Recap #340: Goosebumps #48: Attack of the Jack-O’-Lanterns by R.L. Stine

Title: Goosebumps #48 – Attack of the Jack-O’-Lanterns, a.k.a. “I Wanna Be A Pumpkin For Halloween!”

Author: R.L. Stine

Cover Artist: Tim Jacobus

Tagline: Put one head in front of the other…

Summary: Pumpkin Power!

Nothing beats Halloween. It’s Drew Brockman’s favorite holiday. And this year will be awesome. Much better than last year. Or the year Lee and Tabby played that joke. A nasty practical joke on Drew and her best friend, Walker.

Yes, this year Drew and Walker have a plan. A plan for revenge. It involves two scary pumpkin heads.

But something’s gone wrong. Way wrong. Because the pumpkin heads are a little too scary. A little too real. With strange hissing voices. And flames shooting out of their faces…

Initial Thoughts

[Wing: Happy Summerween!]

Attack of the Jack-O’-Lanterns is one of my lowkey childhood Goosebumps faves, even though the original version is problematic to the point several parts of it were edited in its rereleases. This one happens to make me think about Halloween AND Christmas. One of my earliest memories as a little kid was of seeing this book solicited in a Toys R Us holiday catalog. [Wing: Talk about nostalgia kicking in. I didn’t even shop at Toys R Us as a kid (there wasn’t one nearby, and it was somewhat more expensive than what we could afford), but Ostrich loved it, and to this day, I tease him about it, and especially how Geoffrey the Giraffe turned to indie wrestling after the stores closed in the US.]

Among some of the aspects of this book which haven’t aged well, there’s:

  • Lee, one of the antagonists, is described by the narrative as an African American kid who “struts and acts real cool, like a rapper on an MTV music video” (Because it was the 90s you see)
  • Walker, Drew’s best friend, decides to dress up for Halloween as “a dark and stormy night.” Which included putting black-colored make-up over his face to go with his all black clothing and black-colored water pistol. [Wing: Clever costume idea, though. Do a mix of blues and purples to really get depth in the darkness, gray for the storm clouds and what not, this could be a lot of fun.]
  • There’s mention of four missing adults throughout the latter half of the story, with all of them being described as very fat when Drew sees their picture. Likewise, Drew’s dad calls her friends Shane and Shana “roly poly.”
  • All of these elements were edited out of subsequent rereleases. Lee’s only mentioned having brown skin, Walker using make-up is removed, and there’s no mention of anyone’s body size.

I’m the first to admit this story isn’t the best of Stine’s original 62. The first several chapters are told looking back on the previous Halloweens, explaining why Drew wants revenge, before going into the present day. Its TV adaption streamlined the plot and story, doing a better job of conveying the conflict and horror than the original book did. It also featured the delightful Erica Luttrell as main character Drew.

Some of you may remember the commission I have from artist of Alitha Martinez of Erica as “Super Drew.” I’ll have it in the recap below.

It also edited out the more unfortunate aspects of the story, including the aforementioned make-up and the weight comments. To say anything else would spoil the story.

(TW: Body shaming, racism)


There’s one thing Drew Brockman loves more than anything, and that’s Halloween. She loves the days leading up to it, when summer becomes autumn, and people start raking leaves and burning wood in their fireplaces. She loves the candy, the costumes, the scares. Really, who could pass up on the opportunity to become something else for an entire night?

It’s a night when she doesn’t have to be reminded of how short she is, with her little pointy ears and pointy nose. Which leads us to two things Drew hates.

The first thing she hates is her dad calling her “Elf.” Yeah, she knows she looks like an elf, she doesn’t need reminding. Her dad says stuff like that about everyone. He even called Drew’s friends Shane and Shana “roly poly” since they’re both short and a little chubby, with their blonde curly hair and red cheeks.

Her dad might be able to get away with it, but God help you if you call her “Elf.” Not even Drew’s best friend, Walker Parkes, is allowed to call her “Elf.” That earned him a big foot stomping.

Of course, Drew admits she’s just a little bit mischievous like an elf.

“Where are you going, Drew?” Dad called from the den.

“Out,” I told him, and slammed the front door behind me. I like to keep my parents guessing. I try never to give them a straight answer.

You might say I’m as mischievous as an elf. But if you said it, I’d stomp on your foot, too!

I’m tough. Ask anyone. They’ll tell you that Drew Brockman is tough. When you’re the shrimpiest girl in your class, you’ve got to be tough.

