There is a thunderstorm over Lakewood Elementary. Fern is reading a report in front of the class.
Fern: Who wrote “Frankenstein”? It was Mary Shelley, at age nineteen. How did this young girl come to create the most famous monster in the world?
A house in the mountains is seen.
Fern: She was on vacation with her friends in the Swiss Alps. They decided to hold a contest to see who can invent the scariest story.
Lord Byron: “And now the ghost, too weak to haunt, once more shall fade, as is his wont.” The end. Percy Shelley yawns while John Polidori is dozing. Mary Shelley claps. Your turn, Mary.
Mary Shelley: (clears throat) “I am by birth a Genovese, and my family is one of the most distinguished...”
Fern: Out of this friendly competition, a masterpiece of horror was born.
Mary Shelley: “...He was soon borne away by the waves and lost in darkness and distance.” Well, that's Frankenstein. Look, I know it needs work, guys, but what do you think? Guys?! The men stare in horror.
Fern: If Mary Shelley can scare the world with her brilliant story, then maybe I can do it too. Thunder and lightning.
Title Card: Arthur with Umbrella
Arthur, Buster, Muffy and Fern sit at a table in the cafeteria. It is still raining outside.
Arthur: How can it rain for three straight days? We're trapped inside with nothing to do.
Fern: I know something we could do. Let's see who can tell the scariest story.
Buster: Ooh, I love scary stories.
Muffy: Really scary stories!
Arthur: Yeah, no baby stuff! It has to be as scaaary as you can make it.
Buster: Okay, okay. I've got a really good one. There was this vampire... A vampire appears in a thought bubble. No, wait! It was a giant, radioactive lizard. The vampire changes into Godzilla. No, wait! It was a giant, radioactive, vampire lizard! Godzilla wears the vampire’s cape. Yeah. And he was really, really scary. The end!
Muffy: That wasn't scary, Buster! It wasn't even a story! I'll give you a scary story. “There was this girl and she went to this dance. Muffy is one of several kids at a dance in the school gym. Her dress was perfect and so were her accessories. She danced and danced. It made her thirsty. She went for punch, but the clumsy oaf in front of her tripped over his cheap shoes. George spills punch over Muffy’s dress. His punch spilt all over her dress, and the stain would never come out.”
Arthur: Was that supposed to be scary?
Muffy: Fine! Your turn, Arthur. Go ahead and scare me.
Arthur: Okay. You asked for it. A birthday party. “There was this kid, and on his birthday, he got a hideous and mysterious pair of underwear. Arthur unpacks underpants with clowns on them. He buried them in his underwear drawer, and that was that. The next day, he was forced to go to the board and do long division. Suddenly, his pants fell down...
Arthur: …and there it was - the mysterious underwear, the underwear he had never put on, the underwear he thought he had buried forever!” The camera focuses on the underwear.
Clown Picture: (laughs)
The fantasy ends. Arthur sadly shakes his head and drinks soda pop.
Muffy: Oh! Arthur, you've got to get over your underwear obsession! You split your pants months ago. It's over! Move on!
Fern: I guess it's my turn now. (clears throat) My story is true. It happened to my uncle. He's the one who saw the... Thing.
Buster: The... Thing?!
Fern: “My uncle's an entomologist…”
Arthur: A what?
Fern: A person who studies insects. You know, bugs, beetles, that sort of thing.
Fern: That's not the scary part. Anyway, he's a scientist. Stuff like that doesn't bother him. But there was this one time... She takes a drink of milk. The others hold their breaths. “One night, when my uncle was a graduate student, my uncle was working late in the lab with one of his professors. It was raining heavily.”
In her imagination two men are standing in a room with an insect collection. The younger man is opening a wooden box.
Fern: They were unpacking specimens from an expedition to the Congo. Some of the insects were large.” The men take out a foot-long beetle in a glass case.
Arthur: How large?
Fern: My uncle recalled a beetle with two-foot long pincers - the Congolese pincer pod.
