Recap #252: Choose Your Own Nightmare #1: Night of the Werewolf by Edward Packard
Title: Choose Your Own Nightmare #1 – Night of the Werewolf, a.k.a. “The Wacky Witchy Werewolf War”
Author: Edward Packard
Illustrator: Bill Schmidt
Tagline: It’s a full moon… beware of howling beasts!
Summary: Who’s Afraid Of The Big Bad Wolf?
Your vacation at your cousins’ house is off to a creepy start. A body – with deep bite marks all over it – has just been found at the local pond.
Is there a werewolf in town?
Even though you’ve been warned to stay away, you and your cousins want to check out the crime scene. Things seem pretty normal. Until you hear branches crashing… and a throaty howl…
What happens next in this bone-chilling story? It all depends on the choices you make. How will your nightmare end? Only you can find out! And the best part is that you can keep reading and rereading, getting new chills and thrills – until not one but all of your worst nightmares have come true!
Give yourself goosebumps… choose your own NIGHTMARE…
It’s the first month of the first year of a new decade, and we’re now forced to admit the 1990s were officially thirty years ago. And I’ll be turning 30 next December…
[Wing: *raises eyebrow* You are the youngest of the regular recappers across Devil’s Elbow and Sweet Valley Online, and possibly all of the Nostalgic Bookshelf collection. Best watch where you step, youngin’.]
To start off the 2020s here at Point Horror, for this first year I want to make it a year of firsts. Each month will feature at least one #1 book from a 90s horror series. I’ll be making an attempt to look at the firsts of series I’ve already offered glimpses into, such as Bone Chillers and Ghosts of Fear Street, and touch on series I’ve never looked at on here such as Choose Your Own Nightmare, Doomsday Mall, P.C. Hawke, and Christopher Pike’s Spooksville. You guys’ll be lucky, because a few of these books I’ve never read until now so it’ll be a learning experience for everyone.
[Wing: I love this book, I love werewolves, I love January’s full moon (it’s my favourite full moon), and I love recapping, and January is my birthday month, so this is a wonderful combination of things. Roll on Wolf Moon.]
The list of books I already own to choose from reads:
- Bone Chillers: Beware the Shopping Mall
- Choose Your Own Nightmare: Night of the Werewolf
- Deadtime Stories: The Terror of Tiny Town
- Doomsday Mall: The Dollhouse
- Give Yourself Goosebumps: Escape from the Carnival of Horrors
- Goosebumps: Welcome to Dead House
- The Nightmare Room: Don’t Forget Me!
- P.C. Hawke Mysteries: The Scream Museum
- Spooksville: The Secret Path
- Strange Matter: No Substitutions
- Wishbone Mysteries: The Treasure of Skeleton Reef
Well P.C. Hawke and The Nightmare Room were published in 2000-2001, but still.
I’ll try to purchase a few more to add other options, particularly the first Ghosts of Fear Street book.
It’s safe to assume Choose Your Own Nightmare started due to the success of Goosebumps and Give Yourself Goosebumps, so the Choose Your Own Adventure franchise decided to create a line aimed solely at horror tales. For many years I was only ever familiar with this title due to the computer game adaptions of this book and “Halloween Party.” I have to say I prefer the digital version and might recap it separately at some point, so I won’t provide any spoilers to the content exclusive to that adaption.
I own a handful of the CYON books, with my favorites possibly being “Halloween Party” and “Risk Your Life Arcade.” There was no one single writer penning all the different titles, and more then a few were adapted into computer games courtesy of the now defunct Multipath Movies and Brilliant Digital Entertainment.
Since it’s Wing’s birthday month I picked this book since I know she loves werewolf fiction so much. [Wing: I do, I do.]
I’ll be using the same system for my Give Yourself Goosebumps recaps, which unfortunately means that whiny little pissant Jude is back as the main character. He ruins everything.
