Goosebumps’ strange relationship with home media over the years has made it so that fans of the show will likely have seen some episodes much more than others. A select group of titles, including “The Haunted Mask” and “Stay Out of the Basement,” got VHS releases back in the late ‘90s, but this left viewers at the mercy of television channels when it came to catching the rest of the series. However, when DVD releases finally came, and more recently as it has been available on streaming platforms, Goosebumps has been made truly accessible for the first time, enabling fans old and new to binge it properly. Here’s a look at some underrated or underexposed episodes of the show that should definitely be checked out.
10 The Girl Who Cried Monster
As one of the earlier episodes of the series, “Girl Who Cried Monster” is fully immersed in a world of just-about-kid-friendly terror that aims to teach the timeless lesson about the inevitable results of telling tall tales. Lucy is a prankster who likes making up scary stories to taunt her younger brother with, so when she discovers one day that the local librarian is in fact a monster, she is dismayed that nobody believes her, leaving her alone and vulnerable to his cannibalistic tendencies.
The episode is notable for its body horror and creature effects, as well as its more unsettling scenes of the monster librarian eating live animals. It also delivers a knock-out punch of a twist ending, in which Lucy discovers a terrifying family secret, and the librarian learns that he is not the most dangerous monster in this neighborhood. With a few surprisingly funny comedic beats and a shadowy, dutch-angle aesthetic, “The Girl Who Cried Monster” is a strong, creepy episode for the show’s first season.
9 You Can’t Scare Me
Courtney is the perfect student: pretty, popular and an absolute know-it-all. Hat and Eddie, on the other hand, are ne’er-do-wells who are nauseated by Courtney’s straight-A record and desperately want to knock her down a peg or two. However, on top of the girl’s list of many virtues is being so intellectual that she is impossible to scare. So after a few failed attempts, the boys decide to use the local legend of a mud monster to get their own back, but what they don’t count on is the monster actually existing.
It’s a good-looking and atmospheric episode with lots of foggy browns and grays that muster a damp, sloppy and depressing atmosphere. Courtney’s smart-ass ways and the boys’ endless blunders in the pursuit of revenge make this more of a jokey, light-hearted episode by the show’s standards, but a very amusing one with a funny conclusion. Dylan Provencher as Hat gives a particularly entertaining and relatable performance as a stupid kid who is just not cool or smart enough to be a proper bully.
8 My Hairiest Adventure
Larry is a disgruntled teen who friends love to tease and local dogs love to chase. He and his buddies play in a band that rehearses in an abandoned garage, where they find an old bottle of tanning lotion and decide to use it
so they can be “bronzed gods” for their upcoming gig. But no sooner than he applies the lotion does Larry discover that he is growing hair all over his body. Figuring that this is the result of a very unwise decision, the poor kid keeps this embarrassing and somewhat terrifying secret to himself. But what he doesn’t expect is that the tanning lotion has nothing to do with it, and his parents and family doctor know much more than he does about his strange condition.
It’s an interesting play on the struggles of puberty, with Larry suspecting that his friends must also be experiencing the same symptoms, but feeling too awkward and ashamed to address it, leading him to increasingly embarrassing cover-up attempts. The episode really explores the idea of a young person’s body becoming unrecognizable in scary ways, with an emphasis on body horror and unprecedented transformation. It’s an unsettling story with a thoroughly unexpected revelation that ties all the mystery together.
7 Attack of the Jack-o’-Lanterns
As the forgotten Halloween episode of Goosebumps, “Attack of the Jack-o’-Lanterns” is a fun spooky romp that takes narrative advantage of the anonymity lent by every kid’s favorite holiday. Drew and Walker have grown sick of local idiots Lee and Tabby’s yearly Halloween pranks, and decide to get back at them with the help of their friends, twins Shane and Shana. When the gang run into two imposing figures wearing jack-o’-lantern masks on Halloween night, who demand they keep trick-or-treating for eternity, Drew and Walker assume that it is their friends helping them exact their revenge. They soon learn that this is not exactly the case.
Renowned voice actor Erica Luttrell is delightful as the fun and bubbly Drew, with some fabulous chemistry with her fellow young actors and those who play her parents. There are some amusingly-dated effects sequences that really deliver the nostalgia of ‘90s kids’ TV, and of course the classic Stine twist that leaves the characters on a cliffhanger. It’s a fun, colorful throwback with equal lashings of laughs and scares.
6 House of No Return
This satisfying episode is the story of a bunch of bullies learning the error of their ways at the hands of a long-dead childless couple looking to adopt their own little family. “You Can’t Scare Me”‘s Dylan Provencher is back, this time as Chris, the new boy in town, who is targeted by a trio of mean kids who call themselves Danger Incorporated. They have a history of locking kids in an abandoned house to earn their place in the gang, but when Chris fails to come back out after the allotted hour, they discover that this isn’t just any old house.
