I’m not alone in saying Goosebumps was a pivotal part of my childhood. While they’re certainly no Stephen King-level writing, the young audience-targeted horror series by R.L. Stine have a lot of cheesy, juvenile entertainment that both adults and children can attach to and find some level of fun in.
The stories themselves aren’t horribly complex; unimaginative pranks and generic family squabbles often feel repetitive. But there was certainly an irresistible charm that makes the books instantly iconic – you don’t make two Jack Black movies out of one semi-popular children’s series. Horrorland, Slappy, evil cameras, and Monster Blood – anyone with any faint nostalgia for these books can be able to instantly recognize these.
But again, these books aren’t Shakespeare, so it’s fair to say the real cherry on top these books are the diverse, dynamic, spooktacular cover arts by Tim Jacobus, who has seamlessly created over 100 Goosebumps covers. The man is still working, so give his portfolio a look-see! Today, local StoryArc writers Victiny, Jre and I have compiled all the covers and ranked all 62 off the classic Goosebumps covers. How spooky are they? Do they get the story across? Are they visually interesting? All these and more, right now:
62. Beast From the East
At first glance, this cover isn’t too bad. The gradient is pleasant, and the sun casts a strong and detailed shadow that creates a notable contrast. But the more I look at it, the unfortunate truth rears its malicious head; this cover is racist. “Beast from the East” sounds like a term my grandmother, bless her heart, would use in an unsavory way to refer to other human beings. For that unfortunate vibe alone, it is ranked the lowest.
61. Why I’m Afraid of Bees
Beautiful background, but explain the head to me. He transferred to a bee, yeah? So the human head really takes away from the overall feel of the book and distracts from the general point. Can’t even muster up a bee pun here.
60. Chicken Chicken
God, just look at her. Like Franz Kafka’s The Metamorphosis but somehow more twisted, if I woke up in this nightmare scenario I would donate myself to the nearest victorian orphanage immediately. It’s for the greater good.
59. Monster Blood IV
It’s fine overall, but those damn lips just ruin it for me. Those fat, juicy lips. Distracting and nightmarish, possibly in the wrong ways.
58. Go Eat Worms!
They’re worms. They worm. Next.
57. My Best Friend is Invisible
This cover is a nightmarish hellscape in Peewee Herman’s home. From the odd scales and nightmarish colors, it’s quite a confusing and frustrating visual mess. The pizza looks good, though.
56. Horror at Camp Jellyjam
If this were a ranking on how viscerally horrifying these children’s literature covers were, this would be a clear winner. As it is not, I am shaken to my core with no purpose.
55. A Night at Terror Tower
You can sense the movement of this muscle-man, but nothing extraordinary about this cover either. Great silhouette with an intimidating, haunting hood, but nothing really standing out in the visual department.
54. Let’s Get Invisible!
He’s looking at his hand in a state of shock, at the same time the only suggestion that this boy could be invisible is the slight opaque-ness of his 90’s blue jeans. What’s left here is only the inference that he just discovered masturbation.
53. The Girl Who Cried Monster
Beautiful purple background, ugly everything else form the odd proportions and facial designs.
52. The Ghost Next Door
The perspective here is just confusing. Why is our spectral protagonist looking down while the inhabitant from that hellish bowling alley dimension is greeting them? That’s just bad manners.
51. Monster Blood II
The hamster ain’t so cute-lookin’ now. Some weird fish eye-esque perspective with some pretty ugly, lifeless colors. But damn he do be cool though.
50. My Hairiest Adventure
Being greeted by that monkey-human hybrid at first glance is…disorienting to say the least, as well as one of the top Goosebumps characters I could take in a fight.
49. Monster Blood III
Visually bland and unexciting, only saved by a quite lovely sky. Nice shoes, though.
48. How I Got My Shrunken Head
I too enjoy my room with a dresser against a blank wall with nothing besides it. The scariest part here is the completely unbalanced feng shui.
47. Bad Hare Day
I like the cartoonish proportions here. Reminds me a lot of Jim Carrey’s The Mask. But besides this mad bunny, nothing real special or unique.
46. Say Cheese and Die – Again!
My biggest complaint here is that weird gradient the polaroid is on. Why not like a wooden background to keep it simple while the focus is more detailed. Also the eyes on the skeletons. Skeletons shouldn’t have eyes.
45. Vampire Breath
Joker exits out of a pirate’s chest in weird proportionally-awkward angles.
44. How I Learned to Fly
I get that heights are terrifying, but did we really need the scary birds there too? They’re not even threatening, they just have these red, bulb like eyes like a Courage the Cowardly dog knock-off antagonist. Sometimes less really is more.
43. Beware, the Snowman
Simple enough. It does a fine job at establishing the threat and the tone, but nothing spectacular either.
