With the impending release of the new film Goosebumps, I’ve started down a 90’s nostalgia path from which I have yet to return. So, with that in mind – a big Happy Birthday wish to R.L. Stine, who thoroughly creeped me during my childhood and adolescence.
To celebrate the birth anniversary of the Point Horror Master himself, I’ve gathered a list of my favourite Stine titles. I spent many happy hours in the library thanks to this man, so picking just ten was really difficult. If you’re not familiar with any of these books, I suggest you check him out for a spine-tingle of your very own.
R. L. Stine’s Top Ten Terrors
Just look at that man on the cover. Just. Look. That is seriously the most terrifying illustration ever to grace a Goosebumps book.
The story itself wasn’t as scary as most of the Stine books, but it places in the top ten because it was so memorable. Seriously. It’s fifteen years later and I still think of this book whenever I smell Brussel Sprouts cooking.
Siblings Sue and Eddie are visiting London when they lose their tour group. Still, there’s no reason to panic. No way their tour guide would just leave them, locked alone in a gloomy prison tower. After dark. With a strange dark figure who wants them dead…
When Richard III was uncovered in a Sainsbury’s car park, my immediate thought was of this book. Reminiscent of the historical English legend The Princes in the Tower, this book is set in the Tower of London, a place which still holds fascination for me today.
As far as I remember, the plot ‘twist’ was fairly easy to guess at the time, but it stood apart from its fellow Goosebumps books for its effect. It encouraged me to take an interest in British history which, as it turns out, really was as bloody and dangerous as the book suggested.
This was the first ‘choose your own adventure’ style story I ever read. Each adventure in Carnival was based on a fairground attraction: the Supersonic Space Coaster, a Reptile Petting Zoo, the Snake Lady and more.
I must have read this book at least a dozen times, making different choices to get different endings, each as spooky as the last. A great story to keep children engaged.
When Jack digs up an old, cool book, he knows he’s found the best way to fight back against bully Wilson Schlame. But everything is about to change. The book teaches humans how to fly but, now Jack can explore the skies, things down on earth start getting really scary…
One of the few Goosebumps stories without a supernatural protagonist, this book was the first time I thought to mistrust the media. And scientists. And the idea of celebrity. So, all in all, this was quite the developmental book for me.
Whilst the protagonist was a bit of a wet weekend, I warmed to him simply because Wilson Schlame was such a little toad. And I particularly liked the solution Jack came up with at the end that solved all his problems.
Also: it’s a book about kids flying. Come on, that’s cool.
6) Say Cheese & Die! (MG)
Greg finds an old camera, but the photos keep turning out… wrong. When he takes a picture of his Dad’s brand-new car, it’s wrecked in the picture. Then his Dad crashes the car. Does the camera tell the future? Or make it?
Just… scientists, alright? Don’t trust them. This book is the paper precursor to horror flicks like The Ring and The Grudge. Slowly developing Polaroid photographs that show what terrible thing is going to happen to you? An incredibly poetic ending? Yes, please!
This book. This book.
I spent weeks staring in my mirror after reading it, imagining what it’d be like if everything were just the opposite way around. Including me. I also made lots of sudden movements to double-check my reflection really was just a reflection, and not another me…
4) The Wrong Number (YA)
First of all, let me say how much I love the fact there’s a creepy road called Fear Street. Point Horror books were fabulous at this kind of subtlety.
The Wrong Number was the first YA Horror I read from Stine, and it certainly stayed with me. The trio of teens dial a random number and overhear a murder being committed.
Unsure if what they’ve heard is real, they decide to investigate, which puts their lives in great danger. If you’re ever looking for a way to teach your children not to prank-call strangers, this creep-tastic novel is it.
Practice till you drop… dead. Jerry starts piano lessons, but there’s something creepy about his teacher, Dr. Shreek. Then Jerry hears the stories about the students who went in for a lesson… and never came out.
FREE ADVICE: If anyone ever seems obsessed with your hands, run away immediately.
For a girl who was taking keyboard and piano lessons at the time, this book was a lingering nightmare. Fortunately, I don’t have particularly aesthetic hands or any musical skill either, so I felt pretty safe.
That said, the image of severed hands comes into my head any time I hear piano music. No wonder I gave up playing!
When Tommy Frazer starts Bell Valley Middle School, he finds it hard to make friends. And the school is so big, he keeps getting lost – which is when he hears the voices. Kids, crying for help, from behind the classroom walls…
I think about this book literally every time I put lipstick on. It is, without a doubt, my favourite Goosebumps story. Parallel worlds, colourless children, wild Lord of the Flies style dangers, and a huge twist at the end that I hadn’t guessed before it was revealed – which so rarely happens! Just thinking about it wants to make me read it all over again.
1) Beach House (YA)
I filled my teen years with horror books; I went through them like a hot knife through a corpse. Beach House remains a firm favourite. What wasn’t to like? Dual narratives, shark attacks, mysterious old ladies and time-travelling murderers.
Also, Brylcreem. An obscene abundance of Brylcreem.
I was hooked on this fantastic book until the last page.
I wasn’t sure where to place this book in my top ten, so I didn’t. It wasn’t one of my favourites but, as a friend said, it’s simply too “iconic” to leave out completely. Night of the Living Dummy is a classic Goosebumps tale in which two sisters compete with ventriloquist dummies (Slappy and Mr. Wood). It soon it becomes evident than one of the dummies is evil… but which one?
At the time I read this book, my Nan had just given me a china doll called Beth. I spent many nights afterwards listening for the rustle of her skirts, or the pitter-patter of tiny china feet.
So, cheers, Mr. Stine, for those sleepless nights – top job! FYI, Beth is still in my room.
These books have stayed with me for the past fifteen years; I still think of them as I pass a piano, or see red lipstick, or smell Brussel Sprouts cooking on the hob. I take my hat and head off to the writer who made growing up such a scream, and wish him many happy returns.