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Recap #122: More & More & More Tales To Give You Goosebumps by R. L. Stine “A.K.A. Okay Maybe It Does Die”

Title: More & More & More Tales To Give You Goosebumps

Author: R.L. Stine

Cover Artist: Tim Jacobus

Tagline: N/A

Summary: Reader Beware – You’re In For Ten Holiday Scares!

Will Brad learn to care for his pet Gronk, before it takes care of him? Can Samantha sit through a boring Nutcracker ballet without cracking up… for real? Are Max’s new monster skates putting him on thin ice? Has Sam been caught in the bone-chilling grip of an ice vampire?

Find out in these ten creepy Goosebumps short stories guaranteed to fill you with holiday fear!

[Wing: ICE VAMPIRE WHAT. MONSTER SKATES.]

Initial Thoughts

This is the last of the short story collections, and also my favorite of the line because, up until this point in the franchise’s history, Stine had never done stories that centered around the holiday season. A couple, like “Curse of the Mummy’s Tomb” and “Werewolf of Fever Swamp,” took place during December, but the stories didn’t heavily focus on Christmas or any other holiday in that month.

This originally came with a bonus Goosebumps monster stocking, and I was hoping to get a copy that still came with the stocking. Sadly, I am stocking devoid. That doesn’t change how much I love this book. Being a Christmas child, it speaks to my love for the holiday to find stories that aren’t simply “Christmas Carol” rehashes (or at least badly done rehashes).

This time I racked my brain to come up with something special for subtitles, and I decided to go with a “Sonic the Hedgehog” theme and gave the stories zone-based subtitles liked you’d find in the earlier Sonic games.

And Wing, prepare for a special treat during “Marshmallow Surprise.”

[Wing: Well that’s exciting.]

Recap

Don’t Sit On The Gronk, a.k.a. “Pet Panic Zone”

Brad’s an idiot who doesn’t bother to read instructions for anything, much to his older sister Kelly’s annoyance. [Wing: As someone surrounded by people who refuse to read instructions, I feel you, Kelly.] On Christmas morning, Brad’s whining that his new Walkman (because it was the 90s, you see!) is broken on account of no sound is coming from the earphones. Kelly points out he plugged the earphones into the wrong jack, which he could’ve avoided had he read the diagram on the box. Mr. and Mrs. Parents (no that isn’t their actual last name) tell Kelly not to tease Brad, but then tell Brad she’s right because he never reads instructions.

[Wing: … what jack did he plug it into then?]

Mr. Brad’s Dad sees there’s one last gift under the tree and it’s for Brad, but the box doesn’t say who it’s from. The present seems to be a Kooshball, but upon closer inspection Brad realizes the little, rubbery ball is alive! Brad can make out the ball inhaling and exhaling. Kelly freaks when she learns the ball is alive when Brad pulls out a piece of paper from the box offering congratulations on being the proud owner of a Gronk. Nobody has any idea what a Gronk is, but Brad’s parents decide to let him keep it anyway. What could possibly go wrong? [Wing: I mean, a gift you don’t know what it is from no one you seem to know, I see nothing about this going wrong.]

Brad goes to see his best friend Roscoe to show him his cool new Gronk. The boys start playing with it by tossing it back and forth outside, which the Gronk seems to like because they can hear it giggling even though it doesn’t have a mouth. Or eyes. Or really anything except rubbery strands and bumps. The more the boys play with the Gronk, they’re startled to see it’s getting bigger and begin dribbling it around. [Wing: Why is this so dirty? Why?] After it becomes too big to use as a basketball, Brad rolls it back home to show his parents, even as he thinks it’s starting to get a little creepy. But now that the Gronk is as big as a beanbag chair, Brad lies down on top of it to relax a little… and the Gronk starts to get even bigger!

Brad can’t stop the Gronk as it grows bigger and bigger inside his room, and calls for help from his family. Kelly is horrified and the parents are nowhere to be found. Kelly notices the paper sticking out of the box the Gronk came in and asks if Brad read what was on it. Turns out there are only three rules for Gronk maintenance, because if you don’t follow them the Gronk will grow out of control.

  1. Don’t take the Gronk outside.
  2. Don’t use it like a ball.
  3. [INSTER TITLE HERE]

Because otherwise the Gronk will want to sit o-SPLAT!

Ooh I hope that doesn’t stain easily.

[Wing: Okay, I am laughing. Fun times, Stine. Fun times.]

Nutcracker Nightmare, a.k.a. “Ballet Battlefield Zone”

Sam does nothing but bitch, gripe, and complain as her parents drag her to see “The Nutcracker” ballet, having been invited by Sam’s loathsome old babysitter Mrs. Boren (or as Sam calls her, “Ol’ Boring” because she never let Sam do anything fun when she watched her). Sam’s especially uncomfortable because her parents are making her wear a gross taffeta dress they got from one of her cousins, and it’s too big. Sam’s parents tell her she should be grateful she’s getting to see a real cultural event, and Mrs. Sam’s Mom remembers how much she loved “The Nutcracker” when she was a little girl. As an aside, I’ve never seen “The Nutcracker” in person. Like many people, my first exposure was from “Fantasia,” and later on I acquired a tape of the version that had Macauley Caulkin in it. Oh, and that CGI animated version with the talking fruits and veggies. “The Nutcracker” is probably the only story that gets rehashed as much as “A Christmas Carol.”

