Recap #225: Give Yourself Goosebumps Special Edition #8: Weekend at Poison Lake by R.L. Stine by Jude Deluca
Title: Give Yourself Goosebumps Special Edition #8 – Weekend at Poison Lake, a.k.a. “Aliens and Jewel Thieves and Moss-Men OH MY!”
Author: R.L. Stine
Cover Artist: Craig White
Summary: Come On In – The Water’s Slime!
It’s the weekend and your family’s vacationing at an awesome lake. The water’s cool, clear and downright deadly!
Rumor has it this lake is filled with poison! Or are those aliens? And what’s that nasty smell? Better pick a lucky number to help you out, or this nature trip could really go wild! If you pick the right number you’ll be chillin’ on the beach without a care. But if your number’s unlucky, you’ll come face-to-face with evil jewel hunters, ice-cream-craving aliens, and all sorts of freaky wildlife!
The choice is yours in this scary GOOSEBUMPS adventure that’s packed with over 20 super-spooky endings!
Since “Chicken Chicken” hasn’t been finished yet that means two Goosebumps recaps as well as two Graveyard School recaps this month. This is going with June’s water theme.
“Poison Lake” was the last of the GYG Special Edition books and from what I’ve read it’s one of the most loathed. I can sort of understand why yet I do love this one.
THE BAD: The whole “Lucky Number” shtick this book employs is extremely frustrating in figuring out a proper path to take. See, the numbers aren’t really “Lucky” because you’re just as likely to die from using the number to determine a choice than if you’d voted not to use it at all. And yet when you get the bad endings from not using the number, the book mocks you for it. Hell, it’ll mock you even if it doesn’t immediately lead to death by asking why you don’t want to utilize it.
THE GOOD: The four stories Stine’s crafted are incredibly endearing, and are totally independent of one another. Once you pick a path, you’re stuck on it. Which actually made recapping this much easier. My favorites are “The Missing Jewels” story and “The Moss-Man” story, the former because of the presence of competent adults and the latter because Stine’s able to create real tension and a dreamy atmosphere similar to “The Ghost Next Door.”
Also I love the monster on the cover despite its lack of appearance in the actual stories.
THE OTHER BAD: We get a return performance of, UGH, Jude as the main character. God he sucks.
The Bigfoot Beach Bonanza!
Jude’s so excited about being at the lake he doesn’t even bother to take his clothes off before he jumps into the water! He assures his friends Nathan and Tamika the water’s definitely not cold, no matter how much he’s shivering. Nathan and Tamika don’t buy it. Maybe you shouldn’t have gone swimming at night, Jude.
Jude keeps swimming around to try and warm up because the water’s freezing. No, it’s not just freezing. It STINKS! It smells like something died! And the more Jude kicks around, the stronger the stench becomes.
Just then, a woman from one of the nearby houses hears the commotion and says she hopes the kids aren’t in the lake because it’s poison! Nathan tries to cover for Jude and says of course they haven’t been swimming in the lake. He explains to the woman that his family is renting the cabin owned by the Morgan Family for the weekend, and Nathan invited his friends along. Nathan says Jeffrey Morgan never said anything about the lake being poison.
[Wing: And would this face lie to you about a lake being poison just so he could rent the cabin to you?
Yes. Yes it would. (Goddamn, he’s a silver fox.)]
The moment Jude hears the lake’s toxic he immediately tries to get out, bemoaning his stupid impulsiveness. It certainly explains why it stinks so much. And why HE stinks so much! Nathan and Tamika are reeling from the noxious odor coming off Jude. Tamika proposes they wash away the remaining lake water with a hose, maybe that’ll get rid of the stench. If it smells bad to them, think how Jude must feel!
The kids retreat to the Morgan cabin and find a hose to spray Jude with non-lake water. It’s even colder than the lake, but Jude doesn’t care if it’ll make him smell normal again.
He smells WORSE.
[Wing: Tomato juice, kids, not water. Tomato. Juice.]