Jude’s spending summer vacation with his cousins Karin and Tom in their new house out in the country. His aunt Charlotte picks him up at the bus depot, but she seems worried about something. On the drive into town, Charlotte explains to Jude something awful’s happened. Seems the police found a dead body the other day, at Paulding’s Pond which is near Charlotte’s house. The cops don’t know if it was murder since the body was covered in strange bite marks; it looked like it’d been ripped apart by a dog or something. But there aren’t any dogs capable of doing THAT around here.
[Wing: Such a beautiful, stereotypical opening for a werewolf story, and I love it. Lean into the tropes, Packard. Lean into them all.]
Reaching the house, Charlotte tells Jude she’s already spoken to Karin and Tom about it and wants the three to stick together and keep their eyes open for anything strange.
Well, the cousins’ house looks nice. It could use some paint but it’s get a cool screened porch on the first floor AND an upstairs porch too. Sounds comfy. Karin and Tom are eager to see Jude, Karin greeting Jude with a hug before the kids settle in the den. Jude’s cousins ask if Charlotte’s filled him in on the murder, but it looks like she left out a certain detail. Apparently the cops do suspect someone, a “weirdo” who used to live in the area, despite the animalistic markings on the victim. It’s as if the poor schlub was killed by a, a, a MONGOOSE!
I mean a WEREWOLF!
Tom thinks they should look into this a bit deeper, so it’s a good thing they’ve got a copy of that old standby “Encyclopedia of the Supernatural.” Jude flips to the “W” section and looks up “Werewolf.”
Werewolf: A person who is changed into a wolf, and who begins to look and act like one. No one knows why this happens. But we do know that a werewolf is very strong and very dangerous, especially when it is hungry. Some experts say that a witch can destroy a werewolf. It might even be possible for an ordinary person to overcome one, but it would be very unwise to try. The safest way to deal with a werewolf is to get as far away from it as possible.
Tom wants to go to Paulding’s Pond to inspect where the body was found, in case the police overlooked anything. [Wing: What time of day is it again? Because this sounds like a recipe for getting eaten.]
Karin would rather speak to Mrs. Ellen Hadley, an old lady with a reputation that makes one believe she’d know a thing or two about werewolves.
What to do, what to do…
Yeah, like Tom’s smart enough to know better than the police. [Wing: Right? I love an Intrepid Kid Sleuth as much as the next person, but what does he expect to find at the site?] Jude decides he’ll go with Karin to speak to this Mrs. Hadley.
Mrs. Hadley’s house is a little cottage on a grassy knoll near the edge of the woods.*GASP* MRS. HADLEY WAS ON THE GRASSY KNOLL!
Karin knocks on the door while Jude notices the afternoon sun’s beginning to set behind the trees. [Wing: SEE? It’s important to pay attention to time when dealing with werewolves. Well, other monsters, too, but that’s not important right now.] When there’s no answer, Karin mentions Mrs. Hadley’s a bit deaf and knocks harder. Suddenly, the kids see Mrs. Hadley’s old, withered face at the window and demands to know why they’re making such a racket. Karin explains how they want to know if Mrs. Hadley’s seen anything strange lately, like some weird man or a creature lurking around the woods. Well now Mrs. Hadley’s alert and demands to know if the kids’ve seen or heard anything.
As Mrs. Hadley learns about the body found at Paulding’s Pond, she seems to get rather excited at the thought of a murder but then invites the kids inside. She feels they need to know certain things. Inside the little house, it looks like Hadley’s living room and kitchen take up most of the building and Jude wonders where the woman sleeps. The living room’s filled with wooden trunks, the grandfather clock’s got no hour or minute hands, and the fireplace is sealed with cement. Homey.
In the kitchen, Mrs. Hadley offers Karin and Jude some watery tea which smells like it came out of a vase of dead flowers.
Now that everyone’s got tea, Mrs. Hadley tells a story she hasn’t spoken about in years regarding the man who used to live in Karin’s house…
And the man who lived in the shack in the woods behind the house. Well, everyone thought this strange man lived in this strange shack, though most never saw him. Mrs. Hadley saw him at least once.
