Where evil twins and friends come together to lovingly snark Point Horror and other teen genre fiction
 

Recap #121: Goosebumps #45: Ghost Camp by R.L. Stine, a.k.a. “When Harry Met Lucy”

Title: Goosebumps #45 – Ghost Camp

Author: R.L. Stine

Cover Artist: Tim Jacobus

Tagline: Be all that you can’t see!

Summary: The Joke’s On Them!

Harry and his brother, Alex, are dying to fit in at Camp Spirit Moon. But the camp has so many weird traditions. Like the goofy camp salute. The odd camp greeting. And the way the old campers love to play jokes on the new campers.

Then the jokes get really serious. Really creepy. Really scary.

First a girl sticks her arm in the campfire. Then a boy jams a pole through his foot.

Still, they’re just jokes… right?

Initial Thoughts

This has been my all time favorite Goosebumps book since, like forever. I adore everything about it. I love the characters. I love the villains. I love the setting. I love the cover and that one single human girl who has got no idea what the fuck she’s gotten herself into. This is one of those rare books where you like the main character on purpose AND you manage to feel bad for the villains even though you know they can’t win. It’s also one of the more truly fucked up entries in the original series, and I wrote about it for “Endangered Bodies” via discussing the surprising sexual assault undertones.

I still have a completed jigsaw puzzle of the cover downstairs in my basement, and I remember when I was younger how I wanted the sneakers that had the girl ghost and camper on them. Of course, since those were the “Girl” sneakers, my parents sure as hell weren’t letting that happen. At the very least, I was lucky to get my copy autographed by Stine AND Tim Jacobus.

The reason I didn’t begin my Goosebumps recaps with this book right off is because I was waiting on a commission of the main characters, Harry and Alex Altman, from a dear friend who is also one of my absolute favorite artists. I refused to begin this recap until I was able to include the commission in this post, alongside another awesome piece I won in a tumblr art giveaway.

 

And now, that time has come.

[Wing: When I saw the cover, I could have sworn I’d read this one before, but the summary doesn’t sound familiar at all. We’ll see how this goes.]

Recap

Harry Altman and his brother Alex are on their way to Camp Spirit Moon, and they’re the only ones on the bus besides their bus driver, who is inexplicably a blonde, tanned, surfer dude who only spoke once when the brothers got on board.

Alex is complaining he’s about to get bus sick, and Harry asks why he had to wait until they were almost to camp for it to happen. Harry suggests Alex pretend they’re in a car, but then remembers Alex can get carsick as their mom backs out of the garage. Noticing Alex’s skin is turning yellow as a banana, Harry nudges his brother to sing as loud as he can since they’re the only kids on the bus. Harry drops some exposition for us as Alex sings one of his favorite Beatles’ songs. Alex has got an epic singing voice, and he’s really serious about it. He’s in the school chorus and their dad’s looking for a vocal coach for him. Harry admits he gets a little jealous sometimes, but since he’s a better athlete than Alex it evens out and there’s no need for them to compete against each other. Harry muses they get along so well because they’re only a year apart, Harry being the oldest, which means he sometimes takes the lead with Alex, not that Alex has a problem with that. [Wing: I wish I’d felt this way about Canary, who is a year and a half younger and who is awesome and we have a ton in common, but when we were teens, I felt like she was following me into all the things I loved.] Harry also mentions the two look alike, to the point people think they’re twins, and because of their serious faces their parents often advise them to lighten up – even when they’re really happy.

(Harry and Alex by dottydoodle – I commissioned this as reference Levy could use because there was no reference I could use beyond describing them. D.D.’s done a lot for me this past year and they deserve all the praise they get)

[Wing: This is adorable.]

Holy shit, siblings in a Goosebumps, no, an R.L. Stine book, who aren’t trying to kill each other.

Alex’s bus sickness clears up when he finishes his song, but he gets mopey wishing he was going to music camp like he wanted. Harry, explaining Alex has a tendency to get moody, reminds him their parents waited too long to find a summer camp and Camp Spirit Moon was the only place with any openings this late in the summer. The bus finally comes to a stop and surfer guy says “Everybody out!” even though there’s just two people.