[Wing: The Nutcracker is a gorgeous ballet, though I know it gets boring for the dancers who do it every year over and over and over. Also, I remember the first time I went to a live show and thought I had to dress up, because we didn’t have a ton of money and didn’t have experience with live ballet. Now I wear jeans and a fancy shirt and call it good.]

ANYway, Sam and her parents meet up with Mrs. Boren at the theater, and Sam’s not surprised Ol’ Boring hasn’t changed a bit since the last time they met, still chunky and drab. Sam attempts to be polite, but the way Boren stares at her makes Sam nervous. Her parents only notice Sam being rude and give her a disapproving look. In the actual theater, Sam gets stuck sitting behind a woman with a big hairdo. When Mr. Sam’s Dad offers to switch seats, Sam absentmindedly blurts out having to move around to see the performance would help keep her awake. Sam’s parents are shocked, while Mrs. Boren is not surprised, saying Sam needs to learn patience, to “appreciate the ballet.”

Sam dashes to the restroom to avoid a scolding, and when she exits she finds Boren waiting for her in the lobby. Sam hates it when Boren refers to her by her full name, Samantha, and mutters it’s about time to be bored to death when they return to their seats. Before they do, Mrs. Boren asks Sam if she really understands what true boredom can be, and motions to an intricately carved wristwatch she’s wearing. Tapping the watch three times, Boren says it’s time for Samantha to learn some patience.

Back in her seat, Sam wonders when exactly the ballet will finally begin. Sam’s mother tells Sam to stop fidgeting around and the show will start soon, but it takes forever for the curtain to finally rise. Literally, as the curtain practically takes an hour to get pulled upward. Sam does everything she can to take her mind off how slowly things are going, thinking about her friends having fun, a level she’s stuck on in the computer game she got for Christmas, and a poem she had to read for school. The orchestra takes just as long to warm up, and a particularly loud note jerks Sam awake thinking the show’s over. Sam’s mom chides her, saying it’s just about to begin. Sam is startled when the dancers finally appear on the stage, but they move sooooo slowly, it’s like they’re frozen in the air as they try to leap and twirl around. Sam looks towards her mom and the other people in the audience, but everybody’s smiling and enjoying the show. No one else thinks there’s anything weird going on.

Sam is then forced to clap for practically an eternity, her mother scowling at her every time Sam stops, no matter how much Sam’s hands hurt. Sam asks what time it is, and Boren sweetly says, indicating towards her watch, “It’s time for you to learn some patience.” That’s when it hits Sam that, somehow, Boren has placed a spell on the ballet and has slowed down the passage of time. Sam tries to tell her mom something strange is going on, but her mother threatens that Sam’ll be grounded til next Christmas if she keeps acting up. Sam isn’t scared by that, but rather, at the sight of her mother’s brown hair now streaked with gray.

Sam tries to do the sensible thing and get the fuck out of there, but no matter how much she runs she can never reach the doors to the lobby.

Related image

Tired from running in the same spot, Sam drags herself back to her seat. Boren tells Sam if she wants to go to the snack bar, she’ll have to wait for the show to end. Sam then hears a loud ripping noise and realizes she’s outgrown the dress that was originally too big for her. Sam is overwhelmed by the thought of how long she’s been in the theater, when finally it seems like her nightmare is over as the play ends.

Until Boren explains this was only the end of the FIRST act.

“The second act will start real soon!”

(Sam by Sour Apple Studios – I found S.A.S. on newgrounds after playing their supremely creepy and well done game “Short & Sweet” and their disturbing interactive poem “Dear Missus Bin.” Imagine my surprise to learn they were taking commissions!)

SEQUEL IDEA – “A Nutcracker Nightmare On Elm Street”: It starts off with the reveal that Sam was so terrified near the end of Boren’s spell she had a heart attack right there in the theater. A year later we find out Boren was hired as a full time nanny for Sam due to the strain on her heart, her parents having no clue Sam’s completely terrified of the woman. Several kids, including main character Zip, who are working on their school’s production of “The Nutcracker,” befriend Sam, and they realize how much Sam is scared of Boren. Hell, even Zip’s mom agrees with her when she meets Boren for the first time. And then one of the kids ends up insulting Boren in Sam’s defense, so she decides to teach all of them a lesson.

This was, um, actually inspired from the fourth installment in the “Five Nights At Freddy’s” franchise.

The Ice Vampire, a.k.a. “Coffin Carnival Zone”

This is one of the six short stories that got an illustrated novella for the French Goosebumps line.

[Wing: That cover is amazing.]

