The Funhouse of Dr. Freek (lost Ghosts of Fear Street book; existence unconfirmed; 1998)
One of the few listings for The Funhouse of Dr. Freek on Amazon. Note how there are no images available for the book.
Status: Existence Unconfirmed
The Funhouse of Dr. Freek was supposed to be the thirty-sixth book in the children’s book series Ghosts of Fear Street. There is a remarkable lack of information on Funhouse. Many sources claim it was released in 1998. However, no photos of the cover exist online, and there is little evidence to suggest the book was ever published.
In 1989, children’s author R.L. Stine’s Fear Street series launched with its first book, The New Girl. The series was geared toward young adults, and followed teenagers experiencing bizarre events in the city of Shadyside. Most stories were set at the eponymous Fear Street. Contrary to Stine’s other well-known children’s series (such as Goosebumps), murder, gore, psychological horror, and sexual content were prevalent throughout Fear Street.
As an alternative to the dark content of Fear Street, a spin-off series that catered to younger children, Ghosts of Fear Street, was created in 1995. The series was akin to Stine’s Goosebumps series, featuring pre-teens involved in outlandish supernatural situations. Unlike Fear Street, the series was entirely ghostwritten. Ghosts of Fear Street ran until 1998, amassing over 30 entries. It's not entirely clear why the series ended abruptly in that particular year.
The Funhouse of Dr. Freek would have been the thirty-sixth book in its series, and there is no information about any books intended to follow it.
The reported release date for Funhouse varies based on different sources. One early report said that it would be published as early as May 1998, one said August 1998, but most sources agree upon November 1998. The release of this book was likely pushed back when the series switched publishers; Pocket Books was the original publisher, and Golden Books was the last publisher. Golden Books was an imprint of the now-defunct Western Publishing company. The first Ghosts of Fear Street book published by Golden Books was Hide and Shriek II, a sequel to the first book in the series.
No copies of the thirty-sixth book, used or new, seem to be publicly available, and no cover art for the entry has ever surfaced online. (This is unlike other "rare" books in the series, such as the thirty-fifth book, which have cover scans available online.) Adding to the case that this book was never published, the thirty-fifth book in the series (Horror Hotel: Part 2, Ghost in the Guest Room) makes no reference to The Funhouse of Dr. Freek. The earliest mention of "The Funhouse of Dr. Freek" seems to come from a 1997 publication entitled Children's Books in Print, 1998, by the R.R. Bowker Company. Funhouse was mentioned again in Forthcoming Books, Volume 33, Issue 1, which was also by the R.R. Bowker Company. Interestingly, this publication says Funhouse was going to be the thirty-second book in the series.
The information listed above forms an interesting narrative. It would seem Hide and Shriek II was a late addition created to draw attention after the series changed ownership. This is evidenced by the fact that mentions of Funhouse predate mentions of Hide and Shriek II. If this is true, the list of tentative books was subject to change, explaining discrepancies in prospective release dates and book numbers.
While it is unclear where the summary comes from and if it should be trusted, Goodreads lists the following synopsis:
- When Joe breaks a funhouse mirror at a carnival, he releases an exact double of himself. Can he stop his evil twin before he takes over Joe's life?
The protagonist of the previous two books is named Joe Turner, suggesting that he would have returned in this book. However, Funhouse was originally supposed to be released before the Horror Hotel duology (as stated earlier). Therefore, one of the following must be true: (1) the name Joe was a complete coincidence, (2) the book was rewritten after being pushed back in order to include Joe Turner, or (3) the plot summary is untrustworthy.
The only other plot details come from vague internet reviews, which are discussed more in depth below; one user's review suggests that Dr. Freek would have been an actual character who interacts with the protagonist.
Possible Proof of Funhouse’s Existence
A handful of websites feature listings for Funhouse, and Amazon provides an ISBN number. Upon checking this number, Funhouse is listed as having been published in November 1998 by Golden Books. Although, this isn't concrete evidence, as the number could have been assigned before the book's production.
Bizarrely, some of the online listings for Funhouse feature user reviews. An anonymous, somewhat cryptic Amazon review from 2005 seemingly recalls a part of the book (a supposed scene in which the young protagonist meets Dr. Freek and is terrified). The user also alludes to a contest from a previous Ghosts of Fear Street book, Monster Dog.
Despite this user's broken grammar, it is true that there was a contest promoted at the end of Monster Dog. Pocket Books (the publisher for the series at the time) said:
- Grand Prize: A photo of you and your creepy canine will be featured in R.L. Stine's Ghosts of Fear Street® #36 (on sale mid-August 1998). Plus, you'll win 25 copies of the book and a "pawtographed" photo of R.L. Stine and his dog, Nadine.
There are no public records stating what became of the competition, which suggests that the contest was completely abandoned when the series switched publishers. While highly unlikely, it's not technically impossible that Golden Books sent out 25 copies of Funhouse. It is, however, important to note that Monster Dog never even gives a title to the thirty-sixth book.
On R.L. Stine’s official website, a complete listing of books he published up to 2012 is provided. Funhouse is in the Ghosts of Fear Street section. Though, much of the information on this site is sourced from areas online.