Literature / Nightmare Hour

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"These are my scariest stories ever," says R.L. Stine, "because I wrote them at the Nightmare Hour." You know when that is...it's when the lights fade, the real world slips into shadow, and the cold, moonlit world of evil dreams takes over your mind."
Back quote of the book

Nightmare Hour is a 1999 collection of ten short stories by Goosebumps author R. L. Stine. Unlike many of his works, these stories aren't tied to a particular series, but stand on their own as disturbing tales. They range from an encounter with a ghost that wants human skin to a group of suspicious kids arranging an "Alien Club" to spending a night in the hospital on Halloween and being mistaken for an amputation patient.

It was followed by a sequel collection of sorts called The Haunting Hour, which really has nothing much to do with the TV series of the same name, though stories from this and The Haunting Hour were used as episodes.


Nightmare Hour provides examples of:

  • Abusive Parents: The Mom in "Make Me a Witch":
    Mom: If you tried harder, you would look almost pretty.
  • Adult Fear: Many of the stories involve children being victimized in various ways. "Afraid of Clowns" particularly demonstrates this as a scared child is victimized by clowns essentially beating him and yet the audience just continues to laugh despite the child's obviously real pain. In the TV version, the scared child is turned into a clown, with his parents explaining to him that it's a part of his growing up, as they're demon clowns who pose as humans. Either way, the child is scared shitless and everyone has fun at his expense.
  • All Hallows' Eve: The setting of "Pumpkinhead" and "I'm Not Martin" both take place on Halloween day.
  • Always Chaotic Evil: Clowns, according to "Afraid of Clowns". This turns out to be true of course since they openly enjoy killing children.
  • Aliens Are Bastards: The kids of "Alien Candy" are alien monstrosities that single out chubby children so they can have a meal.
  • Amusing Injuries: How the clown and audience respond to Christopher in "Afraid of Clowns", as well as any other previous victims, thinking it is an act (the audience only) but all the while very droll, but of course, not to the victim, and of course, it is not just an act.
  • And I Must Scream: The fate of the children who become "Pumpkinheads" get their heads ripped off of their bodies and replaced by pumpkins while they remain fully conscious as they're living heads are planted in the ground by magical vines constantly strangling them.
  • Arc Words: "You could DIE laughing!" in "Afraid of Clowns" since the demonic clowns murder kids by Tickle Torture.
  • Artifact of Doom: The titular Black Mask is proven to be a bringer of destruction since the heroes die following its power.
  • The Bad Guy Wins:
    • "Alien Candy" ends with the club members revealing that they're real aliens who gain new recruits to eat as they murder their victim of the week Walter with nobody none the wiser to their killing sprees.
    • "I'm Not Martin" ends with Martin switching the charts so Sean is taken away for a foot-removal operation Martin had to undergo....though when Fridge Logic kicks in, you realize the real Martin is going to get caught eventually and Sean will be set for life from the enormous lawsuit the hospital will get slapped with.
    • Lauren attempts the titular technique on the specter of "The Ghostly Stare", which is what will make it go away. But fails when the specter shuts off the lights and seizes her in the dark.
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: The club in "Alien Candy" pretended to be Walter's friends only so he could come with them as their dinner at the club meeting.
  • Bittersweet Ending: "Nightmare Inn" ends with Jillian surviving her encounter with the two werewolves Priscilla and James and finding out it was all a nightmare. Only it wasn't. And Priscilla is still around to potentially kill and eat other people who come to the inn.
  • Cruel and Unusual Death: Walter gets Eaten Alive by aliens at the end of "Alien Candy".
  • Crying Wolf: "I'm Not Martin" receives its title from the titular character's habit of screaming that he's not Martin, especially as he's being taken in to have his foot surgically removed. This later dooms Sean as the orderlies take him away after Martin switches their charts since they've been warned about Martin's habit.
  • Downer Ending: Most of the stories, natch. As a horror novel, the bad guys win all the time.
