?By Adrian Beiting
Well before J.K. Rowling unleashed the nigh-unstoppable juggernaut of Harry Potter, another intrepid, dual-initialed author decided to make his mark on children’s literature by creating Goosebumps. This horror fiction series hijacked the imaginations of kids throughout the ’90s thanks to its relatively low per book cost, awesome cover art, sweet bumpy 3-D title lettering and R.L. Stine’s seemingly book-a-day completion rate. That’s not to overlook the content; totally ridiculous in retrospect, Stine’s Twilight Zoning of the tween set’s everyday angst made for an intriguing cocktail of real scares and dark humor that no 12-year-old could resist. What really topped these books off though were their endings; when entering the world of R.L. Stine, all bets were off — even if you made it past all the giant hamsters and killer dummies the books threw at you, the characters you’d grown so familiar with along the way still weren’t guaranteed a safe ride home, and even though some twists were goofier than they were scary, others succeeded in actually making our little souls hurt. Think you have what it takes to see which twists from Goosebumps‘ 62-book original run made the cut? Grab that flashlight — reader beware, you’re in for a scare.
The Plot: Oft-teased eleven-year-old middle school student Carly Beth is unhappy with the duck costume her mother made her for Halloween and opts instead for an ugly deformed mask that she practically has to steal from the mysterious local costume shop. In what may be the most popular book from the original Goosebumps series, Carly Beth soon realizes that she can no longer remove the mask from her head as it has literally merged with her face and is causing her to act like the monster she now resembles.
The Twist!: Once Carly Beth is able to free herself from the mask’s evil spell, all seems well in Carlyland. That is until Carly Beth’s little brother Noah is revealed to put on the mask himself, which might not sound so bad, but considering the hell Carly Beth has just gone through having someone else put on the mask is probably the exact opposite of the best thing that could happen to any of the book’s characters.
The Plot: Continuing the proud tradition of breaking into places they don’t belong and stealing shit that isn’t theirs, Greg and his friends Michael, Bird, and Shari decide to sneak into an old house with a bad reputation, allowing Greg to discover and swipe a camera that turns out to produce pictures that not only show horrible future events occurring to the subjects of its photographs but seems to be responsible for said horrible events as well.
The Twist!: After the kids battle to return the camera to its original hiding place, R.L. Stine crushes any hope of a happy ending his readership might have had with the revelation that Mickey and Joey, the book’s two bully characters have somehow gotten their hands on the camera and are taking pictures of each other with it, ensuring the camera’s curse to be far from over. A pretty grisly end even for a pair of nogoodniks, but hey, nobody said Goosebumps was fair, man.
The Plot: Lindy uncovers a ventriloquist dummy in the dumpster behind the house next door she and her twin sister Kris are snooping around in while it’s still under construction. Naming the dummy Slappy, Lindy eventually is offered money to perform at birthday parties while Kris is forced to enviously look on. Kris eventually gets a dummy of her own, which she names Mr. Wood and the sibling rivalry really heats up! Mr. Wood proves in short order to be alive, taking part in such activities as strangling Slappy, claiming that the sisters are his “slaves” and attempting K-9cide on the family dog. Mr. Wood eventually bites it at the end thanks to the divine intervention of a steamroller which smashes him up real good like.
The Twist!: Once the dog strangler has been dealt with, the sisters return home only to discover that Slappy is also very alive and very evil, picking right up where Mr. Wood left off by spouting off more nonsense about making them his slaves. We really didn’t need a twist with this one though, as all of the book’s talk about puppets turning little girls into their slaves was scary enough, thanks.
The Plot: As with many Goosebumps protagonists, Ricky Beamer is frequently the subject of some pretty mean-spirited teasing. In Ricky’s case, the bullying isn’t only done by one kid or a couple, but essentially the entire school, and when his revenge plot involving a newspaper listing goes awry he finds himself to be the focus of a group of reptilian “Creeps” who masquerade during the day as the most prominent of Ricky’s classmate adversaries (his “four enemies”) in their human form but now mistake him as their “Commander.” Thinking him to be one of their own, they fill him in on their plan to turn the whole school into Creeps by mixing “Identity Seeds” (ewww?) in with their meals.
The Twist!: Ricky originally intends to stop the Creeps’ plan, which has now been revised to take place during the school bake sale. When Ricky grabs the mic and implores the other members of the student body not to eat the cookies, they mock him as they always do, chanting “Sicky Ricky” instead of heeding his warning. The Creeps then appeal to Ricky, informing him that anyone who turns Creep will become his slave. Armed with this new piece of information, Ricky chillingly decides to let his classmates bite into the baked treats, even goading them on by shilling them out for free, and therefore enslaving them all. You’ve got a cold heart, Ricky Beamer. A cold freakin’ heart.
