“At least I can write.” – R.L. Stine.
“I always just wanted to be funny. I never really planned to be scary.”—R.L. Stine.
It’s safe to say that the Goosebumps book series helped define an entire generation of kids who grew up in the ‘90s and 2000s. Even if you didn’t read a single word he wrote, R.L. Stine’s books covered the shelves of the children’s section of any library you visited. The popularity of his books translated to other forms of media, as his works have been adapted to film and television many times. It really is astounding how R.L. Stine managed to take the horror genre, make it palatable to kids without losing the scariness, and became so successful from it. So who was this man behind all those books? What went into the creation of his legacy? Here are 42 spooky facts about R.L. Stine himself.
42. So Close, and Yet So Far
Robert Lawrence Stine was born in the city of Columbus, Ohio, on October 8, 1943. It’s just a shame that he couldn’t have waited just three short weeks so he could’ve been born on Halloween. However, one interesting thing about his birthday is that he shares it with renowned comic actor Chevy Chase.
Stine is a big fan of social media, particularly Twitter. We’d make a joke about Stine and the 140-character limit, but he’s already joked about it himself when he said, “I’m on Twitter all day long, so I write fewer pages than I used to.”
40. Let the Good Times Roll
At one point, Stine’s Goosebumps series was the highest-selling book series of all time, selling 4 million copies per month! In total, these books have sold over 400 million copies and counting.
39. What about the Nasty-Wasty series?
Stine has actually written far more than just the Goosebumps books. Stine has also written the Nightmare Room series, the Mostly Ghostly series, the Fear Street series, and the Rotten School series.
38. Elaborate Disguise
Stine has also written a series of humorous books aimed at children under the separate pseudonym of Jovial Bob Stine. Not exactly a subtle name, but to be fair, subtlety was never something that Stine has worried about with his books.
37. Move Over, Stephen King!
Stine’s Fear Street book series comprises of horror fiction novels aimed at teenagers. All the books in the original series took place in a city which is appropriately named Shadyside. Because of the older fanbase, the Fear Street books featured more graphically violent or gory content—more slashers than dolls come to life or swamp creatures.
36. Maybe They’ll Think I’m a Girl
One person who inspired Stine to use initials in his pen name is renowned American author S.E. Hinton, known for The Outsiders, Tex, and Rumble Fish. Hinton famously used initials to hide her first name to avoid the stigma of being seen as a woman writing about male protagonists. Ironically, Stine was inspired by Hinton’s example to hide his own gender behind the initials R.L.
35. Started Young
When Stine was just nine years old, he discovered an old typewriter in his family’s attic. He immediately began using it to write his first stories. Before you start wondering what sort of gruesome tales he must have written as a child, rest assured that his first written works were joke books. Presumably, given his age, a lot of the punchlines involved various answers for why different animals would cross a road.
34. Let’s Get Outlining!
According to Stine himself, he always writes an outline for one of his books before he ever begins officially writing the story. This takes him about a week before writing the book itself, which he calls “the hard part.”
33. Prolific Writer
Of the original Goosebumps series, the first one was Welcome to Dead House, published in July 1992. The final one was Monster Blood IV, released in December 1997. In total, there were 62 books released as part of the original Goosebumps series, and it only took Stine five years to write them all.
32. But Does He Also Chill?
Like most of us, Stine has come to embrace Netflix and the national pastime of binge-watching shows on Netflix. One of the shows which caught Stine’s attention is the show Bloodline. Although it’s hardly gory horror fare, the title is at least fitting.
31. We Wanted “Apple” but Someone Nabbed That One…
From 1975 and 1984, Stine was responsible for a comedy magazine published by Scholastic Press. It was called Bananas—unrelated to the 1971 Woody Allen comedy film, as far as we can tell. This magazine, meant for a teenage audience, lasted for 72 issues, with Stine serving as the editor and main writer. Cartoonists Robert Leighton and Howard Cruise were among the contributors to Bananas during its run.
30. Unexpected Success
Interestingly, Stine wrote his Fear Street books for a female audience. Much to his surprise, however, the books were embraced in equal measure by boys and girls.
29. Follow-Up, Anyone?
After the success of the original Goosebumps series, Stine was approached to provide a spin-off series of books. This was called the Give Yourself Goosebumps series, and they produced 50 books between 1995 and 2000. Sadly, the books are nearly all out of print as of 2018.
