Monday, February 9, 2015

Mega Scary Stories for Sleep-Overs

We have a new author this book. Let's see how Don Wulffson is compared to the infamous Q.L. Pearce.

1. "The Corpse of Mr. Porter"
It's Halloween, and yet somehow, our middle-school protagonist is bored. Danny is the one child alive that somehow doesn't like trick-or-treating, so he asks his dad what to do. He says that when he was a young-un, he used to play pranks on trick-or-treaters, such as jumping out and scaring them. For once, I sympathize with the protagonist because of his response: "lame." But it gives Danny an idea to scare his sister during her sleepover, so he calls up his friend Steve and proposes that the two of them dress up as the recently deceased Mr. Porter. They find an old-man mask (?), and go up to Danny's attic to find some old-fashioned clothes (?), a ratty wig (?), and a pair of small spectacles (?????). Downstairs, Danny's sister, Sheryl, and her friends are telling scary stories. All of a sudden, they hear knocking and loud noises, and they begin to get scared. They call Sheryl's parents and are told that they're on their way home from their party. Then somebody knocks on the door and, against all common sense and the concept of stranger danger, the girls open it. A hyper-realistic Mr. Porter stands there, before they close the door on him. Sheryl reveals that it's probably her brother, when Danny and Scott walk down the stairs in costume. Who is it now, Sheryl?

It's the dad. In a very clever and fun ending, it was the father that decided to trick his son to prove that he isn't "lame." He wanted to prove this by scaring children with an elaborate old man costume. Great job, bud. Good story, though.

 2. "Death Sight"
This is a bizarre story, and I'm not sure exactly how to summarize it. I guess I should start off by introducing the protagonist, Molly Lund, a shy girl with one brown and one blue eye. I'm trying to think of a reference to someone with heterochromia... I think one of the Ghostbusters has it. I don't know. Cool condition, though. But anyways, Molly is constantly ostracized because she's a little strange. The school bullies torment her constantly, trying to get her to tell them test answers because, though they don't know it, she can see the future. Now I really want different colored eyes. But despite constant abuse, including throwing a rock through Molly's window and threatening to hurt her and her parents, Molly saves the bullies from a runaway train which would have hit them. Well, she's a better person than I, I guess. But if she had the power to change the future, couldn't she have just stopped herself from being the bullies' bitch in the first place? Oh wait, sorry guys, I guess I'm questioning the plot of a time travel-based children's story again. Moving on.

3. "Fountain of Horror"
Miguel and his friends Colby and Bonnie go out every summer to find the Fountain of Youth in the Florida Everglades. Fun. Well, on their way, they run into a couple older bullies, the Laevich brothers, who steal their food and taunt them. I'm pretty sure Don Wulffson was bullied as a child, because so far two out of three stories have settings like a Stephen King coming of age book. After some exploration and history lessons, the party stumbles upon some chainmail armor, and eventually finds a stream running uphill. There, they find an upside down, floating fountain with pink water. Miguel wants to drink, but Bonnie insists that they bring the water to "the lab" first. Oh, that's funny, the story didn't mention that one of the kids was the Boy Genius.

Then things take a turn for the undead when the kids are surrounded by the rotting bodies of past explorers. They manage to escape, and are warned never to drink the water by a zombified Spanish conquistador. But on the way home, the Laevich twins stop them and steal their pink water-filled canteen, gulping the water down. The protagonists just walk away and wish the bullies a long life. See, these guys are more my speed. But in all seriousness, this was a pretty good story.

4. "Wax Coffins"
That's a really good name for a story. And I think that this is one of the few times where the story lives up to its name. It begins as Linda and her brother Ricky are walking through a forest in Arkansas when they get the feeling they're being watched. Ricky spots some strangely large bees right before they meet an odd, rude beekeeper. A very strange conversation occurs during which Linda tells the man all about her life while he ignores her, and then she asks him some facts about bees. He tells her that bees can only gather one tenth of a pound of honey in their lives, but that he thinks they can make more. Well, they say that you should do what you love, and I think this might be the only guy in the world that loves bees. The siblings are similarly confused, and return home, passing child graves with the number five on each one. They also hear the beekeeper yelling to a woman that "five is the limit," but I'm sure the two occurrences are completely unrelated, like Omar Little and shotguns.

Linda decides to go back for some reason, where she sees a woman in a cloak in the beekeeper's house who tells her to leave. She tries, but is stung into submission by giant, ugly bees, and then forced to drink a sweet liquid. She wakes up in a cave, where she scratches at a wax encasing and screams for help. The beekeeper arrives with the hooded girl, who takes off her cloak to reveal a hideous, mutant bee-person, the hive's last queen. It's actually pretty gross. The beekeeper reveals that Linda will have to be the bees' queen for the next five years, right before football-sized bees arrive to fix Linda's wax encasing. I've never been scared of bees, and this is still a pretty scary story to me.

