Tuesday, April 01, 2008

More & More Tales to Give You Goosebumps

More & More Tales to Give You Goosebumps

Back Tagline: Reader Beware-- You're In For Ten More Scares!

Official Book Description:
Will Aunt Vera's book of magic spells spell scary trouble for Kari? Is Jeffrey a musical genius or is the old guitar he stole really haunted? Are Mike and his brother Ray house-sitting for a monstrous ghost?
Find out in these ten creepy Goosebumps short stories guaranteed to give you a major case of the 'Bumps!

This collection originally came with a hat. That's why those frogs are wearing the hats on the cover, because every fourteen-year-old's mom dumped their old Goosebumps ephemera into the swamp on the same day. There's no unifying approach to this collection other than to warn you that the ten tales which comprise this fifth short story collection are weird-- Like, the last twenty pages of the Abominable Snowman of Pasadena-weird. Reader beware, you're in for at least a couple forehead slaps and groans.

the Haunted Guitar
Jeffrey is so lazy. How lazy is he? He's so lazy that when he sits around the house, he sits around the house. Wait, I got my punchlines mixed up. He's so lazy that he once tried to weed his lawn using a vacuum cleaner. Yeah, that cleared things up.

Jeffrey and his friend Beth come across a music store that caught fire like ten minutes prior, and they walk in through the ashes to steal a guitar. See, Jeffrey's dad is also lazy (genetics) and he hasn't fulfilled his promise to buy Jeffrey a guitar. So Jeffrey reasons that it's okay to take the old guitar that mysteriously didn't get damaged in the fire. I smell a lesson forthcoming for the entitled white kid.

He takes it home and wakes that night to the sight of an old black man inside his room. The man is playing the guitar and explains that he's the ghost of an old blues musician named Memphis Willy. Memphis Willy is unbelievably described as having a "brown face," in case you couldn't do the math on that one. Willy explains that he can't ever stop playing the guitar and wonders if Jeffrey would like to learn how to play the blues. Jeffrey says he would and Memphis Willy stars guiding Jeffrey's fingers along the frets. It's like that pottery wheel scene in Ghost, only more erotic.

Jeffrey is having such a good time that he agrees to be Memphis Willy's terrestrial partner. But when Jeffrey tries to stop playing, he learns that no one leaves the stage of the living without playing the blues... for life. Jeffrey can't stop his fingers from playing the blues and his fingers start to blister and bleed. His dad rushes into the room and tells his son that it's really super that he learned how to play on his own because now he doesn't have to pay for lessons.

Tune In Tomorrow
Elizabeth has become obsessed with a new show called Looking Toward Tomorrow. The ultra-realistic soap opera follows the exploits of a young girl named Elinor. Elinor pours herself a glass of juice and seeing this makes Elizabeth crave a glass for herself. Ruh roh, don't tell Ad Busters. Elinor gets spooked and drops her glass and so does Elizabeth. A man rings Elinor's doorbell and simultaneously Elizabeth's doorbell rings. You get the idea. Elizabeth becomes very wrapped up with the show, even when Elinor's mother gets injured from an exploding water heater. When Elizabeth's mother gets hit in the head by a fallen tree limb, she opts to stay home to see what happens to the mother on Looking Toward Tomorrow rather than just seeing her own mother in the hospital. On the TV show, a giant rottweiler attacks Elinor right before the cable goes out. Elizabeth calls the cable company and they inform her that the station she was watching the show on doesn't exist. Elizabeth hears some noise out front and goes to open the door when--
--it's revealed that a girl named Lisa is watching the events of the short story as they are shown on a series called Life With Elizabeth. What a twist. RL Stine, like Degrassi, goes there.

Live Bait
Timmy hates fish. Timmy is on vacation at the lake and another boy named Duke picks up a dead fish, plucks out its eyeball and sticks it in his mouth. Hey great, now all of us reading this hate fish too. I tried really hard to write a Hype Williams joke here but it's after midnight again.

