From Cat to Night Of The Living Dummy, these Goosebumps, Point Horror and Fear Street books from RL Stine remain every bit as scary now as they did back when we read them the first time.
“Every story ever told can be broken down into three parts. The beginning. The middle. And the twist.”
So said Jack Black when he took on the role of the inimitable RL Stine in 2015’s Goosebumps, and it’s a pretty fair approximation of what you can expect when you pick up one of the author’s classic horror books.
Best known for his Goosebumps and Fear Street series, as well as his additions to the iconic Point Horror franchise, Stine has made it his mission to scare children, teenagers and young adults over the years – and it’s one he’s 100% succeeded in.
Not only is Goosebumps now one of the bestselling children’s series of all-time, with more than 350 million English language books in print, but Netflix is adapting the author’s Fear Street books into an R-rated horror trilogy (the first instalment of which is due to drop on the streaming platform on 2 July).
It’s no wonder, then, that so many of us remain diehard Stine fans to this very day. In fact, this writer recently embarked on a mission to reread some of the books that terrified her when she was younger – and I’m pleased to report that they still hold up today.
So, if you’re in the mood for a trip down memory lane, here’s our hot take on which Stine books are well worth revisiting as an adult. As ever, though, we must issue that iconic warning: reader beware, you’re in for a scare.
Part of the Fear Street franchise, Cat – as you probably guessed from the title – delivers the goods when it comes to feline-based terror.
Avoiding spoilers (because, as mentioned, Stine is all about the twist), this book sees Marty, a young basketball player, accidentally kill the cat that’s been annoying him and all his teammates at practice. Accidentally.
Naturally, his classmates are horrified by his behaviour, and Marty soon finds himself alienated by everyone he knows. But that’s the least of his problems, because he’s started seeing cats everywhere. And he just knows they want revenge…
Stay Out Of The Basement
Stay Out Of The Basement taps into a lot of our most basic fears; that our parents are somehow disappointed in us, that a once-loving relationship has irreversibly changed for the worse, and (naturally) that there’s something unspeakable lurking in the underbelly of the house.
The heroes of this Goosebumps tale are Margaret and Casey Brewer, who are left home alone with their scientist father when their mother is unexpectedly called away for a family emergency. But they’re far more worried about dad than they are mum, because… well, because dad’s been acting very oddly.
When they venture down into his forbidden basement laboratory and stumble across his ‘creations’, it quickly becomes apparent that there’s far more to Dr Brewer’s strange behaviour than they first thought. Is it too late to set things right?
When three friends head home after a ski weekend and find themselves in trouble on the icy roads, they’re understandably relieved when a friendly stranger comes to their rescue. But, when ‘Red’ leads them to the safety of a hilltop lodge, things quickly spiral out of control; their hosts are acting very sinisterly, the phones are dead, and their car has disappeared.
As the house is full of guns, the trio plot to steal one and make their escape. When a shot is fired unexpectedly, though, the real terror begins…
A cautionary tale about the dangers of picking up hitchhikers, this Point Horror favourite begins as Christina, in spite of her best friend’s protests, stops to pick up a handsome hitchhiker.
At first, all seems well. But then, just like that, the girls realise that they are being followed… but by who? And, more importantly, who is responsible for the murder of a motorist who always stopped for hitchhikers?
Hmm. It doesn’t bode well for Christina, does it?
The Haunted Mask
“One Halloween, my son, Matt, put on a green rubber Frankenstein mask and then had trouble pulling it off. That gave me the idea for The Haunted Mask.”
Stine’s inspiration for this book might be rooted in the ordinary, but this Goosebumps tome is anything but. Because, while protagonist Carly Beth finds herself similarly stuck inside a creepy Halloween mask, her voice deepens and her behaviour becomes more violent, too.
That’s right; the mask is possessed. And our girl is forced to fight against the clock to regain her own face before the transformation is complete…
Joanna has been daydreaming about dumping her boyfriend, Dex, but she finds it a little tricky doing the deed. Instead, she decides to make him one point in a love triangle as she begins a relationship with Shep, which eventually leads to a messy breakup, not to mention Dex’s untimely death. Eek.
Except… well, except she keeps seeing Dex all over town. Because it seems her bad boy ex is back from the dead, and he wants one last date with her.
The Curse At Camp Cold Lake
One of the most iconic Goosebumps books to date, The Curse At Camp Cold Lake is all about Sarah, who’s finding it very difficult to fit in at summer camp. Unlike her brother, she’s not outdoorsy at all – and her bunkmates have been teasing her horribly about it all.
In a bid to win them over, she comes up with a dubious plan; she’ll pretend to drown in the slimy cold lake outside, and then they’ll have no choice but to feel sorry for her. As you’ve probably guessed, though, things don’t go to plan. At all.
Night Of The Living Dummy
Slappy the ventriloquist’s dummy is, perhaps, the most famous monster ever dreamed up by Stine, and for good reason. To tell you anything more would be a big fat spoiler; suffice to say, though, you’ll want to read every single book in the Night Of The Living Dummy series once you’ve torn through this one.
It’s a classic horror trope, isn’t it? A teenage girl signs up for a babysitting job in a remote neighbourhood, is subjected to a bunch of creepy anonymous phone calls, finds a chilling note in her bag, and realises that the so-called attacker she’s seen on the news is… well, he’s targeting babysitters. And that she’s almost definitely next on his list.
Don’t go in expecting a slasher tale, however; Stine’s take is far more mysterious and nuanced. And it’s guaranteed to keep you guessing right up until the moment the true villain is unmasked, too.
Kayleigh Dray is Stylist’s digital editor-at-large. Her specialist topics include comic books, films, TV and feminism. On a weekend, you can usually find her drinking copious amounts of tea and playing boardgames with her friends.