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The Scarecrow Walks at Midnight

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The Scarecrow Walks at Midnight
Tagline It's a field of screams!
Author(s) R.L. Stine
Cover artist Tim Jacobus
Publisher Scholastic
Media type Print (Paperback)
Release date May 1994
Pages 122
Number of Endings
Series Goosebumps
Series number 20
Saga None
Previous book Deep Trouble
Next book Go Eat Worms!

The Scarecrow Walks at Midnight was the twentieth book in the Goosebumps book series. It was preceded by Deep Trouble and followed by Go Eat Worms!.

The cover illustration featured an scarecrow just standing in the pole in the cornfield at night.


Plot

Jodie and Mark Bertram are going to their annual month-long visit to their grandparents' farm.  Stanley, the hired help, is a forty-something man described as being slow.  Stanley makes some small talk about people who have died and then says, “The scarecrows walk at midnight.”

Pulling into the farm, Jodie notices a lot of new scarecrows lining the fields.  Upon arrival, Grandpa Kurt and Grandma Miriam greet their grandchildren sort of half-heartedly.  Grandma Miriam serves some sandwiches to the famished children, although there is the promise of corn with dinner.

Jodie and Mark readjust to life on the farm. Stanley shows the children the scarecrows, which he made by following the instructions in his special superstition book.  Stanley sees that the corn in the field is covered in some sort of fungus and freaks out, as apparently his superstition book had warned him about corn growth.  Stanley tells the children that he also made the scarecrows walk with the help of his book. Then a scarecrow seems to come to life.  It is actually Sticks, Stanley's teenage son, playing a prank on the children.  Sticks has a good laugh.

After dinner, Jodie and her brother wait anxiously in the living room, hoping Grandpa Kurt will tell another one of his scary stories.  But Kurt provides no scary stories, opting instead to go to bed early.  Jodie turns away from the eight foot stuffed bear in the corner of the living room to share a private moment with the reader.  A lot of things seem different to Jodie on the farm, and she has become suspicious.  Her sleuthing skills have shown her that her grandparents seem less energetic and more tired than last year's visit.

The next morning, Jodie and her brother whine about not getting served chocolate chip pancakes.  Grandma Miriam tells the children that she no longer makes pancakes, as they are too fattening.  She sets down a bowl of corn flakes in front of Jodie, as Stanley pours himself a second bowl of the cereal.  The night before, Jodie and her brother had seen the scarecrows moving in unison.  She tells Grandpa Kurt about this astonishing occurrence but Stanley immediately insists that it was only the wind.  Jodie tries to press the issue but her grandparents swiftly change the subject and suggest that Stanley take the children fishing after breakfast.

Stanley leads the way towards the fishing hole.  But before they get very far, he makes the children circle the barn three times for good luck, as mandated by his book.  Once they finally get to the pond, Jodie spots a scarecrow spying on them and tells Stanley.  Stanley gets very worried and runs off, leaving the children behind.  Jodie tries to run after him, but he ignores her.  Jodie decides to tell Grandpa Kurt, but when she goes to look for him inside the silo, a scarecrow closes the door behind her, locking her inside.  She climbs up to the loft and leaps out of the building, spotting a scarecrow perched outside, watching her.  She runs into Sticks and accuses him of setting all of the scarecrows up to scare her.  When Sticks hears that his father got spooked, he immediately runs off to find Stanley.

Before dinner that night, Stanley comes up to Jodie, his superstition book under his arm.  He asks her not to tell her Grandfather about the scarecrows, that he will take care of them.  At the dinner table, Stanley slowly reads from his book to himself between bites.  More sleuthing from Jodie at dessert reveals that while apple pie is Grandpa Kurt's favorite, Grandma Miriam is instead serving cherry pie, which Stanley happily announces is his favorite.

