When people ask what got me into the horror genre, the answer is easy: Goosebumps by R.L. Stine. From the beautifully gruesome covers to the iconic monsters like Slappy and more, this series taught me that it’s fun to be scared sometimes (an essential quality for any horror fan).
I just love Goosebumps so much that it’s impossible for me not to talk about them as part of this Growing Up with Horror series. So, I’m doing a three-part Growing Up with Horror special where I’ll be counting down my top 10 favorite Goosebumps books, book covers, and TV episodes. This month, I’m starting with the books themselves, since they’re at the heart of the whole thing. It’s important to note that my book-related countdowns will only cover the original 62 book series. Books from the Give Yourself Goosebumps, Goosebumps 2000, or any of the other spin-offs will not be considered, simply because I haven’t had the chance to read all of those yet (my collection is woefully incomplete).
But before we start counting them down, I want to say a few quick words about the books. I received my first batch of Goosebumps books from a dear friend when I was really little (too little to really even read them). They were a little worn and beaten up, but that just made them all the more special to me. I remember trying to get my mom to read them to me when I was really little, but she didn’t want to because “they were too scary” even for her. Eventually though, I was able to read them on my own, and let me tell you, it was off to the races from there. I became a Goosebumps fiend. I was obsessed. I read everything Goosebumps I could get my hands on.
And these books left a mark over the years. They’re some of my most treasured possessions to this day, and I owe a lot of thanks to R.L. Stine. Not just for sharing his talent of scaring kids with the world, but also for inspiring me to read more, write my horror stories, and push the boundaries of my imagination.
So now, without further ado, let’s get Goosebumping!
10. Welcome to Dead House – Ah, yes, the one that started it all. The OG. It’s a pretty dark book to launch the series on too. Basically, an entire town is turned into the living undead after an accident at a plastics factory, and now they depend on bringing in literal “fresh blood” to survive. Even the dog gets turned into a zombie, which is a pretty bold choice. Overall, the book is dark, twisted, and oh-so glorious.
9. The Horror at Camp Jelly Jam – I’m not athletic. Or competitive. I don’t even really like sports. So, how does a book about a sinister sports camp make its way onto this list? Good old-fashioned nostalgia. I always dreamed of going to summer camp, but never got the chance to. I love the idea of this camp and the notion of collecting coins like victory points. It sounds like a fun challenge. Oh, and I love the awful stinking monster at the end of this one too.
8. The Scarecrow Walks at Midnight – I’ve always been a little freaked out by scarecrows. They’re a little too uncanny valley for me. This book is the reason probably why. In this story, magic brings these creepy scarecrows to life and soon, things head a wee bit south. I love the idea of an army of creepy scarecrows and the rural vibes this book gives off. They also made a graphic novelization of this story as part of the Goosebumps Graphix series, and it’s incredible as well. Highly recommend.
7. One Day at Horrorland – Okay, c’mon. Who wouldn’t want a horror-themed amusement park filled with monsters? It just seems like such a great idea, and I want to go to Horrorland so badly. From the unending Doom Slide to a Coffin Cruise, it seems like a heck of a good time (assuming that the monsters aren’t real and the rides are inspected by actual engineers). There’s even a car explosion in this one, and what’s cooler than a car explosion (nothing really).
6. Attack of the Jack-O-Lanterns – Forced into endlessly trick-or-treating by two pumpkin-headed weirdos, a group of kids have a horrifying and seemingly unending Halloween. I remember being terrified when I read this book, especially since there was a looming threat of kidnapping happening in the neighborhood. When I first read it, I couldn’t tell if the pumpkin heads were friend or foe. My heart raced with this one as I desperately wanted answers and more importantly, for the kids to be safe.
5. Stay Out of the Basement – This book is legitimately scary because the monster hits so close to the main character’s literal home. From the get-go, we know there’s something cwrong with the main character’s dad and when they are left home alone with him while the mom is away, things get even weirder. I love the heavy dose of mad scientist in this one and uncovering the mystery of what was really going on in the basement. More than just staying out of the basement, this book warns against trusting adults, especially the ones with plants growing out of their heads.
4. The Blob That Ate Everything – Okay, so for a while, this book was known in my head as “the book with The X Files reference in it.” I love The X Files, so that little extra bit of 90s sci-fi/horror nostalgia was a nice touch. More than that, though, I love this book because it’s from the point of view of a kid who wants to be a writer. That was me growing up. I can’t tell you how many times I dreamed about the stuff I wrote coming true and making my dull, dull life even a little bit more exciting. But after reading this book, I decided that wasn’t probably the greatest idea.
3. How to Kill a Monster – Musty old grandparents? Check. Creepy swamp? Check. Monster trapped in the house, just waiting to get out? Check. The most violent sounding Goosebumps book title? Double check. A whole lot to love? Check!
2. The Werewolf of Fever Swamp – This was probably my first real introduction to the werewolf genre, and it scared the crap out of me. First, can we talk about the name Fever Swamp? How brilliant is that? It sounds so spooky and dangerous that I wouldn’t dare step foot in there. Another thing I love about this book is all the misdirection that goes on. Who’s the werewolf? Is it the creepy hermit who lives out in the swamp? The boy next door? The strange neighbor girl? Or the actual wolf-dog? This book will keep you guessing and wondering what’s really out lurking in Fever Swamp.
1. The Haunted Mask – I absolutely love this book for a host of reasons. One, it’s a good book. Two, it’s scary. Three, it has an iconic cover. But I’d also be lying if I didn’t admit that nostalgia clouds this one a bit too. You see, this was the second Goosebumps book I ever read on my own. I was so scared reading it, but I couldn’t put the book down. I just couldn’t. I had to know what happened next. I devoured this book and loved every minute of it. I also feel this book has more heart than some of the other Goosebumps books out there, especially with the whole “symbol of love” bit being the way to get the mask to come off.
Honorable Mention: The Headless Ghost – Okay, I hinted at it above, so here it is. The first Goosebumps book I ever read. The one that got me hooked on the series. I remember sitting in our kitchen, under the light of an oddly low chandelier, reading this book as it stormed outside. Perfect setting. Perfect gateway into the horror genre and Goosebumps too.
What do you think? Did I miss any of your favorite books that gave you goosebumps as a kid?