“He had a short, ragged beard, bristly hair, and a pointed face with a long,thick nose that seemed to join with his chin.”
“How was there room for his mouth?” asks Karin.
Oh my GOD Karin you don’t just ask people how they have room for their mouths.
Mrs. Hadley insists the man definitely had a mouth. And jaws. She remembers the way his mouth moved when she saw him that day, staring at her from the woods while she worked in her garden. He looked at the old woman as if she were a slab of meat on a plate. Mrs. Hadley specifically recalled thinking “Someday he’ll learn not to look at me like that!”
Because you see, those were the days when Mrs. Hadley was beginning to learn about her special powers.
Not sure how to react to that, Jude and Karin ask about the previous owner of Karin’s house. Mrs. Hadley says his name was Roger Cranmore, who traveled around a lot. No one really had a chance to know him very well before he was murdered. The police found his body still in his bed, after the people at his job reported him missing.
Wow Karin, your family moved into a house with two porches and a police record, lucky!
Mrs. Hadley doesn’t want to describe what the police found, thinking the kids are too young to hear such gory details. Jude and Karin are more than prepared for her to drop dem deets, yo.
“Tell us!” Karin says. “We’re old enough.”
“You probably don’t know what we see on TV,” (Jude) add[s].
Mrs. Hadley smirks and explains how the body looked like it’d been torn apart by claws, just like the body they found recently. Karin asks if they ever found the killer. Well the police combed the woods for him, but the shack was empty except for a multitude of bones. Rabbit, dog, human, it was a regular bonenanza. Which makes sense, since they were dealing with a WEREWOLF.
Karin wonders how scared Mrs. Hadley must’ve been, but Mrs. Hadley has some news for her.
A thin smile forms on Mrs. Hadley’s lips, but instead of making her look friendly, it makes her look frightening. “Yes, I was scared out of my wits,” she says, raising her voice. “That’s why I don’t have any wits, heh, heh, heh. But even though I lost my wits, I gained something else. There are many things I can do, my little sweets. Things you’d never dream of!“
Karin and Jude think it’s time to go, especially since Jude notices some dark clouds on the horizon as night approaches. Mrs. Hadley warns them they’d better think twice before going out after dark. Karin phones her mom to pick them up, and on the way back Charlotte complains about Ellen Hadley telling crazy stories about werewolves. Then again, Mrs. Hadley’s always been a bit strange and she seems to get stranger every year.
Upon reaching the house, everyone learns Tom still isn’t home. Jude and Karin tell Charlotte he said he was going over to Paulding’s Pond. Charlotte tries not to seem worried, but because it looks like it’s going to pour AND it’s almost nighttime AND they found a body at the pond, she’s going to get Tom and bring him home. She advises Jude and Karin to stay put in the meantime.
With Charlotte gone, the house is quiet. TOO quiet. Outside, Jude catches a glimpse of the moon before it’s swallowed up by storm clouds. That’s when Jude hears a howling sound, and it’s definitely no dog. That’s a wolf outside! And the howling’s getting closer!
The rain begins to fall and lightning strikes while the lights in the house start to flicker. Something begins to pound on the front door! Jude and Karin run upstairs into the relative safety of Karin’s room, looking out her window to see no one’s outside the front door any longer. Only…
Did anyone actually LOCK the front door? Because that would explain the howling IN the house!
Something starts running up the stairs and Karin immediately tries to barricade the bedroom door. Jude thinks it’d be easier to shinny down the tree in front of Karin’s window, but Karin thinks it’s too far to jump and she needs help blocking the door. Rather than abandon his cousin, Jude helps Karin push her bed against the door and the corner of her closet, so it’s wedged tight.
The intruder behind the door starts furiously banging on it, breaking the latch and opening it a couple of inches. The cousins can briefly make out a furry snout and wolf-like jaws sticking into the room. The werewolf then uses his all his strength and throws himself against the door, hard enough the impact cracks the bed frame!
