Monday, June 1, 2009


Growing up, I read a lot. I knew how to hold a book right side up by the time I was three, and was reading chapter books by the time I was four. There was something about being thrown into a different world that I found fascinating, and it has stuck with me until this day.
My favorites were the series of books by R.L. Stine, the ever-infamous Goosebumps series. Sort of a "Stephen King Lite," they mixed humor with horror, and inspired me to write similar short stories when I was a kid (including one that involved a book on strange foliage from the library sprouting a killer plant when turned to a specific page, told from the point of view of the detective working the case). He was originally my inspiration to become a writer, I guess you could say. Of course, I didn't plan on releasing an ungodly amount of books upon the world so that hundreds of copies could litter the shelves at used bookstores for decades to come, but you know what I mean.
There were 67 of these books in the original series, and I managed to read around 45 of them between the ages of 8 and 13, and...what's that, reader? You feel something coming up? A feeling that feels so familiar, yet you can't quite put your finger on? I think I know what it is. Yep, it's:
I'll bet you thought I was going to make a lame joke about getting goosebumps while reading this post on Goosebumps, didn't you? No reader, I am far more sophisticated than that. So sophisticated that I spend about 45 seconds making that banner you see up there. Impressed? You should be.
Anyways, on with the list (which only includes books from the original 67 books, none from Series 2000 or any of the other spinoffs):

#5: The Barking Ghost (#32)

See that dog up there? The white, snarling one with the red eyes? That motherfucker gave me nightmares when I was young. My bed as a child was next to a window, and two of those snarling, ghost-hounds would crash through that window every night in the world inside my head. I'd wake up in cold sweats in the wee hours of the night because of it. I actually specifically remember an instance in which I had convinced myself so strongly that one of the dogs was in my room and under my bed, that I had started trembling. Mistaking my trembling for the bed's, I screamed and hollered until my grandpa came into the room and calmed me down. There was, of course, nothing under my bed, and I remained completely intact throughout the night (though I did become a stereotype for children everywhere).
The funny part is, the content of the book had nothing to do with it. The book itself was a sub-par in comparison to the rest of the Goosebumps back catalogue, but for some reason it effected me more than most. And despite being sub-par, it was actually really original.

#4: Egg Monsters From Mars (#42)

Egg Monsters From Mars was the perfect book for kids who have lied so many times that their parents never believe them anymore. The kid in the book, Dana, finds these weird green eggs that have monsters inside of them. They are nice to him, but eat some doctor dude by the end of the book. Of course, Dana's parent's don't believe him, because scrambled egg aliens are completely improbable.
As a child, I was a compulsive liar. I was the kind of kid that would make up absolutely insane stories and expect people to believe them, and would pretend to be offended when they didn't (my favorite involved a pet monkey my parents and I used to have named Bobo). So of course, when I would tell a true story, no one would believe me. They'd scoff, zip up their Old Navy windbreakers and make Pokemon out of clay. It made no sense to me then, but it clearly does now.

#3: How I learned to Fly (#52)
This book was one of the ten or so out of the whole series that wasn't necessarily "scary," but instead, just kinda weird. Some kid basically reads a book that teaches him how to fly, and another prick reads it and flies as well, blah blah blah preteen angst and jealousy. It's funny how these books are so easy to relate to as a kid, but for all the wrong reasons. Some twatbag kid down the street stole your glory? How I Learned to Fly is for you.
Just like The Barking Ghost, this one inspired some of my dreams as a kid as well. In one specific instance, I was at school, wearing a SUPER large shirt and nothing else (not even underwear!) and I started floating above all of my classmates, flashing them my pre-pubescent dick. They laughed, and I'm 99% sure I woke up sweating (and possibly crying).
Emotionally scarring stuff, Goosebumps.

#2: One Day at HorrorLand (#16)In what is probably the most ridiculous opening to any book ever, some kids' parents decide to take them to a theme park called HorrorLand. They park their car in the otherwise empty parking lot, and their car FUCKING EXPLODES as they walk away. They run to the ticket booth at the front of HorrorLand, and the FUCKING MONSTER in the ticket booth gives them FREE ADMISSION and claims that there ISN'T A PHONE THERE. They walk inside, where the parents GO LOOK FOR ONE, while LEAVING THEIR KIDS ALONE TO DO WHAT THEY PLEASE IN A PARK NAMED HORRORLAND.
If you didn't find anything wrong with the above paragraph, I've gone back and bolded the absolutely batshit insane parts of it for you. The rest of the book is dedicated to the three kids exploring the park like a bunch of morons that explore semi-deserted theme parks named HorrorLand. A bunch of crazy shit happens, and the kids are reunited with their parents. The family then finds out that they are on a FUCKING TELEVISION SHOW THAT BROADCASTS TO "OVER TWO MILLION" MONSTERS. Then, the dad COMPLAINS ABOUT THE ATTITUDES OF THE EMPLOYEES OF THE PARK AS IF THEY AREN'T MONSTERS ILLEGALLY FILMING THEM, and runs away with everyone behind him.
Oh, and at the end, they FORGET THAT THEIR CAR EXPLODED and STEAL A BUS.
So I've come to a conclusion about this family. Either they are absolutely, certifiably stupid, or R.L. Stine was really hurting for some plot twists. Probably both. Either way, I loved the shit out of it when I was a kid.

#1: Monster Blood II (#18)
While the first, third, and fourth books in the Monster Blood quadrilogy were good, nothing quite beat out the second one, in my opinion. As the first book says, monster blood is a goo that makes whatever eats it grow in size. In the first book, it was the protagonist Evan's dog, Trigger. In this book, it's a hamster in Evan's class. Some douche of a girl feeds the hamster monster blood in the first half of the book, and the other parts are all about Evan trying to keep it under control. Like I said above, the adults in the Goosebumps universe were always stupid, small-minded people that never believed a word any of the kids in the books said, so Evan keeping this giant hamster a secret from his teacher was no problem (until the end, that is). In fact, while the hamster was the size of a small dog, I specifically remember Evan's teacher claiming that it was "overfed." Yeah, moron, the hamster was overfed...WITH MONSTER BLOOD.
Anyways, when I was ten, reading a book in which a cute, cuddly hamster (creatively named "Cuddles") turns into a snarling, dog-sized beast absolutely blew my mind. Even better, when Cuddles continues to grow, Evan decides that it would be a great idea to eat some monster blood himself and fight with the ten foot tall rodent. And yeah, it happens. And the hamster wins, kinda.
I can still hear the synapses in my brain popping and fizzing. I'm pretty sure I sustained pretty serious brain damage after reading that as a kid.