Books + Comics

Literally the Best Thing Ever: R.L. Stine

He gave me my first taste of terror.




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). ♦

32 Comments

  • Nomi October 26th, 2011 11:04 PM

    That man gave me nightmares in second grade.

  • Hunter October 26th, 2011 11:06 PM

    The first one I ever read was the Stay Out Of The Basement and just looking at the cover of it just made me really nostalgic oh my god!!

  • Tessa October 26th, 2011 11:15 PM

    AHHHHH! I love you so much for this article. I used to be obsessed with them in elementary school. I used to trade Goosebumps books with the boys.

    So tell me, what was your favourite?! I LOVED ‘Say Cheese & Die, Again’. I read it to pieces. I always remember I loved the colour scheme of them, especially ‘Shock on Shocker Street’, the grey and light yellow! ha ha! Wow, this was such a long time ago, but I’ve never forgotten about my Goosebumps books.

    I knew I could count on you, Hazel.

    http://teafortessa.blogspot.com

  • unicorn October 26th, 2011 11:17 PM

    i stayed up all night once reading ten or so of these in a row…..probably a stupid idea, because i got nightmares from reading the wikipedia summary of the shining.
    feel free to laugh at my wimpiness.
    i still love the r.l. stine books, though. i steal them from my brother all the time.

  • serena October 26th, 2011 11:48 PM

    Goosebumps may literally be the best thing ever. The first one I read was the one about the sponge thing under the sink. So quality.

  • Hedwig October 27th, 2011 12:05 AM

    I’ve noticed that there are people who think theses book are a literally a stain on the literary world and then people like me (obvisese) who are enthralled by the pure as honey balmy horror.

    • Hedwig October 27th, 2011 12:07 AM

      Oh, and the people who are goosebumpvirgins. So sad…

  • arriving October 27th, 2011 12:57 AM

    goosebumps: reader beware, you choose the scare are actually the best thing ever. go find a few and sit around with some friends and take turns reading them out loud with spooky voices. guaranteed to turn your night into a fun one.

  • ellthemighty October 27th, 2011 12:57 AM

    Oh my God – I watched ONE Goosebumps episode when I was 9 or so, and it gave me nightmares for a WEEK.

    It was the one where obligatory creepy neighbour ate bugs and then turned into a half bug, half human .. thing. And then went after the girl in the story? I can’t remember exactly.

    All I know is that for the next few nights I saw cockroaches crawling all over the walls in the dark. Thanks, R.L. Stine.

  • chilljill47 October 27th, 2011 1:08 AM

    omg the one about the summer camp scared the SHIT out of me!! i couldn’t go into the woods for months after reading it!

  • jeezny October 27th, 2011 1:48 AM

    I loved the ones where you got to “choose” whatever happened next by going to a certain page number. The one with the evil peanut butter and jelly sandwich that ate you was a gem!

  • giov October 27th, 2011 5:26 AM

    I totally got in serious trouble for bringing goosebumps books to my class book exchange. Pfff my elementary school teacher sucked.

  • I.ila October 27th, 2011 7:02 AM

    Once I went to a book signing, and he asked if he could take me home. He was like “oh, she’s so cute.” But it freaked me out.
    My favorite book was the one with the knight, and you get to choose your own story… I spent hours with that book.

  • Sphinx October 27th, 2011 8:29 AM

    MY CHILDHOOD.
    URGH I LOVE CREEPY STORIES.

    (also I’m pretty sure Goosebumps is the reason why all the nightmares I had when I was 5-9 years old had an opening theme song. Which was pretty awesome.)

  • Bean October 27th, 2011 8:57 AM

    AH! I love Goosebumps. Me and one of my friends try to watch it all the time but it’s harder to find on youtube and such so we have to stick to Are You Afraid of the Dark (which is eaqually amusing). But Goosebumps was always scarier. I mean let’s compare:
    G: Welcome to Dead House
    AYAOFT: The Tale of the Dangerous Soup.
    Hmmm…. Soup doesn’t sound that scary.
    Either way, AH! I love them both.

  • oriGINAlity95 October 27th, 2011 9:04 AM

    I volunteer at my former elementary school and boy! those books get checked non-stop, I mean as soon as these kids can read chapter books it’s ONLY these books. They are the same copies from when I was actually going to school there. They are a bit more torn up but checked out just as often. That makes me happy.

