Like most kids growing up in the ’90s, I collected Goosebumps books more than I read them. In fact, I probably only read a handful of them when I was young. But that didn’t stop me from wanting and collecting them. I loved the covers and the concepts–and even the titles. As kids, I think many of us loved the idea of Goosebumps more than anything else. Its popularity went beyond the just books themselves. I still have my Goosebumps bed spread from when I was a kid. And once again, I only read a handful of these books. That’s what Goosebumps does to us.
Now, as an adult, I decided that I would read through the entire original 62 book series in order. Of the ones I read as a kid, I remembered very little. The only story I had fairly vivid memories of was The Horror at Camp Jellyjam. Growing up, I often referred to it as my favorite book.
Something to consider when going through my rankings: Fond memories of a certain book don’t mean it’s actually good. Many times the nostalgia of the book and its premise make us remember the story as being better than it actually is. You ever rewatch movies that you liked as a kid and wonder what the heck you were thinking? It’s basically that–but with books. The reality is that most of these stories have huge plot holes or annoying character tendencies that we don’t really notice at 11-years-old. Actually, R.L. Stine probably never even expected adults to get their hands on these to begin with.
A lot of these books have amazing twists or overall concepts, but pages are wasted getting there. Or we have to sit through obnoxious characters in the meantime.
Stine first released the original book, Welcome to Dead House, back in 1992, and concluded it in 1997 with Monster Blood IV. There are a couple of Goosebumps series that follow this one (Goosebumps 2000, Give Yourself Goosebumps), but we won’t be talking about those.
I’m ranking these books based on a myriad of criteria: story, pacing, characters, writing style, twist, and entertainment value.
Two things I’m NOT considering when ranking these books are their respective TV episodes or their front covers. Some of the best covers are terrible stories, and vice versa–yet, so many people throw them into the conversation when comparing books.
Along those same lines, the legacy of a certain book doesn’t factor in either (e.g. The Haunted Mask, Night of the Living Dummy, etc).
Also, this list is based on my opinion alone–as all of my ranked lists are. I will admit that certain stories are more objectively good than others, but I probably have some higher ranked books that aren’t as popular to some.
It’s hard to find time to read at this point in my life, so it’s taken me several years (I believe I started in 2013) to complete the task of reading and ranking every book in the original series.
So without further ado, I give you all 62 original Goosebumps books ranked:
62. You Can’t Scare Me! (#15)
Not only is this book not scary for a second, it’s almost entirely a setup for an anticlimactic finish. Eddie and his friends are tired of Courtney always making fun of them for being scared, so they try for the entire book to do things to scare her back. They put a snake in her lunch, and try putting a tarantula in her hair, but nothing seems to work. It takes almost 100 pages for Eddie and his friends to catch up to what the readers have been thinking almost the entire time. It’s predictable, boring, and a waste of a read.
61. Monster Blood IV (#62)
What is this book?? I guess it’s only fitting that the last book in this series is so terrible. Not only did we not need a second or third Monster Blood book–but a fourth? We could have used a sequel of about a dozen different books, but instead one of the worst books in the series gets three of them. In this one, Evan and Andy discover a new kind of monster blood. Instead of the usual green stuff that makes things bigger, it’s a blue goo that forms into tiny monster creatures that multiply after drinking water. When this book isn’t gross, it’s boring. But overall, it’s unnecessary. And we can’t help but think this the entire time we read this uninteresting book.
60. The Barking Ghost (#32)
This book is a good example of a forced concept. Apparently R.L. Stine comes up with the titles for his books and then builds a story around them. The problem is, a barking ghost is not very interesting to begin with. Coupled with this being one of the more lazily written books, it’s a real dud. Towards the end it picks up speed, but in the meantime it merely goes through the motions, piling on plot hole after plot hole. Cooper and his family move to a new home in the woods. He keeps hearing the barking of two dogs, but no one believes him. The dogs keep disappearing before he can prove that they’re there. His parents keep thinking that the dogs are a result of Cooper’s active imagination. But why would an active imagination not produce something more imaginative than two dogs? It’s a tired formula that gets caught sleeping in this one.
59. My Best Friend Is Invisible (#57)
If you’ve ever really wanted to read a book about a kid who has an invisible friend and no one believes him and everyone makes fun of him for it repeatedly, then you should read this book. That’s literally all that happens until the last few pages. It’s frustrating and filled with people who conveniently don’t know how to communicate in order to further the plot. It’s not the worst book in the series, but it’s close. At least it still evokes curiosity and mystery once or twice. The twist ending is somewhat clever I guess, but not nearly worth sitting through the entire book.
58. The Curse of the Mummy’s Tomb (#5)
The Curse of the Mummy’s Tomb is the most original Goosebumps book so far, in that it’s the most unoriginal. If you’ve heard one mummy curse story, you’ve heard them all. Gabe is excited to get dropped off with his Uncle Ben, an archaeologist in Egypt, while his parents are on a business trip. However, his cousin, Sari, can be quite the stuck-up brat. The story continues as nothing really suspenseful occurs–that is, until about 2/3 of the way into the book. By then, we need something big and creepy to happen to make the wait worth our while. Nothing ever does. We get a little suspense, but it doesn’t match the build-up–if you can even call it a build-up. The best part about this book is Uncle Ben–finally an adult who doesn’t just write off kids as annoying. Oddly enough, there is no trademark twist ending in this one either. But it’s anticlimactic long before we come to this realization.