The second (and third) thing Drew hates? Tabitha Weiss and Lee Winston, two bullies who ruined Drew’s Halloween two years running. They’re stuck-up snobs who’re always saying mean things to Drew and her friends. Drew can’t stand them, Walker can’t stand them, and Shane and Shana Martin can’t stand them either. With good reason, due to the horrible thing they did two years ago.


Tabby and Lee approached Drew and Walker while Walker fixed his bike. Even in the breezy Autumn wind, Tabby’s blonde hair stayed perfectly in place. Fitting for someone Drew’s dad refers to as “Little Miss Perfect.”

[Wing: Drew’s dad is way too involved with the kids around her.]

Lee was chewing on a huge glob of green apple bubblegum, also as usual. For some reason the girls in school are all nuts about him, despite that you can barely understand a word he says most of the time due to all the gum he chews. [Wing: Gross. I hate the sound of chewing.]

Tabby made a disgusted face and pointed a finger at me. “Drew, you have something hanging from your nose,” she said.

“Oh-!” I shot my hand up and rubbed the bottom of my nose. Nothing there.

“Sorry,” Tabby snickered. “It only looked like you did.”

Per the norm for Tabby. She always makes fun of Drew for her appearance.

[Wing: Mocking someone for their nose can carry a lot of racism and antisemitism, at least in the US. I don’t think this is intentional, but damn, just another thing on top of everything else.]

Lee saw Walker’s bike and bragged about his own being a FORTY-TWO speed instead of Walker’s twelve-speed. [Wing: Forty-two?! Is that even possible? A Google later tells me possibly and also, I don’t care enough to dig deeper. I’m going to roll with it being obnoxious bragging even if it is possible and move on.] His is “special,” he somehow managed to sneer while also blowing a huge bubble.

“Did you get a haircut?” Tabby asked me, studying my windblown hair.

“No,” I replied.

“I didn’t think so,” she said. She smoothed her perfect hair back with one hand.

ANYWAY, Lee cut off his bullying long enough to tell Drew and Walker about his Halloween party. It’s gonna have everything. Bobbing for apples, hot apple cider, scary stories, all that good shit.

[Wing: I will never, ever understand the appeal of bobbing for apples. You’re basically putting your head in spit water.]

Drew and Walker really should’ve known better…

Come Halloween, the party was in full swing. Lee went all out decorating the place, though it was nowhere near as classy as Justine Cameron’s famous shindig a few years ago. That party was… red hot, right Wing? [Wing: Boooooo.]

Of course Tabby dressed up as a princess because she’s perfect. But geez, Tabby, how could you ask Drew if she’s a mouse when she is CLEARLY a Klingon from Star Trek. You’re lucky Michael Dorn couldn’t make it tonight. [Wing: Don’t worry, I’ll keep him busy. I had a huge crush on Worf back in the day.] Growling, Drew nevertheless mingled with the twins who were wearing snowman costumes carved out of Styrofoam blocks. [Wing: Okay, that’s kind of adorable.]

“Great party, huh?” Shane chimed in. “Everyone from our class is here. Did you see Byrna Morse’s costume? She sprayed her whole body with silver spray paint. Her face and hair, too!”

“What’s she supposed to be?” I demanded, searching the crowded room for her. “Silver Surfer?”

“No, I think the Statue of Liberty,” Shane replied. “She was carrying a plastic torch.”

…if I had a nickel for every time R.L. Stine wrote a Halloween-themed book involving someone wearing silver on their entire body for a costume, I’d have two nickels.

Which isn’t a lot, but it’s weird it’s happened twice.

Walker wasn’t having the best time. His mummy costume kept unraveling because his mom sucked at wrapping him up. Good thing he was wearing clothes undern-CRASH!

What was that?

Everyone stopped when they heard crashing noises and low voices. Lee, dressed as Batman, realized there was someone in the basement. And they were coming up the stairs!

The kids started panicking when Lee couldn’t find his parents AND the phone was dead, at which point two masked intruders burst into the living room. The tall figures wore matching black jackets and jeans. One had a ski mask on, the other wore a gorilla mask. The intruders blocked the entrance to the living room, trapping the kids inside.

Lee demanded to know what happened to his parents. Ski Mask joked his parents probably ran off when they saw the two breaking inside. It’s THEIR party now, and they wanna play some games.

