Recap #66: Still More Tales To Give You Goosebumps by R. L. Stine
Title: Still More Tales To Give You Goosebumps
Summary: Will Charlie’s recipe for pumpkin juice cause him some hair-raising terror? Are Dave’s awesome ants biting off more than they can chew? Can Max’s Halloween wish turn him into an endangered species?
Notes: This is the 4th of the six short story collections from the original Goosebumps line, and the second where the stories are connected by a seasonal theme. The original printing included a bonus make-up kit to make your own vampire costume for Halloween, though surprisingly none of the stories involve real vampires.
So my first Goosebumps recap for you lovely juvenile delinquents.
I actually have met R.L. Stine in real life, but just once. Last December he was doing a signing at “Books of Wonder” in Manhattan for his new book “Young Scrooge.” I took with me a few Goosebumps and Fear Street books for him to sign, as well as a copy of a Goosebumps art zine called “Monster Edition,” and a hardbound collection of some of the covers I worked on for “If It Were Stine.” Stine was super nice and I’m glad he didn’t have a problem signing the cover book, but it’s the weirdest thing. He doesn’t seem to have aged at all since the 90s. Remember he would do introductions for the Goosebumps TV show? Between then and now he looks exactly the same.
[Wing: BLACK MAGIC. BLOOD SACRIFICE.
I love him so much. This is why we feud.]
Back in the 2000s I was lucky to find a copy of this collection, plus the one that came after it, at a tag sale a church in my neighborhood was holding. The second book still has a library slip inside I’ve kept as a bookmark, although the paper is practically faded by now. I’m a sucker for holiday-themed horror, especially Halloween and Christmas, and I was super happy to find a copy of this book because Amazon sellers tend to jack up the prices on old YA horror books. My favorite stories in this would have to be “The Scarecrow” and “Bats About Bats,” and I’ve previously written about “An Old Story” for a separate blog (I’ll get into the details later). I hope you all enjoy the following, and I hope to have more to show you all very soon. As an added bonus I’ll be including scans from my collection of Goosebumps-related commissions in these posts.
I’d like to dedicate this post and future posts to Jet Wolf, whose Sailor Moon liveblogs and commentary style inspired how I wrote these recaps. This is for you Jet.
Pumpkin Juice – A.K.A. “The One Where Mom’s Hot Pie Saves The Day”
Charlie and Frank are best friends who fool around with a monster themed cookbook on Halloween. They decide to make Pumpkin Juice (which claims it will bring out the best in them) in a move that predated the pumpkin spice craze by at least a decade. [Wing: Stine is also a fortune teller. I
swoon feud!] The recipe calls for pumpkin flesh, garlic, and chicken broth and the end results looks like what can only be described as congealed orange juice. Yet amazingly, Charlie and Frank soldier on and drink the nasty looking slime. More amazingly, they discover the juice tastes good. Having satisfied their pumpkin lust, the boys go trick-or-treating, which is when things turn a bit… hairy. *Ba-dum tish* [Wing: WEREWOLVES. Please tell me it’s werewolves. (I’m sure it’s not werewolves.)]
Charlie and Frank become ravenously hungry, eagerly devouring their Halloween candy, attack other kids, and break into a guy’s house and raid his kitchen for raw eggs and liver. After being reduced to digging up worms from the ground, the boys realize they’ve grown thick black fur and fangs. Charlie then remembers, to his shock, the Pumpkin Juice recipe said it would bring out not the best, but the beast in them. See, this is why funding public education is important, because when kids aren’t able to read they accidentally turn into furries.
The boys rush back to Charlie’s house hoping to find an antidote in the cookbook, but not before they almost eat Charlie’s cat. The book says to turn back to normal they need the same pumpkin they used for the juice. Unfortunately, Charlie’s mom cleaned up the mess they made before they left because they’re inconsiderate douchebags who can’t pick up after themselves. Well, she doesn’t use those words exactly. You have to read between the lines.
When it looks like Charlie and Frank are doomed to a future of shedding and eating garbage, Charlie’s mom mentions her pie. Her fresh, hot pie that contains the leftover pumpkin and all the other ingredients the boys need to turn back to normal. The boys obliterate Charlie’s mom’s pie with their bare hands (they don’t even wash their hands before eating it, the slobs) and after having stuffed themselves on her delicious pie they turn back to normal. It is only after devouring Charlie’s mom’s pie that she mentions she tried some of the leftover pumpkin juice… and is starting to feel hungry.
The moral of the story is: Never be greedy with your mom’s pie, or people can die.