42. Deep Trouble II
The fish on the cover stares. But it’s not a bone chilling stare. It’s more like you just disagreed with their political opinion and they’re about to debate you. I’m not sure which is scarier.
41. Welcome to Dead House
It WILL just kill you, nothing else. The Goosebumps cover that started it all, and it’s when things get good here. I like the warm, welcoming light protruding from the front entrance, but pretty basic. But for the very first cover, stylish and pretty atmospheric.
40. Curse of the Mummy’s Tomb
Finely detailed (all those mummy wraps were probably a nightmare to put together), though lacking in much of everything else. Lacks the tension of most Goosebumps, but carries plenty of atmosphere
39. Be Careful What You Wish For…
Creepy crystal ball and hands aside, that girl really just breaks the tension out of this entire cover. I love the foreboding darkness of the background, but she really distracts from it all.
38. Revenge of the Lawn Gnomes
Okay, real talk though why did these dudes get a highlight in the most recent Goosebumps film? They aren’t especially notable. They barely do anything. At least they look cool on this cover I guess.
37. A Shocker on Shock Street
While it has a neat classic 50’s movie vibe, the cover feels quite lifeless from the empty street to the little destruction the gigantic praying mantis brings. Speaking of, it looks like the praying mantis just got waxed; what’s with the shine?
36. Night of the Living Dummy III
Slappy is here with his array of Slapettes. Actually, this looks like an album cover. That would be the perfect title too. I’m onto something.
35. Ghost Camp
This was around the point I started to get tired of these damn lightning bolts in the backgrounds. Besides that, lovely foreground and I like how the “ghost campers” have distinct personalities and designs. The girl and her toothpick arms are a little off-putting, though.
34. How to Kill a Monster
Like a Monsters Inc. scenario gone wrong, furry green Elmo behind the door isn’t looking for his goldfish anymore. The color balance is nice and warm, I enjoy it.
33. Legend of the Lost Legend
Everything is well-detailed from the lovely sky, to the old tree, to the fabric on this so-called Legend. Although it heavily lacks in the fear factor, she carries a strong posture and silhouette.
32. Don’t Go To Sleep!
The perspective here is a nightmare. I mean that in the best way possible. Like a weird, wavy dreamy state, you feel drawn into this cover’s use of red and purples. The lightning is a little over the top though.
31. Return of the Mummy
My favorite part is the stink lines erupting from the mummy’s tomb. Is it threatening? No. Is it comical? Yes.
30. Werewolf Skin
Oh look, little Jimmy’s first fursuit came in. Just in time for Rainfurrest 2020! The bed has a weird perspective but It’s solid all around.
29. The Werewolf of Fever Swamp
Yup, the two werewolf books right next to each other. I love the grungy, dark colors here, especially the green water here. I like the clothes next to the wolf showcasing a transformation, but in the end is just a regular-looking, unspecial wolf howling.
28. I Live in Your Basement!
That veiny, puss filled goo monster would make John Carpenter squeal. The green on the bannister is sickening too, in the best way possible.
27. Say Cheese and Die!
Less detailed than the sequel which might actually be in the book’s favor. Free from the uncanny eyes and look of the skeletons, it’s a simple but oh-so erie preview of what’s to come.
26. Welcome to Camp Nightmare
Initially, I thought the hand here was a victim of bad anatomy. But the closer I look, the more I see this is purposeful to keep the monster an otherworldly feel. That green from the tent is lovely too.
25. Deep Trouble
Dire and urgent; a simple cover that does an effective job showing the general tone of the book. May be a bit unrepresentative of the book (where’s that mermaid?), but never fails to make me shiver just a tiny bit.
24. Piano Lessons Can Be Murder
Those floating hands playing piano paint a wonderfully creepy mental image, like you could almost hear how haunting this could be. The red is simple but effectively sinister.
23. You Can’t Scare Me
The classic scene from the end of a god-awful book. I love the designs and proportions of these mud monsters and the orange color palette creates this cover, just wish it wasn’t so misleading. Trust me, book is quite different than what the cover would suggest.
22. The Scarecrow Walks at Midnight
Big fan of scarecrows in horror media. Something about that uncanny valley silhouette is effective at unnerving your audience. The light source implied here by the orange on the scarecrow is impressive too.
21. Attack of the Mutant
Before the MCU, there was Attack of the Mutant; though it may lack in the creepiness, it’s a visually-fun and energetic cover that sets the story up quite nicely.
20. The Cuckoo Clock of Doom
An example of forced perspective actually accentuating a cover rather than forcing a view, here the clock has an incredible sheen and the carpet screams wealthy. It really breathes life into the scene.
