It’s almost time for Halloween, the scariest time of year. And what could possibly make Halloween even scarier than this rundown of Goosebumps books that are perfect for the occasion?
As we gear up for the Halloween season, I thought it would be fun to look back on the various Goosebumps entries that focus on that special day in October. I’ll be including personal commentary on those I’ve read, while I have yet to experience some of the newer titles.
The Haunted Mask
Carly-Beth Caldwell is an easily-frightened young girl tired of being pushed around. This Halloween, she acquires a gruesome looking mask which she believes is her ticket to sweet revenge. But it’s not long before Carly-Beth realizes she can’t get the mask off, and when she looks in the mirror those aren’t her eyes staring back at her…
This is considered the Halloween-themed Goosebumps book, and it’s arguably the most famous in the franchise. It helps this was the first to be adapted for TV.
The mask, itself, is one of the most striking and iconic monsters designed by R.L. Stine and Tim Jacobus. A vicious, destructive creature full of rage, yet all it wants is someone to wear and want it.
The Haunted Mask II
Steve Boswell, one of the boys who bullied Carly-Beth Caldwell, wants a haunted mask of his own. Desperate to get a mask like Carly-Beth’s, Steve finds an old man mask that rapidly ages his body.
The novel follows Steve struggling to deal with a bunch of rowdy kids he coaches after school and realizing Carly-Beth is not as timid as she used to be. While Carly-Beth’s mask made her vicious and angry, Steve’s mask turns him into a disgusting old man. Carly-Beth went through an emotional arc regarding her anger at the world and at herself for her cowardice, Steve is primarily a bully looking to scare people.
The TV adaption took several liberties with the plot, like bringing back the original Haunted Mask as the villain. Carly-Beth’s mask returns to hunt her down so it can possess her again, taking over the body of its creator and controlling Steve through his mask to accomplish its twisted goals. This arguably makes the episode more of a true sequel than the book.
The Headless Ghost
Duane and Stephanie are a devious pair of pranksters obsessed with Hill House. Their town’s haunted mansion has been the home of many horrifying tales, like the spoiled child spending eternity trying to find his missing head. One evening, Duane and Stephanie sneak away from the tour to find the ghost’s head.
Stine’s ghost stories tend to be of a higher caliber than the other Goosebumps books. While The Headless Ghost is more Halloween-adjacent, Stine crafts a supremely unnerving atmosphere through Hill House. There’s a genuine aura of foulness and misery about the mansion and a multitude of horrific stories about its doomed inhabitants.
Attack of the Jack-O’-Lanterns
Drew Brockman loves Halloween. But the past two years, the holiday was ruined by her archenemies, Tabitha and Lee. This year Drew’s got revenge on her mind, but two pumpkinheaded ghouls have got sinister plans for Drew and her friends.
This is one of my personal favorites due to Tim Jacobus’s cover art. But even I can admit this isn’t the best Halloween tale. Half the book is relayed in flashback, and its original format featured Drew’s friend Walker described as a Black kid “cool as a rapper on an MTV music video.” There’s also repeated mention of four missing adults, constantly described as overweight and fat. It doesn’t help that Walker dresses up as “a dark and stormy night” for Halloween. Yikes. Thankfully future printings edited these details.
This was a rare occasion where the TV show salvaged most of the book by condensing the events. Most of the action takes place when the Jack-O’-Lanterns try to trap Drew’s group inside a seemingly never-ending neighborhood to make them trick-or-treat forever.
In the week leading up to Halloween, Alex Hunter is staying with his aunt and uncle in the small town of Wolf Creek while his parents are out of the country. Alex’s aunt and uncle warn him to stay away from the Marlings, their next door neighbors. He later discovers everyone in Wolf Creek’s scared of werewolves, and then Alex hears horrific howls coming from the Marlings’ home…
Werewolf Skin has a reputation among Goosebumps fans as a last minute stroke of genius right before the original series ended. The book offers a variation of the skinwalker legend from Native American folklore and has a surprisingly violent ending. It was reportedly going to be called I Want To Be A Werewolf For Halloween if early publishing rumors are to be believed.
Unfortunately, physical copies of this book are exceptionally expensive (especially those that still include the cutout mask). This was one of the few books not to be reprinted in the 2000s.
