Title: 99 Fear Street: The First Horror
By: R.L. Stine
Description: Twin sisters Cally and Kody Frasier aren’t thrilled that their family has moved to Fear Street. They’ve heard the strange stories. They know about the centuries of nightmarish terror. But what they don’t know is that they’ve moved into the one house that even their neighbors on Fear Street are afraid to enter. The house that has stood mysteriously empty for the past thirty years. They moved to 99 Fear Street.
Now they must learn the secret of 99 Fear Street or they will become the next victims of the house of evil.
This book was released the same month as my 13th birthday, which sounds about right for when I remember reading it. So, mini-story time. My mom was (still is) super religious, and never allowed me to read any of the teen thrillers/horror that had actual supernatural stuff going on in them. She was convinced they brought a demonic presence into the house (don’t even get her started on Harry Potter!) (Future Me just remembered that by the time I was 13 I was actually allowed to watch whatever horror movies I wanted to, so I’m very confused about my mom’s inconsistency here). So if I wanted to read the actual supernatural ones, I basically had to check them out from the library and hide them, or stealth-buy them. I owned this trilogy. Now, these books have some serious haunted/possessed house, Amityville Horror-type vibes going on, and it got to me. I convinced myself that there was an evil vibe around them and got so scared of them that I wanted them out of the house. I didn’t want to get rid of them; I just didn’t want to sleep with them in the same room. So what did my 13-ish year old self do? Why, I locked them in the trunk of my mom’s car, of course! That somehow made sense to me at the time. Anyway, I’m looking forward to revisiting something that scared me so much when I was younger. That means it really must be scary, right? (Future Me: Well . . . )
We start out with a prologue set in 1960, with a couple of what I assume are teenage boys doing construction on the house at 99 Fear Street. I guess you didn’t have to have any sort of experience or safety regulations to build houses back then. (This book will go on to treat 1960 like it was ancient times, btw, which I find absolutely hilarious.) We find out that there have been tons of accidents during construction, that nothing works like it’s supposed to, and that there were several bodies found in unmarked graves when they dug the foundation. At least it wasn’t an Ancient Indian Burial Ground™, but this is still a little too close to Poltergeist for my comfort. One of the boys is borrowing his dad’s Impala later on to go to the Beach Boys concert in Waynesbridge (that’s the neighboring “big city” to Shadyside, for those unfamiliar with Stine’s Fear Street series), and I thought it was the Impala I was going to be sinning here, but nope. The first Impalas were put out in 1958, so we’re all good there. The Beach Boys, on the other hand . . . unless this kid (Jimmy) was driving to a school assembly in California to see Carl & the Passions play, this is bullshit. The Beach Boys didn’t play their first show outside of California until 1963. (We never really get told what state Shadyside is in, but Anna and Surge at the RetRead Podcast have a prevailing theory that it’s somewhere in Ohio, and I tend to agree.) Look, I know you didn’t have Google in 1994, but still. Get it together, Stine.
The two boys are having a really shitty time working in the basement, then a crack opens in the wall where one of the boys (I can’t really be bothered to tell them apart) kicked it after stabbing his hand with a screwdriver trying to open a can of paint. Ouch. Rats come pouring out of the crack in the wall, then a shadow-smoke thing (oh god, this wasn’t the inspiration for Lost, was it?!) comes pouring out and surrounds the boys. Once it stops swirling around them, they’re dead and the prologue is over.
Chapter one, we’re in modern day (1994) with the Frasier family (mom, dad, fraternal 16-year-old twin sisters Cally and Kody, and little 9-year-old brother James) moving to Shadyside, USA, Fear Street specifically. 99 Fear Street, even more specifically. Side note – I wonder if the porn parody would be called 69 Fear Street? It would have to be, right? Anyway, here we get our first instance of 1960 being treated like it’s a million years ago when Cally (Alpha Twin) asks if the house is really old, and dad replies that “It’s pretty old. I think it was built in the early sixties.” Um. Something built in your own lifetime, and you’re calling it old? The house is thirty years old! That’s not old! I guess maybe to a teenager it sounds old, but to you, dad? When I hear that a house is old, I’m thinking at least a hundred years old, not thirty years!
Okay. Sorry about that. Guess it’s a weird pet peeve of mine. I do the same thing when I hear people talk about “old” movies. (A movie from 1998 is not “old,” you literal baby, you.)
