Recap #143: Goosebumps Live On Stage: Screams in the Night by R. L. Stine
Title: Goosebumps Live On Stage – Screams In The Night, a.k.a. “Hello, Slappy!”
Author: R.L. Stine (Based on stage play by Rupert Holmes)
Cover Artist: Tim Jacobus
Time for another long lost Goosebumps treasure, though this one’s slightly better known than “Haunted Library” and “Surprise on the 13th Floor.”
In the late 90s there was briefly a Goosebumps stage show, though I was barely aware of this since I was like 8 or 9 at the time. I’ve never seen a performance, and I don’t know how long the show ran. Hell, I’m not even sure how I got this book. I think it originally belonged to my sibling back in elementary school, but like so much of their shit, it ended up in my possession because they stopped caring about it.
There are four stories in this book, a wraparound tale and three short stories that feature the same cast of characters. The first and third stories are weird, the first coming across like a rehash of “Stay Out of the Basement” and the third some prototype for the “Goosebumps Horrorland” series. I prefer the second story out of the bunch.
The book came with some illustrations by Tim Jacobus. Unfortunately, due to the size and spine of the book I’m unable to make scans without doing serious damage.
[Wing: I’m still boggling over it getting a stage show. What I wouldn’t give to see it today!]
The Barton siblings, [Wing: Clint, is that you?] 14 year old Jessie, 13 year old Josh, and 9 year old Jamie, were stuck in Coalville late at night with Josh’s loser best friend Skate Palmer. [Wing: Why are so many kids in these books named Skate? I mean, we have two, in two different series, which honestly seems like two too many.] The kids spent the evening at the big basketball game held at Coalville Middle School. But once the game was over, Mr. Barton hadn’t arrived to pick the kids up. Skate jokes Mr. Barton probably got too involved with one of his lizard experiments and lost track of time. The Barton siblings and Skate didn’t live in Coalville, which meant they either had to find a phone or would have to walk across the Van Wyatt Bridge to get back to their town. Knowing how long that would take, Jessie decided their best option was to find a payphone (because it was the 90s, you see!). But it didn’t seem like anyone actually lived in Coalville, and the kids haven’t found a single phone or even a gas station.
The kids manage to find the one store that does seem to be open, THE DOOMSDAY BOOKSTORE.
As a fun tidbit, I recently learned of a short YA horror series called “Doomsday Mall” that was written by Bebe Faas Rice. Because everyone knows putting “DOOMSDAY” in the name of your business couldn’t possibly foreshadow something deadly.
Once it starts to rain the kids have no choice but to take shelter inside the strange store. The place is filled with weird stuff like boxes, masks, stuffed lizards, dolls. There’s even a huge stuffed gorilla in one corner of the room. Jessie finds an old record player, but turns around to discover the gorilla’s gone! In its place is a man asking what he can do to-I mean, what he can do FOR them. The kids explain they need to call their dad and ask for a phone. The store owner tries to find the phone, saying he’s getting forgetful as he gets older.
“But I still have the heart of a young person…”
He pulled a large red box from under the counter. “Ah, there it is!” He cried, blowing the dust off the box.
“The phone?” Jessie asked hopefully.
“No-the heart of a young person!”
Jessie is horrified by the heart in the box, even more so as she realizes the heart’s real! The man assures Jessie the heart’s mummified. As Jessie is finally given the phone, Jamie finds herself intrigued by an oddly familiar looking ventriloquist dummy. Jessie thinks the dummy looks positively evil as she leaves a message for her dad. The store owner adds the address is “Thirteen Marrow Alley”
Behind “Finley’s Funeral Home”
While on the phone, Jessie notices a “Goosebumps” book on the counter. The cover is practically glowing, and Jessie doesn’t remember ever seeing a copy like it. The store owner finally introduces himself as Mr. Gander, and explains the book she’s interested in is a pre-release copy. As such, the book’s not actually finished, and it’s unlike any “Goosebumps” Jessie’s read. He does explain the book’s about kids like them. Jessie, Josh, Skate…
The kids ask how Mr. Gander knew their names. He didn’t. Those are the names of the kids in the book.
Jamie asks if she can play with Slappy, and it dawns on Jessie the dummy looks exactly like the evil dummy from the “Goosebumps” books.
