All 62 ‘Goosebumps’ Covers Ranked By Scariness
Generally, exposing a young child to intentionally scary media isn't advisable. It’s the sort of behavior of a babysitter with a taste for chaos, who knows they’ll be long gone by the time the nightmares come. The act of purposely frightening yourself is something reserved for adults, whose emotions have long been dulled by the unending, slow drip of terror and uncertainty that is human life.
Somehow, though, beloved book series Goosebumps managed to not only sell horror to parents and kids, but to both create and dominate a section of children’s literature while doing so. Now, are the books genuinely that scary? Generally, no; in fact, some are outright horror-comedies. That said, there are a couple rogue tales that truly scared the piss out of a generation, and a lot of that had to do with the covers. As much as you might remember the feel of the embossed, pimply type at the top, certain images seared themselves into young brains.
Here are all 62 main-line Goosebumps covers, ranked by scariness…
Legend of the Lost Legend
To be honest, this feels like a printing error. This just… isn’t a horror book? A weird little viking woman with what looks like the start of a mustache is unusual, but this feels like the printer got the image files mixed up.
The Beast From the East
If this cover was supposed to make me do anything other than high-five this cool little guy with fur the color of a Twitch streamer’s bisexually-lit bedroom, it has failed. This thing rules. Plus, “the Beast from the East” sounds like a nickname straight out of the NBA, and now I’m just imagining him dunking.
Attack of the Mutant
Now, I remember this being one of my favorite Goosebumps, but even then I was aware that it felt out-of-step. The only people scared by this image were the Scholastic legal team, given that it is very clearly Almost Batman.
Calling All Creeps!
This would be a great line to launch an OnlyFans with, but it’s not a particularly spooky title or image. These dudes look cool as hell. Each of them looks like someone you’d drunkenly make best friends with at a bar.
The Abominable Snowman of Pasadena
This image makes me feel something, but I have no idea what. Am I scared of this weird ape? Not really. Would I want him around? Also probably not.
Egg Monsters From Mars
Look, it’s definitely not an image that suggests a positive smell or a clean counter, but the eggman in question is also, indisputably, kind of a little cutie pie. I’d love to keep him in a little fishbowl and watch him get mad at me.
My Best Friend Is Invisible
You can’t convince me fright was ever even the mission here. You could print this in the Family Circus, and no one would think it was weird.
Beware, The Snowman
Look, I’m sure there’s someone with a very specific collection of childhood trauma who was terrified by this, but c’mon. Dude is wearing a jaunty scarf.
How to Kill A Monster
Maybe before the debut of Monsters Inc. this felt a little creepier? Unfortunately, now I can’t see it without hearing John Goodman’s voice blurting out a “Hello?”
One Day at Horrorland
I could definitely understand how that big fella on the sign could spook some people, but the problem here is how badly I still want to go to this theme park. In fact, I’m getting mad that it’s not real as we speak. Plus, the board game rocked.
Say Cheese and Die!
Is it an absolutely iconic entry in the Goosebumps canon? Yes. The fright factor, however, is low. All you’ve got is the base spookiness of skeletons, cut in half because they’re barbecuing.
Say Cheese and Die — Again!
If you’re giving a skeleton a comb-over, you cannot in good faith convince me horror is your goal.
Monster Blood II
Here, we’re saying hello to two things: covers that could, in theory, actually keep a child up past bedtime, and Goosebumps' most prolific recurring series, “Monster Blood.” Still, it’s really just a fat little rat with a bad attitude.
The Werewolf of Fever Swamp
First off, let’s be clear, this cover kicks ass. The reason it is so low on the list, though, is it’s practically just a nature photo with a little extra spittle added. That’s 99 percent just a regular wolf, something little kids love having on their T-shirt anyways.
A Night in Terror Tower
This one might be a little bit tainted by my love of metal music and the accompanying album covers. I do vaguely remember not liking this cover as a kid, but to current me, it just looks like something out of the D&D Players’ Handbook.
The Headless Ghost
“Headless" and “ghost” are both incredibly strong starting points for a scary story. Unfortunately, when you make the ghost look like Jonathan Taylor Thomas, that kind of cancels out every other detail. Why is this ancient ghost looking at me like he just beat me in Super Smash Bros.?
Return of the Mummy
Another promising cover undone by a single detail. You had me, right up until the part where you made it look like the mummy just ripped a monster fart in his fancy coffin.
How I Learned to Fly
Outside of just capitalizing on the general fear of heights, this doesn’t have much fright going for it. It almost feels like the artist just made all the birds’ eyes red right at the end because they realized they accidentally drew something beautiful.
Go Eat Worms!
There’s really nothing going on here outside of “ew, worms.”
The Phantom of the Auditorium
Who the fuck is this guy? I’m supposed to be scared of some drama nerd? He’s only even this high because I don’t like masks.