57. Chicken Chicken (#53)
Crystal and her brother Cole accidentally bump into Vanessa, the town witch, spilling all her groceries. She whispers to them, “Chicken chicken,” and then over the next few days they both start growing feathers and clucking. The story is a boring and even gross at times. The characters aren’t even really that likable and the plot is weakly propelled. It drags a lot and feels like it really has nowhere to go.
56. Monster Blood (#3)
When the reader is nine steps ahead of the characters in figuring out what’s happening, it usually means the narrative is dragging. It’s an interesting concept, but there’s definitely a lot of meandering. Evan and his friend, Andy, purchase a can of “monster blood” at an old toy store. The slimy green goop is growing larger by the second and even turns Evan’s dog into a giant. The ending is creepy and the rationale for all the weird stuff is a slightly unexpected twist, providing us with the best part of the story by far.
55. Monster Blood III (#29)
You would think that this is the Monster Blood story we should’ve gotten the first time around, but due to the events of the previous two books, nothing here is a surprise. Given away by the cover, we finally get the “Honey I Blew Up the Kid” moment we’ve been waiting for–however anticlimactic it may be. Yet somehow, this one is slightly more entertaining than the original. These Monster Blood books are neither scary nor weird, yet they’re the ones shoved in our face the most in the original series.
54. Monster Blood II (#18)
In the sequel to book #3, Evan is at his new school and he’s not fitting in well. He’s getting picked on by both his classmates and his teachers. They don’t believe him about his monster blood stories, but they’ll soon realize he’s not making it up when Cuddles, the class hamster, gets ahold of it. The narrative is a slight improvement from the first one, but the story is still underwhelming and not very scary or weird. It also completely abandons the intriguing monster blood origin story from the first book.
53. Go Eat Worms! (#21)
This one starts off good, but then falls flat towards the end. Todd is obsessed with worms. He and his sister, Regina, have sort of a sibling rivalry where they are always playing pranks on each other. Todd is always putting worms down her back and she is doing much more harmful things. There isn’t any redeeming factor at the end, and a lot of questions that go unanswered–which is frustrating because there is so much potential!
52. It Came From Beneath the Sink! (#30)
It’s not that this book lacks weirdness or horror. It does fine in those departments. It’s just that the story is somewhat disappointing as a whole. Kat discovers a weird, breathing sponge under the sink in her new house. And ever since, she’s been experiencing really bad luck. After researching an Encyclopedia of the Weird, her brother Daniel informs her that the sponge is called a Grool and that if you try to get rid of it, the owner will die in one day. The book basically just features different scenarios in which Kat and her family have bad luck. It doesn’t take you anywhere unexpected, really.
51. Deep Trouble II (#58)
The sequel to Deep Trouble tries hard to replicate the suspense built in the first book, but falls a little short. Billy and Sheena are spending the summer with their uncle on his floating lab in the middle of the ocean, when they discover that the fish in their area are gigantic versions of normal fish. An evil scientist, Dr. Ritter, is responsible for these creations, and has inexplicably decided that he wants Billy, Sheena, and their uncle dead. This book is very lazy with its details and with sorting out character decisions that make any sense. Though it’s not an unamusing read, it’s aggravating when you really stop to think about it. But luckily it doesn’t just resort to following a tired formula that we get with a lot of these books.
50. Piano Lessons Can Be Murder (#13)
You know how R.L. Stine does that thing where he has a misleading cliffhanger at the end of a chapter just to make you soon realize that it wasn’t really anything at all? Well, this book is the king of that. In his attic, Jerry finds a mysterious piano that plays itself. After he starts taking lessons, he realizes that his new piano teacher may be connected to it all. Other than having one of the more rounded-out protagonists, this book has some of the most frustrating characters. It gets to the meat of the story quickly, but never builds much off of it after that. It’s also a scientific fact that it’s one of the most predictable stories in the Goosebumps series.
49. The Abominable Snowman of Pasadena (#38)
This story is intriguing and one of the more unique Goosebumps books. It starts off promising, but falls short and doesn’t properly capitalize on its premise. Jordan and Nicole live in Pasadena where it’s warm all year long. They wish it would snow just once. Their dad has been asked to go to Alaska to photograph a mysterious creature, so he brings his kids with him. There are some questionable and annoyingly unrealistic character decisions. But it’s nice to see parent and kids in it together for once. Although the ending is one of the most disappointing in the series, leaving us question whether or not there was supposed to be another chapter or two.
48. The Werewolf of Fever Swamp (#14)
This is one of those overrated books in this series. When Grady and his family move to the Florida swamps, they soon realize that something or someone is murdering all the nearby wildlife. The people think it’s Grady’s dog, Wolf, but Grady knows it’s something else. While the story is intriguing, it’s not necessarily frightening. It moves along and builds itself well, but never becomes difficult to see where it’s trying to go with the plot. We don’t see the actual werewolf until the last few chapters, which is another bummer. The ending is slightly satisfying, but we just have to sit through annoying characters before we get there.
