The Haunted Mask II
Series number: 36
Number of pages: 124
Release date: October 1995
Tagline: New face. Old nightmare.
Did I Read It as a Child?: No
The Story On the Back
Steve Boswell will never forget Carly Beth’s Halloween mask. It was so gross. So terrifying. But this year Steve wants to have the scariest costume on the block. So he gets a mask from the same store where Carly Beth got hers. It looks like a creepy old man. With stringy hair. A wrinkled face. And spiders crawling out of the ears! Steve’s definitely got the scariest mask around. Too bad he’s starting to feel so old. And so tired. And so evil…
The Story On the Pages
The Haunted Mask II picks up exactly a year after where the first Haunted Mask left off. This time, the story follows Carly Beth’s friend Steve and not Carly Beth, but everything here is pretty much exactly how it was before. Except worse, you know, because sequels.
The Haunted Mask II tale has Steve (who was in the first Haunted Mask book) coaching the first grade soccer team as punishment for letting a squirrel loose in the gym. It’s a worthy punishment because the first graders of this school are apparently animals. They’re constantly fighting, jumping on him, ruining his belongings, and meanly pranking him.
I don’t know how. Think back to when you were six or seven and imagine what the meanest thing you could probably even think to do back then was. I don’t know about you, but I don’t think seven year old Amelia would have thought to fill a soccer ball with concrete and trick a twelve year old into kicking it.
Steve decides that for Halloween, he needs to get some revenge on these little shits and he begs Carly Beth to tell him where she got her super realistic and scary mask last year. Carly Beth tells him (after a lot of harassing) but she warns him that the mask she wore last year wasn’t a regular mask. She warns him it was an actual face that tried to take over her body when she put it on, but he refuses to believe her and goes to the costume shop to find one for himself.
The costume shop actually turns out to be out of business, but like all Goosebumps protagonists in this situation, Steve has a work-around: B&E and theft! There’s an unlocked side door that leads to the basement and Steve just helps himself to a mask when he finds them in a cardboard box.
The mask he’s found is one of an old man whose teeth are filled with holes and those holes are filled with worms. The hair of the mask is filled with spiders, as are the huge old man ears. There’s globs of snot in the nose and patches of skin have peeled away to expose skull underneath. It’s really quite gruesome and Steve thinks it will scare the first graders no problem.
Well, actually, one problem arises: the fact that Carly Beth wasn’t lying and this mask is, in fact, a face that will take over the wearer’s body. As soon as Steve puts on the mask, he’s transformed into the old man. Including how slow and weak he feels and his raspy old man voice that makes Carly Beth’s dad hang up on him when he calls to ask her for help.
Which honestly, good on him because a gross sounding old man calling for your twelve year old daughter needs to be hung up on!
Steve has to live with the mask on his face for a day before Halloween rolls around. He decides to go through with his plan to scare the first graders before getting help from Carly Beth, but that plan backfires too. The kids aren’t scared when he shambles up to him, they turn into good Samaritans and offer to walk him to where he needs to go because he’s so frail.
At least they help him to Carly Beth’s house because he feels older and older the longer the mask is on his face.
Carly Beth lets him in on the fact that you need a symbol of love to remove the mask. Or at least that’s what she needed to do to take hers off. Figuring it’s worth a try with this mask too, she helps him find his symbol of love. When neither the cookies his mom goes very out of her way to buy him or his dog prove to be helpful, Carly suggests they head back to the costume shop to see if there’s anything there that can help them.
They sneak back into the basement and when Carly Beth finds a suit in a box, the mask starts to react. It seems that it’s the rest of the costume that goes with the mask, and the mask peels itself off of Steve’s mask to be with the clothing. For… whatever reason. Okay, Stine, I guess that’s a way to end The Haunted Mask II, even though it flies in the face of rules you set up for this universe in the first book!
At least it isn’t as bad a shift in continuity as Monster Blood had. That’s something I guess.
Our main protagonist of The Haunted Mask II is Steve, a twelve year old boy with a history of playing mean pranks on someone he says is one of his closest friends, and that’s all you get to know about him throughout this story.
If you read the first Haunted Mask story before this one, you’ll go into this book with a deficit of good will towards Steve because of what a jackass he was in the first book! You will not have an ounce of sympathy for him. I guess Stine thought he could pull off making Steve an antagonistic force in the last one but then flipping it so he’s the sympathetic lead in The Haunted Mask II, but I honestly just can’t forgive him for how he treated Carly Beth! He deserves to have that hideous old man mask on for all eternity, he truly does!
I actually think Carly Beth is too nice to him given her history with the ass. She gives up her night of trick-or-treating to drag Steve around town to find him a way out of the mask. That’s even after he once made her eat a turkey sandwich that had a worm in it. The girl is a saint. A saint with an anger issue, but that’s for another article.
Does the mask count as a character in The Haunted Mask II like the mask in the first book did? Not really. The mask in the first book emotionally changed Carly Beth when it attached to her, but all Steve’s mask seems to be doing is rapidly aging him. That’s not really bringing out a hidden characteristic of Steve and, sure, it makes the mask antagonistic, but it doesn’t make it feel like it has its own agenda. It’s more of a plot device to add on a superfluous deadline with the ticking of the old age clock.
Spooks and Scares
The first Haunted Mask was all about possession and how a possessing spirit might amplify negative personality traits to make itself more powerful. The Haunted Mask II also has a possession, since Steve is losing control of his own body, but he’s not losing control of his anger like Carly Beth, he just seems to be losing control of bodily functions. You know, because of the aging.
Don’t get me wrong, aging is one of the scariest things alive for humans to go through. Facing your own mortality fucking sucks! But that innate human fear to aging and dying doesn’t seem to be present in Steve and his old man mask. Yes, the mask has made him as feeble as an old man, but does that mean he’s only days away from death? I honestly don’t think so. I think Steve might be immortal now that the mask has bonded to him.
Look at it this way, parasitic life forms, like worms in your gut, want you to stay alive. As the host, you are what’s keeping them alive. So that tapeworm isn’t out to kill you, it wants you to live a long, glorious life filled with much fried food so that it can live a long, glorious life filled with much fried food! I think these haunted masks are the same way. Their back story involves being created in a lab but turning ugly because the creator just couldn’t get them right. They go by the name The Unloved.
Which is totally bitchin’, BTW!
They awaken when someone wears them like a mask, and I think like a tapeworm, they’re prone to keeping their hosts alive. Maybe even immortal through magic. I mean, they were lab created and all that junk, who says they don’t possess some kind of magic?
So while it sucks that Steve is now a disgusting old man with spiders in his hair and snot dripping out of his huge, old man nose, I don’t think this is a book that’s about the fears of growing old, it’s simply a coincidence that Steve is now facing the ravages of age.