Halloween Bugs Me Cover Art
Halloween Bugs Me Cover Art

Title: Ghosts of Fear Street #25 – Halloween Bugs Me! a.k.a. “It’s always ‘Greg, Greg, Greg!'”

Author: Barbara Joyce

Cover Artist: Broeck Steadman

Tagline: Trick Or Trick?

Summary: Tons Of Trouble

Greg Dreamer is sick of Paul Boyd’s stupid bragging. Everything is a competition to Paul. Who can throw farther. Who can burp louder. Everything! And the worst thing is – Paul always wins!

But not this time. Even though Paul says he’ll get more Halloween candy than Greg, Greg is going to beat him. Because Greg has a secret weapon. It looks like a plain old bag. But when you put something in it, the bag makes more candy. More money. More cats. Even more bugs!

And one thing Greg hadn’t counted on.

More trouble.

Initial Thoughts

[Wing: Due to everything (picture me gesturing vaguely around the room which stands in for the whole entire fucking world), we’re extending Halloween through the end of November here at Devil’s Elbow. Hell, maybe through the end of the year. It’s a shit year, we need to make our own fun, and snark + horror is F U N. (Except when it isn’t, but at least then I get to Go Boom.)]

I got in touch with Getting_GB, one of the donors who commissioned a recap, and asked if there was any book they’d like me to recap for Halloween to make up for the delays in the recap they sponsored. GB selected Halloween Bugs Me!, the second of the two Halloween books in the Ghosts Of Fear Street series and I was happy to oblige.

Now this book feels more like your standard Goosebumps affair than the other GFS books. Particularly it comes across as a slight mix of Attack Of The Jack-O’-Lanterns, How I Learned To Fly, and Chicken Chicken. Unfortunately, the book only takes place during Halloween in the first five chapters. The rest of the story follows Greg trying to use the magic bag and hitting several snags in that direction.

But I gotta tell you this is one of the grossest books I’ve encountered in the GFS series due to the prominence of *shudder* cockroaches. The cover artwork doesn’t prepare you for how many roaches are in this book. I squirm if my hand happens to touch any section of the cover featuring the roaches.

That said, I gotta praise Steadman for the simplicity of the cover. Compared to the rest of the covers of the series, this one’s not quite as extreme. It’s an ordinary jack-o’-lantern with a few cockroaches, not a swarm. Yet it’s still rather sinister and lulls you into a false sense of security by how ordinary it seems to be. This is actually the last book in the series to utilize the jagged border, jagged lettering, and eye-searing color. [Wing: I like the cover too. It’s clean and simple, and I think it captures the mood they’re trying to capture without becoming fully cheesy and overdone.]

Also, the editors screwed up the back summary. The other kid’s name is DEREK Boyd, not Paul. I hate when that happens.

Recap

Greg Dreamer truly is a dreamer alright, and the one thing he dreams of is beating his arch-enemy Derek Boyd. See, for some reason Derek’s determined to make EVERYTHING between him and Greg a competition. Greg’s hair is blonde, but Derek’s is blonder. Greg’s eyes are blue, but Derek’s eyes are bluer. Greg gets good grades and he’s a good athlete, but Derek gets GREAT grades and is a GREAT athlete. [Wing: Okay, I can understand trying to make everything a competition when it is stuff that matters and/or can be controlled by your actions, but who cares on the blonde/blonder, blue/bluer part? Why is that a goddamn competition? Also, you fuckers, mine are bluest.]

What doesn’t help is that Derek’s luckier than Greg. Like the one time Greg saw a quarter left in the change slot of a soda machine. That gave Greg enough to buy a soda, but the machine ate his money. Yet when DEREK tried the machine, it started spewing out money AND he got a soda!

Even Greg’s best friend Liv is luckier than him. Once Liv dreaded their next math test, when it turned out they had substitute teacher that day so there was no test.

Look, it’s not like Greg’s a competition freak or anything. He only wishes he was lucky enough to beat Derek just once in order to finally make Derek shut the fuck up.

Halloween morning on the way to school, Derek felt the need to antagonize Greg by belching in his ear. Derek needled Greg into trying to top that, punching Greg in the arm twice (hard enough Greg dropped his books in the process). Unfortunately, Greg’s concentration broke when Liv appeared and patted him on the back. Greg’s burp sounded more like a hiccup and Derek found that hilarious.

Since today’s Halloween, Liv asked Greg what he was dressing up as later that night. Greg lied and said he didn’t know, not wanting Derek to find out. Greg’s sure he’s got the perfect costume to finally outdo Derek. Liv explains she’s going as a mummy. Again. She’s reusing her costume from last year since it’s in perfect condition. Why waste time or money on a new costume? Derek says he’s got a GREAT costume and it’ll definitely beat whatever shit show Greg’ll be touting. Punching Greg’s arm once again because he doesn’t know what boundaries are, Derek runs off leaving Greg lamenting he even RUNS better. [Wing: Are they crushing on each other? Because it’s sort of coming across that way where two people who like each other can’t do anything but pick at each other. (Look, my love language is sarcasm and threats of violence I will never follow through on, I’m not judging over here.)]