The intruders forced all the kids to get on the floor if they knew what was good for them. For Shane and Shana in their bulky costumes that proved difficult until their Styrofoam outfits finally broke apart. The intruders told the kids to start doing push-ups. For, oh, two hours should be good. Then they’ll think of something HARD.

Unable to leave with the intruders blocking both exits, Drew and the party guests started doing push-ups. Curse Drew for living a sedentary lifestyle. She was exhausted by the fifth push-up. But you know what really zapped her energy, Wing?

Seeing Tabitha and Lee laughing like fiends on the other side of the living room.


[Wing: Uh, this is one of the weirdest, least funny, least effective prank I’ve ever seen.]

Drew, Walker, the twins, and everyone else grew repulsed as they realized this was nothing but an excuse to pull a gross prank. As Tabitha and Lee kept on laughing, the “intruders” pulled their masks off. Drew recognized them as Todd Jeffrey, Lee’s next door neighbor, and Todd’s friend Joe. The high school students were quite pleased with themselves for pulling such a “joke.”

The guests trudged out of the house, muttering in disgust at Tabitha and Lee. Walker’s costume was now as ruined as Shane and Shana’s when Lee’s parents finally showed up. Oh Todd, they were just at your house talking to your parents. They didn’t know you were helping Lee with his party, that’s so nice!

Parents, Wing. Just, just, parents. [Wing: Just don’t understand.]


After Tabitha and Lee’s totally bogus Halloween party, Drew and her friends decided to have a little party of their own the following year. They spent all their free time brainstorming outlandish, insidious ways to enact vengeance. Shane and Shana had a lot of terrifying ideas, but they were either too scary or too impractical. They didn’t want to do boring old paper skeletons and wimpy jack-o’-lanterns.

“I think jack-o’-lanterns are plenty scary,” I insisted. “Especially when you put candles in them. And their dark faces light up with those jagged, evil grins.”

“Jack-o’-lanterns are babyish,” Walker argued. “No one is afraid of a jack-o’-lantern.”

And I’m sure Walker won’t regret saying this by the end of the book.

The week before Halloween, the Revenge Quartet were hard at work implementing ideas they spent a year dreaming up. However, they wanted this to be SCARY, not MEAN. Especially considering the kids in Drew’s class were still traumatized and having nightmares about Tabitha and Lee’s party. Drew wanted to make absolutely certain no one was caught in the crossfire. Their only targets would be Tabitha and Lee.

I do appreciate that Drew’s not SO blinded by revenge. She wants payback, but she’s unwilling to write off her classmates as necessary sacrifices to achieve her goal.

Drew’s quartet were so focused on vengeance they didn’t even care about homework. Though she still felt Shane and Shana needed to dial their twisted little minds back a bit. Drew and Walker wanted simple, straightforward scares. (TW: Spiders) Like dumping fake cobwebs and Walker’s pet tarantula in Tabitha’s hair.

Walker’s idea of cutting a trap door into the living room was daring, but Drew couldn’t see her parents going for it. Plus she doesn’t want to deal with Tabitha and Lee potentially breaking their necks, even though she’s often fantasized about it.

Shane and Shana did come through on some gross practical effects, like fake puddles of blood and bags of disgusting green slime.

“Where did you buy this?” I asked. “At the same store?”

“No. It came out of Shana’s nose!” Shane joked.

Walker suggested they make the slime drip down from the ceiling, covering Tabitha and Lee. Drew kept having to ask how they’d execute these ideas. SOMEONE needs to be the practical one, after all. The twins proposed having jack-o’-lanterns spew slime and blood, but Drew’s more focused on trapping Tabitha and Lee. Grossing them out is one thing, but they have to think they’re in danger. They need to be TERRIFIED.

That’s when the lights went out and Drew heard… THE VOICE.

“Come with me.

Come home with me now.

Come home to where you belong.

Come home – to the grave.”

Wow! Nice job Walker! That portable tape player (BECAUSE IT WAS THE 90S YOU SEE) will knock ’em dead. Would you believe that was his own voice on the tape?

With everything they needed to scar Tabitha and Lee for life, Drew’s friends started setting up the party. They carved ugly jack-o’-lanterns and filled them with plastic roaches. They built an 8 foot tall monster out of papier-mache and rigged it up in the coat closet. With the slime and blood at their disposal alongside fake vermin and all kinds of nasty surprises, Drew couldn’t wait for Halloween.

And to think it was all ruined by a single phone call.