Attack of the Tattoo – A.K.A. “The One Where A 12 Year Old Boy Murders His Classmates With Press-On Tattoos”
Halloween is over and Jeannie is pissed because all she got was loser candy. She’s so upset she’s willing to settle for a press on tattoo being the high point of her haul. After reading some instructions that totally aren’t foreshadowing anything horrible happening, Jeannie is left with a real RAD looking snake tattoo on her arm. Hoping to impress her best friend with how rebellious she looks, Jeannie gets on her bike and heads down the street. Suddenly, she feels a tingling sensation and is sure something long and slithery is moving on her lap and down her legs and WOW this is more inappropriate then I remember (of course considering I just made a bunch of vagina puns I shouldn’t point fingers). It gets worse when Jeannie reaches into her pants, pulls something out and tosses it into the woods. [Wing: WELL THEN.]
Convincing herself she did not just pull a live snake from her pants and assuming it was a piece of rope (Jesus), [Wing: I think I’d be more concerned about a piece of rope that moves on its own, JEANNIE.] Jeannie shows up at her friend Maggie’s house. Maggie praises the snake tat as the coolest thing she’s ever seen, and she means it too. She bemoans the tattoo she got in her treat bag is nowhere near as scary looking and reveals a tattoo of a centipede with hundreds of legs and SHUT THE FUCK UP MAGGIE THAT IS THE MOST TRAUMATIZING THING I CAN THINK OF.
The following evening Jeannie is once again attacked by a snake which looks, “oddly enough,” like the tattoo on her arm. After some more freakishly phallic imagery later Jeannie realizes the tattoo is cursed. I’m guessing this is why press on tattoos went out of style after the 90s ended. [Wing: They’re back in style now. Roll on the cursed fake tattoos!] The next day, Jeannie’s accosted by a kid at school who ALSO got press on tattoos for Halloween (I’m seeing a trend here) and demands Jeannie reveal how she got her tattoo to stay on. Jeannie ignores him and goes to Maggie. In a sequence which either makes Maggie one of the most supportive and understanding friend characters in Goosebumps history, or indicates there’s something seriously wrong with her, Maggie honestly believes Jeannie’s story about the tattoo coming to life and suggests she check the instructions to see if there’s a method to remove the damn thing.
Jeannie is conveniently able to find the tattoo instructions once more and, since they called for “water scorched by sunlight” to keep the tat on, water bathed in moonlight will take it off. And of course it has to be a full moon and of COURSE the next full moon is that night. [Wing: And yet STILL NO WEREWOLVES.] Jeannie gets her moon water, but the tattoo won’t go down without a fight and so she faces off against an army of snakes. Proving henna tattoos are no match for Evian, Jeannie is able to get rid of the tattoo and all is well…
Until the next day at school and a distraught Maggie reveals the kid from the other day overheard their conversation on how to put the tattoo on. So now EVERY KID IN THEIR SCHOOL HAS A TATTOO ON THEIR ARM, and to show his thanks, the kid shares with the girls (without their consent) the extra two tats he got on Halloween. Maggie gets a tarantula, Jeannie a rat.
So they’re fucked.
[Wing: Don’t mind me, just over here having a heart attack at the thought of what Maggie is going to deal with until the next full moon. Also, way to throw a rape metaphor in there, Stine.]
The Wish – A.K.A. “The One Where R.L. Stine Is Just A Jerk”
Max’s brother Eugene is a douchebag. How do we know he’s a douchebag? He locks Max in his closet on a regular basis, steals his allowance whenever he can, and last Halloween he poured rubber cement in Max’s mask which cost Max half his hair and probably some of his scalp. Why? Because this is a Goosebumps story and everybody knows when there’s an older teenage sibling involved they are a raging sociopath. [Wing: I am the older sibling. I’ll leave you all to make your own assumptions.] Quickly proving the only thing worse than an older sibling in a Goosebumps story are the parents, because when Max’s mom lets him out of the closet all she does is laugh when he says Eugene did it. “She thinks everything Eugene does is funny,” Max says. Well fuck you too, lady. [Wing: Oh, good! I’m so glad to see useless parents appear in Goosebumps and not just Point Horror. Way to be consistent, Stine.]
Max and his friend Alex go trick-or-treating, and are quite pleased with their loot, including a fabled candy apple from the lady who runs the pet store. At which point Eugene not only steals Max’s apple but causes him to lose all his candy, in that order. Ditched by Alex and with no candy left, Max hopes to find at least one house still giving away treats. He instead finds himself feeling like Charlie Brown, when he is LITERALLY given a rock at the next house he finds. The old woman at the door screeches at Max not to throw “the power” away, and Max runs for his life. Still clutching the rock when he gets home and feeling beyond pissed about his piece of shit older brother, Max flings the rock out the window screaming “I wish I was an only child!”
