Title: Tales to Give You Goosebumps
Author: R.L. Stine
Cover Artist: Tim Jacobus
Summary: “Reader Beware — You’re in for ten scares!”
From an evil baby sister, to a remote control that can control more than just the television set, to a teacher who’s obsessed with snakes, to a cute, cuddly teddy bear gone bad, here are ten creepy, spooky stories guaranteed to give you Goosebumps all night long!
So this is the first of the six short story collections and, honestly, it’s kind of boring. It’s clear that most of these are ideas Stine had that he just wasn’t able to convert into full length novels. While most of the other collections had themes, this one’s kind of all over the place in terms of genre, with one that’s not supernatural or science fiction-based at all. Four of the stories managed to get turned into TV episodes, which is more than the other collections could say (and a bit of a waste since the one really good story wasn’t), while two were adapted into illustrated novellas for the French Goosebumps line. [Wing: Now that’s interesting! I wonder what the illustrations are like.]
I never read this book on its own, just after it was reprinted alongside the following two collections in hardcover format. I will say it’s interesting that this entry seems to be the birth place of Curly the Skeleton, the original Goosebumps mascot. You might remember him from the merchandise that appeared in the mid to late 90s when the series got popular. He was the skeleton with the buzz cut, bandana, and sunglasses who often had a big pit bull by his side. On the cover he was depicted with long hair and tattered white robes, more like a ghost, and Scholastic supposedly asked Tim Jacobus to redesign him. He’s sadly forgotten by the current young Goosebumps readers, discontinued like so many of the monsters like Amaz-O, Cuddles, and the Masked Mutant to make way for the disappointing likes of Madame Doom, Murder the Clown, and *ugh* Dr. Maniac. But he will forever live on in the goosebumps of our hearts.
To add a bit of fun, for subtitles this time I’m taking a page from one of my favorite animes, Revolutionary Girl Utena, and adding “Duel” with each recap entry. The French words translate to a trait shared in the stories. I’m on a small Utena kick lately.
[Wing: Again, I’ve never read this, I’m excited for the recap, and I’m grateful that someone else is recapping a Stine book.]
The House of No Return A.K.A. Duel I: Bravoure
Meet the Danger Club, comprised of Nathan, Robbie, and Lori. They think they’re the bravest kids around, and they’re looking for a fourth member to join. But initiation for the club’s pretty tough, because you have to spend at least an hour in [INSERT TITLE HERE]. Unfortunately, their latest victim-I mean club hopeful-dashes out of the house before the other three can stop him. So they set out to find someone else to torment-I mean initiate.
Their next victim is Chris, the new kid in school. Chris seems nice, but not very brave. Robbie and the others hope to change that. Chris is also pretty honest about how totally NOT brave he is, but Robbie and the others have their heads firmly planted up their rectums and insist he HAS to join by spending an hour in [INSERT TITLE HERE]. When Chris asks if any of them have spent an hour inside the house, the trio scoffs. They already know they’re brave so why do they have to prove it? When showing the house to Chris, he asks if any of them will come inside with him, but as Lori reminds him the point is for the NEW kids to prove they’re brave. The veterans don’t gotta do jack shit for the newbies. But they’ll stand outside. For moral support. Chris doesn’t take the bait.
While planning for Halloween and discussing their costumes, Robbie and the other two numbskulls decide they’ll do Chris a favor and help him overcome his cowardice. Whether he likes it or not. Because consent is, like, soooo 1989. Halloween arrives, Lori’s a vampire, Robbie’s a monster, and Nathan’s Freddy Krueger (like he was last year). Chris is dressed as a corpse, and the four kids trick-or-treat for a while… until they get to the house. Robbie and Nathan grab Chris’s arms and drag him towards the house. Lori opens the door, and they toss Chris inside, telling him it’s for his own good as Chris begs them not to. They don’t listen. And so the three kids wait outside, and miraculously an hour passes by without Chris trying to escape. They have their fourth member! Hooray! Only… Chris doesn’t come out. More minutes float by, and no Chris. Robbie and the others decide they have to find Chris and drag him out. The three “brave” kids nervously head inside the house looking for Chris, when the door slams shut behind them. Robbie is sure it’s the wind. The ghosts beg to differ.
