We’ve decided to look back at R.L. Stine’s notable TV show based on his long-running novel series.
Airing in October of 1995, R.L. Stine’s best-selling YA horror series was brought to the small screen. Over the course of four seasons, Goosebumps was the entry way for many genre fans. Marketed towards kids and teenagers, the anthology series had a series of like-minded young people finding themselves in eerie and unusual situations, typically involving supernatural elements.
Here are our 13 favorite Goosebumps episodes from the show’s initial 74-episode, four-season run from 1995 – 1998.
“The Haunted Mask”
Original Air Date: October 28, 1995
This 2-parter special opened the series and launched the Goosebumps phenomenon of the mid-nineties. It follows Carly Beth, a girl who buys a Halloween mask from a store. After putting on the mask, she starts acting differently and discovers that the mask has become her face, and she can’t remove it. We can’t help but remember the scene in which Carly Beth tries to remove the mask with a pair of scissors or when the floating masks descend on her towards the end of the episode. Told from the perspective of a teenage girl, the episode plays out as a clever commentary on young girls needing to wear masks to feel accepted in society. The two-part special became one of the Top 100 Billboard selling VHS’s. Not bad for a TV show shot in Toronto.
“The Girl Who Cried Monster”
Original Air Date: November 11, 1995
Goosebumps took on cannibalism. Yes, that’s right. Lucy discovers that the librarian is actually a fanged monster, and being an obsessed reader of all things macabre, she sets out to face down this terrifying googly-eyed ghoul that ends in a delicious twist. If you ever fear your librarian, just invite them over for dinner and see what happens. It worked for Lucy! The librarian was one of many practical effect monsters that stand out from the rest of the series, which ranged wildly across the various episodes.
“Welcome To Camp Nightmare”
Original Air Date: November 17, 1995
When Billy’s fellow campers start to disappear and his parents stop answering his letters, he decides to hunker down as Camp Nightmoon turns into Camp Nightmare. For many kids, camp is a nightmare in and of itself. A fear of bunking with strangers, of being away from home. This episode turns those anxieties into full-blown creature-inducing fears. Billy becomes convinced that something is picking the other kids off one by one. “Welcome To Camp Nightmare” feels very much in the vein of classic slasher films from the eighties. However, this was a children’s program, so the threat level always needs to be toned down a bit. The twist ending almost feels like it comes from out of left field but that extra-terrestrial twist is just the sort of silliness that made Goosebumps a kids’ staple.
“Night of the Living Dummy Saga”
Original Air Dates: January 12, 1996 / July 20, 1997 / February 14, 1998
Okay, we’re cheating a little here but only because these episodes collectively played into an entire generation’s fear of dolls. The titular living dummy is none other than Slappy, an embodiment of all of those fears, making him one of the best villains of his era. R.L. Stine was inspired to create Slappy by the story of Pinocchio, but with his vaudevillian appearance and penchant for jokes, Slappy is more in tune with Chucky than Pinocchio. In each of the episodes of the “Night Of The Living Dummy” saga, Slappy would be brought to life by a spell read aloud. His knack for destructive pranks usually being blamed on one of the children because who would believe a kid, right? Again, R.L. Stine played on a primal fear universal to children: that no one believes you. And that a creepy talking dummy is coming to get you. Look for a young Hayden Christensen as Zane in “Night Of The Living Dummy III,” a full five years before he appeared as Anakin Skywalker in Star Wars Episode II: Attack Of The Clones.
“Stay Out Of The Basement”
Original Air Date: January 27, 1996
If you weren’t a little skeptical of your dad (or garden) after seeing this episode, you sure were after. Margaret and Casey’s dad gets fired from his job and starts holing up in the basement. When the children sneak downstairs against their father’s wishes, they discover that their botanist father is not what he appears to be. It’s a scary thing to realize you never really know another person, and that fear is even greater when that person is your own father. This was a great introduction to the epic horror that awaited anyone who saw The Shining later on in life.
“It Came From Under The Sink”
Original Air Date: February 2, 1996
When you were given chores you always prayed you’d never have to touch the bathroom or kitchen, let alone clean under the sink. What if there was a vampire potato living under there? It’s all a bit ridiculous but that animatronic blood-sucking sud sure packed a punch during those early grade school years. A great play on the fear that something really evil is living in your new house. Something that’s moving. Watching. Waiting. The next time you had to reach into a dark place you probably had thoughts of this episode.
