10 Spookiest Literary Places to Visit on Halloween

All Hallow’s Eve is the spookiest night,

It’s filled with the scariest feelings of fright.

And what’s it all for with no stories to tell?

Shmoop’s got the goods since they know books so well.

For students who’re looking for candy to eat:

Shmoop’s Top Ten Places to Not Trick-or-Treat.

Public Domain from Wikimedia Commons.

  1. Miss Havisham’s House, Great Expectations. More like Great Exspooktations. Nineteenth-century England is dreary enough as is. Add a crazy lady with coping issues to the mix, and the result is a place meant to be skipped during trick-or-treating.

Public Domain from Wikimedia Commons.

  1. Coraline’s House, Coraline. A world where people have buttons for eyes? Creepy point proven. But what makes Coraline’s house in the “other” world so especially sinister is that it seems nice at first glance. Never trust appearances on Halloween.

Public Domain from Wikimedia Commons.

  1. The Bottomless Pit, The Bible. The Bottomless Pit of the Bible’s final book features smoke, locusts, and an evil angel. In case that’s not enough, the Devil joins the party, too. The Pit is the pits every day of the year, but Halloween is sure to bring out its true stench.

Public Domain from Wikimedia Commons.

  1. The Inferno, Dante’s Inferno. Medieval punishments were the best (read: worst), and Dante sure knew how to dole ‘em out. Unfortunately, those souls experiencing eternal pain aren’t just a cheap Haunted House decoration. Probably best to skip this one in favor of one of Dante’s less horrifying places, such as Paradiso.

  1. One of Coleridge’s Drug Trips, “Kubla Khan“. Shmoop just says no to drugs—but not to trippy literature. Coleridge’s adventures in la-la land are the stuff of ultimate ghost stories.

Source: Universal Pictures

Public Domain from Wikimedia Commons.

  1. The Post-Thneed Truffula Forest, The Lorax. Dr. Seuss’s worlds are usually filled with color and delight, but the decimated Truffula forest is as eerie as they come. The ghosts of trees past are not ones to mess with.

Public Domain from Wikimedia Commons.

  1. A River with Marlow, Heart of Darkness. Floating down a river with Marlow on Halloween is like riding a ship straight into post-colonial hell. The horror! The horror!

Public Domain from Wikimedia Commons.

  1. The Veldt, The Veldt. Dystopian literature presents a world in which every day is spooky. Bradbury’s virtual reality kill-fest definitely makes Shmoop thankful for the other 364 days of normal.

Public Domain from Wikimedia Commons.

  1. Room 101, 1984. For Winston, it’s rats. For Shmoop, it’s bad grammar. Room 101 contains everyone’s biggest fear, so it’s best not to test the waters on the scariest day of the year. Oh, the split infinitives!

Public domain from Wikimedia Commons.

  1. Everywhere, A Clockwork Orange. Even the the bravest faux Batman will quiver at the cover of Anthony Burgess’s classic. With blood, violence, brain zapping, and forcing-you-to-watch-violence-until-you-break torture, this book is definitely chill-inducing and boot-quivering.

Stay away from these places on All Hallow’s Eve.

Unless you find them within a book’s leaves.

What other lit locales deliver a spook?

Let Shmoop know by Tweet or Facebook.

Shmoop and Philadelphia’s Northeast High School Release New AP® Results, Prove Technology and Teachers Can Close Achievement Gap

Innovative teachers and AP coordinators used Shmoop as part of program to improve AP enrollment, saw college eligible test scores shoot up 3x with 10% increase in college matriculation. 

Despite recent news of the budget woes plaguing the school district of Philadelphia, a bright spot has been the success stories coming out of Northeast High School, located in one of the lowest income areas of the city. As part of a rigorous Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate program overhaul that began in the 2010 – 2011 school year, Northeast High School incorporated Shmoop, one of the world’s largest digital publishers of test prep materials and educational guides, and saw the number of college eligible AP scores (3+) triple in three years.

“Can a comprehensive high school with a largely low-income student body significantly increase college eligibility scores while maintaining enrollment numbers? Yes. In three years, that is exactly what Northeast High School has done,” says Ellen Siminoff, CEO and President of Shmoop. “The effective use of technology in classrooms should mean that companies like us make it easier for passionate teachers to do their jobs.”

Northeast High School students were given access Shmoop’s full suite of 30+ AP® test prep products to use as a resource to supplement the instruction they were getting in the classroom. In addition, the teachers and AP coordinators created a myriad of academic and extracurricular programs to motivate students to enroll in AP and IB classes. These programs included Saturday practice sessions, summer programs, awards assemblies, subsidized exam fees, and extra instruction and support in classrooms from staff and faculty members. As a result, Northeast High’s AP results soared. In 2007, before the programs were implemented, the school had no AP scholars and only ~10% had a score of ‘3’ or better. In contrast, after the implementation of Shmoop and the extra programs, Northeast High had 22 AP Scholars and saw more than one out of every three AP-test-taking students (36.1%) score a ‘3’ and above in the 2012 – 2013 school year. The college matriculation rate also jumped to 63% versus 53% in 2010, with 133 students earning college credit on 177 AP exams.

Closing the Achievement Gap 2013

Although Shmoop and the programs helped increase student retention rates and the number of students matriculating into college, the school was hit hard by the Philadelphia School District’s budget cuts.