Their bags unloaded, Harry and Alex are forced to head to the camp themselves since no one greeted them. They eventually find a big sign reading “CAMP SPIRIT MOON,” and the place is pretty idyllic. There’s a lake, a row of archery targets (Harry’s good at archery apparently), a soccer field, tennis courts, rolling green hills, and a dark forest… but no campers. The place is totally deserted.

“Maybe we’re in the wrong place,” Alex said softly.

“Huh? Wrong place?” I pointed to the sign. “How can we be in the wrong place? It says ‘Camp Spirit Moon’ – doesn’t it?”

“Maybe they all went on a field trip or something,” Alex suggested.

I rolled my eyes. “Don’t you know anything about camp?” I snapped. “You don’t go on trips. There’s nowhere to go!”

Okay so there’s SOME arguing but nothing too grating.

[Wing: We took camp trips, including a canoe trip into the Canadian border waters, but certainly the entire camp didn’t go at one time.]

The boys are about to investigate a big stone building that might be the mess hall when someone appears out of the woods, a teenage counselor named Chris. He seems to know who Harry and Alex are, but then solemnly reveals that besides him, they’re the only people in the entire camp. Everyone else is gone!

PSYCH!

Chris starts laughing, revealing the campers are actually hiding in the woods. Turns out the camp has a tradition of pulling this joke on new campers. Harry doesn’t find it very funny and Alex is confused wondering why they scare new campers. The brothers are then greeted by the man in charge, Uncle Marv, a huge, powerfully built guy with a bushy black mustache and no indoor voice. Unky Marv asks if Chris gave the boys the “Alone in the Woods” routine before teaching them the camp greeting.

“Yohhhhhhhh, Spirits!” Uncle Marv bellowed.

“Yohhhhhhhh, Spirits!” Chris boomed back.

Then they gave each other a left-handed salute, placing the hand on the nose, then swinging it straight out in the air.

Unky Marv tells Harry and Alex to try it out, although Harry doesn’t really enjoy it. He’s not the type of guy who goes for secret handshakes and stuff like that. Personally I feel the same way. Unky Marv is sure the Altmans are gonna fit in great, but they still have the Welcoming Campfire to get through in the evening. Chris almost reveals what’ll happen before Unky Marv chides him about spoilers. Alex asks if they’ll sing, and Unky Marv promises in a rather threatening matter he’ll have PLENTY to sing about, if he survives.

Unky Marv brings the boys to a cabin, showing them where to sleep and how to store their stuff before explaining the general layout of the camp. Alex immediately chooses a lower bunk because he tosses in his sleep, and Harry adds in Alex even sings in his SLEEP. Unky Marv says he’ll do well in the talent show… if he makes through the campfire. Harry’s getting pretty annoyed that Unky Marv keeps making the same threatening joke, and Alex admits after the big guy leaves he scares him a little. As Harry starts unpacking his stuff he discovers something strange all over the floor of the cabin. At the foot of every bed is a cold, sticky blue puddle of some unidentifiable substance. The slightest touch makes Harry’s arm so cold it briefly goes numb. Alex is sure it’s another dumb camp prank…

(Harry and Alex by Levy Rasputin – This was a gift Levy did for my college graduation. I’ve tried to commission her as many times as possible because no one’s artwork has inspired me like her’s, and because she’s a really good friend. The reason I asked her to make the boys Native American was because I figured there was no reason why they shouldn’t be. God knows diversity in these books is almost non-existent. I also got R.L. Stine to autograph it a few months ago at Books of Wonder)

[Wing: Holy shit, that is gorgeous.]

At the Welcoming Campfire, Harry and Alex finally get to meet all the other kids. Everyone, even the counselors, are dressed in white t-shirts and shorts, making the brothers stick out. Unky Marv promises to get them the uniforms in the morning. While in line to get food for dinner, Harry meets a pale, black-haired girl named Lucy. Lucy’s got a deep, husky voice, almost like she’s always whispering. Lucy shows him where to find the sticks for roasting hot dogs in the fire. The two sit down together by the fire to start roasting their dinner, when Harry’s dog falls into the fire… and Lucy reaches forward and pulls it out! Harry is horrified not just by the little trail of flames on her arm, but how she doesn’t even notice. It takes her a minute before she remembers fire burns flesh and is all “Oh. Yeah. That was hot.” [Wing: Lucy! Be my fiery BFF.] She’s more worried about how his hot dog got charred as Harry suggests they find the camp nurse. Harry then runs into Alex, who reports he’s made friends with a kid named Elvis McGraw, and they’re gonna try out for the talent show AND the musical. But Harry can’t stop thinking about Lucy’s arm and the fire.

