Freaks and Shrieks

Freaks and Shrieks

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by R. L. Stine

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Max made a deal with Nicky and Tara, the two ghosts who live in his bedroom: If he helps them figure out how they turned into ghosts, they’ll help Max prove to his dad that he isn’t a worthless wimp.
Well, Max is about to make good on his promise. There’s a witness who saw what happened to the kids. A witness who may know the secret to bringing


Max made a deal with Nicky and Tara, the two ghosts who live in his bedroom: If he helps them figure out how they turned into ghosts, they’ll help Max prove to his dad that he isn’t a worthless wimp.
Well, Max is about to make good on his promise. There’s a witness who saw what happened to the kids. A witness who may know the secret to bringing them back to life. The problem is the witness is a chimpanzee! And Max is going to switch brains with him to learn the secret. Will Max find the secret– or will he go from a worthless wimp to a worthless chimp?

From the Hardcover edition.

Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature
Nicky and Tara appear to be your typical siblings—except for one thing. They are ghosts and not entirely sure why. Their parents fought evil and are trying to figure out how to bring the family back to life. Max, a budding magician, is the only person who can see Nicky and Tara. The kids are great friends. Dr. Smollett shows up claiming to have valuable information to save the family. However, it can only be given to them if they can find a human willing to temporarily switch brain waves with a chimpanzee. Tara and Nicky persuade Max to undergo the painless but risky experiment. It all goes horribly wrong when Dr. Smollett tricks the kids and disappears with Max's brain. The chimpanzee brain changes Max's behavior. He now likes to swing from trees and eat bananas. Tara and Nicky must find a way to not only get their friend's brain back but help their parents, too. The theme of loyal friendship is nicely demonstrated in this creative plot. Point of view is a good aspect to highlight as it changes frequently through the chapters. Some topics worth exploring in coordination with this book are animal experimentation, trusting strangers, and positive friendship traits. 2005, Delacorte Press/Random House Children's Books, Ages 8 to 12.
—Julie Schneggenburger

Product Details

Random House Children's Books
Publication date:
Mostly Ghostly
Sold by:
Random House
Sales rank:
File size:
3 MB
Age Range:
7 - 10 Years

Read an Excerpt


Dr. Smollet’s lab was in a three-story white stucco building. A barbed wire fence surrounded the place. I saw empty lots on both sides. No stores or houses on the block.

He opened the gate with a key and led us to the white front door. I saw rows of tiny windows rising up to the flat red roof. All the windows were barred.

As soon as we stepped inside, I heard the shrill cries.

Animal cries. Shrieks and howls. Muffled behind a long row of closed doors.

Dr. Smollet noticed my surprise. “Don’t pay any attention,” he said. “We do a lot of animal experiments here. The animals are all well cared for.”

We started down a long white hall. Even the carpet was white. The animal cries became fainter as we turned a corner that led into another white hall.

Nicky and Tara glanced around nervously.

“Did our parents work here?” Tara asked.
Dr. Smollet nodded. He led us into a big square room filled with computer equipment. The walls were solid white. Bright lights beamed down from the low ceiling.

I saw rows of laptops on two long tables. Cables stretched above our heads. Large electronic machines beeped and hummed against one wall. Red and blue lights blinked.

Flat-screen monitors filled another wall. The monitors flashed numbers and equations and formulas.

Dr. Smollet pulled off his raincoat and suit jacket and tossed them on a chair. He tugged down the sleeves of his starched white shirt.

I could still hear the animal shrieks in the distance. Sad, frightened cries. They made me feel frightened too.

Had we made a big mistake?

I swallowed hard. My mouth was suddenly very dry, and my hands felt as cold as ice. I jammed them into my jeans pockets–and felt the deck of trick cards.

Will I get out of here in time to see Ballantine?

The lab was neat and clean. The monitors blinked silently. The big electronic machines clicked and hummed. Dr. Smollet smiled as the three of us gazed around.

“This lab belonged to your parents,” he told Nicky and Tara. “This is where they worked. And I worked here alongside them.”

“Wow,” Nicky said, shaking his head. He walked up to a long table of laptops. “I think I remember being here. It’s a faint memory. But it’s coming back to me.”

“Yes, I remember the computers,” Tara said. “And all those wires and cables on the ceiling.”

She tugged at her dangling plastic earrings.

She always pulled them when she was thinking hard or trying to remember something.

“We were here, Nicky,” she said. “I know we were. Why can’t I remember it better?”

Dr. Smollet leaned on the table with his hands.

“That’s what we’re here to find out,” he said.

He pointed to the machines against the wall.

“Your parents and I worked here, capturing evil ghosts. Your parents were on a mission. They believed that a lot of the evil in the world was caused by these spirits. Your parents found a way to capture them and keep them prisoner here.”

Dr. Smollet sighed. “But one evil ghost–a man named Phears–escaped. I tried to fight him off. But he was too powerful for me. He injured me. He knocked me out. When I came to, all the evil ghosts had escaped. Phears had freed them all.”

“We–we’ve run into Phears,” Nicky said.

Dr. Smollet’s blue eyes grew wide. “You and your sister were here in the lab on that awful day. Don’t you remember? Don’t you understand?”

Nicky and Tara froze. They stared at him. Speechless.

“We . . . didn’t know,” Tara said finally.

“You were visiting your parents here,” Dr. Smollet said. “When Phears escaped, he did something to your family. To all four of you.”

“You were here,” I said. “Didn’t you see what happened to them?”

Dr. Smollet shook his head. “No. I didn’t see anything. I was out cold.”

He took a deep breath and smoothed back his white hair. “But I have someone here who saw everything,” he said. “I have a witness. I told you his name. Mr. Harvey.”

“Where is he?” Tara asked.