Boasting a classic haunted house in the style of Disney’s Phantom Manor, it is filled to the brim with spooky visuals — including plenty of endearingly bad day-for-night shots — and a pretty chilling cliffhanger that leaves the fates of all the young characters undetermined. It takes a cheekily gleeful look at tables turning on aggressors, allowing the audience to really enjoy these unpleasant kids getting a taste of their own medicine.
As the only original story written for the series and the only three-parter episode, “Chillogy” is quite the anomaly for Goosebumps. The framing device involves a few kids who encounter a Beetlejuice-style model town, which they are sucked into and have their own individual hair-raising adventures in. The plastic picturesque 1950s ideal of the town is maintained by maniacal mayor Karl, who wears a fabulous series of glittery blazers, and aims to teach the kids some valuable life lessons on greed, bravery and confidence.
Daniel Kash gives a powerhouse performance as Karl, with impeccable comedic finesse, making the character one of those anti-heroes you can’t help but love. Grey’s Anatomy star Caterina Scorsone stars as business-minded Jessica, who uses the naïveté of the Karlsville natives to her advantage and learns about ethical business practises the hard way. It’s a crazy, cartoonish three-parter that fully embraces a tongue-in-cheek approach to the material and delivers far more laughs than it does scares, distinguishing it from the majority of the series.
4 The Ghost Next Door
All of Goosebumps’ fourth season consisted of two-part episodes, kicked off by “The Ghost Next Door.” Hanna is home alone when she spots a shadowy figure stalking the neighborhood. The phone seems to be malfunctioning so she runs, and meets Danny, who has moved into the abandoned house across the street. Increasingly spooky goings-on lead Hanna to believe that Danny is a ghost, so when at the end of part one she walks straight through the boy, they realize with horror that it is in fact she who is dead.
It’s in the vein of many earlier ghost stories, such as “Ghost,” in that Hanna decides she must be hanging around on earth because of some purpose she needs to fulfill before moving on to the next plane. Its logic doesn’t always hold up, but it’s a fun and at times poignant two-parter with some good performances from its young actors and fun set design, as well as some wonderfully clunky late-’90s technology.
3 Shocker on Shock Street
In a style more reminiscent of sci-fi than of horror, Shocker on Shock Street takes an exciting premise and turns it on its head with one of Goosebumps’ more memorable twist endings. Erin’s father is an inventor who specializes in creature effects for the film industry, so when the studio he works for expands into a theme park with a tour ride, he is in charge of the project, and wants his daughter to be the first to try it out. She and her friend Marty venture into Shock Street, only for things to start going horribly wrong, and revelations about what really goes on behind the scenes to emerge.
Filmed at the Centreville Amusement Park in Toronto, it is one of several theme park Goosebumps stories, and the location really lends a sense of authenticity and structure to the episode. A young Brooke Nevin (known later for Animorphs) stars as Erin and has good chummy chemistry with Ben Cook as Marty. The episode takes the opportunity to throw in a bunch of series easter eggs in the film studio prop cupboards, with masks from earlier episodes like The Haunted Mask 1 and 2 and Calling All Creeps, and other pieces from the workshop of series effects master Ron Stefaniuk.
2 How to Kill a Monster
Gretchen and Clark are stepsiblings sent to stay with kooky grandparents in the bayou while their folks are on their honeymoon. The house is old and rickety, Clark’s allergies are acting up, and who knows what lurks in the murky swamp outside. The kids are warned to stay out of a particular room in the house, which naturally means that it is their first port of call once they are alone. Locked in the house and with nothing but their wits to rely on, they are horrified to find themselves face-to-face with a huge swamp monster, and they scramble to come up with increasingly wild ideas as to how to save themselves.
Helen Hughes and Peter Boretski give brilliant, quirky performances as the batty old grandparents and get some laughs out of the material while still delivering on the creep factor. The titular monster is a brilliant combination of costumed actor and puppetry, and the swamp setting lends a hostile and isolated feeling to the whole episode which features just four human characters.
1 Scarecrow Walks at Midnight
This spooky little episode lies somewhere in the middle of Children of the Corn and the Scarecrow B-movies of the early 2000s. Jodie and Mark are staying at their grandparents’ farm for the summer, but soon start to notice creepy things happening. The farmhand Stanley and his son Sticks seem to be up to something suspicious, while their grandparents scramble for excuses for their weird behavior. Turns out, wacky old Stanley has a book of spells, and he has been trying to raise his station in life by wielding the power of magic over his employers — and their scarecrows.
“Scarecrow Walks at Midnight” leans much more in the horror direction than some other episodes, with a notable dream sequence that is genuinely scary and may well have induced nightmares in younger viewers over the years. Michael Copeman is wonderful as childlike, shift-eyed Stanley, while horror regular Kris Lemche gives his debut performance as tough country boy Sticks.