5. "The Electric Girl"
Oh boy, I'm gonna have fun with this one. You see, this story is about a young boy named Mike who got a job at a law firm because his father works there. He works with his friend Teddy, who's also fourteen. It's unclear what these two fourteen-year-old boys do at this law firm, but if I had to guess I'd say they're a mix of secretary, janitor, and office jokester. One day, these two boys come into the office and "helped themselves to a cup of cocoa;" you know, age appropriate morning drinks; when they discover that the company hired a beautiful new secretary named Ann-Marie. Later in the workday, a lightbulb mysteriously crashes to the ground, leaving Mike and Teddy to clean it up. Later, the photocopier breaks and the light fixtures crash to the ground. I half expect Ted to start talking to a TV right now, but then I remember that this story takes place during the day in a crowded office.

After the whole office starts technologically malfunctioning, the new secretary starts bawling and runs away. Mike and Ted find her address and go to her house. Now, at this point you may be suspecting that she's an electric ghost or something, which is what I  thought might be the case. But no. Because when Mike finds that she lives in a mansion and climbs up to look through the second story window, he sees an old man strap an old woman to a bed and pump her full of electricity. Boogie woogie woogie. She turns young and beautiful again right before his very eyes, and the two adults catch him and Ted outside the house. They reveal that they're siblings and provide the flawless, beautiful explanation that "Applying the basic principles of electrical biosphysics laid down by such great pioneers as James Watts and Alessandro Volta, I have been able to bring my sister back to life." This story must have been written by Mary Shelley on crack. I mean, damn, if electricity reversed the aging process we would all sign up for the electric chair. Anyway, this story ends with the siblings threatening to destroy Mike's father's pacemaker if he talked.

6. "Castle of Veins"
This is a vampire story in which vampires can change to look like different people, so that's pretty cool. In the story, a boy with the unfortunate name of "Lorn" moves to the town of Blackwell, Oregon. He's a loner, until Paul befriends him and tells him the story of a vampire that disguises himself and lures people to an ancient castle, the "Castle of Veins," and eats them. The reason I like this story is that it seems so obvious Paul is the vampire (he insists on showing Lorn the castle, watches him strangely, etc.) that you end up thinking it's Lorn, and it actually is Lorn. Usually, Paul would be the vampire and it wouldn't get much more clever than that. Or maybe I'm giving this book too much credit. Anyway, Lorn lures Paul further in the castle by saying he wants to see the vampire, and then reveals that he used his classic new kid trick to get him, which doesn't make sense seeing as how there was this whole backstory about Lorn having to move a lot because his dad's a traveling salesman, but whatever. And with no Simon Belmont to save him, Paul is eaten.

7. "Brain Pictures"
One day, Jenna was reading a book about psychic powers when she read about an experiment in which somebody took a picture of their eye and saw what they were thinking. She and her brother, Jerry, decide to try it, and Jenna's eye produces pictures of Jerry and then her dead dog. Then, she produces a picture of a boy she's never seen before, who then appears at their front door. This entire book is a string of the siblings taking pictures and then seeing the pictures in real life. I just hope this came before Goosebumps: Say Cheese and Die!. Anyway, it's a pretty good story, all things considered. By the end of the book, the siblings take pictures of a three-fingered hand, a scary-looking man, Jerry lying on the floor in a pool of blood, and a picture they don't look at. Then, they get robbed in broad daylight, and one of the robbers steals Jerry's jacket. He falls down and starts bleeding, I guess, and then it turns out the picture from earlier shows Jenna dead and then she gets grabbed by a three-fingered hand. Hit the road, Jack, and don't you come back no more, no more, no more, no more.

8. "Horror in Room 519"
Brian walks into his science classroom, expecting to meet the notoriously strict Mr. Zimmer, instead seeing a young, female substitute. He discovers that this is the new teacher, Ms. Gytry, and that Mr. Zimmer had died during Summer vacation. His friend ends this statement with, "Looks like we lucked out." Brian's in this little group of troublemakers, and because I don't want to keep track of them all, I'll just come up with a random name for the group. A name, any name, let's see... oh, how about the Hitler Youth. Anyway, Ms. Gytry is extremely nervous about being a teacher so the students decide to torment her as much as possible. The next day, the HY and a dozen other students glue all the lab equipment to the ceiling somehow and release all the animals. They break most everything and the school does nothing about it. If people had done that at my middle school, the faculty would have executed them. And to be honest, it wouldn't be the end of the world if Brian was executed too.