The night of the party, just before the guests started arriving, Drew got a call from Tabitha to tell her… SHE’S NOT COMING.

Tabitha and Lee got a better offer, to trick-or-treat with Lee’s cousin at his neighborhood where they can get tons of candy. See ya Drew, wouldn’t wanna be ya! [Wing: Building the entire plan around Tabitha and Lee actually showing up at their party was a fool’s move.]

Just like that, an entire year planning revenge was destroyed in an instant. Drew almost started crying, but her anguish turned to horror when she saw the brand new hole in her parents’ leather couch! The green slime the twins brought with them ate through the couch! Oh man Drew I hope your mom doesn’t-oh hi Mrs. Brockman when did you get here?



Drew wished she had a decent plan to scare Tabitha and Lee. Now she owes them for two ruined Halloweens and a hole in the couch.

Come the 31st, Tabby’s dressed as a space princess. Like a regular princess, but from space. Lee didn’t have time to get a new costume, so he borrowed his little brother’s Superman outfit. Drew and Walker were bedsheet ghosts. Shane and Shana hadn’t joined them yet.

That Halloween night was bittersweet, because by next year everyone would be too old to trick-or-treat. You’re never too old to trick-or-treat, kids! Not so long as keep you the spirit of Halloween alive in your heart.

Drew suggested they start the night by trick-or-treating in The Willows, a neighborhood where all the houses are close together. They’ll save time that way. As they travelled the secluded area getting candy, Tabitha was the only one who got compliments for her costume. The Willows ended in a dead end cul-de-sac when Walker noticed one last house way in the back. A lit jack-o’-lantern resided in the front window, giving a hint someone was home.

The old woman who opened the door couldn’t believe it! Oh, the kids all have such darling, amazing costumes! They’re stupendous! Drew wondered what sort of taste this lady’s got in Halloween costumes when the woman asked the kids to come inside. She wanted her husband to see their fantabulous costumes. He’s old so it’s hard for him to get up. Come in, come IN kids!

Yes that’s it come all the way in past the living room…

Past the kitchen…

Into the back room with all of the OTHER kids!

Drew gasped as she was shoved into a room filled with miserable, unhappy kids in Halloween costumes. And one old man, who says how much he LOVES their costumes. Why, him and his wife love their costumes so much, they want Drew and her friends to stay in their house… FOREVER!

…which is what Drew would LIKE to happen to Tabitha and Lee. Oh but don’t worry, her and Walker would’ve escaped through a side door.


Drew was still smiling from the thought when her friends arrived to discuss this year’s revenge scheme. Even though the others got a kick hearing Drew’s daydream, Shana feels they need to focus on the now. As in now it’s time to get serious. That’s two Halloweens in a row which were a bust directly and indirectly because of Tabitha and Lee. But this time, absolutely NO parties.

Shane and Shana decide they’ll handle everything. They’ve already got a scheme worked out, and just need Drew and Walker’s approval. Drew and Walker can’t believe how mean the plan is. How scary. How twisted. You’d never think twins as cute and innocent looking as Shane and Shana could imagine a plan like that, said absolutely no one who has ever watched The Shining.

The twins claim to have it all taken care of on their end. All Drew and Walker need to do is make sure Tabitha and Lee meet up for trick-or-treating.

If only Drew’s mom decided she can’t go trick-or-treating this year.

Nope, no fake out this time. Mrs. Brockman tells her daughter it’s not safe to go out on Halloween. Hasn’t she been following the news? [Wing: Obviously not.] Drew almost spills the beans saying she has to go out to exact horrible revenge, but holds back. Mrs. Brockman explains a bunch of people were recently reported missing. Four of them to be exact. She shows the kids the newspaper article, with photos of four overweight men and women who have disappeared without a trace. How do we know they’re overweight? Because Stine HAD to include describing one of them as “practically having six chins.” Loverly.

“Why would four fat people disappear into thin air?” Walker asked.


Though Drew and her friends beg and plead, Mrs. Brockman is resolute on her decision. Drew cannot go out on Halloween, and that’s final.

…good thing Drew has two parents or this book would be really short! Mr. Brockman gets his wife to reconsider, so long as Drew stays with a group at all times and remains in their neighborhood. Relax, Mrs. B, Drew and her buddies are smart, responsible kids. They know better than to go looking for trouble, right Drew?