47. Legend Of The Lost Legend (#47)
This one might be up for the award for Best Title. Unfortunately it never lives up to its potential. Justin and his sister Marissa are in Brovania searching for an ancient manuscript called The Lost Legend. They stumble upon a mysterious shack in the middle of the forest where they’re given a lead on how to get what they’re looking for. It’s a great premise with an equally great cover image, but never as cool as it could be. We expect an Indiana Jones-type of story, but we get something much more mundane. Certain parts give us a false sense that this book is going to be one of the best. And right when we think it’s going to finally pay off in the last couple of chapters, it fails to execute, ultimately giving us an underwhelming ending.
46. Night of the Living Dummy III (#40)
In the final Living Dummy book of the original series, Trina and Dan’s father used to have a ventriloquist act, but now keeps all of his dummies in their attic. After bringing home Slappy, a new dummy, the other dummies start appearing in strange places all over the house. While Slappy isn’t as threatening in this book as the others, at least it’s not a gang-up-on-one-person story like the 2nd Night of the Living Dummy book. It’s not quite as good as the first two installments, but still decent.
45. Say Cheese and Die (#4)
When Greg and his friends find a camera in an old abandoned house, they discover it may have some serious powers. The pictures Greg is taking are altered versions of reality. A normal car all of a sudden looks wrecked in the picture. His friend, Bird, appears in the act of getting injured before his injury actually occurs. The story doesn’t really feature any likable characters–especially Shari, who harasses Greg constantly, which he annoyingly enables her to do. Luckily, there’s a lot to fill the pages with, but so many incidents could have been prevented had Greg not let everyone control his actions. (To top it off, the twist at the end isn’t quite as original as you would have hoped for.)
44. Say Cheese and Die…Again! (#44)
This one is arguably an improvement on the original. The first person narrative makes it more suspenseful, and the storytelling is much more entertaining. Greg tells a story for his report about how he and his friends found an evil camera that made bad things happen. His teacher accuses him of making this story up and gives him an F. Eager to prove that he’s not lying, he goes back to recover the evil camera and show his teacher. In the meantime, bad things happen to him and his friend, Shari. However, there was a solution in the first book for how to get things back to normal after the bad things happen. The idea is brought up in this story, but they decide not to try it for some stupid reason. Making our way to the last page, you get excited for what you think the ending is going to be, but it unfortunately drops the ball, not giving us any real redemption for Greg.
43. Egg Monsters From Mars (#42)
Dana’s sister wants an egg hunt for her birthday, and during that egg hunt Dana finds an unusual green egg the size of a softball. The egg has veins on it and is beginning to hatch. It gets into the story right away and sticks with it, however it doesn’t quite capitalize on the unique premise. And despite a few eye rolling moments, it’s a pretty engulfing read. The story is a weird one to begin with, but the ending is even wackier.
42. A Shocker On Shock Street (#35)
This is one of the more intriguing concepts for a book. Erin and her friend, Marty, are obsessed with the Shocker on Shock Street movies. Fortunately for them, Erin’s dad is an amusement park ride designer and has created a tram ride that goes through the actual Shock Street movie sets–much like the Universal Studios tram tour. He wants Erin and Marty to be the first people ever on the ride. The story has a lot of potential, and isn’t terrible by any means, but it finds itself meandering too much for about 80 pages as the kids just encounter different things along the tram tour. It realizes it has nowhere to go and loses a lot of its momentum–along with the reader’s attention. The twist ending almost makes up for it, but the book could’ve been about half as long.
41. The Girl Who Cried Monster (#8)
This book gets to the meat of the story quickly, but then drags a bit throughout the whole middle. It has a tendency to talk down to the readers, but on the other hand, has some very crude details. Lucy is always making up monster stories, but nobody believes her when she finally sees a real one. The librarian, Mr. Mortman, changes into something wicked during the late hours when the library’s closed. The famous twist ending–although clever–nullifies some of the narrative, creating some gaping holes.
40. Werewolf Skin (#60)
For some reason it’s hard for people to come up with a good werewolf story. This one’s not bad, but it just wastes a lot of time getting to anything good, instead of giving us proper explanations or answering questions we might have. Alex is visiting his aunt and uncle for a couple weeks during Halloween. They warn him to stay away from the Marlings next door. Alex’s new friend Hannah says it’s because they’re werewolves, but his aunt and uncle deny it. The plot twists are a little more unexpected here than they were in The Werewolf of Fever Swamp, but still riddled with significant inconsistencies.
39. Revenge of the Lawn Gnomes (#34)
This book follows the formula of several other stories, but the concept of lawn gnomes coming to life and causing mischief is a little creepier than some of the others. The book follows Joe as he tries to convince everyone that his dad’s new lawn gnomes are causing all the trouble that he’s being blamed for. It gets repetitive and aggravating. Even though it takes awhile to get to the meat of the story, the last 30 pages are really great.
38. Return of the Mummy (#23)
If Gabe and Sari’s unrealistic competitiveness didn’t get old in the first book, then you’re in luck, because there’s even more of it here. In the sequel to The Curse of the Mummy’s Tomb, Gabe goes back to visit his Uncle Ben and cousin Sari in Egypt for another one of his uncle’s pyramid excavations. It might be his biggest one yet. There is a superstition about some ancient words being able to wake up the 4,000 year old mummy inside, but no one really believes it. The book takes awhile to get to anything good, but the story is interesting enough that it’s not too big of an issue.
