Goosebumps: Ghost Camp (Book Review)

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Front Tagline: Be all that you can't see!
Back Tagline: The Joke's On Them!

Official Book Description:
Harry and his brother, Alex, are dying to fit in at Camp Spirit Moon. But the camp has so many weird traditions. Like the goody camp salute. The odd camp greeting. And the way the old campers love to play jokes on the new campers.
Then the jokes start to get really serious. Really creepy. Really scary.
First a girl sticks her arm in the campfire. Then a boy jams a pole through his foot.
Still, they're just jokes...right?

Brief Synopsis:
Siblings Harry and Alex are the sole occupants of the bus to Camp Spirit Moon. Alex starts to get carsick and Harry being the helpful older brother tells him to take his mind off it by singing. Well, that's a new one. Alex has a beautiful singing voice and so he takes his brother's advice and starts singing a Beatles song. We're not told which, perhaps "Can't Bus Me Love"? It's a good thing characters can't read these entries because I'm sure that joke would have only induced more vomiting.

Alex's voice is so good that he was supposed to go to music camp for the summer, but because their parents enrolled them both so late in the summer, the only camp that was available was Camp Spirit Moon.

Their bus driver lacks the verbal skill of Busdriver, as the blonde surfer-type simply punctuates every comment to the kids with "dude." He pours on the "dudes" after stopping in the middle of nowhere and telling the kids to follow the trail into the woods by themselves. He tells them it's not too far to the camp and I can't help but feel let down that Stine missed the opportunity to actually work "Boo, dude" into one of these books.

The two kids lug their luggage through the woods on the shady path. Once they arrive at camp, they find the place deserted. Harry insists that their fellow campers must be somewhere on the camp grounds, and while searching the eerily empty grounds they do spot a soccer field and an archery setup-- great, sports and camp, there's a proven combo for this series. Finally an older teenager stumbles out of the woods and tells the two kids that the entire camp has left, only he can't get through it without laughing. He tells the kids that it's a traditional Camp Spirit Moon joke to trick the new campers into thinking the camp is abandoned. That seems like an awfully inefficient prank, wouldn't it have been easier to just like turn the garden hose on them?

Uncle Marv, the head counselor, races out from hiding and greets the two kids by nearly knocking them over from the force of his high fives. Uncle Marv teaches the kids the Spirit Moon Greeting, which consists of yelling out "Yohhhhhhhh Spirits!" and then extending your left hand to your nose and then pushing it up into the air. Harry thinks the salute looks stupid, and he's right, but he still politely repeats it for Uncle Marv, as does Alex. Uncle Marv tell them they did a good job, though I'm not sure there was ever any danger of them screwing up a salute that simple.

Uncle Marv drops the kids off at their cabin, which is also abandoned. As they're deciding who sleeps on top and who sleeps on bottom, Harry steps in a sticky blue puddle of liquid. There are several blue puddles inside the cabin and Harry is shocked to discover the liquid is cool to the touch-- shocked because he thought the substance might have been someone's leftover Gak, and of course Gak was never cool.

Uncle Marv comes back to collect Harry and Alex for the Welcoming Campfire. The brothers follow Uncle Marv in the dusky night until they arrive at a huge bonfire. All the other kids from the camp are gathered around the large fire and everyone but the two brothers are wearing Camp Spirit Moon uniforms. The other campers seem very friendly and inviting. While waiting in line for food, Harry looks behind him and sees that Alex has already made friends with a short blonde kid. When he makes it to the front of the line, he has trouble finding a hot dog roasting stick until a cute girl reads his mind and directs him to the pile. Her name is Lucy and her beautiful pale features and dark hair cause Harry to start crushing on her immediately. Lucy and Harry watch as some kid shoves an entire hot dog into his mouth, which causes Lucy to lead Harry away so they can be alone. Hmm.

Lucy and Harry lean-in close to the fire and start cooking their dogs. Harry's hot dog falls off the stick into the fire and Lucy reaches her hand into the flames to retrieve it. She calmly hands him back his charred hot dog and then, almost as an afterthought, starts wailing about how hot the fire was. Before Harry can protest too much, Lucy grabs him by the arm and leads him to the chip table.