  • Naomi October 27th, 2011 10:56 AM

    even the goosebumps tv intro scares me, i remember being absolutely terrified when i was younger (in a good way!)

  • fizzingwhizbees October 27th, 2011 1:36 PM

    Despite my current love of all things creepy, as a kid I was so scared of those books that I didn’t even dare to read them. I would go to the library, take one off the shelf to read the description on the back cover, then put it right back. Poor wimpy younger self…

  • Besu October 27th, 2011 2:02 PM

    I really want to read these books now ahhhhhhhhh i’m officially excited and this is literally the best thing ever x

  • ShockHorror October 27th, 2011 4:35 PM

    I was givne a Goosbumps book when i was quite young. I took one look at the cover, put it on a shelf and DIDN’T DARE LOOK AT IT.

    Because I am big ol’ wuss who can’t stand scares.
    I couldn’t even read Beyonf teh Deepwoods because I glanced one drawing of a skull inside of it.

    NOW LOOK AT ME.

    Reading Tales of Terror and Nasty Endings and watchign Being Human and the Fades! (granted hiding under a banket for most of it but even so…)

    :L

    Having read this article I will give Goosbumps a go!

    Maybe after Halloween though…

  • Lily October 27th, 2011 7:27 PM

    This is like my childhood! I’m going to go straight to the library and I’m going to borrow a few of these!

  • missblack October 27th, 2011 8:11 PM

    I remember when I was little and I would see those books in the library they scared me so much…and my sister’s friends read them and I used to think they were all stupid for liking those books :) I still think they’re creepy.

  • Paloma October 28th, 2011 2:33 AM

    Dude, the Goosebumps covers are really amazing; the raised text is so perfect. Elementary school consisted of me reading Goosebumps and Nancy Drew. Countless hours spent reading alone in my closet in the middle of the night, too afraid to go to bed.

  • Rita Unicornia October 28th, 2011 4:43 PM

    Arrrr I love it! When I was like… 6 or 7 I couldn’t look at those books’ cover… My brother loves it and now that I’m 14 I do too! here’s the link to my blog :)

    http://www.ritahasablog.blogspot.com
    xox, Rita

  • amywearsplaid October 29th, 2011 10:53 AM

    Was I the only one who read the RL Stine “teen” books he wrote? I think called Fear Street? So much murder and mayhem! I got in trouble for reading them in elementary school, but I was hooked.

  • Kaetlebugg October 29th, 2011 8:04 PM

    EXTREMELY RELEVANT: http://www.youtube.com/NeilCicierega#p/u/1/LvrCoDZUwRg

  • Elizabeth October 31st, 2011 1:49 AM

    The most terrifying Goosebumps is Night Of The Living Dummy. I’m still haunted by the end of the film where the cousin’s head turns all the way around. MY MIND HAS NEVER RECOVERED FROM THAT CLIFFHANGER. THE DUMMY ISN’T DEAD GUYS. THE DUMMY ISN’T DEAD. I’m pretty sure that that movie and the movie about the tower of London were some of the scariest things I ever witnessed.

  • sasha.streiker October 31st, 2011 10:56 AM

    I Love this Book’s too.. :D

  • foxglovewilted October 31st, 2011 6:32 PM

    I remember reading the Monster Blood trilogy a million times, and reading and re-reading the rest of the series over and over again. Awesome article!

  • littlemustachecomb November 3rd, 2011 11:51 PM

    NOSTALGASM!

  • hazeleyedgirl November 8th, 2011 2:22 AM

    Gosh, I ADORED these books. My neighbour gave me like, fifty of his when he was in his teens and I was still a kid, and I fell in love.
    I can only remember some of them actually (why did I ever get rid of these books? WHY) one of which involved a creepy abandoned theme park and another in which a brother and sister visit their grandparents who live in a swamp, and they have a swamp creature hidden in a locked room! And they get trapped alone in the house! And the creatures begin to whistle, calling to one another in the swamp…

  • hazeleyedgirl November 8th, 2011 2:24 AM

    @Elizabeth, OMG I know exactly which one you are talking about! That dummy stroy was the creepiest thing EVER! I’ve never been able to look at a dummy in the same way ever again.