This ICHF was written by Uncle Jellyfish, who you can find at http://unclejellyfish.tumblr.com/. I may have made a few touch ups and notes here and there, but the bulk of this entry is their work!
Image borrowed from http://gigan389.wikia.com/wiki/King_Jellyjam
If you were a nineties kid, you remember a certain book series. A series by one R.L. Stine, that ranged from silly to spooky, sinister to stupid. Whatever the quality, I am sure the theme song rings through your head right now. Goosebumps, reader beware you’re in for a scare.
This series has created many monsters, fiends, and entities in its long existence, from the infamous Haunted Mask, to the honestly overrated Slappy the Dummy.
But this entry is for one being that managed to hold up as a genuinely unique and frightening idea even years later. This is King Jellyjam, of Book 33, The Horror At Camp Jellyjam.
For those who don’t care about spoilers, Jellyjam is the monster behind the titular camp, a massive, bizarre purple monstrosity that secretes snails and has total control over the councillors. From its underground lair, this beast uses the camp as a front to lure in idealistic children. At King Jellyjam’s sports camp, you compete in any sport possible, from tennis to chess, all to gouge your athletic prowess. Once you’ve won six “King Coins” you are celebrated as a champion-before you’re trapped underground to serve as Jellyjam’s latest slave, doomed to scrub the foul creature of his hideous stench until exhaustion kicks in-and you become his snack.
It’s never clear how long Jellyjam has run this evil system, but what’s clear is that at Camp Jellyjam, competition, peer pressure, and imposed standards of self-worth will doom you.
While a pretty horrible monster, Jellyjam is hardly given a character; he acts through his unwitting human pawns, never speaks, and doesn’t really appear until the climax. But years later, a reprint provides a sort of origin for the purple behemoth. Jellyjam was a mutant mollusc, born from radioactive waste and snails inhabiting an underground cave. Yeah, it’s pretty dumb, but that’s Goosebumps for ya.
What does make Jellyjam interesting to me, though, is the theme of competition and survival. This monster lives a miserable existence in a cave, only able to interact with the world through the humans frolicking above him. So he creates his own sense of lifestyle through destroying others. Like Stephen King’s Pennywise, the big purple beast preys on children’s insecurities, only instead, he uses their self esteem and drive to be better. In the end, Jellyjam is destroyed when one child leads the others to stop washing him. He’s powerless because of his bloated condition, and his lungs have failed to adapt to his stench, so he dies and his reign over the camp is finally over.
Now Jellyjam is an extremely ludicrous concept, even for this series. With how bloated and immobile he is, you could argue there’s fatphobic elements to him. But I wrote about him because he is one of the closest things to scary Goosebumps has ever gotten, and another example of how wonderfully bizarre they could get with their monsters.
Finally, he presents an odd message in such a short silly book. There’s always been a little monster in our heads, telling you you’ll never be good enough. That you aren’t strong, or brave, and that you have no choice but to go along with what others expect of you, even if that’s not who you are. And like Wendy(the protagonist) and the other kids, we can choose to starve that beast, and come out all the stronger for it.
Editor’s Note: As a fan of Drawfee, I’ll always remember this book as being one of the few occasions where Julia couldn’t out-creepy the source material. This only makes sense if you’ve watched Drawfee a lot.