Lucy and Harry run into Alex, who is still hanging around with the blonde kid. Alex introduces him:


"His name is Elvis. Do you believe it? Elvis McGraw."


No.

Unfortunately for Harry, while he was talking with Alex and Elvis, some of Lucy's friends found her and carried her off. Alex tells Harry that he and Elvis are going to try out for the camp talent show and and the camp musical.

Uncle Marv swoops in and drags Harry and Alex off to sit in the middle of the large circle of kids. Harry spies Lucy sitting with a bunch of girls but doesn't have time to get her attention as Uncle Marv starts leading the camp in an incredibly-involved camp anthem that has more verses than a Joanna Newsom song.

Somewhere around the thirtieth verse, Harry sneaks out of the circle and away from the fire. Lucy sneaks up behind him at the outskirts of the woods and implores him to help her. Before he can ask her what she means, Uncle Marv stops the song and tells Harry and Lucy that there's no sneaking off into the woods. The other kids laugh and can this really be the first (and only?) Goosebumps book where kids making-out is approached even half-way? Lucy and Harry head back into the circle and Uncle Marv makes a few more jokes at their expense, which causes Harry to blush. Aww, just like a real uncle.

Uncle Marv announces to the group that he's going to tell the "two ghost stories." Everyone quiets down and some even gasp. Uncle Marv explains that the two Camp Spirit Moon ghost stories he's about to tell have been passed down from generation to generation. He turns to Lucy and asks why everyone's so spooked. She asks him if he's afraid of ghosts, to which he replies with his best Ray Parker Jr impression. Lucy leans in close and ominously warns him that after tonite, he just might.
HARRY, THAT'S WHEN YOU GO FOR THE KISS.

Uncle Marv spins the first yarn. I won't try to do it justice, but the basic idea is that a counselor leads his troop deeper and deeper into the woods. The campers keep hearing a thumping sound coming from the ground. Finally the counselor realizes they had ventured too far into the woods and the ground they were sleeping on is actually the skin of a monster. The monster's vast head then appears and it opens its mouth, handily eating all the campers in one bite. Well, that's not a ghost story.

Harry tries to get Lucy or Elvis to agree with him that it was a silly story but he finds the other campers very much disturbed by the tale. Uncle Marv pauses while the counselors add wood to the fire and then begins the second (first?) ghost story, the story of the Ghost Camp. Oh I'm already reading that one Marv, don't spoil it for me!

Uncle Marv's story of the Ghost Camp is a little more disturbing. Uncle Marv describes a night much like that night, when campers were all gathered around a campfire, listening to a ghost stories. A thick dark fog fell from the sky and enveloped the campers. It was so thick that they couldn't even see the huge fire that was only a few feet away. When the fog lifted, the entire population of the camp lay motionless on the ground. The fog had killed every child, teenager, and adult in the camp. The ghosts of the campers then glumly rose up and made their way back to the cabins, knowing they'd never leave Ghost Camp.

Harry is a little more receptive to this story. He turns to ask Alex what he thought but Alex is staring in horror at the sky, where a thick fog has become visible in the moonlight and is descending towards the camp. Uncle Marv smiles and steps back into the darkness of the woods as the whisps of the fog begin to snake their way down into the campgrounds from above. Harry tries to calm Alex by reminding him that they don't believe in ghost stories and that the fog appearing is only a coincidence. Uncle Marv reappears and tells the campers to all rise and begin singing the Camp Spirit Moon song. The other campers begin but slowly their voices are drowned out by the fog. When the the fog finally lifts, the two boys realize they're standing alone in the center of the circle. The camp grounds are silent and empty. Harry tries to be the good big brother and tries to convince Alex and himself that it's still only a joke, that the fog was fake and this is just another big trick like when they arrived.

Harry and Alex walk back towards the cabins and sure enough, once they approach their bunk, the other campers all come out of hiding, laughing uproariously. It was a joke. Is this the most needlessly complicated joke in the history of camps or what? You know what would have been easier? Coming up behind them and yelling "Boo!" Or "Boo, Dude!" Or "Boo, Dude! Goosebumps Is On TV! See your local TV listings for details."