(Slappy by Jamie Fay – Jamie’s one of my commission semi-regulars. I got this from him during my first foray into the Goosebumps theme at NYCC in 2014)
Mr. Gander doesn’t let Jessie read the book, but offers to show the kids some magic lantern slides that came with it. [Wing: RUN RUN NOW.] The first slide projected shows a kitchen very similar to the one in the Barton house. Mr. Gander tells the kids to watch and imagine as he narrates the story about Jessie, Josh, Jamie, and their dad Mr. Barton…
Josh was tormenting Jessie by threatening to make xerox copies of her diary [Wing: You should all be pleased that I refrained from writing the dissertation about Xerox and copying and trademark law that I started to write here.] and hand them out at school. Jessie retaliated with promises of blenderizing Josh’s baseball cards. Jamie was busy coloring in the kitchen, as usual, and didn’t give a shit. Mr. Barton, however, told the kids to be nice.
Actually, that was all the Barton patriarch ever said to his children since he moved his experiments to the attic. That and “Hey there, hey,” “Come on kids, come on,” and “Don’t go in the attic.” Jessie and Josh thought their father had somehow been put on repeat. But that wasn’t the strangest change he’d gone through. His eyes looked weird, and Mr. Barton positively doted on his lizards and geckos like THEY were his kids. It broke Jessie’s heart the way her dad coddled his ugly gecko while feeding the animal from the bug zapper on the porch. Jessie couldn’t stand looking at the gecko, and it kept her up at night listening to her dad’s animals scratching and crawling around in the attic.
Josh decided to sneak a peek at whatever his dad was working on in the attic when Mr. Barton screamed at Josh to stop. Mr. Barton then quickly recomposed himself and calmly reminded Josh about the new rule. Jessie and Josh remember their dad never had a problem letting them hang out in the basement while he worked on his experiments. Neither of them understood what the big deal was, but now they were determined to figure out what their dad was hiding.
That night, Jessie was unable to sleep and went to get some juice in the kitchen. In the hallway, Jessie spied her dad hunched over the bug zapper in the kitchen, and assumed Mr. Barton was tinkering with the device. But the closer she got, Jessie realized her dad was having a late night snack as well…
Jessie startles her dad and he quickly lies he was “fixing” the bug zapper. Josh appears behind his sister, asking why she yelled. Revealing their dad was eating bugs at the counter, Josh figures Mr. Barton’s lizard experiments have gone to his head and wants to see what’s in the attic. Mr. Barton immediately stops Josh before asking why the kids are awake. Jessie explains she was hungry; Mr. Barton mentions he was gonna make scrambled eggs for himself and offers to cook for Jessie and Josh. The siblings lose their appetite when their dad takes out five purple eggs from his pocket. Mr. Barton eagerly reveals these are SNAKE eggs. He feels if they’re good enough for Gila monsters, they’re good enough for him. [Wing: I want to eat scrambled purple snake eggs! Also: Bad Eggs.]
Jessie and Josh use this opportunity while their dad’s absorbed in his snake egg omelette to explore the attic. It’s dark except for the dim, ultraviolet glow coming from the lizard cages. At the other end of the room the kids see what they think is a pile of old bicycle tires. That begin to move on their own. Jessie and Josh watch a big, black snake slither away into a shadowy part of the room. Jessie recognizes the snake as a python, but fails to assure Josh it’s not dangerous. After all, their dad wouldn’t keep something in the house that could harm them. Or would he?
The kids find a big metal cylinder covered with a tarp. The kids don’t remember their dad ever bringing something like this home, and pull off the tarp to see what’s inside. They wish they hadn’t. Through a window in the cylinder, Jessie and Josh see some type of half human, half lizard creature suspended in green gel. The creature had three horns, scales, and buggy eyes, yet was dressed in a man’s shirt and pants. And something in the creature’s eyes. Something familiar. Something that seemed to say “help me.”
