Series 2000 18 Horrors of the Black Ring
Front Tagline: Ring around the creature!
The book opens with wiseacre Anthony fooling protagonist Beth into thinking the brakes on his bike have malfunctioned as he careens wildly down the sidewalk towards her and her sister Amanda. This ruse results in Beth falling for the "old 'no breaks' gag," which according to this book is a thing. Anthony's a real stone cold dude who once told Beth her cat was dead-- even when it wasn't. Apparently this guy's specialty is lies that get disproved within ten seconds of being heard.
Beth recovers from this brilliant bike joke and encounters a small bird that has broken its wing. She decides to rescue the poor bird as opposed to sticking around for Anthony to prank her with the old "Look out, it's night!" gag. Saving the bird makes her late for class, but luckily Beth's blonde teacher, Miss Gold, is very kind and understanding. Hmm...
Beth notices Miss Gold is sporting a new ring with a large black stone arranged in the center. Beth thinks she sees an angry-looking face within the jewel, but her teacher just tells her that's an illusion caused by a natural flaw in the jewel. That's funny, I thought this was Jewel's natural flaw:
Later in art class, Beth gets close to her crush Danny Jacobs by asking for him to model hands for her. Anthony pulls the old making kissing sounds while someone models their hands gag and the two boys get into a fight. Later at lunch, Danny sits with Beth to discuss ideas for the big forthcoming Spring Carnival. Conveniently, Miss Gold simultaneously discovers an ominous message written on the chalkboard: "THE CARNIVAL IS DOOMED." As Miss Gold starts to tremble, Anthony walks by the classroom and suspiciously pulls the old having chalk dust on his hands gag.
That weekend, Amanda tries to get Beth to help her arrange her Barbies from most to least attractive. Apparently you can judge identical dolls:
"Surfer Barbie is beautiful, but Rollerblade Barbie is not so hot."And Klaus Barbie of course refuses to be judged by anyone but God on his throne. Beth argues that she doesn't have time to play with dolls, as she must rush to the school to help prepare for the doomed carnival. Soon after, a mysterious caller phones Beth and warns her to stay away from the carnival. But since no one followed that call with another warning her against playing with dolls, she takes her chances.
Inside the school's art room, her and Danny find a total mess, with paint splattered everywhere and every canvas and sheet of paper in complete disarray. So basically, they find an art room. All the paintings which were to be sold at the carnival have been wrecked-- all except Anthony's rude painting of Beth. That next week at school, Miss Gold cancels class and sends all her students to the art room to make replacement art. Everyone paints rude pictures of Beth so as to ensure their artwork won't be ruined later.
That afternoon, Danny and Beth make cookies in the Home Ec room, only to have the dessert mysteriously ignite while in the oven. The kids flee the smoke-filled room just in time to catch Anthony pulling the old walking past the Home Ec room just as it catches fire gag. Heartstrings tugged by the oven fire, the entire school floods the carnival's food tables with bake sale goods the next day. Beth takes a bite from one of these treats, feels something disgusting inside, and throws up all over her shoes. Turns out someone baked insect larvae into the desserts-- Hey, I've heard of macaroons but maggotroons?! But seriously folks, you're a lovely audience. Now, how about women drivers, huh?
Miss Gold takes the bad news pretty, um, badly, and sits in her chair fiddling with her black ring and muttering "maggots" over and over. So, she's acting like any middle school teacher then. When asked what else could go wrong, Miss Gold ominously replies, "Hey guys, have you noticed yet how I'm wearing this evil ring? Because let me keep drawing attention to it every time something terrible happens, just in case."
Before the carnival begins, Danny gets cocky and eggs Anthony on to try and hit his target in the dunk tank. Anthony pulls the old hitting the target gag and sinks Danny into the tank. Unfortunately for Danny, the tank is filled with boiling water. Despite being passed out inside the boiling tank for several minutes, Danny doesn't die because RL Stine doesn't understand how boiling water works.
Later at home, Amanda jumps out of a closet as a cry for attention. Beth promises to take Amanda to the carnival, so long as Amanda doesn't change her mind while there and jump out of a carnival in order to get Beth to take her to her closet. Once at the carnival, Beth has to work the ticket counter for a little while and Anthony pulls the old keeping an eye on Amanda while Beth works gag.