19. Night of the Living Dummy II
The discomfort this cover brings is quite next-level. From the absolutely ugly wallpaper, to the childish bed, to the stuffed animals looks uncomfortably at Slappy, this is an erie cover that warns the reader of what’s to come.
18. The Barking Ghost
Another piece of uncanny art, here instead on an animal rather than another human being. The dog has just the right amount of malice in their low eyes to really be scary. This works best in the cover’s simplicity.
17. The Abominable Snowman of Pasadena
Though lacking in an interesting backdrop, it provides a fun contrast between this Abominable Snowman in a sunny, urban setting. Rather than the tired, cliched look of a night sky with the regular lightning bolt, this is a monster shows in broad daylight, offering a nice change of style and tone of what’s been shown thus far.
16. The Egg Monster from Mars
I really like how the oozing egg creature appears to have a sense of purpose as it encompasses the kitchen table. Only thing is, how did they not notice this XXXXL green egg with their normal carton? 90’s I guess.
15. Monster Blood
The slime oozes down the stairs in representation of a flooded, or bloody, mess. However plain it may be, it is eye-catching in its simplicity while feeling representative of classic horror. Just wish the actual textures were better on that darned lime-green blood.
14. The Blob That Ate Everyone
Yet another entry in our unintentional “ooze series” of cover reviews, here the titular blob has all the characteristics of the most famous blobs in history; veins, mass and texture. This one terrifyingly knocks off all three criteria.
13. The Haunted School
The monochromatic colors offers a beautiful and stylish contrast from the high-energy locker rooms. It is haunting and remains as perhaps the most stylish of the Goosebumps covers, but that skeleton poster just hurts a lot of it for me.
12. The Haunted Mask II
While not as iconic as the sibling novel, here the mask is just as detailed; the worn patches, the bugs in the hair, and the blemishes imply a sense of depth to this mask. The outside is also contrasting in warm and cold in an incredible way.
11. Stay Out of the Basement
In terms of actual stylization, this might be the most plain out of all of them, which might make it the most unique. From the simple designs between the background and foregrounds, this stands out to me from just its hyperrealism alone. Those blood-red knuckles are quite off-putting as well.
10. Night of the Living Dummy
The almighty, the poster boy for Mr. Stein’s brand, Slappy began with this book. The cover does this legacy justice, with the green and black complimenting the doll’s sharp style of dress.
9. The Ghost Beach
Absolutely beautiful all around, from the blue background and the pale front, all the way towards the simple ghost with lovely streaks and colors. Mellow and melancholic vibe with a gorgeous aesthetic.
8. The Haunted Mask
The original Haunted Mask is a cover I hold a great amount of nostalgia for. It was the book (and episode) I remember most vividly and how terrifying it was. But how does it stack up today? I am happy to say that the mask is still effective. In fact, I didn’t even notice the drool dripping down the mouth until now. The color work is soft and contrasts well.
7. One Day at Horrorland
A truly iconic cover, it presents a foreboding foreground with an excitable and adventurous theme park background. In an utterly timeless book, it offers a lot of creepy detail and wonder from first impressions alone.
6. Phantom of the Auditorium
You can tell Tim Jacobus really flexed here; The fabric is gorgeously detailed and flowing, and the light from the stage is bouncing to give the phantom depth. This feels like the apex from an art standpoint on what the artist does best.
5. It Came From Beneath the Sink!
If you read this book, you’ll learn just how stupid this monster is. But in other respects, it’s a cool and ominous cover with nothing but glowing, reptilian eyes amidst the darkness.
4. The Headless Ghost
Similar to the Phantom, the Ghost here exemplifies all the strengths of the artist. Here though, the amount of detail on the Ghost is just stellar; they truly feel alive with the amount of baubles and thick, precisely drawn folds in clothing . Well, alive so-to-speak.
3. Calling All Creeps!
The distinct designs and personalities of these creeps stand firm and confident. It presents an utterly dark and unwelcoming tone while retaining the classic Goosebumps sense of humor. However generic the creeps may be, it is a fun and classic look that horror fans crave.
2. Attack of the Jack-O’-Lanterns
I have a soft spot for Jack-O’-Lantern creatures in horror mediums. Here, the pumpkin-headed group is visually distinct, have an intense sense of personality, and are just plain fun. The color balance is both warm and chilly from the night, and the backlight from whatever is dawning behind them makes for quite the entrance.
1. Curse at Camp Cold Lake
Call me biased, but ever since I was a child, this cover has been utterly burnt into my mind. From the sinister eyes to the deteriorated face to the empty nose-hold, this is a cover I can’t feel but come back to time and time again to remind myself that, while these books are ultimately for young readers, contains artwork full of iconic imagery that any casual or elitist horror fan can entice. For that reason alone, it remains as my absolute favorite.