The Frasier family is driving around town trying to find Fear Street. Baby bro James is being a whiny little brat, demanding his parents get him a dog, we find out that no one has ever lived in their new (old!) house, and then we get a line that makes me think R.L. Stine must have read some Sweet Valley books somewhere along the way:
Cally and Kody were fraternal twins – not identical. But they were always finishing each other’s sentences and thinking the same things at the same time.
This isn’t the last instance of this, so at the risk of copying other recap sites, I think I need to start a counter.
Stine, were you a Sweet Valley ghostwriter? : 1
Anyway. Kody (Beta Twin) wants to know what kind of name for a street “Fear” is, and mom says she thinks it was named after one of the town’s early settlers. Since Cally is the twin known for her quick wit and stellar sense of humor, we’re treated to her joke, “It was named after Mr. Street?” That’s fucking hilarious, folks. Really. I just peed myself laughing, and definitely did not just roll my eyes so hard I gave myself a migraine.
They finally find the house, and it’s a real disappointment. It’s big, but dark and gloomy. You know, your typical haunted house deal. I’m pretty sure the description of this house and the house in Stine’s Goosebumps book, Welcome to Dead House, are exactly the same. But like I said, the house is big, so James is excited that he’ll have his own game room where he can put a wide-screen TV for his Super Nintendo and a real pinball machine! James is fucking ballin, yo!
Kody is convinced the house is haunted because it’s so old. I just . . . this house is younger than me! Shut the fuck up, you toddler, thirty years isn’t old! It’s pointed out to Kody that no one has ever lived in the house, so there are no dead former owners to haunt it, then we find out through Cally’s internal dialogue that Kody is jealous of her because she’s the pretty, funny, popular one, and Cally is always trying to bolster Kody’s self-esteem. Okay, but was there a less self-serving way that could have been conveyed? I’m pretty sure there was. Also, your jokes are terrible, Cally. I’m not sure who told you that you’re funny, but they were lying to you.
As Cally’s carrying a box of dishes (the good china) up the porch stairs, she’s almost clobbered by a huge branch falling off a tree, but fortunately the roof over the porch stops it from hitting her. Welcome home, Frasiers! The real estate man, Mr. Lurie, shows up to welcome them and give them an extra set of keys. Shouldn’t they have received all the keys before moving day? Mr. Lurie is a creepy dude, because what else would he be?
They check out the house, and again, the only thing going for it is its size. (That’s what she said, amirite?) Kody’s mad that Cally got the biggest room, even though she doesn’t want to trade rooms, and James is upset that there’s no extra room for his bitchin’ game room. He asks to check out the basement even though it’s an unfinished basement, because nine-year-olds are completely unaware that “unfinished” is code for “a cement cesspool filled with nothing but rat shit and spiderwebs and weird smells. And also possibly backed-up raw sewage.” Being blissfully unaware of this fact, the three kids head down to check out the basement and are promptly attacked by rats. The kids run back up the stairs and slam the basement door shut, because I guess these rats don’t care about leaving the basement, even though most rats have zero problem squeezing themselves under a door.
Some dude named Glen Hankers randomly and conveniently shows up at the front door. Hey, he’s a handyman who can get rid of their rat problem! That’s super convenient and not at all suspicious! (Future Me: I remembered more sinister shit happening with him and the housekeeper who also randomly and conveniently shows up, but that turned out not to be in this book. Must be one of the sequels.)
Oh, good, we get lazy exposition told through Cally’s diary entries. She recaps the day for us, then we find out she left behind a boyfriend, Rick, who dated Kody first. Cally also wishes Kody weren’t so jealous of her. We’re supposed to like this girl, right? As Cally tries to fall asleep, she hears scrabbling footsteps over her head and wonders if there are rats in the attic, too. I’m kind of curious why these rats are being considerate enough to stay out of the human-occupied parts of the house. Rats aren’t fucking shy; those little bastards will jump up on the kitchen counter and steal the sandwich right out of your hand.
The next morning at breakfast, both girls are talking about going out job-hunting. Kody is being a whiny downer convinced she won’t find anything good, and Cally is convinced she’ll find something that will make her rich and famous before the summer’s over, prompting dad to ask if they’re sure they’re really twins. Now we see where Cally gets her sense of “humor” I guess. All this while eating corn flakes off of plates because mom couldn’t find the bowls. First of all, how do you pour milk on cereal on plates? Second, how the hell are these people packing that the plates and bowls are in separate boxes? Mom suggests opening a window, and Kody does, then leans out to look around and the window slams down on her hands. Stine is obviously familiar with The Amityville Horror.
