The Summer of 1992 was memorable for at the time, this ten-year-old kid. The Summer of blockbusters including those of Batman Returns and Aladdin were fun movie-going memories among a very disappointing release of Alien 3 that just totally sucked in the eyes of this fifth-grade graduate. Beyond a handful of movies catered to someone like me releasing for the summer crowds and the introduction to a little arcade number at the gameway alleys entitled Mortal Kombat, little was grabbing my attention for this soon-to-be middle schooler who was just entering into her seriously awkward phase of existence- one of which 30 years later is still struggling to come out of. That is until one fateful day in early August of 1992.
After a round of horror movie rentals at my local Action Video, my pops and I ran into the next-door Osco Drugs to grab some soda and snacks. On every trip there, I would obviously make my way to the toy and magazine section when I came across something eye-popping. A book that stood out from the rest nestled in between some Judy Blume bullshit and something else I can’t even recall. The cover was unlike anything I had ever seen: a drippy slime-like title with tiny raised bumps etched within compared to that of a brail-like quality with a colorful yet dark and eerie picture of a haunted house on the cover splashed with a Blob purplish-pink background, (done by Tim Jacobus who has illustrated over 100 Goosebumps covers for Stine). “Welcome To Dead House” was the first entry of these books to eventually come home with me and so began the Summer of Goosebumps with many thereafter for millions of kids just like me.
I had also become completely obsessed with collecting every single book upon release and let me tell you something: Middle School Scholastic Book Fairs became even more glorious with the addition of Goosebumps and posters my friends.
For 30 years, R.L. Stine’s Goosebumps has become a nostalgic phenomenon that has carried over to the next generation of young readers. With the addition of the 90s TV series, various Goosebumps-related literary works, and two blockbuster films, Goosebumps has become a right of passage for those seeking a gateway into the horror genre while being encouraged to read. The original book series which debuted in July of 1992, consisted of 62 original titles that were written between 1992 and 1997. Worth noting that Goosebumps was listed 15th in the list of most frequently challenged books during the 90s’ and 94th in the list of top banned/challenged books during 2000–2009. When the pearl-clutching tightwads of the American Library Association claim your books to be “too frightening for young people and depicting occult or demonic themes,” I’d say you’re doing something right.
As for my personal favorites? Well, I ruminated tirelessly over what I consider my personal top 10 books of the original series, and here are the ones that brought me, and so many others, the most joy during those awkward adolescent years (and still continue to do so).
*Some of the blurbs are a bit spoiler-y. Just a heads up.
10. Night Of The Living Dummy II #31
We just couldn’t get enough Slappy the first go-around so Stine wrote a sequel, and eventually a third, making a trilogy out of the wise-crackin’ ventriloquist dummy. Slappy invades a new family and his shenanigans begin immediately as his new “slave” Amy finds those magic words tucked away in his pocket and of course, being a kid reads them out loud not knowing she’s unleashing hell on herself and everyone surrounding her, bringing Slappy to life.
It reads just as good as the first with that Twilight Zone vibe all the way through, and hey because it’s Slappy, he gets on this list twice.
9. Attack of the Jack-O-Lanterns #48
Halloween and Goosebumps go together like peanut butter and jelly every time and “Attack of the Jack O Lanterns” is right up there with one of the greatest twist endings in a Goosebumps book. It involves two scary pumpkin-headed beings forcing kids to trick-or-treat forever and honestly, I don’t see any issue with that personally.
Being a huge fan while being simultaneously scared shitless of JAWS as a kid, it seemed like only a matter of time before Stine put out a book with a cover mocking this treasure. I’ll forgive the fact it’s sort of misleading as the Hammerhead pictured on the front isn’t the star of the story- as the tale resembles more like the movie Splash! rather than JAWS. However, it’s still a fun, and adventurous read especially curled up on the beach listening to the waves crash onto the shore.