28. Writing Blind
One thing which Stine did differently with the Give Yourself Goosebumps series was to never give the protagonists of those books a name, or even a gender. This was done to allow readers to better identify with the protagonists and their peril. However, eagle-eyed readers have noticed an occasional “he” dropped into some of the books.
27. I Call That a Work Week!
Reportedly, Stine’s work schedule for a new Fear Street novel was just 10 days, while a new Goosebumps novel only took him eight days. Then again, considering how short some of those books were, maybe it’s not too surprising.
26. No Need for That Tin-Foil Hat, Sir
Contrary to what you might think about a man who spends his career writing stories which often feature the supernatural or the paranormal, Stine maintains that he doesn’t believe in the existence of ghosts outside of fiction.
25. Living the High Life
In 1996, Stine’s income was a whopping $41 million! That put him 36th on that year’s list of the top 40 highest-paid entertainers. Note that we didn’t say “highest paid writers.” That wasn’t a typo.
24. What a Time That Was
In fact, it went further than that when it comes to Stine’s financial success in the 1990s. Stine held the record of “bestselling American author” for three years in a row. That’s higher than Stephen King, higher than Danielle Steele, and higher than James Patterson!
23. Putting Ray Up on That Pedestal
Stine has acknowledged that fellow American writer Ray Bradbury—who dabbled in sci-fi, horror, fantasy, and mystery fiction—is one of his heroes. In fact, Stine named Bradbury’s Something Wicked This Way Comes as his favorite young adult novel.
22. I’ll Never Run Out of Ideas!
Stine would sometimes find random inspirations for the plots of his Goosebumps books in the most mundane and ordinary situations. One example is when his son put on a Halloween mask and couldn’t get it off without his father’s help. This inspired Stine to write The Haunted Mask. We’re suddenly wondering if he considered writing a book called The Toothbrush I Was Never Supposed to Use!
21. Elect the Joker
Stine first created the pseudonym “Jovial Bob” when he was studying at Ohio State University and writing for Sundial Magazine. He even used the pseudonym to run for the position of Student Senate President!
20. One Day, My Time Will Shine
Before his own work took off in the 1990s, Stine spent the 1980s working on other people’s projects. The various projects he was involved with included a choose-your-own-adventure sort of book series for such franchises as Indiana Jones, James Bond, and G.I. Joe. He also developed a trading card series called Zero Heroes and was involved in developing coloring books for Mighty Mouse and Bullwinkle. So, if you were born at exactly the right time in the ‘80s, you probably used some of those coloring books before growing up to read the Goosebumps or Fear Street series!
19. Thrice is Nice
For three times, Stine was the recipient of the Disney Adventures Kids’ Choice Award for Best Book-Mystery/Horror.
18. I See Dead People
Stine spent the mid-2000s writing a series of books called Mostly Ghostly. The series followed a boy who could see ghosts, only to go on a series of wacky adventures thanks to this superpower. As of 2018, three films have been made out of the Mostly Ghostly series.
17. Switching Bodies?
Some of you might remember that the film Goosebumps was released in 2015, with Jack Black playing a parody of Stine himself. You might not have noticed that Stine, in the time-honored Stan Lee tradition, made an interesting cameo in the film. In a fun twist, Stine played a teacher named “Mr. Black.”
16. That’s My Final Answer!
Stine’s favorite Fear Street book is actually Switched. The book follows two teenage girls who switch bodies, only for one of them to realize that the other had murdered her parents, meaning that she’d be accused of murder. Frankly, that kind of plot really puts the “freaky” in Freaky Friday.
15. It’s Me! Man-Thing!
In 2017, Stine entered the world of comics for the first time. He created a miniseries around the pre-existing Marvel character known as Man-Thing, created by Stan Lee, Roy Thomas, and Gerry Conway. Can’t wait to see how they bring this figure into the Marvel Cinematic Universe!
14. Family Man
In June 1969, Stine married Jane Waldhorn, who also works as a writer and editor. Eleven years later, they had their only child, a boy named Matthew, in June 1980. June must be a fun month in their household! For those of you wondering what Matthew’s ended up doing, it turns out that he’s a music producer in New York, and owns the company 27 Sound Entertainment.
13. New York, New York!
One thing that Stine especially loves about living in New York City is just how much he can see, hear, and experience just walking around the Big Apple. As his wife once declared, “the show is free.”
