Goosebumps And Guffaws In Stine's 'HorrorLand' Can a children's author strike gold twice? R.L. Stine's Goosebumps series sold more than 300 million copies in the 1990s. Now, he's hoping to revisit that success with Goosebumps: HorrorLand.

Goosebumps And Guffaws In Stine's 'HorrorLand'

Goosebumps And Guffaws In Stine's 'HorrorLand'

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Visions Of 'HorrorLand'

Stine says his books spring from their titles. If he can't think of a title for a story he has in mind, he'll throw the idea away. Below is a sampling of some of the covers — and titles — that made the cut for HorrorLand.

Creep From the Deep hide caption

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Creep From the Deep

Monster Blood for Breakfast hide caption

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Monster Blood for Breakfast

The Scream of the Haunted Mask hide caption

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The Scream of the Haunted Mask

Anyone who thinks that Goosebumps, R.L. Stine's fantastically popular kids book series from the 1990s, is a thing of the past would have been disabused of that notion at this year's National Book Festival in Washington, D.C.

Fans lined up halfway across the National Mall for a chance to meet the Goosebumps creator. There were little kids, big kids, moms and dads — even a scattering of 20-somethings nostalgic for the books of their childhood. Everyone seemed to have a favorite scary story.

"One of the biggest ones for me was The Blob That Ate Everyone," said Julianna Eaton. "The ending was really comical. You read it and you just started cracking up ... he's crazy!"

An Unorthodox Writing Style

Stine may not be crazy but he is funny. He began his career as a humorist known as Jovial Bob Stine, and he still sees a close connection between humor and horror.

Ask him about everyone's favorite scary holiday — Halloween — and he tells a story about the time his parents went to buy him a costume for trick-or-treating:

"I really wanted to be something scary. I wanted to be a mummy or a ghost or a vampire. And they came home and I opened up the box and it was a duck costume. With a fuzzy yellow tail."

The duck costume may not have been appreciated at the time, but Stine later incorporated it into his Halloween Goosebumps book, The Haunted Mask.

Stine's writing process is a little different from most authors; he says he begins with the title and figures out the rest from there. If he can't think of a title for a story he has in mind, he says, "I just throw away the idea."

It may sound unorthodox, but Stine gets a lot from his titles.

"I was walking the dog in the park and this title popped in my head: Say Cheese and Die!" he says. "There it was — a title — and it had to be something about an evil camera, right?"

Laughing Through Fear

Children's book expert Anita Silvey says that the key to Stine's appeal is his genius for combining humor and horror, because kids love to be scared — just not too scared.

"These books allow [kids] ... to walk through the fear," says Silvey. "And if it gets to be too much, to put it down and go get a peanut butter sandwich and be perfectly OK."

When the Goosebumps books were in their heyday, some adults disapproved. They thought they were too scary, or complained the books were formulaic and not well written. Here and there a school or library tried to ban the series.

R.L. Stine's Goosebumps series has sold more than 300 million copies world-wide. hide caption

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Read an excerpt of Revenge of the Living Dummy

"They were really afraid of what effect [the Goosebumps books] might have on children. And the only effect they seem to have had is they got them reading and they kept them reading," says Silvey. "To be able to get children to finish one of your books and then pick up another, that's what every author wants."

'Just Very Lucky'

Stine takes great pride in his reputation for getting kids excited about reading. He says he is constantly meeting grateful parents:

"Parents come up now and say, 'My kid never read a book in his life, and last night I caught him reading with a flashlight under the blankets,'" says Stine. "I am very proud of that."

Scream of the Haunted Mask, as read by Alissa Hunnicutt.

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The author thinks kids are reading more than ever now and his publisher, Scholastic, certainly hopes he's right. Scholastic also published the Harry Potter series, and with no new Potter book in sight, revenues are down sharply and the company is cutting back.

Scholastic hopes that magic will strike again with Stine's new Goosebumps HorrorLand series. As for Stine, he's just happy to be doing what he loves — and what his fans want.

"It's very exciting for me to be back doing it. ... Somehow the Goosebumps audience never really went away. ... It was a world-wide craze, and that can never last. But the books have sold all this time even when there were no new ones coming out," says Stine. "I'm just very lucky."

As for the kids who are reading his books, Stine says, despite all the emphasis on technology, he doesn't think they've changed much. They still like a good scare. And they still like to laugh.

Excerpt: 'Goosebumps HorrorLand #1: Revenge Of The Living Dummy'

Goosebumps: Horrorland (cover)

Chapter 1

You may wonder why my best friend, Molly Molloy, and I were in the old graveyard late at night.

I shivered as I thought about what we were doing. Wind howled through the trees, and pale streaks of lightning cracked the sky.

"Hurry, Molly," I whispered, hugging myself as the moon disappeared behind the clouds. "It's going to storm."

"I am hurrying, Britney," Molly said. "But the ground . . . it's really hard."

We were digging a grave. We took turns. One of us shoveled while the other stood lookout. I felt cold raindrops on my forehead. I kept my eyes on the low picket fence near the street. Nothing moved. The only sounds were the scrape of the shovel in the dirt and a drumroll of thunder, deep but far away.

Across from me, an old gravestone made a creaking sound as it tilted in the wind.

I sucked in my breath. I suddenly pictured the old stone toppling over. And someone crawling out from the grave beneath it.

Okay, okay. I have a wild imagination. Everyone knows that about me.

My mom says I'll either be a writer or a crazy person.

She thinks that's really funny.

Sometimes having a strong imagination is a good thing. And sometimes it just makes things more scary.

Like tonight.

Molly stopped shoveling to push the hair out of her eyes. Raindrops pattered on the blanket of dead leaves on the ground. "Britney, does this look deep enough?" she asked in a hoarse whisper.

I glanced at the glass coffin on the ground.

"Keep digging. We have to totally cover it," I said.

I turned back to the street. It was late, and the neighborhood stood dark and still. But what if someone drove by and saw us?

How could we ever explain the grave we were digging?

How could we explain why we were there?

Molly groaned and dug the shovel blade into the dirt.

The dead leaves crackled. I held my breath and listened. Footsteps. Someone creeping quickly through the leaves toward us.

"Molly --" I whispered.

Then I saw them, huddled low, moving in a line.

Raccoons. A pack of them, little eyes glowing. The black fur on their faces made the little creatures look like they were wearing masks.

They froze when they saw us. And then stood up taller.

Do raccoons ever attack?

These raccoons looked really hungry. I imagined them stampeding Molly and me. Swarming over us, clawing and biting.

A bright flash of lightning brought them into clear focus. They were staring at the little glass coffin. Did they think there was food inside?

A clap of thunder — closer now — startled them. The leader turned and scuttled away over the leaves. The others followed.

I shivered and wiped rain off my forehead.

Molly handed me the shovel. "Your turn," she said. "It's almost finished."

The wooden handle scratched my hand. I kicked dirt off the blade and stepped up to the shallow hole. "No one will ever find it here," I said. "Once we bury the evil thing, we'll be safe from it."

Molly didn't answer.

I had the sudden feeling something was wrong.

I turned and saw Molly staring with her mouth open. Staring at the tall gravestone next to us


She pointed. "Brit --"

And then I heard the old stone creak. And saw the pale hand slowly reach out from the grave.

No time to move. No time to scream.

I stood frozen — and watched the hand wrap its cold, bony fingers around my ankle.

And then I started to scream.

Goosebumps HorrorLand #1: Revenge of the Living Dummy, by R.L. Stine Excerpt © 2008 by Scholastic Inc.