Title: Nightmare Hour: Time for Terror.
Author: R.L. Stine.
Illustrators: Cliff Nielsen, Edward Koren, Bernie Wrightson, Gary Kelley, Clay Patrick McBride, Mark Summers, Vince Natale, John Collier, Bleu Turrell, and John Jude Palencar.
Genre: Fiction, children's lit, short stories, horror.
Publication Date: 1999.
Summary: A collection of 10 horror stories. In Pumpkinhead, a group of kids discover a dark horror when they decide to play a trick on a sinister farmer's pumpkin patch, on Halloween night. In Alien Candy, when unpopular Walter gets invited to join and become president of the Alien Club, he's thrilled, but the meeting is strange and there is definitely something off about the members. In The Most Evil Sorcerer, an apprentice suffering cruelly at the hands of a dark wizard is plunged into even deeper danger when the dark wizard's nemesis promises to come and settle the score. In Nightmare Inn, a girl forced to stay with her mother in a dilapidated, closed inn comes across someone who gives her a terrifying warning, but could she have dreamed it? In I'm Not Martin, a boy staying overnight in a hospital for a tonsil surgery gets put in the same room as a strange patient awaiting major amputation surgery, who vehemently claims he's not who they think he is. In The Black Mask, when a group of kids find a mysterious mask that shows them the past, they quickly set out to try to prevent a horrible tragedy they see play out with a group of children from long ago every time they put on the mask in the ancient house's basement. In Afraid of Clowns, a boy afraid of clowns seems to be targeted by them throughout his life, until it builds up to a terrifying confrontation during a circus performance. In The Dead Body, when a group of kids find a dead body in the woods, it's a chance for Willy the Wimp to shake his coward status, but there is more to the dead body than anyone can imagine. In Make Me a Witch, all ugly, miserable, and unloved Stephanie wants is to become a witch and gain the respect she knows she deserves, and she's willing to go to any lengths and sacrifice anything to get it. In The Ghostly Stare, a pair of twins are forced to put theory into practice when they have a run-in with ghosts who wish to take their bodies.
My rating: 7.5/10.
♥ “Mike?” I called again. Then I saw him, standing at the end of the first row. I recognized his bomber jacket, his jeans, torn at one knee, his sneakers…
But on his shoulders…on his shoulders…
A round, orange pumpkin rested on his shoulders.
“Mike--how did you get that pumpkin over your head?” I ran to him, shouting breathlessly. “Take that pumpkin off! We have to go! Let’s go! Why are you wearing that thing?”
I didn’t wait for him to reply. I grabbed the pumpkin in both hands--and pulled it off his shoulders.
Liz screamed first. A shrill scream of horror.
I opened my mouth to scream but no sound came out.
I still held the pumpkin. I stared at Mike’s shoulders.
No head. No head on his shoulders.
And then, my stomach lurching, chill after chill making my whole body shudder, I had to turn away.
The pumpkin fell from my hands. And rolled. Rolled up against a long, slender vine.
I stared at the vine. Followed it to the end.
And saw my brother’s head. Mike’s head sprouting from the end of the vine.
His dark eyes stared up at me. His mouth opened and closed as if trying to speak. His head quivered, then bounced hard as if trying to snap itself loose. But it was attached--growing from the vine!
“Ohhhhh.” A moan of horror escaped my throat.
I couldn’t speak or breathe or move.
My brother…my poor brother…
And then I saw the others.
Human heads…boys and girls…heads staring up at me from the ground…mouths opening and closing, silently begging for help…dozens of human heads, all sprouting from vines….
Now I knew what had happened to those kids who had disappeared last Halloween and the Halloween before.
~~Pumpkinhead (illustrated by Cliff Nielsen).
♥ Then Evan uttered a groan. His face began to twist and grow. His eyes and mouth sank into his head. His head inflated like a balloon.
He groaned again as his arms grew shiny, and stretched, stretched like rubber, thinner and thinner until he appeared to have two endless noodles dangling from his shoulders.
Walter gasped in shock as he stared at Evan--a pink, faceless balloon with spaghetti arms and legs.
“The Alien C-candy!” Walter gasped. “It--it turned Evan into an alien!”
