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How I Got My Shrunken Head is the thirty-ninth book in the original Goosebumps book series. It was first published in 1996.

The original 1996 cover illustration depicts a shrunken head sitting on top of a cluttered dresser.

The 2009 Classic Goosebumps cover illustration depicts a much smaller shrunken head an top of a baseball glove atop a cluttered dresser.



What has two eyes, a mouth, and wrinkly green skin? Mark's shrunken head. It's a present from his Aunt Benna. A gift from the jungle island of Baladora. Mark can't wait to show the kids at school his shrunken head. It's so ugly. So gross. So awesome. But late one night the head starts to glow. Because it's no ordinary head. It gives Mark a strange power. A magical power. A dangerous power...


Twelve-year-old Mark Rowe loves playing Jungle King on his computer. Whenever he succeeds in the game, he screams "Kah-Lee-Ah!", a phrase which popped in his head one day. While Mark is playing the game, a woman arrives at his front door. The woman introduces herself as Carolyn Hawlings, the assistant of Mark's Aunt Benna. The woman brought with her a hundred-year-old shrunken head, a gift from his Aunt Benna, an explorer.

The head is from the jungles of Baladora, which Aunt Benna has been exploring for over ten years. That nigh, when Mark goes to bed, he suddenly hears his name being whispered and believes it to be the head. When he investigates, it's only Mark's sister Jessica playing tricks on him, jealous that he got the head and not her. Later that night, he thinks he sees the head levitate and its eyes begin to glow. However, when he tries to tell his family, the head appears in a lifeless state.

The next morning, Mark learns from Mrs. Hawlings that his Aunt Benna needs him in Baladora immediately. He is promptly flown there by airplane, and he's brought his shrunken head as well. Mark meets Carolyn's brother Dr. Richard Hawlings and his daughter Kareen. They inform Mark that his aunt has been missing for weeks and they will only be able to find her if Mark can harness the Jungle Magic he possesses. It is explained to Mark that, when he was four, Aunt Benna taught him the secret of Jungle Magic. Sadly, this was so long ago that Mark can't remember how to activate it.

Mark walks into a room filled with shrunken heads and finds a journal from Aunt Benna. It reveals that Dr. Hawlings and Carolyn are secretly plotting to use Jungle Magic to destroy the jungle and Baladora. Mark asks Kareen about what the journal said, but Kareen claims that she didn't know anything it, adding that she likes Aunt Benna. Mark believes Kareen and sets out into the jungle by himself, determined to find his aunt. 

Mark travels deep into the jungle. Eventually, the boy falls asleep, dreaming of dozens of shrunken heads surrounding him, telling him to hurry. When he wakes up, he sees that he is almost completely covered in red ants. He panics and screams "Kah-Lee-Ah!". This makes the ants leave suddenly. Mark deduces that he unknowingly used Jungle Magic. As he ponders aloud, the shrunken head's eyes glow. After trekking further, Mark gets caught in quicksand. He tries the magic words again, but they don't free him. When he holds the shrunken head high, it lifts him up and out of the quicksand. 

Soon, Mark encounters a tiger. The animal is on the verge of attacking him, but Mark uses the magic words which causes the ground beneath him to open up. Mark is lowered enough to avoid the tiger. Kareen arrives and frees Mark from the hole. The two eventually find Aunt Benna, but she is suspicious of Kareen. However, Kareen reveals she was working with her father and Carolyn this whole time. Now, the evil trio knows where Mark and his aunt are.

After locking up Mark and Aunt Benna for a while, the Hawlings eventually bring the two to a pile of shrunken heads and a giant pot of boiling water. Dr. Hawlings tries to intimidate them into telling him the secret of Jungle Magic. He threatens to shrink their heads if they don't tell him how to perform it. Mark tries to use his shrunken head to stop Dr. Hawlings, but it gets knocked into the pile of heads. Aunt Benna starts to wrestle with Dr. Hawlings and Mark dives into the pile of heads. Mark manages to find the right one due to a scratch put on it by Jessica. Dr. Hawlings tries to attack Mark. Before he can, Mark recites the magic words while holding the shrunken head. This causes Dr. Hawlings, Carolyn, and Kareen to shrink to the size of mice. The three panic and run off into the jungle, never to be seen again.

Mark and Aunt Benna soon return home. While Benna has stripped Mark of his Jungle Magic, he gets to keep the shrunken head and plans to take it to school with him. Unexpectedly, the shrunken head opens its mouth and informs Mark that it wants to tell everyone about the tiger he encountered in the jungle. 

Reprints and rereleases


  • "Silverware" is changed to "utensils"
    • "sand" is changed to "dust"
    • "Some sort of animal cry" is changed to "Some sort of bird cry"
    • "over" is changed to "through" twice.
    • "sandals" is changed to "sneakers"
    • The tiger is refered to as "it' instead of "her".

International releases


  • In French, the title of the book was wrongly translated, due to a misinterpration of the original English title, as "Comment ma tête a rétréci", (How My Head Shrunk, or How I Got My Head Shrunken). 
  • The French Canadian cover alters the illustration slightly. The "University" pennant is changed to "Universite".
  • In the Portuguese adaptation of the story there are some notable differences:
    • Mark Rowe is called "Miguel."
    • Benna is called "Berta."
    • Dr. Hawlings is called "Dr. Antunes."
    • Kareen is called "Cátia."
  • In the Dutch version there are a few notable differencences
    • Carolyn is called "Caroline"
    • Kareen is called "Amanda"
    • instead of getting jungle magic mark got a map
    • The shrunken head is not very important in the book, in the Dutch version a group of headhunters called the Oyolan is the main thing
    • Aunt Benna is missing because she was searching for the headhunters.
    • The twist ending has been changed to the pilot being someone of the Oyolan group.


Television adaptation

How I Got My Shrunken Head was adapted into a two-part episode of the Goosebumps TV series. It is the first (part one) and second (part two) episode of season four, and the sixty-seventh and sixty-eighth episode overall.




  • This book references Coke, Tarzan and Koosh Balls.
  • Mark's last name is not given in the book, but the television episode reveals it to be Rowe.
  • In one of the original pieces of concept art, the pennant behind the shrunken head was for the New York Yankees, complete with logo. This was likely changed in the final work to avoid copyright issues.
  • The size of the shrunken head on the cover is actually just the size of a normal human head where in the story it's small enough to fit in Mark's pocket.

References in other Goosebumps media