When Mr. Barton appears in the attic, the kids are terrified and exclaim his experiments have gone out of control. Mr. Barton corrects the two; everything’s going according to plan. Jessie and Josh try to reason with their dad by pointing out how bizarre he’s become. Mr. Barton apologizes for not acting like much of a father… since he’s NOT THEIR FATHER. Switching on a light in the cylinder, the kids recognize the hybrid creature is wearing one of Mr. Barton’s shirts. Jessie and Josh believe their father’s gone insane since they don’t want to believe the creature in the tube is their real dad. “Mr. Barton” explains his people are similar to Earth’s reptiles, and the actual Mr. Barton understood what they needed. The aliens plan to reward Mr. Barton with a new body once the invasion’s complete. Jessie doesn’t want to listen to this until she catches another glimpse of her supposed father’s eyes and suddenly understands why they seem so different. Josh still thinks his dad’s gone nuts, but Alien!Barton adds his real children will be arriving soon, and they’ll be needing bodies too. The alien father flips another switch, and suddenly the room starts to fill with a strange vapor. Jessie and Josh feel themselves losing consciousness as “Dad” tells them to be nice, be nice, be nice…
It’s a sunny morning in the Barton house. Jamie’s coloring, Jessie’s drinking orange juice, and Mr. Barton’s reading the newspaper. Josh stumbles into the kitchen feeling confused when his friend Skate arrives. Josh pulls Skate aside, not wanting Jessie or their dad to listen, and explains to Skate that his father’s been replaced by an alien. Skate thinks Josh is kidding around, so Josh grabs his sister and asks if she remembers the previous night. Skate desperately pleads his father has turned into a giant lizard, but Jessie thinks that’s ridiculous.
He’s a snake, not a lizard.
As Josh hears the sounds of rockets and sirens outside, Jessie and Skate grab hold of Josh and explain to him they have to get ready for company. Outside the house Josh sees an enormous spaceship land in the backyard. Jamie joins Jessie and Skate in explaining the invasion has begun, that the people he’s speaking to are Zlitha, Gnarg, and Klagen respectively. The real Jessie is trapped inside her own mind, powerless to do anything as she watches the aliens gang up on Josh. Klagen!Skate reveals he was supposed to be put into Josh’s body, but some humans are simply unsuitable as hosts. So instead, they felt like keeping Josh as a snack for the rest of their relatives.
Josh begs his father for help, just in time to see “Mr. Barton’s” head explode! Underneath is a giant purple snake head. The alien kids promise Josh he won’t feel a thing, and Jessie is forced to watch from inside her head as poor Josh is sprayed with venom and fed on.
[Wing: Well damn. Did not see that ending coming.]
As Mr. Gander finishes the first story, Skate comments that the real Mr. Barton does indeed work with lizards. The kids ask Mr. Gander if he just put their names in the story to make it scarier, Jessie, Josh, Skate, Jamie…
Wait who’s Jamie?
No one remembers if a “Jamie” was present with them. Jessie looks at the chair where Slappy the Dummy is resting, and feels like she’s forgetting someone. [Wing: Wait, if Josh was the one eaten in the story, why is Jamie the one missing now?]
Mr. Gander takes out a new slide, this one showing a decorated theater stage, and begins the next story.
This tale begins not with the Barton siblings, but with two teenage actors named Hank and Karen. They played the prince and princess in a rendition of “Rumpelstiltskin,” but the play turned into a tragedy. During the scene where Hank revealed the evil dwarf’s name, Karen fell from the balcony on stage and died. Her death was the latest in a string of accidental deaths, so the theater was shut down forever.
Several years later, Jessie and Josh Barton snuck into the now closed theater. Josh had decided to do his science project on proving ghosts exist and brought Jessie with him to record footage with their dad’s video camera. Josh was sure the theater was haunted, having done research at the library all about the eight deaths that occurred in the building. Josh pulls out an old newspaper article and mentions there’s a ninth death if you count the actor who was hit by a car outside the theater.
Jessie asks what happened to their friend Skate since he was supposed to meet them at the theater. [Wing: There sure are a ton of characters named Skate in these types of books. And yes, two is a ton, considering the name. I’m delighted.] Outside, the siblings hear the old church bells ringing midnight, so Josh is sure the ghosts will appear and whips out his video camera. The sound of thunder and lightning startles the two when they learn they’re not alone in the old building. It’s not Skate though. Jessie and Josh run into a good-looking, slightly older teenage boy.
Who used to be an actor.
The siblings ask if Hank’s seen their friend Skate. Hank mentions Skate’s rummaging around backstage looking at the theater props.
“Let’s get on with the report, Jess,” Josh said. “Shoot me.”
“Please Josh-I only have so much self control!” She joked.