Somehow the stench has intensified, and it’s attracted a swarm of flies and gnats to Jude’s direction. The bugs start to bite at Jude’s skin. Ugh two of them flew into his mouth! And they’re not the only ones who’ve picked up Jude’s scent. Out of the nearby woods comes a wolf!
Tamika tells Jude to run for the cabin, but LUCKILY Jude spots two big rocks on the ground. Jude throws the rocks at the wolf to scare him away, and it works.
Or maybe it was the thing coming from behind Jude that scared the wolf. Jude sees the scared look on Nathan’s face and turns around to see a HUGE hairy creature lumbering out of the woods. And right for Jude!
Tamika screams at everyone to run, and Jude complies. LUCKILY, as Jude’s running and trying to remember where he’s seen such a creature before he spots a small toolshed he can hide in. Jude realizes the creature looks exactly the way people have described Bigfoot! Oh great now he’s got Bigfoot after him.
Outside the shed Jude can hear huge, clomping footsteps and scratching at the door. Jude screams for help and Bigfoot begins to violently rock the shed as if he’s trying to break it down. But then the shaking stops and Bigfoot starts to clomp away, followed by the sound of a car zooming down the road. Was he scared away?
Nathan tells Jude he can come out, and Tamika confirms Bigfoot was scared away by a car’s headlights. Unfortunately, Jude still reeks and they have to move fast before Bigfoot comes back. And he WILL be back. He ALWAYS comes back.
Don’t ask, Wing.
J-just don’t ask.
ANYWAY, the kids make it back to the cabin to figure out what to do about Jude’s B.O. Tamika suggests a ketchup bath. Nathan remembers they did something similar when his dog Bowzer got sprayed by a skunk. [Wing: See?] Jude would rather use disinfectant soap, and he better hurry because Nathan hears something loud in the forest.
Nathan brings out a lemon-scented bottle of something called “BEST JOB” saying it was the only disinfectant soap in the house that didn’t have a warning about skin contact. Jude pours the entire bottle on himself, clothes and all, but all it does is make his stench lemony-scented.
At a loss for options and with Bigfoot’s approaching return, the kids run back into the cabin. Tamika and Nathan barricade the doors while Jude rummages through the kitchen pulling out all sorts of shit. Vinegar, ketchup, lemon juice, milk, baking soda, even chopped parsley. Jude mixes all these things together, knowing they can be used to take the stink out of things and hoping combined they’ll work on him. He’s even gonna take a bath in this shit. [Wing: So basically he’s basting himself into a nice meal for Bigfoot.]
That’s when the kids hear Nathan’s mom asking what that smell is. Jude doesn’t answer as he hurries into the bathroom and fills the tub with water and his, for lack of a better word, mixture. This better be worth it because it looks like he’s bathing in blood and the parsley’s stuck to his skin. Ten minutes later, Jude gets out and wipes off the parsley. Nathan and Tamika tell him he doesn’t smell as bad as before, and Nathan doesn’t see any sign of Bigfoot outside.
But Nathan’s mom STILL wants to know what that smell is…
Because it smells great!
Jude realizes she means the mixture he put together to bathe in. If it smells that good, maybe Jude will make another batch…
It turns out the mix does indeed taste good when Nathan’s mom puts it on hamburgers at dinner the next day. Soon everyone’s using it on their food. Jude realizes he’s struck it big! He can make millions off the stuff. He even calls it:
Bigfoot Sauce – The big sauce with the big taste! [Wing: Oh. My. God. (I love it.)]
I wonder if Jude stunk as much as this story.
Ben and JoJo Vs. The Aliens
Jude’s family has inherited a cabin in Vermont. He and his little brother Benji don’t understand why they can’t swim in the lake. Mr. Deluca says it’s something Uncle Merton always told them, how no one around here ever goes into the lake. Even though it’s officially called Parsons Like, everyone calls it Poison Lake instead. Going in that water’s a death sentence. Mrs. Deluca doesn’t understand how that’s possible, but her husband feels it’s better to be safe than sorry. So no swimming until they’re absolutely certain the lake’s safe.
Too bad Jude didn’t listen.