Uncle Marv tells the camp that it's lights-out. After dark, Harry spots another puddle of blue goo and since Tobias Funke isn't around, he looks around the room for what could be causing it. He doesn't get an answer but he sure raises an interesting new question as he spies Joey, one of their bunkmates hovering over their bed several feet in the air.

The next morning Harry is hanging out with Joey and Sam, another bunkmate. They're playing around with some camping equipment in front of the stage where Alex and Elvis are auditioning for the talent show. Alex wows the crowd with his beautiful voice, but Elvis fails to live up the sound of his namesake (I'm of course referring to the chanteuse critic Elvis Mitchell). Alex gets into the talent show and is cast as the lead in the camp musical. Elvis is also given a position in the play, that of stage hand. Not content with not being given anything, Sam gives himself a critical wound by piercing a metal tent-pole through his foot, pinning it to the ground. When he notices Harry's shock, he calmly pulls the pole out of the ground and says that it just missed his toes. Yes, missed them on the way to plunging into the rest of his foot!

As if that wasn't weird enough, at dinner, Joey takes a fork and shoves it into his neck. He insists it's a trick but both Harry and Alex are more than a little weirded-out. Uncle Marv wanders over to their table and tells Joey to stop horsing around. He reminds them that they should conserve their energy for the big B vs G soccer game that night. On the way to the field, Lucy waves at Alex but before he can wander over to her Sam and Joey lead him off in the opposite direction.

As the camp plays the massive soccer game in the dark, aided only by two massive floodlights, Harry sees another fog roll in. He steps off the field and runs into Alex. Harry tells Alex about the tent-pole incident and Alex trumps him by telling an even creepier story. After his audition, Alex had gone out to the lake for free swim. The weather was so nice and the water was so clear that he floated out past the shore and decided to look beneath the surface. When he dunked his head under, he spotted a girl at the bottom of the lake. Not swimming, just sitting on the floor underneath the water. Not knowing if there was time to swim all the way back to get a counselor, Alex dived down to rescue her, hoping he wasn't too late. She surprisingly didn't weigh much and once he reached the surface, he swam back towards the shore with her under his arm. As he neared the shore, he began to hear the girl laughing. When he reached the shore, she turned around under his arm and spit water into his face. She freed herself and began floating back in the water away from the shore. Alex called out to her as she floated away how she was able to do that, and she ominously replies that she can hold her breath a long, long time.

Harry tries to approach Alex's story as just another camp prank, that maybe all of these things they've experienced are just more traditions meant to spook them. As Harry's making his case, the two boys watch as an arrant soccer ball whizzes towards the net, hitting the girl's goalie in the head. The ball was kicked with such force that it knocked the girl's head off, which fell down to the ground next to the soccer ball. Harry races over to help, only to see that he was only imaging things. The other kids mock him and he runs away from the game. Alex catches up with him and tells him he saw the same thing: her head really did fall off. Harry reminds Alex that they don't believe in ghosts and that there's got to be some logical explanation. They consult Marion Cotillard, who gives them some pamphlets about the faulty wiring at the camp.

The two siblings try to participate in normal camp activities to take their mind off all the weirdness, and things more or less go on uneventfully for a couple days. One night though, right before lights-out, Harry is stopped on the way to his cabin by Lucy. She grabs him around the waist with both arms and pulls him into the woods. She tells him again that he has to help her. Naturally he's inclined to do so, and he swallows hard and asks what wrong. She tells him he's right, that everyone at the camp is a ghost. Even her.

Harry tries to tell himself that he doesn't believe in ghosts, not even cute ones, but he realizes she's telling the truth. Turns out Uncle Marv's second ghost story was Based on True Events. Harry sympathetically takes Lucy's ice-cold hand and tells her he believes her. They have a pretty somber discussion of what it's like to be a ghost and Lucy reveals that the blue puddles all around the camp are protoplasm (add that one to the word list, readers) that materializes and collects every time the ghosts make themselves visible. Lucy pleads with Harry to help her by allowing her to take over his mind and body. Harry is willing to go to third base tops, so he turns her down. She begs him and promises that once they leave the camp grounds she'll leave his body. The only way for a ghost to escape the camp grounds is to take over a live human body. Harry won't go that far and he starts to back away from Lucy. The fog starts encircling the two and Lucy begins floating in the air in front of him, emotionally bargaining with him to let her take over his mind and body.

