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How to Kill a Monster is the forty-sixth book in the original Goosebumps book series. It was first published in 1996.

The cover illustration shows the hands of the Swamp Monster sticking out from behind the door.



Gretchen and her stepbrother, Clark, hate staying at their grandparents' house. Grandpa Eddie is totally deaf. And Grandma Rose is obsessed with baking. Plus, they live in the middle of a dark, muddy swamp. Things couldn't get any worse, right? WRONG. Because there's something really weird about Grandma and Grandpa's house. Something odd about that room upstairs. The one that's locked. The one with the strange noises coming from it. Strange growling noises...


Gretchen and her step-brother, Clark, are taken to stay at their grandparents' house, which is a castle-like, old mansion located in the middle of a swamp in Atlanta, Georgia. The kids are being taken to their grandparents' house because their parent's have undisclosed business to attend to. The kids take their beloved dog, Charley, with them.

When Gretchen and Clark arrive their grandparents' house, they are assigned bedrooms, which they quickly settle into. The next day, the kids go to the kitchen for breakfast, where Grandma Rose is making a large amount of pancakes. After breakfast, Gretchen is walking to her bedroom when she sees her grandfather carrying a big stack of blueberry pancakes down the hall. Later, Grandma Rose invites the kids to watch her make rhubarb pie. They decline, but Grandma Rose insists on it. The kids go to the kitchen only to find that she isn't making just one pie, but three pies.

The kids are told to go explore the house, but Grandpa Eddie warns them to stay out of the "forbidden room," because it's a supply closet where the grandparents keep stuff that could easily break. The kids explore several rooms. One room is filled with boxes of newspapers. The kids find another room full of old toys and games. Eventually, the step-siblings decide to play hide-and-seek in the house. Clark runs away and hides, and Gretchen starts looking for him. She approaches the forbidden room and hears sounds coming from inside. Assuming that Clark cheated and hid there, she opens the door, but, instead of her brother, she finds a hideous swamp monster.

Luckily, the monster doesn't see Gretchen, so she is able to escape the room. She finds Clark and tells him what she saw. Clark doesn't believe her and, thinking it was all a joke, enters the forbidden room. When Clark sees the monster, the step-siblings run away, leaving the door open behind them. The monster chases the children, growling. Gretchen and Clark look for their grandparents, but they don't seem to be home. Gretchen hears the sound of a car, and looks out from the window, only to find their grandparents driving the car out of the swamp. The kids try to leave the house, but the door is locked from the outside.

A few minutes later, Gretchen hears her brother calling her from the kitchen. He tells her the monster is still upstairs. Clark notices something attached to the refrigerator: two numbered envelopes have been left by their grandparents. Clark opens the first one. It reveals that Grandpa Eddie and Grandma Rose have been dealing with the swamp monster upstairs for weeks. The monster invaded their house, but they managed to trap it in a room upstairs. The letter says that both grandparents have gone for help, but they believe Gretchen and Clark will be safe so long as they don't let the creature out of its room. The letter also says that, if the monster gets out, the kids will have to kill it.

Clark starts to open the second envelope, but he stops when he sees the swamp monster in the kitchen doorway. The children evade it and try to find a way to kill the monster. Gretchen tells Clark that they can kill it by taking it to the third floor stairwell: the stairs are old, and they will likely break beneath the monster's weight.

The kids enact their plan. They watch the monster fall through the stairs, and they assume the creature died. They walk downstairs, but Gretchen quickly hears the monster growling. She runs to the kitchen and tells Clark that the monster isn't dead. Gretchen sees Grandma Rose's rhubarb pie and has an idea. She plans to poison the pie and feed it to the monster. The kids pour several things into the pie, such as turpentine, a can of drain cleaner, rat poison, ammonia, old paint and mothballs. Seconds later, the monster appears in the kitchen, and the children hide. The swamp monster eats the poisoned pie, which causes him to fall to the floor, apparently dead.

It turns out that the monster didn't actually die, so Gretchen and Clark try to attack him. After some fighting, the monster manages to grab Gretchen. The monster licks Gretchen, ready to eat her. However, the monster speaks, asking Gretchen if she's humans. She says she is, and the monster reveal he's allergic to humans. He then falls over and dies.

The children get their dog and leave the house. After a few minutes of walking later, Gretchen remembers the second envelope. They open it it tells the kids that, if they kill the monster and leave the house, they should avoid the swamp at all cost and stick to the road. The monster has brothers and sister out there, waiting for him. The kids hear monsters growling all around them in the swamp.

Reprints and rereleases

Book Release date Type Media

2003 - 2007 reprint series

September 2003 Standalone Paperback

International releases

No. Book Country Translated title Release date Publisher

How to Kill a Monster

United Kingdom


How to Kill a Monster November 14, 1997 Scholastic

Minaccia nel fango



Threat in the Mud May 1998 Mondadori

Cómo matar a un monstruo



How to Kill a Monster 1998,

August 2004

Ediciones B

Comment tuer un monstre



How to Kill a Monster February 2001, 2016 Bayard Poche




Monster Must Kill January 24, 2004 Shang Zhou Publishing

Comment tuer un monstre



How to Kill a Monster September 1, 2004 Scholastic

Doupe nestvury

Czech Rebublic


Monster's Lair March 2005, 2015 Fragment

ชมรมขนหัวลุก ตอน มันมาจากหนองน้ำ



When it Comes from Swamps (rough translation) September 2005 Nanmeebooks

Como Matar Um Monstro



How to Kill a Monster 2006 Fundamento


  • In France, this is the thirty-fourth book in the original series.
    • Gretchen is called "Barbara."
    • Clark is called "Colin."


Apparel for the book remove the word "Kill" from the title.

Television adaptation

How to Kill a Monster was adapted into an episode of the Goosebumps TV series. It is the eighteenth episode of season two, and the thirty-seventh episode overall.



The original printings of the book included bookmark and trading card tear-outs.


  • This is the first Goosebumps book in the original series to have a completely italicized tagline.
  • This is one of the few Goosebumps books where the protagonists have divorced parents.
    • This is also one of the few Goosebumps book to feature step-parents and step-siblings. 
  • Clark and Gretchen's surname is not revealed in the book or in the episode, but the tear-out trading card reveals it to be Allen.
    • Although, it's unclear how both children would have the same surname if they're step-siblings. Unless they coincidentally had the same surnames all their lives, one of them would've needed their name changed.
  • This book has a very similar beginning to Monster Blood. Gretchen and Clark didn't want to stay with their grandparents in Atlanta, and the kids encountered a creature during their stay. Similarly, Evan Ross didn't want to stay with his Aunt Kathryn in Atlanta, and he ended up finding Monster Blood during his stay.
  • The cover for this book is very similar to the original cover for Stay Out of the Basement. However, the original cover for Stay Out of the Basement was illustrated by Jim Thiesen, and this book was illustrated by Tim Jacobus.
  • The Swamp Monster's description is similar to the Honey Island Swamp Monster.
  • This book's title is a possible reference to the 1958 horror film How to Make a Monster.

References in other Goosebumps media

  • The Swamp Monster appears as a background monster in the Goosebumps film. It is referred to as the "Bog Monster," and its appearance has been changed. In the book, it is described as a furry creature with an alligator head and a gorilla body. In the movie, he appears as like a giant creature covered in moss.