Sam and Billy are best friends hoping their cobra sculpture will win the ice sculpture contest at the Winter Carnival. Unfortunately, despite how awesome their statue is, the winner is [INSERT TITLE HERE] by Bram Stokeman. Billy gets so mad he even punches the cobra out of frustration, making me fear for what’ll happen when he has flesh and blood kids someday. Still, the boys decide to check out the winning statue, which looks incredibly lifelike and seems to give off a blue glow underneath the moonlight.

(The Ice Vampire by Matthew Clark – This was on my mind for a long time, but preparing for this review gave me the extra prod to finally commission it from Matthew)

Sam and Billy don’t remember seeing the vampire being set up, and decide to drown their losing sorrows with frothy mugs of hot cider. They show their classmate Michelle their cobra, but when she asks to see the vampire statue, it’s been replaced by a statue of a girl who looks remarkably like one of their other classmates, Rebecca. They can even make out the perfect detailing on the Rebecca statue’s eyelashes and fingernails.

Sam and Billy decide to leave for their homes before it gets darker and colder when they hear a moan coming from the direction of the Rebecca statue. Unnerved, they try to pretend they didn’t hear anything when Billy clamps a freezing cold hand on Sam’s neck. Only surprise! It’s the Ice Vampire come to life, smiling a terrible smile with icicle fangs. It’s not blood he wants though, it’s heat, and the vampire digs its see through ice hands into Sam’s wrist. Almost immediately Sam begins to lose feeling in his hand and arm as the vampire drains him of his heat. Sam starts to lose consciousness as Billy valiantly wraps his arms around his friend’s waist and tries to tug him free. The vampire lets go and begins to chase the boys. They make it to Sam’s house and begin to discuss how the hell the statue came alive when the knob on the front door begins to frost over. The vampire bangs on the door screaming for more heat. The boys scream at the vampire to leave and, almost too easily, it does.

Billy spends the night at Sam’s house. In the morning it’s just the boys and Sam’s older sister Emily. The events of the previous evening seem like a bad dream while the boys try to get back to reality by making fun of how Emily leaves all her beauty products in the kitchen like it’s her own personal salon. Unfortunately, normalcy is a pipe dream cut short by Emily’s screams. The vampire’s returned and is targeting Sam’s sister, sucking the heat from her body on the front porch. Sam and Billy charge to the rescue, erroneously thinking they can use the icicles on the porch roof as stakes to pierce the vampire’s chest. When that fails, the boys drag Emily back in the house and try to barricade themselves from the frozen fiend. Not beholden to the rules that a vampire must be invited inside first, the Ice Vampire shoves his hands through the kitchen window and grabs hold of Billy. Sam panics and grabs the first thing he sees, Emily’s blow dryer. Emily seemingly has the same idea as her brother, but warns Sam the battery’s low. Sam nevertheless sets the hair dryer on the vampire, which actually makes it happy. The vampire craves more warm air from the blow dryer, forgetting all about Billy. Sadly, the vampire’s love of heat proves to be a toxic love that serves as its undoing, because the dryer begins to melt the vampire into a blissful puddle. Ah well, at least it died happy.

The boys and Emily are glad this stopped the vampire, because that was the last ounce of energy the dryer had. Who knows what would’ve happened if it shorted out too late?

Unfortunately that quandary quickly gets answered when Sam and Billy’s cobra slithers into the kitchen demanding heat.

#BecauseGoosebumps

THAT’S WHAT YOU GET FOR PUNCHING YOUR CHILD, BILLY!

[Wing: Ice sculptures coming alive is kind of terrifying.]

A Holly Jolly Holiday, a.k.a. “Sugar Cookie Speedway Zone”

This is possibly the greatest Goosebumps story ever told, and I know I have trouble deciding which of the main characters I’m supposed to side with.

Beth is engrossed with her favorite wrestler, the Krusher, as he locks his opponent Gorgon in another Monster Grip, [Wing: BETH I LOVE YOU AND YOUR LOVE OF WRESTLING.] when her older sister Jody enters the living room with shopping bags. Thinking Jody might be giving a sneak peek at her Christmas presents, Beth inquires as to the goodies in the packages, but is horrified when Jody pulls out a copy of [INSERT TITLE HERE] on VHS (Because it was the 90s, you see!). Beth goes into detail over how it’s the worst Christmas movie ever, bound to kill diabetics in a single viewing. The movie’s heroine, Susie Snowflake, is supposedly sweeter than Santa and the Easter Bunny’s hybrid clone offspring, and Beth can’t stand it. Jody, on the other hand, loves everything about this movie and is happy she finally owns a physical copy, reporting the woman at the Christmas Shoppe in the mall claimed it’s the only tape of the movie she’s ever seen.

Now, I want to say that I am both of these sisters, because as much as I can relate on my distaste for truly tasteless and cheesy Christmas specials (Looking your way Hallmark channel), one of my all time favorite animated movies is THIS vacuum cleaner lobotomy.

Seriously, if you haven’t watched this movie, you have not experienced the true joy of living. It’s horrible and cheesy and cliched and, and, fucking wonderful. The main villain attempts to poison people with spiked fruitcake and escalates to kidnapping her retrograde-amnesia suffering grandma so she can somehow frame Santa Claus and get all his money. There is a completely unnecessary E.T. reference and the villain and her lawyer get a tropical musical number all about how they’re gonna sue Santa.