Two ghosts, a man and a woman, appear, but still no Chris. The couple reveals Chris left over an hour ago through the backdoor. See, Chris made a bargain with them, promising if he was allowed to leave, three other kids would take his place…
The TV show adaption is pretty much the same, only the ghosts get a backstory. Turns out they were a rich couple who planned to start a family in the house, but their baby died (she fell through a weak spot in the floor). The couple turned into recluses who spent the rest of their lives inside the house and arguing with each other (the husband had built the house so it was his fault their child died). The police discovered their bodies, and the house was sealed off from that point. And then kids started to disappear from the neighborhood. The ghosts collect children so they can have another family. So it made the monsters more sympathetic to balance out the kids being dicks.
[Wing: While I’m not surprised that the visuals of this inspired them to make an episode out of it, but it’s a boring story on its own. I think it might have worked better if it was longer, or if the kids were less terrible? I’m not sure.]
Teacher’s Pet A.K.A. Duel II: Responsabilite
Becca and Benjy are not happy with their homeroom teacher. [Wing: Those names are so ridiculous together.] They were hoping to be assigned to the cool Ms. Wenger. She takes her students roller blading for lessons on gravity, a regular Ms. Frizzle! But instead they got Mr. Blankenship, a skinny bald guy with a snake fetish. His classroom is filled with different kinds of snake cases, including a rather large, and always empty, case behind his desk. [Wing: GEE I WONDER WHERE THIS IS GOING.] Becca can’t stand the feeling of being watched by all the different snakes, and is especially disgusted whenever Mr. Blankenship feeds the snakes small mice and other such animals during class. His lessons don’t take her mind off them, because he always finds a way to incorporate snakes into every subject. Soon, Becca’s even having nightmares of snakes following her home from school.
One day, Becca’s classmate Melissa accidentally knocks over the cage with the mice Blankenship keeps to feed the snakes, and one, JUST one, gets free. He gets so pissed off, Blankenship sentences Melissa to write a three page paper, and when Becca asks what his problem is, she gets a TEN page paper AND has to clean all the snake cases for TWO WEEKS. Becca’s all “Of course you realize, dis means war.”
Becca conspires with Benjy for “Operation Mouse Rescue,” where they’ll sneak into the school at night and set all the mice in their homeroom free just to piss Blankenship off. But during the night of the big plan, things immediately go topsy-turvy. The snakes stare at Becca and Benjy, and their eyes glow in the dark for a seriously creepy effect. Becca gets so nervous she knocks over one of the cases and two snakes are set free. But that’s not the worst part. Remember that giant case behind Blankenship’s desk? The one that’s usually empty? Not anymore. Living inside it now is a giant cobra. But it’s not an ordinary cobra, because slowly before Becca and Benjy’s eyes, the snake transforms into…
OLD MAN JOHNSON!
Actually no, it’s Mr. Blankenship. Dude’s a snake person, or “Snerson.” [Wing: NOPE.] Tastes like snake, talks like person, and here to incite flame wars about whether dubs or subs are superior.
Becca and Benjy manage to escape, until the next day at school when he asks them to stay after class. *Gulp* But surprisingly, things work out okay. As long as everyone keeps their mouths shut about everything, it’s all Punky Brewster. Except one thing. Becca and Benjy have to feed Blankenship mice every afternoon for lunch.
The TV show adaption was very different from this. Becca and Benjy were still the main characters, but it took place during a school trip to a national park. Blankenship was an instructor conducting evil experiments with animal DNA. It ends with Becca using his experiments against him and turning Blankenship into a fly, but he’s not done “Bugging” them just yet. [Wing: Weird. Very weird. I prefer the snakes in the classroom story.]
Sadly, Michelle Risi, the actress who played Becca, died of meningitis before the episode aired. She was 16. The episode is dedicated in her memory.
(…snaaaake people, snaaaake people, taste like snaaake, talk like people. I’M ONLY HUMAN, DAMN IT.)
Strained Peas A.K.A. Duel III: Nourrir
Nicholas’s parents are returning home with his new baby sister, Hannah. Nick’s not exactly thrilled by the new arrival and jokes that the heart-shaped birthmark on Hannah’s face is “The Mark of Evil,” much like Iron Man’s enemy Dr. Destro (please note no such villain exists in actual Marvel comics). [Wing: Oh, good, more “ugly” = evil/evil = “ugly” I’m thrilled at this joke. Damn it, Nick.] But, it turns out Nick’s not so far off the “mark” because something is definitely wrong with Hannah and only Nick realizes it. The first time he holds Hannah in his arms, she throws up all over him. Nick swears by the glint in her blue eyes she did it on purpose. [Wing: WELL MAYBE DON’T BE A LITTLE SHIT, NICHOLAS.]
