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Literature: Nightmare Hour

"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.

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"
  • Always Chaotic Evil: Clowns, according to "Afraid of Clowns"
  • Aliens Are Bastards: The kids of "Alien Candy" are alien monstrosities that single out chubby children so they can have a meal.
  • Arc Words: "You could DIE laughing!" in "Afraid of Clowns"
  • Artifact of Doom: The titular Black Mask
  • The Bad Guy Wins: "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.
  • 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.
  • 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
  • Enfant Terrible: Martin of "I'm Not Martin"
  • 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.
  • Genre Adultery: "The Most Evil Sorcerer" is a dark fantasy work in a Dung Ages setting in a collection of modern day horror stories (the TV show adaptation is the same way, though the end where the sorceress is found centuries later in the woods by a jogger takes place in the present). Lampshaded by Stine in the story's intro when he relates it was the result of a bet that he could write a story outside of his usual setting and type.
  • 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"
  • Illustrations Always Spoil: The illustration for "Alien Candy" gives away the twist
  • Karma Houdini: Virtually every villain/antagonist
  • Kids Are Cruel: Martin proves this in his story
  • 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"
  • 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
  • Would Hurt a Child: Oh yes.
Nightmare HallHorror LiteratureThe Nightmare People
Night WorldLiterature of the 1990sNim's Island
The Night of WishesChildren's LiteratureNim's Island

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