Reader Beware … You’re In For A Scare!

If you didn’t recognise the title of this blog, then you’ve no business reading on. If you recognised it as RL Stine’s friendly-yet-spooky warning before you got stuck into a Goosebumps book, then please continue, dear friend.

Those of you who knew me in my childhood would probably recall how I would nearly wet myself on the day that our Scholastic Club book orders got delivered to school. If you don’t know what that is, then you didn’t grow up in NZ or Australia. They would hand out catalogues that you could select books from and pay for through school, and you would receive your books a few weeks later. They were ALWAYS late being delivered, and this angered me, because I was one of those little fat kids that went to the book bus every Friday evening and spent their pocket money on lollies to eat whilst reading.

These used to last all night, believe it or not.

Anyway, back to the Scholastic Book Club orders: My parents being on modest incomes at the time would only allow me to select one book per month, which was always a brutal death match between the latest Babysitters Club book and the latest Goosebumps book. Do you know how hard it is for a nerdy little kid to choose only book per month? Unfortunately for Goosebumps, Babysitters Club often won because I could actually stand in Whitcoulls and read an entire Goosebumps book in one go, whereas Babysitters Club would involve several hours and several 50c mixtures. Back in my day, they didn’t put chairs in bookstores because, well, people like myself would steal in the form of reading an entire book without purchasing it. So my collection of Babysitters Club was almost complete, and my collection of Goosebumps would be missing every second title, which I would later hunt down in those free ads for kids in the newspaper on the school holidays. But thats neither here nor there.

The month that I got this exact set, was probably the highlight of my year. That torch kept me reading long after Mum made me turn off the light!

I often reminisce about Goosebumps, particularly the way that the word “Goosebumps” was all bumpy on the cover. I like to think that this was actually braille for “best value for money yet predictable book series ever”. Because like them or not, Goosebumps were incredibly predictable and often followed the same plotline. The main character would always be 12 or 13, and would always have some form of family-based issue – either in the form of a hated sibling, or parents that just didn’t understand them. The parents would never be all that involved in the main characters daily life, or they would force them to do awful things like piano lessons, or go to summer camp. Whatever the parent forced the kid to do/partake in, would always be the reason for whatever horror occurred, and of course when the kid tried to tell their parents, they would never be believed as it would always be seen as an excuse to get out of whatever the activity was. This was actually kind of clever of Stine, because it is a scary thing for a kid to feel that they can’t trust their parents to keep them safe. Whether it be a piano teacher that steals students hands, or a cuckoo clock that goes back in time, the kid is always utterly alone in dealing with the bad stuff.

Now, where did I put that LSD?

What was best though for me, were the titles and concepts, and the cover illustrations. The cover illustration of “Return Of The Mummy” was perhaps the most beautiful thing I had ever seen, and even looking at it today stirs in me this intense happiness. I’ll probably get it tattooed at some stage. Maybe though, this was because it had been one of my Christmas presents from ca. 1993, that I had discovered in Mum’s closet and read about 5 times secretly in the weeks leading up to Christmas, and then acted like I hadn’t read it yet on Christmas Day. Another book that year was “Elizabeth’s Secret Diary” of the Sweet Valley High series. So possibly the thrill of knowing that I had read that book when I wasn’t supposed to is what excites me so much about it. I probably now have a deep-seated sexual fetish relating to books that I haven’t stumbled across yet. Can we please also consider the last paragraph: I was so much of a nerd that I would read behind my parents backs.

If only Brendan Fraser was one of the main characters …

“Phantom Of The Auditorium” was also a great cover and a great read. I always loved the Americanised ways of those books, and often felt a bit bummed out that I wasn’t an American kid. I also used to spell everything the American way when I was younger, leaving out many a “u” in my writing for schoolwork, never to be corrected by a teacher on it. Perhaps the teachers were also secretly reading Goosebumps before Christmas Day?

“Not scared yet? Well, I’ll be at the Red Lobster if you change your mind!”

RL Stine certainly influenced me so much in my youth that I used to write horror stories at school, and these horror stories would have gruesome covers with bloody knives etc. In Standard 4 we used to all write and illustrate stories and make covers for them, and then they would go into a box from which we would each choose a story to read in our quiet reading time. I kid you not, kids would scramble to get at my shit, probably for the bloody illustrations, and maybe the likeness to crappy predictable horror stories. Once I wrote one called “The Stepfather”, about Arianna, whose mother remarried and Arianna thought there was something awfully sinister about her new stepfather but couldn’t place her finger on it – yet her mother was so besotted that she didn’t listen to Arianna (sound familiar, Goosebumps fans?) and the climax was that the girl stuffed her bed with pillows on the night she knew that the stepfather would try and kill her, to convince everyone that he was a baddie. But seriously, I was 9-10 years old and the story had a really good plot and developed characters, not to mention chilling illustrations. I can thank RL Stine for all of that, seeing as I probably ripped off his most successful plotline. Cheers, RL. Whilst the other kids were fumbling around with incomplete sentences about going to the park and other trivial bullshit, I was furiously penning out Stephen King’s next competition – the teachers probably thought I was really disturbed or had an awful home life or something.

Plagiarism? Never!

I love remembering stuff about my childhood, it actually makes me quite happy about who I am. I used to feel a bit embarrassed that I was such a little bookworm, but I bet if I hadn’t been so nerdy, I’d not have developed the skills required to get my ass through high school, or to have started writing a blog for all you fine people to laugh at and relate to. On a side note, if anyone has any old Goosebumps books, or younger siblings that they don’t mind robbing, please let me know urgently as I would like to collect all of the original titles – original covers only ploise.

Love, Chelle xoxoxoxoxooxoxoxoxoxox

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4 thoughts on “Reader Beware … You’re In For A Scare!

  1. Americans had Scholastic orders every month too, and the Scholastic book fair like one or twice a year as well. We were poor, as my mom was a single mom, and I used to beg and cry and plead for her to buy me things from the order forms. I would circle things I wanted and leave them in places I thought she might find them, like on her pillow, or in the freezer. The year I got a box full of about 50 Babysitter’s Club books, I thought I had won some kind of child lottery. Loved this post, I can totally relate. Also, I think I have some old Goosebumps books hanging around in the attic, I’ll see if I can find them for you, and if so, I’ll send them next time I send a package to Peter.

    • Please do – That would be awesome! Funny how you mention “attic” …. yet another thing that all those kids in those Goosebumps/Babysitters Club books had, yet nobody I knew had. I always wanted an attic, filled with forgotten mysteries!!!! I also love how you left hints in the freezer hahaha. I was also lucky enough to be given a huge box full of Babysitters Club and Sweet valley High books, I think one of my parents friends’ kid had outgrown them and it was possibly the best day of my life. I felt like a king!

  2. I loved goosebumps!! The series is on Netflix just so you know 🙂 I live in Ontario, Canada and we also had Scholastic book orders. Best memories of my childhood for sure.

    • Was there ever anything more exciting than the anticipation of waiting for your Babysitters Club “chain letter book” or annual calendar, through Scholastic book orders?? NOPE!

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