Something I feel we often forget: kids like horror, too. As a 22-year-old who never interacts with small children, I have no idea what the current market is for kiddie horror, but I recall the the ’90s when there was horror around every corner to satisfy my childhood fascination with the macabre.
Yesterday we endured an epic destruction of our basement in the form of sewage flooding (i.e. actual shit everywhere), so we had to haul up all of our sodden clutter to throw away. While doing so, I happened across a mostly-dry cardboard box of old books, including several stacks of my absolute favorite series as a kid: R.L. Stine’s Goosebumps. Needless to say, I saved them from a very wet and rank demise.
I used to gobble these books up as a kid, and they actuallly inspired my first “writing,” if you could call it that. I would draw scribbled lines on computer paper, fold the pages together, and then staple them with a hand-drawn cover. Then I would “read” my story to my family and classmates, in actuality making up the story as I went along so that it changed every time I read it anew. Each of these stories I would create would be labeled as a Goosebumps book by yours truly, and they would usually involve skeletons weilding axes or something of the like.
My favorites of the series were the Night of the Living Dummy trilogy, with the creepy Slappy who came alive (and, of course, the parents just never believed those poor terrorized kids!). I actually made my mom read an entire one of these out loud to me on an airplane once. I think this is why I was somewhat fond of the movie Dead Silence when it came out: it reminded me of the good old days of evil dummies in Goosebumps.
I was also a fan of the “create your own story” types, and of these I recovered Please Don’t Feed the Vampire, Trapped in Bat Wing Hall, and Welcome to the Wicked Wax Museum from the clutches of the basement sewage. I would always get mad when I got to an ending I wasn’t satisfied with and retraced my steps until I’d covered all the possible outcomes.
The others that I kept for nostalgia’s sake are as follows: Attack of the Jack-O’-Lanterns, Revenge of the Lawn Gnomes, A Shocker on Shock Street, The Haunted Mask, Return of the Mummy, Ghost in the Mirror, Ghost Beach, The Werewolf of Fever Swamp, The Haunted School, Go Eat Worms!, and The Abominable Snowman of Pasadena. I even had doubles of a few of these, apparently.
Looking back, these books strike me as… utterly ridiculous. Just read the titles. It’s schlocky, campy fun, and when it comes right down to it, these books are just too silly to scare anyone over the age of seven (although my horror-meter’s been broken ever since I watched It when I was about five). I can’t imagine attempting to read one of these now because, flipping through them, I’m assaulted by over-the-top writing, which may be great when you’re writing for kids, but which would make me, as an adult horror writer, cringe. Alas, these books shall have to remain an unsullied memory of my happily horrific childhood. But even if I never read them again, I just can’t part with these. R.L. Stine was my hero when I was a kid, and I am forever indebted to him for introducing me to the joys of horror literature.
Anyone care to share stories of their own childhood experiences with kiddie horror?