HOW CAN YOU NOT LOVE THIS?

Although granted it helps that my sibling fucking hates this movie and it pisses them off more than the human mind could grasp.

Oh yeah I’m supposed to be reviewing a Goosebumps book. MOVING ON.

Jody says their mom is allowing her total control of the TV for the next hour so bye-bye Krusher! Beth has nothing better to do and sticks around for a bit, watching in pure disgust as Susie Snowflake prances across the screen baking Christmas cookies for her children “To tempt their tummies” before making them say “Pretty-bitty please with Christmas tress!”

I groaned. I had almost forgotten how horrible this movie is. I watched as Susie Snowflake spread holiday cheer throughout her neighborhood. She danced. She sang. She baked dozens of cookies.

Then Susie visited a grumpy neighbor. She wanted to bring him the holiday spirit. She sang a geeky song about Christmas chuckles and Santa smiles. Then she moved in for the kill.

Her smile grew brighter. She tossed her red hair. She spread her arms. “Who can resist a holiday hug?” She chirped.

“I can!” I said, jumping up.

Beth departs from the living room before she dies of glucose poisoning, leaving her sister engrossed in her video nirvana. In her room, Beth passes the time reading the latest issue of a wrestling magazine (Jody gave her the subscription last Christmas) when she smells something heavenly wafting from the kitchen. Beth finds several trays of freshly baked Christmas cookies and assumes her father baked them. Inside the living room, Jody is rewatching the movie and has been joined by her mom, who explains she baked the cookies. Beth is confused because her mother absolutely doesn’t go near the kitchen if she can help it. Mrs. Beth and Jody’s Mom mentions seeing Jody’s movie put her in the mood to bake some cookies “To tempt your tummy.” Uh-oh.

Beth is appalled that her mom is starting to sound like Susie Snowflake, and goes into the living room to discover she not only sounds like the woman on the TV, her hair has started to turn red and flippy like Susie Snowflake’s. Jody’s hair is red too, and their normally white dog Ivory has turned pink! [Wing: OH NO THAT POOR PUPPY HAS BEEN DYED.] After her mother calls her “Dearie,” Beth runs from the room as she hears her mom and Jody sing along with the movie.

“Where Santas dance and children play, it’s a Holly Jolly Holiday…”

Beth looks in the hallways mirror, horrified at the sight of her dark blonde hair now strawberry blonde. Beth finds her dad in the garage workshop, working on a homemade jewelry box for Jody. He bakes AND he builds, Mrs. Mom snagged herself a good one. Beth shows her dad her red hair and tries to warn him about the evil video, but her dad assumes it’s some elaborate joke Jody and their mom are pulling. Dad goes to investigate, only 15 minutes later he doesn’t return. Beth finds him in the living room, watching the movie with the rest of the family. All three have red hair. Jody and the mom look exactly like Susie Snowflake, while the dad’s black beard and mustache are gone. Beth shouts “Oh dearie me!” which terrifies her far more than you could ever comprehend.

Beth tries to get the tape from her family so she can destroy it, but Jody Snowflake tells Beth she has to use the magic words. No matter how much Beth begs and pleads that the video is evil and changing everyone into Susie Snowflake, Jody sweetly teases she can’t give Beth the tape without the magic words. Beth racks her brains trying to remember what she has to say, thinking she should know this after all the times she had to sit through that stupid thing.

“Oh, sugar cookies!” I said. It wasn’t what I meant to say at all.

Beth decides to sit through the movie long enough to find out what the magic words are, but it slowly wears down Beth’s defenses and she starts thinking like Susie Snowflake as well. When she finally says “Pretty-bitty please with Christmas trees,” Jody eagerly gives her the tape, but Beth loves Susie Snowflake so much she thinks she’ll watch the movie again… until she catches sight of the Krusher on the TV. Seeing her favorite wrestler snaps Beth out of her Christmas cookie euphoria long enough to toss the video into the fireplace. Her family shrieks in despair as they see the tape melt in the flames. Slowly, Beth feels Susie Snowflake’s influence disappear from her mind, and witnesses Ivory’s fur fading back to white as a sign things will return to normal.

Christmas Day arrives and Beth reports her family’s status quo has been restored. Jody still watches [INSERT TITLE HERE] on TV, but like I said, that’s normal for her. Beth thanks Jody for her gift, a video tape of the Krusher. Jody says it was the only one they had at the Christmas Shoppe…

So, does that mean everyone’s gonna turn into wrestlers now?

[Wing: Yes please and thank you that would be amazing. Also, a wrestling fan saved the day because of wrestling. I love it. I LOVE IT.]

