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Literature / Camp Haunted Hills

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Camp Haunted Hills is a trilogy of humorous science-fiction/fantasy books by Bruce Coville and released from 1988 to 1990 by Pocket Books (a division of Simon & Schuster) under their Minstrel Books imprint. The books follow eleven-year-old Stuart Glassman, who discovers his favorite movie director has opened a summer camp for kids who want to learn how to make movies, and immediately signs up. Little does he expect that by summer's end, he'll have been kidnapped by a sasquatch, chased by a mummy, and menaced by a room full of monsters.

Books 1 and 2 cover Stuart's first year at camp. Book 3 covers his second year.

The series consists of:

  • How I Survived My Summer Vacation (1988)
  • Some of My Best Friends Are Monsters (1989)
  • The Dinosaur that Followed Me Home (1990)

The series contains examples of:

  • Ascend to a Higher Plane of Existence: In book 1, Robert tells Stuart he'll have to move on some day, but he's in no hurry. At the end of book 3, after his experiences in the alternate timeline where he lived longer and didn't like how he turned out, he disappears into the afterlife after saying goodbye to Stuart and telling him to "Be very careful you don't grow up to be a jerk."
  • Bigfoot, Sasquatch, and Yeti: The focus of Cry of the Sasquatch, the film the characters are making in the first book. And then it turns out they're real, and have been living near the camp for some time.
  • Bowdlerise: The reprint of the first book removes an Asian character being described as "oriental", and a use of "retarded".
  • The Bully:
    • Lucius Colton in the first two books, who insists on picking on other kids for no real reason. And he refuses to stop, even when they don't defend themselves.
    • Flash Milligan, the camp lighting specialist in all three books, is a grown-up version who's even worse.
  • Covers Always Lie: The 1988 cover to book 1 shows Stuart and Brenda looking terrified at the sight of a ghost. Brenda doesn't even meet Robert until book 2, and while she's scared then, Stuart is used to him at that point and not afraid.
  • Direct Line to the Author: At the start of book 1, Stuart tells the readers that they should be familiar with Camp Haunted Hills, because the movie was such a hit... but it was mostly Hollywood baloney, and this is the real version. The end of book 2 mentions that the reader is likely to see a movie based on the events of the book sometime in the next few years, and book 3 mentions that after the events of the story, Harry Housen rewrote his script for the movie "Day of the Dinosaur", but the reader should have already known that because they'll have seen the movie by that point.
  • Disappointed by the Motive: In book 2, Stuart finally asks Lucius why he's being such a jerk. He expects something serious. What he gets is... less so.
    Lucius: "I don't like your face, Glassman. I never have, not from the first time I saw you."
    Stuart (narrating): "How's that for a deep and penetrating analysis of our problem?"
  • Dogs Are Dumb: The Glassman family dog, Jeremiah the golden retriever, is apparently of low intelligence. Stuart thinks to himself that the animal is likely to forget Stuart even existed after he's been away for a week or so.
  • Embarrassing Nickname: In book 3, Winston's is "Winnie the Wimp".
  • Friendly Ghost: Robert, most of the time. However, he's also shown a vengeful side against jerks and crooks.
  • Ghostly Goals:
    • Discussed in book 1. When Stuart and Robert first meet, Robert says he was a counselor there in 1941. Later on, when Stuart asks Robert why he's haunting the camp in the first place, he elaborates by revealing he was a counselor at the original "Camp Haw N'ed Hee Las", the first time a summer camp existed in that area, and it was where he was happiest back when he was alive. Later, he came back from the dead to liven things up and have a good time.
    • Variant in book 2, when an ancient Egyptian mummy starts wandering around to retrieve the golden scarab that was stolen from its sarcophagus. Brenda, who'd found the scarab lying on the ground after the theft, gladly returns it to the mummy as soon as she can, and it returns to its resting place afterward.
  • Horse of a Different Color: Book 3 sees Stuart (and later Brenda) riding a mechanical triceratops. Stuart also rides a live maiasauras, and a live tyrannosaurus rex.
  • Hypocritical Humor: After meeting Flash Milligan for the first time, Lucius' reaction is "What a jerk." Stuart tries not to laugh at this, because he figures that Flash is a perfect example of what Lucius would be like when he grows up.
  • Intergenerational Friendship: Stuart with the camp's special effects teacher Harry Housen, and Brenda with the camp's makeup specialist Aurora Jackson.
  • Invisible to Normals:
    • Ghosts, unless they want you to see them.
