Say Cheese and Die! is the fourth book in the original Goosebumps book series and the first book in the Say Cheese and Die! saga. It was first published in 1992. The book follows Greg and his friends who discover a strange camera, and things get chaotic after he takes a lot of pictures. It was later followed-up by the forty-fourth book, Say Cheese and Die — Again!.
The original 1992 cover illustration features a family of skeletons having a picnic.
The 2009 Classic Goosebumps cover illustration shows the camera on the ground, the hand of a collapsed body beside it, with the reflection of a human skull inside the broken lens.
Every Picture Tells a Story...
Greg thinks there is something wrong with the old camera he and his friends found. The photographs keep turning out wrong. Very wrong. Like the snapshot Greg took of his father's new car that shows it totaled. And then Greg's father is in a nasty wreck. But Greg's friends don't believe him. Shari even makes Greg bring the camera to her birthday party and take her picture. Only Shari's not in the photograph when it develops. Is Shari about to be taken out of the picture permanently? Who is going to take the next fall for... the evil camera?
Four friends, Greg Banks, Shari Walker, Doug Arthur, and Michael Warner, wonder what they should do during a boring fall day in their town, Pitts Landing. After several proposals, the four agree to sneak into the mysterious Coffman House, an old dilapidated building that is said to be haunted. The building is also home to a strange man nicknamed Spidey. While exploring the basement, Greg finds a camera hidden inside a compartment in the wall. Greg is interested in photography, so he picks up the camera. He asks Michael to pose for a picture. Michael leans on a staircase railing. The moment Greg takes a photo, the railing breaks, and Michael falls to the ground, hurting himself.
Spidey enters the basement through the house. Scared, the kids leave through the back exit. Greg takes Michael's photograph and the camera with him. When the group stops running, they inspect Michael's photograph. To everyone's surprise, Michael's picture shows him falling instead of leaning on the railing. Later that day, Greg takes multiple photographs with the camera. First, he takes a photo of his father's new car, but the picture shows the vehicle wrecked. Then, he takes a photo of his older brother, Terry, but the picture shows him on a baseball field in a worried state.
On Tuesday, Greg, Shari, and Michael go to Doug's baseball game. Before it starts, Greg takes a photo. The picture shows his friend lying on the ground with his neck at an unnatural angle. Doug refuses to believe that anything bad could happen to him. He assumes the camera is broken. However, during the game, a baseball hits him, causing him to fall to the ground. His neck bends to an unnatural angle, as the picture predicted. Greg is completely sure that the camera is responsible for these events, but his friends refuse to believe him. It's at this moment that the pictures of Terry and the new car come true; Terry appears on the baseball field in a worried state. Terry tells Greg that their father has just suffered an accident and that the car is completely totaled.
That night, Greg has a nightmare where he takes a photo of his family during a barbecue, but the picture shows them as living skeletons. Shari continues to be skeptical of the alleged camera's "powers" and asks Greg to take it to her birthday. Initially, he refuses, but he eventually takes the camera to the party. During the party, Greg takes a photo of Shari, but the pictures doesn't show her. Soon after, Shari disappears mysteriously without a trace.
After a few days, Greg and Bird begin fighting over the camera. Bird accidentally take's Greg's photograph. The picture shows Greg with Shari being chased by a black shadow. Although he is scared, Greg also feels hopeful because the picture shows Shari. Greg gets an idea: to tear up Shari's picture. When he does this, she reappears, but she doesn't have any memory of where she had been. While the kids talk, Spidey appears. He begins chasing in a scenario similar to what the camera predicted. However, a neighbor sees the case and threatens to call the police. Spidey runs away.
Later, with Doug and Michael, the kids decide that the camera is too dangerous; they resolve to return it to its hiding place in the Coffman House. But, when they enter the old house, Spidey catches them and reveals the camera's origins. It turns out that Spidey's real name is Dr. Fritz Fredericks, and he is a deranged scientist. His lab partner created the camera, however, Spidey's greed led him to steal the piece of technology and present it as his own invention. What he didn't know was that his partner also was a master of the dark arts. His partner placed a curse on the camera. Now, whenever a photo is taken, something bad will happen to the subject of the photo. Spidey mentions that the camera caused the death of all of the people he ever loved. He spent his whole life trying to hide it. Now that the four kids know the truth, Spidey believes that he must keep them prisoners in his house forever.
