I've gone my whole life without ever seeing those vast cornfields that Boomer and Gen X writers are obsessed with. Children of the Corn, In the Tall Grass, and countless other examples demonstrate how terrifying cornfields are to them. Now, I have never seen these interminable rows of clustered vegetation because I have never been to the midwest. And when my family traveled, it was into deserts or so far west that we ended up in the east. The closest example to cornfields in my life might be the rice paddies that patterned every roadside in the Philippines. While they are not tall enough to get lost in, they are spread out enough you can lose your way. And while there were no scarecrows, there was the thought that you could fall in and get stuck, or worse, someone who had the misfortune of falling in before would reach up and take you with them.
While I've never seen a scarecrow in the middle of a cornfield, there is horror in farms - the large tracts of land and dense crops, and, in the case of this week's Goosebumps book, something one step from humanity that shouldn't be human. It's time for The Scarecrow Walks at Midnight.
Our protagonist is Jodie, who is going to visit her grandparents' farm with her lazy brother Mark. They're traveling with their grandparents' farmhand - a man named Stanley. It's not explicitly said, but Stanley has some kind of mental disability. This is such a trope - the simple-minded farmhand - but I don't know how common it was by the time this book was published (1994). I don't know if the stereotype is offensive but I would guess that it's very offensive.
Anyway, Stanley starts mumbling that "the scarecrow walks at midnight." The children ignore him and as well as the title of the book they exist in. When they arrive at the farm, Mark opens a corn husk and worms pour out. Stanley says that his book says it's bad luck and freaks out. And then they stare at scarecrows.
We meet Stanley's son - an older boy named Sticks. He is some kind of prankster and he doesn't share his father's disability.
The kids notice their grandfather is acting strangely because he won't tell them scary stories. He used to tell the kids scary stories at night, but this time, he doesn't want to, insisting that he's tired.
That night, Jodie looks out the window and sees the scarecrows twitch and pull at their stakes. That's creepy. Surprisingly, it's not a dream. I genuinely thought it was going to be a dream. Instead, Jodie covers herself and doesn't get up until the morning.
She rushes down to get their grandmother's beloved pancakes. However, their grandmother gives them cornflakes instead. She says she forgot how to make pancakes. Jodie notices her hand is made of straw!
Just kidding. She was holding a broom.
For some reason, Stanley keeps hanging out with these kids, seemingly shirking his farm duties. The trio goes to the pond to catch fish and a scarecrow's hand grabs Jodie.
It's just some weeds. Geez, this girl needs to lay off the caffeine.
Then Jodie sees a scarecrow and thinks it's Sticks playing a prank on her. Then it just disappears. When she tells Stanley about it, he says he has to read his book. This guy is starting to sound like me. If someone asks me a question, I answer, "I have to read my book." However, something weird is going on with Stanley, whereas when I say, "I have to read my book," I'm trying to get out of a conversation.
Later, Jodie believes that scarecrow is stalking her. She runs right into Sticks and is that convinced he's the stalker scarecrow. Since we're only halfway through the book, that's clearly not the case.
Meanwhile, her grandparents are still being weird. The grandmother used to make apple pie, but that night, she serves them a cherry pie. Jodie remarks that her grandfather is allergic to cherries. He says he doesn't mind and neither does Stanley.