12. Might as Well Sign Your Paychecks Too!
To get a real idea of just how successful Stine’s books were in the 1990s, his writing material made up a surprising 15% of the annual revenue earned by Scholastic!
11. Let’s Scare Some Grown-Ups!
In 1995, Stine was approached by an agent with an offer of $1 million to write a book for adults rather than teenagers or kids—and really, aren’t we all still waiting for an offer like that? Naturally, Stine agreed to do it, writing a supernatural horror story called Superstitious in four months—an impressive amount of time, even for a Stine book. Sadly, the book failed to resonate, only selling 150,000 copies after eight months of publication and earning mixed-to-negative reviews from critics.
10. Practice Makes Perfect, Right?
Despite the hiccup when it came to his adult book Superstitious, Stine returned to adult fiction after fans who’d grown up reading his books asked him to try again for their sake. Stine took another four months to write another horror fiction book called Red Rain, which followed a story involving supernaturally powered twins being behind a series of murders and abnormal weather. Stine reportedly spent four months working much harder than usual to get this story right, researching abnormal weather patterns and reading Sir James Frazier’s The Golden Bough for inspiration. Sadly, Red Rain was another disappointment for Stine. Although the Huffington Post praised his book, others complained that it was “too controlled and bogged down in detail.” Oops…
9. Will it be Rated R?
In 2015, there was word of Stine’s Fear Street book series being adapted for the big screen. According to reports by Variety and The Tracking Board in 2017, Leigh Janiak was named as the director of the film adaptation, while Kyle Killen would be the film’s screenwriter. Janiak is most well-known for the indie horror film Honeymoon, while Killen has worked on a number of TV series including Mind Games.
8. Diving Boards are my Nightmare
For a guy who writes so much horror fiction, Stine has stated that he’s only got one phobia. He is apparently terrified of jumping into water, making him uneasy around swimming pools. He’s basically that man you see in the public pool who’s always using the ladder or the stairs no matter how deep or shallow the water is.
7. Briefcase at the Ready
From 1995 to 1998, a Canadian-American TV series was made, titled Goosebumps, which adapted the books of Stine’s original Goosebumps book series. Since its airing in the ‘90s, the show’s been made available on iTunes and Netflix, so keep that in mind next time you feel like a trip into creepy nostalgia!
6. Never Too Old to Play with Dolls
Speaking of that TV series, it features a rather interesting cameo by Stine…and his ventriloquist dummy. Stine had one made in his own image—as we all would do if we had the opportunity, don’t deny it—and it made an appearance on the show based on his Goosebumps books. Because really, where else would it have blended in?
5. My Top Choice
Stine’s all-time favorite writer is P.G. Wodehouse, a highly popular English writer from the 20th century who wrote with a humorous style and told elaborate stories. Stine claims to have read nearly all of Wodehouse’s 92 novels. Talk about dedication!
4. My Heart is in New York
Despite being from Columbus, Ohio, Stine fully embraces his adopted home of New York City when it comes to following sports. He’s declared himself to be a fan of the Giants, Jets, and Yankees. No doubt the Mets were upset at being left out!
3. How Dare You Scare Our Kids!!
As you can imagine, writing horror stories for kids sometimes meets opposition from concerned parents or teachers. In 1997, the American Library Association reported 46 challenges to the Goosebumps books being available in libraries. In a list of the most challenged books between 1990 and 1999, Goosebumps earned the 15th spot.
2. Back When Kids Loved Puppet Shows
Believe it or not, Stine didn’t just spend the 1990s scaring little kids and teenagers. He also entertained them with his work on the TV show Eureeka’s Castle. This Nickelodeon show featured multiple puppet characters in the fantastical setting of a giant’s music box. While he wasn’t responsible for the original idea for the show (that honor goes to Judy Katschke and Debby Reece), Stine served as head writer for Eureeka’s Castle. The show ran from 1989 to 1995, releasing four seasons, and 147 episodes in all. Unfortunately, part of the show’s legacy would end up being tainted by Family Guy, which also features a character named Quagmire, albeit one who is much less likable to kids.
1. Deja Vu
Some of the villainous characters or entities which Stine created became recurring figures in Stine’s work. These include the green slime known as Monster Blood, which featured in multiple books. Most of the other recurring characters appeared in Stine’s spin-off series Goosebumps Horrorland.