Residual Effects: Five Goosebumps Episodes That Still Give Us Goosebumps
By Ariel Nishli
Children scare easily. We’ve all been at that age when it wasn’t uncommon to worry about evil puppets watching us sleep or giant deceptive hermit crabs, both unsavory characters from Goosebumps, the just-over-the-line children’s show adapted from the incredibly popular kids’ books by R.L. Stine.
Though we eventually grew up, Generation Y had a slightly more difficult time adjusting, as in the early 90’s it seemed the main objective of TV networks was to terrify us into a cereal buying stupor with inappropriately disturbing programming. Lumped into this category are favorites such as Are You Afraid of the Dark and Ren & Stimpy, but Goosebumps was arguably the most unnerving.
One of our emotionally scarred brethren is the average Gen-Y’er Stairs, the paranoid protagonist of KoldCast TV’s new fantasy horror series, Arcana. Stairs is freaked out for good reason as he’s unwittingly drawn towards “The Gambit”, a tricky character from his Tarot card deck. As Stairs delves deeper and deeper into The Gambit’s supernatural world of riddles, he begins to understand that the nature of his reality has never been what it has seemed and undergoes a transformation that brings him to the brink of spiritual enlightenment… or is it hallucinogenic insanity?
Click to watch the first episode of fantasy horror series Arcana
With all the violence and death we were exposed to as kids by Goosebumps, it’s a wonder a guy like Stairs needed help from an ancient mystical being to put him over the edge. We picked out a few Goosebumps episodes that probably had something to do with the TV ratings system implemented a few years back.
“The Scarecrow Walks at Midnight”
Not to be confused with the 2006 Nicholas Cage film The Wicker Man, this book features an army of scarecrows that come to life after a deranged farmhand casts a spell from the Bible. As if creepy religious imagery wasn’t enough, there’s a healthy dose of beheading and self-immolation after the zombie scarecrows succumb to a child in a scarecrow suit as their leader, who of course instructs them to commit mass suicide, ending the threat once and for all. Or does he?
“Stay Out of the Basement”
This episode follows Margaret, a pretty middle school girl who’s been really worried about her dad, Dr. Brewer, ever since he lost his job. The scientist spends all his time locked in the basement doing secretive things… with plants. Margaret and her little brother Casey venture into the basement to see what he’s up to, where Casey gets horribly electrocuted. Casey feels well enough to mock Margaret the next day though, after she swears she saw dad slowly eating a bag of fertilizer. Instead of calling for some psychiatric help, the pair journey into the basement again, where they see an ex-colleague of their dad’s, naked and tied up. Dad then jumps out of the corner – but he has leaves growing from his scalp, leading Margaret to believe he’s actually an evil plant clone of dad. Upon his sister’s command, Casey stabs the clone with an axe and draws red blood, proving he was their real father. Right then, the real clone plant dad comes home, and is immediately hacked to death by their real dad. Subtle.
“Welcome to Camp Nightmare”
First off, on the way to camp Billy and his friends are left stranded in the middle of the desert to be eaten by a pack of wildcats after their bus breaks down and the driver runs away. It’s only when the demented camp director Uncle Al shows up with a shotgun, that they’re saved. Once at camp, a stray snake bites into Mike, Billy’s bunkmate, leading them to discover the camp has no nurse, and Mike’s hand bleeding is arguably enough to have killed him. Then Uncle Al tells the campers they have to write home everyday about how much fun they’re having, a common practice among Vietnamese POW camps in the 60’s. When Billy’s friends start disappearing one by one, he’s given a rifle to hunt them down, but instead turns it on Uncle Al and pulls the trigger, cementing the transition from an innocent child to a killer. Spoiler alert: Uncle Al lives.
“The Werewolf of Fever Swamp”
Grady’s parents move him and his sister to a small Florida swamp village where no one seems to care that a mentally unstable vagrant roams around peoples’ properties. Grady is rightfully freaked out that this man seems to show up whenever he spots a rotting bird or rabbit carcass, but can’t muster up enough support to make anyone else care. When another stray – this time a dog – wanders onto his parents’ property, they decide to do the responsible thing and keep it. Grady and the dog become best friends, until the dog starts acting extremely violent and his parents do the responsible thing once again, deciding to send it off to be killed without even offering their kids the farm story we’ve all come to accept. Thankfully, they decide to keep the dog after it fights off the frothing vagrant – actually a werewolf –saving Grady’s life in the process.
“The Haunted Mask”
This episode served as a sort of social commentary on our obsession with plastic surgery, which is scary in itself to an oblivious 5th grade viewer. Subtext aside, a pretty middle school girl (there’s a pattern here) is stuck with the mask of a hideous beast that has grafted itself onto her skin and is destined to stay there forever. In an attempt to rid herself of it, she visits a creepy old man in a costume store who offers little more advice than telling her to find something she loves to tear it off with. In a panic, the girl screams, awakening the “unloved faces”, other masks in the store that then float towards her menacingly. This wouldn’t be so bad if the girl’s best friend, family, and middle school crush weren’t paralyzingly repulsed by her face despite her pleas for help, forever ingraining the idea in our young minds that looks are everything.
Story By Dana Leigh Smith
Ariel Nishli is the Editor-in-Chief of The Sixth Wall. He’s got a big apple in his heart but moved to Los Angeles to pursue a career in the entertainment industry. After graduating from Vanderbilt University in 2007, he worked in the motion picture literary department at ICM, then moved on to feature film development at Parkes MacDonald Productions. Ariel’s wardrobe has steadily devolved from designer suits to worn out slippers, as he now focuses on screenwriting and journalism when he’s not obsessing over this blog.