In 1998, Braden Thomas Gardner won the “Brain Juice Terrifying Title Contest” and got to create a Goosebumps short story with R.L. Stine and all his classmates at Southeast Warren Intermediate School in Lacona, Iowa.
Four years prior, Scholastic and Parachute Press held another Goosebumps title contest. Only this time, the contest was for brainstorming the title for the next Goosebumps book. Tim Vanderwerff of the Prairie School Learning Center coordinated the contest and claimed the winning title would become the next book in the original Goosebumps series.
As reported by the Chicago Tribune, young Jimmy Smylie of Glencoe, Illinois won the contest with his entry Slime Doesn’t Pay.
However, for some mysterious reason there was no Goosebumps book, or short story, given the title Slime Doesn’t Pay. Similar to Dead Dogs Still Fetch and the Goosebumps Creepstakes contest, this was a mystery to perplex the Goosebumps fandom for decades. With a bit of investigation, Jim Smylie was found on facebook by way of Smylie Brothers Brewing Company, founded by Jim and his brothers Michael, Bart, Matt, John, and their mother Nancy.
I reached out to Jim to talk to him about Slime Doesn’t Pay and that contest from 1994.
Wicked Horror: Hello Jim, thank you for getting back and being up for shedding some light on this longstanding Goosebumps mystery.
Jim Smylie: My pleasure! Amazed and delighted you were able to hunt me down.
WH: According to what archived news articles the fandom could find, you were the winner of a Goosebumps title contest held in 1994. Can you tell us about how the contest was advertised, or how it came to your attention?
Jim: I think it had a big splash ad in the monthly Scholastic Book Club catalog. I used to read that religiously, begged my mom for half the books in it, earned as many points as I could to spend on stuff like pens and stickers. I wanted a brain-shaped eraser, but I never saved up enough points.
WH: Sources say you were the big winner with “Slime Doesn’t Pay,” and mentioned a Lauren Fishman was the runner up with the title “You, Me, and Monster Makes Three.” How did it feel to know your title was picked as the winner?
Jim: Like I’d won the lottery! Here I was, the dorky theater kid who spent all his recess time reading, suddenly transformed into a nationwide contest winner. I found a way to work it into every conversation for a while. Big ups to Fishman for her title, too, it must have been a tough call at Goosebumps HQ.
WH: What came to mind when you were thinking of “Slime Doesn’t Pay?”
Jim: There were so many funny, snappy Goosebumps titles, so I was sitting in the Central School library, wracking my brain for as many ideas as I possibly could. Rhyming, alliteration, etc…none must have been any good because the only other one I remember was “Rabid Rabbit,” but then Slime Doesn’t Pay came like a bolt of lightning. Pretty sure I wrote it in all capital letters.
WH: Now, obviously, the biggest mystery has been what happened with “Slime Doesn’t Pay” and why there never seemed to be any development for it going forward. Can you tell us about what happened following the end of the title contest?
Jim: I got an amazing gift package, it had a fan club coffin and everything. There was a poseable skeleton, multiple books, candy, a Goosebumps hat…there may have even been a letter from RL Stine in there, too, but it’s all been lost to time. I asked my mom what she remembers about the aftermath and she asked me why Stine hasn’t written the book yet!
WH: Do you think “Slime Doesn’t Pay” may have been repurposed into another Goosebumps book, maybe one of the Monster Blood sequels?
Jim: That’s actually quite possible! Monster Blood was my favorite Goosebumps book at the time. I can’t remember whether the contest happened before or after Monster Blood II came out, but it’s very likely I had it in mind while I was brainstorming. I could have even written down “Monster Blood II: Slime Doesn’t Pay,” but I don’t think Stine would have wasted gold like that on a subtitle.
WH: Your brother reached out to R.L. Stine a few years ago on Reddit asking him about what happened with “Slime Doesn’t Pay.” Did anyone ever get back to you or him on the matter?
Jim: No word, sadly. Maybe the book’s in the to-do pile and Stine doesn’t want to respond until he gets to it.
WH: In all honesty, do you think there’s a chance Slime Doesn’t Pay could still be used for an actual Goosebumps story? Aside from the new books Stine has been working on, IDW Comics and has been releasing four-issue miniseries with different artists and writers.
Jim: I can only hope! Maybe with a footnote giving encouragement to nerdy kids who read during recess. …and, you know, royalties to me for giving him the idea. That’d be cool too.
Since chatting with Jim, the Goosebumps fandom recently dug up an archived interview with R.L. Stine from the Goosebumps website discussing “Slime Doesn’t Pay” and the other winning entries in the contest. The runner-ups included (alongside their usenames):
- THE GRIM REAPER LIVES IN MY LOCKER… by Mike Sneed (SNmentor16)
- FROG’S BREATH CAN KILL YOU by Cliff973
- SCREAM CHEESE By Tobia Falzone (JCoffey325)
- HAVE YOU SEEN MY HEAD LATELY? By Michelle Devlin (HarborMS)
- YOU, ME, & MONSTER MAKES THREE Lauren Fishman (LC Kids)
As of right now, there’s no answer as to why Slime Doesn’t Pay wasn’t made into a Goosebumps story despite the contest rules. There’s still hope for the future, and we hope Jim Smylie will someday get to see his title adorn an official Goosebumps tome.