After school, Liv kept complaining about the ridiculousness of Greg’s rivalry with Derek, calling it “stupid and crazy and sick” over and over again like the world’s most obnoxious broken record. Liv finally stopped when the two realized they were near Mrs. O’Connor’s yard… which means they’re near MUFFIN. According to Greg, Muffin’s a Scottish Terrier who thinks he’s a Doberman. [Wing: That is pretty much every smaller dog ever.] Before Greg can get away, Muffin manages to bite onto Greg’s sneaker. Greg couldn’t shake the dog off and had to drag it along for like two blocks before Muffin finally stopped biting. Then it started chasing Greg ’til he reached his yard.

Greg collapsed in his front hallway when his mom and annoying little sister Raina saw him. Raina chides Greg for being “lazy” and Mrs. Dreamer thinks she might be right, telling Greg he needs more exercise. And what better exercise than cleaning up his room before Mrs. Mom’s book club comes by tomorrow. Greg doesn’t really understand why he needs to clean HIS room for HER book club when Mommy Dearest threatens to revoke his trick-or-treating privileges.

Greg relents but wants to show Liv a certain something in his room, and tells Raina to beat it when she tries to horn on this. Mrs. Dreamer reminds Greg he should be lucky to have a little sister who “loves” him very much. Shure, mom.

Joining Greg, Liv and the unwanted Raina was the Dreamer Family’s pet cat. Well, it was SUPPOSED to be Greg’s cat. He’d begged his parents for months to have a pet cat since Raina had a hamster. Greg had wanted this mysterious looking black cat, fur black as coal and eyes green as emeralds. It was awesome. Well, Mr. and Mrs. Greg’s Parents got him a cat for his birthday.

A cat that Raina picked out.

A cat that Raina named.

A cat that had pretty much imprinted on Raina from the start.

So instead of a mysterious black cat, Greg got a little fluffball Raina generously named “Princess.” Because boys aren’t supposed to have cats named “Princess.” Especially since DEREK got the black cat, and it’s bigger than Princess.

Greg stop trying to enforce gender stereotypes, it’s people like you that made me ashamed of wearing Lip Smackers.

Liv again tells Greg to stop acting like everything’s a competition with Derek (although it’d help if she recognized a lot of it is because Derek won’t stop antagonizing Greg), but Greg insists he WILL beat Derek and he’ll do it tonight. Because he’s got a plan. A… simple plan.

Greg spends ten minutes getting ready in his closet when he bursts out to show Liv his awesome werewolf costume. [Wing: WHY ISN’T IT ALWAYS WEREWOLVES?]

TW: Spider-mention [Wing: WHY IS IT ALWAYS SPIDERS?]

It was very hairy. Very thick and very hairy.

I had worked hard on that costume. I’d made it really gross. In some spots the fur was matted down and sticky with a mixture of maple syrup and vegetable oil.

Dead bugs nested in the fur. Flies, worms – even a big, hairy spider. I must have spent two hours gluing them all in place. They were fake, but they looked pretty real.

“What’s that?” Raina reached out. She touched a bloated worm clinging to the moist hair. “Oh, yuck!” She drew her hand back quickly. “It feels wet.”

“Want to see something totally gross?” I asked/

I turned to show them the scab on the right side of the wolf mask. It looked like a fresh cut from a work fight. It had fake pus dripping from it and everything. It cost a lot extra. But I had to have it!

Greg thinks Derek will need a miracle to beat his costume, but wait, the costume’s not all! He’s also got a huge trick-or-treat bag, almost as big as a suitcase. Not only will Greg have the best costume, he’ll have the most candy by the end of the night.

What could possib-lie go wrong?

Oh, and Raina tries to extort Halloween candy out of Greg by threatening to tell their mom he didn’t clean his room like she told him to.

Well, after dinner Greg cleaned his room to get his mom and his sister off his back and then he went off to meet Liv. Seems she had a growth spurt since the sleeves on her mummy costume appear to be too short. Setting off for Halloween in Shadyside, Greg’s on the lookout for Derek to see what sad attempt at a Halloween costume his rival will have.

Wait.

Is someone following Greg and Liv?

What was that rustling sound? Did the bushes just tremble? Are those footsteps behind them? Greg and Liv pick up the pace when the thing sprang out in front of them!

It was big. It was hairy.

In the glow of the moon, I could see its red, burning eyes and its slack jaw gleaming with spittle.

“A werewolf!” I cried. “A real werewolf! Run, Liv!”

Before I could move, the werewolf let out a shuddering howl and leaped through the air!

Unfortunately Wing, it’s even worse than a werewolf. It’s DEREK!

Greg realizes too late he’s staring at a werewolf costume more awesome than his own.

That’s right. It was Derek – in a werewolf costume as gross as mine.

No – it was grosser.

