I'm a little frightened of there being seven more stories that take the pattern of 1. Set Up 2. False Climax 3. Crisis Averted 4. Identical Crisis Reoccurs, Only Worse!

Strangers in the Woods
Even in Goosebumps short stories, parents go on vacation leaving their children with a distant relative in a rural locale. Lucy's been sent to spend vacation with her Great-Aunt Abigail in the small town of Fairview. Her parents tell her that since they're going to Asia she won't be able to call. Lucy buys that there's no phones in Asia since her parents let her take her dog, Muttster, with her on vacation. Muttster barks at G-A Abigail so much that Lucy is forced to keep him outdoors when she sleeps. That night, Lucy spots strange lights coming out of the forest behind G-A Abigail's house. The next morning, when she tries to bring it up, G-A Abigail quickly changes the subject and forbids Lucy from going into the woods. The two ladies take a trip into town and Lucy's aunt plows down the road like a maniac, barely getting the two to town and back in one piece. This action coupled with her poor cooking skills since she arrived leaves Lucy with only one explanation: Her aunt is an alien and the lights in the woods are also from aliens. That night, after the sun sets (possibly due to aliens), Lucy overhears her aunt making a phone call. The old woman tells the person on the other end not to worry, that yes her niece is with her but that it will all be over tomorrow. Lucy panics and escapes out of the house. She briefly considers taking Muttster with her, who is tied-up in the backyard, but she pulls a Michael Vick and leaves him behind with a dangerous alien. Knowing that no cops would listen to her without proof, she decides to check out the aliens in the woods first by herself. She crashes through the thicket and walks right into a movie set.

Her great-aunt later explains that since the crew filming their movie in the woods was leaving soon anyways, she didn't feel the need to excite her niece. She also explains her erratic behavior by revealing that she has lost her glasses and in a fit of vanity she endangered Lucy's life and taste-buds due to her poor vision.

That night, Lucy finds Great-Aunt Abigail's glasses and takes them to her in her room. Great-Aunt Abigail waves one of her four tentacles at Lucy, inviting her in. Oh I get it, she's also a movie!

Running Total of Scares: 0

Good Friends
Bad story. Dylan and his friend Jordan are killing time after school, shooting hoops in Dylan's front yard. Dylan is a little worried that his older brother Richard is going to get onto him for playing with his friend instead of doing his homework. Dylan's little sister Ashley shows up and the two boys taunt her since she has an imaginary friend, Jacilyn. Dylan and Jordan pretend to tie Jacilyn to a tree and then Jordan suggests the two actually tie up Richard with duct tape and rope. I think there might actually be some real scares here, but not in the way Stine intended.

Jordan gives Dylan the idea of taking Richard's two pet tarantulas, (get ready to groan) Axel and Foley, and scaring Ashley with the spiders. They're even going to tell her that one of the spiders ate Jacilyn. It's The Ultimate Revenge. Just as they're about to make their move, Richard stops Dylan, who is holding the tarantulas, and tells him to quit playing with his imaginary friends, Jordan and Ashley.

I'd so much rather be talking about the book light right now.

Running Total of Scares: 0

How I Won My Bat
The narrator of this short story tells the reader all about how he got his bat, which we're all admiring. Let's humor him: That's a wonderful bat, Mike, how did you get it? It all started when Mike played baseball for his little league team. In the middle of a slump, he's offered a magic bat by the small man who runs the local sports museum. The man shows up in the locker room and tells Mike that he can keep the bat so long as he returns it to the museum when the Big Game is over. Mike wins the Big Game with the magic bat and when he returns the bat to the museum, he pleads with the man to let him keep the bat forever. The small man grants him his wish and the boy is turned into a display at the museum, holding his bat in mid-swing for eternity.

Running Total of Scares: This story, as you can tell from the description, was absolutely terrifying, and contained 8 scares.

