The 7 Scariest Goosebumps TV Show Episodes That Still Hold Up

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Originally airing from 1995-1998 as an anthology series adapting author R.L. Stine’s acclaimed series of children’s horror books, Goosebumps ran for four seasons and brought many of Stine’s most well-regarded stories to the living rooms of budding horror fans. Stine’s books coupled with the TV series showed a generation that horror could carry a kid-friendly message while also keeping an eerie atmosphere. The balance was difficult for Stine himself to strike, and producer Deborah Forte (The Magic School Bus) had the very same task at hand when developing the televised series. Due to the series’ overall popularity, it stands to reason that she and her fellow showrunners succeeded, at the very least in a few central episodes. To this day, some episodes still stand out as solid self-contained horror entries, even if their content is toned down for younger audiences. Here are seven Goosebumps episodes that work to this day.

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Stay Out of the Basement

Judah Katz in Goosebumps

Image via 20th Century Fox Television

When most people are young, it can be difficult not to be curious when told by an authority figure not to do something. With a story reminiscent of Invasion of the Body Snatchers with a little bit of M. Night Shyamalan’s The Happening thrown in, “Stay Out of the Basement” causes discomfort via the protagonists’ repeated encounters with a stranger bearing the face of a parent in the basement they’re told to stay out of.

Casey (Blake McGrath) and Margaret (Beki Lantos) are siblings left with their father Dr. Brewer (Judah Katz), a botanist who is performing strange experiments in the basement of his home. Brewer is acting very unlike himself, detached from his children and angrily addressing them when they are found near or ask questions about the basement. Things get even more unusual when the kids begin to observe strange physical ailments affecting their father such as bleeding green ooze and having leaves for hair. Plantlife such as vines attack the kids and try to drag them into the basement, and a colleague of Dr. Brewer even goes missing during a visit. Against their father’s strident objections, Casey and Margaret descend into the basement, encountering a dread-inducing host of strange and dangerous plants along with something even more sinister.

A Night in Terror Tower

The cast of Goosebumps

Image via 20th Century Fox Television

Those who enjoy movies like Waxwork or either House of Wax should get a kick out of this particular episode despite being older than its target demographic. Centering primarily on the fear of being pursued in a strange place with nearly nobody to rely on, “A Night in Terror Tower” can be less about the medieval pursuers and more about the fear that comes with unfamiliarity. The story gets a little erratic towards the end of the episode, but it’s still a fun experience along the way.

Sue (Kathryn Short) and her little brother Eddie (Corey Sevier) are tourists in London patronizing Terror Tower, a real-world location now known as the Tower of London that is also purported to be haunted. As the two kids tour the tower, they witness several depictions of torture recreated by wax figures. However, things take a turn for the worse when Sue begins noticing some of the “figures” are moving, and the two discover that a man in black (Robert Collins) is pursuing them through the tower when they break away from their tour group.

The children manage to escape the tower, but are stunned at the lack of cooperation by the adults around them, who don’t believe their stories of a man chasing them. They arrive at their hotel and also notice that they are beginning to lose their memory, unable to recall their own last names or who their parents are. Things get even stranger when time travel gets involved, but that’s about where the third act gets a bit wacky. All the same, if you’ve ever felt isolated in a new place or if you’ve dealt with authority figures unwilling to hear you out, this episode should be relatable.

Night of the Living Dummy II

Slappy the Dummy from Goosebumps

Image via 20th Century Fox Television

Featuring the overarching antagonist of the Goosebumps franchise in Slappy the Dummy (Cathal J. Dodd), this episode is a classic even if it follows the “evil doll” trope a little too closely. What the episode does offer thematically is the struggle of fitting into a family dynamic as well as meeting expectations set by others. Lovers of Annabelle or Dead Silence can find a few parallels in this episode if nothing else.

The story concerns a girl named Amy Kramer (Maggie Castle) who hates being the middle child in her family. At the family’s weekly talent shows dubbed “Family Nights,” Amy is outshined by her sister Sara (Caterina Scorsone) who is great at seemingly everything, and her brother Jed (Andrew Sardella) who is a budding comedian and can make people laugh on command. However, Amy’s dad (Robert Fitzpatrick) provides her with a new ventriloquist dummy. Amy had been working on ventriloquism with her dummy Dennis (also Dodd), but the prospect of a new dummy to use excites her. As she opens the new dummy’s packaging, she finds his name is Slappy, and his pocket is filled with a small card with a strange saying written on it: “Karru Marri Odonna Loma Molonu Karrano.”

Upon uttering the phrase, nothing immediate happens, but it isn’t long before Amy begins noticing strange things happening around the house. Her ventriloquism act is getting better with Slappy, but the doll unnerves her substantially as the strange incidents grow more worrisome. It isn’t long before Slappy becomes a danger to the Kramer family, and a defender rushes to their aid from an unexpected place.

Be Careful What You Wish For

Ellen-Ray Hennessy and Melody Johnson in Goosebumps

Image via 20th Century Fox Television

It’s a story plucked straight from ancient fables: A protagonist meets a supernatural being who gives them the chance to make three wishes. What the being never mentions is that there are unintended consequences to those wishes, no matter how well-intentioned they might be. With this episode, the message is in the title, and that’s all there really is to it for viewers.