The next morning Max dashes out the front door, late for school and thinking it’s probably Eugene’s fault he can’t find his backpack. That turns out to be the least of his problems when Max is unable to find his school. He thinks to himself how he’s always losing his things, but now he somehow managed to lose his school. He has no idea how right he is. Thinking he should backtrack to his house, he then discovers Eugene’s room is gone. Instead of being thrilled, Max is now confused and scared. He decides to go to Alex’ s house, but the moment Alex’s mom opens the door she starts screaming at the top of her lungs for Max to get away from her. When Max goes to the library to ask for directions, the librarian, ignoring the rule about loud noises, screams as well. At the grocery store, Max tries to get change to call his parents and the clerk threatens him with a baseball bat. Wow, everyone REALLY seems to hate this kid. Now he’s being chased by angry mob, until finally it looks like the pet store lady I mentioned earlier might be able to help him… help him get CAUGHT! A net is thrown over Max and he’s dragged off to the zoo. Max sees the old woman, holding the rock in one hand and waving her finger at Max disapprovingly with the other. The story ends with Max realizing his wish made him THE only child.
I’m sorry but this one’s just mean for the sake of being mean. It’s an even more depressing retread of the book where the klutzy girl gets three wishes and is turned into a bird at the end. And God can only wonder just how a world populated only by adults can get around to repopulating. *Shudder* I’m assuming it’s like the birthing scene from the first X-tro movie.
An Old Story – A.K.A. “The One That’s Really About Child Sex Trafficking”
No seriously this is really about child sex trafficking. I wrote about it alongside my articles on sex abuse in comics for “Endangered Bodies.” This story’s beyond fucked up. And they made this one into an episode for the TV show! The fact that the story doesn’t even have anything to do with Halloween is the least of my concerns.
Tom and Jon are told they’ll be watched over by their Aunt Dahlia during the afternoons while their parents are working. Trouble is, they have no idea who Aunt Dahlia is, and she only cooks with prunes. Lots of prunes. I’m fond of dried cranberries and mango skin, but there’s a limit to how much dried fruit a person can take. Tom and Jon learn this the hard way when the changes begin. Their backs are hunched, their skin’s wrinkly, they’ve got pot bellies and their hair is graying. Dahlia sees nothing wrong happening, and Dahlia’s elderly girlfriends think the boys are cute. Too cute. So cute they want to marry the boys.
You see, Dahlia is a witch. Not just any witch, but one who specializes in prunes and matchmaking. She has plans to sell the boys into marriage to her friends, and gets them ready by using her prunes to rapidly age their bodies. I’m not even going to make a joke about it this is beyond horrifying because we’re talking about a woman who has made a lucrative business kidnapping and selling children into sexual slavery to elderly people. WHAT THE ABSOLUTE SHIT.
[Wing: Well damn, Stine. I see you’re coming out swinging with our new Goosebumps recapper.]
Tom and Jon try to stave off Dahlia and the sex offender biddies by barricading themselves in Dahlia’s room looking for an antidote. They use Dahlia’s wrinkle cream to restore their youth, and a chase ensues before the boys are cornered in the kitchen. Taking a pitcher of prune juice from the fridge, Tom drenches Dahlia in it, causing her to shrivel into a pile of dust. They don’t mention what happened to her bitch friends, but if there’s any justice in this world Tom used the juice on them too.
Sometime later, the parents (FINALLY) show up and demand to know where Dahlia is. Dad doesn’t believe the story about the prunes and asks where his wife’s aunt is. The mom is shocked, saying Dahlia was the dad’s aunt. The two quickly realize Dahlia was a complete stranger who invaded their home because they stupidly made assumptions. Tom and Jon assure their parents they’re not THAT bad, but they definitely owe them.
The next day at school, Tom shares a table at lunchtime with a girl he likes, but is horrified when he sees her unpack a bag of prune based dishes. Her aunt Susan’s visiting, she says, and she really likes prunes. Tom gives her half his sandwich and tells her to run like Hell.
And of course we’re left to wonder exactly how many other kids has Dahlia kidnapped and stolen from their families and whether or not Tom’s family will call the cops and report that a lunatic is going around pretending to be related to families so she can steal their children?
The Scarecrow – A.K.A. “The One About Gaslighting”
This is my favorite story in this book. I’ve always had a fondness for scarecrow-themed horror stories. I got into “If It Were Stine” with a summary I wrote for “Dark Night of the Scarecrow.” As luck would have it, this was one of the short stories that got adapted into a short novel for the French Goosebumps line, along with illustrations. I actually own a copy off eBay.