The eyes on his mask glowed. And the fur was thicker. It even smelled like wolf fur.

The fake drool was really disgusting. And the costume had two heads. Two hideous heads.

[Wing: Three things. How in the world does he know what wolf fur smells like? Why in the world does it have two heads? And why can’t everyone be a werewolf for Halloween? I support this immensely. (I went as a werewolf one year when the full moon did not land on the day of the Halloween party. I dressed in normal clothes. Moon’s not full, people, come on. It was great.)]

Derek “compliments” Greg on his costume, and then boasts it’s time for HIM to get more candy with a bag that’s twice as bag as Greg’s. Keep on dreaming, Dreamer! Liv finally yells at Derek for once over how ridiculous this is and tells him to stop, asking who cares about winning that much? Derek ignores her and runs off to get candy, leaving Greg fuming.

Greg’s now hella determined to get more candy than Derek, furiously trick-or-treating from house to house without even stopping to breathe. No matter how much Greg gets, it’s not enough. Not until he’s certain he can beat Derek. Liv desperately tries to get Greg to calm down but Greg doesn’t listen. And then Greg has the worst idea of all. He thinks he can get much more candy by trick-or-treating in the one place no kid would dare go to, especially on Halloween. Greg wants to trick-or-treat… on FEAR STREET.

Fear Street, where most of the houses are haunted.

Fear Street, where no animals, not even birds, live in its woods. [Wing: This is a LIE! I’m pretty sure it’s either the RetRead Podcast or the We Know What You Did On Fear Street Podcast that talks about, at the very least, dogs or wolves howling in the Fear Street woods.]

Liv claims she once met a kid who was trapped by a ghost in the Fear Street Cemetery.

Greg thinks it’s perfect. They’ll have the entire street to themselves. All sorts of candy and no Derek to muck things up. Greg begs Liv to go with him, stating they’ll only visit a few houses. On Fear Street it’s incredibly dark, even for night. The tree branches may be bare, but they’re so think they block out any hint of moonlight. The houses are just as dark, all drab and cold with almost no color. Liv thinks they should leave [Wing: They should make like a treat and leaf, huh.], fearing something awful will happen if they don’t.

Greg’s first (and only) stop in Fear Street is a three story mansion at the end of the street. No, it’s not Simon Fear’s burned out mansion. This house is so big it’s got about 24 windows, all dark. No lights at all. Even though it doesn’t look like anyone’s home, Greg tries the door… when THE HAND grabs him!

A scaly hand out reaches from the front door and grabs Greg until Liv swats it away. The door fully opens and the kids see it’s just a kid wearing a monster glove on his hand. The boy apologizes, saying he only wanted to play a little trick since it’s Halloween. He says he’ll give them some candy if they come inside. [Wing: Oh my god, even when you’re not on Fear Street, don’t go inside the damn house! And if you are, DEFINITELY DON’T.]

Liv, despite her better judgment, gives in to Greg’s pleading and follows him into the house.

We stood in a large living room – in the glow of hundreds of flickering candles.

There were candles everywhere. On the antique tables and wooden bookcases. On an old trunk. On the fireplace mantel. Even on the floor. The whole room smelled of hot wax.

Creepy!

My eyes darted to the windows. They were draped with curtains. Heavy black curtains that blocked out all the light. No wonder the house had seemed deserted from outside.

“Let’s get out of here!” Liv whispered.

“Okay. Okay. As soon as he gives us our candy.” I stared around the room some more. I’d never seen anything like it.

Crystals were grouped around every candle. Pink and purple crystals, glowing in the candlelight.

But the creepiest thing of all were the clocks. Clocks on the tables. Clocks on the bookcases. Clocks on the walls.

All ticking. Ticking. Ticking.

So many clocks.

The boy with the claw just stood there in the middle of the room, staring at us.

Liv tries to break the creepy tension by asking claw boy his name. Turns out it’s Ricky, and he has a sore throat. Greg can’t help but notice Ricky’s so pale he can see blue veins underneath his skin even in the candlelight. Ricky mentions he goes to a private school which is why Greg and Liv haven’t seen him before.

Greg tries to hurry things along to get his candy, when a voice answers she can help him in THAT area. The kids discover an old woman dressed in black with gold bracelets on her arms entering the room. Even though she looks really old, her voice is strong and clear. In fact, she’s strong enough and quick enough to snatch Greg’s trick-or-treat bag before he knows what happened!

Greg’s outraged at the theft of his bag while Ricky says nothing and Liv gets freaked out realizing there’s someone else in the room! There! By the grandfather clock! A pair of eyes watching everyone!

Oh wait it’s just a stuffed owl, dur Liv. Well stuffed or alive, Liz wants to get the fuck out of here but Greg’s not leaving without his bag. That’s when they hear the old woman’s voice in another room. They can’t make out what she’s saying because she’s speaking, no, chanting in a low voice in some foreign language. Ricky won’t say what the old woman’s doing when Greg notices a book on a nearby table. It only has one word on the cover.