One Night In Payne House
You and your friend plan to spend Halloween night within Payne House. Armed with only three items, the two of you have to navigate through the entire haunted house, home to vicious dogs, a giant tongue, and a two-headed spider, and make it out alive.
It’s interesting to note that the two Halloween-themed Give Yourself Goosebumps books were both published in the Special Edition line. Payne House is rather significant for being the only book advertised to feature ONE good ending. But even that ending is debatable. Like the other GYG Special Edition books, you have an inventory system. But in order to get to the good ending you have to be very careful with what you pick. HINT: You don’t need the pencil.
Trick or… Trapped!
On your way to trick-or-treat with your friends, you find yourself at the entrance to a private neighborhood called Sunshine Court. Class nerd Nathan Rickles says Sunshine Court is a candy hunter’s paradise. But the moment you pass through the front gate, you get locked in! Navigate through five houses to reach the white mansion, but beware the horrors within each home and the final terror inside the mansion.
Trick or… Trapped goes back to having multiple potential good endings and a looser inventory system. Some of the houses you encounter feature a monstrous Santa Claus and evil copies of your family. While it’s easy to reach the white mansion after visiting a single house, to get a more satisfying story you can navigate through three colored houses first. HINT: Stick with the primaries.
The House of No Return
The Danger Club is made up of three kids who are desperately looking for a fourth member. The initiation: Spend an hour inside The House of No Return. No one’s been brave enough to last an hour, and come Halloween the Danger Club will get their fourth member, no matter what.
This was the very first short story in the Tales To Give You Goosebumps line and was later adapted for TV. The episode expanded the plot by giving a tragic backstory to the ghost inhabiting the House of No Return, but also cut out the Halloween aspect.
Still More Tales To Give You Goosebumps
This was a collection of ten tales focusing on Halloween (mostly). This book originally came packaged with a make-up kit for Halloween costumes.
- Pumpkin Juice: A Halloween cookbook has some beastly recipes.
- Attack of the Tattoo: A girl’s press-on tattoo has a life of its own.
- The Wish: A bullied younger brother gets a wish-granting treat.
- An Old Story: Brothers realize their great-aunt’s prune-heavy cooking is taking a toll on their bodies.
- The Scarecrow: A girl obsesses over a mysterious scarecrow.
- Awesome Ants: An experiment with an ant farm goes haywire.
- Please Don’t Feed The Bears: A saccharine teddy bear theme park has an ugly secret.
- The Goblin’s Glare: A hideous paper goblin haunts the dreams of its creator.
- Bats About Bats: Two girls are grossed out by their new friend’s interest in bats.
- The Space Suit Snatcher: A girl receives messages from aliens threatening to take her from Earth.
It’s rather odd to note An Old Story and Awesome Ants were the only stories to get adapted for TV, despite having almost nothing to do with Halloween. Though An Old Story is legitimately the most terrifying of the collection due to the depiction of child trafficking and sexual slavery.
Our villain, Aunt Dahlia, turns children elderly and then sells them into marriage to her elderly clients. And the clients know these are children.
Brandon Plush is a bully who enjoys terrifying people. When an attempt to get back at his least favorite teacher goes awry, Brandon learns what it’s like to be scared.
This is one of my favorites of the Goosebumps Series 2000 line thanks to Tim Jacobus’s cover artwork. Headless Halloween is a rare occasion where Stine makes a protagonist horrible on purpose. Brando is a remorseless sadist, disturbingly enabled by his father. Which makes it more satisfying when the book’s antagonist, Norband, gives Brandon a taste of his own medicine at a supremely twisted Halloween party (including worm-filled snacks and bobbing for cockroaches).
Full Moon Fever
Siblings Robbie and Alesha are told of a mysterious illness caused by the full moon. Come Halloween night, they transform into hideous monsters with awful appetites. The two must find their grandfather to get his help in curing their ailment.
This one is considered by a few fans to be a rehash of the much loathed Chicken Chicken, and they’re not entirely wrong. The plot features siblings put through a bizarre transformation, but instead of stretching out for an entire book, the story focuses on what happens after the fact.
This is one of the more disgusting 2000 stories due to what Robbie and Alesha eat post-transformation, but the plot goes off the rails near the end when they get abducted by a freak show for a couple of chapters.
