Say Cheese and Die! is the fourth book in the original Goosebumps book series, and the first book in the Say Cheese and Die saga. It was first published in 1992. The book follows Greg and his friends who discover a strange camera, and things get chaotic after he takes a lot of pictures. It was later followed-up by the forty-sixth book, Say Cheese and Die - Again!.
The cover illustration features a skeleton family having a picnic, with a husband flipping burgers on the barbecue, a wife holding a plate of hamburger buns, a kid with a cap in orange t-shirt holding a hot dog, and the other kid with blue sleeveless shirt brushing its hair.
While wondering what to do on a boring summer day, four friends named Greg, Michael, Doug (nicknamed Bird) and Shari decide to investigate the Coffman House, an old, abandoned house which revolves around several spooky and freaky stories. It is the home of a strange, old man nicknamed "Spidey", because of his spider-like appearance. While searching the home, Greg discovers a strange camera within a hidden compartment in a basement wall. Given his interest in photography, Greg takes a picture of his friend Michael who is leaning on the basement stair railing. Suddenly, the railing gives way and Michael falls. Michael is found to have hurt his ankle upon landing. Greg discovers that the picture does not show Michael standing by the railing at all, but instead falling. While the friends cannot come up with a logical explanation for the strange photograph, all discussion ceases when footsteps are heard and the four friends flee the house taking the camera with them.
As time goes on Greg takes a picture of his father's new car, but the picture depicts the car totally wrecked. Later, Greg takes a picture of his brother Terry, who is in his bedroom on his computer. But the picture shows him elsewhere, in a worried state, and in front of a house.
The next day, Greg goes to his friend Bird's baseball game; a picture of Doug is taken and the picture depicts him lying on the ground with his neck bent in an unnatural angle. Doug dismisses this idea and even fakes the picture's scene coming true, in an attempt to show Greg and Shari that the camera is simply broken. However, while playing the game he is hit by an oncoming baseball. In fact, he lands in such a way that his neck is bent into the unnatural angle. Now, Greg is convinced that the camera is somehow responsible, but his friends are still unwilling to believe these ideas. It is at this point that Terry's picture comes true, as he approaches Greg and claims that their father was in an accident and the car is totally wrecked.
Greg then has a nightmare of taking a picture of his family during a backyard barbecue, but is horrified to see them as skeletons.
Shari, still skeptical of the camera's powers, has Greg bring the camera to her birthday party and insists that he takes her picture. Greg reluctantly agrees but finds that when the picture develops, only the background has come out and Shari is nowhere to be seen. Not long afterwards, Shari disappears.
In the days that follow, Greg's picture is taken and he sees that he and Shari are panicked by a shadow that comes over them. Greg is worried, yet hopeful, when he sees this picture. Because at this point, Shari is still missing, but the picture clearly shows Shari.
Shari remains missing for days, until Greg tears up the picture. Shari then returns as suddenly and mysteriously as she disappeared. She apparently has no memory of where she went.
While talking to Greg about her disappearance, the picture of the two being panicked by a shadow over them comes true when Spidey appears before them. He chases them for a while, until a neighbor threatens to call the police on him. They finally are safe.
Finally, deciding that the camera is too dangerous to be kept, Greg and Shari decide to return it to its hiding place in Spidey's home. Doug and Michael don't want anything more to do with the evil camera. However, as they are returning it to the Coffman House, Spidey catches the children on their way out and reveals the camera’s origin. Spidey turns out to be a mad scientist, named Dr. Fritz Fredericks, and his lab partner had created the camera. However, Spidey, being greedy, decided to steal the camera and market it as his own invention. But his partner was evil- not only a scientist, but a master of the dark arts, and he decided that if he could not profit from the camera, no-one would. He put a curse on the camera making it show bleak future events which would then occur and it was impossible to break, meaning that the camera would survive till the end of the world.
Spidey says that the camera caused the deaths of people he loved. Spidey had spent most of his life trying to keep the camera from being discovered and had sacrificed all he held dear to do so, but now that Shari and Greg know it's true power, he is afraid that they will divulge it's truths, and so he resolves to keep them imprisoned in his home forever. However, during a struggle with Greg and Shari, his picture is accidentally taken with the camera and he dies of fright. The picture depicts this very event occurring. With the camera returned to its hiding place, Shari and Greg finally escape the building. They notify the Pitts Landing police, saying that they discovered Spider's body in the house after running in to escape the rain, and believe it to be over.
At the end of the story two bullies named Joey Ferris and Mickey Ward, who had previously shown interest in the camera, are shown to have found the camera after following Greg to the Coffman house. We learn they have also taken a picture with it, and the story ends with the boys waiting to see what their photograph shows.
Reprints and rereleases
Say Cheese and Die! was first reprinted in October 1995 as part of Monster Edition #1, along with Welcome to Dead House and Stay Out of the Basement. It received its first standalone reprint in September 2003. The following year, it was included in the Vanishing Collection, which included books 4 - 6 from the original series. On October 28, 2015, it was rereleased for the fifth time as part of the Goosebumps Retro Scream Collection, along with four other books.
Say Cheese and Die! was reprinted for the fourth time in April 2009 as the eight book in the Classic Goosebumps series, and as a tie-in to the eight Goosebumps HorrorLand book, Say Cheese — and Die Screaming!. It contained a bonus section titled 'Fright Gallery', which contains a bio on the camera, its origins, special powers, weaknesses, as well as its 'Splat Stats', which are as follows: Strength 8/10 Intelligence: 3/10 Speed: 2/10 Attack Skills: 7/10 Humor: 1/10 Evil: 10/10
2003 - 2007 reprint series
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- R.L. Stine got the plot for this book and television episode from Rod Serling's The Twilight Zone television episode, A Most Unusual Camera. R.L. Stine was a big fan of the show and much of his work was inspired by Serling.
- Joey and Mickey are never heard from again, and their status is left unknown in the sequel. Their picture surprisingly is also nowhere to be found, although it's likely they took the picture with them, and it was gruesome and nasty.