In the months since Hannah is brought home, Hannah is up all night howling like a wild animal. Nick’s parents assure him that’s normal, but even the neighbors can hear her shrieks and dogs howl along with her. [Wing: WEREWOLF IS SHE A WEREWOLF PLEASE LET HER BE A WEREWOLF.] As Hannah learns to crawl, Nick believes her birthmark has gotten bigger. One day, he finds her in his room with his homework in her mouth. At first his mom is worried, but then immediately believes Nick is just lazy and that he’s stupid enough to blame the baby for not doing his work. The next day, his parent’s bedroom is covered in paint, and Nick’s dad blames him for it because they were his paints. Hannah sits in the middle of the room, smiling like an angel and covered in blood red paint. Or at least, what I hope is paint.
The next day Nicholas hears screams in the kitchen and sees everything covered in green slime. But don’t worry, his mom was just trying to feed Hannah [INSERT TITLE HERE] and she made a mess. While Nick can accept THAT, he can’t accept that Hannah’s eyes have changed from blue to brown. Nicholas is convinced Hannah is a monster, but his mom accuses him of being jealous from day one. Things get worse when Hannah escalates to homicide, coming after Nicholas in the den with a fucking pair of scissors. His mom comes in and thinks he gave the scissors to Hannah to play with, and Nicholas finally asks why his parents stopped trusting him when they never had that problem before. Okay, right now I don’t know who to side for, because we the readers know something is definitely wrong with Hannah, but if you’re a parent and you see your infant child with a pair of scissors, how else are you gonna react? I don’t know. Anyway, the argument is cut short by a phone call, and a little bit later Nick’s mom is in tears. Seems there was a mix-up at the hospital and Hannah’s NOT their child. Nick is ecstatic, and feels a little sad for his parents but believes they’ll get over it once Nick’s actual sister is returned to them.
The trade-off is arranged, and Nick notices Hannah’s real mother has a heart-shaped birthmark just like hers. Nick’s parents name their real baby Grace, and he makes sure she doesn’t have any birthmarks like Hannah did. Nick gets along better with Grace then he ever did with Hannah… until she almost rips his hand off and promises to get rid of him as soon as she learns to walk. [Wing: Yay, evil sister! Yay monster child. I’m pretending she’s a werewolf-type monster.]
The TV show made it clearer Hannah was definitely a monster because she devoured some of Nick’s CDs and even his pet mouse. Nicholas also handles the reveal that his birth sister picked up tips from her fake monster parents a lot easier than he did in the book. Also, you totally know Hannah’s a monster once you see her real parents inside their fucking limousine.
Strangers In The Woods A.K.A. Duel IV: Soupcon
Things have changed in Fairview since the last time Lucy was there, visiting her Great-Aunt Abigail, and Lucy’s not sure she likes it. She hates that she’s stuck in this one note, one horse, one grocery, one strip joint [Wing: 500 churches, I bet.] farm town for a vacation, and her dog Muttster’s been acting weird and nervous the whole time. [Wing: MUTTSTER.]
Something’s off with Aunt Abigail. She looks older and more tired than she used to, and something’s off with the way she cooks and bakes. Nothing feels right. Not to mention her driving has become totally erratic. [Wing: How old is she? Because, you know, some of that is natural aging…] Lucy’s suspicions intensify when she sees strange lights coming from the woods near Aunt Abigail’s farm. Aunt Abigail denies seeing any lights in the woods, nor does she seem to realize how off her cooking’s become and how wild her driving is. All alone, Lucy’s not sure what to believe about the lights and the weirdness and is contemplating running away. Then one night, she hears her aunt on the phone promising to keep Lucy away from the woods until “It’s all over.” But the thing that scares Lucy more is her aunt’s glowing green face!
Lucy tries to keep her cool and not let her aunt realize she’s scared, so she excuses herself back to bed with plans to escape and find the police. Unfortunately, she has to cut through the woods, where she’s suddenly surrounded by dozens of bright lights and hears someone order her to be taken away. Lucy screams “You’ll never take my brain!” And then the director orders “Cut!”
