Horror is my favourite genre in everything, books, movies and television. I don’t know what it is but there is something about being scared that just appeals to me. My mom is also a horror fan, we even bonded over the genre when I came to live with her. The first movie I remember watching with her was 1986’s Maximum Overdrive, a film that was loosely based on the short story ‘Trucks’ by Horror icon Stephen King.
My love for the horror genre started with a simple book series that became so popular that they were adapted into a television series on Fox Kids (Now called Disney XD). It was called Goosebumps and it was awesome! Written by the Kids Spook King R.L. Stine, the series had its run from 1992 – 1997 with a few spin offs and were published by Scholastic Publishings. Filled with a mix of horror, humor and the supernatural, the books each had their own story line, including those that were meant to be sequels to others, and were published in chronological order. As I look back on them now (i.e. reading through the book plots on Wikipedia) the book were relatively tamed in their scares. Some were cautionary tales (much like another horrifying horror book series that my nieces now enjoy but I’ll get back to those later) and others often showed kids being resourceful, getting out of sticky situations, and defeating evil. Although in the Goosebumps universe adults did suffer a bit from, ‘Stupid Adults Who Don’t Listen To Their Kids’ Syndrome.
I read the original series but never got into the spin offs mostly because I could never find them in my local or school library. I only remember a few stories out of the series and they were my favourites:
The Night of the Living Dummy was basically Chucky for kids, except no one was killed. The first book follows a little girl named Lindy Powell and her bratty Twin sister after she finds a ventriloquist’s Dummy in the trash. Lindy bring it home, fixes it up and names it Woody. When cruel pranks starts to happen in their house Lindy and her sister are left wondering who is doing it. The second book revolves around Amy Krammer, a girl who is interested in ventriloquism when her old dummy breaks, she gets a replacement called Slappy and accidently brings him to life after reading a piece of paper with weird words that she finds in his chest. The final book follows Trina O’Dell whose father was a famous ventriloquist, but now collects the dummies. One day he brings home Slappy and after reading the words from the last book brings Slappy to life along with the rest of his collection.
Slappy the dummy was the scary icon of my Goosebumps years, if you ask any one who read the books or watches the TV show (especially the TV Show) what their favourite episodes were more than half of them would answer “The one with Slappy in it.” He was seemingly made to be a “kid-friendly” equivalent to Chucky the killer doll. They did have similarities such as orange hair, were both wise cracking talkers and were connected to “magic words” that brought them into existence. Slappy truly scared me as a kid.
The Haunted Mask 1 & 2 I remember being cautionary tales. The first book was about a girl named Carly Beth who became tired of being the butt of her friends jokes due to her trusting and naïve nature. This doesn’t help when her mother makes her dress up as a duck for Halloween. She decides to get revenge on her tormentors by getting a scary mask from the local Halloween store, unfortunately the store is closed and the Store manager gives her a mask, once Carly Beth puts it on she finds that she can’t take it off.
The second book is a direct sequel and follows one of Carly Beth’s tormentors Steve Boswell who finds himself in the same Mask store from the previous book, he buys a mask to pull pranks, unfortunately the mask he buys isn’t what it seems.
R.L.Stine said he came up with the idea for the Haunted Mask stories when he saw his son having trouble taking off a Mask he had on. There is a clear moral message in these stories, for Carly Beth it was that she should be herself no matter what others did to her or saw her. While Steve’s story was a taking a walk another’s shoes kind of thing and was forced to change his ways. There was another book that was sequel called ‘The Scream of the Haunted Mask’ but as I said before I never read the spin offs and it was part of a spin-off series.
I loved the Goosebumps Series growing up and even though others books have been published that are a lot more terrifying (once again I’ll get to Grizzly Tales for Gruesome Kids another time), it had some genuine scares. And although I don’t remember a lot of the books that I read it does hold a lot of Nostalgia for me. I think some of the Show is on Youtube and the books are on Amazon, so check them out!
Also honorable mention: there was another series books and a TV series around at the same as a Goosebumps, it was horror based and was called Are you Afraid of the Dark. I never got into those books or the show because I had Goosebumps and it filled my horror needs, but I’m going to mention here. Are You Afraid of The Dark, revolved around a bunch of kids that were a part of a secret society called the Midnight Society that came together to tell scary stories. It was pretty popular when it was around and if you or your children like Goosebumps it would be one to look out for too.