We remember the original Goosebumps with the 10 scariest (and most enticing) covers

By Drew Mackie
Updated October 26, 2015 12:40 PM
Credit: Scholastic

If you came of age during the ’90s, you probably remember Goosebumps, an unstoppable literary phenomenon.

Yes, there was a time when kids sped through installment after installment of the horror series, eager to find out how the books’ long list of tween-aged protagonists would escape the PG-level scares – and if those scares might eke their way up to PG-13.

And you’d have good reason to be thinking of the books recently: The movie adaptation, which features Jack Black as series author R.L. Stine, was No .1 at the box office this past week.

Now, if you came of age in the ’90s and had older siblings, you may have heard the claim that Goosebumps was just the kiddie version of Fear Street, a horror series also written by R.L. Stine that skewed more PG-13. In a way, that’s true. But that doesn’t mean that Goosebumps couldn’t deliver scares.

In fact, the books had fantastic cover art, and sometimes this art alone would be enough to spook you – or make you read the book, depending on what kind of reader you were. Here’s our take on the 10 scariest Goosebumps covers.

10. Welcome to Dead House

By Goosebumps standards, this one is rather subtle: just a dilapidated house, the front door left mysteriously open and a light on inside. It’s less “fun house scary” and more legitimately intimidating. The first book in the series, Welcome to Dead House is also probably the most mature and the closest in tone to the Fear Street books. There’s real horror happening in this one, as opposed to the “fake out” scares that would characterize later books.

9. Welcome to Camp Nightmare

Many of Stine’s books play off kids’ fears of leaving home – to move to a new town, to attend camp, to somehow move out of whatever safety bubble in which they lived. This cover expertly plays on the fears of any ‘fraidy-cat kid who’s nervous about spending the night outside in a tent. After all, who knows what would be out there?

8. The Barking Ghost

It’s the Goosebumps version of Cujo – at least as far as the cover goes. The story inside ends up being about as far from Cujo as you could get, but by then the cover would have already sucked you in. The Barking Ghost also represents another theme in Goosebumps books: “Hey, let’s make scary something that most kids like!” Well played, Mr. Stine.

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7. You Can’t Scare Me!

Yes, you can, if you use mud monsters. And the version of these gloppy horrors that appeared on the spinoff Goosebumps TV show were every bit as horrifying.

6. One Day at Horrorland

A little on the nose? Sure. Irresistible to tweens who might be both attracted to and frightened by amusement park rides? Totally. It makes sense that there’s not a Horrorland in real life, but if there were, this would be the exact sign to advertise it.

5. The Scarecrow Walks at Midnight

Confirming all your theories about those jolly-looking scarecrow Halloween decorations having something to hide, the cover for The Scarecrow Walks at Midnight should horrify enough that you can overlook that tagline, “It’s a Field of Screams!”

4. The Horror at Camp Jellyjam

Sure, this sports summer camp holds a horrible secret, but far more horrifying than anything our snoopy heroine uncovers is this nightmarish counselor as depicted on the cover. That grin? That posture? Those clothes? It’s enough to make any camper go AWOL, and it was probably enough to make a few readers want to investigate Camp Jellyjam.

3. The Curse of Camp Cold Lake

Why would anyone want to go to a camp at Cold Lake? Which of the book’s characters is looking all corpse-y on the cover? How does a skeleton have such lovely eyelashes? These are all good questions, and none of them are answered in the book itself. That cover, though – it’s one that grabs you.

2. Night of the Living Dummy

Sure, ventriloquism dummies are never not scary, but everything about this seems designed to make you fear dummies if you don’t already.

1. The Haunted Mask

And here’s our top pick. Somehow, this sums up everything about Goosebumps: a legitimately scarier mask than you’ll find in the Halloween aisle at K-Mart, and it’s being worn by not just any kid but one of the most perfectly early-’90s-looking kids in the history of literature. (Blame the overalls, of course.) That’s Goosebumps.

Honorable mention: Chicken Chicken

This one either represents Goosebumps at its absolute silliest or its most frightening, depending on your attitudes toward chickens and chicken-human hybrids. We’d almost want to ask R.L. Stine where this idea came from, but perhaps some creative processes are left unknown. “Finger-licking” and “nightmare” don’t belong in the same sentence.