By: Regi Caldart
R.L. Stine is back once again! Audible released this 4-story full cast audio anthology back in October as a part of their monthly Audible Originals. Because I’m always ready for some more Robert Lawrence in my life, I immediately downloaded it. I saw that he wrote the first story and that the other three tales came from more recent authors of middle grade horror whom I am admittedly not as familiar with. However, given how creeped out I got at some of the stories, I’ll have to track down more of their work! Let’s break down the campfire tales:
The Werewolf in the Woods – R.L. Stine
This is Amber’s first summer at Camp Red Moon, and she and her friend Mariah are a little bit concerned about their mutual friend, Peter. Peter is easily frightened, which makes him an easy target for bullying camp counselor Danny. As the howls get louder each night, Amber grows more and more worried about what Danny will do next to elicit a reaction…
It’s pure R.L. Stine in the vein of the original 62 Goosebumps novels, but astonishingly not the strongest entry in the anthology. That doesn’t make it any less fun, though. 3.5/5
The New Camper – Dan Poblocki
Richard is just coming into his own at Camp Red Moon when Sammie, his new bunkmate, knocks on his door one day. However, Sammie is truly not as meek and timid as he seems, and Richard’s world rapidly turns upside-down.
The creep factor is real with this one. By far the strongest entry in the anthology, The New Camper is equal parts horrifying and engaging. You can’t stop listening because you simply aren’t sure what will happen next. I can safely say that I’m going to find some more of Dan Poblocki’s works to see what else he does. 4.5/5
Battle of the Bots – Justin Reynolds
Jackson dreams about robots, and he specifically chose to go to Camp Red Moon because it has one of the best robotic programs in the state. He co-captains the robotics team with Morgan, a frequent winner of the battle bot championships. But something isn’t right with the opposing team this time around. They seem almost…inhuman.
I found this story less horror and more sci-fi, but it follows the same pattern you come to expect from a Goosebumps-style story: the beginning, the middle, and the twist. The twist to this was pretty fun, I think, and it was one of three possibilities I had come up with as the story went on. As I understand it, Justin Reynolds is a newer author, but I look forward to seeing more of his work! 3/5
The Ghost in Cabin Six – Ellen Oh
Steven and his new step-sister, Callie, are at Camp Red Moon for the summer to bond. Steven has been there multiple times, but this is Callie’s first time at camp, first time making smores, first time for everything, and she’s doing it all mostly for the likes. When one of the counselors tells a campfire tale about the ghosts that haunt Cabin Six, Callie gets the idea to go and see it for herself while dragging Steven along for the ride. But what they find is something they wish they hadn’t.
Ellen Oh is known for her middle grade and YA books in addition to her non-profit organization We Need Diverse Books. Though her story is the only ghost one in the whole anthology, it
creates a vivid picture of just how small actions can snowball into something much larger. It didn’t get under my skin the same way as The New Camper, but it’s definitely stuck with me. 4/5
The anthology is really well-suited to listening to with young horror fans ages 9 and up, but note that there is a little bit of swearing. You could also listen to it on your own under the covers at night. Who am I to judge? Overall: 3.75/5.