Unky Marv announces it’s now time for everyone to gather round the campfire and sing the Spirit Moon anthem. It seems to be a rather complicated song that goes back to a single verse over and over again:

We have the spirit – and the spirit has us

Alex is singing at the top of his lungs, and so is Elvis. Unfortunately, while Alex’s voice is angelic, Elvis’s singing sounds like a cat choking on a bunch of pipe cleaners. Harry starts to feel a bit embarrassed by how much Alex is showing off and backs away a little from the campfire. While the song drags on, Harry backs away into the woods waiting for when his brother stops being a ham, when Lucy appears and grabs Harry’s arm. Something’s seriously upset the girl, and she says only Harry can help her. Before she can reveal what the problem is, Unky Marv spots them and orders Harry and Lucy to get back into the circle. Now the kids are laughing thinking Harry and Lucy like each other, but Harry’s still worried about whatever upset Lucy. Unky Marv then announces it’s time for the two camp ghost stories, tales that have been passed down through Camp Spirit Moon for generations.

“They are tales that will be told for all time, for as long as dark legends are told.”

Harry notices most of the veteran campers look seriously creeped out, [Wing: Because that’s a creepy way to put it!] but doesn’t understand why figuring they must’ve already heard these stories a million times. Lucy asks why Harry doesn’t seem scared, and he answers he doesn’t believe in ghost stories. Lucy promises he might be changing his mind soon…

THE FIRST STORY

A young counselor led a bunch of campers on an overnight expedition into the woods. But the counselor kept insisting they needed to set up their tents deep in the woods, so they went *deep breath* deeper and deeper and deeper and deeper and deeper and deeper and deeper and deeper and deeper and deeper and deeper and deeper and deeper and deeper and deeper and deeper and deeper and deeper and deeper and deeper and deeper and deeper and deeper and deeper and deeper and deeper and deeper and deeper and deeper and deeper and deeper and deeper and deeper and deeper and deeper and deeper and deeper into the woods.

And then they found the perfect spot. Except they couldn’t sleep because of a weird thumping noise that seemed to be coming from all around them, until it turns out there was an unexpected guest at the camp out who asked:

“WHY ARE YOU STANDING ON MY HEART?”

So yeah turns out they camped out on top of a big monster who then ate them.

“I guess we went too deep into the woods!”

Harry thinks that story’s hilarious, confusing Elvis who insists it’s true. Harry groans and wonders if Alex thinks it’s as corny as he does. Seems neither of them are particularly interested in ghost stories.

But now it’s time for the second story. The story of the [INSERT TITLE HERE]

SECOND STORY

Once upon a time on a night just like this, a summer camp was having a big campfire. The kids and counselors had fun roasting hot dogs, singing songs, telling ghost stories that were passed down from camper to camper for generations. But then, after it got really late, a mysterious black fog rolled out from the woods and enveloped the camp. It floated over everything, every building and every camper. No one knew where the fog came from, but when it left, something had happened. The light had disappeared from the eyes of the campers and the counselors. Their arms hung limply down their sides. You see, the black fog had killed each and every one of them, and now they were all ghosts. One by one they rose and returned to their cabins and beds, realizing they would be doomed to spend eternity in the camp.

Harry thought this was a little cool, but the ending was a letdown. It seemed to scare Alex though, or rather, the thick black fog rolling out of the woods has scared him!

Harry’s a little shaken too, but tries to convince himself it’s a just a coincidence. The woods get foggy all the time. [Wing: With black fog? Oh, Harry.] He reminds Alex they don’t believe in ghosts, but now Alex is scared because the rest of the camp is now staring at them. Unky Marv then announces a beautiful fog like this deserves a repeat of the camp song. The Altmans, veteran kids and the counselors begin singing the Camp Spirit Moon anthem again, even as they become enveloped by the cold fog. After a while, the voices of everyone except Harry and Alex seem to become muffled by the fog and disappear, until the fog finally vanishes and only the brothers are left standing near the extinguished fire. [Wing: THAT’S CREEPY AS HELL.]

