Christmas horror can be a tricky thing to pull off. The most common trope seems to be evil Santa stories. While Fear Street had a plethora of holiday-themed novels, Goosebumps mostly avoided Christmas. While books such as The Curse of the Mummy’s Tomb and The Werewolf of Fever Swamp took place during the Christmas season, the holiday itself had little to no real bearing on their narratives. Imagine the surprise of many when Scholastic released a Christmas-themed Goosebumps anthology.
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More & More & More Tales To Give You Goosebumps was the last of the Goosebumps anthologies released in the ’90s. That also means it’s now the most expensive one to find secondhand. And it’s even harder to find still packaged with the monster stocking.
The tome’s reputation in the Goosebumps fandom is astoundingly positive to the point it’s considered the best of the Tales line. Even Troy Steele of Blogger Beware gave the collection a glowing review. Equal parts hilarious and horrific, the book avoided the most obvious types of stories to share ten unique and strange tales of holiday horror.
This collection of stories is so well done it deserved an article all on its own. So, here we go!
1. Don’t Sit On The Gronk
Brad never bothers to read instructions, so can he be trusted to look after his new Gronk? No one knows who sent it, or what a Gronk even is. It looks like a kooshball, except it’s alive! Brad thinks his Gronk is the coolest thing ever. It’s so much fun to play with. But too much fun can be a bad thing…
This is a silly story that’s otherwise a fine way to start the collection. Brad’s thoughtlessness is established right off when he fumbles with his new Walkman (because it was the ’90s, you see) only to be told he plugged his headphones into the wrong jack.
We’re never told who sent Brad the Gronk, or what the Gronk really is, but all that really matters is that Brad’s carelessness with a strange animal has drastic consequences.
This story received a French audio adaption, and the Gronk was featured as a minor character in Goosebumps HorrorTown.
2. Nutcracker Nightmare
Sam’s not looking forward to seeing The Nutcracker because it means having to spend time with her old babysitter, Mrs. Boren. Or as Sam calls her, “Ol’ Boring.” Sam expects she’ll be bored to death during the ballet, so Mrs. Boren decides to teach her what real boredom truly is.
This one is a psychological horror story that plays with reader’s expectations. At the mention of The Nutcracker, one would think Sam faces off against killer rats and evil dolls. Instead, Sam deals with her perception of time and space being distorted as the ballet drags on for seemingly an eternity. Sam is the only one who notices anything is wrong, and when she tries to escape the theater the path to the door stretches on and on. Things go from bad to worse when Sam realizes her mother’s hair is starting to turn gray, and she’s outgrowing the ugly dress that was too big for her.
Mrs. Boren’s drabness is a delightfully sinister and passive aggressive villain. She regularly reminds Sam as sweetly as possible that if she wants to make it through the performance, she’ll simply have to be patient.
3. The Ice Vampire
Sam and Billy are disappointed when the cobra ice sculpture loses at the winter carnival. First prize instead goes to a hauntingly detailed sculpture of a vampire, made by a “Bram Stokeman.” At first intrigued by how lifelike the ice vampire statue appears, the boys soon discover it is alive and wants to drain them of their heat!
Following the cerebral Nutcracker Nightmare, The Ice Vampire is a more straightforward story. Before the titular creature attacks Sam and Billy, they discover the vampire has disappeared and in its place is a statue that eerily resembles one of their classmates. Nevertheless, the action picks up when the Ice Vampire follows the boys to Billy’s house and they have to team up with Billy’s sister Emily to stop it.
Chair De Poule Illustre released an illustrated adaption of this story alongside five other Goosebumps short stories.
4. A Holly Jolly Holiday
Beth can’t believe her older sister Jody managed to find a VHS copy of “A Holly Jolly Holiday,” the worst Christmas special known to mankind. Jody unironically adores the movie and its heroine, the sugary sweet Susie Snowflake, while Beth can’t stand it. She also can’t stand how Jody is watching the tape non-stop. How Jody’s starting to sound like Susie Snowflake. And look like Susie Snowflake…
If Beth’s not careful, everyone in her family will have Susie Snowflake on their brain!
This is considered, without hyperbole, to be one of the greatest Goosebumps stories ever told.
One part of Christmas that can be just as frustrating as it is entertaining are the Christmas specials being played 24/7. “A Holly Jolly Holiday” appears to be of the same caliber of shlocky, crappy Christmas films people love to hate or hate to love such as Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer, The Christmas Tree, and Rapsittie Street Kids.
Readers are just as likely to sympathize with Beth for her hatred of Susie Snowflake as they are Jody for her unapologetic love of the character. The thought of being brainwashed by a terrible movie is sheer genius, as is Beth’s first person perspective when it happens to her and her entire family.
When Beth struggles to remember “the magic words” to make Jody give her the haunted tape:
“Oh, sugar cookies!” That wasn’t what I meant to say at all.
