Madeline Poage ’17 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer
1. Piano Lessons Can Be Murder
Young Jerry and his parents have just moved into—what a surprise—a new house, where Jerry finds an old piano in the attic and a face-melting, bloody-stumps-for-hands, shrieking ghost lady who will not leave him alone. Think that’s the scary part? Enter Dr. Shreek, Jerry’s new piano teacher, who keeps telling Jerry that he has “great hands.” The set up is ominous enough, but the big reveal at the end has such haunting imagery that brings to story together in one creepy crescendo, making it a great Halloween read.
2. Night of the Living Dummy
Everyone already knew puppets were creepy, but R.L. Stine just couldn’t leave it alone. When competitive twin sisters, Lindy and Kris, both get dummies, Slappy and Mr. Wood, it’s clear something’s not quite right. Evil dummies enslaving children and strangling dogs adorably named Barky are not what most readers have in mind, but it does the trick. Both Slappy and Mr. Wood are terrifying and the suspense leading up to them deciding to cut the charade of the inanimate objects and begin their reign of terror builds beautifully.
3. The Haunted Mask
Shy, bullied little Carly Beth Caldwell is exactly the kind of girl no one wants to see in a Goosebumps book. She deserves so much better, but gets more than she bargained for when she gets a super scary Halloween mask, but once it’s on, cannot remove it. The terror of watching a sweet kid get transformed into a monster—the kind who make her life miserable every day—adds a surprising amount of emotional grounding to the story, but it’s truly the ending that sends shivers up the spine.
4. The Ghost Next Door
Despite the standard supernatural elements of this story, it remains one of the saddest in the series. Hannah Fairchild, meets new neighbor Danny, who she believes is a ghost. But is he? It’s clear something’s not right with the picture, but is Hannah just looking at it wrong? This has one of the more interesting plot twists—not exactly a shock, but incredibly compelling.
5. The Curse of Camp Cold Lake
Just the cover art of this classic was always enough to make it one of the more coveted books in the classroom, but it follows the standard horror model of taking something familiar and loved by kids—fun-filled summer camp—and contorting it into an unrecognizable nightmare. Camp Cold Lake is full of secrets as protagonist Sarah struggles to escape both the camp she hates and the ghost now haunting her, and not all of them are revealed early. With a twist ending that is a nightmare generator, it’s a great read anytime of the year.
6. The Girl Who Cried Monster
One of the most twisted tales in the series, and the most shocking, the story follows Lucy Dark in her quest to prove that the enormous, sweaty, creepy librarian, Mr. Mortmain, is a monster. But as a girl obsessed with monsters, no one believes her. Undeterred, she is determined to prove Mortmain is not who he claims to be. With a man gobbling up live fish, amphibians, and anything slimy every few pages and a disturbing ending, even for Goosebumps, this one is a must.
7. Say Cheese and Die!
Don’t be fooled by this lighthearted title—this story features kids who find an old camera, which only produces pictures that predict a worrisome future of car accidents, disappearance, and death. Can you avoid the fate your picture predicts? No one seems to, but in this surprisingly PG tale, it’s the suspense and mystery that keep the fear alive. Not only that, but just wait until the end, where the reader doesn’t need a creepy camera to know that sequels are sure to come.
8. The Werewolf of Fever Swamp
Here, it’s the setting that counts. Fever Swamp is the perfect place for a story as wild and untamed as this. Grady Tucker knows there’s an animal out there in the swamp, and he knows it’s not the huge, lovable dog he found named Wolf. Now he just has to prove it. The atmosphere is oppressive, heated, and most of all, murky—just like Grady’s fate.
9. A Shocker on Shock Street
R.L. Stine is known for a surprise twist ending, but this one has to be read to be believed. Follow two kids to a new adventure park, which they are the first to test out. Each scene is everything fans love about these books—gross monsters, harrowing escapes, seemingly inescapable creatures—until that ending. No spoilers, but Stine does give his middle-school audience the middle finger with this abrupt and totally out-of-left-field conclusion that is itself a reason to check this one out.
10. The Scarecrow Walks at Midnight
This is a book that doesn’t need a twist ending or a terrifying reveal—it’s clear who the monster in this is, and it’s freaky enough without some kind of literary manipulation on Stine’s part. Who is the monster? The Scarecrow. What is he doing? Scaring more than crows, as the equivalent of autumn puppets comes to life with murderous intentions. Definitely a Halloween read!