With that little bit of parental blockage removed, Drew now had to lure Tabitha and Lee into her clutches to enact their evil plan. She headed for Lee’s house one gray afternoon and found him and Tabitha in the middle of costume construction. This year Lee’s a bee. He’s going for something like this:

But he refuses to have a stinger. How’s he supposed to sit down with a big stinger glued to his butt? A question which has plagued mankind for generations.

Tabitha was her usual charming self as he greeted Drew.

“Drew – have you lost weight?” she asked.

“Excuse me? No.”

“Oh. I guess you like your sweatsuit baggy like that – huh?”

Believing in delayed gratification, Drew restrains from murdering Tabitha right then and there. It wouldn’t be fair to Walker and the twins. Surprisingly, it took little to convince the terrible twosome to join Drew’s group for trick-or-treating. [Wing: Why do they trust that it will work this year when it didn’t last year?!]

It was sure to be the scariest Halloween ever.

For all involved.

A week later and Halloween finally arrived. Drew put together a superhero costume using a red tablecloth, white vinyl boots, blue tights and a top, red boxer shorts, and a red cardboard mask. Super Drew!

Okay but the TV show DEFINITELY improved on this.

Drew Brockman by Alitha Martinez

Thanks again for this, Alitha.

If only Drew’s dad hadn’t held her up wanting to take photos of her costume. Come on Drew, smile! Smile for the camera! At least your Dad doesn’t have one of those evil cameras that changes the future.

Drew’s stuck dealing with the parental need to get a photo that is JUST RIGHT when Walker shows up dressed entirely in black. Black sweater. Black pants. Black gloves. Black ski cap. Black… make-up. On his face.




Well I’m not gonna pretend it didn’t happen.

Anyway, Walker explains he’s dressed as “A dark and stormy night.” He’s got the dark part down, and as for stormy, he whips out a water pistol and gives Mr. Brockman a spritz. He thinks it’s hilarious, while Drew’s wondering when they’re gonna get out of here. Mrs. Brockman is the only one to point out such a dark costume might not be safe to wear at night. [Wing: Reflective lightning would be perfect here.]

Finally free, Drew and Walker hurry to meet up with Tabitha and Lee. Halloween was happening all around them, beneath a clear sky with a sliver of a moon above. Reaching the street where they were supposed to meet, Drew is worried when she doesn’t see Tabitha or Lee. Walker figures they’re trying to be “fashionably” late when they hear the cough.

Actually, it’s more of a growl.

Not a human growl, either. It sounds like OH SHIT WHAT IS THAT?!

“Noooo-!” I cried out as two ugly creatures came snarling through the hedge.

I saw only a blur of rugged fur. Open jaws. Saliva-covered teeth.

Before I could move, one of the creatures leaped onto me, snarling and growling. It shoved me roughly down to the grass. And dug its fangs into my shoulder.

Unfortunately Wing, it’s not actually werewolves. [Wing: Shocking. I’ll be over here mourning the lack of actual werewolves.] It’s just those two shitheads Todd and Joe, helping Tabby and Lee give Drew and Walker another scare. Don’t these guys have anything better to do than harass middle school students? At that point Drew wished she really was a superhero so she could pummel them with her super strength or fly away so she wouldn’t have to see them ever again.

More incentivized than ever to get revenge, Drew keeps cool asking if Todd and Joe are tagging along. They insist they’ve got better things to do than trick-or-treat with some crybabies. They dressed up for the much more adult calling of scaring little kids. Charming.

As the two dumbasses depart to dumbass somewhere else, Drew’s group starts collecting candy. They’ll meet up with Shane and Shana later. But wait, Drew’s watch says it’s 8:15! The twins were supposed to meet up with them at 8! Drew internally worries, hoping something hadn’t happened to them. [Wing: God forbid something else get them before you finally achieve your vengeance, Drew.]

Drew can’t help wondering what happened to Shane and Shana as she goes up to houses receiving treats. Tabby has to nag her into holding her bag out to get some Milky Way bars. Surprisingly, this year Tabby’s not a princess. She’s a ballerina.

Even Walker seems worried about the twins. He doesn’t correct a woman when she asks if he’s a lump of coal. A couple of little kids handing out bags of candy corn like Lee’s bee costume but ask where his stinger is.

“I stuck it in someone,” Lee told him.

Meanwhile, Walker tells the kids he’s a lump of coal when they ask if he’s a monster.

Drew’s almost on the verge of panicking; the entire plan could fall apart if the twins don’t show up. Tabby and Lee are too busy inspecting their haul and tossing away any apples they’ve received, with Tabby feeling the need to whine about how “cheap” some people can be. Drew’s found yet another reason to be disgusted by what assholes these two are.