The door continues to break apart and Jude convinces Karin they have to climb down the tree. Karin hesitates when she sees the gap between the tree and window, but Jude encourages her to try. She makes it down and Jude follows after her just as the hairy figure gets into the room, though he busts his nose against the tree trunk on impact.
Luckily, Charlotte’s returned with Tom in the car and the kids hurry inside telling Charlotte to drive! Everyone watches in horror as the werewolf leaps through the shadows and back into the woods, followed by another ghastly howl.
Karin tells Charlotte all about what happened, and Charlotte starts driving over to the police station. They come back an hour later with an officer and tell him everything, showing him the destruction in Karin’s room. Charlotte believes the kids when they say it was a werewolf, but the officer assures them whatever did this, they’ll catch him or it. [Wing: It is so damn satisfying that Charlotte just flat believes the kids. Rare, and I love it.]
The officer is going to stay at the house for the rest of the night, since the police chief thinks the perp might come back to finish his dirty work. They always return to the scene of the crime. He orders everyone not to go into Karin’s room until the detectives can arrive to go over the place for fingerprints.
And clawprints, (Jude) thinks.
While the officer helps himself to some coffee in the kitchen, the kids discuss what happened and Charlotte tries to call Mrs. Hadley to warn her to lock up. But no one’s answering the phone. Charlotte’s getting worried; she told the police chief he should send someone to keep an eye on Mrs. Hadley as well since she’s so old and lives by herself. In fact, Charlotte wants to go to Hadley’s home to make sure she’s okay.
Jude, Karin, and Tom decide to go with Charlotte, arriving at Hadley’s cottage to see a single dim light in the kitchen window. Charlotte tells the kids to stay in the locked car, but they go with her. After banging on the front door, everyone hears Mrs. Hadley’s voice from one of the windows. She wants to know what everyone’s doing, snooping around. In fact, if they’re gonna snoop they might as well come inside…
At which point Jude and his cousins find the werewolf, writhing in agony on the floor of Mrs. Hadley’s kitchen!
The werewolf, it, it’s dissolving into the floor!
[Wing: Oh no, poor werewolf. What a terrible way to die.]
Mrs. Hadley calmly asks why everyone was so worried about her while they watch in stupefied horror as the werewolf dissolves into nothingness. Jude remembers the supernatural encyclopedia saying a witch could destroy a werewolf when the old woman suddenly takes Jude’s chin and cradles it in her cold, gnarled, hands. Mrs. Hadley kindly offers Charlotte some tea, since she clearly doesn’t look well.
“You are not frightened, are you, my dear? And to think that you were worried about me!” She bursts into a wild, cackling laugh.
Gee well it looks like they had nothing to worry about so Charlotte kind of wants everyone to get fuck out of there now. Mrs. Hadley says yes, the [INSERT TITLE HERE] has passed, but their troubles aren’t over just yet. After all, they know Mrs. Hadley’s little secret. So maybe she might pay them a visit some time… [Wing: Hadley, you basically told them every second sentence. You’re not real great at keeping this a secret.]
As Charlotte herds the kids back into the car, no one’s sure if they should feel better or worse after seeing the werewolf vanish like that. Jude points out their werewolf troubles are over, but how do they deal with a witch?
Like Jude really wants to spend an evening with some creepy old biddy.
Jude joins Tom as Tom decides to explore Paulding’s Pond, or rather, that’s what they were GOING to do. Heading down the forest path to the pond, Tom points out a nearby dirt road and comments he’s never traveled down it before. Jude suggests they check it out instead, especially since Paulding’s Pond is still tied off with crime scene tape. It’d probably be smarter to avoid running into Johnny Law, anyway.
The dirt road is such a mess not even a jeep could drive through it. It abruptly ends at a large pile of brush, set up like some kind of barricade to keep people out.
