Disney+ Has Adapted Your Favorite Goosebumps Books — But Which Ones?
The new Disney+ Goosebumps has 10 episodes in this series, all with links to the original R.L. Stine books.
For over 30 years, Goosebumps books have scared children silly. A gateway for children to step into the world of horror novels, this R.L. Stine mega-franchise has maintained its spot as one of the best-selling book series of all time. These books combined just the right amount of kid-friendly spookiness with a dash of humor, complete with twist endings that always left readers demanding more.
Goosebumps is no stranger to screen adaptations, including a four-season live-action series on Fox Kids in the mid-90s, and a pair of movies with Jack Black from a few years ago. This Halloween season, Goosebumps is back with an all-new live-action show streaming on Disney+ and Hulu, promising more mature frights while remaining faithful to the original material. This series follows five small-town high-school kids investigating the death of a teen from three decades prior, whose home the new English teacher just moved into.
As opposed to its 90’s counterpart, this modern adaptation will be a spine-tingling 10-part mini-series, with the first five chapters dropping on October 13, and subsequent episodes added weekly. Instead of transforming a single book into a self-contained 30-minute mini-movie, the new series takes inspiration from them, inserting those elements into the overarching narrative across the duration of the show.
According to an official press release from Scholastic, the show draws elements from five of the books, but the recently revealed titles for the episodes show nearly all of them evoke fan favorites from across the 62 original books, with links across the entire 230+ books in this expansive franchise.
Which Goosebumps books can viewers expect to see in the new show? Readers beware – you’re in for a scare!
“Say Cheese and Die!”
Throughout the trailer, we see Miles McKenna as James and Zack Morris as Isaiah causing trouble with a Polaroid camera. The story that develops is taken from the fourth Goosebumps book which shares the same name as the episode (a trend throughout most of these titles).
A group of friends discover a cursed camera in a rundown house, but instead of snapping a pic of the moment, it predicts a grim future for whoever is photographed. Scary movies and cameras are always a bad mix, no matter if it’s for photos or videos. It’s also a reminder – never take things you find in decrepit abandoned houses, unless you want to be a character in an R.L. Stine book, and you know how they tend to end up.
“The Haunted Mask”
Seen briefly in the trailer is a lifelike human face attached to a slab of wood. It’s a mask, but just any kind. It’s a recurring haunted object seen throughout the Goosebumps franchise. These self-aware parasitic masks were created by a mysterious shopkeeper, hungry to be worn so they can completely take over the body of the wearer.
“The Haunted Mask” was the 11th book in the series, and is among the most popular for adaptations into different media. In addition to being one of the few books to have a direct sequel (“The Haunted Mask II”), the masks made an appearance in the recent live-action movies, were an item found in the 2015 video game, and returned to the books over a decade later in “The Scream of the Haunted Mask.”
What tied them all together was Carly Beth Caldwell, the child who defeated them in the first entry of the saga back in 1993. Don’t be shocked if that name comes up once again in this new show!
“The Cuckoo Clock of Doom”
Cuckoo clocks are a classic trope in horror, loud pendulous machinery that lulls the audience into a false sense of security, right on time for a jump scare leaping out of the furniture. In the 28th Goosebumps book, “The Cuckoo Clock of Doom,” flipped that cliché on its head by instead becoming a sinister time-travel device that could go years into the past, and even undo the existence of people.
In the trailer for the new series, James and Isiah were seen playing the cursed camera, but the repercussions of that might not have been revealed. The following scene shows a cluster of those two characters in a cave, meaning those two might be involved in some time-altering dilemmas thanks to the clock.
“Go Eat Worms”
The 21st Goosebumps book was a play on the 1973 classic kid’s book by Thomas Rockwell, “How to Eat Fried Worms.” The exception was the main character in Stine’s version wasn’t paid $50 to devour the wriggly bugs, and instead “supernaturally” found their way into clothing and food.