Why I Hate Jack Frost, a.k.a. “Diamond Desert Zone”

Jared’s pissed off because his family moved to Arizona. For the first time in his life he won’t be having a cold, white Christmas. Speaking as a Christmas baby I can relate to how disappointed I get when it doesn’t snow on the 25th, or snow in the days leading up to it. [Wing: Alternatively, as someone born in the middle of a blizzard, I dream of warm winters.] He’s especially offended by the Christmas wreath made of plastic red chilies and the ugly plastic tree his family’s put up. Jared tries to take his mind off how disappointing a December in a desert can be by riding his back to the mall. [Wing: Cacti wrapped in holiday lights! Coyotes howling in the distance! All those gorgeous desert colors!] He receives temporary salvation in the form of a giant fir tree in the middle of the mall, where people can buy the handcrafted ornaments adorned on its branches. Jared’s immediately drawn towards a glass ball containing a tiny wooden cabin covered in snow, where a jolly, red-bearded elf waves from the front door. To his amazement, the ornament feels nice and cool to the touch. The old man selling the decorations recognizes Jared’s longing for a real wintry Christmas and explains the elf in the ornament is Jack Frost, who brings the cold. Jared brings the ornament home but decides to hang it above his bed, figuring it’s too good to waste on that plastic green eyesore in the living room.

Jared wakes up to discover a winter wonderland outside his bedroom window. Dressing in heavy clothing Jared runs outside and builds a snowman. He then receives praise for his creation from none other than Jack Frost himself, and the jolly elf brings the snowman to life for some more winter merrymaking. Jared and the snowman skate on an ice covered pond and then have a snowball fight with Jack Frost before the cold finally catches up to Jared and he decides to stop.

Jared arises from his dream of a real winter heralded by the ornament. However, thinking about the dream makes Jared feel a bit cool, and for the entire day he’s unable to get warmer. He has another dream about Jack Frost, noticing for the first time the elf’s nails are really pointy icicles growing from his fingertips. Jared and Jack Frost sled down a steep mountain until they come upon a cliff, and Jared is unable to make Jack stop before they go over the edge! Jared wakes up, still cold, and dresses in layers of clothes with his winter jacket on. He can’t stand to look at the ornament for fear he’ll become even colder, and decides to put it on the fake tree after all. Jared’s mom thinks the ornament is lovely, but immediately becomes worried that Jared is sick because he says he’s so cold.

Jared’s next dream goes right into nightmare territory when Jack Frost convinces him to make snow angels, only Jared begins to sink deeper into the snow before Jack pulls out a shovel and starts burying him alive! After that dream, Jared’s ready to throw the ornament in the trash, but it doesn’t make him any less colder or stop the dreams. Upon his return to his winter nightmare, Jared’s forced into a snowball fight with Jack Frost and is then brought to Jack’s cabin, the exact same cabin from the ornament. Jared begs Jack to let him warm by the fire in the cabin, but first Jack orders him to remove the ornament from the trash. Jack promises Jared will get even colder if he doesn’t. Jared is led behind the cabin, startled to find an alley exactly like the one behind his house, and retrieves the glass ball to put it on Jack’s Christmas tree.

Jared wakes up and is relieved to find he’s not cold anymore. That relief vanishes instantly and soon Jared feels like he’s on fire. Ripping off all his winter clothes Jared runs into the neighbors’ pool in his underwear, but that only makes the water boil. Jared fears this is just another nightmare and screams at himself to wake up. Which he does.

In Jack Frost’s cabin.

Jared begins screaming that Jack is simply another nightmare, which confuses Jack as Jared goes on about how he’ll wake up and be back in his new house in Arizona where it’s 70 degrees and the Christmas trees are fake. But then Jared sees a glass ball ornament on Jack’s Christmas tree, only instead of a cabin, the ornament contains a tiny replica of Jared’s house in Arizona. Jack tells Jared he was probably having nightmares because of that ornament, and explains Jared has always lived in the woods with him. But hey, maybe a nice snowball fight will help Jared relax.

So, this might be as confusing as fuck, but you can practically hear the broken music box tune playing as Jared is left wondering what’s a dream and what’s not.

Marshmallow Surprise, a.k.a. “Cocoa Volcano Zone”

Marsha Zane and her little brothers, Ricky and Ronnie, have their evening sledding fun cut short when Marsha loses control of the sled and crash lands into Mrs. Spooner’s yard (Oh and they were sledding on “Spooner Hill”). Marsha’s sled uproots and snaps Mrs. Spooner’s mailbox in half, so her brothers try to drag her away before the old lady catches them. Marsha wants to stay behind and at least offer to pay for the damages but, as you know, Mrs. Spooner is a mean old bat who complains about everything kids do. Which, as you also know, is why Ricky and Ronnie love playing tricks on her. Marsha, being the sensible one, reasons, “Gee, you think the reason why she’s so mean is because you dumbasses like to do dumbass things to her that only dumbasses would do?”

Sure enough, Dr. Spoonenstein appears as the brothers try to make their getaway and she, *gulp* laughs and says it’s certainly a fine day for sledding. Then she invites Marsha and her brothers inside for a cup of special cocoa, that underhanded bitch! Marsha and her brothers are even more frightened by how nice Mrs. Spooner is being, but Ricky and Ronnie love hot cocoa so they’re like “Mrs. Spooner, mean? Pshaw.” Marsha on the other hand is worried about staying out too late, as she notices the sun’s beginning to set. Mrs. Spooner herds the children inside her house, the “wind” slamming the door shut behind them. Marsha sees Mrs. Spooner snarl when Ricky and Ronnie bring slush into her hallway, but the moment the old woman realizes Marsha notices her expression she quickly puts the smile back on.

