If you grew up in the ’90s, you probably remember Goosebumps. Written by R.L. Stine, the horror fiction series for children was known for its sweet cover art, scary titles and super cool 3-D lettering on the front (it was bumpy, like Goosebumps, get it?).
But the iconic books aren’t just about thrills and chills – no, no. There are some underlying life lessons that kids can find buried beneath all the gory and gruesome monsters, ghosts, aliens and more.
Don’t believe me? Check out a few things we can all learn from our favorite spooky tales:
Say Cheese and Die!
“One picture is worth a thousand screams”
Greg and his friends sneak into the home of a strange old man nicknamed “Spidey” and find a camera hidden in the basement. But this isn’t any old camera… the kids quickly discover that it produces pictures showing horrible future events – and the act of taking the photo apparently causes the said horrible events to occur. For example, when Greg takes a picture of his friend Shari, it comes up with only the background. Not long afterwards, Shari disappears.
The curse: Once upon a time, Spidey was a gifted scientist. When his lab partner invented a device that could show the future, he stole the idea with the hopes of making a fortune off the invention. But the lab partner was an evil genius who cursed the camera, causing it to show a bleak and terrible future which would then come true.
Life lesson: Don’t break into other people’s houses, and especially don’t steal their stuff.
The Ghost Next Door
“There’s a strange new kid on the block”
Hannah Fairchild is having a boring summer. All her friends are out of town and they’re all having too much fun to answer her letters. She tries to entertain herself with a campfire in the back yard but basically things are dull, dull, dull. Then she meets her new neighbor Danny. Although he is supposedly in the same grade, at the same school, he doesn’t know any of her friends. This, along with other mysterious circumstances (she met him right after waking up from a horrible nightmare about a fire), makes Hannah begin to wonder if he’s a ghost.
The twist: After Danny accidentally puts his hand THROUGH her chest, we realize that he isn’t the ghost – Hannah is! Turns out that five years ago, Hannah and the rest of the Fairchilds died in a blaze that was set off by the remnants of her background campfire. Yikes! Luckily, she’s able to redeem herself for essentially killing her family by saving Danny from a present-day fire. (Keep in mind this book came out roughly six years before The Sixth Sense… anything you want to tell us, M. Night Shyamalan?)
Life lesson: Make sure all campfires are a safe distance from residential buildings and properly extinguished. And if people aren’t returning your phone calls, make sure you still exist in corporal form before you get hurt feelings.
How I Learned to Fly
“It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s a… kid?”
Jack Johnson is constantly being outdone by his rival Wilson, who is better-looking, smarter, more athletic. Jack draws a superhero for the girl he likes, Wilson draws her a quintet of superheroes. He gives Mia an album by a band she loves, Wilson gives her front row tickets to a concert. Fed up and frustrated, Jack decides to try a magic flying dough recipe he stumbled across. A few days later, he proudly shows up at Mia’s to show her his new skill. Guess what? Wilson can fly too! (He was spying on Jack and stole the recipe). But here’s the thing about having a supernatural talent – suddenly everyone wants a piece of you. First some scientists try to kidnap Jack, then his dad signs him up for a highly publicized race against Wilson for a prize of one million dollars. And of course, on the day of the big race, Jack’s powers suddenly fail him and he loses to Wilson. Again.
The twist: Sike! Jack was only PRETENDING to lose his powers. Even though Wilson wins the money, gets his own TV show and flies off into the sunset, he spends the rest of his life hounded by obsessive fans and curious researchers. Meanwhile Jack gets to spend all his time with Mia and enjoy being able to fly.
Life lesson: Money and fame don’t equal happiness, so be careful what you wish for (which ironically, is the title of another Goosebumps book).