Lucy blinks. She’s on the set of a movie, and just ruined a shot that took three hours to set up. Lucy turns around and sees a dog handler using a dog whistle, which explains why Muttster was acting strange. Lucy runs back to a worried Aunt Abigail, where she finally tells her about all the weird things that’ve been happening. Aunt Abigail calmly explains away Lucy’s fears and questions, first about the movie, saying she figured the production would be over pretty soon so she didn’t mention it. The food’s tasted weird and her driving was erratic because Aunt Abigail lost her glasses, so she’s had trouble with measuring ingredients and seeing the road. And her green face was just facial cream. It was all a crazy misunderstanding the whole time! Ha ha ha ha-
Oh except when Lucy finds the glasses and brings them to Aunt Abigail just as she suddenly grows tentacles and two extra sets of lips.
[Wing: OK, I don’t even know what to do what that.]
Good Friends A.K.A. Duel V: Rancœur
I… don’t know why I have such an interest in this story. I wouldn’t call it my favorite, it’s definitely not scary, I simply feel really bad for the protagonist.
Dylan gets off the bus from school and hangs out with his best friend Jordan. Tagging along is Jordan’s annoying little sister Ashley. Dylan and Jordan like to tease Ashley for her imaginary friend Jaclyn, by doing things like pretending to tie Jaclyn up and throwing their basketball at her. Jordan really enjoys tormenting Ashley, which is why he doesn’t earn any sympathy points when Dylan’s brother, Richard, shows up and starts bullying Dylan. Jordan gets so pissed off he wishes he could tie Richard to a tree and leave him to rot.
Later that evening, Jordan announces the best plan to screw with his kid sister. They’ll take Richard’s pet tarantulas, Axel and Foley (OH. MY. FUCKING. GOD. STINE MADE THAT REFERENCE) [Wing: I, of course, went to Axl Rose and Mick Foley myself.] and use them to scare her and say Jaclyn was eaten. Jordan pressures Dylan to borrow the tarantulas and sneak past Richard, but just as Dylan’s about to unleash the two, Richard catches him. He asks if Dylan was playing with Jordan and Ashley again, and calls Dylan an embarrassment for always talking to himself and spending time with his stupid imaginary friends.
God this was depressing. So, no, no “imaginary friend was real all along,” just a lonely kid being abused by his older brother and internalizing the abuse into resentment against his imaginary friend’s imaginary friend. Dylan makes fun of “Jaclyn” and “Ashley” because he hates himself for having no one to talk to, and because he’s probably listened to his brother’s horrible taunting for so long. The one thing scary about this is that I know how horrible that loneliness can be, and what happens when you internalize that resentment for too long. I’ve been in therapy for five years dealing with the emotional issues from my adolescence.
That got heavier and weirder than I meant, so here. This was one of the stories adapted into an illustrated novella for the French Goosebumps books. Only the ending is extended, and this is really cute given the circumstances of the original ending. Richard and Dylan’s mom comes home from work, and she asks Richard if he’s been playing with his imaginary little brother. Not only that, but he’s scared of spiders too.
[Wing: WHAT? That is a GREAT ending. Though also pretty damn depressing. Also, I first heard this short story in a video.]
How I Won My Bat A.K.A. Duel VI: Gloire
Yeah, you like Michael’s bat don’t you? Just look at it, so big and hard and strong and powerful. Don’t you admire the way he firmly grasps that big ol’ thing in his hands and swings it around with all his might? Too bad Michael wishes he’d never touched a bat in his life. [Wing: We’re totally going to get flagged as a site just like Sweet Valley Online has been flagged. I love it.]
Michael’s nerves were shot preparing for the big championship baseball game, and he was striking out all during practice. His batting slump is even noticed by a local TV anchorman, so that’s DEFINITELY not helping. With so much pressure riding on him, Michael didn’t know what could save him. Declaring he’d do anything to bat like he could before is just what Mr. Smith, the director of the local sports museum, was hoping he’d say. While Michael’s all alone on the baseball diamond, [Wing: Well this took a turn for the predatory.] Mr. Smith presents Michael with a special bat, lighter than he uses and made of sleek black wood. Mr. Smith promises this bat will help Michael win, but he absolutely has to return it to the museum the moment the game’s over. He can’t even go home to change clothes, STRAIGHT to the museum.