Fern: “Anyway, it was late, and the professor decided to go home. He had no umbrella, so he decided to look around for an extra one that somebody might have left behind. My uncle kept working. He started to open the last crate, and was surprised to find that it was already open. ‘That's odd,’ he remarked.”
Buster: Kinda Weird!
Fern: “Well, just then, the old professor called out that he had found an umbrella. It was a plain umbrella, with a long, wooden handle. Muffy and Buster swallow. The only distinguishing mark was a green emerald at the end of the handle - a large, round jewel that caught the light and glinted. It looked almost as if it had blinked, as if it were some kind of eye. My uncle walked the old professor to the door so he could lock up after him. The professor stepped out into the rain and opened the umbrella. There was a high-pitched buzzing, and then a horrible rattle of scales and wings. My uncle could see this was no umbrella. It was some kind of a...”
Fern: “He saw with horror that the wings were lined with hundreds of writhing stingers.”
Fern: “It folded the stinging wings over the old professor. Arthur grabs his tray. My uncle heard something like a satisfied slurp, and then…"
Fern: "…with a bloodcurdling shriek, the Thing flew off into the night. The old professor was never seen again.” The school bell rings.
Arthur+Buster+Muffy: Aagh! They run away. Fern looks pleased.
While several kids are playing on the playground, Muffy, Buster and Arthur sit on the swings.
Arthur: I just.. I couldn't sleep, couldn't get that story out of my head.
Muffy: I know. I closed my eyes and all I could see were writhing stingers.
Buster: I kept hearing the satisfied slurp.
Arthur: And the bloodcurdling shriek... Fern walks up to them.
Fern: Hey everybody! Isn't it beautiful today?
Arthur: Why did you have to tell us about the Thing?
Buster: Yeah! I was so happy before!
Muffy: How does your uncle sleep at night?
Fern: Muffy, I don't have an uncle and there is no Thing! I made it up! You guys know that!
Arthur: But you said it was a true story. Were you lying? Fern sits down and starts swinging.
Fern: No. Saying that it all really happened was just part of the story. It's a common storytelling device, Arthur. By the way, Mary Shelley used it too.
Muffy: But those details, the lab and the rain and the insects - you made it all sound so real!
Fern: Yeah, well, that's what a good storyteller does. Look, it's not real, so get over it.
Arthur: I can still hear the bloodcurdling shriek.
Buster: And that satisfied slurp.
Muffy: And those writhing stingers… Who can forget about those?
Fern: Come on! It's just stuff I made up.
Muffy: You know what's really scary, Fern? Your brain! I mean, how could you think up a story like that? Fern gets off the swing.
Fern: Easily! And I could think of even scarier ones if I tried. Listen to this: “It was a dark and stormy night...”
Arthur: Let's get out of here! They run away.
Fern: 'Fraidy cats!
Buster puts his coat and backpack in his locker.
Buster: (whistles nervously) He closes the locker to find Fern standing beside him.
Fern: Hi, Buster!
Fern: Relax! I wanted to remind you about the library book sale tomorrow.
Buster: Can't hear you! Can't hear you! He runs away.
Fern drags a heavy bag up to the library. Arthur is just coming out.
Fern: Hey, Arthur, will you help me with this?
Arthur: Wh-what's in there? Fern drops the bag. Scare Your Pants Off books fall out.
Fern: Oh, Arthur, here, it's just... Arthur runs away.
Arthur: No! Keep your scary stories to yourself!
Miss Turner puts Fern’s books on a table.
Ms. Turner: Scare Your Pants Off books are always hot items at the book sale. Are you absolutely sure you want to part with all of these, Fern?
Fern: Yeah. Since I read Frankenstein, I found them all kind of tame. Miss Turner walks to an electric sign saying “Book Sale”.
Ms. Turner: Wait till I plug in these lights - a touch of glitz and glamor for the book sale! Be right back.