Darlene isn’t looking forward to Halloween. She thinks it’s all boring little kid stuff. Melanie and Scott are prepared to tell her to get over herself but they have more pressing concerns. Like, who set up a scarecrow in front of the abandoned house next to Darlene’s? The mournful looking scarecrow scowls at the world, but is dressed in some pretty fancy clothes. It has a yellow cashmere scarf, a tomato red baseball cap with no team insignia, and a pair of blue gloves with fancy snaps on the wrists. Stranger still, the three objects of clothing are things the three kids want. Melanie takes the scarf for herself, having apparently never read or watched “Batman” and assuming there’s no harm in stealing from a scarecrow. Later, Scott takes the baseball hat, leaving the gloves for Darlene.
Darlene, however, is torn between taking the gloves and avoiding the scarecrow at all costs. There’s just something so… wrong about it, but Darlene can’t stop thinking about the gloves. She even wanders out at night to make sure the gloves are still there. She’s torn between obsession and terror, and her friends are no help as they tell her to just take the gloves. In fact, her friends contribute to her fear because something’s making them sick. Melanie gradually loses her voice, and Scott has troubling remembering things from what looks like a head injury. At this point, Darlene’s desire for the gloves make her incapable of realizing there may be a connection between her friends’ ill health and the scarecrow, and she finally takes the gloves for herself. It’s at this point she’s attacked from behind by the scarecrow, and she passes out from fright. She wakes up to find Melanie and Scott standing over her and saying they didn’t mean to scare her THAT much. The whole thing, they say, was a Halloween prank, the scarecrow, the sore throat, the head injury, all of it. After all, Darlene told them she thought Halloween was boring, so they decided to prove her wrong.
Darlene just doesn’t understand why the scarecrow’s now smiling.
Neither do Scott and Melanie.
Awesome Ants – A.K.A. “The One That’s Actually, Like, Not Awesome Despite The, Y’Know, Title”
Another story that’s not really about Halloween, although it does get mentioned in passing.
Dave is totally psyched for his super amazing and radical science experiment. He’s, like, gonna impress his science teacher Mr. Lantz with a really far out experiment on the habits of some really wicked ants. So he, like, sent away for this mad ant farm from, like, the Awesome Ants corporation, but instead they send him the amazing, tricked out Super Jumbo Awesome Ant Farm because he’s totally hella cool.
“That’s like winning the lottery!” Dave’s friend Ben like, exclaims, when the delivery guys wheel out this super ginormous box into, like, Dave’s, like, backyard. Only the ants are really gnarly, and not in, like, a bodacious kind of way. They just kind of like sit in one side not even, like, doing anything, and Dave and Ben are like totally not stoked anymore. It’s like waiting for the perfect wave on a day when the water’s all like, “Ch’yeah right.” They won’t even eat the totally awesome blue gel caps the instructions totally told the boys to give to the ants, totally. So Ben decides “Instructions are for squares” and feeds the ants a caterpillar. The ants quickly swarm over the poor caterpillar and in a few seconds it’s gone. God speed, little caterpillar dude. But now the ants are like super motivated and doing stuff and shit like some junk, so Dave and Ben decide they’re gonna let the ants pig out on some gnarly foodstuffs instead of those gel things.
Days swing by and the ants keep doing their ant thing when Dave notices the little kahunas are definitely becoming big kahunas, but then Monday comes and he totally sleeps in and is almost, like, late for school when he notices the ants are inviso! They’re like totally gone from their giant ant house but he doesn’t have the minutes to spare before his teacher gets all aggro. But there’s no one in his classroom or in the school. Dave starts tripping out when he hears this kind of scratching noise totally coming from the closet in the back. He opens the door… and a GIANT ANT comes out! Dave’s all “But ants don’t go to school!” The ant doesn’t appreciate his close minded attitude. This is a free country, Dave! So Dave is splitsville and the ant follows him. Dave tries to be super sneaky but the ant’s smarter than that and captures him. Back at Dave’s house, all the other ants are having a private luau in the backyard. Totally not appreciating being the big guest of honor, Dave’s not cool with the ants making him eat one of those gnarly gel caps.
Dave passes out and when he wakes up he finds he’s in a class reunion! All the kids and Mr. Lantz were attacked by the ants and now they’re inside the totally not awesome ant farm. Dave asks Mr. Lantz what the battle strategy is, but all Mr. Lantz says is they should, like, totally start making rooms for themselves because they don’t know how long this gnarly trip will last. It’s a learning experience, he says. What’s Dave’s reply?
