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Literature / The Haunting Hour

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"Some stories are too terrifying to tell," says R.L. Stine. "They are the ones that live in the darkest corners of my mind. The ones that give me chills in the dead of night. The ones that I must tell you now-or they will haunt me forever!"
Back blurb of the book
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The Haunting Hour (having no real relation to the show of the same name, aside from some stories that were adapted as episodes), is a 2001 followup collection to the previous Nightmare Hour by R. L. Stine. In the same vein, The Haunting Hour is a collection of nine standalone tales, as well as a sequel to the previous book's story, "The Most Evil Sorcerer". Among the stories within include a ghoulish Halloween dance, a haunted set of paintbrushes, and the truth behind one's imaginary friend.


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The Haunting Hour provides examples of:

  • Adult Fear: As usual, given the child protagonists and the dangers that befall them that are typical of Stine works. However, this is particularly emphasized in "Are We There Yet?", wherein Tammi and Artie's parents are notably sorrowful the night they stay at the Wayside Motel. The following morning, Tammi and Artie wake up to find their parents gone and the place absolutely devoid of life. They're forced to walk through a field cemetery and brave an area where nasty, angry dogs reside. Even worse, the whole thing is revealed to be a governmental test to determine if the kids are smart and brave enough to be worth saving. Their parents are horrified when they fail, but Tammi and Artie manage to avoid being taken away.
  • All Hallows' Eve: The setting of "The Halloween Dance", a time when the dead can appear in the land of the living.
  • And I Must Scream:
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    • Billy, The Friend Nobody Likes of "Revenge of the Snowman", relates the fact that someone can freeze up permanently out of fear. At the end of the story, Billy's prank on Rick works too well, causing Rick to stiffen up and be rendered silent when he thinks Billy came back from the dead and wants revenge.
    • Connor decides to play a prank on his friend, Joana, by pretending to be a mummy in "The Mummy's Dream". Unfortunately, he gets stuck. Even more unfortunately, he turns out to be the prematurely mummified Prince Akor who, if the ending is any indication, is trapped and conscious inside his mummified corpse.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Amber's doll collection in "Take Me with You" allows her to fight the girl's attempt to possess her, as her strong attachment to them grounds her from being controlled.
  • Chekhov's Skill: Tammi and Artie's natural ability to handle and be on good terms with dogs comes into play in "Are We There Yet?"
  • Cruel Twist Ending: As to be expected. This is R. L. "Goosebumps" Stine, after all.
    • "The Halloween Dance" ends with Mark trying to reverse the dance, so as to bring himself and Jake back to life. Unfortunately, the ghouls refuse to let go of him, and he is regressed back to when he was an infant. Even worse, the narration suggests that he's consciously aware, but trapped in his infant body and unable to tell anyone.
    • After Lulu is defeated when Muttley eats her "mud cookie" at the climax of "The Bad Baby-sitter", Matt and his sister possibly suffer the same fate when the dog unwittingly gets ahold of the ones Lulu made of them.
    • "The Mummy's Dream" gets pretty bad with Connor getting trapped inside, but to have him turn out to be a prematurely mummified prince who is strongly hinted to be conscious and dreaming inside his body many centuries later is pretty horrifying.
  • Dead All Along: Ray, the boy who leads Mark and Jake to the Halloween Dance, turns out to be a deceased kid in a ghoul costume. Mark and Jake also discover that they, too, are dead, having been killed by a truck-the "bright light" that briefly blinded them earlier in the story. Mark attempts to revert this, but ends up going too far back.
  • The Dead Can Dance: The aforementioned "Halloween Dance" is a yearly event when the local ghouls gather around and perform a dance that slows down time, permitting them to exist in the land of the living. Mark attempts to bring himself and his friend Jake back to life by reversing the dance to go back in time, but the ghouls keep him held until he's reverted back to his first Halloween as an infant.
  • Demonic Possession:
    • Of a sort. Dylan, the protagonist of "Can You Draw Me?", is forced to illustrate gruesome images when he holds any of the paintbrushes formerly used by his late art teacher, MacKenzie Douglas. The twist of the story is that MacKenzie Douglas deliberately sought out someone who could paint well, so that he could continue his work from the afterlife by using the paintbrushes he could control. Whether they like it or not.
    • The girl in the steamer trunk in "Take Me with You" attempts to possess Amber's body by force, so that way she can enjoy a vacation that she was denied to previously being trapped in the trunk and dying. Amber manages to fight her off, and the girl is sent back into the trunk. However, when the family goes on their vacation, Amber's younger sister is given the trunk and readies to open it.
  • Foreshadowing: Connor's knowledge of mummification foreshadows the twist of "The Mummy's Dream".
  • Heroes Love Dogs: Tammi and Artie, the protagonists of "Are We There Yet?", absolutely adore dogs. They also have a knack for getting on any dog's good side. This comes in handy later.