    • Time vortexes, unless you've been pulled through one recently (which doesn't usually work on mortals)... and to top it off, as long as you can see them, you can go through them. Once you stop seeing them, you're no longer affected.
  • It Came from the Fridge: Hinted at in book 3. Stuart recalls at one point how his family's refrigerator broke while they were away on vacation, and it had sat there, unattended, for a full week before they got home and discovered it. While the contents are not described, it apparently smelled pretty terrible — when he's feeding Bluto the tyrannosaurus, Stuart thinks to himself that the dinosaur's breath smells just as bad as the broken fridge had.
  • It Only Works Once: Invoked in book 2. Lucius Colton, who's already transformed once thanks to the Jekyll Juice, is in the room when everyone else unwittingly drinks it en masse, but avoids drinking it himself. He informs Stuart that after everyone turns back, he'll lie and tell them he was immune to the effects because of this trope.
  • Jerkass: Lucius Colton, the camp bully who torments people for the fun of it, and Flash Milligan, the camp lighting expert who's even worse. Stuart explicitly compares them, figuring that Flash is a perfect example of what Lucius would be like when he grows up.
  • Love Dodecahedron: Several people, both campers and councilors, have unrequited crushes on Aurora Jackson, the camp's makeup specialist. The two most actively seeking her are Harry Housen and Flash Milligan; Aurora eventually settles on Harry, and Flash spends most of book 3 trying to get even with him over it.
  • Mama Bear: Or rather, Mama Bigfoot, who is willing to fight in defense of a perceived young Bigfoot whom she thinks has been kidnapped by humans. She's heartbroken when she discovers it's really Stuart in costume.
  • Meaningful Rename: The camp itself, which went from the nonsensical "Camp Haw N'ed Hee Las" in 1941 to Camp Haunted Hills after former counselor Robert Campbell started hanging around as a ghost.
  • Multitasked Conversation: Book 1 introduces the rather puckish Robert Campbell, a ghost whom only Stuart (or anyone else Robert chooses) can see; this makes conversation difficult when the two are around anyone else, but Stuart manages to figure out how to pull these off at least some of the time. Robert in turn actually congratulates Stuart on being able to do this the first time he does so.
  • Mummy: Gregory Stevens gets one in book 2, to display in his "Cottage" (actually a massive house he's building for himself nearby, with all kinds of gadgets and other things). After the deliverymen steal a gold scarab from the case, the mummy starts wandering around to try and get it back.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: The series features famous director Gregory Stevens (who founded the camp in its current form), who is essentially a combination of George Lucas and Steven Spielberg (though the latter actually exists in-universe too, based on Stuart's comment in book 3 that "Indiana Jones I am not"). His films include the Battle For the Galaxy trilogy (a reference to Star Wars), White Death (referencing Jaws), Temple of the Golden Arches, and Boogeymen (which was said to be making money so fast that the government would have to open a new printing plant to make enough dollars to pay his earnings).
  • Noodle Incident: Exactly how Robert died, which Stuart wonders about but Robert refuses to answer the one time he asks. The closest we get to an answer is early in book 2, when Harry states that "A man's got to do what a man's got to do", which Robert says disgustedly "is the kind of thinking that got me turned into a ghost", and a comment late in book 3 when he experiences an alternate timeline in which he's still alive while still remembering being fatally shot in the original timeline.
  • Not Big Enough for the Two of Us: In book 2, after their encounter with a wandering mummy the night before, Robert remarks to Stuart and Brenda that "There's only room for one active dead man in this camp, and I'm it. I don't want that mummy on my turf."
  • Playground Song: 99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall is mentioned as being sung during the bus trip in book 3, until one camper overhears a nickname for one of the new kids and switches to a song based on that instead.
  • Put on a Bus: Lucius Colton, one of the campers from the first two books, doesn't return for Stuart's second year.
  • Reality-Breaking Paradox: The reality shift in book 3. The protagonists find that if the three dinosaurs aren't sent back to their own time before it's too late, reality will start changing around their ears, and despite what Winnie first thinks, they can see it when it happens. The only way to stop it and return time to normal is to get the dinosaurs through the right vortex and back to their own time.
  • Revenge Before Reason:
    • In book 2, Lucius tries to stop Stuart from using the antidote to cure everyone who's been transformed by the Jekyll Juice, all so he can do it, make himself look like a hero, and put the blame on Stuart.