Benji dares Jude to swim in the lake in exchange for a week of their mom’s desserts. That night, Jude sneaked out of the house and told Benji to listen from his window. A sliver of moonlight pierced the night sky as Jude reached the water. He knew this was stupid, but Benji dared him and a dare’s a dare.
Jude quickly jumps in the water and splashes around loud enough for Benji to hear. That’ll show him. Jude’s ready to get out when he notices something wrong with his arms and legs. They’re green! His whole body’s green like a neon sticker or something! The lake was poison after all!
And things go from bad to worse when A FUCKING SPACESHIP APPEARS ABOVE THE WATER.
The spaceship hovers right above Jude, using a tractor beam to hoist Jude out of the water. He’s brought into the ship and meets with three aliens with small eyes, big bellies, and translucent skin. Until now, three was always Jude’s lucky number.
One of the aliens gives Jude a handheld computer which starts to relay a message. Jude is told the aliens buried a radioactive rock beneath the lake and that’s why he’s glowing. The radiation is strong enough to kill Jude in two days unless he does what the aliens want. Jude’s left reeling as the aliens silently laugh before he’s told what they seek. They’ll give him the cure in exchange for one thing.
See, the aliens are highly advanced but their world has nothing like Earth’s junk food. They love the stuff, especially Ben and JoJo’s Ice Cream. [Wing: Really, Stine. Really.] The aliens want the secret recipe to Crazy Cola, Ben and JoJo’s newest flavor. If Jude wants to live, he has to get that recipe. The aliens grab Jude and force him into a glass chamber. Quickly the chamber feels with some sort of creamy liquid that completely engulfs Jude, except for his index finger which the aliens have covered in plastic. What is going on? Is this more poison?
Jude steps out of the chamber, and in the blink of an eye he finds himself back on the edge of Parsons Lake. His body’s not glowing anymore except his finger. Jude vainly hopes the shower cured him before he’s hit by a wave of nausea. All that cream did was wash away the glow. So now Jude has to figure out where he can find the Crazy Cola formula.
LUCKILY, as soon as Jude makes it into the nearby town he finds none other than Ben and JoJo! He recognizes them from the pictures on the ice cream containers. Rushing up to the famous ice cream kings, Jude frantically tells Ben and JoJo his story and how his life depends on the formula for Crazy Cola. At first, Ben and JoJo say nothing and Jude fears they don’t believe him. That’s not it. Ben and JoJo DO believe him…
It’s just that Jude isn’t the first victim the aliens have messed with.
Last year another out-of-towner kid went in the lake and was poisoned. The aliens made him get the recipe for Double Fudge Fantasy.
And they didn’t cure him.
These aliens do this all the time; they’re relentless and they always want more. Ben and JoJo decide they have to do something to stop this from happening again. Jude proposes an ingenious idea of poisoning the aliens. Hey, turnabout’s fair play. The three of them can make a phony recipe containing all sorts of toxic shit and give it to the aliens. They’ll make the aliens cure Jude and then give the deadly concoction. [Wing: So what you’re telling me is that no one else was smart enough to demand the cure before giving the aliens the recipe. Wow.]
At Ben’s house they pull together all kinds of nasty things, like dust and silver polish and drain cleaner, and mix it together with cream and sugar. The three bring the ice cream to the lake; Ben advises Jude to signal the aliens with his glowing finger. The spaceship returns, but then Jude becomes violently ill. He feels like he’s about to vomit, like something’s trying to claw out of his throat!
A hideous, slime coated head emerges from Jude’s mouth! Its neck is attached to something growing out of Jude’s stomach. It looks like a giant lizard with metal teeth and red eyes. Its mouth is big enough to swallow a grown man, which works in its favor when it EATS JOJO!
Jude wakes up a short while later in front of a shellshocked Ben. Ben explains the aliens loved the poison ice cream and cured Jude.
Too bad Jude ate JoJo.
Jude feels his stomach lurch and thinks the head is coming back up, only whew thank goodness he just vomits up JoJo. JoJo shows only minor discomfort at the fact he was vored whole, and it looks like the aliens are finally gone for good. Jude wants to head home and forget this whole thing ever happened.
