Written by Jonathan Wojcik
October 13: Bogleech's Top Thirteen Goosebumps Monsters!
Bogleech's Top Thirteen Goosebumps Monsters!
Though they hold up hilariously not all that well to discriminating adult tastes, R.L. Stine's Goosebumps should be familiar to anyone who could still browse children's books in the 90's without getting tailed by security. We positively devoured these damn things back in the day, a day when books, believe it or not, were more accessible to most children than the internet. I've long neglected to address what was, at least briefly, a pretty major part of my late childhood, so here's my personal top ten monsters to ever appear in Goosebumps books!
#13: The Creeps
So a kid finds himself bullied, and in a fit of anger, makes a joke radio broadcast addressed to all the "creeps" out there. Then it turns out his bullies are literally monsters called "creeps" disguised as humans, who look like naked purple velociraptors, and this monstrous master race, hiding among man for untold aeons, mistakes the child for their own undercover leader, all because he called them creeps. How did these idiot lizards even manage to keep themselves a secret all this time? They're the worst reptilian overlords ever. You really just want to humor them and pat their little pea-brained dinosaur heads. Somehow or other, they do go on to conquer the world, or at least it's strongly implied.
#12: The Robot Mantids
I remember being fairly excited to see a giant insect on a Goosebumps cover, but fairly disappointed when they were such minor players in an otherwise unremarkable "scary amusement park" plot. I really like the cute beak-mouth in the illustration. It's not accurate, but at least it reminds me Zorak.
#11: The Scarecrows
"The Scarecrow Walks at Midnight" was honestly one of the only Goosebumps titles to seriously disturb me the first time I read it. I doubt if it would hold up now, but my memory paints it with such an eerie, dreadful atmosphere, vividly describing the damp, suffocating mustiness of the scarecrows awkwardly shuffling around in the dark. Scarecrows really don't get the serious horror treatment too often, and this one proved that it could be done...at least by kid standards, which are only marginally beneath my own. Or is it above? I always forget.
#10: The Monster Butterfly (not shown)
This is going to take some fairly ridiculous explaining, so stay with me: "Go Eat Worms" is about a little boy whose obsession with earthworms is a little too extreme (there's a "too" obsessed with earthworms? Huh.) until he keeps finding more and more of them in his food and clothes and wherever else he doesn't want them to be. He thinks they were just planted by the bullies at school, but then it turns out only some of them were, and then a giant anaconda-sized earthworm pops out of the ground to try and kill him. Apparently, they were unhappy with him chopping them in half all the time, and they should be, because FYI, that whole thing about earthworms surviving and regenerating after they're cut apart is a myth. It's true for Platyhelminthes, but not Anellidae
After his brush with death, the kid takes up butterfly collecting, and won't shut up about that, because he's really learned nothing whatsoever here. In the final twist, and in fact very final line of the book, a giant butterfly appears out of the sky, carrying a giant pin, and then...that's it. We're left to assume that a big, silly butterfly flapped down and impaled a child on a huge metal pike of a needle. I don't know if it had a giant jar full of chloroform or if it just watched the kid squirm and bleed to death, but either scenario is hilarious, and well worth the two ungainly paragraphs it took to spoil it.
#9: The Giant Hamster
"Monster Blood" was the best known Goosebumps miniseries, spanning at least four or five books about magical, ever-growing green slime that causes people and animals to grow huge if they ingest any. Not as much was done with this as I'd have liked (how do you have this kind of plot and not an outbreak of huge, killer insects? How do you resist that, Stine?!) but the giant classroom hamster of Monster Blood II, constantly vomiting even more Monster Blood, is by far the most monstrous portrayal of a giant hamster in my recollection. A constantly vomiting giant hamster.