Not cool, dudes. Not cool at all.
(So this was painful to type and I am so sorry I subjected you all to this. They actually made this one into a TV episode too, only the ending reveals ants have always been the dominant species and keep humans in habitats. F’sure.)
Please Don’t Feed The Bears – A.K.A. “The One That’s Essentially ‘Care Bears On Crack.’”
One of the main rules of horror fiction is never go to an amusement park or carnival because chances are it will be evil. That’s especially true with teddy bear themed amusement parks. [Wing: … I’m pretty sure that should be a rule in reality, too. A teddy bear themed amusement park sounds terrifying.]
Sarah is prepared to have the worst Halloween ever, because her parents are dragging her to… Cuddle Bear Land. [Wing: CUDDLE. BEAR. LAND. Pedophilia, here we come. Again.] Sarah wanted to go to Monster Mansion, but that’s too scary for Princess. No, I’m not talking about genuine royalty, that’s just what Sarah’s parents call her little sister. Katie, a.k.a. Princess, is a manipulative brat who gets whatever she wants just because her parents think she’s cute. That’s another thing about Goosebumps. You know the minute a really younger sibling is mentioned they’re usually a spoiled brat with underlying psychological problems caused by being allowed to do whatever the fuck they want.
As Sarah complains about how grossly inordinate her parents shower attention on Princess, her mom tells her Cuddle Bear Land’s got rides for everyone. And then, when Sarah shows actual interest in the place, like a dick her mom immediately tells Sarah she can’t get a souvenir because Cuddle Bear Land’s hella expensive. God help this girl if she ever needs a bone marrow transplant.
Sarah’s family gets to Cuddle Bear Land, and it’s one of those places where the staff are all dressed up like teddy bears while spouting out un-BEAR-able puns. Essentially it’s like if furries run a theme park and I’m wondering if R.L. Stine has a beef against the furry community. Anyway, the guy at the ticket booth also suggest the girls try HONEY CRACKERS, because they’re “beary” delicious. Sarah’s seconds from needing a shot of insulin when she asks her parents if she can ride the roller coaster. Princess immediately puts on the charm act and says roller coasters are too scary, but Sarah outsmarts her five year old sister by asking if she can go by herself. Her parents run by each other that their older child can run off on her own so they can continue to lavish unhealthy amounts of interest in their younger child. Sarah skips away like she’s just been told she’s adopted and is meeting her real parents.
On the way to the fabled roller coaster, Sarah is accosted by a female Cuddle Bear (in a RHINESTONE SWEATSUIT) who asks if she’s lost and would like a guide. Being intimately aware of Stranger Danger, Sarah simply asks for directions. The Cuddle Bear asks if she’d like some HONEY CRACKERS, but Sarah’s the original “Ain’t nobody got time for that” girl. Once she finds the roller coaster she rides it five times in a row. Unfortunately, Sarah’s grasp of the concept of time is not a good one, as she realizes by her fifth ride she has to meet her parents for lunch. Likewise, her sense of direction could also use some help because even with the map she gets lost. Sarah wanders into a section of the park that’s not on the map before she comes across an employee-only area, the Cave. Sarah finds herself surrounded by Cuddle Bears. Cuddle Bears as faaaaaaar as the eye can see. And somehow meets the only one wearing a black Lycra miniskirt. Kira, as this Cuddle Bear introduces herself, asks Sarah what’s the 411, yo. Sarah says she got lost looking for the rest center to meet her parents and bitch sister. Another Cuddle Bear waxes philosophical and says “Sooner or later all roads lead to the Cave.” Um, okay.
Kira proves to be super helpful by pimping Sarah out in a sweet ass Cuddle Bear Land Cuddle Bear hat with her name on it, and then offers her some HONEY CRACKERS. Sarah eats one, but Kira presses her to eat more HONEY CRACKERS. Realizing saying no would make her look like an ungrateful d-bag after getting her fly new hat, Sarah caves into peer pressure and eats more HONEY CRACKERS. Pretty soon everyone in the Cave is waiting for Sarah to chug down the whole bag like it’s Spring Break ’97 in Tampa, when Sarah finds herself facing the arrival of puberty! Well, no, not puberty, but it’s pretty close when she discovers she’s growing brown fur and her nose is cold and hard. Like a, like a GOPHER!
No, wait, not a gopher, a bear! Not just any bear! A CUDDLE bear! Ohhhh because the title is “Please Don’t Feed The Bears” and I just, I JUST got it you guys.