The Scream of the Haunted Mask
Since that last Halloween, Carly-Beth Caldwell has tried to keep the Haunted Mask hidden. However, she still hears the mask’s screams and fears it is trying to get loose. Along the way, she discovers the mask’s previous owner will do anything to get it back.
Later, when Carly-Beth receives an invitation to HorrorLand, she’s shocked to discover the Haunted Mask somehow followed her!
This was part of the first Goosebumps HorrorLand arc, where previous Goosebumps protagonists and monsters are brought back for more scary adventures and then summoned to HorrorLand Theme Park. Taking a page from the Halloween franchise, Scream of the Haunted Mask acts as the second direct sequel to the original while ignoring the first sequel. Our focus is back on Carly-Beth Caldwell, taking it upon herself to guard the Haunted Mask. There is some soft rebooting as we’re led to believe the Haunted Mask is much older than it appears, to the point that it was responsible for its last owner dying.
Meg’s Halloween takes a turn for the weird when she meets a gross kid named Bim. Bim’s actually an even grosser alien, and vows to be Meg’s loyal slave. Too bad Bim is a force of destruction. Later on, Meg is brought to HorrorLand where she must prove her identity if she wants to live.
This was part of the second HorrorLand arc, where kids had a scary adventure at the theme park before leaving with a souvenir which causes them more trouble at home. In this case, the chance to visit HorrorLand during Halloween makes for a much more interesting story than Meg’s struggles with the obnoxious Bim.
The Five Masks of Dr. Screem
Two siblings are asked by a mysterious woman to locate five powerful masks on Halloween night. If they’re not careful, the masks will fall into the hands of the evil Dr. Screem.
I own this book but have only read it once, so I don’t much to add.
Goosebumps Wanted: The Haunted Mask
A two-parter with both stories taking place on the same Halloween night. LuAnn dreads attending a boring Halloween party, but she spices things up when she finds the Haunted Mask in an old attic.
Meanwhile, LuAnn’s friend Devin has to spend Halloween on a pumpkin farm being rented by his family. While LuAnn tangles with the Haunted Mask, Devin comes face to face with a powerful ghost called the Grave-Master.
This is a total continuity reboot of The Haunted Mask books. Carly-Beth Caldwell is gone and the Haunted Mask’s backstory has been rewritten. I found the Grave-Master story to be much more interesting, even though the way both stories connect seems rushed. This line in particular is one of my favorites:
The Grave-Master: It’s the Night of the Jack-o’-lantern, Devin. The jack-o’-lantern laughs at death. Are you ready to laugh at death?
Frankie’s family moves to a new neighborhood to look after his grandfather, but the neighbors are oddly obsessed with zombies. When a creepy new family moves in next door, things get even stranger.
Trick or Trap
Scott and his best friend Amanda are the most easily frightened kids in their school. Even Amanda’s little sister is braver than they are. This Halloween, the two plan to get revenge on their bullies by staging a few traps inside a reportedly haunted house. Too bad the house has plans of its own.
Sammy is a timid kid who wants a chance to prove his bravery. That chance arrives when his class is assigned a project about haunted houses. Sammy’s group decides to spend Halloween in a local haunted house to prove whether or not ghosts are real. But Sammy gets more than he bargained for when he gets possessed by a ghost called the Haunter.
The Halloween Game
Three kids are invited to play in a weird Halloween game. Despite the terrifying things they encounter along the way, nothing will stop them from continuing to play.
This was my favorite of the three stories in the Haunted Library set, due to its bizarre nature. No matter how horrifying things get for the protagonist, he’s determined to keep playing the Halloween Game. The reason why revealed at the end is as frustrating as it is brilliant. It’s all in the title.
The Haunted Mask Lives!
This is a scrapped book that would have been part of the Goosebumps Gold line. While never published, it seemed appropriate to include in this guide to Goosebumps Halloween stories.
R.L. Stine hasn’t shed any details on the plot for this entry, but oddly enough multiple online retail sites have. Amazon used to include a summary in their out-of-stock listing for this book that mentioned Carly-Beth being targeted by the man who created the Haunted Mask. The artwork of Carly-Beth ripping the mask apart implies this might’ve been the official death of the Haunted Mask, but you can never keep a good monster down for long…
It has been suggested that this book was recycled into The Scream Of The Haunted Mask.