They headed further down the street and it was getting late. Many of the younger kids were starting to return home. It was then Drew’s group was joined by two newbies. They looked like Todd and Joe from a distance, until Drew saw it definitely wasn’t them.

In front of Drew’s quartet were two tall, robed figures wearing huge pumpkins over their heads. Jack-o’-lanterns with nasty grins carved into their faces. Their costumes are dark green, almost like pumpkin vines. And flames! They’ve got actual flames burning in their triangular eyes, inside their orange faces!

If only Tabby and Lee gave a shit. Like, gag me with a spoon, guys. They know it’s the twins. Tabby and Lee totally figured Drew had something planned when she invited them to go trick-or-treating. It was so obvious. But, passing grade for effort. Those pumpkins look kinda scary, anyway. How are they getting those flames to work?

Trouble is, Drew doesn’t think the pumpkinheads actually ARE Shane and Shana. This seems far more elaborate than what the twins are capable of. Why aren’t Tabby and Lee scared? Great, another disastrous Halloween.

The pumpkinheads remained silent as Tabby and Lee continued to mock them for their pitiful attempts at a Halloween scare. But time’s a-wasting and there’s candy to be found. That’s when the pumpkinheads finally spoke up.

“Let’s go somewhere else,” the jack-o’-lantern said from somewhere inside the pumpkin head. His voice came out in a hoarse crackle. Too harsh to be a whisper. A dry, choked sound.

“Somewhere else,” his partner echoed. Her voice also came out in a hoarse crackle. Like dry, dead leaves being crinkled together.

“Excuse me?” Lee cried.

“We know a better neighborhood,” the first pumpkin head crackled. The jagged mouth, cut through the thick pumpkin flesh, didn’t move. The voice hissed from inside. The orange and yellow flames tossed in rhythm to the words.

“We know a better neighborhood.”

“A neighborhood you won’t soon forget.”

Tabby and Lee think this is hilarious, and are all for seeing this “better” neighborhood. Only lose the voices. They’re not scary at all. The Jack-O’-Lanterns beckon the kids to follow them to this better neighborhood. Walker and Drew are worried, discussing between how this wasn’t the plan they set up with Shane and Shana. They have no idea where they’re being led.

So yeah, being directed away from all the usual houses into the woods by two total strangers who may or may not be your friends in disguise that’s certainly a way to go.

The Jack-O’-Lanterns guide the four kids past the houses, even as Lee mentions they’re missing out on some good candy. It’s supposedly all for the sake of trying a new, better neighborhood, where they can get lots more candy. Walker’s still wondering what the end game is with Shane and Shana. If that IS Shane and Shana.

Tabby and Lee are more worried about missing houses known for giving out good candy, but the Jack-O’-Lanterns insist they know where they’re going.

“A new neighborhood,” one of them croaked.

“Let’s try a new neighborhood,” the other one echoed.

“A better neighborhood.”

As the Jack-O’-Lanterns led the kids away from the houses, away from the neighborhood, Drew remembered the missing adults. The four people who vanished without a trace. And here the kids are, following two strangers(?) deep into the woods. Maybe Drew’s mom knew what she was talking about. Drew has to tell herself this is all part of the plan. The pumpkin ghouls have to be Shane and Shana.

But what do they have planned?

By now Tabby and Lee are getting frustrated. They’ve been walking through the woods for so long, their costumes are getting soaked with mud. How much longer?

Well the waiting’s over as the kids step out of the woods onto a narrow, brightly lit street with houses as far as the eye can see! Houses and houses all decorated for Halloween! Awesome! Drew, Tabby and Lee are eager to do some serious trick-or-treating, but Walker’s the only one to ask what neighborhood is this? He’s never seen these houses before.

Everyone is home at these houses. Most give out candy. Some give out money. They especially love the pumpkinheads. House after house the kids get candy until their bags are bulging with goodies in no time. That’s not good enough for the Jack-O’-Lanterns, who order the kids to hurry up. They’ve got more houses to get to. Lots more houses. No one cares about your ripped shoelace, Walker. Or your bag being full, Drew. There’s no time to waste!

The Jack-O’-Lanterns demand the kids keep trick-or-treating, even though it’s late and everyone’s bags are full.

“You can’t quit!” A pumpkin head snapped.

“Huh?” Lee’s mouth dropped open.