Kody’s fine, but even more convinced the house is haunted. You know, because it’s so old. The girls go their separate ways and later reconvene at a coffee shop by the high school. Cally gets there first and flirts with the waiter, then Kody shows up and acts jealous of both the flirting and Cally’s new job at a shop called Two Cute. It’s a clothing store for couples who want to wear matching outfits, and it kind of makes me want to puke, although Cally seems to think it’s great. Kody, of course, was unable to find a job. I don’t remember Kody being this whiny and annoying the first time I read this, but she is. So. Annoying.
The girls go home and a giant rat jumps on Cally’s chest as soon as she walks in the door! Oh, wait, no, it was just Cubby, James’s new puppy. Shouldn’t picking out a dog be an activity that involves the whole family? I can’t imagine just coming home and finding a random new pet. (Mostly because I’m the one who would probably be bringing home the random new pet. Okay, I’m a hypocrite. Carry on.)
At dinner, the girls find out that mom and dad hired a housekeeper who just showed up on the doorstep, Mrs. Nordstrom. (Also, at this point I’m about to lose my shit with Chrome’s spellcheck. It isn’t recognizing any of these people’s names as words, and my screen is filled with red underlines. I’m blaming you, Stine.) Because handymen and housekeepers normally just show up/come with the house, and it’s totally not sinister, okay? Dad offers Kody a job helping him work on the house, because it’s a real fixer-upper, and at first Kody is pissy because Cally gets to have a real job and go out and meet people, but she’ll be stuck at home working. Uh, Kody, have you ever had to deal with retail customers? Trust me, you’ve got the better end of this deal! Cally gets up from the table to go get the salt and pepper shakers that mom forgot to bring out, and as she passes behind dad’s chair, he suddenly jerks forward like he was shoved and stabs himself with the knife he was using to carve the roast beef. Well, that can’t be sanitary. He at first thinks Cally pushed him; Kody thinks it was a ghost, but they don’t really have the opportunity to debate the issue, what with having to rush dad to the hospital and all.
Later that night, Cally and Kody argue about it being a ghost – Cally thinks it’s a ridiculous notion, because she doesn’t realize what type of book she’s in. Kody storms off to bed, and Cally tries to sleep but is woken up by a pattern of three knocks on her bedroom door over and over. Surprise! No one’s there when she yanks the door open!
The next morning, Kody complains about hearing weird noises all night, but Cally denies hearing anything. Ghost? What ghost? Cally gets a call from her new employer telling her that they’re doing inventory and don’t need her to start work until next week. She was expecting to start work that day, and I’m still wondering where the hell you could ever get a job that would have you start the very next day. My first job was in 1997, and I definitely wasn’t starting my first day the day after I filled out an application. Holy shit, Stine. Anyway, this is perfect for everyone but Cally, because it means she can help Kody with the fix-it work, which Cally isn’t too keen on, but selflessly decides she needs to pitch in to help while dad is injured. Because she’s just such a good person, you see.
Kody decides she needs to work on the roof where the branch crashed through, and Cally holds the ladder for her. Does anyone sense some bad shit about to happen? I do! While Cally is holding the ladder, it starts pushing itself away from the house, and Cally can’t push it back – almost like some force is working against her! The ladder falls backwards with Kody still standing on it, and the way I imagine it is very slapstick, except for the whole “people actually getting hurt” part. Kody crashes to the ground, and she’s not breathing! Cliffhanger chapter end!
Oh, awesome. Another diary entry to tell us what happened, instead of just telling us what happened. I hate this mechanic. I stopped using it in my own writing by the time I was eleven. Get your shit together, Stine. Kody was okay, just had the wind knocked out of her and passed out for a minute. She was convinced Cally let her fall on purpose, and mom and dad are freaked out by there being so many accidents since they’ve moved in. As Cally finishes her diary entry, the ghostly knocks on her bedroom door start again. Again, there’s no one there when she opens the door. Yawn.