Duke goads Timmy into going fishing by basically daring him, which I guess enables anyone to overcome anything. If anyone reading needs to quit smoking, I dare you to stop. Unfortunately, all of the boats available for rent at the dock are rented. Duke and Timmy try to tell Mr. Roeper that it's okay for them to share a boat with two girls because they're both homosexuals, but he bugs out his eyes and they start getting flashbacks to that horrible horrible fish eye scene that was horrible. Finally they spot a little dinghy at the end of the dock and a shack with a weathered sign advertising for sale the titular line, 'The Haunted Guitar.'

Inside the shack, an old man tells the boys that if they promise to give him their biggest catch, they can rent the boat and have some bait for free. The boys are apparently unaware of the old saying that there's no such thing as a free lunch, and soon find themselves lunch for a huge monster fish. Who lives in a populated lake. Who is big enough to swallow them Jonah-style. Who then is killed by the old man. The monster spits the kids up and the old man thanks them for helping him catch the monster. He then wraps Duke and Timmy up in a net and dumps them into a jar marked 'Live Bait.' In a story with a giant monster fish and a kid popping an eyeball into his mouth, you have to hand it to the author for managing to come up with something even less plausible.

Something Strange About Marci
There is absolutely nothing I can say about this short story that can beat just posting the last line without comment. So here it is, make up your own story:
That's when I realized that Marci wasn't an orangutan.

the Ghost Sitter
Siblings Ray and Mike have just moved into an old house that their parents are renovating, kind of like the Money Pit. At school they're warned about the dangers lurking in the house next to theirs, kind of like the 'Burbs. Their mother tells them that they've been enlisted to be Volunteers in helping to housesit for the elderly couple next door, surprising the boys who thought it was abandoned/haunted. Inside the spooky house, they smell a foul odor and they spot a bowl of gross slop inside a dumbwaiter. As they pour the gross stuff out, they make sure the slop is Cast Away from them so as to not Splash and make a Big mess. When they come back later to finish their chores, they discover that the house has been trashed by ghosts and they run out in a fright, taunting the ghosts to Catch Me If You Can. Their hurried escape causes one onlooker to remark, "Hey boys, where's the Bonfire of the Vanities?" The elderly couple pulls up and while the boys try to prep them for the mess inside by promising that they didn't throw a Bachelor Party while they were away, the story's Punchline arrives as the neighbors reveal that a ghost didn't cause the damage, their prized pet pig did. Kind of like Turner and Hooch if Hooch was a prized pet pig. The next day at school, the siblings brag about how nobody needs to heed the Charlie Wilson's Warning about the ghosts, as the house isn't really haunted. The siblings are then informed that the house they are living in is the haunted one, making their diagnosis the Terminal.

Fun With Spelling
Kari's gross Aunt had been staying in her room for the past week. When she left, she gave Kari a book of spells. Kari thumbs through the book and spies spells to cast on enemies. She starts casting a variety of spells on a classmate, Lisa McFly, who has always been mean to her. To be fair, if Biff Tannen wasn't always harassing her father Lisa probably wouldn't be acting up in school. But, Back to the present, Kari has cast a spell on Lisa to make her forget her homework. Man, that's worth dabbling in the black arts. Kati upgrades this to a burping spell. Lisa begins uncontrollably belching during class, causing a student to ask if she ate beans. Well, clearly they aren't in anatomy class.

Kari is so pleased with her results that she casts a third spell, one which will cause McFly to think she can actually fly the next time she hears her last name spoken. In class the next morning, McFly hears her name and begins flapping her arms. However to Kari's shock, she does begin to fly. Kari races home to find a spell to counteract the last one. She sees her little sister Libby holding the spell book and suddenly Kari bursts out burping while performing backflips. Lisa flies into the room and thanks Libby. Look at how much work into this story being terrible.

Matt's Lunch Box
Matt's mom has bought him a new lunch box. It's red and the front has a picture of three monsters on the front, chasing a boy holding a red lunch box. Matt hears a knock from inside the lunch box. Figuring it to be an elaborate game of reverse Nicky-Nicky-Nine-Doors (That's a joke for my Canadian readers), he just ignores the knock and the pleas that follow it, begging him to open the lunch box and feed whoever or whatever is inside. Matt opens the lunch box and out fly the three monsters from the front. Oh brother.