Susie Snowflake is such a beloved, later addition Goosebumps character that she became the focus of a special holiday storyline in Goosebumps HorrorTown.
And, if I might brag for a moment, when I reviewed this story in 2017 I gave it the Sonic the Hedgehog themed gag nickname “Sugar Cookie Speedway Zone.” Imagine my honor and delight when the designers of HorrorTown referred to “A Holly Jolly Holiday” by my nickname.
5. Why I Hate Jack Frost
Jared’s family moved to Arizona, and all he wants is an old-fashioned white Christmas. At the mall, Jared buys a Christmas ornament decorated to look like the home of the legendary Jack Frost. Refusing to waste the ornament on his family’s plastic tree, Jared hangs it over his bed. He starts having dreams about Jack Frost’s winter wonderland, but when Jared wakes up, he starts feeling cold all over. That’s when the dreams become nightmares.
Veteran Goosebumps readers often describe this story as being on the same level of I Live In Your Basement due to the twisted, off-kilter narrative thanks to Jared losing track of what’s real and what’s a dream.
This one also received a French audio edition, and is the only confirmed to have been ghost written. The late Kathryn Lance revealed she was responsible for writing this story, and had done research on Jack Frost to properly get the feel right.
6. Marshmallow Surprise
Marsha and her little brothers Ricky and Ronnie accidentally break their neighbor’s mailbox while sledding one late afternoon. While Marsha wants to stay and apologize, her brothers don’t want anything to do with grumpy old Mrs. Spooner. They’re constantly pranking the old woman because she’s so crabby. Imagine their surprise when Mrs. Spooner shows up and is happy to see them. She even invites the kids inside for some of her special hot cocoa, which she calls “Marshmallow Surprise.” Where are the marshmallows? Don’t worry, they’re on their way…
Marshmallow Surprise is another story which plays with our expectations. The idea of children being targeted by an evil neighbor was explored in other volumes such as Chicken Chicken and Full Moon Fever. Whereas those books tend to be loathed by the fandom, Marshmallow Surprise’s twist ending comes out of nowhere so fast and so unexpectedly that most readers tend to find it hilarious.
7. Monster On The Ice
Max is an avid hockey player and he’s just received a killer new pair of inline skates for Christmas. The slogans on the box promise to make Max a real “monster on the ice.” Max tries them out the first chance he gets when his friends put together an impromptu Christmas hockey game. With his new skates, Max has never been faster. Or stronger. Or nastier. Or hairier.
This is the shortest of the stories in this collection, and some might argue the weakest. Which is fair. It wastes no time in having Max turn into a monster thanks to the skates, but it’s still enjoyable on its own.
8. The Double Dip Horror
Twin sisters Rachel and Wynona get to be junior ski instructors at the Ice Cream Cone Ski Lodge during Christmas vacation. They decide to switch places so one can ski all she wants while the other works. It’s the perfect plan, except for a really annoying boy named Bobby Judd. Rachel and Wynona decide to teach Bobby a lesson on the Double Dip, the hardest ski course in the lodge. They don’t suspect Bobby’s got a trick of his own up his sleeve.
This one is the closest to a classic horror story that the collection has to offer, and it’s one of the most atmospheric. The Ice Cream Cone Ski Lodge is a great setting, and Rachel and Wynona remain sympathetic, despite their attempt to get out of doing work. It’s also got one of the most straightforwardly dark twist endings when Wynona discovers Bobby Judd’s secret.
9. Santa’s Helpers
Spenser and Beth enjoy bullying their little sister Diana. They’re always saying Diana can’t be their sister because she looks nothing like them or their parents. Spenser and Beth are short and have red hair and green eyes, while Diana’s tall and has black hair and brown eyes. They also tell Diana that Santa Claus isn’t real. Too bad for Spenser and Beth, when they find out Santa Claus is very real and thinks they’re a couple of runaway elves.
Karma’s a bitch and so is Santa Claus, apparently. Many have argued that if Santa’s supposed to know who all kids are, he’d know Spenser and Beth aren’t elves. Others argue this is one of those “Dark Santa” tales where he delivers a grim punishment on naughty children and is making Spenser and Beth pay for bullying Diana. Will Diana stick up for her siblings when they need her help?
10. Attack of the Christmas Present
Jack’s uncle always gives him and his older brother the coolest, weirdest gifts at Christmas. This year though, Jack’s a bit disappointed when all he gets is a creepy looking tribal mask. Meanwhile, his brother gets an awesome Japanese action figure called Robot Tag. Jack and his brother swap gifts after their uncle leaves, but now Jack’s getting swapper’s remorse. Because while he wanted to play with Robot Tag, it looks like Robot Tag wants to play with Jack.
The moment you know Robot Tag was bought from a weird little store, you know that something bad is gonna happen. Nothing good ever comes from buying anything from weird little stores. It’s only fitting this collection would start and end with Christmas presents that go out of control as Jack faces off against the unrelenting onslaught that is Robot Tag.