Saturday, October 9, 2010

Goosebumps #1 'Welcome to Dead House' by R. L. Stine: A Summary

I was going to post reviews of this series in groups of five, but as I finished the first book I realized that wouldn't work for me.  I'll have to do each book separately. By the way, there are spoilers in this review.  Away we go...

Some book specification info: There are 123 pages; ISBN #0-439-56847-1

Summary:  A family receives a letter in the mail stating that a house in Dark Falls was left to them by the father's uncle, Charlie.  Nobody in the family remembers this uncle, but they visit Dark Falls anyway to view the house.  The parents love the house and the fact that it's free, while the children (Amanda and Josh) find the house a little creepy.  The family moves into the house a couple weeks later.  Amanda has paranormal experiences (i.e. seeing ghosts, hearing whispers and seeing curtains moving) right away, while Josh is just ready to go back to their old house.  Eventually, the family finds out why Dark Falls is so creepy and leaves the town to go back to their old house.

Banned Reasons: Excessive violence

Many of us, if not all of us, have heard of this series ... whether it was as children, seeing them in a library or looking at them in the bookstore.  This series holds major appeal with children because most children like to be scared.  The cover art is drawn specifically to draw children to the books when they see them on a display.  This combined with complaints of 'excessive violence in books intended for children under the age of 12' are the reasons why this series was the most challenged during the 2000-2009 decade, according to the American Library Association.

I must say that I do not agree with the banned reasons.  I'm not sure about the remaining 61 books, but this first book did not have 'excessive violence.'  There was an implication of violence yet-to-come, but no real violence was actually depicted.  Unless you want to count the part where a flashlight was shown on an undead being and it caused his skin to melt off of his skull, his eyeballs popping out and him falling and cracking his skull on a tombstone ... ???  That was not violent.  Gross, maybe .. Violent?  No.

Overall:  The book is definitely suspenseful, but not scary.  I think R. L. Stine may have chosen the series title Goosebumps because he knew the books weren't scary.  People get goosebumps whenever they are spooked by something creepy, not when they're scared... being scared creates a whole different reaction in a person's body.

When I finished reading the book, I came up with eight questions that I did not have answers for (this may spoil some of the story for you):

1.) Why did the undead need fresh blood once a year when they have no blood coursing through their veins?

2.) Why does the light make their skin melt and make them appear to be dead?  Are they really dead?

I came up with question #2 because while one of the undead girls was melting, she was telling Amanda "Thank you."  But at the end of the book, when a new family was coming to live at the Dead House, it appears one of the undead was unharmed and there to welcome the family to their new home.

3.) Why do the undead form a circle around their victims?

I thought the answer to #3 was so the victims couldn't run away, but there were tied up victims in the book and they still formed a circle around them ... So, it got me wondering ...

4.) How did the undead kill their victims?

R. L. Stine never wrote how this was done.  He did have them kill the dog, Petey, first because 'animals always know' when a person is undead, but he didn't write how they did it.  I think it would've made the story a little more creepier if Stine would've had Amanda and Josh watching the undead kill Petey from a distance ... of course, that would've been violence and a valid reason for the book being challenged.

5.) How did the undead choose which family to bring to the Dead House?

6.) Why was it so important for Ray (one of the undead), known as The Watcher, to not let Amanda and Josh know who the undead really were for a few more weeks?

7.) Who buried the dead of Dark Falls?

This I wondered after one of the undead told the story of the town, Dark Falls, to Amanda and Josh.  There once was a plastics factory on the outskirts of town.  One day, there was an accident at the factory that caused a yellow gas to spread out over the town quickly.  So quickly that the people of the town didn't realize what was happening.  They all died as a result.  If they all died, who buried them?

8.)  If all the townspeople died at the same time, why are there different years of death on the tombstones?

I realize these questions probably come from an adult's viewpoint.  I don't know too many children that would think these questions while reading this book.  I do not find anything wrong with a child reading this book ... it is just a story after all.

Now, on to the reading of the second book in this series ...

Stay tuned! =)


  1. Don't think I ever read this one, but I do remember the next two. Looking forward to what you have to say.

  2. Here, it wasn't the book series, but the adapted tv version that was very popular when I was of age 11-14 I think. It was totally creeping me out, but I still watched tit every time. I agree that violence isn't the word I'd use. Creepy, yes, even frightening sometimes, if you're 11 years old, but in a cool way. Actually they stated publishing some of the books about an year ago, and when I bought some, I was quite surprised that it wasn't as scary as before, lol! Still interesting though, and I find the story you reviwed very intriguing - I should check this one as well!

  3. I've never personally read any of the "Goosebumps" books, however my son did when he was 10 and he LOVED THEM!!