Well, things are rocky at first, but thanks to the bat, Michael plays the best goddamned game of his life, winning NINETEEN to THREE. Surrounded by adoring fans, getting his picture taken and interviewed on TV, Michael decides he can’t let this bat go. He won’t. So when he goes to the sports museum, surrounded by disturbingly realistic displays of other sports stars, he begs Mr. Smith to let him keep the bat. Mr. Smith reluctantly agrees, but asks to take a picture of Michael’s perfect swing with the bat. Michael complies, it’s the least he could do. The camera goes off…
And Michael’s been at the museum ever since, his arms frozen in a perfect swing, features stuck in place. The bat firmly in his grip. He’s happy to hear all his fans talk about what a great swing he is. And now he never has to give the bat back, does he?
Swing away, Michael.
[Wing: Weird. Also reminiscent of “House of Horrors” by J. B. Stamper, which I recapped back in 2015.]
Mr. Teddy A.K.A. Duel VII: Obsession
Willa’s a spoiled brat who begs her mom to buy her this ADORABLE new teddy bear, even though her younger sister Gina points out (and in an odd show for a Goosebumps story is the rational one) her room is overflowing with Willa’s numerous collections. Dolls, stuffed animals, posters, even porcelain freaking eggs. Willa claims this will be the “last” thing she ever begs her mom for, so mom relents. [Wing: Why in the world would the mom give in? She knows it’s not the last thing.] Gina’s pissed off because she wants a CD player, and apparently her mom’s saying she can wait for her birthday because it’s too expensive.
Willa’s able to make room for her new Mr. Teddy by taking her previously treasured childhood toy, Old Bear, and placing him on the shelf. And there he shall stay… forever. Willa’s showing Mr. Teddy all her crap and Gina teases her for talking to her toys, but Willa’s all “Bitch at least I ain’t adopted!” [Wing: WAIT WHAT. Is Gina adopted? Is Willa actually a jackass about it? DO I NEED TO BURN DOWN THE FUCKING WORLD?!] Gina just responds with how pissed she is that Willa gets whatever the fuck she wants. But Willa doesn’t care, because she has Mr. Teddy and Gina doesn’t.
Willa soon wishes she didn’t have Mr. Teddy, because the light in the bear’s eyes starts to unnerve her, and Willa keeps waking up every morning to find Mr. Teddy has somehow moved out of her bed and onto different parts of the room. Willa is sure this is Gina trying to gaslight her, and the pranks escalate to destruction when Willa’s belongings get broken. Sure, at first Willa feels as though Mr. Teddy is guarding her at night, but the increasing belief that Gina is destroying her things (and even their mom asks if Gina is doing it) leads up to Willa blocking her bedroom door by pushing her dresser against it. This does absolute shit, and when Willa wakes up, the dresser is in the middle of the room and everything she owns has been RIPPED TO SHREDS. The eggs shattered, the posters crumpled, the dolls and stuffed animals mutilated beyond repair. All except for Old Bear… and Mr. Teddy, who’s got a doll’s arm in his stuffed paw. Willa is terrified when Mr. Teddy falls off the shelf and lands on her, almost like he was attacking her, but Willa still thinks it was Gina. [Wing: Fucking how, though? Does Willa think she slammed the door into the dresser without waking her?] Only it turns out Gina isn’t home, but spent the night at a friend’s house for a slumber party. Willa has a panic attack and runs back to her room, where she rips Mr. Teddy to shreds in a hysterical daze, screaming he’s pure evil. Gasping for breath, bear innards strewn around her, Willa tries to calm down by taking Old Bear into her arms and cradling him, the last thing she has…
Exactly what Old Bear wanted. He didn’t appreciate getting replaced like that, so he had to teach Willa a lesson. And she better not forget it, because he’s going to be with her for a long, long time…
So this is essentially a horror movie version of “Toy Story,” where Woody successfully makes sure he’s Andy’s favorite by killing all the other toys.
[Wing: … I really want to watch that version of Toy Story.]
Click A.K.A. Duel VIII: Immaturite
You would not be too wrong for assuming this is about the Adam Sandler movie of the same name. I wonder if Stine tried to file a copyright lawsuit against whoever made that piece of crap movie for ripping off this piece of crap story.