The next morning all of Cally’s clothes have been taken out of her closet and thrown around the room. Okay. I mean, everyone knows that the scariest thing that can happen to a teenager is having to clean their room, so I guess it works. Downstairs, the house is in utter chaos. James is screaming because he can’t find Cubby; Kody is screaming because the scrambled eggs mom made her are too runny and make her want to hurl; Mrs. Nordstrom is headed down to the basement to do laundry despite Mr. Hankers still not taking care of the rat problem (she’s not afraid of rats, rats are afraid of her); and amid all the confusion no one is listening to Cally talking about someone being in her room. She goes out the front door to look for the puppy, and turns around to see that someone has painted the number 99 on the house in blood!
Wait, no, it’s just red paint. Also, this actually seems helpful. Now you can clearly see the address from the street. Thanks, ghost! Kody is convinced it’s a ghost, mom thinks it’s a prank by neighborhood kids. How is painting your house number on your house any sort of prank? I can understand if it was a funny number (69, 420, 666, etc), but again, this just seems helpful. Now the pizza guy can find your house from down the street!
James doesn’t give a fuck about the paint, and is distraught over Missing Cubby, so Cally goes with him around the neighborhood to search for the puppy. They don’t find him, but they do run into the hottie waiter from the coffee shop, Anthony, mowing a lawn. Cally asks if he lives there, but he’s just mowing as a second job. His family is too superstitious to live on Fear Street (named after Mr. Street, ahahahahaha you so funny, Cally!). Cally has no idea what he’s talking about, making a liar out of the description on the back of the book, which makes it sound like the girls knew all about Fear Street and didn’t want to move there because of the stories. When Cally tells him she lives at 99 Fear Street, Anthony almost shits himself, but won’t tell Cally why. Oh, hello there, manufactured suspense. She invites him to her house for lunch when he’s done mowing so he can tell her the story of her house, even though he obviously doesn’t want to set foot in that house.
When Cally and James get home, still without finding Cubby, Kody is pissed that Cally invited a cute boy over when she looks terrible from painting all day, and also mom and dad went out, so what is Cally going to fix for lunch? Good god, Kody is annoying. But then Cally says she’ll fix tuna salad sandwiches and egg salad sandwiches, and I’m dying. Two of the stinkiest types of salad sandwiches. That should make a good impression. Then Kody accuses Cally of not being interested in hearing about the house and only being interested in Anthony’s “bod” because that’s totally how teenage girls talk, and then we get another line that made me double check exactly which book series it is I’m reading:
They never could stay angry at each other for long. Despite their differences, they were still sisters. Twin sisters.
Stine, were you a Sweet Valley ghostwriter? : 2
When Anthony gets there, he suggests eating outside, and Cally teases him about not wanting to be in her house, but he’s dead serious. If everything he goes on to tell us is true, then I’d think it would be the entire property we’d want to stay away from, not just the bit inside the house, but I digress. Cally, Kody, and Anthony eat out in the backyard while James mopes in his room, and the girls coax and goad the story out of him, Cally not taking him seriously at first, and Kody hanging on every spooky word. Basically it goes like this: Simon Fear (Kody interrupts already to ask if that’s the guy their street was named for, and Cally snaps at her to shut up. Yeah, Kody, we already established that it was named after Mr. Street, GOSH!) and his wife Angelica lived in the burned-out mansion across from the cemetery about a hundred years ago. They were super bad people, guys, and there were weird stories about them torturing and even killing people. Now, a town historian told Anthony’s history class that when they dug into the ground to lay the foundation of 99 Fear Street thirty years ago, they dug up a bunch of coffins with the Fear family crest on them, containing the bodies (well, the skeletons) of Simon and Angelica’s victims. Now, this seems pretty stupid on the Fears’ part. I mean, they go to the trouble of burying their victims in unmarked graves off their property, but then bury them, not only in coffins, but in coffins with their family crest on the lids? That’s not how you cover up a murder!
But wait, there’s more! The guy who had the house built brought his wife and two kids there to see it when it was done, and he left them alone while he went upstairs to talk to the workers who were finishing up. I imagine he also told them he’d be right back. You never say “I’ll be right back”! When he comes back downstairs, the wife and kids are dead, their heads ripped from their bodies, never to be found, and their guts pouring out. Now, I’m not sure where their guts were supposed to be pouring out from, unless Anthony (and Stine) expects us to believe their guts were pouring out of their neck-stumps? Because I’m pretty sure that’s not how decapitation works. After that ordeal, the dude understandably never moved into the house, and it sat empty for thirty years until the Frasier family moved in. I have my doubts that this house would have sat empty for that long, but okay, sure. We’ll go with it.