But Ben and JoJo felt he should know Jude’s family is living in “The Vampire Cabin.” [Wing: Goddamnit, I want that story, not this weird alien story where neither JoJo nor Jude are harmed by the whole ONE PERSON EATING ANOTHER ONE WHOLE WTF.]
The Mystery of the Purloined Parson Peridots
[Wing: Damn it, Stine, I actually like that ridiculousness.]
A voice from behind whispers to Jude that the lake isn’t really poison.
Jude and his family were new to Parsons Village and were planning to spend two weeks vacationing here, so Jude was perplexed when he saw the sign reading “BEWARE: POISON LAKE.” That was a big disappointment, since Jude was really looking forward to diving into Parsons Lake. Only the people living in the house next door warned Jude’s family the lake was poisonous and no one ever swam in it. Looks like they were right.
Since his family didn’t know anyone, he was shocked to find this old woman wanting to speak with him. Confused, he asks about the sign and the old woman tells him it’s a lie. She says she’ll tell him the REAL reason why no one swims in the lake, if he meets her at the gazebo on the town green in ten minutes. Jude watches the woman quickly leave, and is intrigued.
Jude waits for the old woman at the gazebo, and she shows up saying she took the long way because she feared she was followed. When Jude asks who was following her, he’s shocked when the old woman mentions the Bittermans. They’re the ones who told Jude to stay out of the lake! The old woman explains the Bittermans are the ones who made up the nonsense about the lake being poison in the first place. Why?
About fifteen years ago there was this huge robbery a hundred miles from Parsons Village. The robbers stole a collection of valuable jewels, then tried to hide them by dumping the jewels in Parsons Lake. Unfortunately, while the robbers were caught the jewels were never found. The Bittermans saw the whole thing from their front porch. Afterwards, they started telling people the lake water was poisonous. That way, no one would go near the lake and they could find the jewels for themselves.
Jude wants to believe this woman, asking if it’s really safe to swim in the lake. The woman exclaims it’s certainly safe to look for those jewels before leaving. Jude wonders…
On one hand, this sounds like a fun adventure searching for jewels at the bottom of a lake. But what if the old woman’s wrong and the lake truly is poison?
Jude figures that woman must be right. She sounded so sure, like she really knew what she was talking about. And how, exactly, could someone poison a whole lake?
Which actually reminds me of “Friday the 13th” when one of the reasons mentioned about Camp Crystal Lake’s “jinx” is the year the water was bad. Did they ever explain WHY it was bad? Like, did Pamela Voorhees take a dump in it or something?
Even if Jude doesn’t find those gemstones, a swim would be nice in this heat. He heads back to the house to change into his swim trunks. Mr. and Mrs. Deluca went out for a bit, but Jude’s mom left Jude some lunch on a picnic table behind the cabin. Along with a note telling him to stay out of the lake. Moms, am I right?
Jude decides he’ll eat later and plunges into the lake. The water feels amazing even if it looks a bit muddy, but that’s no crime. Nothing bad’s happened so Jude figures the rumors were bogus after all. He swims out to a floating dock in the middle of the lake and ponders where the jewels could be located. What if they’re underneath the dock? Jude starts to fantasize about getting famous for uncovering the missing jewels. He might even get a reward.
Jude plunges back into the water and swims to the bottom. He doesn’t see anything yet and heads back to the surface for air. Jude dives down a couple of times when his stomach starts to churn in pain! Oh no was the lake poison after all?
Oh wait no he’s just hungry.
Swimming back to shore, Jude finds the sandwich and chocolate milk left by his mom and quickly eats. He decides to digest and relax by reading a book before going back into the lake. But boy, it’s hotter than he remembered it being. Too hot, actually. And why does his stomach hurt so much? Oh God something’s climbing up his throat! It’s, it’s-
Oh God Jude just threw up on the grass. His head’s spinning and he feels like he’s on fire. God, the old woman was wrong! The lake IS poison!
Jude thinks he needs help, but the only people close by are the Bittermans. He remembers the old woman said to watch out for them, but she was wrong about the lake so she was probably wrong about the Bittermans too. And if the Bittermans knew the lake was poison they might know how to help.