Our hat trick for unlikable douchecanoe protagonists is complete with Seth Gold, a lazy fuck who prides himself on the many hours he spends watching TV. He’s thinking of getting the ass groove he’s worn into the couch declared a historical landmark. The reason Seth loves watching TV is for the feeling of domination and control he has by being able to change the channel and do whatever he wants with just a remote control. His dad arrives home one day with a new universal remote, and Seth’s ecstatic over how he can play a CD while putting the closed captioning on the Spanish channel… AT THE SAME TIME. Someone crack open the Cristal! Seth gets in a fight with his sister over the remote, and it flies out of Seth’s hands and hits the radiator.
Seth tries to improvise by jimmying open the remote and messing with random wires and shit so it doesn’t make rattling noises anymore. And this somehow gives him the power to alter reality just by pointing it at people. I’m NOT making this up. He gains power over time and space by being a moron. Seth uses the remote to mute his mom, slow-mo the dog, and rewind dessert so he can gorge himself like the greedy little fuckwad he is.
The next day at school Seth cheats on a pop quiz by pausing the class and copying the smartest kid’s answers. He fucks with his classmates some more until lunch time when things finally go wrong. He mutes the lunch lady but can’t unmute her. Trying to ignore this, Seth panics when the class asshole (I mean besides him) finds the remote. Panicking, Seth gets in a fight and pauses the kid, and somehow this is when everyone finally notices what he’s been doing all day. Seth digs himself deeper when he pauses the school principal, and soon all the kids are chasing him trying to stop whatever he’s doing. In desperation, Seth is hitting every button on the remote until he accidentally pushes the power button…
And suddenly the entire world disappears, leaving Seth alone in a black, empty void. The only light comes from the remote, a blinking red light above the words “BATTERY DEAD.”
Amazingly, this story got not one, but TWO adaptations. It was one of the six illustrated novellas from the French Goosebumps line, and a TV episode. I don’t own the former, but I know of the latter. In the TV show, Seth ordered the remote himself and discovered it could warp reality by using it on his sister as a joke. The salesman repeatedly warns Seth it’s not a toy, but of course he doesn’t listen. Nor does he listen to his friend Kevin when he tries to stop Seth from using the remote. When Seth is left in the void at the end, the last person he sees is the remote salesman, “thanking” him for his purchase. What’s really scary about this is that Seth actually had a FRIEND.
Broken Dolls A.K.A. Duel IX: Habilete
This was my favorite of the collection, for two reasons. I enjoy doll and toy related horror, provided it’s not the type that has the kid blamed for the toy’s actions because I can never handle the secondhand embarrassment. It’s why I hate the Child’s Play franchise. Also, because the main character could, in fact, be one of THE smartest Goosebumps protagonists in the history of the franchise. [Wing: Well that caught my interest!]
Tamara Baker is a devoted doll collector, but she’s not greedy or obsessive like Willa. The problem is her brother Neal is always breaking her dolls, so she’s got a lot of [INSERT TITLE HERE]. The Baker family is spending the day at a crafts fair, and Tamara’s parents ditch her with Neal so they don’t have to worry about him breaking anything. Yeah. Neal wanders over to a stand displaying handmade wooden toys, and Tamara’s attention is captured by, you guessed it, the doll stand. Tamara’s enamored by the amount of details put into these dolls, so real and lifelike, and then she meets their owner. The doll maker is an incredibly old looking woman, older than Tamara has ever seen. The doll maker beams with pride as Tamara compliments the detailing on her creations, when Neal barges in saying he’s hungry. The doll maker coos and gives Neal a cookie, and Tamara notices the odd, almost formal way the woman pats her brother on the head. Weirder still is how quiet Neal’s suddenly become.
All the way home from the fair, Neal is still and quiet. His parents realize he’s got a fever and a rash, and as Mrs. Baker prepare him for bed she finds some strange goop in his hair. Neal mumbles something about “Dolly jelly.” Tamara feels bad for her brother, but hearing him mumble about “not wanting to be a dolly” makes her realize the doll maker definitely did something to him with that cookie. Tamara excuses herself and goes for a bike ride, heading back to the crafts fair to find the old woman. Tamara locates the doll maker’s trailer as she packs her things away, and Tamara investigates one box full of dolls. Only these dolls aren’t like the ones on display. Why? Because they don’t have faces. One has goop in its hair just like Neal, and slowly, the doll’s blank face begins to look like Neal. [Wing: Saw this coming, but it is still so, so damn creepy.]