The monsters demand that Matt feed them or else they'll feed on him. He goes downstairs and brings them some food. At breakfast the next morning, the monsters fly down and rest at the end of his fork and eat his food before he can. Someone wrote this?

The monsters tell him that whoever owns the lunch box is responsible for feeding the monsters. After a couple days of the monsters eating every morsel of food before he can, an emaciated Matt takes the lunch box to a dollar store and leaves it for a poor person to buy. Awesome.

Matt thinks he's safe until his Uncle comes to visit him and brings a matching thermos. A monster climbs out of the cylinder and tells Matt he's thirsty. The story ends there but I like to think Matt followed that with "Hi Thirsty, I'm Matt," because hahaha that's my favorite joke.

Stuck in 1957
I guess RL Stine thought "Hey, I already cribbed a name from Back to the Future in this collection, why not crib the whole movie?" Shanna is about to start a new school year in a new school. She's especially excited because she just got her bangs trimmed to the perfect length. Her dad tells her that their new home was built in 1957. She then finds some cat's eye frame glasses, puts them on, and is magically transformed into Lisa Loeb.

The glasses send her back in time to, you guessed it, The Haunted Guitar. Once in 1957, she finds that everything she loved in 1997, such as microwave burritos and the state of Hawaii, don't exist. She tries to go back to her own time by taking the glasses off but it doesn't work. Her 1957 mother calls her into the kitchen before her first day of school and cuts off her bangs. Shanna goes to school and asks the science teacher if he knows anything about time travel. He quips that she needs a science-fiction teacher. Oh burn on the time travel girl.

A kid named Marvin tells her he overheard her question. He reveals that he does have a time machine and invites her to come over and use it. Marvin leads Shanna to a shack behind his house and shows her his Time Travel Helmet. It only has an On/Off switch. Before this can turn into an after school special, Shanna is whisked back to the present. Except, she still has her over-shorn bangs. She decides it's better not to start school looking bad and puts the magic glasses back on. Perhaps you think this entry would end better with a joke. Jokes? Where we're going, we don't need jokes.

Mirror, Mirror On the Wall
Bonnie Sue Bowers is the most beautiful girl alive, according to Bonnie Sue Bowers at least. She is her own biggest fan, despite being named Bonnie Sue Bowers. She even has a list of why she's the most beautiful girl alive, or at least used to be:

1. Thick, wavy blonde hair
2. Blue eyes to die for
3. The sweetest button nose
4. Baby soft skin
5. The straightest, whitest teeth

Oh my God, I bet the twist is that she's a Blythe.

Bonnie reveals that she's not pretty anymore, and it's all because of her reflection. Well, that's one way of putting it. Apparently Bonnie's reflection had grown so tired of her looking at herself all day that she began rebelling, at one point reaching out of the mirror and pinching her. She's such a narcissist that her reflection begins sexually harassing her?

Eventually the reflection climbs out of the mirror and attempts to shove the real Bonnie Sue Bowers into the mirror. Bonnie smashes the mirror though and it shatters into a thousand pieces. From the shards rise more and more Bonnies. It's like Fantasia but interesting. Bonnie takes out her pocket mirror and it sucks up all the miniature Bonnies. At this point in the collection, nothing throws me anymore.

However, a few days after that, Bonnie goes to try out hairstyles in the mirror and is pulled inside and traded with her reflection. So now she spends her time waiting for a chance to escape, especially since Reflection Bonnie doesn't take care of herself and dresses like a slob. Hey guyz, this ttly gives a new meaning to the Mirror Has Two Faces, amirite... Man, a Streisand reference, do I know what my readers are craving or what

What's Cooking?
A fitting ending for one of the strangest collections of stories RL Stine may or may not have penned, What's Cooking? is essentially a slasher movie condensed to ten pages. With kids. It's disturbingly violent compared to, say, anything else in the Goosebumps series.