Alex is seriously startled by this, but Harry believes this is another camp prank. Think about it. They tell a ghost story about a killer fog, then a real fog “suddenly” appears and the veteran campers disappear with the counselors. Harry thinks everyone’s gone back to their bunks leaving the new kids all alone. Running back to the cabins, the brothers are greeted by the other kids laughing their asses off. Secretly, Harry’s relieved that it was indeed a joke, though a pretty good one he admits. In their cabin, Harry and Alex regroup with Elvis and meet their other bunkmates, Sam and Joey. There are also fresh puddles of blue slime on the floor. Harry accidentally steps in one barefoot and tries to wipe it off when the lights go off… and then looks across the room to see Sam and Joey’s eyes are glowing in the dark! Harry thinks this is another joke and tries to go to sleep, but is woken up later in the night by Alex, complaining it’s too cold in the bunk. Harry tries to go back to sleep, but finds himself wide awake when he realizes Joey is floating in the air above his bed. Harry scrambles to turn on the light, but when he does, Joey’s laying normally on the bed and everyone orders him to shut the goddamn light off. Heading back to his bunk and feeling like an ass, Harry steps in another slime puddle.

The next morning the brothers are given the camp uniform of white shirts and shorts before heading to breakfast. During the day, Alex tries out for the talent show while Harry has to practice setting up tents for a camp overnight. The try outs are moderated by a counselor named Veronica, who plays an upright piano on stage while Alex sings a Beatles song. Harry comments Alex is the only kid he knows who likes the oldies station. Of course, Alex is by far the best singer the camp has, and everyone, especially Harry, are left speechless by what an amazing voice he’s got. Elvis… not so much, who tries singing “Heartbreak Hotel.” He’s got his eyes closed so he doesn’t realize how painful his singing is for everyone else to hear, and everyone wonders how Elvis doesn’t realize what an awful voice he’s got. On the soccer field, Chris is showing Harry and some of his bunkmates how to set up tents while they joke about Elvis’s nasty singing and how they’re camping “deep in the woods,” but the jokes end when Sam trips and impales a tent pole straight through his foot! Harry tries his best to remain calm in order to get Chris’s help, when Sam nonchalantly pulls the pole out of his foot. He’s not even bleeding, which Sam claims is because it “Missed his toes.” Of course it missed his toes, it went right through the center of his foot!

[Wing: Look, we shouldn’t judge where he keeps his toes, okay?]

Later in the afternoon, after practicing lifeguard skills at the lake, Harry tries to block out what happened with Sam when Alex reports he’s not only the opening act of the talent show, Veronica wants him to star in the camp musical (Elvis will be stage manager). Harry congratulates Alex, and the two have dinner in the mess hall with the other campers. The entree is chicken in some kind of cream sauce, spinach, and lumpy mashed potatoes, though Harry’s worked up such an appetite he’ll eat anything. Or rather, he would’ve, before Joey got his attention, and Harry watched as Joey stabbed himself in the neck with a fork!

Joey grinned at me. The fork bobbed up and down, stuck in his neck.

I felt sick. My heart started to pound.

He pulled the fork out with a hard tug. His grin didn’t fade. “You try it!” he called.

The other kids are mildly annoyed at Joey for bothering Harry, who’s trying to figure out why there aren’t any stab marks on his neck. He’s not even bleeding. The only person appropriately horrified is Alex, who looks like he’s gonna throw up. Joey offers to do it again when Unky Marv shows up to inquire what’s going on, before reminding the guys there’s a night soccer game with the girls. The rest of the guys are looking forward to nailing the girls while Harry asks how Joey did that thing with the fork. Joey only responds “It’s just a trick.” At the same time, Harry realizes Lucy’s been watching him from the far end of the mess hall. The evening receives some further theatrics when a bat flies into the mess hall, though Unky Marv manages to catch it and set it free. The guys joke the woods are full of bats and they like to suck your blood out of your head, saying that’s why Joey’s so weird. Harry wonders if it’s true…