Miss Turner leaves. Arthur, Buster, Muffy and D.W. come in.
Fern: Welcome to the totally unscary booksale.
Buster: Here, everybody: garlic. Prunella said it would protect us. He hands out cloves.
Fern: What's with the garlic? Buster holds a clove in her direction.
Buster: Begone, Queen of Darkness! Your powers mean nothing here!
Fern: I am NOT the Queen of Darkness! The lights go out.
Kids: (scream and run out)
Fern and Miss Turner check the fuses with a flashlight.
Fern: Um, what exactly caused this blackout, do you think?
Ms. Turner: Electrical hubris. I blew a circuit when I plugged in the fancy-shmanzy sign. She turns the lights back on. Fern turns off the flashlight.
Arthur, Buster and Muffy are hiding behind a bookshelf. Miss Turner and Fern walk to the table with the books for sale.
Ms. Turner: Hi! We've got lots of Scare Your Pants Off books today. Everybody likes a good scare.
Fern: Not everybody.
Ms. Turner: Well, if you don't want scary, we've got plenty of options here today. This one’s hilarious: “Captain Underpants and the Wrath of the Wicked Wedgie Woman!”
Fern: So funny! I loved it!
Ms. Turner: Or how about this one? A real tearjerker. “Old Yeller”.
Fern: So sad. I cried and cried.
Ms. Turner: Oh, me too. A good writer can make you feel anything.
Fern: You're right.
Arthur, Buster and Muffy come out of hiding. Arthur drags D.W.
D.W.: Arthur, I'm not ready to go!
Fern: Listen, guys, I'm not the Queen of Darkness and I can prove it.
Arthur: Yeah, right!
Fern: My story was scary, but I can make it unscary. Just listen.
Buster: No way! He holds garlic at Fern. She snatches it from him. Buster backs away.
Fern: The umbrella doesn't have to turn into the Thing! I can make it into anything you like.
Muffy: It's a trick.
Fern: No, listen. I could make it turn into something wonderful, like... like a dragon.
Muffy: Dragons are scary!
Fern: Not this one! When the old professor opens the umbrella, it transforms into a golden dragon!
Muffy: Golden is good. Platinum is better!
Fern: Okay. It's a platinum dragon! And it knows the way to a secret cave full of, you know, treasures,
jewels, and really great, um...
Muffy: Accessories! And shoes! Lots of shoes! In her fantasy a dragon hands her fancy shoes.
Buster: Shoes? I don't get it.
Fern: Or maybe the umbrella turns into something else, like... like…
Buster: An alien? Buster stands at a sign saying “Roswell City Limits”. The door of a spaceship opens. The Thing comes out and turns into a scary alien. But a nice one! The alien turns into a kind looking alien which hugs Buster.
Arthur: Does it always have to be aliens?
Fern: No. The alien turns back into the Thing. Arthur grabs the umbrella handle. The umbrella can have superpowers. Hold on to it and you can...um…
Arthur: Fly? Small rockets appear on the umbrella’s rim.
Fern: Fly! And rid the world of evil-doers! Arthur flies alongside Bionic Bunny.
D.W.: Stop! Stop it, all of you! You're ruining the Thing!
Arthur: D.W., what are you talking about? You don't even know what the Thing is.
D.W.: I have ears, Arthur! For the past two days, the Thing is all you've talked about. The slurp, the shriek, the stingers! I want them back in!
Fern: But it's too scary, D.W.!
D.W.: It could be scarier. I had a couple of ideas.
Fern: Oh, yeah? Like what?
D.W.: The big horrible Thing should break up into a lot of little horrible things.
Muffy: I really like the platinum dragon.
Fern: You mean, like lots of spiders or scorpions running around? That kind of thing? That's good.
Arthur+Buster: We can't hear you! We can't hear you! We can't hear you! They put their fingers in their ears.
D.W.: Here’s the deal. The little horrible things are really bloodthirsty... She walks away with Fern.