My Hairiest Adventure
Series number: 26
Number of pages: 122
Release date: December 1994
Tagline: It keeps growing… and growing… and growing…
Did I Read It as a Child?: No
The Story On the Back
Larry Boyd just found the coolest thing in the trash. It’s an old bottle of INSTA-TAN. “Rub on a dark suntan in minutes”– that’s what the label says. So Larry and his friends do. But nothing much happens. Until Larry notices the hair. Dark, spiky hair growing on his hands and face. Really gross shiny hair. Hair that keeps growing back even after he shaves it off…
The Story On the Pages
This is a story about children. But not just any children. Hairy children! Why are they hairy? Because they’re dogs who were turned into kids but are now turning back into dogs.
I know, I know. It’s a shitshow. But we gotta talk about it. But what is there left to say about My Hairiest Adventure that I didn’t just sum up? Well, not much to be honest, but I’ll walk you through what little there is.
We open on Larry, a kid who gets chased and harassed by the dozens of stray dogs that roam his small town. He’s in the middle of being chased down by a pack when his friend Lily scares them off. She needs Larry alive for band practice.
That’s right! A band made up of twelve year olds. When does their album drop? I’m sure it’s not shit!
Larry and his band practice a couple songs before going outside to play in the snow, because they’re serious about becoming professional musicians and playing in the snow is obviously part of that. Larry climbs into a random, gross dumpster (like we all did when we were playing in the snow as kids) and finds a medicine cabinet to rummage through. Hey Larry, you’re in a band yeah, but isn’t it a little early to be popping pills? At least wait until after you sign a record deal and think yourself invincible when you’re really just sell-outs with a marketable image.
In the medicine cabinet Larry finds a tube of Insta-tan lotion and of course these five pre-teens want to rub that shit all over themselves: who wouldn’t! They cover themselves in the lotion only for Larry to discover there’s a use-by date on the back and it’s many years past it’s prime. But it’s just tanning lotion right? What could old tanning lotion possibly do?
According to My Hairiest Adventure, expired tan lotion will make you grow thick, coarse, dark hair because that’s what starts happening to Larry. And of course he thinks it’s the lotion that’s doing it, he is only twelve, and really in his defence, turning into a dog is so far down the list of things that could ever happen to a person I don’t blame him for not covering that base.
So Larry starts growing gross hair and he freaks out, shaving it off in a hurry whenever he notices it appearing. He also questions Lily if she’s growing any hair in unexpected places and holy crap is this as uncomfortable for me to read as it plays out in the book!
This is why you need sex-ed classes, America! Kids have a right to know about hair growing in unexpected places!
After many more chapters of Larry growing hair, freaking about it, and then shaving it off, we also see Lily and one of his other friends suddenly disappear. Their parents are even going so far as to move out of town and claim that they never had a child.
That’s when Larry notices some strange things about the dogs following him around. Like how they look like his friends. One of the dogs even has Lily’s strange two colour eyes. And her trademark, one-of-a-kind necklace.
Yup. That’s it then. Larry is convinced his friends are dogs. And as more and more hair covers him, he finally tells his parents everything that’s happening to him. They react… a lot differently than either Larry or I wanted.
Turns out they’re scientists working under the town’s doctor. The doctor invented a serum that would turn dogs into human babies because apparently he has no idea that all you need to have a baby is to fuck. No, a serum that transforms an entirely different species is obviously better than fucking or adoption or fostering. I totally agree. But the serum doesn’t seem to last past age twelve, so the doctor is working on a new version of the serum and Larry will have to be a dog with all his human memories.
Which would suck. He’s still aware he was a human and has the mind of a human but is in a dog’s body. He’ll have memories of sleeping in a warm bed in a safe house as he shivers away in a back alley. He’ll remember love as he’s shooed away from the people who used to love him. That’s a raw fucking deal. A raw fucking deal indeed.