“Oooh!” Bonnie let out a long, shrill howl.
And then she began to change too. With a deafening cracking sound enormous, hairy wings poked up from her back. Her mouth stretched open as two blue tongues darted out. A fat, pink tail, covered in black hair, plopped heavily to the floor behind her.
“Bonnie--not you too!” Walter cried. “The candy…”
Greg transformed quickly into a four-legged beast with a hard, green shell on his back. Antennae sprouted on Natasha’s head, and thin, white wings fluttered on her shoulders. She snapped her jaws as her neck stretched across the room.
♥ “You were a good choice for president!” Bonnie rasped, licking her fat lips with her two blue tongues. “We like the chubby ones.”
They devoured him in seconds. Not even a bone was left. Not a scrap of gristle.
~~Alien Candy (illustrated by Edward Koren).
♥ Then it’s pain time,” he said.
He snapped his fingers, muttered a few words, and stared at Ned.
At first Ned didn’t feel anything. But then his arms began to itch. His legs tingled. The back of his neck prickled.
He pulled up his sleeve--and gasped when he saw dozens of hairy brown spiders swarming over his arm.
He swiped at them, tried to brush them off.
But the spiders clung to his skin.
His legs throbbed. His hair itched. He could feel the spiders digging into his scalp.
“Please--please, sir--” he screamed.
But the sorcerer kept his cold stare locked on Ned. He snapped his fingers again.
“Aaaaaaaii!” Ned opened his mouth in a wail of pain. “No! Please--”
Now all the spiders were burrowing into his skin. And then he could feel them crawling under his skin.
Under his skin. Under his skin…
He squirmed in agony. He slapped frantically at his arms and legs. Tore at his skin with his fingernails.
He watched in horror as little bulges moved down his arms, inside his palms….
Now he itched from inside.
And all his clawing and scratching and slapping did nothing to ease the horrible, throbbing itching.
~~The Most Evil Sorcerer (illustrated by Bernie Wrightson).
~~Nightmare Inn (illustrated by Gary Kelley).
~~I'm Not Martin (illustrated by Clay Patrick McBride).
~~The Black Mask (illustrated by Mark Summers).
♥ I remember the clown’s painted smile and his red mop-hair wig. But what I remember most are the clown’s eyes when he came up close to me.
He didn’t have laughing eyes. His eyes weren’t kind. Beneath all the white clown makeup his eyes were cruel.
The clown squirted us with whipped cream. Then he smashed a pie into Billy’s face. Other kids laughed and laughed. But I felt like crying.
And before I knew it, the clown came right up to me. He backed me into a corner, bumping me with his pillow belly.
The other kids forgot about Billy and began laughing at the way the clown was bumping me against the wall. But I was really frightened.
“What’s your name?” the clown asked in a very deep, croaky voice.
“Christopher,” I said.
Then the clown leaned really close to me, so close I could smell his sour breath. And he whispered, “You could die, kid.”
I remember it so clearly, even though I was only three. I gasped. “What?” I said.
And the clown whispered, his lips brushing my ear, “You could die, kid. You could die LAUGHING!”
I was terrified of clowns from that day on.
♥ I had my eye on the fat, ugly clown.
He was squeezing a small plastic horn, honking it in kids’ faces, bumping his pillow belly against kids, bellowing out his booming laugh.
I tried to keep away from him. But the aisle was very crowded and I got trapped.
The grinning clown bounced up to me and messed up my hair with his gloved hand. Beneath the makeup he had watery brown eyes. Sick-looking eyes.
He laughed at me and honked his horn in my ear. I tried to back away. But I was pinned against the wall of the dart-throwing booth.
He laughed again and brought his grinning face close to mine. “You could die, kid,” he whispered. He honked his horn in my ear before I could say anything.
“You could die LAUGHING!”
And that’s when I totally freaked.
I opened my mouth in a shrill, terrified scream. Then I ran, shoving kids out of my way, knocking things over, screaming…screaming.
♥ “We have to find the kids who are afraid of us, the kids who know our secret,” the fat clown said. “We have to stop them. We can’t let our secret get out.”
“But why do you do it?” I asked, my voice high and trembling. “Why pretend to be funny when all you want to do is terrify kids?”