37. One Day At Horrorland (#16)
Here’s a book that lives in the shadow of its reputation. Lizzy and her family stumble across a strange theme park in the middle of nowhere. But the rides there are a little too thrilling, as they seem to be nearly avoiding actual death each time. The setting for the story is a good one–although, at times, it seems to not live up to its potential. However, the book is thoroughly engaging–even amidst the often convoluted details.
36. The Blob That Ate Everyone (#55)
Zackie wants to be a horror story writer. One night, he finds an old typewriter in a burned down antique shop and brings it home, but it seems that every word he types on it comes true. Throughout the book he’s working on a story about a blob monster. We don’t end up seeing this monster until about 20 pages til the end, but it builds the suspense decently well and has the trademarked R.L. Stine ending.
35. How to Kill a Monster (#46)
Gretchen and her step-brother Clark are staying at their grandparents’ mansion for a few days in the middle of a Georgia swamp. They play hide and seek inside the house and discover a room with a swamp monster inside. They soon realize that their grandparents have fled the house, leaving them locked inside with the monster. Not a lot happens in this book, but don’t let that fool you. It’s an easy read, and definitely one of the more thrilling installments in the latter part of the series–even though it may be a little forgettable.
34. Calling All Creeps! (#50)
I tend to like the books that take place at school. Everyone has a completely different home life, but nearly all kids can relate to school life in one way or another. Ricky gets unfairly kicked off the school newspaper by editor-in-chief Tasha, so he decides to play a joke on her. He puts a tiny message at the bottom of the next issue urging “all creeps” to call Tasha. When the paper comes out, the message is flipped on him and he starts getting calls from actual creatures who call themselves “Creeps”. They’re trying to rule the world and think that Ricky is their commander. Calling All Creeps! is a story about bullying, in a sense. You’re really rooting for our protagonist and the setting makes it easier to read. But it does tend to lose its footing about 2/3 of the way through when it just goes back and forth with Ricky trying to stall the rest of the Creeps from doing anything harmful. And it wastes too many pages with Ricky doing the infamously ill-fated thing of trying to get adults to believe him.
33. The Beast From the East (#43)
Something about this book feels very real and dark. At times a little TOO real. Ginger and her twin brothers, Nat and Pat, wind up in the getting lost in the middle of the woods during their family’s camping trip. But the part of the woods they’re in is very strange, almost like a different realm altogether. There are these beasts there that can talk and force the kids to play a twisted game of tag. If the kids lose, then they get eaten. The narrative of the story feels so different than the rest of the books in the series. Almost like it’s not even written by Stine. We get an underwhelming ending, as well as little background information on what this unique place actually is. Because it’s so stressful, it lacks enjoyability. Though it has a mystique that keeps you intrigued.
32. Ghost Camp (#45)
Harry and his brother Alex are sent to camp in the middle of summer, when they realize that weird things are going on with the campers around them. One kid sticks a fork in his neck without bleeding and another girl reaches her hand into a fire without getting burned. The kids claim that it’s all jokes, but Harry and Alex are suspecting otherwise. It’s obvious to the reader what’s happening early on–especially considering the title of the book. There’s no surprise that the other campers are ghosts, yet it’s still entertaining and features a pretty good final 20 pages.
31. My Hairiest Adventure (#26)
This is a bizarre one. Larry and his friends find a bottle of expired tanning lotion and put it all over their bodies. Days later, Larry notices that he’s sprouting hair in places that hair isn’t supposed to be. Usually R.L. Stine drops a lot of hints to let you know where the story is going, but here, we’re on our own. All we know throughout the book is that Larry is growing hair and unsure why. There are enough eerie details to keep the reader guessing. When you think you’re catching on, you realize you still have no idea–until the end. These are the best kinds of Goosebumps books. However, the antagonist in this one isn’t what you would expect. Bravo, Robert Lawrence.
30. Be Careful What You Wish For… (#12)
Samantha is a total klutz and is bullied at school by Judith all the time. But after she helps out an old gypsy lady, she is granted three wishes. Unfortunately, Samantha isn’t too savvy at this whole wish thing. After the first one goes awry, you’d think that she would be more careful with her second one. She isn’t. It might be the funniest book in the series, unexpectedly. It’s very Twilight Zone-ian at times, and the few scenes with Clarissa, the Crystal Ball lady, are eerie. Plus, it’s surprisingly profound.
29. The Haunted Mask II (#36)
The sequel to The Haunted Mask takes place a year later on Halloween and is more like a spin-off of its predecessor. It revolves around Steve–a guy who used to prank Carly Beth–the protagonist in the first book–catalyzing her wanting to buy a scary mask that she can’t take off. In this one, Steve is trying to get a mask to get back at the bratty 6-year-old soccer players who he coaches. He finds out from Carly Beth where she got her scary mask the year before. This book could’ve easily taken the route of copying the formula from its predecessor, but instead deviates from it a lot towards the end. While it’s not nearly as scary or as fun, it’s still a very well-written installment.