The kids try to escape. During their struggle to leave, Spidey's photo is taken with the camera. Spidey immediately dies of fright, an event that the photograph seems to depict. Finally, Greg, Shari, Doug and Michael return the camera to its hiding place and leave the building. They tell the Pitts Landing police that they found Spidey's corpse in the house.
Joey Ferris and Mickey Ward, two local bullies, had followed Greg and his friends to the Coffman House. The bullies retrieve the camera, and they take their own photo. They wait for their picture to develop.
Reprints and rereleases
2003 - 2007 reprint series
||October 28, 2015||Collection||Paperback|
- The Classic Goosebumps reprint was released as a tie-in to the eight Goosebumps HorrorLand book, Say Cheese — and Die Screaming!. It also contains a bonus section titled 'Fright Gallery', which contains a bio on the camera, its origins, special powers, weaknesses, as well as its 'Splat Stats', which are as follows: Strength 8/10 Intelligence: 3/10 Speed: 2/10 Attack Skills: 7/10 Humor: 1/10 Evil: 10/10
Say Cheese and Die! was adapted into an episode of the Goosebumps TV series. It is the fifteenth episode of season one. The exclamation mark is omitted from the original title. The episode has since gained notoriety for featuring a young Ryan Gosling as Greg.
|Audiobook||Release date||Length||Narrated by||Published by|
|August 2015||2 hours, 35 minutes||Johnny Heller||Scholastic Inc.|
- The scene where Greg dreams about his family becoming skeletons was added after the story was finished. Once Jacobus had illustrated the cover, Scholastic became concerned that it didn't match the story; Stine quickly wrote a dream sequence that made the cover fit with the book.
- This is the second book to feature a skeleton dream. The first being in Welcome to Dead House.
- The original Tim Jacobus cover features a young female skeleton at the picnic table, despite Greg not having any sisters mentioned in the book.
- This book references X-Force and the Ford Taurus.
- This book is written in third person, which eventually got phased out as the series progressed.
- The plot of this book is similar to Rod Serling's The Twilight Zone television episode, A Most Unusual Camera. R.L. Stine was a big fan of the show and much of his work was inspired by Serling.
- Joey and Mickey are never heard from again, and their status is left unknown in the sequel. Their picture surprisingly is also nowhere to be found, although it's likely they took the picture with them, and it was gruesome and nasty.
- The skeleton cook on the cover is often mistaken for Curly on some pieces of Goosebumps merchandise and even in the 1997 advertisement for the Goosebumps Fan Club.
- One of the most common pieces of Curly art for general merchandise features Curly holding a copy of Say Cheese and Die! This may have added to the confusion.
- According to the back cover of the Classic Goosebumps reprint, Say Cheese and Die! has sold nearly 2 million copies.
- Despite not being explicitly named, the description of the camera's design makes it out to be similar to that of a Polaroid brand camera.
- According to the Goosebumps Holiday Collector's Caps Book, Stine had finished the story before coming up with the title. He created a list of potential titles and added Say Cheese and Die! to the list as a joke before it ended up being the final title.
- First editions of this book did not feature a number on the spine.
- The earliest Goosebumps order form lists this as the third on the list, not the fourth.
- The nickname of "Bird" would be used again for Jonathan Sparrow in the Goosebumps Most Wanted book, Night of the Puppet People.
References in other Goosebumps media
- Although the Evil Camera doesn't appear in the Goosebumps film, the skeleton cook on the cover is featured in the end credits animation.
- The Camera appears as a usable item in Goosebumps: The Game. The in-game achievement "Say Cheese" is given if you take a photo with the haunted camera.
- The Camera is an item card in the Terror in the Graveyard board game.