Samantha Byrd (Melody Johnson) is incredibly clumsy despite trying to carve out a place on her school’s basketball team. This has naturally lead her to be the butt of jokes by many, including the snarky Judith Bellwood (Susan Cooke). One day, she meets a woman named Clarissa (Ellen-Ray Hennessy) who is known as the Crystal Woman. Since Samantha gave her a hand, Clariss offers to repay her with three wishes, and who could deny such an enticing offer?

Sam’s wishes come true, but not expense-free, becoming a detriment to others at the beginning and progressing into the awkward and outright unusual. Even when Sam tries to do the right thing and repair the damage she inadvertently caused, things don’t quite fix themselves in totality. The story and its moral message are simple, but sometimes it doesn’t take much to entertain if you have a classic tale lined up.

Don’t Go to Sleep

Amanda Zamprogna in Goosebumps

Image via 20th Century Fox Television

It isn’t always easy being a kid, and it isn’t unheard of to daydream about what you could be instead of who you are currently. This is a thought that is by no means exclusive to the youth, as plenty of us envision what life would be like if we’d taken a different path. “Don’t Go to Sleep” hones in on this message, showing 12-year-old Matt Amsterdam (Tyler Kyte) what it’s like in the shoes of others and why your present life isn’t always so bad.

After remarking that he hates reality, Matt falls asleep in his attic and finds himself waking up in a completely new reality. He experiences the unseen struggles of his athletic older brother before things grow quickly more impactful, including realities where he must perform brain surgery on the U.S. President and defuse an active bomb. He is also hounded by the Reality Police, a hokey group of individuals who wish to teach Matt about the lesson buried in his experiences. This episode’s particular message is to be thankful for where you are and what you have, but there’s nothing quite like a metaphysical A Christmas Carol-esque experience to hammer the point home.

Say Cheese and Die

Ryan Gosling in Goosebumps

Image via 20th Century Fox Television

“Say Cheese and Die” is about a cursed camera bringing misfortune to those that are caught between its shutters. Fans of Ryan Gosling will delight at seeing him in a pint-sized form playing the protagonist Greg Banks, a boy who is trying to keep him and his friends entertained for the Summer, and who discovers a strange camera in an old factory building. It becomes quickly apparent that the camera is forecasting, or even causing, events of misfortune and pain. The forecasted pitfalls begin as Greg falls through a stairway railing but quickly spiral into mortal danger for those he cares about. He is also being stalked by an eccentric man named Spidey (Richard McMillian), who knows a great deal about the camera and its origins. Greg realizes he must return the camera to its owner in order to prevent any more horrible accidents at the cost of the camera.

The Haunted Mask

The Haunted Mask on Goosebumps

Image via 20th Century Fox Television

One of the most famous stories in both the written and TV form of Goosebumps, “The Haunted Mask” is a story of revenge gone wrong and why cycles of negativity perpetuate endlessly. It’s a cautionary tale of how attempting to get even with those who hurt you can end badly for you as well. This episode uses the backdrop of bullying to convey this message, and its relatable circumstances show why it’s one of Stine’s most well-known works.

The episode follows Carly Beth Caldwell (Kathryn Long), a girl who is easily frightened and relentlessly picked on by her friends and brother as a result. Kids at school go to great lengths like placing worms in her food to both terrify and torment her. As Halloween rounds the corner, Carly Beth wants a scary costume in order to return the favor to anybody who has been mean to her. She gets her wish when she finds a novelty store that possesses a few truly creepy Halloween masks. The shopkeeper refuses to sell Carly Beth one of the more imposing masks, but she swipes it and escapes, setting the stage to scare her bullies on Halloween.

Things go exactly as planned at first, and Carly Beth uses the mask to get the sweet revenge she always wanted. However, it becomes quickly apparent that the mask is changing her personality for the worse. She begins to derive too much joy from terrorizing people, turning her scare tactics on to those that meant no ill will toward her, and even upsetting her friend Sabrina (Kathryn Short). Soon, the mask’s dark magic prevents Carly Beth from removing the mask at all, worrying her that the mask may soon take over her body. She attempts to return to the novelty shop, where she learns the sinister origins of the mask.

If there’s an episode of the TV series that is emblematic of Goosebumps as a whole, this is it. The mask itself is an eerie sight, the effects aren’t terrible for a ’90s TV show, the message is a positive one regarding the danger of unintended consequences, and it is well-carried on-screen by the cast and crew. For the generation of watchers that grew up with “The Haunted Mask,” it’s likely it left an impression on them, including some fond albeit creepy memories.

Goosebumps is streaming on Netflix.

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About The Author

Spencer Whitworth
(11 Articles Published)

Spencer is a Horror Features Writer for Collider. He is a University of South Florida alum with a major/minor in English and journalism. He previously published sports features, tech repair guides, and blogging content. He lives in rural Florida and is a huge fan of slasher movies, mecha anime, and metal music. He can be found reading, gaming, watching sports, or working on his Gunpla collection when he isn’t writing.

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