R.L. Stine: What's Scarier?

Nov 21, 2013
Originally published on October 22, 2015 3:04 pm

You'd think a guy who writes scary books for a living would know a thing or two about what makes our hearts race and our palms sweat. We put the best-selling horror author of the Goosebumps and Fear Street series to the test in this Ask Me Another Challenge based on an audience poll. Did Stine know what scares our listeners more: ghosts, or being alone for the rest of your life?

Plus, hear Stine recite (from memory!) his favorite fan letter of all time, and reveal the only thing that scares him: jumping into a body of water.

This segment originally aired on November 21, 2013.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit


Now let's welcome back our very important puzzler, author of the "Goosebumps" series, R.L. Stine.


EISENBERG: Now, you've spent your career scaring other people. What scares you?

R.L. STINE: Nothing.


STINE: Nothing scares me. If I go to a horror movie, I'm the one laughing.

EISENBERG: I actually heard about something that scares you.

STINE: You heard of something?

EISENBERG: Mm-hmm. How do you feel about water? Like a body of water. That you have to jump in. How do you feel about that?

STINE: Yeah, I can't do that.


STINE: I have a problem with that. Well, you have to understand I'm from the middle of Ohio.


STINE: There's no water. There's no - I didn't see the ocean till I was 22. I have problems with it.


STINE: And I've never been able to jump into a swimming pool. We have a swimming pool and my nephews just think it's hilarious that the scary guy is too scared, who has to climb in on the ladder.

WILL HINES: So you see "The Exorcist" and you love it but "Row, Row Your Boat" sends you into a seizure.


STINE: That's about it. But it was nice of you to embarrass me tonight.


EISENBERG: When you receive fan mail from your readers, what do they say to you as far as, like, what scares them or what kind of letters do you get?

STINE: Here's my all-time favorite letter. All-time favorite. Dear R.L. Stine: I've read 40 of your books and I think they're really boring.


STINE: Isn't that wonder--it's perfect, right? It's a perfect letter.

EISENBERG: I love your sense of humor.

STINE: Oh, thank you.

EISENBERG: I could see why you laugh in a horror movie. So since you know a lot about what scares people we have a quiz that we've put together about things that scare us. We have asked our listeners to tell us which of two things scared them more and your job this time is to tell us how you think they responded.

STINE: Oh, interesting.



EISENBERG: And if you answer right Mollie Morgan in Florence, South Carolina is going to win a special ASK ME ANOTHER prize.

STINE: I'll try hard.

EISENBERG: All right. Here we go. What did our listeners say scared them more, the sight of blood or the sound of thunder?

STINE: Blood.

EISENBERG: That is correct.


EISENBERG: Eighty-two percent had already been struck by lightning and they didn't care. No.


EISENBERG: They thought blood was scary. I would pick that. Right? Sound of thunder?

JONATHAN COULTON: Neither one is particularly scary, I don't think.

EISENBERG: Oh, well. Jonathan Coulton.

HINES: I'm scared of both of them.


EISENBERG: I think this one's a little bit more difficult. Emotional intimacy or sharks?


STINE: I would say sharks.

EISENBERG: Yeah. They said - 87 percent of them said sharks.


EISENBERG: Ventriloquist dolls or a swarm of bees? These are very equally matched.

STINE: That's kind of tough.


STINE: I would say, having written about 40 books about a ventriloquist doll...

EISENBERG: Yeah. Yeah.

STINE: ...I would choose that.

EISENBERG: That's what I would choose too. Seventy-one percent said swarm of bees.

STINE: Yeah. Something real.


STINE: Yeah.

EISENBERG: To be fair, we did ask a lot of puppeteers, so.


EISENBERG: This is an interesting one: a needle drawing blood or a paper cut on their eyeball.


STINE: Oh. Now, see, that's too - ha ha. I wouldn't want any help from the audience.


STINE: I'm going to have to use that in a book. I would go with the paper cut, definitely.

EISENBERG: Yeah, 96 percent said paper cut.


EISENBERG: Ghosts or being alone for the rest of your life?

STINE: Being alone.

EISENBERG: Yeah, 80 percent said being alone.


EISENBERG: This is your final one: Seeing your parents naked or your parents seeing you naked. Now, remember, we have no idea how attractive the parents...

STINE: Yeah.

EISENBERG: ...or the child is.


EISENBERG: We have no idea.

STINE: Yeah. No, you have to go with seeing your parents. That's - no. No.


STINE: No way.

EISENBERG: Seeing your parents naked? Yeah.

STINE: Yeah. I'm actually feeling a little sick.


EISENBERG: Yeah, 75 percent said seeing your parents naked.


EISENBERG: Bob, you nailed that one. Congratulations.

STINE: Thank you.


EISENBERG: You and Mollie are both going to receive an official ASK ME ANOTHER Rubik's Cube. And you were amazing to talk to. Thank you so much.

STINE: Thank you. Ophira, this has been so much fun. Thank you very much. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.