28. Bad Hare Day (#41)
Despite a jarring and unsatisfying ending, Bad Hare Day takes you on a fun journey. It’s an easy read and really witty. Tim is an aspiring magician, but is sick and tired of performing the same old magic kit tricks. His favorite magician comes to town, but his parents won’t let him go to the show. It’s a cool premise and is really promising, but Tim’s little sister is unbearably mean. And his parents are even worse. But Tim is a likable protagonist and the story is entertaining, which makes you not care so much that it takes forever to get anything good.
27. The Cuckoo Clock of Doom (#28)
It’s so hard not to put this book higher. You just hate Michael’s family that much. Especially his sister, Tara. Nothing is redeeming about her. She is literally ruining Michael’s life–and nearly ruins this book. Sitting through the first 30 pages of her doing rotten things, you can’t help but get angry. It’s completely unenjoyable. But it’s somewhat necessary in order for the rest of the book to hit its marks. Eventually, things start changing and it gets really good. Michael’s dad brings home a magical cuckoo clock one day. Apparently the clock is able to send you back in time. It doesn’t quite bring you all the elements of mystique that you’d expect from a Goosebumps book, but when it picks up speed it’s a real page-turner. And the ending is pretty sweet. It would be much higher on this list if it wasn’t for Tara.
26. How I Got My Shrunken Head (#39)
This book is about Mark, whose Aunt Benna is conducting research on the small unknown island of Baladora. He is gifted a shrunken head by his aunt’s assistant, Carolyn, who’s in charge of bringing Mark to the island for vacation. When he gets there, he realizes that his aunt is actually missing and he and his shrunken head may be the only way to find her. The ending leaves much to be desired and the twist could be better, but How I Got My Shrunken Head is a really great read that fills up the pages with a dense and thrilling story.
25. Ghost Beach (#22)
Ghost Beach a typical ghost story, but includes a few twists. Jerry and Terri are visiting their distant cousins who have a house near the beach. Jerry becomes enamored with a mysterious cave up on the cliff, but his new friends inform him that there’s a ghost who lives inside. This book is pretty scary, even if the story borrows from some past Goosebumps books. Maybe I’m just a sucker for ghost stories.
24. Deep Trouble (#19)
Don’t let the cover fool you. This book isn’t about a shark. It’s about a mermaid. A really friendly one, actually. Billy and his sister spend the summer with their uncle on his boat in the middle of the Caribbean sea when a zoo offers to pay their uncle one million dollars if he can catch a mermaid for them. I would categorize this book as more of a thriller. It doesn’t even get all that weird. It’s actually an entertaining read–however, not as part of the Goosebumps series. Although I wouldn’t knock anyone who had this book in their top 5 or 10. It’s a lot of fun.
23. Attack of the Mutant (#25)
Attack of the Mutant is one of the more fun concepts in the Goosebumps series. A young boy, Skipper, is obsessed with comic books. His favorite is the Masked Mutant series. It’s about a super villain who’s always fighting the good guys. One day, after taking the wrong bus, he finds himself in a strange part of town and stumbles across the secret headquarters of the Masked Mutant. This story is entertaining and involved, however some of the details of the twists along the way can get a little convoluted and vague, collecting some plot holes. You only wish that there was maybe a little more backstory to it all. It’s also not scary in the traditional sense. It’s eerie and takes you on a cool adventure, filled with a style of humor different from the other books–more cartoonish. It’s unique and weird in the best way possible.
22. Vampire Breath (#49)
You could say this story has the makings of a great Goosebumps book: secret rooms, anxiety-filled chase scenes, time travel, and a fun twist. But it also has some obvious plot holes. In his basement, Freddy and his friend Cara discover a secret room that contains a vampire who’s been sleeping for a hundred years. Upon waking up, he’s in search of a bottle labeled “Vampire Breath”. It’s unclear exactly what Vampire Breath is, but the convoluted details merely serve as a MacGuffin for the rest of the plot. One of the better reads towards the end of the series.
21. Stay Out of the Basement (#2)
Not quite as scary, but just as creepy, Stay Out of the Basement is more along the lines of R.L. Stine’s weirdness than its predecessor, Welcome To Dead House. It follows Margaret and her brother Casey as they try to figure out why their dad doesn’t want them down in the basement. It turns out that he’s doing some weird experiments with plants. As the second book in the series, it showcases how diverse these stories are going to be. The narrative moves along nicely and we don’t feel like we’re going in circles without getting anywhere. Despite the fairly thin plot and the singular location, it’s consistently engaging. Not the very best, but a decent follow up to the solid introductory book.
20. Why I’m Afraid of Bees (#17)
Gary Lutz doesn’t have any friends and is bullied constantly, so he decides to switch bodies with a cooler kid. During the transformation process, he accidentally switches bodies with a bee. The front cover gives away the plot a little, but at least you get to that part only 30 pages into the book. The story has some of Goosebumps’ most introspective character psyches. It holds nothing back as it makes you truly feel Gary’s plight. Despite not being a traditional horror story at all, it’s still one of the more page-turning books in the series.
19. Night of the Living Dummy (#7)
R.L. Stine was really onto something with this book. It’s the first time he gives the main monster a personality. Before this, we’ve mostly gotten antagonists that are either inanimate objects or are humans acting under the control of someone or something else. But here, the dummy is personified like never before, making him all the more evil. Kris and Lindy are twin sisters who are always competing. Lindy finds a ventriloquist dummy in the dumpster, so Kris gets one too. But weird things start happening around the house and Kris thinks that her dummy may, in fact, be alive and causing all this mischief. It takes awhile to get to the good part, but it’s all uphill from there.