Mr. Teddy
Willa is Gina's spoiled sister. Willa always seems to get what she wants, except for a better first name I guess, and as the story opens, Willa has just talked her mother into buying her a new teddy bear, one with large ruby eyes. Gina complains about her sister being allowed such a frivolous treat, especially when she already has plenty of stuffed animals, but her mother caves. Willa names the bear Mr. Teddy and mocks Gina with the bear, although really Gina has already won this round by not buying a teddy bear and calling it Mr. Teddy.

Willa shows Mr. Teddy around her room, stopping to show him her porcelain egg collection and her, quote, collection of rock star posters. OMG That is so freaky because as I write this entry, I'm listening to rock star's music. She introduces Mr. Teddy to her old bear, Old Bear, who she then places on a shelf, Shelf. Mr. Teddy is her new sleeping partner now! The next morning however, Willa discovers Mr.Teddy propped on the windowsill, even though she fell asleep with him in her arms. Willa goes downstairs and accuses Gina of sneaking into her room and moving Mr. Teddy. Gina denies it. The next morning, Willa wakes up to see Mr. Teddy resting on top of the dresser, surrounded by the broken pieces of her porcelain egg collection. Willa again accuses Gina of the act, Gina again denies it. The next morning, Willa wakes up to Mr. Teddy sitting in a pile of her ripped clothing. Willa again attempts to blame it on Gina but her mom informs Willa that she's at choir practice. In an incredible bit of prose, Willa shakes her fist and utters "She'll be singing a sad song when I get through with her!"

That night, Willa wises up and moves her dresser in front of the door, thinking that would stop Gina from coming in. Hours later, Willa wakes up to her dresser pushed halfway across the room and all of her rock posters torn off her wall. Furious, she storms downstairs and tells her mother what Gina has done, only to learn that Gina spent the night at a friend's house and couldn't have done the deed. Willa runs back into the room, picks Mr. Teddy up, and tears him into shreds, ripping off his head in anger at what the bear did. She then picks her old bear, Old Bear, up off the shelf and cuddles him. Old Bear figures she won't abandon him again like that after all the work he did. After all, he's going to be with her forever whether she likes it or not.

Running Total of Bears: 2

Workaholic architect Michael Newman (Adam Sandler) stumbles on a universal remote control that allows him to pause events in his life or fast-forward through them. But things get really bizarre when the gadget develops a mind of its own and takes control of Michael's viewing choices, causing him to see how much of his family life he's sacrificed for his career. Christopher Walken and Kate Beckinsale co-star in this high-concept comedy.

Broken Dolls
Tamara collects dolls, the shelves of her room are lined with the fragile figures. As the story opens, her brother Neal has just broken the arm off of one of Tamara's treasures. She's quite upset, but used to his antics and puts it back on the shelf to fix later. The siblings are dragged to the local craft fair and Neal is left if Tamara's care to wander around the flea market-type craft tent for a half-hour while their mom haggles down the price of a Bedazzler. Tamara comes across a wrinkled old woman selling incredibly lifelike dolls. The dolls are as heavy as a small baby and the facial features are remarkably precise. Neal starts running around like a brat and the old woman offers him a cookie. Neal eats the cookie and the old woman runs her hand over Neal's head, tussling his hair softly. Suddenly, Neal calms down. The whole ride back Neal remains quiet. Tamara notices a sticky substance in his hair, which he quietly says is "doll jelly." Gross.

The next morning, Neal has run a fever and developed a rash all over. Tamara realizes that the old lady might have slipped him something and so rather than say, you know, "The doll lady might have slipped him something," she rides her bike down to the fair grounds. The booths are being dismantled so Tamara waits until the old lady leaves her trailer to pick up more of her boxes from her booth and sneaks inside.

The interior of the trailer is filled with boxes of dolls. Tamara picks up a doll with hair that looks remarkably similar to Neal's. The doll's face however is completely blank. However, as she holds the doll, the features of Neal's face slowly appear. From behind her inside the trailer she hears a cacophony of low voices. She stops and listens and realizes the rows and rows of dolls inside the trailer, and in the boxes, from all corners of the trailer, are calling out to her, "Ssssssstop her." She notices the dolls all moving, slowly, their small pink arms reaching out.