“Keep going! You can’t quit!” the pumpkin head insisted.

They both appeared to float up, to rise up over us. The fires raged in their triangle eyes. The heads floated up over the dark, caped bodies.

“You can’t quit! You can’t EVER quit!”

Now even Lee’s getting scared, but Tabby’s unmoved. The Jack-O’-Lanterns move to block her from leaving, the fires raging within their carved faces. They start to circle around the kids as flames pour from their mouths, creating a wall of fire!

With no choice but to obey, the kids resume trick-or-treating. The people at the houses they visit comment it’s kind of late, they should be getting home. Do your parents know you’re still out?

Lee has to drag his bag with both hands while Drew looks around. There are no other kids outside, and no cars coming down either side of the street. The quartet and the Jack-O’-Lanterns are the only ones trick-or-treating. Despite their protests, the kids are told they can’t stop.

“You can’t stop now! Hurry!”

“Lots more houses. This is the BEST neighborhood!”

The Jack-O’-Lanterns chant that the kids cannot stop, the flames growing hotter and brighter. Drew realizes these two AREN’T the twins! This isn’t Shane or Shana! Who are these guys?!

Tabby’s still not falling for it, and her bluster is infectious as even Lee’s regaining some courage. Drew exclaims this isn’t a joke, and those two aren’t Shane and Shana. Shure, Drew. Tabby’s had enough and yanks off one of the pumpkins to prove it’s not…


It’s not…

T-there’s no head underneath, Wing.

There’s no head!


Tabby screams as she drops the pumpkin on the ground, and Lee follows suit as the pumpkin MOVES in his hands! The two Jack-O’-Lanterns look up with flaming smiles from the ground. Nearby, the two bodies stood perfectly still. There was no opening or nothing where the Jack-O’-Lanterns had been placed. As if they were never attached to the bodies at all.

Over on the other side, Tabby and Lee were huddled together. Costumes askew and completely terrified as the smiles on the Jack-O’-Lanterns grew wider and nastier.

“Hee hee hee heeeeee.”

An ugly laugh escaped their mouths. An evil, dry sound. More like a throat clearing, more like a cough than a laugh.

“Hee hee heeeeeeeeee.”

The pumpkins kept on laughing as their bodies quickly collected them. Instead of putting them back on their shoulders, the bodies held the Jack-O’-Lanterns up to their chests as they laughed. Flames flickering, casting nasty shadows, Drew asked who these people were before she tried to run away with Walker. No good. The Jack-O’-Lanterns proved too fast and blocked the way with their heads spouting flames.

Once again the Jack-O’-Lanterns chanted that the kids had to keep trick-or-treating. They can’t stop. Never stop. As flames shot out from their heads, their crackly voices chanted the kids would keep trick-or-treating… FOREVER!

Come on guys, it’s not that bad! Think of it like a game. Ever play Trick-Or-Treat Beat?

At the very next house, Drew made a plea for help.

A woman came to the door and dropped packages of Hershey’s kisses into our bags. “You kids are out awfully late,” she said. “Do you live around here?”

“No,” I replied. “We don’t really know where we are. We’re in a strange neighborhood, and we’re being forced to trick-or-treat by two headless pumpkin creatures. And they say they’re going to make us trick-or-treat forever. Help us – please! You’ve got to help us!”

“Ha-ha! That’s good!” the woman laughed. “That’s very funny. You have a very good imagination.”

How did you think that was going to go, Drew?

At the next house the kids don’t even try to ask for help. They converse amongst themselves how to escape those monsters keeping them hostage. What do they really have in store for them? Drew can see Tabby’s so scared she’s going to cry.

At long last the kids see someone else on the street! A man in a blue work uniform! Drew and the others run up to him, hoping he might believe their story about being trapped by pumpkin monsters.

Yeah, funny guys, but it’s late and he just got off the clock. Happy Hallo-whatever.

As the worker leaves, the Jack-O’-Lanterns reappear and are very unhappy the kids are wasting time. Oh, are your widdle tweat bags too full? Start eating.

You heard them kids, start. EATING!

Too afraid to talk back, the kids starting eating their Halloween candy. Not fast enough for the Jack-O’-Lanterns who order them to eat faster. The kids quickly grow sick from basically swallowing candy whole, chocolate and caramel and sugar smeared on their faces. Lee almost chokes on a glob of taffy until Tabby helps him.

It only got worse from there.