18. How I Learned To Fly (#52)
Reader beware, you’re in for a scare?? Not so much. Jack finds a book in an old abandoned basement called Flying Lessons, which he uses to teach himself to fly. Things get out of hand when other kids begin finding out. It takes the oddity of a Goosebumps book and puts in on a national level where even the media gets involved. It plays as more of a fable than anything else, and is actually a very entertaining story, even if its plagued with an extremely insufferable antagonist. It’s not scary at all–perhaps affecting its position on this list–but at the same time, it never pretends to be. There are other non-scary books in this series, but this one’s in a category all its own.
17. The Ghost Next Door (#10)
This is another book where its reputation sort of precedes it. And for good reasons. Although the plot is a little disjointed up until the halfway point–not unlike many books in this series. It meanders as Hannah goes about her day, continuously wondering if the boy next door is a ghost. While it has one of the best twists, and gets to it quickly, there are a few unresolved questions. However, it’s still rarely boring and is rewarding in the end.
16. The Scarecrow Walks at Midnight (#20)
Jodie and her brother are visiting their grandparents on their farm for the summer. Their mentally-challenged farmhand, Stanley, keeps telling them, “The scarecrow walks at midnight.” Jodie’s unsure what to make of this, until strange things start happening on the farm that have never happened before. Although it’s pretty easy to shoot holes through this plot, it’s creepy enough that it shouldn’t matter. Also, the haunting cover of the book rings in your head the whole time you read it, making for some vivid images throughout.
15. Night of the Living Dummy II (#31)
A slight step up from the first book, Night of the Living Dummy II has much better momentum. Amy gets a new ventriloquist dummy from her dad. Weird things start happening around their house and Amy keeps getting blamed. She claims it’s her new dummy, Slappy, but her parents are ready to send her to a psychiatrist. It’s one of the scarier Goosebumps books–even though there are tons of frustrating head-scratchers.
14. Beware, The Snowman (#51)
For some reason, an evil snowman at the top of a mountain is pretty creepy. It’s a story that goes underused in popular culture. In this book, Jaclyn moves from Chicago to some small village on the edge of the Arctic Circle. In front of each house in the village there is an angry looking snowman with a red scarf and a scar on his face. Legend says that it’s to protect the town from what’s lurking at the mountain top. The book hits all the right notes for the most part. Except for towards the end where it could have gone one of two directions, arguably picking the less interesting one. Still a solid installment and one of the scariest in the series.
13. The Horror At Camp Jellyjam (#33)
Wendy and her brother Elliot wind up at King Jellyjam’s sports camp after they go missing during a family road trip. Strange things start happening at the camp and all the counselors seem a little weird and brainwashed. The flow of this book is one of R.L. Stine’s most natural. It talks up to the reader rather than down, and builds great momentum. However, the very end is somewhat underwhelming and confusing, and contains a couple of very obvious plot holes, which gives us a forgivably lazy finish to an otherwise well-put-together story.
12. The Curse of Camp Cold Lake (#56)
This has got to be one of the darkest books in the series. Things get real in The Curse of Camp Cold Lake. Sarah’s parents make her go to a water sports camp, but Sarah hates it. Her bunkmates are always bullying her and she doesn’t like the water much. So one day, she pretends to drown so that everyone will feel guilty. But her near-death experience causes her to be stalked by an actual ghost who’s trying to get her to come to the other side. Sarah is a bit obnoxious as our main character, but that fades out about halfway through the book. R.L. Stine always has solid ghost stories, and this is one of his best.
11. I Live In Your Basement! (#61)
This is the most Goosebumps equivalent to a psychological thriller we ever get. After Marco gets hit in the head by a baseball bat, he begins to get cryptic messages from a kid, Keith, who claims to live in his basement. Strange things begin happening to Marco and he can’t figure out what’s real and what’s not. This book plays with the concepts of dreams, and does it about as well as a children’s book can do. The twist at the end is somewhat polarizing and even a little confusing, but this is one of the best paced and least predictable books in the series.
10. Don’t Go To Sleep! (#54)
This is one of the most well-constructed stories in the series. It’s as though R.L. Stine had been planning this one for years. It follows Matt, who’s been begging his mom to let him sleep in the guest bedroom instead of his own closet-sized room, but she refuses. So one night Matt sneaks into the guest room and falls asleep. But when he wakes up, everything in his life is changed. New parents. New siblings. In fact, each time he falls asleep he winds up in a new reality. Despite the slightly-underwhelming and predictable ending which could have been fixed with a few more chapters, this is one of the best and most entertaining books in the series.
9. Attack of the Jack-O’-Lanterns (#48)
Goosebumps does a great job with Halloween books. This one is no exception. It’s pretty scary and there are other things going on besides just the main plot, making for a well-developed story. It’s one of the only stories that mixes real world paranoia with supernatural elements. Drew and her friends’ Halloween is always ruined by Tabby and Lee. They’ve tried and failed to get revenge the last couple years. But they vow this year will be different. There’s also an underlying fear of someone who’s been kidnapping children. Things get creepy and fun, blurring the lines between reality and the supernatural. And it keeps the mystery alive until the very end with a great twist that you never see coming.