Josh tells Jessie to get a shot of Hank with the video camera, but Hank shies away. He’s a professional actor, you know, so no unsolicited photos. They hear a noise backstage and Josh goes to look for Skate. Jessie’s feeling creeped out by the theater, but Hank assures her it’s not so bad and shows her an old prop trunk. Hank asks if she’d like to look inside, but out of the trunk pops Skate!
Being strangled by two horrible hands!
Skate looks awful and begs Jessie for help as he struggles to get free from the thing that’s attacking him, but Jessie can’t see or hear him! Hank takes a cardboard box from the trunk and then shuts the lid, dooming Skate to an eternity in the void.
Hank shows Jessie a pink mask used in the “Rumpelstiltskin” play during a scene at a masquerade ball. The mask belonged to Karen Markham, and Jessie feels weird at the idea of wearing a dead person’s mask. Hank tells her the mask is one-of-a-kind, it stays on by itself. Jessie puts the mask on just as Josh returns, without Skate. Josh briefly forgets Hank’s name, and Hank reveals his full name is Henry Ross. Jessie swears she’s heard the name before while Hank shows Josh a changing booth, for when actors need to quickly change clothes during scenes. As Jessie rereads the article Josh showed her, Josh tries out the booth and steps out dressed like a caveman. The change is immediate, almost like magic! Hank tells Josh to REALLY try the booth out. Josh steps back inside, counts to three… and is turned into a MOOOOOOONSTER!
Horns stuck out of his face and his gnashing jaws frothed and foamed. The one eye in the middle of his head rolled around in agony.
Jessie is horrified, and the worst part’s Josh is still sentient but can’t speak. Jessie remembers the newspaper article, but the mask makes it hard to read and she can’t get it off. She reads aloud that an actor named Henry Ross was struck by a car when he wandered out into the street following Karen Markham’s death.
Hank hung his head sheepishly. “Actually, there’s a pretty simple explanation for that.”
Jessie relaxed a little. “What is it?”
Bombshell = dropped.
Hank says it isn’t so bad, especially because he’s not alone. With a wave of his hand, Hank reveals the rest of the ghosts haunting the theater, but these ghosts are all rotted, disgusting ghouls. Hank explains for a theater company they still need new blood, AND a new leading lady, which is where Jessie comes in. Hank motions to the tower from “Rumpelstiltskin,” but Jessie refuses to go up there. The troupe starts to close in on Jessie at Hank’s command, and Hank adds she’s already becoming one of them as he advises her to remove the mask. Jessie tries to yank the mask off, but that’s a little hard when the ends of the mask have merged with her face. Hank declares this is the start of Jessie’s new life in show business and asks that she show some spirit.
Suddenly, Jessie has an idea and dives for Josh’s video camera. Hank recoils and orders Jessie to stop filming him, but now Jessie believes she’s captured Hank’s spirit in the camera. She remembers the legends about how some people believe cameras can steal a person’s soul, and how nervous Hank got when she originally tried to film him. Hank lunges at Jessie to get the camera, so she instinctively throws it at Josh figuring his new monster strength would give him an advantage. Hank boasts he’s now Josh’s master, but Jessie is still his sister. Josh is torn between obeying Hank or listening to Jessie, and Jessie is forced up the balcony by the other ghouls. Jessie screams at Josh to hit the erase button, which will erase Hank. Hank and the actors chant for Jessie to jump off the balcony as she feels herself going over the railing, Jessie pleading for her monster brother to hit the red button.
Jessie stumbles, she falls-!
Josh hits the button!
Hank lets out a shrill scream!
Suddenly everything goes dark except for a spotlight on Hank as he writhes in agony. Jessie and Josh are lost in the darkness when-
The Barton siblings find themselves outside on a warm summer night, and instead of screaming, they hear laughter.
Now the two of them are at some sort of amusement park, and Josh is no longer a monster. And Skate’s okay too! What’s going on?
A voice over a loudspeaker announces that “Screamland” is closing in five minutes. The kids are by a building called “Slappy’s Funhouse” and make their way around the other side. [Wing: UGH NO NOT SLAPPY WHY IS HE SO POPULAR?] They find a small concession booth and Skate goes to get something to drink. The guy behind the counter asks how he can get them-I mean, WHAT he can get them. The kids think this guy looks exactly like Mr. Gander, except he’s got on a fake mustache. He gives Skate a green slurpee-like drink he calls “Monster Blood.” Not!Gander explains the recipe’s been changed a little, so it’s okay to drink, but if it touches anything outside the cup it makes things grow. Jessie warns Skate not to drink it, but he does anyway.