“Say Cheese And Die!”
Original Air Date: February 9, 1996
Years before movie stardom, Ryan Gosling appeared in 1996’s “Say Cheese And Die,” an episode about two boys who discover a cursed camera with dire results. At first, it seems the camera might be predicting the future. But then a scarier thought occurs to Gosling’s character – what if it’s creating the future! Similar to the ancient lore that taking someone’s photo can steal their soul, this episode runs with the idea that taking a picture of someone can curse them through use of the appealing gadget. The camera, suitably written dialogue, and a creepy villain (Spider!) make this one of the more memorable episodes. But let’s face it. It’s really because it starred a 16-year old Ryan Gosling and the ironic title.
“A Night In Terror Tower”
Original Air Date: February 26, 1996
Siblings Eddie and Sue are American tourists on a trip to London when they get locked in the titular Terror Tower and are forced to confront some especially angry historical figures out for their blood. With a little more emphasis on atmosphere and jump scares, “A Night In Terror Tower” makes a wonderful introduction to horror films for younger eyes and even teaches a little history with its enraged and ghoulish historical figures.
“Attack of the Mutant”
Original Air Date: September 7, 1996
Skipper is a comic book enthusiast on his way to an orthodontist appointment when he stumbles upon a building that resembles his favorite villain’s headquarters (we’ve all been there, right?). Skipper returns to this mysterious building, bringing his friend Libby with him, and the two stumble into the lair and come face-to-face with The Mutant. The episode plays more on the naive notions of comic books such as the pop-color scheme, outlandish powers and megalomania. This episode doesn’t really pack in much creep factor but it’s on the list because it stars none other than Adam West as The Galloping Gazelle. It doesn’t amount to anything more than a tip-of-the-hat to West’s long associated tenure as Batman, but it’s enough to make its way onto this list.
“The Scarecrow Walks At Midnight”
Original Air Date: November 9, 1996
There is an innate creepiness when it comes to scarecrows. Maybe it has something to do with their attempt to be anatomically correct or that feeling of something watching you from a distance. In “The Scarecrow Walks At Midnight,” Goosebumps found one of its best remembered and exceptionally twisted endings. The episode aired just after Halloween and with the feeling of ghost stories and sugar rushes still in children’s systems this one played wonderfully on that model of cursed cornfields. It probably didn’t help the Midwest’s reputation in the mind’s of many younger people and the scarecrow themselves come off a little too clunky (these are just guys in costumes) but there is more than enough here to enjoy.
“Welcome To Dead House”
Original Air Date: June 29, 1997
Amanda and Josh move to Dark Falls but are none too thrilled to do so. While they settle they discover that their new house is also home to all sorts of ghosts trying to bring them over to the other side. This episode really played on children’s fears and anxieties about moving to a new place. Fear of the unknown is scary to a lot of people but especially alienating to children and this clever update on the classic ghost story trope made for a well-intended, spooky installment in the Goosebumps TV series.
“One Day At HorrorLand”
Original Air Dates: Part One – October 25, 1997. Part Two – November 1, 1997
The Morris family are on a family vacation, one that turns from amazement to torment pretty fast. Finding themselves in an abandoned amusement park where monsters appear disturbingly real sets this episode’s creep factor up a level. There is also a spotlight on subtle comedy in this episode as well, if you remember that dangerous looking casket river ride. Their only hope ends up being able to compete and win in a gruesome game show that reveals that not only do monsters exist, but they have their own cable channel too. This episode – and Stine’s book on which its based on – were later the inspiration for several video games.
“The Ghost Next Door”
Original Air Dates: Part One – September 28, 1998. Part Two – September 29, 1998
A young girl suspects a boy of being the ghost of a kid who died in a house fire. As she dives into the mystery surrounding the boy’s death she discovers a lot more than she wanted – that she is the ghost! The episode isn’t big on scares or even atmosphere and it doesn’t contain much of the kitschiness that comes with a well-intended children’s horror show. It’s that Sixth Sense ending though, which was enough to drive the point home for many viewers; one that had them checking over their shoulder for a shadow.
Any glaring omissions? We know we can’t get them all so let us know what your favorite Goosebumps episode was and keep the discussion going over on the Grizzly Bomb FB page!
Sources: 20th Century Fox, Nevada, Disney XD