Heading to the Bitterman cabin Jude knocks on the front door, but no one answers. He’s not sure where they could be when a pair of hands grab Jude from behind!
Jude struggles to get free and finds himself face to face with the legendary Bittermans. Seems they went out for a walk in the woods. Mr. Bitterman apologizes for scaring Jude, saying he was only kidding around. Mrs. Bitterman notices Jude’s ill expression and asks what’s wrong. The Bittermans are horrified when Jude says he went swimming in the lake and he’s sick. Mrs. Bitterman immediately offers to let Jude rest in their house. Jude’s feeling so sick he takes them up on the offer, despite that they’re strangers.
The Bittermans let Jude rest on their sofa, bringing him some water, a light blanket, and a cold compress for his head. Mrs. Bitterman hopes Jude understands why it’s dangerous to swim in the lake. Jude asks if he’s going to be okay, and he’s put off by how cheerfully she says “Probably.” Her concern seemed to vanish the moment Jude said he wouldn’t go back in the lake.
Jude rests for an hour before he starts to feel better. He gets up to leave when he hears the Bittermans talking in the next room. Talking about how they spiked Jude’s chocolate milk with a rotten egg to give him food poisoning! Realizing the Bittermans made him sick so he’d believe the lake’s poison, Jude listens to their plan to get the jewels once and for all. It seems the jewels are about one rowboat-length from the dock in the lake. Today’s the day they’ll grab the jewels and say goodbye to Parsons Village forever.
They certainly don’t believe Jude will be any trouble.
Jude wants to get out of this house as fast as possible, sneaking away through a window in the den. He hopes the Bittermans didn’t hear him lifting the screen. Jude decides he has to get to the jewels before the Bittermans, to prove the lake isn’t poisonous after all and expose their lies.
There’s an old rowboat near the shore of the lake. It looks recently used, and Jude hopes it belongs to the Bittermans so they won’t follow after him. Jude rows to the dock in the middle of the lake and then dives beneath the surface. He remembers the Bittermans said the jewels are one rowboat length from the do-EUREKA!
Jude finds a rusty box at the bottom of the lake. The box is stuck pretty good at the lake bottom so Jude has to go back up for air. And then Jude hears a voice near his ear. Uh-oh! The Bittermans in the water, boat be damned, and they’re not letting Jude have the jewels! In fact, they’re prepared to drown Jude with their bare hands!
Beneath the water Jude struggles to get free of the Bittermans, kicking at the Missus and swimming sideways. Jude screams for help as his head emerges from the lake, but the Bittermans aren’t giving up as they swim after him. Jude’s too far out in the lake for someone to hear his cries!
But he IS able to hear someone scream “Fire!”
Jude recognizes the voice screaming “Fire.” It’s the old woman! She’s at the shore and she’s screaming for help! People start coming out of their houses towards the lake, and the old woman points at Jude. She makes everyone see that the Bittermans are trying to kill him!
The Bittermans try to escape on the far side of the lake, but the townspeople grab and detain them. A police officer steers a motorboat into the lake in Jude’s direction while ordering the Bittermans to stay where they are. First, Jude dives back down to retrieve the jewel box and puts it in the boat.
On shore, Jude opens the rusted box and marvels at the sight of all those fabulous gems. Just then, the old woman rushes forward and thanks Jude from the bottom of her heart for finding her jewels. As the woman hugs Jude, he demands to know what’s going on.
The woman explains those jewels were stolen from her all those years ago, and they were all she had. When she first saw Jude she thought maybe he’d be the one to find them for her, and she was right. She declares Jude’s her hero and the townspeople cheer. Jude actually does feel good for having helped her, but that’s not all. The old woman wants to give Jude a rightfully earned reward, and the chief of police feels the people of Parsons Village owe him too. Jude proved to everyone the lake was never poison, and since they can now swim in the lake again they’re gonna rename it in his honor.