During the soccer match, Harry and Alex are stationed on the second team, which means they can only watch the match between the first team. As the boys and girls play on, Harry and Alex discuss what happened with Joey. Alex reveals he’s starting to feel very uncomfortable because of all the jokes the kids have been playing on them, and reveals a disturbing incident that happened earlier in the day. After the talent show tryouts, Alex had free swim in the lake with some guys and younger girl campers. Being free swim Alex merely floated around in the lake by himself, but saw something awful when he dunked his head under the water. He saw a younger girl near the bottom of the lake, not moving at all. Alex briefly panicked but dove down to save the girl not knowing how long she’d been under. The girl was surprisingly light as Alex dragged her back up to the surface. The moment Alex broke out of the water, the girl started laughing and spat water in his face. Alex could only ask how she was able to do that and she said she could hold her breath for “A long, long time.” Alex got the fuck out of the water after that. While trying to contemplate Alex’s story, Harry realizes the fog has come back and covered the soccer field. A counselor comments night games are more exciting with fog, but things take a turn for the worse when Harry sees the girl team’s goalie get hit in the head by the soccer ball. The ball bounced onto the field…

And so did the girl’s head.

Harry ran onto the soccer field trying to help the girl, thinking he picked up her severed head when it turned out to just be the soccer ball. The girl gets up, her head on her neck. The kids start yelling at Harry to get off the field when he, still upset, screams he saw her head get knocked off. Everyone on the field starts laughing uproariously, the girl tugging her head to show it’s on straight when some guys start yanking Harry’s head to see if IT’S on right. Humiliated, Harry tries to put as much distance between himself and the soccer field as possible. Unfortunately, when Alex follows Harry, he says the one thing that could make the situation even more unbearable.

“I saw it, too,” Alex whispered.

Harry keeps insisting it was a trick of the fog when Alex adds Elvis believes the camp ghost stories are true. Harry reminds his brother they don’t believe in ghosts, when suddenly the sound of mournful howling starts to surround the boys. [Wing: #needsmorewerewolves] They can’t make out what’s causing the howling because the fog is so thick. It might be worse that it turns out it’s just Elvis, Sam, and Joey, mocking the boys and asking if they thought the three were wolves, or ghosts. Elvis jumps on Alex and starts wrestling him while Sam and Joey laugh it up at Harry’s expense. Alex manages to kick Elvis off of him, and the two leave the boys in the fog. Harry is left wondering why this is bothering him so much, why he’s letting these pranks get to him. In a short while the Altman brothers have become jumpy, nervous wrecks, and everyone finds it hilarious. Harry doesn’t know that pretty soon things are gonna get much, MUCH worse.

The teasing is, naturally, merciless the next day. Kids keeps yakking about losing their heads or howling like wolves to mess with the Altmans. The only one not laughing at Harry is Lucy, who still looks as though she wants to talk to Harry about something. But the one time Harry manages to speak to Lucy, she runs off without saying anything. Harry assumes she’s probably too embarrassed to be seen with a loser like him, while his bunkmates (sans Alex of course) mock him. Later in the day is letter writing time, where the campers are expected to write back to their parents. Harry’s not sure what to say about everything that’s happened while Alex chooses to discuss the talent show and camp musical. Harry decides to be glib and mention camp’s more exciting than he thought.

The evening activity turns out to be a night hike, and it seems the night air is having a positive affect on Harry. The teasing’s died down and he’s actually enjoying himself with Sam and the others, managing to almost learn the entirety of the camp anthem while singing some other obnoxious songs for laughs. Looks like Harry’s finally relaxed… until they get back to the camp and the fog returns as well. Unky Marv declares Lights Out in ten when Harry gets pulled into the woods by Lucy. She’s still worried about something, and says only Harry can help her. Harry’s semi-willing, noticing Lucy’s been crying, but he doesn’t understand what the problem is. Lucy cryptically answers he already knows what the problem is. Harry dreads what she’s about to say when Lucy drops the bombshell.

“We’re ghosts, Harry,” Lucy told me. “We’re all ghosts at this camp.”

“But, Lucy -” I started.

“Yes.” She nodded sadly. “Yes. Yes. Yes. I’m a ghost too.”