That night, Jodie is awakened in the middle of the night by Grandpa Kurt, who climbs in through her bedroom window and reveals himself to be a scarecrow.  Jodie runs away and bumps into Grandma Miriam, who is also revealed to be a scarecrow.  Jodie wakes up from this dream and heads down for another bland breakfast.  Grandma Miriam tells the children that everyone else has gone into town, but they saddled up some horses in case they wanted to ride after eating.  The children take the horses down the trail along the corn fields when suddenly a scarecrow jumps in front of the horses.  They get spooked and knock both children to the ground.  Stanley runs over and helps the children up.  He thinks Mark's wrist might be broken and tells Jodie he saw the scarecrow that caused the trouble.  They debate keeping their promise not to tell their grandparents about the scarecrows, as Jodie is convinced that somehow Sticks is still behind these pranks.  When they finally spill it to Grandpa Kurt, he and his wife just laugh it off as no big deal, arguing that Sticks "loves his jokes."  Jodie hears the truck pull into the guest house's driveway and goes out to confront Sticks.

She peeks her head inside a barn near the guest house and spots a pile of scarecrow clothes, a stack of unlit torches, and a bottle of kerosene.  Sticks shows up and shoos her away from the supplies, insisting that he is not trying to scare her.  Jodie has had enough and decides that she is going to scare Sticks in retribution.

Jodie's plan is to dress Mark up as a scarecrow and have him hang from a pole with the other scarecrows in the field. Jodie will lead Sticks to the field and then Mark will "come to life," scaring Sticks. Jodie gets one of the costumes from the barn and dresses Mark, then sets off to get Sticks. As she is walking through the cornfield though, she sees that Mark is following behind her.   She is confused as to why he has left his post, when it dawns on her that this scarecrow is just Sticks in disguise.  She yells out his name, only to see him appear on the stoop of the guest house.  Sticks runs over and pummels the scarecrow.  It was an actual scarecrow that followed her!

Sticks then explains to Jodie what is going on.  A few weeks before Jodie and her brother arrived, Stanley read an ancient spell from his book and brought the scarecrows to an awakened life.  This terrified Jodie's grandparents and they made Stanley promise to undo his spell.  He agreed, but on the condition that they adjust their life to doing the things he likes and making the food he enjoys.  Stanley recanted the incantation, but can't account for what's occurred: some of the scarecrows never went back to sleep!  Sticks has been keeping it a secret from his father though because he does not want Stanley to recast the spell, thus re-waking all of the scarecrows.  Stanley bursts out of the house, having heard bits of their conversation.  He prepares to recite the spell so that he can exert authority over the legion of scarecrows, but Sticks talks him out of it, telling him that no more scarecrows are awake.  Then Mark comes off his pole in the scarecrow costume.

Stanley flips and runs off with his book to bring the scarecrows back to life. Sticks gives quick chase and the two children bring up the rear. Jodie spots Stanley and Sticks standing in front of a pair of scarecrows. Sticks, frozen in fear, remains motionless as his father brings the scarecrows to life. Sticks snaps out of it and yells at the children to run and tell their grandparents what Stanley has done. As the children run towards the farmhouse, they see a wave of scarecrows making their way out of the fields.

The adults had heard the screaming of the children and were waiting for them in the backyard. They hear screaming, as Stanley and Sticks run towards the house. Stanley hollers, "They won't obey me!" as they pull up to meet with the others. Stanley is panicked and can't figure out how to stop the coming onslaught as dozens of scarecrows encircle the family. Jodie gets too close to Mark in his scarecrow costume and sneezes, causing him to jump up. The approaching scarecrows also jump. Jodie tests her theory by having him raise his right arm. All the scarecrows raise their right arm. Jodie thinks quickly and tells Mark to pull off his mask. He does and then all the other scarecrows follow suit, their heads dropping to the dusty ground. But this does not stop them; in fact it only causes them to advance quicker, as Mark no longer resembles one of them.

Jodie notices Sticks is no longer in the victim circle.  Suddenly a bright flash appears from behind the line of advancing scarecrows; it is Sticks, and he has got lit torches.  Sticks wields the torches like baseball bats and burns every scarecrow to ashes. "Never again", says Stanley.

Jodie is sitting alone in the living room, relaxing, as she hears Stanley reading quietly in the other room. The stuffed bear in the corner moves its paws and licks its lips, as it moves towards her. Jodie yells at Stanley saying "Stanley"? "Stanley"? "What chapter are you reading"? And the book ends.

Trivia

Television Adaptation

  • At the end, instead of a teddy bear walking towards Jodi, a harvester comes to life approaching the house from Stanley's reading. The harvester also saves the family from the scarecrows, shredding the scarecrows.

Television Episode Trivia

  • This is the first of three television episodes on the Goosebumps DVD of the same name.

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