Monster Blood IV
These are pretty creepy creatures, and credit for the top-notch disgusting shading details. Why, though, do they all have the kind of luscious, full lips people fly to Turkey to get put in on the cheap? Are they monsters from Planet Makeover?
Revenge of the Lawn Gnomes
We’re now entering the section of the list where the entries do at least have some unsettling power. We’re still far from genuinely frightening, but at the same time, I’d prefer these little buggers be punted as far away from me as possible.
A Shocker on Shock Street
Of all the stories listed, I remember this one the least, and I have a feeling it’s for good reason. So it’s like a big, metal bug? I mean, bugs aren’t my favorite, but also, this is more pleasant to look at than an actual photo of a real-life praying mantis.
This one is a doozy. I’m not sure if the artist intended it to be funny at first and then looked down and realized they had wrought somewhat of a genuine nightmare? It doesn’t feel like something you’d be proud to bring into this world.
Don’t Go to Sleep!
If I had to put money on which cover the artist wishes they could replace the most, outside of that Cronenbergian chicken monstrosity, it would be this one. Not because of the subject matter, which feels like pretty standard spooky fare, but because this thing is a nightmare perspective-wise. It doesn’t make me scared, it makes me motion-sick.
Piano Lessons Can Be Murder
Ghostly severed hands tinkling the ivory? That would be right at home in any number of hauntings. This portrayal of it, though, just ends up a little too clean. It feels like it was pulled off the wall of a cool, smoky jazz club.
Be Careful What You Wish For…
It feels fitting that we’re right around the halfway point with this cover. It’s the perfect control group of sorts: a classically spooky illustration, with nothing fighting it, but nothing to burn it into your brain either.
Cuckoo Clock of Doom
Directly after that, we say hello to our first truly horrifying animal. This also feels like the point where the artist is really starting to throw their weight around. They didn’t get any help from the title, but still managed to crank out an illustration that I’d genuinely ask someone to take down.
Honestly, I think this might be a little high. Where we are now, though, is smack-dab in the middle of a sort of muddy pool of mundane “horror” art. One mistake, I think, is that ghosts are not like jazz: It is not, in fact, all about the parts that are missing.
Monster Blood III
I don’t have much to say about this one other than I’m just now realizing the subconscious reasons behind me wearing red Chuck Taylors for much of my elementary school years.
I Live in Your Basement!
Not sure why he’s yelling, but okay. The laundry machine takes it down a notch, but honestly, for a kids’ book? This is some top-notch viscera. You can probably trace the roots of plenty of modern horror gore-hounds back to this picture.
The Ghost Next Door
I swear Converse must have had some sort of back-door sponsorship deal with Scholastic. Nothing particularly frightening in the image, but the sentiment holds up. I don’t care what age you are, as soon as you think someone’s at the door and then no one’s there? You’re not going back to your nap.
Attack of the Jack-O’-Lanterns
This one might actually be more scary to me as an adult because it looks like a bunch of mischievous teenagers who are going to push me off my bike or make cutting remarks about my hairline.
Welcome to Dead House
Like a pitch-perfect bit of stock illustration for spooky tales far and wide, and I mean that in an appreciative way. This scene is as central to the world of horror as screeching bats or stabbing violins.
Love a discarded pair of glasses. Drop those suckers in a pool of mysterious slime and I’m one-hundred-and-one percent on board. I’m turning the lights off to hear the harrowing tale of this unfortunate nerd.
The Curse of the Mummy’s Tomb
Outside of two strands of bandage that make this mummy look Hasidic, this is just a stone-cold classic. Creepy creature, glowing red eyes, all aboard.
This shit just absolutely rips. A pure classic bit of medium-spooky illustration. It feels like the cover of a Hardy Boys Halloween Special, and I mean that in the best possible way.
It Came From Beneath the Sink!
Part of being a functional adult is training yourself to think as little as possible about what might be hiding in various enclosed spaces throughout your home. Nobody, of any age, loves sticking their hand into a dark space. Forget actual monsters, all I need is one spider to decide I have one less cabinet now.
Welcome to Camp Nightmare
I consider all camping a nightmare, to be honest. I camped for the first time in years recently and rediscovered a fear of nature so strong I all but pissed in a borrowed sleeping bag instead of venturing into the darkness in the middle of the night.
The Blob That Ate Everyone
This portrait of a not-quite-Krang is one that gets worse the longer you look at it. It doesn’t pop out as immediately scary, but it was definitely one of the ones that made me go, “Oh, I remember hating this.”
You Can’t Scare Me!
Is anyone actually reading all 62 entries of this? I assume people are just reading 10 or so and then scrolling down to make sure the ventriloquist dummy made the top five. If you’re genuinely reading every entry, I owe you deep gratitude. Please let me know in the comments. Anyways, creepy mudmen.