Nicky strode up to Dr. Smollet. “Can we talk to him? Is he here now?”

Dr. Smollet nodded. “Mr. Harvey is the only one who saw everything that happened that day.

He saw Phears escape. He saw Phears free the other ghosts. And he saw what Phears did to you and your parents.”

The scientist loosened his tie. It was cool in the lab, but beads of sweat rolled down his forehead.

“Mr. Harvey may know the secret. He may know how to bring your family back to life,” he said, gazing intently at my two ghost friends.

“Please–can we see him?” Tara cried. “Can we talk to him now?”

Dr. Smollet cleared his throat. He tugged at his tie again. “Well . . . there’s a small problem. I’ll show you.”

He swung away from the table and walked quickly out of the lab. The door closed behind him.

Nicky and Tara stared at each other. Then they turned to me.

“I . . . I don’t know what to say,” Tara confessed.

“I’m shaking!”

“Me too,” Nicky said, his voice cracking. He pumped his fists in the air. “This is too good to be true. Do you think Mr. Harvey really can bring us back to life? And tell us what happened to us?”

The lab door swung open.

Dr. Smollet stepped in, followed by another figure.

“This is Mr. Harvey,” Dr. Smollet said.

Tara’s mouth dropped open.

Nicky gasped.

I stared hard at Mr. Harvey. My brain felt as if it was spinning in my head. “But . . . but . . . ,” I stammered. “Mr. Harvey is a chimp!”


Dr. Smollet led the chimp by the hand.

Mr. Harvey loped into the room, bouncing as he walked. He kept shaking his head, his lips moving silently. Then he pulled back his lips and gave us a toothy grin.

The chimp was about three feet tall. He wore bright red spandex bike shorts. He had a red baseball cap on his head. But as he crossed the room toward us, he pulled the cap off and tossed it across the lab.

“Hoo hoo hoo.” He made chimp noises and bobbed up and down, his hands on his hairy knees.

Tara stormed up to Dr. Smollet angrily. “Is this some kind of stupid joke?” she demanded.

Nicky pulled Tara back. “Let’s go,” he muttered.

“This is totally insane.”

“No, wait–” the scientist said. He petted the back of the chimp’s head. Mr. Harvey flashed us another grin.

“I told you there was a problem,” Dr. Smollet said.

“How could you do that to them?” I cried.

“How could you get their hopes up like that?” I felt as disappointed as Nicky and Tara.

“Please let me explain,” Dr. Smollet said. He lifted Mr. Harvey onto a tall wooden lab stool at the counter. The chimp reached out and started to play with Dr. Smollet’s white hair.

Dr. Smollet pulled the chimp’s hand away. “Be a good boy, Mr. Harvey. This is a big day for you,” he said.

He turned to us. “Yes, Mr. Harvey is a chimp. But he was here in the lab when Phears escaped. He saw what happened to you and your parents. He was the only witness.”

“But he can’t talk!” Tara screamed.

“Hoo hoo hoo,” Mr. Harvey said. He reached for Dr. Smollet’s hair again.

Dr. Smollet raised a finger. “But I’ve found a way to make him talk,” he said. “Just listen to me.”

He motioned to the stools at the counter. The three of us took seats.

“It’s simple, really,” Dr. Smollet said. “It sounds more frightening than it is.”

“What are you talking about?” Tara demanded.

“There’s only one way to learn what Mr. Harvey knows,” Dr. Smollet said. “We switch his brain with the brain of a live human.”

Nicky and Tara both turned to me. “You mean Max?”

From the Hardcover edition.

Meet the Author

R. L. Stine began his writing career when he was nine years old, and today he has achieved the position of the bestselling children’s author in history. In the early 1990s, Stine was catapulted to fame when he wrote the unprecedented bestselling Goosebumps® series, which sold more than 250 million copies and became a worldwide media phenomenon.

R.L. Stine has received numerous awards of recognition. He lives in New York, NY.

From the Hardcover edition.

Brief Biography

New York, New York
Date of Birth:
October 8, 1943
Place of Birth:
Columbus, Ohio
B.A., Ohio State University, 1965

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4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I read this book when I was in third grade and thought it was good then but I havent read it in a long time so Im not sure if its that good...
Guest More than 1 year ago
Do you like reading extra long, boring, highly exaggerated, pointless, stupid books? Well, I have an excellent book for you to read. I recommend it to you especially. The book is called ¿Freaks and Shrieks (mostly, ghostly)¿by R.L Stine. To tell the truth I love the series of ¿Goose bumps¿ that R.L Stine wrote but I don¿t even want to know what he was thinking when he wrote Freaks and shrieks. The book is basically about a boy named Max. Max knows to ghosts named Nikki and Tara who live in his house. These two ghosts are absolutely anxious to turn back into living humans again because they are tired of everyone not noticing them. Until one day a short little man started following them and they thought that he was dangerous but it turns out that he really wasn¿t bad he was actually good he wanted to help the two ghosts turn back into humans. When they go back to the laboratory the only way that they could actually turn back into humans is if they used Maxes brain! But ¿¿.. Oh wait I cant tell you the rest of the pointless end. Out of all the statements I made about the book I think that the one that would most describe it is that the book was longer than it should¿ve been because it had a lot of unneeded information. For example, is when R.L Stine writes ¿hee haw hee haw¿ max hesitated for no reason and another example of that is when Max begins to talk about a new flash light that he brought that has nothing to do with the book. I recommend this book to younger kids like in the third grade because for middle schooler's this book would be extremely boring. I actually do recommend reading mysteries but if you don¿t like reading boring mysteries don¿t read ¿ Freaks and Shrieks¿. From a 1-5, I give this book a 3. Even though I didn¿t enjoy it I hope you do.