Maybe TAKE THE HINT, guys, he said as Jude and Tom navigate around the brush pile into the denser, more overgrown part of the woods. The next end point of the trail is a rickety looking wooden shack. Could this be the werewolf’s home? It certainly looks abandoned and has moss and vines growing over one of the walls.
Jude taps on the door and no one answers. Taking that as initiative to enter, Jude and Tom assess the dingy squalor of the werewolf’s supposed abode. It’s got a sink, a woodstove, bed, table, some chairs, and lots and lots of bones! Bones as far as the eye can see littering the floor. Some are clearly chicken and rabbit bones, but others are bigger. Could they be… human?
But oh shit Tom looks out the window and THE WEREWOLF’S COME HOME!
[Wing: Is the werewolf just a wolf man all the time now? That’s certainly a choice, either by the werewolf or the author. How, exactly, does he expect not to get caught if he looks like that all the time? I do like his plaid shirt, though. Very lumberjack.]
The boys can make out the werewolf’s horrible, hairy, fanged face and Tom’s definitely NOT waiting around to see it up close. Tom flees out the door before the werewolf gets closer, but Jude hesitates. The werewolf could overtake him if he tried to follow Tom, so Jude decides to hide under the bed.
Jude hides under the bed for what feels like eternity, wondering if the werewolf already captured Tom. Just as Jude’s about to leave, the werewolf finally bursts into the shack. Jude’s too terrified to look out from under the bed to see what the werewolf’s doing, but he can hear the werewolf mulling about. That’s when Jude can smelly a greasy, smoky, meaty smell. The werewolf’s cooking? He’s a regular Martha Stewart.
That’s when the werewolf drags Jude out from under the bed! Howling, the werewolf grabs Jude and throws him into a chair in front of the table, a fresh and bloody rabbit skin draped over the wooden frame. On the stove appears to be a bubbling pot of rabbit stew. The werewolf ladles a bowl of stew and shoves it in front of Jude. He likes Jude. He wants Jude to be his special friend.
[Wing: …is this a Little Red Riding Hood retelling?]
Jude looks down at the greasy, bloody broth. Bits of rabbit meat and bones float around in it. Jude definitely does not want any of THAT in his intestinal track, but the werewolf doesn’t take kindly to rudeness. He says Jude can leave after he eats the stew…
So Jude FLINGS THE BOWL IN THE WEREWOLF’S FACE!
Jude’s about to run until he notices the werewolf starting to change. In seconds the werewolf transforms into a rather ordinary, harmless, crying man. Having no idea what this really means, Jude runs back to Charlotte’s house and doesn’t look back.
It feels like the [INSERT TITLE HERE] is over for good.
[Wing: JUDE. You hurt his feelings. He was just trying to make a friend. And rabbit is delicious. Poor werewolf. Poor, poor werewolf.]
I can’t fault Jude for being a picky eater since I am too… wait, this got too meta for me to handle.
Some of the bad endings involve Tom or Karin being turned into werewolves, or Jude left alone with the officer who turns out to be the werewolf. [Wing: TURNING INTO A WEREWOLF IS NOT A BAD ENDING, PACKARD! WHAT THE HELL, DUDE.]
I definitely prefer Karin’s story since it goes longer than Tom’s if you want to reach a (marginally) good ending. I actually feel the same way about Karin’s path in the digital version. The CD-ROM game’s a definite improvement over both stories, especially in regards to Mrs. Hadley’s characterization and the werewolf. That’s all I’ll say.
[Wing: I love that Hadley gets more characterization in the game. That’s a nice update. Also: WEREWOLVES ACTUAL WEREWOLVES HAPPY BIRTHDAY WING.]
I bumped into this series when screwing around on Archive.org and was tickled pink by the thing on the back saying “Give yourself goosebumps…choose your own nightmare”. I love when these aren’t even subtle, it’s great.
Speaking of being tickled pink, I approve of seeing Nightmare Room and Spooksville there. Hadn’t heard of a couple of those, Doomsday Mall sounds interesting.