The skinny clown winked at me. “Why not?” he said.
“Yeah. Why not?” a fat clown croaked. “It’s a lot of fun. And we get paid to do it!”
♥ Funny, huh?
Late at night when the circus is shut down and all the people have gone home, we clowns sit around in our trailer and talk. We talk about all the cruel, violent things we do to kids--and how everyone laughs and applauds and thinks it’s wonderful. So far we’ve kept our secret.
And now that I’ve told you the story, YOU would never tell--would you?
Because I’ll tell you another secret:
You could die laughing.
~~Afraid of Clowns (illustrated by Vince Natale).
♥ My hand trembled as I reached for the black mask.
My fingers gripped the bottom of it.
With a sharp tug, I started to pull the mask up over the face.
And the dead man’s right hand shot up and wrapped around my wrist.
“Ohhhhh.” A low moan escaped my throat.
Behind me came the horrified cries and screams of the others.
The dead man’s fingers tightened around my arm. His blank, white eyes glared out from the mask at me. His other hand grabbed my shoulder.
Screams and shrieks rang out around me. I didn’t move. I couldn’t move.
Staring at me with those blank, dead eyes, the corpse opened his mouth and rasped, “Let…the…dead…rest!”
“N-no--” I stammered. “Please--”
“Let…the…dead…rest!” the corpse repeated in his dry whisper.
I turned and saw kids holding each other, screaming and crying.
The dead man’s hands slid to my throat.
“Travis--help me!” I shouted. “Travis--please! Help me!”
Travis hesitated for a moment, his face white with fear, eyes darting wildly from side to side.
Then he spun away and took off, running into the woods.
A few kids ran after him. The rest stared in horror as the corpse tightened his grasp around my throat.
“Let…the…dead…rest!” With a low grunt he started to choke me.
“I guess I’ll have to take care of you myself!” I cried.
I squeezed his hands and tugged them off me. Then I grabbed his head and twisted it hard. Gripping the sides of the mask, I raised the dead man’s head, then banged it down. Banged it against the ground. Banged it again. Again. Again.
Until he lay still.
~~The Dead Body (illustrated by John Collier).
♥ And is she powerful!
Gemma cast a hiccuping spell on Mr. Fraley from the used-car lot. She did it because she found out he was selling stolen cars. He hiccuped for two years without stopping, and he couldn’t sell a single car!
I’m not making it up. It was on the news.
It was also on the news when Gemma played a really mean joke on Mayor Krenitsky. At his press conference a million buzzing flies crawled out of his ears and nose, and long, purple worms poked out of his eyes.
Gemma can use her amazing powers for good--and for evil.
~~Make Me a Witch (illustrated by Bleu Terrell).
♥ “Do you know what to do if you see a ghost?” Rachel Miller asked, pushing her way between Mark and me.
“Yeah. Run!” Mark exclaimed.
“No. That’s exactly wrong,” Rachel told him. “My grandmother taught me this. You give the ghost a ghostly stare.”
I rolled my eyes. “A ghostly stare? What’s that supposed to mean?”
Rachel stopped walking. She grabbed my shoulders and turned me toward her. Then she raised her eyebrows and opened her eyes wide, as wide as they could go. “Lauren, this is a ghostly stare.”
Mark laughed. “You look like a geek.”
“Don’t laugh,” Rachel snapped. “It could save your life. My grandmother knew about these things. She said never run. Instead, you stare into the ghost’s eyes. Stare as deeply as you can, as if staring at the ghost’s soul.”
Rachel gave Mark the wide-eyed stare. “Don’t blink,” she instructed. “Stare at the ghost’s soul.”
“Why does that work?” I asked.
“Because ghosts are dead,” Rachel replied, still staring at Mark. “They don’t have souls. Your stare goes right through them. They can’t defend themselves against it. It makes them shrivel up and disappear.”
♥ The yellow circle of light danced over the gravestones as Mark and I climbed the sloping hill. The storm clouds rolled over the moon, and heavy darkness swept over us. The air grew even more frigid.
I rubbed my nose. It already felt numb. “Down this hill,” I said.
All around us, trees creaked and groaned. The wind made an eerie sound, like a soft, human sigh.
Slipping on the hard crust of snow, I led the way down to Abigail Willey’s grave.