The last shred of Harry’s stubborn disbelief of ghosts vanishes after a moment, accepting what Lucy’s revealed because of how grim and morose her voice sounds.

But I don’t believe in ghosts!

That’s what I almost blurted out.

But how could I not believe in ghosts when one stood right in front of me, staring into my face?

How could I not believe in Lucy?

She grabs his hand, and Harry’s shocked by how cold her skin is. Lucy can’t even face Harry as he asks what happened to her, the camp, that did this. Lucy confirms the ghost story Unky Marv told was true. One night everyone was at the campfire having fun, when suddenly the black fog appeared out of the woods and engulfed the camp, killing the counselors and the campers and leaving their ghosts behind as it departed. Lucy even begins crying again as she reveals she doesn’t even know how long it’s been since she died, that time has no meaning for ghosts. Harry asks for an explanation on the puddles, and the “jokes” and all that. Lucy explains the puddles are protoplasm, residue created when the ghosts materialize. It takes a lot of energy to become visible, she says. The rest of it, the glowing eyes, the injuries, the drowned girl and the headless girl, were jokes the kids pulled to mess with Harry and Alex. They’ve got no other means to entertain themselves.

“Some of the kids tried to scare you,” Lucy confessed. “They only wanted a little fun, Harry. It isn’t fun being a ghost. Believe me. It isn’t fun spending day after day after day out here, knowing you aren’t real anymore. Knowing you will never grow. Knowing you will never change.” She uttered a loud sob from deep in her chest. “Knowing you will never have a life!

“I – I’m so sorry,” I stammered.

Lucy says there’s only one thing that Harry can do to help her, to make all of this stop. She says in order for her to be free, he needs to let her enter his mind and take over his body. [Wing: BAD PLAN. BAD BAD PLAN. Just ask Megan from The Accident.] Now Harry’s terrified, asking why she needs to possess him to leave. Lucy can’t escape on her own, because those who’ve tried without a body to possess lose themselves and become part of the fog. Harry is understandably suspicious and scared of this idea, saying if Lucy takes over his mind, he won’t be HIM anymore. He now thinks to himself he has to get Alex out of the camp. Lucy pleads that once they get far away from the camp she’ll leave his body and he’ll never have to see her again. Harry sees how desperate, how upset Lucy is as she begs… but says he can’t do it.

And you know what? As horrible as Lucy’s situation is, I’m with him. From day one the Altmans have been gaslighted and harassed by the other kids. This whole thing’s been a trap for the ghosts to find people to hijack so they can escape. Harry’s got no proof or reason to believe Lucy is seriously going to leave his body once she’s free of the camp, and from how desperate she sounds it’s more likely she’ll say anything to get Harry to aid her quest for freedom.

(Lucy by Cathryn Virginia – I won this in one of those reblog giveaway things on tumblr, the only time I’ve EVER won such a thing)

[Wing: Holy shit, that is creepy. You have amazing commissions in this recap.]

Predictably, once Harry says “No,” Lucy tells him he never had the option of a choice in the first place. And this is why I wrote about “Ghost Camp” for Endangered Bodies. Lucy makes it clear she’s taking Harry’s body for herself when Harry tries to run. But something holds him back as the fog grows thicker and he begins to feel a cold, numbing sensation growing downward from the top of his head. Harry begs and pleads with Lucy to stop what she’s doing while he starts to grow sleepy. Harry tries to use every ounce of willpower to force Lucy out of his mind, screaming “no” over and over again, concentrating, until finally the cold sensation in his head leaves and he’s able to move again.

Not knowing how long he has before Lucy tries to invade his mind again, Harry runs to get Alex. Ignoring Elvis and the others inside the cabin, Harry wakes up Alex and whispers that they have to leave NOW. Once they’re outside again Harry orders Alex to start running until they’re deep in the woods and as far from the camp as possible. Harry tells Alex everything that happened, that the camp is full of ghosts who want to steal their bodies. Alex already knew. In the middle of the woods, Harry stops and asks his brother what happened. Seems Elvis tried the same thing on Alex Lucy did with Harry, and Alex trembles as he recaps how Elvis tried to possess his mind. And you know, this makes that part where Elvis jumped on Alex and wrestled with him even worse in hindsight.