    • In book 3, Flash Milligan does it too — all he cares about is ruining Harry Housen and making money off the three dinosaurs, and ignores the fact that sending them back to their own time is the only way to save time itself from coming apart at the seams.
  • Saw "Star Wars" Twenty-Seven Times: In book 1, Stuart Glassman admits to having seen Battle For the Galaxy fifteen times the first week it was open.
  • Serendipity Writes the Plot: In-Universe version — Late in book 1, Harry adapts his script for Cry of the Sasquatch to incorporate their adventures in the woods, and the footage he shot.
  • Shaped Like Itself: Used as an insult in book 3, where Flash Milligan demands to know if Stuart is trying to make a fool out of him. Robert, unheard by Flash, says that "That would be like making a duck out of a duck."
  • Shark Fin of Doom: Subverted when Stuart first dives into Misty Lake and sees a fin heading towards him — it turns out to be Flipper, the swimming counselor's assistant, with a fake fin on his back.
  • Shattered Sanity: Flash Milligan's final fate after the final time vortex incident. He winds up having to go away for special treatment and spend a lot of time doing things like staring at a goldfish bowl to try and recover.
  • Shipper on Deck: Stuart ships Harry/Aurora, and when he sees Harry's iguana Myron climb from Harry's shoulder to Aurora's in book 3, he can tell it's a sign that they must be pretty serious.
  • Shoulder Pet: Harry Housen's pet iguana Myron rides around on his shoulder a lot. Myron also rides on Aurora Jackson's shoulder at one point, which impresses Stuart, since it's a sign of how close Harry and Aurora are becoming.
  • Slurpasaur: In-universe in the Camp Haunted Hills trilogy, set at a camp where the attendees learn how to make movies. Harry Housen (ironically, named for an effects artist who specialized in averting this trope), who teaches special effects, specializes in holographic projection and is always painting his pet iguana Myron different colors, or pasting wings, fins or other things on the lizard, even figuring out how to make smoke come out of Myron's nostrils at one point, and then uses the altered iguana as a model for said holograms. Fortunately, the lizard is very patient about all this. The resulting holograms are more effective than one would think — they terrify both humans and, in the finale of book 1, a family of Bigfoot holding the heroes captive.
  • Speaks Fluent Animal: Ghosts, such as Robert — he's shown talking to lizards and dinosaurs.
  • Speech Impediment: In book 1, when the camp staff are introducing themselves to the campers after dinner that first night, Harry Housen is mentioned as stuttering a little when he talks. This is never brought up again throughout the rest of the series, nor is it portrayed in his dialogue.
  • Spraying Drink from Nose: In book 1, Stuart notes that he'll have to be careful if he's drinking milk while Robert's around and cracking jokes, so as to avoid laughing and causing this to happen as a result. He further notes that he's experienced it before, and that it's both embarrassing and painful. The trope actually happens in the opening scene of book 2, when Lucius' prank of dumping rice pudding down Stuart's shirt causes Eddie Mayhew to laugh so hard that milk comes out his nose.
  • Squirrels in My Pants:
    • Variant in book 1 when Myron the iguana crawls up Stuart's leg while he's in bed, but doesn't get far enough up to actually reach his pants, since Stuart is wearing shorts at the time and is so startled that he jumps out of bed before Myron can get that far up.
    • Flash suffers from this in book 3, after Robert, to get even with him for his actions earlier (sabotaging Harry's big announcement of his new movie), talks all the lizards and salamanders in the forest into crawling up his pants.
  • Talking Animal: In book 3's climax, two of the dinosaurs becomes this temporarily as a result of the reality shift.
  • Terrifying Tyrannosaur: Bluto the T. rex, who serves as a major threat in book 3 during the time the characters are in the past, chasing them twice with the intent of eating them, and they're still wary of him when he's brought forward in time and a little stunned by the trip (plus Robert's ability to talk to him and keep him calm). However, he's quickly supplemented as a main threat by the time vortexes and Flash Milligan's desire to exploit the dinosaurs (rather than send them back to where they belong), which together could have disastrous consequences.
  • Threatening Shark: Gregory Stevens' first big hit was White Death, described as "the ultimate shark movie". Seymour, the mechanical shark from the film (or one like it), is now in Misty Lake at the camp, and the counselors use it to freak out their campers.
  • Time Skip: Between books 2 and 3. Book 2 ends late in Stuart's first year at Camp Haunted Hills, while book 3 picks up right before he goes back for his second year.
  • Unfortunate Names: Brenda's cousin is named Winston de Pew. Stuart's immediate thought is to say "Sorry about your name", but he resists.