For Adam Freeman, moving to Spooksville wasn’t something he’d planned. But being only twelve, he hadn’t a lot of say in the matter. They had to move, his parents said, because of his father’s job. Of course, when they told him about Spooksville, they didn’t call it that. Springville was the proper name of the small oceanside town. It was only the local kids who called it by the scarier, but more accurate, title. It was only the kids who knew how weird the place could get after dark.
Or even during the day.
That was the thing about Spooksville.
Not all its monsters waited until the sun went down to appear.
It is a crime that so many people know about Goosebumps by R.L. Stine, but almost no one seems to have heard of Spooksville by Christopher Pike.
I tried reading Goosebumps when I was a kid, but found them too gross for me. A lot of the scariness seemed to come from what I now know as body horror, and the uncertain endings of most of the books where the evil the protagonists fought so hard to overcome isn’t really gone after all (if the characters manage to survive at all) was just too much for me to handle. But like most kids, I wanted something a little creepy now and again, so I checked out the same spinning rack in my public library where I’d found Animorphs… and was not disappointed.
Adam Freeman, who is the main POV character for much of the series, has just moved to Springville, but when he meets long-time resident Sally Wilcox and her friend Watch, he quickly learns that his new home is not at all what it appears to be. At first Adam is skeptical of the stories. I mean, witches and demons and aliens aren’t real, right? But thanks to a dare and a desire to prove Sally wrong, he tags along as Watch tries to unravel the location of the Secret Path which leads to alternate realities. But when Watch goes missing, Adams finds himself on the other side of a gravestone in an even darker, more twisted version of Spooksville ruled by a very unfriendly witch. And things only get weirder from there.
Spooksville is still scary and still classified as horror, but in a different way. It’s a little more dark fantasy than straight-up horror like Goosebumps was. The threats in Spooksville are a mixture of internal and external, but each book has a more definitive conclusion with the knowledge that more challenges will appear, but this particular one has been vanquished. It’s also interesting that not all of the evils that Adam and his friends face are actually plain evil. There are some shades of gray. Some are indeed evil while others are just misunderstood and need to be laid to rest, placated… or just want some company. I also think that having the series follow the same characters over the course of 24 books rather than changing characters almost every time worked in Spooksville‘s favor. You came to know the characters much better rather than having to detach and reattach to a new protagonist each time (especially when said protagonist usually suffered a very unsatisfactory ending, like in Goosebumps.) Sometimes a foe (or friend) from a previous book will return to make an appearance, although enough background explanation is given so that if you read the books out of order, you can still follow what’s going on.
As far as I know, most of the Spooksville books aren’t on library shelves anymore and are increasingly hard to find. Which is a bloody shame and I wish they could have a revival. (Although apparently there’s a Spooksville TV show?! That aired in 2013?! WHAT?! I would have watch the heck out of that as a kid! But it’s also almost impossible to find…) Not all of the books are fantastic, but the majority are quite good. My favorite, I think, is Spooksville #9: The Wishing Stone. If you are looking for a good read on the cusp of the Halloween season, and can find copies of the books, I highly recommend Spooksville.