The next Monday, Ms. Gytry walks into the classroom to find a snake in her desk, and sees the class skeleton, which Mr. Zimmer donated, dressed up as a student and sitting in front of a desk. OK, that actually is pretty funny. But Ms. Gytry doesn't think so, and bursts into tears. The HY decides that they should step up their game to toughen up their teacher, but discover that somebody beat them to it and stole the class skeleton. That evening, Brian finds the skeleton in his closet and calls his friends to his house. He's got some skeletons in his closet and he don't know if no one knows it. They decide that Ms. Gytry didn't do it because "a teacher would get fired for a stunt like that." A teacher getting fired, that's probably the most fictitious element in this story. But it makes the kids apologize, and Ms. Gyntry tells them that Mr. Zimmer had donated his own skeleton to the classroom so he could be there always. So in terms of quality, this story's about as boring as Mr. Zimmer's sex life must have been. He was married to the job.

9. "Return from Nowhere"
This is a pretty boring story, so I'll go through it quickly: In the late 19th century, a man named Jeremy Tate disappeared off the face of the earth in the town of Doncella. Over a hundred years ago, Amber and her family are visiting the town when a man claiming to be Jeremy Tate walks into town, the same age as Jeremy when he disappeared. People ostracize him as a liar because, to be fair, that's insane. This story is like The Twilight Zone without the things that make The Twilight Zone great. Blah blah blah Amber disappears and reappears in 50 years and nobody believes her. She's lonely and sad for a few months before being approached by Jeremy. Sweet ending, but nothing happens for most of the story. One thing that does stand out greatly, though, is that Amber is a character I actually cared about. This is the first time I've felt positive feelings towards a protagonist from a Scary Stories for Sleep-Overs book. I've only ever felt negative or neutral towards them. I guess it truly is a President's Day miracle.

10. "The Dead Boy's Clothes"
This is a first person story narrated by Damon Hodges, who claims that the story is true in the beginning. Way to provide a change of pace, Wulffson. It all started when Damon and his brother Eddie went to shoot some hoops. Eddie was wearing the clothes he had gotten for his birthday at a thrift shop. During the game, Eddie got deep cuts in his hands and had to quit. However, to his surprise, they healed extremely quickly. All of a sudden, Eddie's arm started getting ripped open before his brother's very eyes. I know what must be causing this: basketball. Speaking of, they decided to return home and tell their parents, who didn't believe them. Some similar incidents occurred that day, and that night they were awoken by a shadowy boy. They asked him some questions, but the only thing he told them was his name, Griffin Bernau, before disappearing. Seems like kind of a waste of time. And to top it off, Eddie lost his jacket at the park. Worst week ever.

Damon called his friend, whose father's a journalist, about Griffin. He discovered that Griffin died on a rafting trip and was cut up and stuck in a drain in a dam. Oh God, that's a terrifying idea. So, Wulffson, for making me read about my fear of violently drowning and even worse, write in the past tense for two paragraphs, fuck you. But returning to the story, Griffin's parents decided to donate his clothes... to a thrift shop. Damon found his brother getting bruised and scratched while his lungs filled with water. He ripped the clothes off of him and saved his life. But they couldn't save him from an escaped murderer that was discussed at some earlier point in the story who I forgot to mention. He found Eddie's jacket. Whoops.

11. "Monster Bait"
Barbara is visiting her cousin Megan in Scotland. This is illustrated well, without the overwhelming stereotypes employed by such authors as M.D. Spenser and Q.L. Pearce. They're just kind of screwing around on the beach when they see a sick and dying Loch Ness Monster. That happened fast. They decide to get Megan's wheelchair-bound father, Kyle, to help them out. When they return, they find a bunch of people poking, climbing on, and taking pictures of it. They refuse to let Barbara and Co. help out, instead claiming the popularity and riches for themselves. Oh no, it's Under the Dome all over again. Well, it turns out the Loch Ness Monster was only bait, for more monsters, which eat everybody. I guess I'm happy with that, since it goes without saying that one should never poke something bigger than himself. I guess that means I should quit the blog, huh?

Conclusion: This was one of the best books so far. Many of the stories were clever and original, and I can't remember a single one I didn't like at least one thing about. Plus, I actually cared about the protagonist in one of them. I think this Don Wulffson guy and I could get along. I just hope he sticks around.

1 comment:

  1. I remember "Wax Coffins" from that horror mag over here that used to reprint all these stories! The series must've gone on for a long time ...

    There's a well-known Goosebumps book where a character has heterochromia. It's the one where all the kids turn out to be dogs that were temporarily turned into humans by some scientists. The character's friend/crush has heterochromia which is how he recognizes her when she reverts to a dog ...