The kids are led into Mrs. Spooner’s kitchen, filled with dried flowers and herbs hanging from the ceiling, an old wood burning stove, shelves of canning jars, and a giant black pot with enough cocoa “To feed every kid in town!” Mrs. Spooner tells Marsha and her brothers that she uses a very old family recipe for her very special cocoa, which she calls [INSERT TITLE HERE]. Marsha and the boys think the cocoa is delicious, which Mrs. Spooner says is because of the secret ingredient, but Marsha is confused. Even though the cocoa is called [INSERT TITLE HERE], the cocoa doesn’t actually have any marshmallows. Mrs. Spooner reassures the kids that the marshmallows are “on the way.”

Mrs. Spooner says this is her way of repaying Marsha and her brothers for all the “neighborly things” they’ve done for her. Marsha nervously inquires as to what “neighborly things” the woman is referring to. Mrs. Spooner goes on to list all the broken windows and pranks Ricky and Ronnie have been responsible for, and caps it off by pointing out the mailbox Marsha broke a couple of hours ago. Marsha looks outside and sees it’s nighttime, moon and all, and tries to excuse herself and her brothers. [Wing: WAIT. WAIT. WAIT.] Mrs. Spooner sadistically says they can’t leave because of the secret ingredient she put in the cocoa. She asks if they feel their bones starting to soften up, reveals their skin will start to melt, because that’s the surprise! The cocoa didn’t have any marshmallows because it’s going to turn THEM into marshmallows! Mrs. Spooner is like, “Am I so clever.”

Marsha and her little brothers don’t turn into marshmallows. Instead, they turn into something else. Marsha reminds Mrs. Spooner she said they couldn’t stay out too late, and looks at the moon, the FULL moon. The Zane siblings begin to grow thick, bristly hair as their claws extend from their hands, as their teeth sharpen into fangs. Mrs. Spooner recoils in horror as she realizes the Zane siblings are werewolves, and the three werekids pounce on the evil old woman.

“Marshmallow Surprise,” Marsha growled.

“Yummm!” the boys exclaimed.

[Wing: OH MY GOD I AM DYING OF JOY. #ACTUALWEREWOLVES]

Monster on the Ice, a.k.a. “Hockey Hill Zone”

Max’s little sister Jessica is always sneaking into Max’s room, taking clothes from his closet and trying to put them on their dog, Stinker. Max finds her while his friends on the hockey team (Max himself was voted MVP) are over, and Max’s friends think that’s sooooo adorable she wants to dress up Stinker. Max promises to protect Stinker, while Jessica tells Max if he’s mean to her Santa won’t give him anything for Christmas.

The big day comes and Jessica’s overjoyed by all her new dolls (and we later find out she DID put some clothes on Stinker after that last incident). Max is thrilled when he receives some sleek new hockey skates. The box advertises them as “Monster Skates,” with further advice to “BE A [INSERT TITLE HERE].” Max’s parents let him call some friends to get a game together so he can try out the skates, but Jessica gets pissy because she can’t come along, on the grounds Max wouldn’t be able to watch her if he’s playing hockey with his friends.

Max’s friends Steve and Mitch think Max is skating like a pro in his new blades, and Max himself feels totally empowered as he slaps the puck on the ice. Max’s thoughts are focused solely on making the goal, hogging the puck for himself. His friends don’t initially mind because Max is making some awesome moves, but that’s before Max gets far more physical than he usually does and begins acting like an ass. Max doesn’t seem to care, as all he hears is a voice snarling in his mind telling him to win, to dominate, to KILL. In fact, Max throws away his hockey stick and lunges at Steve before running away. [Wing: So I’m getting #actualwerewolves as well as #fauxwerewolves that are hockey players. BEST GOOSEBUMPS BOOK EVER.]

Max realizes something’s wrong as little kids shoot terrified glimpses at him, and thinks the skates really are turning him into a monster. Ignoring his friends, Max runs back to his house to get the skates off, but manages to get a glimpse of the thick black fur now growing on his hands AND his face. Max frantically yanks the skates off his feet, seeing curved claw nails are growing out of his socks, and buries the skates in his closet. Quickly, the fur and claws begin to disappear and Max returns to normal. He heads back to apologize to his friends, telling them it was a stupid joke and it won’t happen again. Steve and Mitch, wearily, accept his apologize.

Max returns home feeling disgusted and fearing he might’ve genuinely lost his best friend, when he finds Jessica in his room again. Max panics and demands to know if Jessica put on his skates. She assures him she didn’t, but she DID put them on Stinker.

I turned as an enormous, growling creature leaped at me from the closet.

“Check him out!” Jessica laughed. “He’s a Monster on the Ice!”

[Wing: HA THIS IS AMAZING.]

