Why I Stopped Reading Goosebumps
Updated: Nov 24, 2020
A chilling but true story.
By Mana Ravenel
Image retrieved via Pinterest.
My pink backpack hit against my back softly as I speed-walked to the daycare, excitement evident in my hurried movements. In my hands was a tattered copy of R.L. Stine’s Piano Lessons Can Be Murder, the latest book I had borrowed from my school library, and I was already halfway through it. I walk into the main room, messily scribbling my name onto the sign-in sheet before rushing to what was referred to as the “Reading Room.” True to its name, this room was the perfect place to read, carpeted with a carpet that was adorned with letters and one too many stains, and two white bookshelves lining the walls. There was one long table, where we were meant to finish our homework, and the pink walls surrounding it were decorated with the artwork we -- the “after-schoolers” -- had done. Not caring for my assignments I had to complete, I sat in my favorite corner, the one farthest from the door, and quickly began to finish the book.
I finished the book right before dinnertime, and eating alongside my friends, it was all I could think about. Despite engaging in conversation with them, my mind was elsewhere, thinking about the ghost in Jerry’s home, the floating hands, and the eerie piano teacher. Especially the piano teacher.
It was by far one of the scariest Goosebumps books I had read, immediately making it one of my favorites. Only when I took part in the arts and crafts session after dinner did the book and its story leave my mind. But if I thought my brain was done with the story, I was wrong. So very wrong.
After the day's activities had ended and almost all my friends had already been picked up, I laid on my blue cot and turned on my side, back facing the dark hallway. I stared lazily at Ms. E who was rocking an infant to sleep, the only two other people in the room. It didn’t take long for my eyes to feel heavy, as I finally drifted off to sleep.
The room felt colder. This didn’t surprise me as much as the Circle Room could get incredibly cold, especially late at night when all I had to keep me warm was a thin, pastel blanket. I didn’t really care for the cold anyways, not when there was something yelling at me to leave.
The man was outside of the daycare, standing right in front of the door. I couldn’t see him very clearly, but I could see that he was tall, clad in a classic, black and white tuxedo, his hands covered by white gloves. I could also tell that he was waiting for me, and I had to get to him.
Something lured me in, calling my name in an urgent, firm voice, and I felt myself desperately trying to get to him. For a reason unknown to me at the time, I could not get the door opened, and so I settled for what I felt was the next best thing -- trying to go through the door. Repeatedly I attempted to make my way through the door and out to him, until it all went blank.
If my story had ended here, I could have brushed it off as just another nightmare. It certainly wouldn’t have been my first bad dream, besides, I’ve had far more horrifying nightmares. But it didn’t. On the car ride home, I noticed my mom sneaking glances at me through the mirror several times. This wouldn’t have been unusual if it weren’t for the strange expression she wore. Before I could ask her what was up, I had already drifted off.
The following day I had learned that my dream wasn’t just a simple dream. According to the teacher who was with me that night, I had stood up from my cot and left the Circle Room. She called out to me to ask me what I was doing but I had ignored her, heading straight to the front door. And just like I had in my “dream,” I pushed myself against the door, mumbling under my breath about “the man.” And the reason I couldn’t get the door opened? All the locks were turned, as they always were after 10PM.
Ms. E’s attempts to coax me into going back into my cot and away from the door were futile. I was determined, and after a while, she had said I had become more aggressive in my efforts.
When my mother told me all of this, I just sat and stared at her, in complete fear, shock, and confusion. The supernatural was never a taboo topic at home, in fact, all of us have had experiences prior to this, so we were believers in the paranormal. None of my past experiences however had ever resembled what had happened that night.
The only time I had ever slept-walk was when I was much younger and would make my way to the refrigerator to eat slices of American cheese. I only know about this as my mother and sister would often catch me in the act and would share it over breakfast the next morning, giving us three something to laugh about. This was no laughing matter. Not for me, not for my mother, and certainly not for Ms. E.
Ms. E had also never experienced anything like this. Nothing she did would wake me, not her shaking me, shouting my name, nothing. Being alone with a child who could see a man you could not, who was trying to walk out into the dark of night despite being asleep, was not exactly the most ideal way to spend your night. Ms. E had been so terrified she stopped working the night shifts.
I returned the book as soon as I could. I started to see the book as some kind of harbinger for bad things to come, a bad omen. Having it on me made me feel uneasy and paranoid, and I couldn’t stop thinking about the man who had been calling for me.
It could have been a complete coincidence, that the man was dressed in a tuxedo and that his gloved hands stood out to me the most. The same white gloves that were on the book cover. But at nine years old I didn’t see it that way, I probably didn’t even know what the word ‘coincidence’ meant. All I knew was that I was never going to read any Goosebumps book again, and that I was going to be on my best behavior whenever Ms. E was watching me -- my way of apologizing.
It has been over eight years since I had this experience, and it still sends shivers down my spine. Even writing about it made me look over my shoulder one too many times, as the feeling of someone watching me continued to creep over me. As embarrassing as it is to admit, I still refuse to read anything from R.L. Stine’s. I’m no stranger to breaking promises, but the one I made that night is one I intend to keep. Looking back, I do recall feeling unusually scared by the book, which was rather strange. Being such a horror fanatic, I had read far scarier stories and even watched my fair share of horror movies that left me trembling behind my blanket, but there was something about Piano Lessons Can Be Murder that made goosebumps -- no pun intended -- make their way down my arms.
Written by writer Mana Ravenel