Skip to main content

Goosebumps' R.L. Stine Admitted To Stealing One Stephen King Plot 'Four Or Five Times' When The Authors First Met

Church in Pet Sematary
(Image credit: Paramount Pictures)

Between the many series he's created and singular titles, R.L. Stine has written and published hundreds of books over the course of his career, and producing at that rate has required a bit of... cribbing. Some of his ideas come from utilizing classic monster legends, but he also has taken many pointers from his colleagues in the literary community. This very much includes Stephen King, as Stine has confessed to "stealing" the premise of Pet Sematary for use multiple times for his own novels.

With R.L. Stine's most renowned series, Goosebumps, turning 30 this year, Yahoo! recently spoke with the author about his life and work. While discussing his method for building stories (which begins with figuring out a final twist and working backwards), he confessed to not only taking inspiration from writers like Rod Serling, Agatha Christie and Stephen King, but straight-up reusing their ideas. Said Stine,

I can't tell you how many Agatha Christie plots I've stolen! I think Stephen King's scariest book is Pet Sematary, and I've stolen that premise four or five times. [Laughs]

In Stephen King's 1983 novel Pet Sematary (which has been adapted twice for the big screen), a grieving father makes the horrific choice to bury his dead son in a supernatural graveyard that will see the child resurrected – choosing not to heed the warning of his friend and neighbor that "sometimes dead is better." It's worth noting that King took heavy inspiration from the classic story "The Monkey's Paw" for the novel, so one could argue that reduces the severity of the "plagiarism" here. 

R.L. Stine not only admitted stealing from Pet Sematary to the interviewer, but the author added that it's something that he has directly confessed to Stephen King personally. Apparently the two men only met once, but Stine took the opportunity to confess – and King chastised him for dominating a specific horror subgenre: 

Oh yeah, I told him! I've only met him once, and we had a nice talk. He accused me of taking every amusement park plot and not saving them for anyone else! [Laughs]

Again, to excuse R.L. Stine on some level, it's worth noting that Stephen King has written at least two amusement park-centric stories that I can think of: the 2013 novel Joyland, and the short story "Riding The Bullet."  

Further discussing his conversation with Stephen King, R.L. Stine evidently also commented on a link that had been made between their works, saying that his books are in essence a gateway to those by King. Said the writer,

I remember that I also said to him: 'Stephen, a magazine once called me a literary training bra for you,' which is true! And he said, 'Yes, I know.' I'm Stephen King for kids.

If one is looking for totally circumstantial evidence of this highlighted phenomena, I can say that I was personally a metaphorical student at that horror school. Goosebumps books were among my earliest exposure to the magic of the genre, and eventually my taste/reading skills matured to allow me to embrace the works of Stephen King.

One more common thread between R.L. Stine and Stephen King is that their books have made great fodder for Hollywood. In the case of the former, 2013's Goosebumps movie is streaming on FreeVee (opens in new tab) (with ads), and you can watch the Fear Street trilogy with a Netflix subscription.

As for King, there are far too many movies, miniseries and TV shows for me to list them all here, but you can enjoy my weekly deep dive into the history with my Adapting Stephen King column. And to keep track of all of the projects on the way we also have our Upcoming Stephen King Movies and TV guide.

Eric Eisenberg
Eric Eisenberg

NJ native who calls LA home; lives in a Dreamatorium. A decade-plus CinemaBlend veteran; endlessly enthusiastic about the career he’s dreamt of since seventh grade.