He turns to run and is stopped by an icy feeling around his head. He can feel Lucy's hands and body entering into his head and his mind. The freezing feeling begins to envelop Harry's entire body as he tearfully tries to talk Lucy out of taking over his body. He tries very hard to resist her invasion but gradually begins to give way to her assault. He starts yelling out loud and angrily resists her. He figures that if he can't reason with Lucy, he'll reason with himself: he can stop her. He keeps yelling and howling into the night, and fights the urge to just lay down and go to sleep. Suddenly he feels the weight lifted from his body. Harry quickly rushes towards the camp to retrieve his brother.

Harry bursts into the bunk, waking everyone. Ignoring his bunkmates, who don't yet know that he knows, he throws his brother his clothes and shoes and tells him to get dressed . Once he's laced-up, Harry drags Alex out of the cabin and tells him to run as fast as he can. The two boys run until Alex collapses from exhaustion. Afraid that they're not far enough away from the camp, Harry pushes Alex to keep running when the two boys hear the same thumping sound from the first "ghost" story. The smooth ground beneath their feet begins to shake with the thumps. Alex cries out that they're standing on the monster, just like in the story. Harry is in disbelief until the monster's head appears. Harry thinks quickly as the creature pushes the two boys into its mouth. He tells his brother that they don't believe in ghosts and they don't believe in monsters and this just can't exist. He forces Alex to admit that monsters can't exist. The vast monster swallows the two boys and they land safely on the ground. By believing the monster can't exist, they proved it didn't!

The two brothers cheerfully embrace in the clearing, only to be interrupted by Uncle Marv. Uncle Marv commands the other campers to capture the two boys-- remember when Marv only wanted to capture one boy? Harry and Alex close their eyes and begin chanting that the ghosts can't exist. When Harry opens his eyes, Lucy's face is directly in front of his. She taunts him that he can't escape and then pins him to the ground. Harry sees Elvis doing the same to Alex and he feels the icy sensation of Lucy entering his body.

Just as Harry submits to his fate, another camper knocks Lucy off his body. Lucy is furious at the boy, who tries to get into Harry's body first, as Uncle Marv had promised her she was the next to leave. The other ghosts soon join in and begin fighting with each other as all the counselors and even Uncle Marv get caught up in the swirling ghost-fight. They spin faster and faster until they just disappear into a flash of blinding white light. Harry helps his brother up off the ground and the two head towards the highway to flag down a car.

But the Twist is:
Harry and Alex walk away from the camp silently. Alex breaks the quiet by humming a song, but the humming is off-key. Harry stops and asks if Elvis is inside his brother. Alex speaks in Elvis's voice and begs Harry not to tell anyone.

the Phantasmagoric Boy-Girl Relationship:
Harry Altman and Lucy, who disappears into Harry three-fourths of the way thru the novel.

Questionable Parenting:
So, the safety camp for their kids after music camp is horrible murdered children camp?

Early 60s Cultural References:
the Beatles, the Beach Boys, Elvis Presley

Memorable Cliffhanger Chapter Ending:
I never thought I'd type these words, but there isn't a chapter transition worth mocking.

Great Prose Alert:
Why does he want to enter the talent show when he sounds like a squealing dog?

Conclusions:
Slightly scarier than Ernest Scared Stupid though still not as frightening as Ernest Goes to CampGhost Camp is a new reference point for quality in the series. I can't believe I'm typing these words either, but: I can't wait to read the sequel-- which won't be for a while gang, it's a Series 2000 book.



About the author

Meenmeen

I'm currently studying in a prestigious school, which is Ateneo, taking up Accountancy, and in God's will, I will pass. I am also an amateur Writer and Photographer.

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