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Literature / Goosebumps

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"Reader beware — you're in for a scare..."

In The '90s, R. L. Stine had an idea: "Why not write scary books for children?"

It was through this simple idea that one of the most successful and controversial pre-Harry Potter-era children's book series began.

The original Goosebumps series lasted for all of 62 books, including such famous titles as The Haunted Mask (which was also the first episode of the TV adaptation, shown as an hour-long special episode), Welcome to Camp Nightmare, the Night of the Living Dummy series (there were three in the original series, but the other spin offs and successor series have had at least one story with Slappy as the antagonist), and the Monster Blood series (the fourth and last of which is the final book in the original series).

It was The Twilight Zone for pre-adolescents, with a twist at the end of every book (sometimes cruel, sometimes not, sometimes non-existent, which is a twist in and of itself given the series). Stine cites Tales from the Crypt (published by EC Comics) as a source of inspiration, even though the series isn't nearly as gory and violent as the comics.

The series also became somewhat infamous for the "You Can't Judge a Book by Its Cover" idiom exemplified by the books' cover art from time to time. Deep Trouble, for instance, had a picture of a giant shark going after a boy swimming in the ocean, which is only a minor point — the story was really about a boy finding a mermaid who was being targeted by scientists who wanted to experiment on rare sea life. Egg Monsters from Mars featured the monsters as horrible threats on the cover, but the egg monsters are a (relatively) benevolent force captured by (you guessed it) a Mad Scientist.

Later incarnations of the series included the more obscure Goosebumps Series 2000 (a Darker and Edgier Goosebumps series that ran for 25 books), and Gamebook series Give Yourself Goosebumps. Both ended in early 2000, but the series was eventually revived in 2006 with the Goosebumps Graphix series (adapting classic books into comics), and further spinoffs were released in 2008-2012 (the twelve-book Goosebumps HorrorLand series, a crossover between new and existing characters — it also got a video game adaptation and was continued with a second, seven-book story arc and then the six-book Hall of Horrors mini-series), 2012-2016 (Goosebumps Most Wanted, featuring a mix of classic and new villains in standalone stories) 2017-2023 (Goosebumps SlappyWorld with each book introduced by Slappy the Dummy), and 2023-ongoing (Goosebumps House of Shivers). There were also spinoff titles compiling various short stories, such as Tales to Give You Goosebumps and Goosebumps Triple Header.

There were also a pair of PC games in the 1990s: Escape from Horrorland, a follow-up to the original One Day at HorrorLand, and Attack of the Mutant, which had a different plot than the television episode or book with the same name. A phone game called Goosebumps HorrorTown premiered in 2017. IDW started publishing a comic series based on the franchise in 2017.

For tropes relating to the Goosebumps television series, look here.

Columbia Pictures released a film based on the series on October 16, 2015, starring Jack Black as R.L. Stine. View the trailer here. A sequel followed in 2018.

In 2016, Danny Abosch and John Maclay wrote the music and the book respectively to a musical based on the 24th book of the series, Phantom of the Auditorium. In 2021, an official cast recording was released, with the talents of Krystina Alabado, Noah Galvin, Will Roland, Alex Brightman, Sheryl Lee Ralph, Stephanie Styles, and even cameos from the man himself, R.L. Stine. Info about the show, as well as the album, can be found here.

There is also a bot that generates new Goosebumps covers daily; its creations can be found here.

If you're interested in a full review of the series, check out Blogger Beware.

Books in the series:

    open/close all folders 
    Original series 

    Tales to Give You Goosebumps 

    Give Yourself Goosebumps 

    Goosebumps Triple Header 

    Goosebumps Series 2000 

    Goosebumps HorrorLand 

(See Goosebumps HorrorLand) (Also includes tropes for Hall of Horrors)

    Goosebumps Most Wanted 

    Goosebumps SlappyWorld 

    Other books 

This series provides (usually multiple) examples of:

    open/close all folders 

    In general 

    Series 2000 — In general 

    Most Wanted — In general 

  • Covers Always Lie: The Most Wanted series falls victim to this a lot. It's hard to believe their claim of the series contains the "most wanted" monsters when they are often not the ones depicted on the cover.