MAGIC

Ah yes, the novelization of the 1978 classic movie, Magic.

Liv’s about to leave when the old woman appears again, blocking the doorway. She says they can’t leave without Greg’s bag but wait a minute! That’s not Greg’s bag! The old woman now has a cloth bag with two plastic handles and a jack-o’-lantern stitched on the front. Not only that, but some of Greg’s candy is missing! How’s he supposed to beat Derek now?

The old woman ignores Greg’s concerns and promises Greg will definitely have more candy than his friend. Much, MUCH more. And once he beats Derek, Greg will come back to thank the woman won’t he?

As the grandfather clock loudly chimes 10 0’Clock, Liv and Greg quickly hurry out of the house. Liv starts running down Fear Street away from the house as Greg begs her to stop since they need to get more candy. Unfortunately, it’s now too late to do more trick-or-treating. Dejected, Greg realizes Liv’s right and now has to deal with Derek beating him once again.

Greg and Liv return to Greg’s house where they find Derek pacing back and forth on the front porch, eager to beat Greg once again. Seriously, this kid needs a goddamn hobby because this obsession can’t be healthy. Inside Greg’s bedroom, Derek empties his bag to reveal a mountain of candy and dares Greg to beat that.

To everyone’s surprise, including Greg’s, he DOES beat Derek!

Greg watches in amazement as a TON of candy falls out of the bag! All kinds of candy! Snickers! M&Ms! Reese’s! Lollipops! Like ten of each candy! So much candy! ALL THE CANDY! Liv and Greg don’t understand where all this candy came from, while Derek can’t believe HE LOST.

For once, Greg finally got to say he beat Derek, and like a sore loser Derek can only crumple his trick-or-treat bag in disgust as he stomps out of Greg’s room. Greg keeps crowing about his victory while Liv tries to figure out where all this candy came from. At that moment Princess enters the room, followed by Raina. Raina’s eyes grow wide when she sees Greg’s candy mountain and swipes a chocolate bar. Greg’s sister can only take a bite before Greg grabs it from her, saying she can’t have any. Well Raina didn’t want any of his candy anyway because according to her it stinks, so there!

As Liv examines the bag, she and Greg can only conclude the bag has gotta be magic. To prove the hypothesis, Greg takes a Snickers and places it back in the bag. When the bag is overturned, TEN Snickers come out. So it seems the bag can only make ten copies of a thing at a time.

But hmm, when Liv tries one of the candy bars created by the bag she notes Raina was right. The candy bar tastes off for some reason. Greg tries a candy bar, but to him it tastes the same. That’s when he starts thinking about what else he can make copies of like maybe his baseball trophy. No, wait, Greg doesn’t wanna potentially ruin his baseball trophy. He’ll experiment with his limited edition Superman comic.

Wow! Now he has ten limited edition Superman comics! They’re worth a fortune!

*deep breath*

GREG A COMIC BOOK’S VALUE IS DETERMINED ONLY BY HOW RARE IT IS AND BY CREATING COPIES YOU’RE FLOODING THE MARKET AND ACTUALLY DECREASING THE VALUE.

ALSO IT’S 1997 AND YOUR “LIMITED EDITION” SUPERMAN COMIC IS PROBABLY WORTH NOTHING BECAUSE THE ONLY NOTEWORTHY THING THAT HAPPENED TO SUPERMAN IN THE LATE 90S WAS THAT HORRIBLE SUPERMAN BLUE/SUPERMAN RED STORY EVERYONE HATED.

[Wing: Is this Jude’s first real Go Boom moment? Even if not, this is delightful.]

Anyway, Liv takes a ten dollar bill and puts it in the bag. Now she has TEN ten dollar bills. Well Greg can outdo that by putting a TWENTY in the bag. Now Greg’s got 200 dollars! Greg’s so excited he almost tells his parents about the bag before he’s stopped by Liv. I mean, what if they want to get rid of the bag or give it to the police? They might think the bag is dangerous. It’s best if they keep the bag a secret. A secret just between them…

The following day’s Saturday, so Greg’s eager to go shopping at the Division Street Mall with Liv. Raina tries to tag along by threatening to rip up Greg’s “limited edition” Superman comics before Greg tells her to stay out of his room. Before he goes, Greg’s certain to hide his comics where Raina can’t reach them.

At the mall, Liv wants to buy some CDs at Music World first when the two run into Derek. Greg boasts he can buy more CDs than Derek while Liv tries to stop him. Derek smugly reminds Greg he’s always got more money, waving a fifty in Greg’s face. That’s when Greg takes out HIS two hundred and the color drains from Derek’s face. He swears this is far from over and Greg can only laugh at what a sore loser Derek is.

Liv and Greg are ready to buy like 15 CDs, while I’m wondering how the fuck $300 between the two of them would be enough for 15 CDs even in 1997. [Wing: I don’t know, I certainly bought CDs for $20 or less in the 90s.] But as the two start to leave the store, an alarm goes off! And that’s when they got stopped by a security guard! They’re in T-R-O-U-B-L-E.

