The cover illustration shows a girl following invisible ghost campers as lightning strikes in the background.
The Joke's on Them!
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?
Two brothers, Harry and Alex Altman are the sole occupants of the bus to Camp Spirit Moon. Alex starts to get sick while on the bus and Harry, being the helpful older brother tells him to take his mind off of it by singing. Alex is known for being a great singer and was supposed to go to Music Camp for summer, but because their parents enrolled them both too late, the only camp available was Camp Spirit Moon. Their bus driver stops in the middle of nowhere and tells the children to follow the trail into the forest by themselves. He tells them it is not too far to the camp, before driving away.
The two children lug their luggage through the forest on the shady path. Once they arrive at camp, they find the place deserted. Finally an older teenager stumbles out of the forest and tells the two children that the entire camp has left; only he can't get through it without laughing. He tells them that it is a traditional Camp Spirit Moon joke to trick the new campers into thinking the camp is abandoned. Uncle Marv, the head counselor, races out from hiding and greets the two children and begins to teach them 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 is goofy, but he still politely repeats it for Uncle Marv, as does Alex.
Uncle Marv drops the children off at their cabin, which is also abandoned. As they are deciding who sleeps on top and who sleeps on bottom, Harry steps in a sticky blue puddle of liquid. There are several strange blue, icy cold puddles inside the cabin. 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 children from the camp are gathered around the large fire and everyone, but the two brothers are wearing Camp Spirit Moon uniforms. While waiting in line for food, Harry looks behind him and sees that Alex has already made friends with a child. 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 fall in love with her immediately. Lucy and Harry watch as some child shoves an entire hot dog into his mouth, which causes Lucy to lead Harry away so they can be alone.
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.
Later, Uncle Marv announces to the group that he is going to tell the "two ghost stories." Uncle Marv explains that the two Camp Spirit Moon ghost stories he is about to tell have been passed down from generation to generation. Uncle Marv spins the first yarn, which is about a counselor that leads his troop deeper and deeper into a forest. The campers keep hearing a thumping sound coming from the ground. Finally the counselor realizes they had ventured too far into the forest 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.
Uncle Marv pauses while the counselors add wood to the fire and then begins the second ghost story, the story of the Ghost Camp. 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 ghost stories. A thick dark fog fell from the sky and enveloped the campers. It was so thick that they could not 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, turning them into ghosts. The ghosts of the campers then glumly rose up and made their way back to the cabins, knowing they would 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 forest as the wisps of the fog begin to snake their way down into the campgrounds from above. When the fog finally lifts, the two boys realize they are standing alone in the center of the circle. The camp grounds are silent and empty. 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.
Uncle Marv tells the camp that it is lights-out. After dark, Harry spots another puddle of blue goo and he looks around the room for what could be causing it. He does not get an answer but he sure raises an interesting new question as he spies Joey, one of their bunkmates hovering over his bed several feet in the air. The next morning Harry is hanging out with Joey and Sam, another bunkmate. 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. After the boys take off their shoes and mess around barefoot for a while, 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.
As if that was not weird enough, at dinner, Joey takes a fork and shoves it into his neck. He insists it is 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 boy vs. girl soccer game that night. On the way to the field, Lucy waves at Harry 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 even though his brother is standing so close beside Harry, he seems to appear far away. Harry tells Alex about the tent-pole incident. Alex notifies 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 was not 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. She ominously replies that she can hold her breath a long, long time. 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 forest. She tells him again that he has to help her. Naturally he is inclined to do so, and he swallows hard and asks what wrong. She tells him that he realizes everyone at camp is a ghost. Even her. Harry tries to tell himself that he doesn't believe in ghosts, not even gorgeous ones, but he realizes she is 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 is like to be a ghost and Lucy reveals that the blue puddles all around the camp are protoplasm that materializes and collects everytime the ghosts make themselves visible.
Lucy pleads with Harry to help her by allowing her to possess his mind and body. Harry is willing to go to third base tops, so he turns her down. She pleads with him and promises that once they leave the camp grounds she will leave his body. The only way for a ghost to escape the camp grounds is to possess a living human. Harry will not go that far and he starts to back away from a ghostly camper, 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 possessing 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 will reason with himself: he can stop her. He keeps yelling and howling into the night, and fights the urge to just lie 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 is 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 are 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 do not 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 did not! 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. 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, But is shoved out of the way by another camper who says Uncle Marv said he could go first. Lucy, a ghost camper is dragged away, Lucy tries to protest by saying she saw Harry first. The other ghostly campers 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.
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 realizes that Elvis had possessed his brother, Alex. Alex speaks in Elvis' voice and pleads with Harry not to tell anyone. In return, he won't sing.
Reprints and rereleases
2003 - 2007 reprint series
- The cover shows a girl (with blonde hair in a ponytail) despite the fact that both protagonists are boys.
- The Tagline is a reference to the United States Army's Slogan "Be All That You Can Be."
References in other Goosebumps media
- The title is seen on a book on the cover to the first issue of Monsters at Midnight.