Ignoring her distress, Kira and the Cuddle Bears tell Sarah to eat more HONEY CRACKERS, because everyone in Cuddle Bear Land eats HONEY CRACKERS. Not giving a shit if she’s not the most popular girl in Mutant Freak Bear Land, Sarah splits. But then SHE ACTUALLY TURNS BACK WHEN KIRA MENTIONS SHE FORGOT HER BACKPACK AND WHAT ARE YOUR PRIORITIES SARAH????
Sarah runs for her life, and once she’s far away from the Cave, stops to catch her breath and discover Kira put a bag of HONEY CRACKERS in her backpack. Sarah thinks she can take the HONEY CRACKERS to a scientist so she can change back to normal before the Walt Disney Corporation kidnaps her and puts her in the new Country Bears Jamboree movie. Finding her family, Sarah is shocked her parents aren’t commenting on the fact she’s now an otherkin (though I doubt they would care either way). But thankfully, their lack of distress is because Sarah’s nose has turned back to normal and the fur is gone. It seems she didn’t eat enough HONEY CRACKERS for the change to stick. Deciding not to ruin everyone’s good time by mentioning they’re surrounded by evil death bears, Sarah’s family concludes their visit and head home. Boy, Cuddle Bear Land sure turned out to be scarier than Sarah thought, huh kids?
Oh and Princess gloats that she ate the entire bag of HONEY CRACKERS and Sarah decides she’s gonna keep her little sister as a stuffed animal for the rest of her life.
The Goblin’s Glare – A.K.A. “The One That’s Inception But With Halloween.”
Mike is such a good artist you guys. He’s like, so. Fucking. GOOD. God just thinking about what a great artist he is makes me so fired up I wanna punch a four year old in the face.
Our story begins with Mike and Karen gushing about how fucked up Mike’s goblin is. Mike’s drawn and painted a goblin decoration he plans to hang on his front door for Halloween. Mike’s dream is to traumatize people by how scary his goblin is, but he sighs in despair. Sure the goblin is scary, but he wants it to be TERRIFYING. He wants his mom to get angry phone calls from people proclaiming they voided their bowels after seeing Mike’s goblin. So, as one with incredibly high standards is prone to do, Mike sets out to top himself and make his goblin the most goblinest goblin in all of the goblinverse.
First he tries yelling at the goblin, but belittling the goblin’s self esteem works as well as you’d expect. Mike paints over the goblin’s boring old eyes and makes them HUGE and crazy looking. Karen can’t praise enough about what an amazing artist Mike is, and Mike’s mom beams with pride at her son’s fucked up imagination. At that point Mike begins to wonder if maybe pride goeth before the fall, because that’s when things get REALLY scary.
I’m gonna level with you, I have not actually seen “Inception” and I have no plans to. I just felt obligated to make the joke because the next few paragraphs are a bunch of dream within a dream shit. Instead of having healthy, normal dreams like showing up to school in his underwear or wondering about the hot substitute teacher’s butt crack when she bent over to pick up a piece of chalk that one day (Yeah I am definitely going to Hell when I die), Mike’s dreams are haunted by his goblin. The formula goes that Mike is out with Karen on Halloween, they’re trick-or-treating, when suddenly Mike senses he’s being watched and is chased home by the goblin. Failing to consider that maybe this is Mike’s bloated ego taking a toll on his sanity, Mike notices the goblin’s eyes tend to follow him as he walks, and is plagued by further nightmares. Figuring enough is enough, Mike comes up with an ingenious solution. Eyelids! He makes paper eyelids to attach to the goblin so it’s no longer staring at him.
Now it’s Halloween for real real, not for play play, and Mike’s enjoying himself when once again he feels he’s being watched. Not even bothering to look over his shoulder, Mike bolts for home only to receive a startling surprise. The goblin is in house! And so is… Mike? Trying to barricade himself in his room, Mike sees he’s already asleep in his bed. The goblin bursts through the door and tries to shed light on the situation. This isn’t Mike’s dream. This is the goblin’s. And Mike’s just in time for dinner…
But if Mike is in a dream and there is another Mike in the dream who’s asleep and the goblin is the one dreaming the dream, then, then, THEN WHO WAS PHONE?
Bats About Bats – A.K.A. “The One That’s Gonna Make You Scream ‘OHHHHHHHH MY GOD’ At The End.”