The story ends with Larry turning fully into a dog. And for the moment, he doesn’t seem to think it’s all that bad. He even still occasionally visits his old “parents”. But the parents might be too busy for him now because they’ve just come home with a new baby. A baby girl with yellow eyes, just like the cat that Larry used to have when he was a human.
So from testing on dogs to testing on cats? Why are cats so much different from dogs in the sense of a serum that’s going to turn them into human babies? Also, this level of drug testing, is the FDA aware of all that’s happening? The CDC? Anyone?
Good Lord some government agency should be made aware of this immediately!
Now, it’s clearly the stupidest thing ever that Larry is actually a dog that was turned into a human by some sort of magic elixir (because there ain’t nothing in science that can do that, I cannot suspend my disbelief that much), but I’ll give credit where credit is due and say that the lead up to the reveal wasn’t awful.
All the clues for Larry being a dog were there. Clues like how he had no sweat glands (there’s a scene where he overheats and has to go to the doctor), or how he wanted to rummage through garbage for no reason (because I honestly don’t think it was ever said why he climbed into the dumpster, just that he did).
It doesn’t really make him a compelling or interesting character in any way, but at least Stine seemed to have exactly what he wanted out of My Hairiest Adventure in mind when he wrote it.
I would however like to give a special shout-out to the parents of this town. Here’s a special shout-out to maybe the worst of the worst Goosebumps parents! Here is a group of scientists who were given dog-children as part of the experiment that Doctor Murkin was working on. But then as soon the experiment is done (ie. fails because the dog to human formula wears off), they just let their dog-children, now just dogs, roam the streets of this small town? Could you not still keep the dogs as pets? It’s so harsh to just cast them out as feral animals, don’t you think?
And the worst part of this is that they abandon their dog-children and go back for round two, this time with cats. So are those cats doomed to turn back into cats and then be abandoned too? You are bad parents/pet owners! I’m not entirely sure what this story classifies you as, but you are just bad!
Spooks and Scares
My Hairiest Adventure is not scary. These are dogs, that were turned into kids, that are turning back into dogs. That’s not scary! And this particular Goosebumps book has a very scary element in it: hair.
Horror works best when it’s the mundane transformed into the terrifying. The Friday the 13th movie where Jason is in space is not scary because who the fuck out of us is ever going to encounter something like that? Hair is something we encounter every day of our lives.
Hair has a distinct gross-out factor that goes along with it. Picking it out of the drain is the end of the world. I no doubt made half my audience reading this gag at the very memory of having to pick a drain clean. Hair is gross when it’s on people too. It can be coarse and rough on someone’s hands or chest or stringy and dirty coming off someone’s head.
Isn’t it just a little bit terrifying to see someone with long balding hair? Like, not even in a horror setting. Just a dude with high widow peaks on his forehead and long hair tied back in a ponytail. It tells you everything you need to know about that person at first glance, doesn’t it? That’s great for horror!
And that’s not even mentioning what a huge role hair plays in Japanese horror which is a trope that’s been making it’s way west for decades as well. It’s a bonafide trope and present in almost every ghost story, movie, or videogame that comes out of Japan. A female ghost with thick, black hair that covers her face. It’s freaky and unsettling because what’s behind the hair?
There is a specific type of ghosts that personifies the “stringy-haired ghost girl” and that’s the ever classic Onryō, a type of spirit that has been severely wronged by a man and come back for her vengeance on anyone that gets all up in her personal space.
So, okay. You can’t have a vengeance spirit that was wronged by a man present in a book aimed at the 9 – 12 crowd because Stine can’t exactly write about a twelve year old that can’t keep it in his pants or murders his wife, but this is what I mean by making hair scary!
You could have, Stine! You could have very easily! The base has already been laid for you, just put down some age appropriate bricks and you’re golden! So why dogs? Why did you go with dogs?!
Hair is terrifying! Going bald, split ends, having it wrap around your neck and hang you like it’s a noose? It’s all territory that can easily be explored.