And starts writhing in agony!
Jessie and Josh panic before Skate reveals he was just joking.
“Skate, I’ll kill you!” Jessie cried.
“Now now,” the man cut in. “That’s my department.”
The kids want to head to the transportation area to figure out how to get home, but first they have to figure out where they are since they have no idea where Screamland is. Not!Gander stops them, saying they’ve forgotten something. It’s then a small voice cries for help, and Jamie Barton runs up to the kids! Jamie asks how Jessie and the others forgot about her, and Jessie realizes they DID forget her, back in the bookstore. Jamie has no idea how she got in Screamland and has been wandering around by herself, scared out of her mind, when it starts to rain again. The kids are caught in the downpour, so Not!Gander orders them to seek shelter in the funhouse. [Wing: God, I love funhouse horror stories.]
Where they get locked inside.
It’s dark inside the funhouse until Skate presses a button that reads “RESET ALL,” and suddenly everything comes to life. The funhouse is basically like an evil Discovery Zone. Lights flash, carousel music blares at high speed, arrows point to a “Labyrinth of Laffs,” there’s a stand filled with prizes, and a mechanical Slappy dummy awakens inside a glass booth.
“Welcome to Slappy’s Fun House!” the dummy screeched. “Where kids are the fools and Slappy rules! Stay as long as you like-an hour, a month, or until you die! Give it a try!”
(Slappy by Tim Jacobus – Yes, THE Tim Jacobus. I bought this from Tim at Chiller Theater last October. It was a sketch he already had for sale. Hopefully, I can set up a commission in advance the next time he’s at a show in the area because boy do I have ideas)
Skate immediately hates Slappy, but Jamie thinks he’s funny as Slappy belts out insult after insult. Skate eventually decides to shut the booth down by flipping the off switch. Too bad Slappy didn’t get the memo because the wooden freak escapes from the booth and makes his way up a balcony underneath a giant painting of his face. Slappy mocks the kids as they ask if he knows how to get out since HE is the reason they’re trapped in the first place. They’re here for his amusement, so he can watch them grow more and more scared and hungry and weak until they finally die. Jessie realizes the dummy seriously intends to murder them as Jamie shouts they at least deserve a chance to escape. Slappy, villain that he is, realizes it would be more savory to watch the kids gain a chance to free themselves only to fail miserably. It’s a game to Slappy, and the name of the game is “Spell Your Own Doom.”
“And I want to warn you-to win this game you’ll need all the luck you can get! So you’d better rub your lucky rabbit’s foot. …Find yourself a four-leaf clover. …Hang on to that horseshoe. …Pocket that lucky penny. …And knock on wood! Or you’ll never, ever get out of here alive!”
Slappy, to show what a nice guy he is, even offers to give them clues, though he might twist things around a bit. In fact, he already gave them to the kids!
Slappy disappears and Jessie is left feeling this is hopeless when the dummy announces it’s time for the first round.
“Slappy’s Hindu Rope Trick”
[Wing: Cool, another reason to hate Slappy.]
The kids have to pull on a rope hanging from the ceiling. Unfortunately, the only rope in the funhouse is suspended above the crawl tunnel in the wall, and none of them can reach it. Even worse, Slappy declares if anyone but Jamie touches the rope, they lose. Jamie darts into the tunnel and manages to poke out of a hole using a trampoline inside (no, I have no idea what’s going on here) and only just manages to graze the rope with her hand. The kids win!
Slappy begrudgingly reveals Jamie’s prize; an opening in the wall appears. Jamie runs to claim her prize, but her older siblings tell her to stop because it could be rigged. Josh grabs a balloon on a stick from the prize stand and tentatively sticks it inside the opening. At which point a blade descends and slices through the stick like butter. Jessie hugs Jamie, horrified at the idea she could’ve been mutilated. Now that the blade’s been neutralized, Josh gingerly reaches inside and pulls out a card with the letter “D” on it.
“D?” Skate said.
“As in duh,” Jamie snapped. “Spell much?”
Oh, I know what “D” stands for.
*Whispers* it stands for diiiiiiiiiiiiiick
Jessie realizes they’re literally spelling the word “doom,” but fears what will happen when they’ve finished.
