Thrills and Chills: A History of Fear Street


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The Fear Street books, written by R.L. Stine, have experienced a resurgence in popularity. And I am here for it. I know most people attribute this to the movie trilogy that Netflix released back in July. Don’t get me wrong; the movies were amazing. I’ve watched them numerous times and have zero regrets. I even expanded on my love of it and all the bookish references it had.

But in reality, this resurgence of interest started back in 2014 with the Party Games and continued with 2018’s Return to Fear Street trilogy of books that started with You May Now Kill the Bride. I do not mind admitting that I squealed like a teenager when I saw it, because that was my childhood coming back to life. Sometimes it’s hard to believe that Fear Street has been around as long as it has.

The New Girl by RL Stine book cover

The New Girl was the first book in the Fear Street series, published in 1989. Since then, the series has published 51 books in the original series and the various spin-offs. Overall, it has sold 80 million copies. One of the drawing factors of Fear Street is it was scary without being too scary. Unlike his primary writing peer of the time, Christopher Pike, Stine’s books always had a tinge of humor to them, mainly due to Stine being an admitted jokester himself.

But there was still enough tension, suspension, and no shortage of cliffhanger chapters to keep readers clamoring for more. While some adult readers sneered at it for being trash, much like the first adult character we see in the opening of Fear Street Part One: 1994, some had the mentality that at least it got teenagers reading. 

Guess which camp I’m in? 

Unlike Stine’s other well-known series, Goosebumps, these books were never challenged. Or at least they weren’t as far as I could find. But I don’t imagine there were a lot of parents happy with their kids devouring it like so much candy, especially when actual murders started happening within the pages. Still, librarians and teachers were, for the most part, happy with the fact that kids were choosing to read. 

The Original Fear Street Series

The original Fear Street series had a total of 51 books ending with Trapped. While the characters that didn’t meet a tragic end would sometimes show up in other books, overall there wasn’t much depth to the characters. This was intentional, Stine told CNN. He wanted the reader to feel like a character so he didn’t spend a lot of time on development. Which, on some level, was fair since there was a 50/50 chance they would die.

Cover of Double Date
This will not end well for Bobby…

Even though this was a horror series, there was always an overlaying sense of humor to each story with a twist at the end. Personally, I would call it a “gotcha” ending. The only book that had an unhappy ending was The Best Friend. The ending was so hated that Stine and Pocket Books (the publisher at the time) ran a contest for the sequel. This gave the readers a chance to pick bad girl Honey’s fate. After that, Stine never tried an unhappy ending again (and who could really blame him)?

But that kind of reaction just showcases how much this series resonated with its readers and the lasting power it would have. Some favorites of mine from that original series were body swap story Switched and Double Date. I also enjoyed and Fear Hall: The Beginning and Fear Hall: The Conclusion, because I did not see that ending coming

The Super Chiller specials were ones that were ones that some might have considered extra scary. I don’t think they were longer, pagewise,  than the regular ones. But they tended to have a darker tone, such as with the Silent Night trilogy and the Cheerleader pentalogy (more on that later). With regards to Silent Night, Stine has even said that Reva was “really fun to write” because of how unlikable she was. These ones also tended to have a more supernatural spin to it, such as the vampires in Goodnight Kiss and Goodnight Kiss 2.

Fear Street Trilogies

Readers began to have questions. My ever present one was why do people move and stay here? I guess it makes some sort of sense especially if you consider the current housing market. I can’t say that I wouldn’t overlook a few murders if it was affordable housing. 

The Betrayal by RL Stine book cover
That necklace though…

Anyways, the actual most popular question was why was Fear Street so evil? What made it that way? Stine answered this with the Fear Street Saga that told the story of the Fier and Goode family. This included their rivalry that ended in tragedy and resulted in Fear Street being the cursed place it became. The first book was fittingly title The Betrayal, seen here; and I cannot tell you how much young me wanted that necklace on the cover. It was followed by The Secret and The Burning.

These books covered the historic rivalry between the two families. It also told what happened when two young people from each side fell in love. Given all we know about how Fear Street is in modern times, I’m sure you can guess how well that ended. But the change from the surname Fier to Fear happened here, so there’s a bit of Fear Street history for you! 

Stine included a few other trilogies in the first generation of the series. There was 99 Fear Street: The House of Evil, which, as one might guess, features a haunted house that kills anyone who tries to inhabit it. Stine put his own spin on the possessed car trope with The Cataluna Chronicles about a white Cataluna that runs on evil and murder in addition to gasoline. And we can’t forget the Fear Park books! The first in this sub-series was fittingly titled The First Scream. These books were about the opening of an amusement park. The kicker was it was being built on grounds cursed by the Fear family in 1935 to prevent a carnival from being  built there. So, yeah sure, that seems like a great spot to build an amusement park. It’s completely different from a carnival, right?

The Cheerleaders

The Shadyside cheerleaders are rumored to be cursed. This is due in part to a ghost that was released by the cheerleaders from Shadyside cemetery. Talk about school spirit, huh? (Sorry, couldn’t resist, please keep reading). The First Evil starts innocently enough with sisters Bobbi and Corky making it on the cheerleading squad. After they do, though, strange things start happening — like death. Corky is the main protagonist for these books (so I’m sure you can guess what happens to poor Bobbi) and stays that way for the entirety of the five books.