♥ I almost bumped right into the girl.
Her long, dark hair fell over her face, hiding it from view. She wore only a thin dress, with long sleeves and a long pleated skirt down to the ground. She stood very stiff and erect, hands behind her back.
“Who are you?” I gasped.
And then a gust of wind blew the hair away from her face.
--stared in horror--at her skeletal face. No skin. No lips over her broken teeth. No eyes. Just empty eye sockets, so deep and dark.
“I’m Abigail,” she croaked, her voice dry, dry as sandpaper, dry as crackling leaves.
And then she lifted both arms. There was no skin on her arms, either. Only bone. And at the end of her gray, bony arms--were my gloves!
She took a silent step toward me as I stood there frozen in horror.
“I’m so cold,” she moaned through her rotted teeth. “It’s so cold here, Lauren….”
“P-please…” I whispered, staring at my gloves. My gloves at the ends of those bony arms….
“I need your coat!” she moaned, reaching out with both gloved hands.
The deep, empty eye sockets…the bony head tilting toward me beneath the blowing hair…
“Lauren, I need your coat….”
I turned, looking everywhere for my brother. “Mark!” I cried when I saw him running, running full speed, arms flying in front of him, running from a tall skeleton in a flapping black overcoat.
Get going! I ordered myself. Lauren--go now!
But my legs were shaking too hard. They wouldn’t move.
“Lauren, I need your sweater….”
The fingers inside my gloves, grabbing for me.
“Lauren, I need your clothes…. Lauren…it’s so cold here…. I need your coat…. I need your sweater….”
“No! Get away from me!” I shrieked.
“Lauren, I need your shoes….” The gloved hands grabbed at my hair.
“Lauren, I need your skin!”
The gloved fingers caught my hair and started to pull.
“Let me go! Let me go!”
“Lauren, I need your skin. Lauren, I need your body!”
“Ohhhhh.” A moan of horror escaped my throat.
And Rachel’s words flashed through my mind. The ghostly stare.
The advice Rachel’s grandmother gave her: Don’t run. Stare into the ghost’s eyes. Stare as if searching for its soul.
Would it work?
I had no choice. Abigail’s ghost was pulling me close…closer.
I jerked my head back, raised my eyes to her empty sockets--and stared. I stared wide-eyed, without blinking, into those deep, dark holes. Stared as if I was searching for Abigail’s soul.
She stopped pulling. We both froze, like graveyard statues.
Her bony jaw made a cracking sound and dropped open. Her scraggly, dark hair flew straight out from her skull.
“Lauren…” she moaned. “Lauren…”
And then her gloved hands let go of my hair and dropped to the sides of her rotting, stained dress.
And still I stared, stared without blinking. Stared deep into those empty holes where her eyes had once been.
The ghostly stare…
She started to sink…lower…lower….
Her hair settled over her face again. Her bony shoulders crackled as they slumped into the dress. Lower…I watched her drop behind the gravestone…sink back into her grave.
♥ Staggering into the living room, I bent over, pressed my hands on my knees, struggled to catch my breath. “The stare….” I said. “I can’t believe it! It worked! The ghostly stare. You used it too--right?”
Still panting hard, I turned back to him.
A shrill scream of horror--as I stared at the ragged black overcoat, the skeletal face, the fat brown worms curling from an open, toothless mouth. The bald, rutted skull. The deep, empty eye sockets.
“Where is Mark? What did you do to Mark?” I screamed. “You don’t belong here! Where is Mark?”
The jaw creaked open, and a cloud of sour air escaped from deep inside the ghost’s rotting belly.
“Where is my brother?” I wailed. “Is he back in the graveyard? What do you want? What do you want?”
Before I could move, the ghost slid over to the wall. He raised a bony hand to the lightswitch--and clicked off the light.
We stood in total blackness now.
“W-why did you do that?” I whispered.
“Lauren, it isn’t polite to STARE!” he growled.
And then I felt his hard, bony fingers wrap around my throat.
“Lauren, I’m so cold…” he rasped. “Lauren…I need your sweater…Lauren, I need your hair. Lauren…I need your skin!”
~~Ghostly Stare (illustrated by John Jude Palencar).