Welcome to Dead House tells the story of Amanda, 12, and Josh, 11, Benson who move to the town of Dark Falls. The siblings are very upset at having to move, mainly because it came on suddenly when their father received a letter from a lawyer informing him that he had inherited a huge home from a great uncle named Charles. Despite the fact that no one can remember Charles, Mr. and Mrs. Benson decide to uproot the family since Mr. Benson had been looking for a way to quit his boring office job and pursue his true love of writing.
When the family meets with the real estate agent, Compton Dawes, and view the home, only Amanda and Josh and their dog, Petey, sense that something is not quite right in this town. Despite the fact that it is the middle of July, the entire neighborhood seems covered in an artificial darkness created by massive, overhanging tree limbs. Shade and shadows cover everything. Amanda also sees a boy looking at her out of one of the windows . . . but that’s not possible—the house is abandoned. Soon after moving in, Amanda keeps seeing young boys and girls in the house and hearing strange giggling sounds. The friends she and Josh make also seem a bit odd.
One night when going out late to try to find Petey in the local cemetery after he has run away they are stopped by one of their friends, Ray, who tries to get them to turn around. When they refuse to go back home, Ray attacks Amanda while Josh is still looking for Petey, but Josh saves her when he shines his flashlight on Ray’s face which causes him to melt and become a pile of dust. Back at home they are surrounded by all the neighborhood children who tell them that they are all dead, having been murdered when they lived in the Benson’s new house. Once a year, they must have the blood from a freshly killed family to sustain their "living dead" existence. Suddenly, Mr. Dawes appears at the door and the dead children vanish. He tells them that he has already saved their parents and that he will take them to them.
They soon realize that Mr. Dawes is one of the dead people and that he is leading them to their deaths. When they confront him, he explains that long ago the whole town was infected with a yellow gas from its chemical factory and that everyone died, but was later resurrected as a town of living dead. Josh succeeds in killing the already dead Mr. Dawes with a blow of his flashlight. Their mom and dad are imprisoned in an amphitheater in the cemetery shaded by a huge tree. Amanda and Josh push on the old, nearly uprooted, tree which moves and allows sunlight pour in. The dead people melt away as soon as the sunlight touches them. Amanda and Josh save their parents. A few days later as the family is leaving the Dead House they see a new family pulling into the driveway. Driving away, Amanda swears she sees Mr. Dawes standing on the porch.
The first book in the series, released in July 1992, was Welcome to Dead House. It established the formula for all the following books by having a raised (very goosebump-like) title with ooze flowing down the sides of the cover illustration. The back covers also claim the catchphrase, “Readers beware—you’re in for a scare,” with a title blurb of the next Goosebumps to look forward too. Each book also gives a few pages of a sneak peak into the next installment as well.
Most of the Goosebumps books average around 120 pages. The plots move fast and the language is very simple. One thing that bugged me, which only lasted the first short half page, was that the word “house” was used over and over again. Asides from that story is a bit predictable from an adult perspective and isn’t the best out of all the Goosebumps novels as there are some that are so out there they are stupid while there are some that are very original and well written (my favorites being Say Cheese and Die and the Night of the Living Dummy trilogy). It is a good introduction to the formula of the series and the cover is definitely eye catching with an old creepy house. There was to be a sequel many years later in 2000 when Stine had planned to write Happy Holidays from Dead House as the second book in his Goosebumps Gold series. Unfortunately, the series was never published.