Beth tries to sell a carnival ticket to a mysterious stranger wearing a dark robe, but this reaper didn't bring his coin purse. The cloaked figure explodes all the lights in the gym and proceeds to wreak some highly unlikely havoc on everyone inside. Wasps descend upon the WASPS inside the gym and tables catch fire. The cloaked figure kidnaps Amanda and carries her over his shoulder towards the carnival entrance. A policeman tackles the hooded stranger and reveals the figure's true identity: Miss Gold. Man, it's always the person you at least expect.
Miss Gold insists she was forced to do the deeds and is lead away in handcuffs by the police. Beth finds Miss Gold's black ring on the gym floor and feels compelled by plot convenience to put it on. It does not come off. I guess insect cookies are a lot more fattening than anyone suspected.
This all leads to a dream sequence where this line is uttered:
"This isn't right!" I screamed. "Your heads don't belong on duck bodies!"Which, while true, is still not that scary.
Beth sneaks into the hospital to visit Miss Gold, who freaks out when she sees her wearing the ring. Miss Gold screams at her to take the ring off-- man, teachers cared about setting your cellphone to silent even back when this was written!
As the book winds down, Beth naturally starts exhibiting undesirable and aggressive traits brought about by her new accessory. Anthony gets the old crazy girl bewitched by magic ring tears off your bike lock and dismantles your bicycle by hand and then also breaks your sunglasses gag played on him. But that's not enough bad behavior for the possessed Beth, who also throws a nerdy kid into a locker. Oh man, that locker door is not going to open until Moose calls out his name and asks what time it is when an elephant sits on his car.
Beth continues on her mild rampage. She snaps the legs off Amanda's Barbie dolls. She puts slugs in her sister's spaghetti sauce (Newman's Groan?) and replaces her shampoo with corn oil (Selsun Ew?). But her weird acts aren't limited to blood relations, as Beth also sneaks into the school's kitchen and drops a live mouse into a vat of vegetable soup. Oh great, PETA's gonna make "RL Swine" masks now.
Beth is feeding that broken-winged bird from earlier in the novel when a magically healed Danny shows up and reminds her about the bike-a-thon she agreed to participate in. Beth doesn't want to go though, as she's afraid the ring will make her bike evilly or something, I'm not really sure.
At the bike-a-thon, the ring tells her to cut everyone's brakes, but Beth is pretty much done with bikes in this book and pedals home to remove the ring for good. While looking for metal cutters (!) in the garage, she sees her injured bird has died. But to go on with her daily affairs, she can't really think about that, which is probably why everyone takes the world for granted and why we act so thoughtlessly. It's very confusing-- but not as confusing as what happens when Beth tries to cut off her ring with metal cutters. Te evil face grows huge and emerges from within the ring as smoke pours out into the garage. The face bellows:
"My evil has outgrown the ring!"So he has more than like a half-ounce of evil now? The face tells Beth he needs to inhabit a human body now. Beth's gotten used to her body and refuses to part with it. Beth grabs a saw and prepares to cut off her finger to spare her from the ring, but luckily she tries just pulling really hard first and it comes off. She reasons that without the big head inside the ring, it just weighs less. Well, there's just so many lessons in the book.
Beth slips the ring onto the dead bird and the evil face is sucked back into the jewel. She buries the dead bird/jewel-head in the backyard. She should be careful though, because as Dwight Schrute could tell you, bird funerals can result in smoke too. As the book ends, the evil has been stopped and all is well. So it'll totally be a happy ending then, rite?
But the Twist is:
Was there ever any chance this book wouldn't end with the little sibling of the main character acquiring a similarly dangerous talisman?
the Platonic Boy-Girl Relationship:
Beth and her crush Danny Jacobs, who disappears into a tank of boiling water halfway thru the novel.
After Beth breaks all of Amanda's Barbies, their mom actually considers that maybe Beth didn't do it. I always wondered what happened to the former Simpson jurors.
Someone Actually Revised a Goosebumps Book Alert:
The first edition of the book (which was used for this entry) was called "Horrors of the Black Ring." Subsequent printings were titled "The Horror of the Black Ring." Though I agree that the book doesn't contain multiple horrors, I still can't quite be with Scholastic on it containing at least one. It's a good thing that they multiplied the "horror"s and not the "ring"s, because if it was more than three rings, the answering machine would have picked up.
Memorable Cliffhanger Chapter Ending:
Oh no, someone has written on a writing surface!
Great Prose Alert:
"See you at school, fool," Anthony sneered.
At 108 pages, Horrors of the Black Ring is the shortest Goosebumps book. Thank you God.