The guard leads the kids to a room in the back of the store. Greg and Liv are terrified and confused, thinking the police are gonna get involved while wondering what they did. The store manager’s got some bad news for them. Seems the money they spent on those CDs was counterfeit! As proof, the manager takes a twenty from his pocket and one of the twenties Greg used. Greg and Liv are both shocked when they realize Greg’s twenty actually does feel different compared to the twenty the manager has.

The manager wants to know where the kids got their fake money from. Since Greg and Liv can’t say they used an enchanted candy bag to make money, the two vaguely say they “found” the money. Greg and Liv are afraid they’re going to jail, but because they look like white-I MEAN-nice kids and he’s seen them in the store before, the manager’s willing to believe them. The kids give the CDs back and are given a warning that something like this better not happen again.

As soon as the kids are out of the mall, the blame game begins. Liv blames Greg, Greg blames Liv. It was Greg’s bag. It was Liv’s idea to put the money in the bag. Greg didn’t listen when Liv said the bag made funky copies. Greg asks how was he supposed to know the bag’s copies are off. Kids, kids, kids. You both suck.

Greg and Liv argue all the way back to Greg’s house when they find Raina in Greg’s room. Good thing they caught her in time as she was about to put her pet hamster in the trick-or-treat bag!

But they’re too late to stop PRINCESS from getting in the bag!

All of sudden the bag starts jerking off-I MEAN-around the room as loud hissing and yowling starts coming out of it. Raina thinks Princess is somehow fighting another cat, but she’s not. She’s fighting NINE cats. Now there are ten cats in Greg’s room, scratching his bed, knocking over his stuff, doing whatever the fuck they feel like. And then one of the cats gets back in the bag, and then another. Now there are THIRTY cats! [Wing: This is such a bad idea.]

Raina can hardly believe how much trouble Greg’s gonna be in as he tries to round up the cats alongside Liv. That’s when the cats start acting nasty. One cat scratches Greg’s cheek hard enough for him to bleed, another lunges at him and sinks its claws into Greg’s leg. Raina’s gone from amused to scared at how violent these cats are and heads back to the relative safety of her room.

Realizing the cats are too violent to handle and the bag somehow did this time, Greg’s not sure how to get rid of them. Liv, unfortunately, has an idea she knows Greg’s gonna hate. They get Muffin. Or specifically, they put Muffin in the bag and use the copy dogs to chase away the cats. At a loss for ideas, Greg relents.

While Liv takes up Muffin’s attention, Greg sneaks up from behind and throws the bag over the dog. Muffin snarls and twists around in the bag but can’t get free; Greg and Liv hightail it back to Greg’s house before the invisible Mrs. O’Connor (seriously she hasn’t been seen at all but they keep mentioning her) finally appears or before the cats destroy everything in Greg’s room.

The kids are almost caught by Greg’s mom when she asks why so much noise is coming from Greg’s room. Greg claims Liv brought over a new CD and has the volume cranked up on her boom box, because it was the 90s you see! Inside Greg’s bedroom, he opens the bag to unleash ten angry Muffins on thirty angry Princesses. The cats all hiss and arch their backs at the sight of the dogs. In response, the dogs… quack.

Um.

Okay, apparently when the bag makes copies of dogs it makes them act like dogs, because why not.

Greg and Liv watch in horror as the dogs quack and waddle around the room. Boy, it’s a regular QUACK PACK!

Greg’s starting to get overwhelmed by all this animal chaos when the cats start attacking the dogs. Now the cats are wrecking both the room AND the dogs, will wonders never cease? Greg’s all “THANKS LIV” for how well her plan turned out when she counters it’s the bag’s fault for making the dogs act like ducks.

Trying to get out of the room, Greg’s practically swamped as the cats chase the dogs out and through the hallway past his mom who has no idea what the fuck’s going on. JOIN THE CLUB, LADY. Mrs. Dreamer demands to know what Greg’s doing. Um, would ya believe it’s spring cleaning Mom?

Greg and Liv bolt from the house before either of Greg’s parents can grill him about the war of cats and dogs which just ensued in their house. Running past Mrs. O’Connor’s house into the park, the two kids are thankful for a chance to breathe before Greg realizes the real Princess ran off with the other cats. Liv’s certain Princess can make her way back home, but they’ve gotta get rid of that bag. Greg’s only comfort is the bag at least helped him beat Derek.

As if summoned like the Prince of Darkness, Derek descends and informs Greg he’s beaten him once again. For starters, his uncle just opened a brand-new candy store so Derek can have ALL the candy he wants. Oh, and today’s Derek’s birthday so his grandmama gave him FIVE HUNDRED DOLLARY DOOS.

Okay seriously at this point I’m not fond of Greg but you have to admit, Derek’s an obnoxious piece of shit. Forget winning, Greg, Liv, or SOMEONE needs to beat this kid up. Or at least staple his goddamn mouth shut.