Holding onto the Neal doll, Tamara runs out of the trailer and right into the old woman. The old woman tells Tamara that the people of her generation simply have no appreciation for fine art such as her dolls, and that hundreds of children like her disappear all the time, one more won't be missed. She removes a small jar from her pocket of what Tamara quickly realizes is the doll jelly. The old woman moves towards her and begins chanting. Tamara grabs the woman's jar of doll jelly and runs across the fair grounds, coming across a wading pool. She throws the open jar into the wading pool and suddenly a plume of smoke rises from the pool. The old woman cackles out and disappears into the fog. Tamara can hear the collective voices of the dolls cheering from the trailer, or at least she thinks they're cheering, as she has decided not to stick around.

Tamara races home to see her brother Neal running around. Her mother informs her that he was miraculously cured while she was out.

Several weeks pass until one afternoon, Tamara receives a small parcel in the mail. She opens the package only to see a small, doll version of the old woman. Panicked that the woman has tracked her down, Tamara calls her brother over and bets him that he can't break her new doll.

Running Total of Scares: Broken Dolls wasn't scary, but it was the first story in this book that wasn't terrible and for that, it gets a pity vote of 1 scare.

A Vampire in the Neighborhood
Okay, here it is, the last story in the book, surely this is where RL Stine really pulls out all the stops and justifies the entire collection, rite?
Kids, I hope you enjoyed your $12 book light.

A group of middle schoolers is convinced that new student Helga is a vampire. After all, she wears all black, is deathly pale, she even wears black lipstick. Instead of inviting her over to listen to Kiss Me Kiss Me Kiss Me, the kids decide to spy on her. Every night the kids sneak out to her house, trying to see if she casts a reflection in the household mirror, sleeps in a coffin, or extolls the virtues of chocolate cereal while counting. Finally, Helga grows tired of the stalking and confronts the kids. They ask her if she's a vampire. She sighs and says she is. They ask her to show them her fangs. Jokingly she tells them to show theirs. And they do. Helga is horrified, as she was just joking. But the other kids weren't, they were vampires, and were hoping Helga was too. The kids attack her, making her a vampire. This book sucks lol get it vampires.

Final Total of Scares: 1.

Well here we are. Two abandoned houses, one parents-on-business vacation with distant relative, and zero(!) scientist parents. Exactly one of these stories was even remotely interesting ("Broken Dolls," which if it were 100 pages longer would probably be better than most Goosebumps books, which actually says a lot about both really), and at least half of the stories included didn't even try. This book originally came sealed inside a box; it should have stayed there. The scariest aspect of this book is that there are five more similar collections on the horizon. Blogger beware indeed.


troy steele said...

Sorry about the late update everyone, I think I fixed my Blogger now. Back on schedule for next time, enjoy!

Anonymous said...

AWESOME! Now I know where some of the stories on the tv came from. Click and The House of No Return were both episodes!

That was funny as always, any idea what book you are doing next or are you going to leave that a mystery?

Anonymous said...

Is it just me, or is 'Good Friends' just disturbing?? (lmao --click...)

Anonymous said...

Nice bear.

Anonymous said...

Haha, I had no idea that this book even existed. Nice work :)

Anonymous said...

Axel and Foley, LOL...

And cute bear. Maybe the reason you had posting problems this week was because your bear climbed down from the shelf and screwed around with Blogger while you were gone...;-)

I will admit that as lame as the stories are, the cover is probably one of the scariest of the series. When I saw that cover, I was instantly transported back to fourth grade. I hadn't seen it in over ten years, yet I still remember it.

Anonymous said...

I don't remember a single story from that book. I guess I never got around to reading it...lucky me.

Props for the reference to The Cure.

vancedancougar said...

Great blog, great post. This entry was especially humorous, possibly because the "horror" of Goosebumps was split into separate bite-sized chunks for everyone to...enjoy.

Also props for the Cure reference.