8. Let’s Get Invisible! (#6)
Max and his friends discover a mirror inside a hidden room in Max’s attic. Strange things start happening to anyone who turns the light on above the mirror, but what’s more interesting is finding out why it’s happening. The whole book pretty much takes place in one location, but it’s so well-written that each page builds our curiosity more and more. Because of the sight-based nature of the story, the narration has a built-in need to describe everything, which makes the twist at the end a bit more telegraphed–albeit a very good one.
7. Welcome to Dead House (#1)
It’s the book that started it all. As far as creepiness goes, this one gives me goosebumps as an adult. A less scary book may have not boded well for the jump off point of the Goosebumps series, but R.L. Stine picked the right one. Amanda moves with her family to a creepy old house in Dark Falls. Everyone around town seems a little off. And Amanda keeps seeing people and hearing voices in the house, but her family doesn’t believe her. This book is still one of the scariest in the series.
6. Welcome to Camp Nightmare (#9)
It’s a fantastic summer book and really gets you ready for camp–or to reminisce about it. Billy goes to camp for the summer, but weird things start happening. Campers start to disappear. When Billy confronts the counselors about it, they act as though the campers never existed in the first place. The action keeps rolling as it builds the atmosphere of the camp so well. The story never meanders and the excitement is constant with one thing happening after another. It also contains one of the most memorable endings in the series–even if it may divide the audience a bit.
5. The Haunted School (#59)
This story has so many elements to it. It’s chilling at times, but it also takes you on an amazing and curious journey to a different dimension. It creates an entire new world that we still want to explore and know more about. Tommy starts at a new school, but it’s really big and easy to get lost. Then Tommy starts hearing voices from behind the walls and discovers boarded up wings of the school’s corridors. It’s a really fun mystery, but even after the mystery is figured out, there’s still a lot more to it. Why couldn’t R.L. Stine replace one of his Monster Blood sequels with a Haunted School sequel??
4. The Headless Ghost (#37)
Duane and Stephanie are called the Twin Terrors because they’re both obsessed with sneaking out late at night and scaring the neighborhood kids. There’s a famous haunted house in their town that’s haunted by a ghost boy with no head. They’ve never seen the ghost, but one night they decide to search for his head in hopes that they’ll get to encounter him in the process. It’s a really great, vivid book from start to finish with a couple of brilliant twists along the way.
3. The Haunted Mask (#11)
This book is everything you’d want from a Goosebumps book. It’s creepy, dark, twisted, and it takes place on Halloween! Carly Beth is scared easily, and these two guys at school are constantly exploiting this and humiliating her in front of then entire school. She vows to get them back on Halloween night with a scary costume. She buys a mysterious mask that seems to be altering her appearance and her personality. R.L. Stine doesn’t waste any pages, giving us a perfect book for the season that can be re-read each year. Call this one “Old Reliable”.
2. A Night In Terror Tower (#27)
This one’s so much fun! Sue and Eddie are on a tour of the Terror Tower castle in London when suddenly they get separated from their group. It’s night time and the castle is being locked up, but there’s a man inside chasing them down. The story is very Twilight Zonian. And it’s a topic that R.L. Stine hasn’t covered before, so he’s not quite as good at sorting out the details, leading to a couple of small holes. Nonetheless, it’s perhaps his scariest and most anxiety-filled book. And so different from every other book in the series, in both setting and premise. And it’s never predictable. As an aside, the TV adaptation for this book is one of the few great episodes of the series.
1. Phantom of the Auditorium (#24)
Brooke and her best friend, Zeke, are in the school play called “The Phantom.” The play was supposed to be performed at their school back in 1920s, but on the day of performance, the boy who was cast as the Phantom disappeared. Ever since then, the play has been banned–until now. But during rehearsals, mysterious things keep happening. It seems as though Zeke is being framed for pranks happening around school and in the auditorium. Phantom of the Auditorium is a great mystery with absolutely no down time. We get likable characters and some of the most fluid storytelling. The best stories are the ones set in places familiar to us as kids–like school, camp, etc. As a kid from the ’90s, this one just FEELS like that era. Maybe it’s because of that familiar setting, or because it’s the most grounded book containing the most realistic protagonists. It was a close call between this book and A Night In Terror Tower, but Phantom of the Auditorium has the edge on how well-written it is and how it gets deep without ever being corny. It has a fun premise that truly pays off.
That’s it! Feel free to rank them, yourself, and let me know in the comments!
Meanwhile, check out my other rankings.
Killer article! Brought back a lot of memories 🙂
Thanks!! What were your favorites back then??
Great list, thanks! Loved these as a kid and like you hadn’t read many Lol
Thanks! You should read them all now!
It’s interesting that Horror at Camp Jellyjam ranks so highly on your list. For me that book was sort of the dividing point between what I regarded as Classic Goosebumps and Newer Sub-par Goosebumps. Of course that makes no sense, but to me the series started to feel like a parody of itself at that point. Maybe it’s just that I was getting older and had more discretion.
My favorites as a kid tended to be the adventures (How I Got My Shrunken Head, Attack of the Mutant, Deep Trouble), the mind-benders (I Live In Your Basement, Don’t Go to Sleep), and the first one I read, Piano Lessons Can Be Murder. My least favorite was definitely Chicken, Chicken.