Liz and Suzanne are spending their day doing what they do best: being completely indistinguishable from each other and showing as little personality as they possibly can. Seriously there’s just nothing interesting about these girls, even for Goosebumps protagonists. Suddenly, they’re attacked by a Jehovah’s Witness that is really a bat. Because they’re all “EWW BATS” they freak out, but the day is saved by Dorrie Morrow. Oh my God I fucking love that name. I love Dorrie too, she’s awesome. Imagine a less spacey Luna Lovegood and you get Dorrie. Dorrie calms the bat down and introduces herself to Siz and Luzanne, I mean Liz and Suzanne, saying she just moved to the neighborhood. The girls are amazed at how easily Dorrie could calm that bat, and she reveals she’s [INSERT STORY TITLE HERE]. Dorrie mentions her parents are bat scientists and she plans to follow in their footsteps when she grows up.
Girl A and Girl B decide to make Dorrie their new friend, but after spending five minutes with her they’re like “We get it. You love bats. You love everything about bats. Bats are your religion. If you could marry bats you would.” Dorrie, for her part, is incredibly patient with the girls and expresses delightful bemusement that anyone could not like bats. To put this in perspective, she even has a little stuffed teddy bat and the mere idea is just fucking adorable. Dorrie you’re too good for the world. That proves too much for Lizanne, and they reveal their only personality trait, that they’re judgmental assholes. Idiot A and Idiot B decide to cure Dorrie of her bat fetish the only way they know how, by traumatizing her for life. They invite Dorrie to a sleepover, and then one has her brother dress up like a vampire and attack Dorrie in the middle of the night. Dorrie runs out of the house screaming while the girls laugh and reveal it was a joke. While Dorrie’s two “friends” expect her to be grateful for showing her that bats are gross in the most indirect and loose way possible, they’re shocked when she instead demands to know what the hell is wrong with them and runs home in tears. For about five seconds the girls think maybe, MAYBE, this was a bad idea but quickly think “Nah we’re too awesome.”
Surprisingly, Dorrie calls the next day and she’s all “LOL guys,” and invites them to sleep at her house on Halloween. Figuring Dorrie could be planning some payback, the girls accept the invitation. Halloween arrives and the girls go trick or treating. One’s a clown, the other’s a “gypsy” so now we know they’re RACIST assholes, and Dorrie’s dressed like Jessica Walter from “Play Misty For Me.” No wait she’s a bat. While convening at Dorrie’s house, a bat flies into the room and gets tangled in non-racist-but-still-horrible girl’s hair. Dorrie gets pissed off at the girls for harming the poor bat, and who can blame her? She takes the bat downstairs to her parents’ lab in the basement, and quickly the girls who aren’t Dorrie find themselves in “The People Under The Stairs” only replace “People” with “Two giant bats hunched over a lab table.” The girls scream their heads off and sprint out of the house, with Dorrie keeping up behind them.
Dorrie, whose teeth become fangs and whose ears become pointed.
Dorrie, who is now growing large, leathery wings, and is flying above the street.
Dorrie, who asks the girls what the problem is when she explicitly told them she plans to be a bat scientist like her parents.
[Wing: I love you, Dorrie! A shape-shifting bat is the closest thing I’m getting to a werewolf in this book, and I’ll take it!]
The Space Suit Snatcher – A.K.A. “The One About Illegal Aliens Undermining America.”
[Wing: Oh, lord. Good to know “illegal aliens” (BTW, people can’t be illegal, USA!) were in the news enough to be used as a metaphor back then as much as today. We’re making such progress. Yay. Woo.]
And now we come to the bottom of the trick-or-treat bag.
Laura Nesbit is an amateur inventor and radio enthusiast. Her crown jewel is a makeshift transistor radio she tinkers and expands on hoping it’s powerful enough to send messages into outer space. Thankfully, what keeps Laura grounded in her enthusiasm is that she doesn’t blindly assume aliens have already received her broadcasts, and is looking for ways to keep modifying her radio to ensure she makes contact. Hope springs eternal.
Laura discovers a garage sale full of old junk which she thinks is the coolest thing ever, and as someone who also enjoys garage sales I know the feeling. Meanwhile, her older sister Tammy bitches and moans about Laura wasting time when Laura promised to help her study for her science exam the next day. Tammy tries to guilt trip Laura saying if she fails it’ll be Laura’s fault. And for added measure Tammy mocks Laura’s radio. So you know Tammy’s a complete douche. While examining some copper wire, Laura meets the old man running the garage sale, and the two get into a discussion about radios and alien life. Tammy, who is NOT concerned that her sister’s talking to a total stranger but about making Laura help her study, keeps harping on Laura to get her ass back in the car, while Laura and the old man pretend she’s not there. The old man takes out a canvas suit, along with a pair of gloves and a helmet, and gives it to Laura. The man claims he did make contact with aliens when he was younger and they left him this space suit. The aliens told him if he ever wanted to visit, all he had to do was put on the suit, but he wasn’t brave enough to make the journey. So he gives Laura the suit in case she ever wants to meet aliens and wishes her good luck in her endeavors.