7. Werewolf Of Fever Swamp #14
Werewolves have been always been my favorite kind of mythological creature and when this book came out, I must have read it 10 times in one year alone. Also, unlike “Deep Trouble”, the cover isn’t deceiving us as this story is actually about a goddamn werewolf in a swamp.
Worth noting that one of the main characters’ name is Grady. Perhaps a play on Stephen King’s Silver Bullet Tarkers Mills’ local smartass, Brady? Probably not, but I like to think that way. Anyway, a story about friendship, loyalty, and werewolves makes any top ten list of Goosebumps books any day of the week.
6. The Scarecrow Walks At Midnight #20
Another fantastic entry with another favorite cover of mine. “The Scarecrow Walks At Midnight” is one of the Goosebumps books that would make a really great, and terrifying horror film if done right. Scarecrows coming to life via spells from a book? SIGN ME THE FUCK UP. The ambiance of the book really sets the mood of a scary story with a farm in the boonies. But also, chocolate pancakes and Gameboy. If you know you know.
“Say Cheese and Die!” is not only one of the coolest stories in the original series but also has one of the raddest illustrations for any Goosebumps book… PERIOD. Reading like a tale told by Rod Serling himself, Stine channeled his inner Twilight Zone lord on this one with a cursed camera that in turn, curses the object being photographed with something bad to happen to it in the near future. If it’s not in everyone’s top 5, are you even Goosebump-ing right?
“Monster Blood” had such an impact on Goosebumps fans that it spawned three more tales devoted to the slimy substance AND makes appearances throughout Stine’s other books as well.
In the 90s, what kid wasn’t attracted to cans of mystery goo? With the success of Nickelodeon’s trademark slime, toys like GAK and Dr. Dreadful’s food slime lab were must-haves for our generation of weirdos. So, of course, we had to have a Goosebumps book of a slime that brows into blob proportions eating people! Seems like the obvious move and the correct one at that.
3. Night Of The Living Dummy #7
Slappy’s face is the stuff of fucking nightmares. Like “Monster Blood”, “Night of the Living Dummy” made a monumental impact on Goosebumps readers, appearing several times throughout the series of books and even had a pretty prominent role in the 2015 Goosebumps movie. All deserving as this little fucker is basically a pre-curser to Chucky himself. Perhaps not as homicidal, but a ventriloquist’s dummy chasing you through the house screaming you’re “his slave” is enough to guarantee a few sleepless nights.
A fucked up family vacation? Or the most fun one yet? A personal perspective if there ever was one. A theme park or carnival is the ideal background setting and R.L Stine brings an original tale of horror fantasy to life in such a way that no one has ever forgotten this entry from their childhood Scholastic days.
As someone who has a bit of a phobia of certain carnival rides because I’m a little bitch who thinks a lot of them look sketchy and unsafe, this further fucked up my thoughts on the matter as a kid. Even now as an adult, if a carnival cook looks at me wrong, I’m not above pinching the bastard.
“The Haunted Mask” in my worthless, blogg-o opinion, is the Magnum Opus of the Goosebumps series as it’s every single thing we love about the books rolled into one story- and set on Halloween night!
As someone who just adores Halloween III: Season of the Witch, “The Haunted Mask” plays on the dangers of a simple Halloween mask but also summons the young readers in telling a cautionary tale that every kid should hear and heed: You yourself are perfect just as you are. As Sheriff Brackett says, “It’s Halloween. Everyone is entitled to one good scare”, and that’s exactly what Carly Beth, our main protagonist got when she lifts a mask from the sketchy back warehouse of a drug store, even though she was warned NOT to mess with them and they were not for sale. The mask soon takes over her soul because of course that’s what happens when you screw around with cursed Halloween masks. Fucking kids, man.
And besides, the illustrated mask looks like a cover of a death metal album and I’m here for it.
So there you have it. My personal top ten Goosebumps books from the original series. Thanks, R.L. Stine for 30 years and going of frights and fun while encouraging reading for young horror fans. A legend if there ever was one.