Ever since I was young, I’ve had an obsession with the horror genre. Anything that’s spooky, terrifying, and gruesome is insanely attractive to me. But before I would discover horror masters like Stephen King and Wes Craven in my teen years, a man named R.L. Stine gave me my first taste of terror.
My upper elementary school (that’s grades 4-6) had every Goosebumps book there was. I can honestly tell you that in the three years that I attended that school I read every original Goosebumps book (62 in all!). Whether the story was about a half-human, half-plant hybrid or demonic scarecrows, I was completely engrossed. That’s because R.L. Stine is a master of writing scary books for kids. Every Goosebumps chapter ends in a cliffhanger and that, my friends, is the best idea ever created. It’s also probably why I finished those books so quickly—I could never put them down! I had to know what happened next!
And the storylines! Stine doesn’t settle with the ol’ vampires and ghosts (although there are a lot of them). He’s got better stuff up his sleeve: A camera that kills! Alien lizard creatures that plan to enslave humanity! Boys who turn into dogs after using a weird suntan lotion! Trust me, R.L. Stine can churn out trippy scary stories like nobody’s business. He’s crazy brilliant! He’s the best thing ever!
But Stine didn’t stop at books; he also created the Goosebumps television show. I actually still own the episode “The Haunted Mask” (a two-parter!) on VHS. Evil masks that replace your own flesh just really make me excited, you know? Just watching the intro brings back so many memories. Evil dog, I love you!
The Cartoon Network started playing the episodes a little while back, and I’m hoping they bring them back for Halloween. I want children across America to get very, very afraid this Halloween season. (Meanwhile, the Hub is running Stine’s new show, The Haunting Hour.)
The business of being scary without being cheesy is a difficult one. Especially when your audience is made up of children! R.L. Stine’s writing is surprisingly timeless. I have a collection of 30 short Goosebumps stories on my shelf (sitting right above me as I type this) and I pull it out every now and then to read one. I am happy to confirm they have retained their creepiness. Each story ends eerily, without closure. It seems that almost all of R.L. Stine’s characters are horribly doomed. The stories just wouldn’t be the same with a happy ending.
Robert Lawrence Stine made me love being scared. And this is why he is the best thing ever (literally). ♦