Slappy directs the kids to a flashing blue light bulb near the giant Slappy face, which is where the kids must hang the card. There are three other hooks presumably for the other letters. And now it’s time for the second round.
“The Barrel Of Fun”
It’s Skate’s turn, and for this one Slappy reveals a giant barrel painted with red and white stri-OH SHIT NO
IT’S THE BARREL OF DOOM FROM SONIC 3
FUCK IT THEY’RE DEAD
THEY ARE ALL FUCKING DEAD
Oh wait Slappy wants Skate to get INSIDE the barrel NEVER MIND!
Above the barrel is an indicator with an arrow and several speed levels. The levels are Fast, Faster, Fastest, and Danger Zone.
Slappy tells Skate he has to run super fast, and if he can get the barrel into the Danger Zone, he wins the second prize. Unfortunately, Skate’s not much of a runner, and the kids have to keep cheering him on as the sixty seconds comes to a close. Jessie finally screams their lives and HIS life depends on this. Skate only JUST makes it into the zone of danger with three seconds to spare. Kenny Loggins would be proud. Skate is told to collect his prize as the panel opens up again. The blade is still hanging like it did when Josh pulled out the “D,” so Skate reaches in and grabs an “O” card… and almost gets his hand sliced off as the blade swings around in the air.
Skate asks Jessie to hang up his card because he wants to catch his breath, but the moment Skate sits down his chair slides into the wall! Slappy accuses the kids of cheating and is trying to even the odds in his favor. Of course, they’re cheating because they’re winning, and no one wins in Slappy’s house. And then Slappy has a nasty announcement for Jessie.
“You forgot about Jamie.”
[Wing: How the hell do they keep forgetting about Jamie?]
Jamie is indeed gone, only this time she’s inside a chamber and desperately hanging onto a small bar for dear life.
“Let her go!” Jamie shouted at Slappy. “She’s just a little girl!”
“And I’m a little man,” Slappy shot back. “Excuse me while I go think of ways to destroy the rest of you!”
Slappy’s speeding things along by combining rounds three and four. Slappy informs Jessie and Josh they have to find four objects to get out of the funhouse. What are these four objects? Lots of luck. Jessie remembers what Slappy said before about needing all the luck they could find, so they start to search the funhouse for the items he described.
The concession stand where Josh got the balloon has got a bunch of stuffed bunny dolls, and Jessie figures the one they need is the one with Slappy’s face (ew). The four-leaf clover is found in the form of a pinwheel, and there’s a giant penny attached to a sign that says “visit Our Penny Arcade.” Okay, that’s three out of four, but they better hurry because Jamie’s about to fall. Jessie and Josh try to find a horseshoe, remembering how people play with them and they need to be hung upright to be considered good luck… like the letter “U!” The kids pull the “U” from the sign that reads “Slappy’s Fun House.” The panel opens again, and Josh pulls out two cards that read “O” and “M.” Jessie goes to put all the cards up, but now Josh’s arm is stuck in the opening! And this time the blade is moving like the hands of a clock, giving Jessie sixty seconds before Josh’s arm is chopped off!
Jessie puts the letter cards up, spelling “DOOM,” but the game’s not over yet. Slappy reminds Jessie she has one more task to complete, and it’s even been labeled for her. Jessie remembers the last thing Slappy added was “knock on wood,” but what should she knock on? EVERYTHING IS MADE OF WOOD! Jamie’s about to fall, Skate’s gone, Josh is gonna lose his arm, Jessie’s panicking. But then she remembered Slappy said he twisted some things around as she looks at “DOOM.” She switches the letters “D” and “M” and turns the “M” upside down! Now it spells “WOOD!” She knocks on the giant Slappy face, and screams of despair are heard. The funhouse goes haywire as Josh, Jamie, and Skate are set free. The kids run for their lives when Slappy dashes out of the labyrinth screaming he isn’t done with them. Skate’s had enough of Slappy, grabbing the slurpee cup he left by the door and emptying it on Slappy’s head.
Too bad it was Monster Blood.
The kids are horrified as Slappy grows into a giant bigger than the funhouse. He starts smashing things and laughing as the kids flee back into the amusement park.
“Welcome to Slappy’s planet!” he roared. “Where humans are fools and Slappy rules!”
The kids keep running until they find themselves in… the Doomsday Bookstore!