As Anthony finishes his story, James comes screaming outside, demanding to know where Cubby is, because he can hear the puppy barking but he can’t find him. Raise your hand if you’ve seen Poltergeist and therefore know exactly where Stine is going with this. They play Marco Polo with Cubby for a while, hearing him yipping but not being able to locate him even though it sounds like he’s right in front of them, and then Anthony has to leave, but not before asking Cally out for that Saturday. Mom and dad come home, and Cally convinces Kody not to say anything about the history of their house. Do you think mom and dad would believe it, or more likely think this random teenage boy was just bullshitting the new kids?
After writing in her diary, which for once we don’t get to read, Cally decides she’s going to solve the mystery of who’s been gently rapping, rapping at her chamber door all these nights in a row, and sits at the ready with her hand on the knob. When the knock comes, Cally yanks open the door to reveal . . . Kody! Are you shocked? No? Yeah, me neither. Turns out it was also Kody who painted the blood-red 99 across the front of the house. I’m sure it made all the delivery drivers happy, but Cally is less so. Kody decided to fake being a ghost to make Cally believe in the real ghost that Kody knows is there. Because . . . reasons? Cally makes a deal with Kody that she won’t tell mom and dad if Kody just lays the fuck off the ghost talk for a week, because it’s stressing dad out to the point that he’s started talking to himself.
Yet later that night, Cally can’t sleep so she gets up to splash some water on her face, and we get treated to the knowledge that Stine has seen both The Amityville Horror and The Exorcist, because when Cally turns on the tap and cups her hands beneath it, it’s not water she splashes on her face, but some disgusting, chunky, pea soupy, vomit-like substance. Well, this scene just put me off my potato chips. Thanks, Stine. And come on, Cally, who the fuck doesn’t notice that they’ve filled their hands with pea soup vomit in time to avoid splashing it on their face? Reexamine your life, girl. Kody comes into the bathroom and tries to help turn off the tap, but nope. Dad shows up and eventually manages to turn it off, but there’s putrid chunky faucet-vomit all over the sink and floor. I guess no one gets to just have a quiet night, because James comes out of his room yelling about hearing Cubby, and sure enough, the puppy’s frantic yipping joins in the fracas. Just as Kody wonders where mom is, mom comes stumbling out of the bedroom, covered in blood. Mom has excellent dramatic timing, guys!
Don’t worry, it’s okay. Sort of. It’s not mom’s blood, it’s just a pool of blood dripping down from the ceiling above the bed. See? Nothing to worry about! Dad goes up to the attic to check things out, then finally comes back down, shell-shocked, muttering and screaming about “the heads, the poor heads.” Welp, guess we just found out what happened to the missing heads of Dude’s wife and kids. You know, except that they’re gone by the time the police show up to search. This is why we can’t have nice things.
It seems Fear Street exists in a magical land of housecalls, because they find a doctor to come out in the middle of the fucking night and give dad something to calm him down. You know, I’m sure this is how pornos start. Mom and the twins clean the bathroom, then have to take showers again (yup, definitely how pornos start), and fortunately the house is done with its tricks for the night. I guess the house considered making the shower head vomit pea soup, then decided to give the Frasier women a break. That was nice of it.
The next morning, the girls go ahead and tell mom and dad the story of the house, and dad decides to talk to Mr. Lurie, the real estate agent. Remember him? Only problem is, his business card doesn’t have a phone number listed, and Information (ah, hello again 1994, my old friend!) doesn’t have a listing for him, either. Luckily, the address listed is just a few blocks away on Fear Street, so dad and Cally drive to see him. They drive. Even though the address is less than four blocks away, and they’re two completely able-bodied human beings. See, this shit is why other countries think we’re lazy. Anyway, are you surprised to find out that the address is an empty lot? I didn’t think so. Now, hold on. I’d like to know just how the fuck this whole transaction of buying a fucking house went down if dad has never called or visited the real estate agent at his office. How the hell did dad get hold of Mr. Lurie? Where did they meet to sign the paperwork? How do you buy a house without being able to contact your agent? Did they leave notes for each other in the knothole of the old tree on the corner? I just can’t imagine how this could possibly have gone down!
Dad and Cally go to the town library and meet with the town historian that Anthony told them about, and find out that Mr. Lurie really is a real estate agent – or at least he was, until 1960, when he found his family murdered in the house he had built for them at 99 Fear Street! He hanged himself in the same house a month after their deaths! Dun dun DUN!