  • Eaten Alive: Walter get devoured in seconds at the end of "Alien Candy".
  • Enfant Terrible: Martin of "I'm Not Martin" orchestrates another hospital patient's death so he won't have to die in surgery.
  • Evil Sorcerer: Margolin from "The Most Evil Sorcerer" obviously is one, as he has great knowledge of Black Magic. The main character is his cunning apprentice who seeks a way to overthrow him.
  • Face–Heel Turn: Christopher manages to survive being tickle-tortured by clowns by becoming one of them with the special talent of picking out scared children as future victims.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • The kids in "Alien Candy" are shown with many sci-fi touches to their club, which makes sense given it's the Alien Club. However, one finds a Star Trek novel amusing, which the newly elected club president finds odd. Turns out they're aliens.
    • "The Black Mask" features Robb wearing the titular mask and witnessing a group of kids dying when a boiler explodes. He comes to the conclusion that it's showing a tragic past event given their old-fashioned attire. It's actually showing his future when he and his friends are killed while dressed in old clothes they found.
  • The Fourth Wall Will Not Protect You:
    • In the introduction to "The Most Evil Sorcerer", Stine comments that the evil sorcerer took over his body and finished the story for him.
    • "Afraid of Clowns" ends with Christopher, who is now a clown, threatening the reader with death via tickle torture should they reveal their secrets.
  • Humans Are the Real Monsters: Many of the stories' antagonists are really messed up people.
  • Infant Immortality: Averted with "Alien Candy" and "The Black Mask". Heck this is R.L. Stine we're talking about; the King of killing off kid heroes.
  • Jerkass:
    • Mike in "Pumpkinhead" is a rambunctious little brat who constantly gets his friends into trouble and is stated to never apologize for doing something bad.
    • The "Alien Club" members are all jerks who ignore Walter's entire existence.
    • Margolin "The Most Evil Sorcerer" is a horrible master towards his apprentice.
  • Karma Houdini: Virtually every villain/antagonist gets away with their villainous deeds.
  • Kick the Dog: In "Alien Candy" none of the club members care about Walter and ignore his existence entirely before revealing to him that they only wanted him as a snack to devour.
  • Kids Are Cruel: Martin proves this in his story when he sets up another child to suffer in a surgery he was supposed to receive.
  • Monster Clown: The psychotic troupe featured in "Afraid of Clowns" purposely seek out kids who are afraid of them and torment them for the entertainment of the audience. Even worse, they abduct said children and torment them to death, particularly via tickle torture.
  • Mutagenic Goo: The titular "Alien Candy" is a bizarre fudge-like sweet that seemingly transforms kids into aliens, yet oddly leaves their newly elected club president unaffected. The stuff really just gives them an excuse to shed their human disguises so that they can entrap and eat the new kid.
  • Names to Run Away from Really Fast: Nightmare Inn, although it's initially dismissed since the "mare" part is graffiti.
  • Nothing Is Scarier: The illustration for "Nightmare Inn" shows an empty motel lobby at night which is creepy in itself. Then you notice the tiny pair of eyes staring at you from an open door in the corner.
  • Or Was It a Dream?: "Nightmare Inn" features the protagonist Jillain having a run-in with Priscilla and James who are revealed to be two werewolves and fight over the right to eat her. After escaping with her life, she wakes up to find it was another nightmare. Then she sees a werewolf claw mark on Priscilla's cheek.
  • Our Werewolves Are Different: Priscilla and James of "Nightmare Inn" are revealed to be villainous werewolves.
  • Spoiler Cover: The illustration for "Alien Candy" gives away the twist that the kids of the sci-fi club are really aliens.
  • Tickle Torture: What happens to the victims in "Afraid of Clowns", Christopher arranges a deal with the clowns and does not die.
  • To Serve Man: The kids of "Alien Candy" invite a chubby kid to become president of their club. In reality, they're aliens that wanted a meal.
  • The Sociopath: Martin, Margolin, the clowns are all too happy about casual murder.
  • Would Hurt a Child: Oh yes. As a novel created by the guy who wrote Goosebumps, this should not be surprising.

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