While Derek cheers about beating Greg after all, Greg suddenly screams tomorrow he’ll have ONE THOUSAND DOLLARS. Liv is moaning Greg’s lack of forethought while Derek is so totally sure Greg’ll have the cash. Greg runs back to his house while Liv begs him to stop, reminding him the bag doesn’t make real money. Well Greg doesn’t need the money to be real, only convincing enough to fool Derek.

Yet when Greg returns home, the bag’s gone!

Liv’s thankful the bag’s gone, but Greg’s a man with a mission and practically tears his room apart (again) searching for it. That’s when Mrs. Dreamer comes in and admonishes Greg for the mess he made with all those animals. Her book club’s coming by at any minute so she had to clean Greg’s room herself. Luckily Greg still had that ratty old trick-or-treat bag, so she was able to put the garbage in there before throwing it out.

Well the bag’s not in any of the wastebaskets inside the house or in the kitchen’s garbage can. Liv tells Greg to give up when he remembers what day it is. It’s only THE most important day of the year!

Greg assumes his mom put the trick-or-treat bag in the garbage can outside, only the can’s empty! The garbage truck already came! Liv’s relieved, but Greg’s not gonna give up if the alternative is having Derek mock him about the thousand dollars for the rest of his life.

Wait! Doth Greg’s ears deceive him? Is that the rumbling of the garbage truck around the corner? Greg chases after the truck with Liv behind him, but the truck drives off before Greg can catch up with it. Liv’s attempt to cheer Greg up by pointing out the bag was weird does little to soothe Greg, and now he wants to go to the dump.

Here’s where Liv’s decided enough is enough. She is NOT going help Greg paw through mountains of trash in order to find a cursed bag all so he can beat Derek Boyd. Greg begs harder than he’s begged before, promising Liv AGAIN this will be the last time he uses the bag. Liv actually stops and thinks and Greg refrains from pleading further so as not to rush her, when Liv gives in.

The two head for the garbage dump on Oak Street and the smell’s something else. Liv’s disgusted by all the trash and almost quits when she sees vultures diving at the mounds of junk and rotten food. Greg clarifies those aren’t vultures, they’re pigeons.

This turns out to be the most disgusting part of Greg and Liv’s day. Liv starts freaking out when she somehow gets disgusting brown glop on her face. It’s so nasty there’re flies sticking to it! Greg has to wade through mounds of garbage when Liv finally spots something orange at the top of a pile. It’s the bag handles! Greg races to the top of a hill of garbage and pulls out the trick-or-treat bag. Greg tries not to think about whatever the fuck it is he’s stepping in when he loses his balance and falls backwards into a pit of slime. He’s covered from head to toe, and Liv doesn’t dare go near him.

Well okay, she does help pull him out. She’s not heartless, people!

Greg and Liv hurry back to his house and somehow make it past his mom’s book club before anyone sees or smells him. Dumping the bag in his room, Greg’s almost to the bathroom when Liv screams at him to come back because SOMETHING’S going on with the bag.

The kids watch as the bag writhes around on the floor, growing bigger and bigger like an inflating balloon. In fact whatever’s inside is pushing the bag’s multiplying power to its limits; the seams are straining! Raina enters the room asking if anyone’s seen her hamster and for a moment Greg fears it’s inside the bag.

Oh if ONLY it were hamsters.

I carefully lifted up one of the handles of the bag. I peeked inside – and cried out in shock.

“Cockroaches!”

Thousands of cockroaches swarmed out of the bag.

They surged into my room.

They moved across the floor in waves. A brown sea of disgusting cockroaches.

With wriggling antennae, they probed the air – then scattered!

They scampered up the curtains and along my furniture. They swarmed over my desk.

Streames of them continued to pour out of the bag. They must have made a nest in there – and then multiplied.

Within seconds, the floor, the walls, and the ceiling were alive with scurrying roaches.

AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH

AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH

AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH

ROACHES ROACHES ALWAYS FUCKING ROACHES OH GOD I’M LITERALLY GAGGING JUST THINKING ABOUT IT JESUS FUCK YOU SEE WHAT I DO FOR YOU PEOPLE

THIS IS NOT ME PLAYING THIS UP FOR FUNSIES

WHEN I WAS IN MIDDLE SCHOOL THEY WERE DOING CONSTRUCTION AT ONE POINT AND THEY HAD A BIG DUMPSTER PLACED OUTSIDE THE BUILDING

AND WE STARTED GETTING ROACHES IN THE CLASSROOM AND THERE WERE DAYS WHEN I’D SEE THEM CRAWLING ON THE WALL CRAWLING TOWARDS MY SEAT IN THE BACK OF THE ROOM AND I COULDN’T DO ANYTHING COULDN’T GET UP OUT OF MY CHAIR I HAD TO WATCH THEM COME CLOSER AND THEN WORRY IF THEY GOT NEAR MY STACK OF BOOKS WHERE WERE THEY HIDING WOULD THEY GET IN MY LUNCH