Now that they’re nauseous and terrified, the Jack-O’-Lanterns force the kids to resume trick-or-treating. Lee’s on the verge of puking and Tabby’s about to start crying, but the Jack-O’-Lanterns don’t care. Time doesn’t matter here, in this neighborhood where the kids can trick or treat forever. Don’t worry, everyone is still up in THIS neighborhood.

At the next house, whatever hopes Drew might have had are quickly crushed when the kids are greeted by another Jack-O’-Lantern!

I stared at the creature in the yellow porch light. A woman. A woman with a grinning jack-o’-lantern head.

“Trick or treat?” she asked, turning her jagged smile on us. Orange flames danced and flickered inside her head.

More and more Jack-O’-Lanterns appear in every house the kids go to. The entire neighborhood is filled with the pumpkinheaded monsters!

The kids have finally reached their limit. Exhausted, sick and scared, they can’t trick-or-treat anymore. The two Jack-O’-Lanterns don’t threaten them this time. Instead, they raise their heads upwards and let out a shrill scream. A geyser of flames emerge from their mouths, up into the night sky. Drew then sees more Jack-O’-Lanterns marching down both sides of the street! Out of the houses the pumpkin ghouls make their way and surround the four kids.

Chanting “Trick or Treat,” the Jack-O’-Lanterns have the kids totally trapped in a circle. Four step forward, each holding a new pumpkin.

You know what they say Wing. If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em!

Tabby screams as a pumpkin is slammed down over her head, followed by Lee! Drew and Walker huddle close, begging for mercy, begging to be let go as Tabby and Lee run off, screaming the whole way and clawing at their pumpkin heads.


Shane, Shana, you guys were great! Tabby and Lee are completely scared out of their minds! The plan worked!

Boy, Wing, Drew really had us all fooled didn’t she? Of COURSE she and Walker knew the Jack-O’-Lanterns were really Shane and Shana, using their alien shapeshifting powers the whole time. Boy it sure is great when your best friends are actually from another planet, and they got all their friends to help out! The only reason they didn’t have the twins use their powers before is so no one found out their secret, but Drew and Walker were desperate this time. [Wing: Yeah, yeah, I zero percent believe they didn’t use those powers for anything else ever.]

Oh but don’t worry, Tabby and Lee can take the heads off no problem. They’ll probably realize that once they calm down. See, harmless!

On the way home, Drew and Walker thank the twins again for finally teaching Tabby and Lee a lesson. They even share some of their Halloween candy with the twins to say thanks.

That’s real nice of you Drew, but Shane and Shana don’t eat candy. And Drew’s so skinny, she has nothing to worry about, since Shane and Shana’s people only eat plump adults.

Ha-ha, very funny you guys.



Final Thoughts

Yep that’s right they were aliens the whole time. And this isn’t the first or last time Stine’s used this twist.

I don’t know what it says about me but I still enjoy this book for the concept of being forced to trick-or-treat against your will.

As I said, the TV adaption streamlined this book and fixed it in several areas.

  • The twins are Drew’s old friends who moved away at one point before she was friends with Walker, but have come back to visit for Halloween.
  • The entire scare is orchestrated solely by Shane and Shana. They take it upon themselves to scare Tabby and Lee and only tell Drew and Walker “they’ll handle it.” As such, Drew legitimately wasn’t sure if the Jack-O’-Lanterns were the twins, and Walker was completely unaware of the twins being aliens.
  • The segment with Drew’s daydream is turned into an actual nightmare she has before Halloween, showing her worries about how the night might go.
  • Walker’s costume is given a black ski mask.
  • The plot point about the missing adults is established at the beginning. Walker expresses worry that it’s not safe to trick or treat, and Drew has to convince her mom by pointing out the disappearances happened in another town. Tabby even guesses the Jack-O’-Lanterns were responsible. [Wing: Why in the world would the twins (and whatever other aliens are also around) hunt in their own town? It makes far more sense for the disappearance to happen in a different town in the first place.]
  • The revelation of Shane and Shana’s eating habits is played seriously when they admit to having eaten the four adults, and warn Drew not to fill up on candy because they WILL come back next year to feast again.

Again, I know this book is frustrating, problematic, and not the greatest, but I can’t imagine Halloween without it.

…I’m going to Hell, aren’t I?

[Wing: This was a delight of a story, and with some surprisingly grey characters for a Stine book. The twins as both heroes and villains was nice, and the Halloween shenanigans kind of hilarious.]