The brothers continue running deep into the woods, but aren’t sure what direction they’re going in when they hear a noise.

A loud noise.

A noise that seems to be coming from all directions.

Because it seems they’re not alone…

“WHY ARE YOU STANDING ON MY HEART?”

The boys have run onto the chest of the giant monster from the first ghost story. They try to flee as the creature raises its giant arm to grab them, when Harry has a last ditch idea. As the monster attempts to swallow the boys, Harry tells Alex “We don’t believe in monsters.” Even as they land on the monster’s tongue, Harry orders his brother to start chanting their disbelief, to assert that they don’t believe the monster exists. Even as it swallows them. Even as they fall down its throat, down, down…

Onto the hard forest floor.

The monster’s vanished and the boys are back in the woods. Harry and Alex are overjoyed and delirious with relief that such a desperate move worked. Yet their relief is cut short when they realize they’re surrounded by dozens of glittering eyes in the darkness. Lucy, Elvis, and the rest of Camp Spirit Moon caught up to them. The boys try the same move on the ghosts, chanting they don’t believe in them, but it doesn’t work. Lucy reveals it didn’t work before either. The monster was an illusion they conjured, to keep the boys distracted and wear them down so they could finally possess them. Unky Marv orders the Altman brothers be held down so they can be possessed, since no one living ever escapes Camp Spirit Moon.

Lucy advances on Harry to finish what she started and he resigns himself to his fate when another camper tackles Lucy, exclaiming she has to keep waiting. See, that’s what happens when you only get TWO new kids when there are DOZENS of ghosts. Another boy screams HE’S going first, saying Unky Marv is letting him go free this time. The kids are now fighting over who gets to leave the camp next, and even the counselors are fighting for dibs on Harry and Alex. Unky Marv tries to stop the fighting to no avail, and the brothers are horrified as they watch the swarm of fighting ghosts meld together, spinning around in a whirlwind of cold wind and light faster and faster until they disappear in a haze of fog and smoke.

Harry and Alex don’t stick around to test their luck and head deeper into the woods to get to the highway home. Harry tries to figure out what he’ll tell their parents while Alex sings to himself to feel better, which makes sense…

Except now Alex sounds like a cat gargling a bunch of pipe cleaners.

I stared hard into my brother’s eyes. “Elvis – is that you in there?” I cried.

Elvis’s voice came out of Alex’s mouth. “Please, Harry, don’t tell,” he begged. “I swear I’ll never sing again – if you promise not to tell!”

[Wing: OH ALEX NO NOT ALEX NO.]

Final Thoughts

So yeah, who needs consent amirite?

Seriously this book is just so fucking good. One of the best and legitimately creepy of the original series. I was always disappointed they never made it into a TV episode, but after realizing the quality of the TV show was kind of… yeah, maybe it was for the best.

I’m wondering though, was the bus driver a ghost too, or did he literally have no idea he was working for ghosts the whole time?

I want to clarify for some reason the “Getting Crap Past The Radar” page for Goosebumps on TV Tropes says something about Lucy eating a hot dog in one gulp. I have no idea where that came from because NOTHING like that happens in the book.

The Series 2000 line did a sequel book called “Return to Ghost Camp,” which was a complete LIE because it had nothing to do with the original and featured neither the Altmans or any of the Camp Spirit Moon ghosts. Granted, it’s not as good as the original, but it’s not THAT bad.

I kind of had a couple of ideas for sequels myself. The first was done in similar vein to the canceled “Goosebumps Gold” line, a book that took place on the 4th of July with a cover riffing on the Uncle Sam recruitment poster. The other idea, a more recent one, was a crossover book featuring the surviving protagonists from the main and 2000 series camp books being brought together, with Harry being incredibly bitter and hostile towards Elvis still possessing Alex.

Here’s a link to the Endangered Bodies article I wrote last year on Ghost Camp and a couple of other aspects on the series: http://newyork.endangeredbodies.org/put_in_ink_the_goosebumps_edition_by_jude_deluca

[Wing: This book is great, creepy and with a satisfying ending that turns into a terrible one. I’m reminded why I went into this thinking I would love Stine’s work and then being so surprised how much I hated most of his Point Horror writing. Fear Street and Goosebumps were often amazing, just like this.]

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