To kick off my reread of the Goosebumps series I decided to start at the very beginning with Welcome to Dead House. I can’t guarantee that I will be reading these books in order but the very first Goosebumps book seemed like a perfect beginning. These books are easy to sum up but I can’t do better than the original blurbs:
“Amanda and Josh think the old house they have just moved into is weird. Spooky. Possibly haunted. And the town of Dark Falls is pretty strange, too. — But their parents don’t believe them. You’ll get used to it, they say. Go out and make some new friends. — So Amanda and Josh do. But these creepy new friends are not exactly what their parents had in mind.
Because they want to be friends…
I actually remember Welcome to Dead House from my childhood. I don’t remember every Goosebumps book I read back then but I remember this one because I didn’t read it. That’s right, I intentionally skipped this book. When I was a kid in the 90s the Goosebumps craze was in full swing and everyone in my school was reading the books. We would all take turns in borrowing the different books from the library, usually seeking out ones that our friends recommended. This was the craze before Harry Potter hit big. With Welcome to Dead House though people fell into two camps, those who braved reading it and told others of their sleepless nights afterward, and those who heard those tales and decided they didn’t want to be frightened and liked getting a good nights sleep. I fell into the latter camp. I was too chicken to read Welcome to Dead House. It was hyped up to be the scariest of all the Goosebumps books by everyone I knew who read it. Kids would dare each other to read it because it was so scary. This was the source of nightmares for my class for a year.
Was it as scary as promised?
As an adult it is hard for me to say. It was certainly creepy and if I was a kid I could see myself finding it a little scary. It had its spooky moments and on a few occasions it even tried to create literary jump scares, which were fun. I think my favourite thing about this book was the depiction of the characters. Everyone was realistic. The kids acted like real kids and the adults acted like normal adults. There was none of the Series of Unfortunate Events “adults are dumb and kids are smart” writing. It makes this work brilliantly as a horror novel because it makes it realistic. A kid could read this and see themselves in the story very easily. That is probably what makes it good horror. Good horror makes you believe that it could happen to you. I get the feeling that this will be something I will find throughout the Goosebumps series. RL Stine knows how to see things from a kid’s point of view and uses that perfectly. And there is no use of 90s slang or pop culture references so this novel has aged very well. It could still be scary today.
Plot wise it wasn’t ridiculous. I have actually read and seen adult horror novels and films with a very similar premise. It isn’t too silly and doesn’t dumb things down for the child audience. The only issue I found with it was that the villains were probably a bit too simple. I would have liked a little more depth, but I am an adult reader. A child is not going to care about the backstory of every ghost in a novel.
If you have a kid who wants something scary to read I would recommend giving them this book. Even if it did cause half of my school to have nightmares kids like being scared. It is part of growing up and you get a rush out of it. There is nothing offensive in it, just some well placed ghosts and a mystery that needs to be solved. And if you are an adult who wants to relive some of their 90s favourites, maybe pick this one up for yourself.
Did you read the Goosebumps series when you were a child? Tell me about it. Which book gave you sleepless nights?