The kids don’t know how they got back to the bookstore when Mr. Barton enters through the front door! Jamie hugs her dad out of relief. Mr. Barton explains he took so long to get them because he couldn’t find the store. He had to call the Coalville Police Department, where they told him how to find Marrow Alley and Finley’s Funeral Home… or rather, where you COULD have found them a hundred years ago. Jessie’s confused, asking where Mr. Gander is. Someone flicks a light switch and the kids are shocked to find the bookstore’s now totally empty save for some cardboard boxes and empty shelves. But it turns out the kids lucked out by taking shelter in the store because if Mr. Barton had picked them up earlier, they would’ve been on the Van Wyatt Bridge as it collapsed. Jessie and Josh are horrified as their dad explains a truck carrying explosives crashed into the base of the bridge. Thankfully no one was on the bridge at the time.
Josh and Skate realize Mr. Gander saved their lives by giving the kids the wrong address to give to Mr. Barton. Jessie asks who Mr. Gander really is when her brother interrupts her for the third time, saying they should head home. Jessie snaps at Josh, but he ignores her. In fact, everyone’s ignoring her now. And her dad is calling SKATE “Jessie!” AND SKATE’S CALLING MR. BARTON “DAD!”
Jessie pleads for someone to acknowledge her as her siblings and Skate leave with Mr. Barton. She chases after everyone, but now Jessie can’t leave the store! Something’s keeping her back as she watches her family drive away without her. Jessie turns around and finds Mr. Gander holding the “Goosebumps” book. Jessie begs the store owner for help as he tells Jessie the reason everyone left without her is because their memories have been revised. And no, Jessie’s not dead, because she wasn’t alive in the first place. Jessie wasn’t a real person lost in a story, she’s a character IN a story like the rest of her family. Gander hands Jessie the book and she reads for herself passages from this book. She’s a “Goosebumps” character, or rather, she used to be one. The author decided to get rid of her and made Skate the new “Jessie Barton.” Something similar happened when everyone forgot about Jamie. The author erased Jamie but brought her back in, because the book’s still being edited.
It’s okay, because Jessie’s been guaranteed a role in a brand new “Goosebumps” story called “Screams In The Night.” She’s getting the star role!
That’s when Jessie hears the sound of an old-fashioned typewriter clacking away in the dark. Gander explains the author’s working on the book, which is when Jessie notices he’s being operated by strings. String held by a gigantic version of Slappy. Gander assures Jessie Slappy isn’t in charge when she sees even Slappy is attached to strings.
Gander promises they’re all in very good hands.
[Wing: I VERY MUCH DOUBT THAT UNLESS YOU LOVE NEEDLESSLY DRAMATIC CLIFFHANGER CHAPTER ENDINGS.]
Wow, that got meta out of nowhere, and it makes me wonder what this stage show had been like.
The first story was essentially a rehash of “Stay Out Of The Basement,” but with aliens. The second story had a couple of elements from “The Haunted Mask” and “Phantom of the Auditorium,” but felt like a truly separate story on its own. The third one really did feel like Stine was doing a prototype for the “Goosebumps Horrorland” series, considering it had Slappy torturing kids in a theme park and featured the inclusion of Monster Blood. Though if I’m being honest, this is probably the one Slappy story I can say I truly do like. I’ve never been a fan of that dummy, and this is like the one story that broke the pattern for his books. The one disconcerting part was the lack of transition between the second and third tales, unlike the intermission between the first and second.
I thought the idea of Jessie’s mask getting stuck to her face was somewhat creepier than when it happened to Carly-Beth Caldwell since it seems it was one of those half masks that covers the top of your face. The mask melding with the flesh in this instance is scarier because you can visibly see the mask having combined with your face, instead of a full head mask just getting attached at the neck.
[Wing: I love, love, love masks getting stuck to faces, and can’t wait to recap The Mask by Nick Baron, which was the first Nightmare Club book I owned.]
I’m wondering, though, why wasn’t Karen one of the ghosts in the troupe? You’d think she’d be pissed off Hank was trying to replace her.
Sadly, that’s about it for my hidden Goosebumps treasures post. At least, ones that involve me doing actual recaps. I could probably do a special post about the canceled “Goosebumps Gold” line and those two unfinished books, but I feel like I’d just be rehashing info everyone else knows about.
[Wing: I’m surprised by how charming I found that ending. I don’t normally like meta stories that include the author, but this was kind of delightful.]