The entity was just known “the Evil” and, as with everything else cursed in Shadyside, lead back to the Fear family. One notable thing here is that the family member in question was Sarah, someone who readers and fans of the movie are well acquainted with.

The Fear Street Seniors

Cover of Graduation Day

This 12 book series took place over an entire senior year that found the class casually being killed off. Is it a curse? Probably. To be fair, it’s always a curse in Shadyside. Or an unstable person. Or an unstable person stricken with a curse. Seriously, why do people continue to live here?

One interesting thing about this set of books is that the beginning of each book had yearbook photos. As the class dwindled, pictures got marked off. Think about how you may have X-ed out pictures of enemies and former friends in your own yearbook (which I’m sure we all did) and you’ll get the idea. Which, while small, I found to be a very creative choice.

Fear Street Sagas

These books expanded more on the tragic history of Nora Goode and Daniel Fier that we started learning about in the first trilogy mentioned above and follow others notable members in their family. There was more of a focus on supernatural elements here, such as werewolves, vampires, and witches. But it still centered around the overhanging curse of the Fier family that followed them and their descendants.

They were also more historical in that they took place in the early days of Shadyside and Fear Street. The family surname also changed between Fier and Fear, depending on the setting. The stories served to shed more light on the why behind why Shadyside was the way it was. Special call-out for The Awakening Evil, which expanded on the Evil that haunted Corky and the Shadyside cheerleaders almost a century later.

Fear Street Nights

The Night People are a secret group of Shadyside teenagers. They start meetings as a way to take a break from the stress of their lives. And, before you ask what kind of stress a teenager can have, remember they live in a place where teenagers die all the time and it’s taken as the norm. All goes well even after they move from meeting at the abandoned and haunted Fear mansion to local bar Nights (hence the name). At least, until horrible accidents and pranks began to happen. When it moves on to murder, the group realizes they need to find and stop the source of the evil before they all perish.

I would think that in a town that everyone pretty much acknowledged was cursed that secret clubs would be a no-go. But then again, people keep living here, so…

I also want to give a special to the New Fear Street books. Those included The Stepbrother, Camp Out, Scream, Jennifer, Scream, and The Bad Girl. Nothing particularly set these apart from the main series. In fact, it seems the only difference was the special call out of being “new.” There was also the Ghosts of Fear Street series which was for younger readers, with a few rumored to have been ghostwritten. Given the fact that Stine has the Goosebumps series, these books seemed a bit unnecessary.

Fear Street: 2014

Cover of Give me a K-I-L-L

Sorry for any false hope, but that’s not the title of an upcoming new movie. It’s the set of books that Stine published in that year. He had tweeted out he felt discouraged from writing more in the series, as many publishers had told him teenagers no longer wanted horror and were all about dystopia. Upon seeing that a publisher contacted him and he wrote six more books in the Fear Street series. This new generation started with Party Games, issued in hardcover. These books, roughly 100 pages longer than their predecessors, were also more violent. This change was purposeful to fit with what the youth of today was use to. The last book in this smaller sub-series was Give Me a K-I-L-L. I am unsure if it was intentional or not, but it was a nice call back to the Shadyside cheerleaders from the original series.

Return to Fear Street

This trilogy came out in 2018 but unlike the others there isn’t a recurring theme connecting them. They were just some new terrifying stories that took place on the titular street. Unlike the ones released in 2014, these covers were retro in that they called back to the original covers in their art style. That was a welcome rush of nostalgia for all book dragons when that happened, as well as the return to the beloved street and series.

One thing to note about this one and the 2014 series though is that it centered around the students at Shadyside high. While it would have been easy to focus on adults, since that would have been the age of the people who grew up with the original series, Stine kept to writing for teenagers. I like to think this helped to bridge a gap between young readers and their parental counterparts.

Future of Fear Street

As of right now, that was the last book in the series but there may be more on the horizon especially with the popularity of the movies. With the exception of the inclusion of the Fier/Fear and Goode family, the movies were also entirely new stories. So, it shows that there can still be more written about this street and Shadyside overall.

As is the norm horror movies these days, the ending left a huge opening for a sequel or multiple ones. But what about the series? The fact that they were two separate sets of books four years apart that took us back there shows that there is still a desire to read about the street of horrors. When you factor in the popularity of the movies, well it would only seem logical that more books would follow.

In the meantime, there are numerous ways we can satisfy our Fear Street urges. Books from the original series that aren’t available in ebook format can still be found in most second-hand stores, even though it may be a hunt with the new popularity. There are probably also other sites to purchase from.

As an aside, don’t pay the astronomical prices that some people are trying to sell them for on Amazon. Please. These books originally cost less than $3 to buy and probably less than that to bind. There’s no reason to pay over $5 for them now, even if they are in mint condition and with inflation.

And since the 2014 and 2018 books are still recent, they can be easily bought or borrowed from most libraries. However you choose to return there, I hope that you have fun.

Just be sure to keep a light on when you close the book. You know…just in case.


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