So I guess the Frasier family is just taking a loss on the house? Pretty hard to sue a dead guy, but then again this sort of thing doesn’t seem all that uncommon on Fear Street. Or in Stine novels in general. Stine has absolutely plagiarized massive chunks of his first Goosebumps book here, including an undead real estate agent who holds back vital information about the place the family will be living. Who hurt you, Stine? Tell us all about what that nasty real estate agent did to you.
Oh. It’s time for another diary entry from Cally. Fuck. Let me summarize: The house sucks, dad’s losing it, James is a crybaby, Kody’s jealous I get to go to work every day (lol whut), work’s cool, Anthony’s awesome and I’m going to call him right now to invite him to dinner at our house before our date tomorrow, because nothing bad could possibly happen in this house where terrible things keep happening!
Anthony comes over for dinner, and Cally kisses him as soon as she lets him in the door. She thinks it’s “the most impulsive thing she’s ever done.” Um. Really? You’re sixteen and kissing a boy you’re on a date with is the most impulsive thing you’ve ever done? Really? I mean, maybe this is just my bipolar disorder talking (manic episodes can be a real bitch), but that doesn’t even make a blip on my impulsive radar. Not even when I was sixteen. Jesus.
Mom and dad took James to visit relatives, so it’s just Cally and Anthony in the house. Oh, and Kody, because third wheels are useful and stuff. They have a good time at dinner, sitting around shooting the shit and whatnot, until Anthony starts helping with the dishes and gets his hand stuck in the garbage disposal. It takes off two of his fingers before the girls get it switched off. Well, shit. I suppose Anthony is going to use this as an excuse for why doing dishes is women’s work from now on. The girls get him to the hospital, where doctors sew the fingers back on, but they don’t hold out much hope for him ever being able to use them again. Well, there goes that lifelong dream of being a famous accordion player.
The next night, everyone in the house is coming a bit unraveled. Mom went to bed early; dad keeps muttering and talking to himself about not being able to move out because the relatives couldn’t loan them the money to leave; James is rocking back and forth on the couch, slamming his head against the cushions and insisting he still hears Cubby crying. Then Mrs. Nordstrom walks through the living room after cleaning up the kitchen (the blood and gore in the kitchen sink, I wonder?) and mentions matter-of-factly that the house has a curse on it. So she’s Crazy Ralph?
Dad decides it’s bedtime for everyone, and if this were a book by an adult author, I’d be convinced that dad was about to murder the entire family and then take himself out. But we’ll leave that for episodes of Criminal Minds, mmkay? James demands that Cally read him a picture book that he’s way too old for, because all the trauma of living in this hell house has made him revert back to acting like a very small child. If this were written better, it would be really effective. She reads him the book, then the chapter ends by telling us that Cally had no way of knowing she would never see her brother again. Here Stine is plagiarizing himself again, because he did this before, in his Cheerleaders series, when he tells us a character had no way of knowing it was the last time she’d see her sister alive. I don’t find this suspenseful – I just roll my eyes til it hurts.
And the very next chapter starts off with another goddamn diary entry. Stine, shit like this is why I thought this was an acceptable writing mechanic for much longer than I should have. Shame on you. It’s too bad this one is actually pretty good, getting out her thoughts about how the house has changed everyone and dad’s acting like a crazy person (okay, not thrilled with that), and mom’s withdrawing, and James is acting like a much younger child . . . okay, actually this is a lot of telling instead of showing, so maybe it’s not that good. But I’d argue that it’s doing a pretty good job of creating the atmosphere, so maybe I have to give it a pass.
Cally’s writing is interrupted by James screaming for their parents, but just like with Cubby, we can hear him but not find him. Mom starts panicking, screaming that he’s in the wall, and we’re at peak Poltergeist here, people.
In a panic, dad starts clawing at the wall with his hands, scratching and bloodying them up, and Cally agrees to go get a sledgehammer (no Peter Gabriel jokes, I promise) from the basement. Apparently Mr. Hankers has just been coming down here every day to jerk off, because the basement is still full of rats. Never hire the random guy who shows up on the doorstep. The rats don’t attack, just sit at attention staring at her with glowing red eyes. Stine is a fan of glowing red eyes and tries to work them into as many books as possible, even when it doesn’t necessarily make sense. I’m not sure if these rats’ eyes are glowing because they’re supernatural, or because the light is hitting them funny. Anyway, Cally grabs the sledgehammer and an iron pick (just in case it’s fairies we’re dealing with) because those are items literally everyone has sitting around the house.