The story begins with the legend of Sue Chopman, the former lunch lady at Mill Road School. In 1947, she began preparing lunches for the kids. She'd go out into the woods with her cleaver and bring back a sack of meat. Every day she'd have a new meat dish, and kids began complaining about her food, especially her chinese cooking. This lead to the kids calling her Chop Suey. As Sue continued to work at the school, the dishes got worse and worse, with kids claiming to find parts of human fingers in their food. Eventually Sue went mad and started attacking the kids in the lunchroom, hacking her cleaver into the walls and tables while screaming. She died years later in a packing plant when she slipped on the slaughterhouse's bloody floor and fell into her cleaver. See, sort of a drastic tonal shift from flying lunch box monsters.

Fast-forward to the present and Diane and Robert are beginning summer school in the newly reopened Mill Road School. They heard that they can bring Chop Suey back to life by standing on their toes and saying her name three times. Diane runs into the kitchen and as soon as she says her name three times, all the faucets turn on. This makes Garden State even more terrifying in retrospect.

At lunch, Robert's PB+J has been replaced by a human liver and Diane's bag has been cut to shreds by forces unseen. The next day, the cafeteria has opened and a large woman is serving hot food. She ladles out tomato soup with hot dog pieces floating on the top. And here I thought the fish eye thing was gonna be the grossest part of this book. As the kids leave the cafeteria, they spot a sign for tomorrow's lunch: "Tomorrow's Luch: Meat Surprise-- Aunt Sue's Special Recipe!" Kids, I got one word for you: Lunchables.

The two kids are halfway home after school before Diane realizes that she left her math book in the cafeteria and there's a test the next day. A test on the third day of class? Diane is willing to just fail but Robert wants to act brave and denies that Aunt Sue the lunch lady is Chop Suey the cannibal killer.

Inside the school lunchroom, they spot Diane's book and also Chop Suey the cannibal killer, who floats up after them waving her meat cleaver. She tells them that they're the meat in the meat surprise. Well, thanks for spoiling the surprise.

Diane remembers that she saw a movie once where they said the evil spirit's name backwards and it disappeared. I think I saw that movie too, it was called The Story's Almost Over And I Don't Know How Else To End It. Diane and Robert click their heels and say "Suey Chop" three times fast and though their tongues don't get twisted, Chop Suey does, into the cyclone of a spiritual tornado. Well, again, of course in this book she gets sucked up into a ghost-tornado.

At home, Diane's mom tells them that they just ordered Chinese food. She starts bitching about how their father only ever orders Chop Suey. "Chop Suey, Chop Suey, Chop Suey!" She cries out in frustration as the kids cry out in dread.

There is exactly one good thing to say in favor of this collection: It was 100% Werewolf Free!


Anonymous said...

I came.

Brodie said...

Nothing quite as good as the Bees/Beads reference, but still a high quality entry.

Anonymous said...

Wait, what.

Anonymous said...

that mirror story sounds an awful lot like let's get invisible

Anonymous said...

I love you, Troy.

Anonymous said...

That book actually sounds like it was really good....I'm not sure what that says about me.

troy steele said...

Anonymous, a lot of these stories reminded me of other full-length Goosebumps books:

the Haunted Guitar = the Blob That Ate Everyone
Tune In Tomorrow = I Live In Your Basement
Live Bait = Deep Trouble
the Ghost Sitter = the Headless Ghost
Fun With Spelling = Be Careful What You Wish For...., How I Learned to Fly
Mirror, Mirror On the Wall = Let's Get Invisible!
Matt's Lunch Box = Attack of the Jack-O'-Lanterns

Anonymous said...

I'd never even seen this book before as a kid. Sounds pretty awful.

Has anyone ever read the Shivers series? They're even more awful than any of these Goosebumps.

I was wondering if I should start blog on those.

Anonymous said...