*represses gag reflex* oh christ

Anyway, the roaches continue to swarm Greg’s room, crawling up Liv’s pants and Greg’s pants and it gets worse as the roaches start to bite the kids even though roaches don’t normally bite they’re everywhere one drops from the ceiling on greg’s head and gets in his hair greg can’t even look in his mirror the entire thing is covered in brown roaches liv has to flick one out of her ears and then oh god they’re flying the roaches are flying and biting and one LODGES ITSELF INTO GREG’S THROAT AND HE ALMOST HAS TO VOMIT IT OUT AGGDHABDHJBSHJF

Okay, for the sake of my sanity let’s keep it short and simple. The roaches get out of Greg’s room and start messing up the rest of the house including the book club. Greg grabs the bag, makes sure it’s empty, and tells Liv there’s only one place they can go to for help.

They’ve gotta go back to the old lady’s house on Fear Street!

Greg and Liv then have the nastiest fight ever during the course of this book. When Greg says Liv has to go with him, Liv exclaims everything that happened today was Greg’s fault. If he hadn’t chased after the bag his house wouldn’t be swarming with insects. Greg then goes for the lowest punch he can.

“I thought you were my best friend! But you’re not! You’re not even a good friend!”

Greg immediately regrets this, thinking he hadn’t meant it and that Liv IS a good friend. Liv takes a moment before she explodes, reminding Greg she was with him throughout all the chaos today. The music store, the cats, the dogs, the dump, the roaches. Well she’s had enough of him and she’s going home.

Because these two fuckers have got one hell of a co-dependent relationship, or one built on sadomasochism, Greg AGAIN has to beg and whine and wheedle Liv into coming with him to the old woman’s house. Oh we won’t go in, we’ll just ring the bell and talk to the woman outside the house. Liv, AGAIN, falls for it.

Fear Street’s just as spooky as it was the previous night, and the old lady’s house is just as dark as before. When there’s no answer after Greg’s first knock, Liv’s ready to leave and thinks they can handle the bugs on their own. That’s when the door’s opened once again by Ricky. Ricky doesn’t look so good. He’s paler than he was last night and his veins appear bluer. Ricky doesn’t say anything at first when Greg and Liv say they have to talk to his mom, or grandma, or whoever the fuck the old lady is.

That’s when Ricky tells them to get away while they can!

Liv immediately tries to amscray when the old woman appears behind Ricky. She’s so happy to see Greg again. After all, she knew he’d be back. Greg begs for Liv to come back as he doesn’t want to face this woman alone, and Liv eventually turns back.

The inside of the house is the same as it was last night. Candles burning, crystals glowing, curtains drawn. The woman tells Greg and Liv to sit, and while Liv lies about her mom coming by to pick them up it’s clear the woman doesn’t believe her. Retrieving the bag, the woman decides she can show Greg and Liv some of the OTHER tricks it can do. Growing more and more afraid, Greg thinks he should’ve listened to Liv and not come back.

The old woman refuses to let Greg and Liv exit her house. They’re honestly more scared of her when she speaks in a softer voice, listening to her boast about the magic she’s capable of. She could cast a spell on them and they’d never even notice. Terrified of making her angry(er), Greg says they can stay for one trick.

That’s when the old woman pulls the bag over poor Ricky’s head!

Greg and Liv panic, thinking the witch is about to make duplicates of Ricky. They scream at Ricky to try and run when Greg notices the witch’s chanting something again. And when the bag’s removed, Ricky’s gone! All that’s left is a single frog. Liv thinks the witch turned Ricky into a frog, when the truth is she turned him BACK into a frog! He was never a real boy in the first place!

Now the witch has to decide what to do with Greg and Liv. She chants another spell and the witch reanimates the stuffed owl atop the grandfather clock. The owl flies around Greg and Liv, shrieking at them and trying to scratch them with its talons. The witch is SO glad the kids decided to stay, but now she has to figure out she’ll turn them into.

Hmm, let’s see…

Oh, how about a llama!

No, too gauche.

How about goats?

Or since Liv squeals so much, the witch can turn them into pigs! But what was that spell for pig transformations?

*whisper* it’s in Goosebumps #53: Chicken Chicken

[Wing: It’s also in Willow, delightfully. God, I love that movie.]

Wait, dur! She can turn them into frogs so Ricky’ll have friends! Isn’t that considerate of the witch?

Greg and Liv try to make a break for the front door when the witch closes it with her magic. She threatens if they don’t stop trying to leave, she’ll cover them in warts and boils. And since neither of them is offering to go first, the witch decides to start with Liv!

Greg for once acts like an actual friend and throws himself at the witch, trying to keep her away from Liv. So the witch decides to start with Greg and tries to pull the bag over his head. As she begins to chant, the witch is kicked in the shins by Liv. After the witch loses concentration, Greg gets free of the bag… and then pulls it down on the witch!

