Welcome to Dead House
Posted by Tracy Poff on August 18, 2011
Amanda’s new house is spooky. Curtains seem to move, even when there’s no wind, whispers come from empty rooms, and Amanda is sure she’s seen people in her house who vanish when she tries to look for them. The house in Dark Falls was left to her father in his great-uncle Charles’s will. Although, he doesn’t remember having an Uncle Charles…
It’s not just the house, though–the whole town is spooky. The streets always seem empty, and when the sun comes out, the kids all run home. Still, a free house is a free house. Amanda’s brother, Josh, seems set against the house, and their dog, Petey, doesn’t like it much, either.
One night, while Amanda and Jason are looking for Petey in a cemetery, they discover an amphitheatre nearby, and learn a terrible secret about the town of Dark Falls.
Welcome to Dead House is the first book in the Goosebumps series by R. L. Stine. Back in the nineties, these books took the world of children’s literature by storm, selling four million copies a month. According to the American Library Association, Goosebumps books were the fifteenth most frequently challenged books during the nineties, a list headed by the Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark books. The series spawned a television adaptation, several games, and numerous other spin-offs.
Welcome to Dead House doesn’t pull any punches–it’s pretty harsh, for a children’s book. The beloved family dog, oftentimes immune to serious harm, is killed, and moreover becomes one of the undead inhabitants of Dark Falls. Amanda’s parents are just about to be killed, when they are rescued. The children of Dark Falls are pretty creepy, too, switching from friendly to menacing and back, leaving Amanda wondering if she’s just imagining things. It’s also worth mentioning that there aren’t any ‘friendly ghosts’ who are willing to protect or aid Amanda and Josh–even the friendliest of them are fully prepared to kill them and their parents.
As usual, in these kinds of stories, Amanda’s parents aren’t interested in hearing her complaints that there seem to be people in their new house, or that strange things are happening. On the one hand, you can’t really expect them to assume that the undead are wandering around. On the other hand, if my twelve year old daughter told me that she had seen a person hanging about in the house I had just moved into and hadn’t fully explored, I think I’d take her a bit more seriously.
It’s worth noting (though it’s clear from the rest of my review) that the main protagonist and POV character in this book is Amanda, a twelve year old girl. There’s no particular lack of children’s books featuring female protagonists, but it’s interesting that the first book in the Goosebumps series is among them.
Welcome to Dead House is a fairly strong start for the Goosebumps series, so it’s worth reading for children interested in horror stories, or grown-up fans of the series looking for some nostalgia. There’s a Kindle edition of this one available, as number 13 in the Classic Goosebumps series, so you can pick it up (along with, it seems, the rest of the Classic Goosebumps series) as an ebook, if you like.