The Haunted Guitar = Piano Lessons Can Be Murder
Tune In Tomorrow = Attack of the Mutant
The Ghost Sitter = The Ghost Next Door
Stuck in 1957 = The Haunted School
Something Strange About Marci = My Harriest Adventure...because in my mind, Marci turns into a dog, and that's when you realize Marci isn't an orangutan.

Anonymous said...

That Thing You Do with the movie references is always amazing.

I seriously can't believe that last line of the Marci story. Wow.

Zak said...

The funny thing is when I first saw BTTF a few years ago and heard the name McFly, as obscure as it may be I actually remembered this short story being the only place I ever heard that name before.

And yea the mirror story reminded me of Let's Get Invisible... please say that one's next!! One of the few left...

Anonymous said...

Are the kids in "What's Cooking" too stupid to say "Suey Chop" again, or was there another contrived plot device you forgot to mention?

Anonymous said...

What in the world is Nicky Nicky Nine Doors?

troy steele said...

Are the kids in "What's Cooking" too stupid to say "Suey Chop" again, or was there another contrived plot device you forgot to mention?

It turns out they're all dogs or something

Anonymous said...

A Upright Citizens brigade reference? I fucking love you.

Anonymous said...

LOVE the Three's Company reference. You rock, Troy.

Fear Street said...

I remember being totally freaked out by that Chop Suey thing as a kid...

Anonymous said...

I see you've added the lists for 2000 and HorrorLand; there aren't many classic series books left now, but I'm looking forward to all of them.

Anonymous said...

Sweet. That would mean there are exactly 52 more books listed for Troy to review. AKA at least a year of new content. Again I must say sweet.

Plus did you say you might do Ghosts of/Fear Street?

Anonymous said...

I like the frogs on the cover. Just saying.

Oh, and that Marci story was funny, but it's the kind of thing you can't read more than once, if you know what I mean.

Groggy Dundee said...

I have this book, it's okay. I think the camp/summer story collection is the best of these though. Was there anything in particular bringing on the spate of Tom Hanks references, I wonder?

Unknown said...

Ugh. I had the hat that came with this one. I remember having Goosebumps shoes too.

Anonymous said...

"That's when I realized that Marci wasn't an orangutan."

I actually the found the rest of the story here: blogring.net/forum/writing-poetry/71445-2-stories.html

I must say that it actually makes LESS sense in context.

Anonymous said...

"It turns out they're all dogs or something"


Anonymous said...

^ It's a joke, dude, get over it.

Anonymous said...

Something Strange About Marci is actually about how a group of orangutans think a woman named Dr. Marci Gould is strange, but with the way it's written, you'd expect her to be a witch or something.

David T. said...

I have a time machine in my bedroom. Put on this studded leather time collar.

Hi said...

In my version of "something strange about Marci", everyone turns out to be an orangutang in the end except Marci.

Blogger Beware Lover said...

I just did some research and it turns out What's Cooking? is a name of a episode of Tales From The Crypt.

More cribbing from other media. *Sigh*

Revengeofevan said...

Okay...Here is my version of Marci:
My Name is george.I have wavy orange hair Just like everyone in town.
Then i met marci.
Dad grumbling about guerilla attacks
I like bananas.
And then i realized marci was'nt an orangotang

Anonymous said...


Memphis Willy is a good name for a blues singer. Sounds pretty authentic to me. The idea behind the story cracked me up.
I suppose at the proper age for Goosebumps you don't really know what music you like. & you probably don't care.

When I looked on Amazon (UK) they didn't have it. Just my luck -- that was the only story I actually wanted to read.

Anonymous said...

It's also a common phrase, so, y'know

NOM Ominous said...

There's Something Strange About Marci is one of my favorite stories. You just ruin the whole thing by spoiling the last line! It's the whole point of the story.
It is amazingly cleaver.

The whole story is a narrative without any talking between the main characters and without any names but the mysterious Marci's. A few hints as to why that is are dropped along the way, but we don't really notice them because we're concentrated on who Marci is, and then in the end we realize why Marci is so different. Why she's so strange. That's when we realize Marci isn't an orangutan.