The Double Dip Horror, a.k.a. “Ice Cream City Zone”

This is one of my favorites in the collection because I love the setting.

Rachel and Wynona are twin sisters who are both on their school’s skiing team, so they’ve signed up to work as junior instructors at the Ice Cream Cone Ski Lodge. The lodge is designed to look like an old fashioned ice cream parlor, with murals of delectable desserts on the walls, and all of the ski courses named after ice cream dishes like “Coconut Sprinkles,” “Banana Split,” and “Double Dip.” [Wing: Okay, that’s adorable.]

The twins arrive late in the evening, so the only person who sees them is the guy behind the front desk, and a little freckled boy in a yellow winter jacket hanging out in the front lobby catches sight of Wynona. There’s a tense moment when Wynona leaves their room to get some ice from the machine down the hall, and someone pushes her inside. Rachel convinces Wynona she just slipped, and then discusses a rather great idea. The only time the sisters will be allowed to ski for fun is at the end of the week, but since nobody’s seen the two of them together, they can pull off the classic Twin Switch and take turns being “Rachel” while the other sister skis to her heart’s content. What could possibly go wrong.

[Wing: Wait, wrestling, werewolves, and now #twinmagic? NO SERIOUS BEST GOOSEBUMPS BOOK EVER.]

The plan goes off without a hitch, the only hang up being an annoying kid named Bobby Judd (the same kid who was in the lobby at the beginning) who keeps pestering Rachel and “Rachel” for private lessons when he’s not being a general nuisance, even though the sisters both think he really is a good skier and doesn’t need these lessons. Rachel and Wynona try their best to ignore Bobby’s misbehavior as do the rest of the kids in the ski class, but they eventually reach their limit and decide to teach Bobby a lesson. Rachel, or is it Wynona-Rachel, or Wynachel, UGH, anyway, one of them tells Bobby they’ll have a ski race. The twins will switch places during the race so no matter what Bobby does, “Rachel” will always be ahead of him. Bobby says he wants it on the Double-Dip, which is the Black Diamond course and thereby the hardest.

Now the plan finally goes… off course ( 😀 ) when Wynona waits for Bobby to appear on the Double-Dip but he doesn’t appear. Wynona looks for Rachel and Rachel says she hasn’t seen Bobby anywhere. Uh-oh. The girls split up, Rachel decides to wait on the slope while Wynona goes back to the lodge to find Margot, the adult instructor. Wynona, under the guise of being her sister, tells Margot she can’t find Bobby. Margot doesn’t know who she’s talking about because, apparently, there’s no Bobby in the class. Wynachel describes Bobby in detail, yellow jacket and freckles, and Margot is shocked. Margot pulls out a photo of Bobby and asks Wynachel to confirm if this is who she’s talking about… and then reveals the back of the photo is dated several decades ago. Margot explains Bobby Judd and his brother, his TWIN brother, were the sons of an instructor at the lodge, and one day Bobby died racing his brother down the Double-Dip. Bobby’s been haunting the lodge ever since, trying to lure kids into racing with him, a race which many of them don’t survive. Wynachel is now appropriately terrified, saying her “Friend” is on the Double-Dip with Bobby right now. Margot, on the other hand, is not so worried for Wynachel’s “Friend,” because, you see, the reason she didn’t mention Bobby before is that he only goes after identical twins. *DUN DUN DUUUUUUN DRAMATIC BEAVER*

Of course, here’s my interpretation on the ending, commissioned from Mechanicalmisha on tumblr.

Santa’s Helpers, a.k.a. “Neon North Pole Zone”

Spenser and Beth Mayhew get along great for siblings since they’re only a year apart and look alike. But what sibling rivalry is missing in their relationship they make up for by antagonizing their younger sister, Diana. Spenser and Beth make it a hobby of pretending Diana’s not in the room with them, deliberately asking if someone’s talking when Diana asks to play with them, and telling Diana she’s not really their sister. Spenser reasons Diana can’t be their sister because she looks nothing like anyone else in the family. They’re redheads, her hair’s black. They have green eyes, she has brown. They’re short, she’s tall. And Spenser clarifies that he and Beth never, EVER lie.

Mrs. Mayhew repeatedly tells Spenser and Beth to stop being cruel to Diana, and orders them to take her with them when they go sledding. For added insult, the older siblings are forced to wear these really tacky red and green winter jackets and boots. Their friends joke the two look like Santa’s elves. Spenser and Beth then force Diana to drag their sled up the hill if she wants to play with them, and when they get to the top the siblings speed off without her. Diana warns them if they keep being naughty Santa won’t give them anything for Christmas. Spenser tells Diana there’s no Santa Claus, which really upsets her as their mom comes to take Diana home because it’s getting late.  Spenser and Beth quickly drag their sled back up the hill before Diana fills their mom in on how her older sibs were treating her.

