This Day In Literary History
On October 8th, 1943, the famous American writer R.L. Stine was born. He was born Robert Lawrence Stine in Columbus, Ohio. The oldest of three children, Stine's father was a shipping clerk, his mother a homemaker.
When he was nine years old, Stine found a typewriter in his attic. He began writing with it immediately, typing up everything from short stories to joke books. After graduating from Ohio State University in 1965, Stine moved to New York City to become a writer.
In 1969, he married his girlfriend Jane Waldhorn, a writer and editor who would found the children's book publishing company Parachute Press. In 1980, the Stines had their first and only child, a son named Matthew.
As a writer, R.L. Stine got his start writing joke books for children. He wrote dozens of joke books, publishing them under the pseudonym Jovial Bob Stine. He created the teen humor magazine Bananas and worked for years with the children's cable TV channel Nickelodeon. He would later switch genres from humor to horror.
In 1987, Stine published his first teen horror novel, Blind Date. He would follow it with Twisted, Beach Party, The Boyfriend, The Baby-sitter, Beach House, Hit And Run, The Girlfriend, and other titles, most of which were published as part of a series - the Point Horror series.
Around this time, he also co-created and served as head writer for the Nickelodeon children's TV series Eureeka's Castle, which ran from 1989-1995.
In 1990, Stine teamed up with his wife's company Parachute Press and began publishing a new series of teen horror novels called the Fear Street series, set in the fictional East Coast town of Shadyland. Fear Street is a street in the town that had been named after a cursed family.
In the books, a group of average teenagers find themselves pitted against malicious, often supernatural adversaries, though sometimes the kids get caught up in non-supernatural horror dramas like murder mysteries.
Although the Fear Street novels are geared toward teen readers, they often featured violence and gore on a par with adult horror novels.
Tom Perrotta, the bestselling novelist known for such memorable works as Election (1998) and Little Children (2004), revealed in a 2007 interview that he had ghostwritten one of R.L. Stine's Fear Street novels, The Thrill Club.
In 1992, two years after his Fear Street teen horror series took off, Stine and Parachute Press decided to produce a series of horror novels geared toward preteen readers. It would prove to be his most successful series of books.
It would become a pop culture phenomenon that made R.L. Stine a household name and earned him a place on the Forbes List of the 40 Best Paid Entertainers of 1996-1997, as his income that fiscal year was $41 million dollars.
The series of books was called Goosebumps. Stine cranked out dozens of them. The typical Goosebumps book was a paperback novella of approximately 120 pages long. The first title was Welcome To Dead House.
In it, 12-year-old Amanda and her younger brother Josh move into a house that their father inherited from his great uncle. The siblings soon discover that their new home, located in the town of Dark Falls, is cursed.
Every child who ever lived in the home was murdered, and now the house is haunted by the living dead children. Once a year, they need to consume new blood from a freshly killed victim to preserve their immortal existence, which is why they tricked Amanda and Josh's father into moving there.
Though not as gruesome as Stine's Fear Street series, the Goosebumps books were just as scary. Some parents complained that they were too scary for their preteen readers. Nonetheless, the series became a monster hit with kids - no pun intended.
Translated into 32 languages, the Goosebumps series has sold over 300,000,000 copies worldwide. Frightening, clever, well written, and often containing surprise twist endings, the Goosebumps books have also earned many adult fans, myself included.
R.L. Stine won numerous awards for his Goosebumps books, which were adapted as a TV series that ran from 1995-1998. When the series debuted on CBBC in the UK, due to the government's strict censorship guidelines for children's programming, many episodes were banned or heavily cut.
However, on the cable channel Jetix, available in England and Ireland, the episodes aired with few or no cuts. In the U.S., in addition to the TV series, there were direct-to-video releases of Goosebumps shows on VHS and DVD.
A Goosebumps feature film was released in 2015 for the Halloween season, starring Jack Black as R.L. Stine. In it, the horrors from the reclusive writer's books come to life and threaten the Maryland town where he lives.
The movie did poorly on its opening weekend, grossing only $23 million on an estimated $53 million budget, but the total domestic gross for its theatrical run was $80 million, with a worldwide total gross of $158 million.
So, a sequel, Goosebumps 2: Haunted Halloween, was released three years later. Its opening weekend was worse than the previous film's, grossing only about $15 million on a lower budget of $35 million. The total worldwide gross was $93 million.
In Goosebumps 2: Haunted Halloween, some kids find an old manuscript while cleaning out an abandoned house. They recite an incantation in it, unknowingly resurrecting Slappy the Dummy, an evil ventriloquist's dummy.
In 1995, after writing numerous children's books, Stine published Superstitious, his first horror novel geared toward adult readers. Unfortunately, the book was poorly received and became a critical and commercial failure.
Stine has since written other adult oriented novels, such as The Sitter and Eye Candy, but those too have proven to be nowhere near as successful as Stine's children's horror novels.
He has published other horror series for kids, including Ghosts Of Fear Street (a younger version of the Fear Street series geared toward preteens) and The Nightmare Room.
He also published a non-horror series called the Rotten School books, which feature the comic misadventures of a group of kids at boarding school. R.L. Stine's most recent horror series for children is the Mostly Ghostly books.
Quote Of The Day
"I'm really a writing machine. I have no rituals. I don't need a special desk or special background music. As long as I have a keyboard in front of me, I can write." - R.L. Stine
Today's video features R.L. Stine speaking at the 2012 National Book Festival. Enjoy!