  • Hollywood Voodoo: Lulu, the babysitter of, well, "The Bad Baby-sitter", has Matt and his younger sister, Courtney, make "mud cookies", which are gingerbread-like blobs of mud that resemble another brother and sister pair that the both of them don't like. When Matt accidentally breaks off the right hand of one, the boy breaks his hand. And when his younger sister cuts off the hair of the girl's "mud cookie", it makes her hair fall out.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard:
    • The judge that forced Tammi and Artie's parents to leave them at the Wayside Motel determines them failures in the test to determine if they're smart and brave enough to justify keeping around as a means of population control. They failed after opening a door containing two (mercifully chained) attack dogs, which was prompted by their mutual love of dogs. However, the two kids prove they're smart by siccing the dogs on the judge, forcing him to pass them and let them go home with their parents.
    • Using the "mud cookie" recipe "The Bad Baby-sitter" taught them, Courtney creates a "mud cookie" of Lulu, who immediately attempts to grab it. When she tosses it to Matt, its head comes off, causing Lulu's head to become severed, but still alive. Lulu is finished off when the family dog, Muttley, devours the Lulu "mud cookie". Also counts as a Karmic Death.
  • Infant Immortality: Averted in certain tales, as to be expected. But awesomely played straight in "Are We There Yet?"
  • Karmic Transformation: The abusive dragon-wielder of "How to Bargain with a Dragon" managed to capture and wrangle most of the peaceful dragons by destroying their food source, save for the berry trees growing on his land. After Ned makes his bargain with Ulrick, the final dragon, they trick the dragon-wielder into revealing himself, and Ned transforms him into a berry tree for the dragons to feast upon.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: Colin and Pete, a pair of kids who love to harass, insult, and deem others as "losers", make trouble at the local fair and with several patrons. They're then ushered into a contest where they're fattened up, made a mockery of by the multiple people they harassed and insulted, and branded as "LOSERS" for their failure.
  • Mummy: "The Mummy's Dream", which is set in the Egyptology wing of a museum, naturally involves one. Considering the author, this is not new territory.
  • Nightmare Fetishist: Due to the paintbrushes, Dylan is mistakenly believed and reprimanded for being one when they compel him to illustrate gruesome imagery. In reality, it's his late mentor who's behind it.
  • Not-So-Imaginary Friend: Ultimately subverted with "My Imaginary Friend", where it seems that Travis is real enough to prompt Shawn and David to risk their lives out of boredom. At the end, both Shawn and Travis are revealed to be imaginary, created by David as a response to the strain of his parents' divorce. Even worse, though, Travis comes back and tries to prompt David to another dangerous action, even when he's already in the hospital from nearly dying of hypothermia.
  • Nothing Is Scarier: "Are We There Yet?" has Tammi and Artie wake up in the Wayside Motel, which they and their parents spent the night at. The place is completely deserted once they wake up, with no cars in the parking lot, a cemetary set in the middle of a nearby field, and a bare skeleton residing at the office desk. It's even foreshadowed by the oddly and disturbingly somber tone their usually jovial parents take the night before. It turns out to be a test set up by the government to determine if children are brave and smart, and thus worthy of living.
  • Or Was It a Dream?: Colin and Pete wake up in the alley behind the fair, and are led to believe that the whole events of "Losers" was a dream brought on by being knocked out. However, when he gets home, Colin discovers the LOSER branding on his chest.
  • Our Dragons Are Different: "How to Bargain with a Dragon" features dragons that don't breathe fire, eat berries, and were peaceful before a twisted dragon-wielder captured them.
  • Secret Test of Character: The twist of "Are We There Yet?" is that Tammi and Artie were subjected to a governmental test to confirm whether or not they were brave and smart enough to be worth saving, in order to curb overpopulation. They fail, due to opening a shed with two attack dogs in it, and are considered "brave, but not smart". They manage to turn the tables on the judge, however.
  • Snow Means Death: "Revenge of the Snowman" has Rick and his friends trap their barely-tolerated associate, Billy, into a snowman, in order to "test" his comment about being permanently paralyzed by fear. Billy seems to have frozen to death, and he comes after Rick. However, this is revealed to be a prank...which worked too well, as Rick is frozen solid from fear.
  • Teens Are Monsters: Lulu, the villain of "The Bad Baby-sitter", is a twisted adolescent who forces Matt and his sister to make "mud cookies" (described under Hollywood Voodoo) out of a love of torturing people. She even blatantly admits her sadism, once Matt and Courtney attempt to confront her about the "mud cookies".
  • Tomato in the Mirror:
    • "The Halloween Dance" does an interesting take on this trope. At first, Mark is increasingly worried that the mirror the girl ghoul passes around at the party will reveal that he and Jake are living people pretending to be ghouls, due to them having reflections (which ghouls apparently lack). They don't cast a reflection, which is relieving...until the realization that they're dead, and thus really are ghouls, sets in.
    • Connor of "The Mummy's Dream" turns out to really be Prince Akor, who had dreams of the future and was mummified prematurely to ensure that he would not be murdered and left unmummified by his enemies.
  • Would Hurt a Child: Yes.


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