Solid picks! Chicken Chicken is definitely pretty awful lol. I tend to favor the ghost books more than some of his other “genres,” and also for some reason the total bonkers weird stuff were my favorite as a kid, and still today (hence Camp Jellyjam). What do you feel about Monster Blood though?? I think those are so overrated.
Fantastic article/ ranking!
A few weeks back, I was pondering whether or not to buy the entire original series (all ’90’s prints) on eBay. The idea came from nowhere. I was sitting on the couch one afternoon, and the artwork filled my head. I recalled hours spent in the library as a kid staring at their Goosebumps collection.
The images and ideas were so enticing to me. Like you, I read maybe 3-4 from the original series and only recall “A Night at Terror Tower” and “Haunted Mask II”. I mostly read the later, Give Yourself Goosebumps series.
Thanks to your article, I justified my purchase with the intention of reading all 62 books, instead of just having them as a collection. I look forward to fulfilling a childhood dream of reading all the Goosebumps. I’m starting “Welcome to Dead House” tonight and hope to have my own ranking (with reviews) by the time I’m done!
Awesome!! I hope you have fun on this journey. I can’t wait to see your rankings/reviews. Keep me updated on your progress. I’d love to hear it!
And thanks for this amazing comment!
I’m glad to see Be Careful What You Wish For in the middle of the pack at least. Like you, I thought the book was profound as a kid and it’s always toward the top of my favorites (maybe because it was the first GB I ever read).
I just purchased several of the books used online to show my kids; perhaps I should track down each book of the original series…
Me too actually! I think I was remembering the TV episode, which is pretty evocative for me. It’s kinda creepy
I’ve been trying to post a comment without luck for months now, so I’m hoping this goes through.
I finally started at the beginning of this year! It’s been a long time coming but it’s been a fun start. Made my way through the first 6 books as of last night. I feel like it’s been hit or miss so far, but even then bad books are mildly entertaining in their goofiness. My only frustration is pacing. Only 2 books so far have been paced well and don’t waste copious pages.
None of the books have been particularly scary so far, but entertaining nevertheless. I’m sure as a kid most of them would’ve freaked me out. “The Curse of the Mummy’s Tomb” has the claustrophobic paranoia of being trapped underground in a pyramid. “Let’s Get Invisible!” has been my favorite so far and gave me hope for a upward trend in creativity. I love the premise and the pacing. It’s tense and you don’t really know what coming until it hits you at the end.
Your article has given me hope that there are plenty of gems to come in the series and I’m excited to keep my adventure going!!
Thanks for your perseverance in posting this comment! Sorry for your troubles.
Glad you’ve started the series. The scariest they get in my opinion is Welcome to Dead House. After that, the litmus really becomes creativity and weirdness–which I like better anyway. You’re totally right. The first few are hit or miss. And just like you, Let’s Get Invisible was the first one where I was like, “Okay, THIS is the benchmark.”
The best run in the series probably comes between #16 One Day at HorrorLand (following #15, aka the worst in the series) and #37 The Headless Ghost–still, not without a few duds thrown in. As far as pacing though, and creative twists, plots, etc., that spread is where the OG series finds a sort of sweet spot.
Excited to see which one becomes your favorite. At the end of the day, I read the books for nostalgia and/or to tap into that youthfulness I had found I was losing during that time in my life (mid-to-late 20s).
I’m the same Ryan who posted about buying the whole original series last April. It seems my WordPress account kept erroring out when I tried posting my comment, so I finally tried FB. I was determined to follow up because I am really enjoying this journey so far. I am glad that you have taken the time to get back to me so quickly. I appreciate having someone to discuss this with.
Perhaps I’ve seen too many horror films, but Welcome to Dead House seemed like a staple haunting tale. That’s not to say it wouldn’t be scary otherwise, but it was expected for me. If that’s the scariest book, I’ll admit I’m slightly disappointed there isn’t scarier. Like you though, I’m more into it for the creativity and weirdness too. I think the books that will be the real winners for me are those that are either blatantly bizarre or just slightly off, where characters are questioning their reality. Let’s Get Invisible takes that almost Uncanny Valley approach, where Max can’t figure out why he’s friends seem slightly off once they come back.
My whole collection takes up an entire shelf of my bookcase. I love peeking at the titles to see what’s next, and I have to admit that seems like a truly solid run. Coming from someone who has only read 2 books in that bunch. I’m trying to read a book a week, but life’s busy in your late 20’s.
I can relate to your comment about tapping into youthfulness. Lately, I’ve been trying to get back to doing things that I enjoyed as a kid. It’s fun to reconnect with the feeling that anything can and may happen. Even just to believe you might find a mirror that will turn you invisible for the length of a book. Okay- I know that won’t happen but it’s fun to pretend.
Until a get some more books under my belt!
Loved this list man, especially placing Terror Tower at #2 as that was probably my favorite.
Also wanted to mention that the only GB book I ever truly lost sleep over as a kid was Curse of Camp Cold Lake. Something about the bleakness, and probably just darker tone really unsettled the younger me. Stine does do an amazing job with his ghost stories. Thanks for the nostalgia trip.