The Plot: A boy named Billy is sent off to Camp Nightmoon by his parents and meets various colorful characters along the way, including his fellow campers, Camp Nightmoon leader Uncle Al and a nasty set of snarling beasts that threaten his well-being. Unfortunately for Billy and company, this is only the beginning of the strangeness that Camp Nightmoon has to offer, as things begin to go wrong at a disturbing pace and Uncle Al seems strangely apathetic about the whole situation.
The Twist!: Simultaneously a candidate for a list of the worst Goosebumps twists, this one was a bit of a double whammy for young Goosebumps fans rushing eagerly through each page; not only was the concept of Camp Nightmoon revealed to be a carefully orchestrated hoax put in place to test Billy’s readiness for a mission that his explorer parents want to take him on, it turns out that that said mission happened to be a trip to a place called “Earth.” That’s right, paperback clenching 9-year-olds, consider your minds blown.
The Plot: When friends Erin and Marty get to go on an exclusive tour of a new theme park inspired by their favorite horror franchise (Shock Street) they couldn’t be happier. Naturally, they soon realize that their exclusive trip to examine the park’s offerings is anything but a sweet ride as they encounter one bizarre obstacle after another from Shock Street canon, ranging from being attacked by praying mantises and werewolves to almost sinking to their doom in quicksand.
The Twist!: Say what you will about the quality of the overall story, when you learn the truth about Erin and Marty–that they are simply malfunctioning robots in need of new chips being used to test out the new Shock Street theme park, the wind will be taken out of your sails faster than you can say “monster blood.” That’s right, all of that excitement, fear, angst, and heroism put on display by the kids you thought you got to know throughout the preceding 115 or so pages was one big lie, and actually just the preprogrammed function of a carefully engineered CPU. Because they’re just objects. Cold, artificially constructed, lifeless objects. Bwahahaa! Take that little kid hearts!
The Plot: When lead protagonist Lucy Dark (coolest name ever!) catches her summer library reading program coordinator Mr. Mortman transforming into a monster, she knows she has to reveal the truth to those she is closest to.
The Twist!: After finally convincing both her friend Aaron and her parents of the truth behind Mr. Mortman’s strange behavior, Lucy’s parents invite Mr. Mortman over for dinner only to reveal that they…wait for it…are monsters too! SURPRISE! Mr. Mortman soon finds himself to be the main course on the dinner menu as Lucy’s folks chow down on a Mortman meal and Lucy is forced to reassess her definition of monsterdom.
The Plot: After his birthday party, Max and his remaining party guests, friends Erin and April and his little brother Lefty uncover a secret room in his attic with the help of Whitey the family dog. The crew promptly discovers that the room houses a large, old mirror that lets them become invisible by pulling the chain dangling from its light fixture. Soon after, Max and little bro Lefty start using their newfound ability to have “who can stay invisible the longest” contests among other hijinks, including scaring Max’s best friend Zach, who in retrospect probably needs to find himself better friends. Ultimately, Max discovers that the mirror has been trapping his friends one by one and replacing them with their mirror reflection alter egos in the real world. With the heavy stuff going down, Lefty comes through at the last minute and saves the day, shattering the mirror by tossing invisible Max’s reflection a baseball and seemingly returning everyone back to their correct respective worlds.
The Twist!: With the mirror broken and the evil mirror people seemingly confined forever to their evil mirror world, Max and Lefty decide to chill out by taking part in a nice game of catch. It’s only then that Max realizes that Lefty is suddenly throwing with his right hand. Noooooooooooooooooo!
The Plot: Hannah Fairchild’s summer is turning out to be pretty bleak until her new neighbor Danny appears in her life and she becomes increasingly convinced that he is indeed a ghost.
The Twist!: Uncommonly for a Goosebumps book, the most important twist in The Ghost Next Door doesn’t take place at the very end of the story, but that doesn’t make it any less epic. As events unfold, it is revealed that Hannah, not Danny, was the ghost the whole time. It turns out that she and her whole family died horribly in a fire five years ago and Hannah was essentially directly responsible because she didn’t extinguish her backyard camp fire. Jiminy Christmas. Hallway light on or off, kids?
The Plot: Unfortunately named Samantha Byrd is, surprise, a loner who is consistently harassed by her classmates. One night after basketball practice she helps an old woman (Clarissa) home and is offered three wishes in return for her kindness. Apparently not familiar with the concept of wishing for more wishes, eternal life, or infinite money, Samantha Byrd begins to wish for comparably lame and trivial things like “being the strongest player on the basketball team” and for her mean girl classmate Judith to “disappear.”
The Twist!: Predictably, making such narrow-minded wishes causes Samantha’s quality of life to diminish further and she ultimately uses her last wish to create a scenario where Judith meets Clarissa instead of herself, which turns out to be the worst idea ever as Samantha finds herself to have been changed into a black crow in both the least fair, most unexpected and horrifying Goosebumps ending ever. Good grief!