Wrath of the Moss-Man
Jude hurries to stop his dog Harley before she reaches Poison Lake! Harley slows down just at the edge of the lake water, and Jude’s relieved. He catches up to Harley and hugs her, reminding her what his parents told them. Even though they love swimming, they can never go into the lake because the water’s poison.
Ugh, Jude can’t believe this. He looks around at the beautiful woods, their new house, and the gorgeous lake. Who in their right mind would want to move into a house across from a lake that’s poisonous. What were Jude’s parents thinking?
As Jude surveys the landscape, he realizes someone is nearby. An old man, standing in the woods. Watching him. Jude lets go of Harley, and she’s watching the old man too.
The man is tall and old. Really old. His long beard is gray, and he’s wearing strange green pants – sort of like rubber pants, but they’re all slimy and moss-covered. His shirt is sort of weird too – a blue flannel plaid, with brown and green stains that look like mossy growths. His pockets are stuffed with leaves and sticks.
The old man’s staring back at Jude with those watery blue eyes, and asks if Jude wants to go for a swim. God the man’s voice sends a chill down Jude’s spine. And why does he want Jude to go into the lake? Jude wants to get Harley and himself far away from this creep, when the old man lurches forward and orders Jude to get in the water!
Jude tries to get away, but the old man is stronger than he looks and he starts shoving Jude towards Poison Lake. Struggling to break free, Jude yells at the man to stop while Harley barks at him. Up close, Jude wants to scream when he sees the man’s face.
It’s entirely covered with green moss! It’s as if he isn’t a regular old man at all – he’s turned into some kind of moss creature!
Jude keeps kicking at the Moss-Man the more he pushes Jude towards the lake. Finally breaking free, Jude starts to run, but he’s running in the wrong direction. Instead of running towards his house, Jude’s running away from the lake and the houses to get as far away from the Moss-Man as possible. Then he notices Harley’s gone! Jude calls for his dog, but the Moss-Man says he “Sent her away.” He says Jude won’t need her once he’s in the lake. [Wing: That better not be a euphemism for a dead dog, Stine.]
Jude’s heart is hammering in his chest as he keeps running, but the Moss-Man tells him it’s no good. He is GOING into the lake whether he likes it or not. Jude tries to fight back but he feels so tired from running he starts to slow down, giving the Moss-Man enough time to catch him!
The Moss-Man grabs Jude with his horrible, slimy hands and drags him back to the water. He pushes Jude into the muddy water and, and…
It doesn’t feel cold.
It doesn’t even feel wet!
Jude goes deeper and deeper into the lake, realizing this sensation feels pretty good. And somehow, Jude is able to breathe beneath the lake. He’s overcome with a soothing feeling, like, like the feeling one gets when they go home after a long journey.
Completely under the water, the Moss-Man lets go of Jude and Jude begins to hear voices. Voices welcoming him home.
Deep beneath the lake is a small, underwater city. People begin to swim towards Jude and the Moss-Man, who apologizes for scaring him but said he had to bring Jude to where he belongs. He explains how Jude was stolen from the lake when he was a baby and raised as a human, even though he’s not. He’s a denizen of the lake, and his real family has missed him for twelve years.
Jude has never felt so happy and thanks the Moss-Man, who must now depart to keep the legend of Poison Lake alive so no one disturbs the people living beneath its waters.
But what the fuck happened to Harley?!
Okay but seriously I hate the first story because both of the good endings were stupid. Either the sauce ending or the chocolate cake endings because they were cop outs. At least in the other stories you were told what was wrong with the lake, but in Story A it’s just never mentioned. I believe Story B was dumb in a good way with a typical Stine twist ending tacked on as he’s known to do.
Stories A and B felt very much like the wackier Goosebumps stories, while C and D felt a lot like the earlier ones before “One Day At Horrorland.” I loved the genuine feel of unease and malice in Story D around the Moss-Man, and while I question the old woman getting a kid to find her jewels in Story C I thought it had some solid adult characters. She got Jude into this mess so she tried her best to save him. Oh and props to Ben and JoJo who could’ve just left Jude to rot but instead chose to help save him from the aliens.
Notice how rarely I had to use the lucky numbers? They didn’t come in play at all in the latter story paths.