During the car ride home, Tammy continues being her sweet self and whines about how crazy the old man was and how clearly crazy Laura is. [Wing: There’s the Stine I know and hate, throwing about his ableism everywhere.] Surprisingly for a Goosebumps story, the parents actually show support to LAURA, while Laura continues to keep an open mind and suggest there IS a chance the story may be true. At this point Tammy goes from being a cartoony douche to straight up unpleasant and horrible when she exclaims Laura is the biggest geek in the universe and still, STILL, demands she help her study for her test. Eat a dick, Tammy. Laura continues to brush off Tammy’s abuse, apparently being used to it, and says that even if the suit didn’t really come from aliens, she can still use it for a Halloween costume. The following night, after the nagging Tammy did, she only spends like 5 minutes studying with Laura before deciding to see her friends.
(As a special note, Tammy’s friend is also called “Laura,” because apparently editors don’t exist)
Laura does her nightly broadcast, consisting of some classical music, some talk about what Earth’s like, and a send off of “Peace To All” in a different language. Only things don’t go as Laura expects, when she gets a reply! But this reply is the equivalent of getting anonymous hate on tumblr. Laura gets several messages, all typed in caps lock, about how aliens are coming after her and have all kinds of sick shit planned. Gonna make her dog and cat get married, hide the TV remote, put an unopened can of tuna in her microwave, go to her best friend’s house and dump on her bed, oh and take her back to their home planet and perform messed up experiments on her.
Laura has no idea how to react to this. She knows her parents won’t believe her, and God knows her sister will be no help (especially since, SURPRISE, she didn’t do well on the science test). The next night Laura doesn’t do another broadcast, fearing she’s given too much information as is, when she gets a surprise visitor at her bedroom window. Imagine what could only be described as the unholy love child of Joan Rivers and Donald Trump, and you get the alien at Laura’s window. Panicking, Laura accidentally knocks over her prized radio and shouts for help as the alien tries to get inside her room. Her dad comes to rescue, only for the alien to conveniently disappear, leaving Laura looking like she’s having a nervous breakdown and with her most treasured possession a pile of trash on the floor. I really do feel sorry for Laura at this point because the story makes it clear she put a lot of love and energy into making that radio. Even her dad, for as much as he thinks Laura had a bad dream, apologizes to her on the loss of her hard work.
Halloween morning, Tammy’s her usual charming self, but then is, like, actually NICE to Laura when she invites her to go trick-or-treating with her friends. Rushing at the last second to make a costume, Laura decides to be thrifty and reuses the costume she had last year, which is a cardboard box designed to look like a radio. At least she’s consistent.
Halloween night and Laura’s waiting for Tammy and her friends, who supposedly are all dressed as cats. Suddenly, a hand clamps down on Laura’s shoulder and she turns around to see someone wearing a space suit exactly like the one she received. Assuming the aliens have finally come to take her away, Laura tries to escape. Her bulky costume makes this difficult and it looks like she’s cornered when the alien starts… laughing? GASP. It’s not an alien at all! Just her shitty sister Tammy and her friends going out of their way to make Laura feel like a complete idiot for no apparent reason other than they can! Tammy gushes about how she set the whole thing up to fool Laura, and in the process was responsible for the destruction of her radio and humiliating her in front of total strangers.
And then Tammy’s gone, replaced by a shimmering purple blob. Laura is mystified as the blob explains Tammy’s been taken to its home planet because she put the space suit on. Laura babbles Tammy didn’t know, but the blob does what passes for a blob shrugging and says “Sucks to be her.” Before it leaves, the blob says it’s a fan of Laura’s radio show but asks if she can play some rock music. You know aliens love Def Zeppelin.
So, not only does Laura learn she has a fan, her horrible sister’s now in another galaxy. I’d call that a win-win!
So I would like to apologize once again for subjecting all of you to the barrage of momgina puns and butchered surfer lingo, but hey, we all got through this unscathed. Well except for that one guy, but acceptable losses.
I know my writing was pretty snarky but I hope my opinions didn’t sound too flip-floppy with the characters and stories I actually liked. I promise I won’t subject you to further “Friends” references, but I hope you all liked it.
[Wing: I loved it! Thanks so much for taking on Goosebumps, Jude. I’m
relieved I don’t have to interested to see how much of Stine’s writing habits from Point Horror appear in this series too.]