Spenser and Beth’s evening sledding is immediately cut short when some short men in red and green clothing throw nets over them and hoist them into a big bag. When the two are released, they discover they’re now inside a large, old fashioned workshop filled with toys and games. And, and, SANTA CLAUS! Santa and the elves believe Spenser and Beth are renegade elves who went on an unofficial vacation, and sentence the two to 18 hour work days… for FIVE YEARS. Spenser and Beth plead with Santa (who’s supposed to know who every boy and girl is) that they’re not elves, but as Santa points out, they look like elves and they dress like elves so they MUST be elves. The two beg for a chance to prove they are who they saw they are, and Santa, reluctantly, grants them one chance.

Spenser and Beth are spirited back to their home, where Diana is building a snowman in front of the porch. They tell Diana to vouch for them, to prove they’re her siblings. Diana reminds them how often the two told her she WASN’T their sister, how they were always very clear on how they AREN’T related in any way. Diana also points out how they told her Santa Claus wasn’t real either, which infuriates the elves enough to drag them away. As Spenser and Beth beg Diana to tell them the truth, Diana waves goodbye and asks they remind Santa she’s been good this year.

(It’s easier to believe Santa kept Spenser and Beth as punishment for being naughty instead of him genuinely not knowing who they are.)

Attack of the Christmas Present, a.k.a. “Present Palace Zone”

Jack is super looking forward to seeing his Uncle Billy at Christmas because he always gives Jack and his older brother Doug awesome gifts, like petrified dinosaur eggs and wooden scarabs from Egypt.

Come Christmas morning, Jack is riddled in agonizing suspense as his mom goes through the yearly ritual of making sure everyone has their gifts in front of them before they get opened. Jack breezes through his gifts, unimpressed by the clothes but happy to get a new Walkman and a computer game called Trolls’ Bane (NOT an actual game). Unfortunately, Jack isn’t as happy with his uncle’s gift as he thought he’d be, because this year Jack’s received a creepy looking tribal mask with three eyes, fangs, and red-and-white hair. [Wing: Oh lord, here we go.] Doug takes forever to unwrap his gifts, methodically opening the boxes and taking off the paper instead of ripping it up. Doug gets clothes as well as art supplies and Jack isn’t convinced that Doug really likes everything, especially when Uncle Billy’s gift turns out to be a Japanese action figure called ROBOT TAG. Because Doug never liked action figures when he was a kid.

It was a big silver robot with spikes around its neck, elbows, waist, and knees, and chains crossed over its chest. A spike like a rhino’s horn stuck up from its helmet.

Doug opened the box and pulled the robot out.

It was jointed so you could pose it.

Doug flipped up the silver-gray faceplate to show the scowling face. The robot’s mouth was opened wide, displaying lots of sharp, pointy teeth.

Billy says the old guy (So yeah you know its evil because old people selling ANYTHING in horror fiction never ends wells) at the toy store mentioned Robot Tag was special. Jack can tell Doug is equally disappointed, so it’s no surprise Jack wants to trade. What IS a surprise is that Doug asks Jack (after their uncle leaves) first. Jack is over the moon thinking Robot Tag looks awesome, and starts digging out old toys to stage fights with the Japanese figure.

That night Jack is startled awake from sleep and sees Robot Tag lying on the floor. Figuring he must’ve fallen from his dresser, Jack fixes the toy’s pose and goes back to bed. He hears the same noise and wakes up to find Robot Tag on the floor, only he’s closer to Jack’s bed. Jack puts the toy back again, and when he hears the noise a third time, turns on the light to see Robot Tag’s now STANDING a few inches from the bed. And it’s getting closer. Jack runs to Doug’s room and begs for help, but when they return Robot Tag is standing motionless. Doug inspects the toy and finds nothing, leaving with the added barb that if Jack is trying to trade back it won’t work.

Jack puts the toy in his closet, and doesn’t hear anything more before falling asleep. In the morning, however, Robot Tag’s back on the dresser. Noticing for the first time how sharp the toy looks, Jack flings it back in his closet. He spends the day at his friend Rodney’s house trying not to think of the toy, but it’s there waiting for him when he returns. Robot Tag goes into attack mode, teeth gnashing, the spikes on his joints spinning like tiny saws. Jack dashes for the hallway but Robot Tag follows, making Jack stumble into his room and lock the door. Robot Tag drills a hole through the door and bursts through. Jack tries to fight him off with his hockey stick, but Robot Tag effortlessly breaks the stick into pieces. Jack attempts to flee down the stairs, but Robot Tag slides down the banister, charging towards Jack like a rhino. Jack trips on the rug in the living room, having finally been cornered by the malevolent figurine. Robot Tag towers over Jack’s face, and delivers the Coup de Grace.

“Tag!” he yelled. “You’re it!”

Final Thoughts

Boy, what a whirlwind huh? Werewolf ice skates, an evil meme, and a lesson about the horrors brought on by the ravages of time!

Even without my fondness for Christmas this is by far one of the best Goosebumps ever, and I mean in the genuinely enjoyable capacity and not “In an ironic way.” Though I wonder if the last story would’ve ended better had Jack and Robot Tag both been scared when it turned out Doug was having some troubles with his gift as well.

 

[Wing: My favourite Goosebumps book so far! These stories are a delight.]

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