Horrified, Tamara realizes she has to stop the doll maker from doing whatever it is she’s doing, and someone agrees with her. A whole bunch of someones. Inside a closet in the trailer, Tamara finds the dolls from the display, only now they’re reaching out to her and begging Tamara to “Stop her.” Trying to flee with the Neal doll, Tamara is cornered by the doll maker. The old woman tries to entice Tamara back inside, but it doesn’t work. Tamara announces she knows what the doll maker’s doing, but the woman mocks her. She claims people of her world haven’t the faintest clue of her ways, the old ways. The doll maker takes out a jar with the “Dolly jelly” and marches towards Tamara.
“I think it’s time for you to go away, dearie,” the old lady said quietly. “Young people disappear so often in this century, you’ll just be one more…”
Chanting something, the doll maker prepares to turn Tamara into a doll, but Tamara breaks out of her trance and grabs the jar from the old woman. Tamara throws the dolly jelly into a nearby wading pool, and the water has some adverse effect on the gel. The doll maker shrieks in despair as brilliantly colored smoke rises from the water. Tamara turns around and the old woman is gone. She can hear cries of joy coming from the trailer, and the Neal doll’s face is blank once more. Returning home as fast as she can, Tamara is relieved and ecstatic to see her brother’s back to normal.
But a few days later, Tamara receives a package in the mail, and it contains a doll that looks just like the old woman. It seems she’s not through with Tamara… until Tamara bets her brother five bucks he can’t break THIS doll.
Tamara Baker, smartest Goosebumps character, right here.
[Wing: She is pretty great! I wish this story had been adapted for the show, though it does vaguely remind me of something else. Can’t quite put my finger on what, though.]
A Vampire in the Neighborhood A.K.A. Duel X: Solidarite
Helga Neugenstrom just HAS to be a vampire. Why you ask? Oh wait you didn’t ask but I’m gonna tell you anyway. Because she’s different. Because she looks like she stepped out of an old movie with her pale skin and black hair and colorless clothes and her weird name. Because she moved into the old Dobson place that stands on the edge of the woods. Because she “never eats lunch,” she says. Yep, Maddy, Carrie, Yvonne, and Joey are sure Helga has to be a vampire, so they do some investigating to prove they’re right. That includes following Helga around, like watching her in her room from outside her window trying to see if she has a reflection. [Wing: FUCKING CREEPY.] They never see Helga’s parents, and no matter how many times they invite her to do stuff Helga says no. Not catching the hint that Helga’s not fucking interested, the four kids persist in their stalking until finally, Helga catches them in the act.
Helga demands to know why Maddy and the others have been stalking her. Maddy, scared at how angry Helga looks after weeks of not showing any kind of emotion beyond polite disinterest, drops the bombshell and asks if she’s a vampire. Helga says “Yes.” Seemingly confirming their suspicions, the kids order Helga to show her fangs. Helga’s all “I’ll show you mine if you show me yours.”
Not realizing this would be a fang measuring contest, Helga stammers she was just joking and thought they were too. Nope. And now it looks like there’ll be one more vamp in da hood, yo. [Wing: I really love this, even though it reminds me a lot of “Blood Kiss” by D. E. Athkins (GOD THAT NAME), another I recapped back in 2015. Recycling plots from Point Horrors were you, Stine? *Note: I don’t actually know which was published first, and I’m not looking it up, for once.]
So like I said, this wasn’t a totally amazing book. Oh sure, there’s potential for future Goosebumps commissions (Aunt Abigail, Helga, Ashley and Jaclyn, Tamara, the Doll Maker), but this one’s still kind of eh. It’s easier to just think of this as the pilot episode to let Stine get his feet. Honestly, I’ve been unable to think of any sequel ideas for these stories, but I’ve thought of a Horrorland exhibit where people can watch Seth trapped in the void for all eternity. The Horrorland sequels may be disappointing, but there’s still potential for better ones.
I’m just happy Troy Steele liked Broken Dolls too (to an extent). It tells me I have good taste.
[Wing: It’s not terrible. I think I like Stine’s short stories better than a lot of his books, at least the earlier Point Horror ones, because he doesn’t have room to do his trademarked cliffhanger every chapter thing.]