The Girl Who Cried Monster
I remember this being an absolute banger, and the cover brings back those memories even more vividly. This is an absolutely perfect, unpleasant representation of a weird creep who eats bugs.
Deep Trouble II
Is this basically just a drawing of a fish? Yes. Is the fish in question absolutely fucking horrible? Also yes. Whenever I hear someone say the phrase “the ick,” I immediately visualize this awful fish.
Let’s Get Invisible!
Similar to the under-the-sink setting of one of the earlier entries, as soon as you include a big old mirror, your job is done. Toss a sheet over that thing and leave it in an attic and I will refuse to enter until it’s removed by a professional exorcist.
Finally, we’re starting to put all the parts together to make something more horrible than any one on its own. A snarling, deformed monster skin that you can practically hear and smell in your mind’s eye? Good shit.
The Barking Ghost
As far as the mission statement of “creepy ghost dog,” they’ve already nailed it. What really takes it over-the-top into “hiding this book in a drawer” territory is that the structure of this dog’s skull is just the right amount of wrong.
How I Got My Shrunken Head
I’ve always hated shrunken heads. Not that they’re something anyone’s displaying in their foyer for good vibes, but still. It’s just a visceral textural issue. Looking at one feels like my eyes are chewing overcooked mushrooms.
Anyone who’s ever seen The Ring knows just how terrifying a head that’s a little longer than normal can be. It doesn’t help that this vampire’s eye bags add an unwelcome “clown” vibe into the mix.
The Haunted School
A classic trick here. You think you’re just looking at a fun Technicolor school locker and then… the eyes. Fuck off!
The Haunted Mask II
Look, it’s well done, it’s scary. Honestly, it would probably rank higher, the only problem is that it’s going up against that other haunted mask, which you were probably picturing before you even opened the article.
Look, I’m scared of deep water, okay? I mean, it feels like cheating to just paint a shark attack, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t work on my landlubber brain.
Night of the Living Dummy III
Yup, we’ve made it to the dummies. Every one of you has probably been waiting for them, like the audience at a Bulls game watching for Michael Jordan to emerge from the tunnel. The third visit to the ventriloquist well, unfortunately, is less scary, as it turns out the math of more dummies equals more scary actually doesn’t check out. Especially when one of them looks like David Letterman.
My Hairiest Adventure
Indeed a horror novel, and not just a coming-of-age manual for young Greek boys, this one is another classic. Even though it doesn’t seem that scary by description, the back-alley Animorph energy it brings has a real and unwelcome staying power.
The Scarecrow Walks at Midnight
If we’re being honest, every single scarecrow could just as easily be named a scare-human.
Bad Hare Day
It may have received a slight posthumous boost from Donnie Darko, but man, this thing is miserable. I hadn’t thought about it in years, and then as soon as I looked at it, I suddenly understood what half of my nightmares were using as inspiration.
Why I’m Afraid of Bees
If that hairy kid had you uncomfortable, let me introduce you to Bee Boy. We’re almost 60 covers in, but this is the first one featuring a creature that I feel obligated to kill out of pity. This was made while God was blinking.
The Curse of Camp Cold Lake
As we knock on the door of the top five, we can fully throw the qualifier that these books are for kids out the window. This is just a very scary drawing. You could slap this on a modern horror movie poster without using anything but the crop tool.
Night of the Living Dummy II
The unwelcome return of everybody’s least favorite bit of woodworking. Still an awful, awful creature, but not as scary as the first time around, I assume due to the direct request of parents everywhere. They had to bury him in a bed of hot pink to put out a sequel that anyone would allow on school library shelves.
Stay Out of the Basement
The first phrase that comes to mind is, “They didn’t have to go that hard.” Even as a child, I knew two things about this cover: First, that it was an extremely skillful bit of painting; and second, that I never wanted to see it again. I kept an eye out for these VeggieTale ass fingers on the edge of every basement door for a year.
The Haunted Mask
You can stop scrolling now, here it is — the face that ruined a thousand school book fairs. An image that, if seen unexpectedly, at the right age, claims a small portion of your brain until the day you die. Want to remember the order of operations or your friend’s new partner’s name? No dice. Instead, you must remember The Mask.
Night of the Living Dummy
My apologies to anyone with a large computer monitor. Another head from the Goosebumps trauma Mount Rushmore. Maybe in the past, children actually enjoyed ventriloquists, but this book singlehandedly put an end to that. On the bright side, $3.25 for a paperback? Those were the days!
The Horror at Camp Jellyjam
Look, you can (and will) argue with me, but this is the face that, if the science was available, I would have removed from my consciousness. With the haunted mask, or the ventriloquist dummy, I at least understood why it was scary to me. This demon of a man, though, chilled me to the bone in a way my young brain could not make sense of. I’m still not completely sure why it’s so frightening to me, but if this face ever appeared to me in real life, I think my heart would explode like an egg in a microwave.