#8: The Blob that Ate Everyone
This one is pretty meta, since "The Blob that Ate Everyone" is both the name of the book and the name of a story written by the protagonist, who learns all too late that he's been writing on a magic typewriter that makes everything come true. But wait! We're not done yet! FOllowing the monster's defeat, we learn that the entire book was written by a blob monster to begin with, who then decides he'll change the ending and have the kids get eaten. So we have a story-within-a-story-within-a-story where the blob exists in all three and wins in all three. Also, how cute is it that a blob would write something called "THE BLOB THAT ATE EVERYONE" in the first place?
#7: The Hybrid Plants
"Stay Out of the Basement" was a fairly cool one, where a kid's busy botanist dad keeps acting creepier, crazier and colder to his own family. Turns out, he was replaced by a perfect plant-based imitation grown in his own laboratory, after a long line of failed experiments producing tomatoes with noses and cabbages with feet. Plant-dad is eventually slaughtered and dear old dad is free, though the fact that he was hybridizing humans with plants to begin with isn't nearly questioned as deeply as it should be.
#6: The Body Squeezers
This one came out years after I originally moved on from collecting and reading these things, but the aliens have a pretty killer design, nice and crab-like. All I know is that they "squeeze people" to take control of them. I'm not sure what exactly that's supposed to mean.
#5: The Haunted Mask
This was the first Goosebumps book I'd ever read, and I can remember being positively gripped. At the time, this story of an ultra-realistic Halloween mask that fuses with its wearer somehow creeped the hell out of me, rather than sounding like the bad-ass fun time it should. Actually created by a crazy old magician, the mask was one of several that were meant to be beautiful new faces for people - creepy enough, really - but inexplicably transformed into hideous, disgusting parasitic monster-heads. Story wise, I actually kind of preferred the second book, where the masks sucked a lot worse to imagine getting hijacked by. One of them was just a pig covered in boogers. Can you imagine getting turned into a pig covered in boogers forever? I don't think I can conceive of a more disturbing fate, and I'm not even joking.
#4: The Horrors of Horror Land
I always thought the premise of this one could work wonderfully in a more serious horror story; a scary amusement park secretly run by real monsters to prey upon humans. The rubbery green ogres are remembered best and seem to be the ones in charge, but the climax brings us a whole parade of crazy creatures, including gross flightless birds and a multi-mouthed ball of hair.
#3: The Egg Monsters
These cute, gooey rotten egg-yolk creatures eventually turn out to be "friendly," or at least seem fairly friendly when they huddle together and keep a little boy from dying of hypothermia in an evil scient's walk-in freezer. Long story. Things get a little less wholesome in the book's final twist, when the same little boy just up and lays a giant egg himself. There's a word for what we call that on our planet, egg monsters. A word that rhymes with "grape."
#2: King Jellyjam
R.L. Stine must be the only person who likes amorphous blob monsters as much as I do, and this is a weird one even by his standards. King Jellyjam is a giant, purple heap who runs a fake summer camp as a front for enslaving human children...to constantly bathe him. With mops. He is a monster who enslaves children and forces them to mop him. He does this because he smells bad, and contrary to this cover art, his hands are too stubby to attend to his own hygiene. Also, he "sweats snails." Hundreds and hundreds of live snails, just oozing and clattering out of his flesh, all the time. Where the hell does something like this come from? Where does the very idea for something like this come from? Even for Stine, this one was bonkers!
This is another later one I never read, but I love this gelatinous, fleshy heap of guts the most of all the various smuts and goobers we've seen here, and the story at least sounds interesting. The kid this time is suffering so many bizarre, realistic nightmares that he can't even separate them from reality, and his very existence may be nothing more than the delusion of some inhuman entity. It's like Jacob's Ladder for kids, a phrase I don't get to say nearly enough outside my fan ideas for Disney musicals.
Goosebumps is fun to pick apart as an adult, but that doesn't mean I don't respect Stine's imagination. I know I left out a lot of "important" monsters here, but I wanted to talk about the ones that I just found the coolest and most intersting myself, many of which I truly admire as solid creature concepts. Still, if you've never read blogger beware, do yourself a favor - it's by far one of the funniest things on the internet, and no prior familiarity with Goosebumps is even necessary.
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