R.L. Stine

Wicked Wednesday: Ghosts of Fear Street Pilot (1998)

If there’s anything I love more than a made-for-TV movie, it’s lost TV pilots (or even better -TV movies that double as pilots). While reading up on the Fear Street movies on Netflix, I read about the mostly-forgotten pilot of the Ghosts of Fear Street show.

The TV show was meant to be based on R.L. Stine’s Ghosts of Fear Street series, a spin-off of the Fear Street series that was meant for younger readers. But in both series, the books take place in the town of Shadyside.

The pilot starts off with a classic twist: a story within the story. Author father PJ Murphy tests out his latest story on his children. The kids are unenthusiastic about his story of the bug people living next door (and if they’re bored – so are we!).

They three children learn that they are to help move their Grandpa out of his B&B in Shadyside. When they arrive, the family find the house full of quirky objects and ghosts. Each of the children set off to explore. Mickey meets an invisible dog. Kit meets the neighborhood goth, Kit. And Joe gets the fright of his life when he meets a bug man.

After Joe steals a car battery with the plans to “zap” the bug man, PJ stops him. He tells the children that things on Fear Street aren’t exactly normal.

But while moving out, mother Anne realises that she didn’t like the idea of her father leaving his home. So the parents announce that the kids will be staying on Fear Street for the rest of the summer.

The pilot for Ghosts of Fear Street was aired in 1998, apparently to some abysmal ratings. It’s strange to think of anything that Stine touched not being extremely popular – particularly in this era. Perhaps too much of a good thing? Or maybe this was the time when horror on children’s TV was declining?

If the Fear Street series was adapted initially, perhaps it would have found an audience that wasn’t already distracted by the original Goosebumps show. A teen Scream (as the Netflix trilogy feels like). Ghosts is a lot goofier than Goosebumps. More like a zany toothpaste ad. Not exactly something that would scare most children, unless they were really young.

The story itself isn’t strong. Especially for a pilot. While I’m always a champion for children’s horror, this felt flat. But with plenty of adaptions with Stine’s name on them, it’s not like we’re ever feeling cheated!