While the true cause of this ruckus wasn’t actually revenge-seeking worms, the book ended with an enormous worm erupting from the ground, one of the more surreal third acts in the franchise. The trailer doesn’t show much in the way of insects, but get ready for some potential gross-outs if the show follows any scenes from the book, unless you don’t mind finding a half-bitten worm in your sandwich.
“Reader Beware” / “Give Yourself Goosebumps”
The fifth and seventh episodes of the new series aren’t named after a specific edition, but an entire sub-series in the Goosebumps literary universe. “Reader Beware” – besides being what R.L. Stine used to introduce some of the live-action 90’s shows – was the tagline for the “Give Yourself Goosebumps” imprint.
Totaling 50 volumes, these were interactive books that offered readers multiple ways to control the outcome of events. Imagine “Choose Your Own Adventure” books, but with titles like “Welcome to the Wicked Wax Museum,” “Escape from Camp Run-For-Your-Life,” and “Secret Agent Grandma.” A screenshot from this episode shows the kids enraptured with glossy darkened eyes while listening to a mysterious figure read from a mysterious tome, so perhaps the teens will unwittingly be pulling the strings of some events unknown to them. Speaking of strings...
“Night of the Living Dummy”
There can’t be anything made under the slimy Goosebumps umbrella without Slappy the Dummy making an appearance!
The sixth and ninth episodes of the 2023 TV series share titles, with the latter being Part 2 of this story. All of the “Night of the Living Dummy” books star Slappy, the de facto face of the Goosebumps franchise. He debuted in the seventh book of the series in 1993, and returned multiple times over the years to torment more hapless children, including the movies and the 90’s TV series. Slappy was so popular, this malevolent ventriloquist’s dummy even had his own series of books, “SlappyWorld.”
Puppets can often be a scary thing for kids, and Stine admitted in his autobiography that this character originated from his own aversion of puppets, specifically Pinocchio. He later took back control of that fear by using his own dummy to scare his brother, a formative moment for Stine en route to writing horror books.
“You Can’t Scare Me”
The 15th book in the original series, “You Can’t Scare Me” has one of my favorite Tim Jacobus covers, giving readers a sneak peek at the terrors lurking inside its pages. This one features the Mud Monsters, reanimated corpses of town residents from yesteryear who drowned in a flood in Greene Forest, and rise up once a year to seek revenge on those who refused to help.
There are no murky dirt zombies to be found in the trailer, so this one may be in name only, but I wouldn’t be disappointed if I saw these turbid golems rampaging in the woods once during the series.
“Welcome to Horrorland”
The finale for the 2023 series brings us to another mainstay in the Goosebumps universe, HorrorLand!
This ghoulish theme park debuted in the sixteenth book in the series back in 1994 and is another popular part of the franchise. Run by the HorrorLand Horrors, sadistic monsters who can only be defeated by pinching them, this is far from the happiest place on earth. Their motto is “Where Nightmares Come to Life!” and features rides like The Coffin Cruise, Ferris Squeal, and Wheel of Misfortune,
Besides a direct sequel, this volume has been adapted over the years into a board game, comics, three different video games, a two-part episode in the 90’s show, and spun off into its own series that concluded by bringing notable characters from past books together to take on this haunted establishment. This marked the first serialized tale in Stine’s Goosebumps franchise, a fitting title to close out this new series which also follows a single narrative amidst the disparate scary events these five high-schoolers contend with.
Earlier this May, a different R.L. Stine series, Just Beyond, was pulled from Disney+ along with many other shows and films during a period when many streaming platforms were culling their content. It seems like Disney is hedging their bets on this one, with a rollout that includes the first two episodes being shown as part of Freeform’s “31 Nights of Halloween” the same night it launches online. It’s possible the new Disney+ Goosebumps could be 2023’s version of Wednesday — a scary good time of destination TV with the right amount of nostalgia ready to scare and entertain audiences of all ages.