The witch squirms around in the bag while Liv and Greg try to keep her trapped. Well, keep BOTH of them trapped! Cuz now there are TWO witches.

Thanks Greg, what WOULD we do without you? [Wing: This kid, man. This kid.]

Now the two witches are arguing between themselves over who did what. Witch #1 says she has all the power, while Witch #2 states the first one couldn’t charm her way out of a plastic bag. The two witches fight over who should get the trick-or-treat bag, each promising to let Greg and Liv go if the kids help her/them when one of them grabs Liv. Liv begs Greg not to give the bag to either of them. Greg starts to give the bag to the witch holding Liv, which causes the other witch to freak out and lunge forward. Just as Greg hoped would happen. Liv’s freed while the witches duke it out, so the kids try to escape again.

Unfortunately the front door’s still locked, and now the two witches are bearing down on the kids. Witch #1 grabs the bag and plans to use it to make Witch #2 disappear, when at the last second Witch #2 pulls Greg forward! The bag goes over HIS head!

Witch #1 quickly pulls the bag off Greg, but not before he’s been turned into a, a, a chicken! He’s a chicken, I tell ya Wing! He’s really a chicken!

While the witches are pleased at the notion of fresh eggs for breakfast, Liv grabs the bag again. The witches each promise to restore Greg in exchange for the bag (not that they’ll share it). While the witches argue over who made who, Liv gets chicken!Greg and they plan to leave. The witches’ battle escalates with one grabbing a pink crystal and the other grabbing the magic book. Both witches are entranced in their weapons, one chanting into her crystal while the other reads a page in the book.

As the witch with the crystal chants a spell out loud to destroy the other, the witch with the book tackles the other and tries to grab the crystal. Then BOTH cast the same spell at the same time, to destroy the witch holding the crystal.

So oops they both deaded each other.

After the witches fade away, Greg immediately turns back into a human. God if only it was that easy to get rid of Vanessa in Chicken Chicken.

Greg and Liv run away from Fear Street, and they almost can’t believe they went through all that. I can’t believe I just typed about it. And Liv can’t believe Greg still has the trick-or-treat bag! But don’t worry, Greg promises he’s going to take care of it once and for all. Really, he’s learned his lesson.

Really Wing. [Wing: Yup, I believe it. Totally.]

The next morning Liv stops by Greg’s house to report Muffin, the real Muffin, is back in Mrs. O’Connor’s yard. And thankfully Princess, the real Princess, is back too. Yet Liv’s a bit nervous when she asks what happened to the roaches. Apparently Greg’s parents had an exterminator over to get rid of them. I don’t know how the fuck they got rid of all those roaches so quickly BUT I AIN’T COMPLAINING.

Greg’s happy to report he buried the bag in Shadyside Park… after he used it one last time. And Greg assures Liv it was the last time. If he doesn’t believe her, she can just ask Greg. Or Greg. Or even Greg!

Liv watches as NINE OTHER GREGS busy themselves straightening up Greg’s bedroom. One task for one Greg. Now there’s 10 of him to deal with 1 Derek Boyd.

…but how will 10 Greg Dreamers deal with TWENTY DEREK BOYDS COMING DOWN THE STREET?

Final Thoughts

Wow. Okay. That was definitely an experience. I get the feeling Barbara Joyce paid too much attention to Stine’s other books because this really did feel like the type of shit Stine’s capable of. It’s got it all. Lousy main characters, even more obnoxious bad guys, a plot that runs on “BECAUSE THE PLOT SAID SO,” and an obligatory twist ending that ruins everything.

ALSO FUCKING COCKROACHES.

Here’s to you GB and again, sorry I’m taking so long with your initial donation recap. I hope you enjoyed this one, though.

I don’t think I’ve ever used Caps Lock as much in a single recap as I have now.

[Wing: THAT ENDING. WHAT EVEN WAS THAT.]

1 thought on “Recap #283: Ghosts of Fear Street #25: Halloween Bugs Me! by Barbara Joyce

  1. Oh man thanks for this, I’ve been wanting to finally know what happens in this one, especially since I heard some good things about it from others. It mostly seems fun and wild and based on this summary I don’t mind the villains and such since the logic seems okay enough (I can buy that a witch gives them a cursed bag and stuff sine the bag seems to follow its rules) until near the end.

    The whole thing with Greg seems so disappointing, because that scene with him snapping at Liv seems like they were actually trying to have a character arc, where the bickering and Greg’s actions actually build to something. He’s so into beating Paul-i mean Derek that he keeps going on with this bad bag and snaps at his friend and seems to redeem himself by protecting her…only for the ending to flush that all away.

    What a shame, but it at least attempts that at first which is not common from these. Seems like Who’s Been Sleeping In My Grave is the better Halloween book for actually sticking with the holiday for the whole plot, which is odd given this one advertises as a Halloween book while grave does not. Actually, was that bit where Liv claims “she met a kid who was trapped by a ghost in the Fear Street Cemetery” a reference to that one? This series does nods like that so it’s possible.

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