Dad sledgehammers a hole in the wall, but of course James isn’t there. But good news! All this time we can hear James calling out, and now he tells us he found Cubby! So, that’s a win, right? At least until mom starts hearing James calling from downstairs and falls down the stairs rushing to reach him. She breaks her arm, but refuses to leave the house until they find James. Dad becomes convinced he’s in the ceiling (how?) and drags a ladder over to start hammering a hole in the ceiling. Cally’s like, fuck this shit, and goes to call an ambulance, but the phone is dead. Much like this family is about to be, mwah-ha-ha-ha! (Not really, though. There are very few deaths considering how evil this house is supposed to be.) Dad sticks his head up into the hole in the ceiling, and a dark shadow-hand reaches down and encompasses his head. Ooh, I bet this is how Mr. Lurie’s family died! Dad is luckier than that, though. He only goes blind. I guess the evil likes the Frasier family, since no one has actually died on their watch. Yet.
We skip to the next evening and find out that they spent the day at the hospital, mom got released but dad is still there, the police have been to the house searching for James, and Cally went behind her mom’s back to call their cousins and ask for the Frasier family to stay with them once dad is out of the hospital. Cally’s doing pretty much everything right at this point. Get the fuck out of that house! Yes! But she’s not sure mom will agree to leave without James. Damn. Where’s Tangina when you need her?
Cally tries to go to sleep, but is startled by the ghostly knocking at her bedroom door again. Pissed off that Kody would pull this trick again with everything else going on, Cally rushes out into the hallway to confront her, but it’s not Kody! It’s a ghostly figure in a flowing nightgown who looks exactly like Cally! (And now I guess we know why Stine didn’t make Cally and Kody identical twins – so he could have this moment.) The Cally doppelganger is grinning evilly at her, and tells her to go back to her room and read her diary. I mean, literacy and self-reflection are so important.
Cally does, and the last entry, in her own handwriting, reads, “I DIED TONIGHT.”
The doppelganger tells Cally she’s her ghost and laughs at her as the floor turns into hot tar, sucking Cally down into it and burning her. Kody hears her screaming and runs to the doorway where she tries to pull Cally out, but nope. Dead faces and hands are coming up out of the tar, pulling Cally down into it, and I really hope the evil is going to clean up after itself, because this tar room would be a bitch to have to deal with afterward.
Cally has no choice but to surrender to the tar, and to the house, and to the evil. She dies, proving Stine wasn’t afraid to raise the stakes after all, and then emerges from the tar as the ghost of herself she saw, filled with all the hate and rage and evil of the house. She watches her family pack up the car two days later, after her funeral (I’ve never been to a funeral two days after someone died, this seems like a really accelerated timeline to me), and feels nothing but hatred and bitterness toward them. Kody looks back at the house as they’re leaving (they always look back), sees Cally’s ghost in the window, and vows to come back for her one day. Cally vows to herself that Kody will be sorry if she ever does come back, and the surviving Frasiers drive away.
Wait, there’s an epilogue! Cally wakes up from her ghostly haze some time later to see Mr. Lurie welcoming a new family into her house – a mom, dad, and teenage boy. A good-looking teenage boy, because we can’t have any uggos hanging around, amirite? The book ends with Cally already plotting ways to torture the newcomers.
Nostalgia Glasses Off
I had forgotten how heavily this borrowed from movies like Poltergeist and The Amityville Horror. I wasn’t familiar with all those tropes when I read this the first time, so it all seemed new and fresh to me instead how tropey and derivative it came off this time. It’s still got some pretty scary and almost-effective moments in it, but it’s all pretty surface-level, which is generally the problem with Stine – he doesn’t have a lot of depth. I still enjoyed revisiting this one, although I could have sworn there was a scene where both Mr. Hankers and Mrs. Nordstrom turn into rats? If I’m not just making that up in my head, it must be in one of the sequels. Also, if you read the back of the book on either the second or the third in this trilogy, they straight-up spoil that Cally dies in this one. What the fuck? These books all came out a month apart from each other, what if you hadn’t read the first one before looking at the others in the trilogy?! Way to go, whoever writes the back-of-book descriptions!
To be continued in 99 Fear Street: The Second Horror, found here!