I can remember purchasing this book as a kid and being puzzled as to why there was a light attached to it, because all I really wanted was the book. Funny how to this day, I can remember the light itself, but none of the stories...

Anonymous said...

Are you going to be reviewing the series 2000 books? I'd love tio see a review of one those from you.

troy steele said...

It's a distinct possibility! At some point I'd like to tackle at least one (and maybe more) of the 25 Series 2000 books and one of the Give Yourself Goosebumps books. And of course, there'll be a new series of Goosebumps books out this spring revolving around Horrorland, count on some form of coverage for those as well.

rainbowfeet said...

This blog is amazing!

This entry is my favorite so far--it made me laugh out loud so many times, especially for "How I Won My Bat."

It's funny- I think I remember this book cover, and I'm pretty sure I remember the book light, but the stories? Nope. That's happened a lot with the Goosebumps books for me.

Anonymous said...

I'm ashamed to admit it, but that "Mr Teddy" one seriously creeped me out when I was about ten. Heh heh heh. Anyway, great stuff.

Anonymous said...

Why use the word "blog" when every blog in the world is just bitching?

Anonymous said...

Is it just me, or is 'Good Friends' just disturbing??

Reply: It's probably just you, because Good Friends could have been really great, but it had a cop-out ending. Though when you take the cop-out ending into account, it is disturbing finding out that all this time, the protagonist's best friends were imaginary and it's not known if it's a common occurence or not. I mean, that's the stuff mental illness is made of.

Jacquie said...

I see that no one has yet commented (or maybe not noticed)that Mr. Teddy is making an appearance in the cover art picture.

Anonymous said...

I admit it, I was creeped out by "Broken Dolls" and "Mr. Teddy." There. I said it.

Anonymous said...

No one mentioned that "Click" is the summary of the 2006 movie and not this short story of the same name.An odd and strange flaw in the summaries.

Oliz said...

"No one mentioned that "Click" is the summary of the 2006 movie and not this short story of the same name."

That was the point of the joke...

squirrl said...

You don't even need the book light, as it comes with a huge block of something best used as fireplace fuel.

ikarikid said...

So THAT's where Click came from.

(Ruining of joke: Same premise with a kid)

repete85 said...

Okay, are you aware that these books are meant for children? I mean how old are you? In every single review you sound like an irritable, egomaniacal 4th grader who's let the fact that he reads at a 5th grade reading level go to his head.

"Oh, these juvenile little stories with their formulaic structures, predictable plot twists, and one dimensional characters. Alas, am I the only one in my class who reads the Wheel of Time series? I can't wait until middle school when I'll be free of these intellectually stunted kids and their childish literature."

Seriously though. What is your problem? These are kids books. Understand? KIDS BOOOOOKS! I read a good chunk of 'em when I was young. I got through about 20 or 25 before I realized I'd grown out of them, but I still look back on them fondly in a nostalgic way. Yes they're lame and predictable and cheesy, but that's what makes them all the more memorable.

So calm the hell down! I mean jesus christ. These read like a guy who's criticizing a painting done by a blind guy.

troy steele said...

What would a blind man even be painting except maybe with help a wall?

Anonymous said...

Benny here. Good one troy (giggle,giggle)

Groggy Dundee said...

Since Ray Bradbury's passing the other day I've been going through some of his short stories. It's pretty obvious that Stine cribbed Strained Peas from The Small Assassin, without of course going the whole way with the evil baby concept.

Was it The Haunted School where Stine has a character say he liked Bradbury?

Anonymous said...

Just discovered this blog. Man, it takes me back. Used to love these books as a kid, but I rediscovered my old collection and wound up selling them because, you're right, they're bad.

But about this collection, honestly "Click" was always my favorite story. I always found the ending where the kid winds up trapped in some sort of void with no way out really disturbing. But I was also always interested in the premise of being able to pause or rewind time like it was a movie, so maybe that's why.

Jude Deluca said...

Tamara's probably one of the smartest kids in any of the Goosebumps books, because, let's face it, she actually did something smart at the end by goading her brother into breaking the new doll rather than take any chances.