“We have been sustaining the quality of these programs despite the annual budgets cuts that have occurred in the last four years, but this year, the conditions are worse, much worse than they have ever been,” says a public letter from Northeast High School teachers requesting more AP funding. “This year, we are at the point of ensuring that these programs still exist, not working to improve them.”

AP® is a trademark registered and/or owned by the College Board, which was not involved in the production of, and does not endorse, this product.

About Shmoop
Shmoop is a digital curriculum and test prep company that makes fun, rigorous learning and teaching materials. Shmoop content is written by master teachers and Ph.D. students from Stanford, Harvard, UC Berkeley, and other top universities. Shmoop Learning Guides, Test Prep, and Teacher’s Editions balance a teen-friendly, approachable style with academically rigorous materials to help teachers help students understand how subjects relate to their daily lives. Shmoop sees over 7 million unique visitors a month on its site, and offers more than 7,000 titles across the Web, iPhone, Android devices, iPad, Kindle, Nook, and Sony Reader. The company has been honored twice by the Webby Awards, named “Best in Tech” for 2010 and 2011 by Scholastic Administrator, and awarded with two Annual Education Software Review Awards (EDDIES) in 2013. Launched in 2008, Shmoop is headquartered in a labradoodle-patrolled office in Mountain View, California.

*SAT and AP are registered trademarks of the College Board, which was not involved in the production of and does not endorse this product.

*ACT is a federally registered trademark of ACT, Inc. Shmoop University is not affiliated with or endorsed by ACT, Inc.



Shmoop Launches College 101 Updates To Help Students With 2013-2014 College Admissions Process

Free guides and resources now available to help high school students get into high gear in time to apply to the colleges of their dreams

(Mountain View, CA) Oct. 15, 2013 – For most students, the changing leaves and smell of pumpkins signify the start of holiday-flavored lattes, trick-or-treating, and other seasonal shenanigans. Unfortunately for high school seniors, October is also now synonymous with looming college application deadlines. Early decision applications are due in November and FAFSA becomes available in January, which means college bound seniors need to start shaping up their essays, test scores, and grades – stat. It’s a lot to process, but luckily Shmoop, one of the world’s largest digital publisher of educational guides and resources, launched its newly revamped College 101 just in time to take students’ sweaty-palmed hands through this all-important decision.

Shmoop’s updated sections now feature a newly-updated College Essay Lab, checklists for every step of the admissions process, financial aid advice, and a ‘mad libs’ style assessment quiz that recommends relevant articles for you.

College Essay Lab

Writer’s block is bad enough, but having writer’s block two hours before the ‘application-to-determine-the-rest-of-your-life’ is due really sucks. Shmoop’s new College Essay Lab is designed to prevent this from happening for students, whether it’s warming up their creative juices with dozens of brainstorming exercises and personal statement examples, or narrowing down their focus so their essay really shines in front of those stone-faced admissions officers. All essay prompts are also adjusted to include the 2013 – 2014 Common Application prompts so students can actually use it when it’s time for the real thing!

Essay Lab

Master Checklists

For students who want to up their game before they become seniors, Shmoop has checklists by grade level written by students and experts who provide excellent guidance. (The main takeaway for middle school students – take a breather and relax!) For the more imminent tasks related to college admissions, students of all ages can take a sneak peek at the Senior Year Checklist to see what standardized tests to take, what the top deciding factors for choosing a college are, or what the the difference between early action vs. regular admissions is (other than, early action is, well, earlier). After all that work is done, they’ll finally be able to check off the last item on the list after they’re admitted: how to prepare for college!

Financial Aid/Scholarships

Once students complete these steps, they’re ready to ask the million dollar question – how much does it really cost to go to college? What is the difference between grants, loans, and scholarships and how can they get one? Shmoop gives the real deal with the Real Costs of College page and lays down a comprehensive guide to teach students how to hack the FAFSA, apply for financial aid, and apply to more scholarships than you can dream of (there’s even one for designing the best duct tape prom dress). Shmoop even has a section on how to be smart with money once students are actually in college so they don’t go broke buying energy drinks to pull all-nighters. (Note: Shmoop is pro-sleep and is therefore not endorsed by any energy drink companies.)

Shmoop’s College Assessment

If students are feeling overwhelmed and don’t know where to start, Shmoop’s created a fun, ‘madlibs’ style fill-in-the-blank quiz that personalizes and recommends content to help them on their totally clutch collegiate campaign. Whether students are juniors who want to get recruited for Division 1 fencing or a freshman who is freaking out, the quiz helps them get organized, narrow down their focus, and generate relevant recommended articles that will help them figure out that pesky future business in no time at all.

College 101 Quiz

So wipe those palms, roll up those sleeves, and get started on the college journey by visiting http://www.shmoop.com/college today!

Shmoop Launches Updated Guides to the AP® Chemistry and Spanish Language and Culture Exams

Shmoop equips students with the right stuff to keep up with new changes to the AP exams

Since there’s no point in students studying for the wrong exam, Shmoop, a publisher of digital curriculum and test prep (including all 30+ AP exams), announces the launch of newly updated teacher guides and student diagnostic and practice exams for two Advanced Placement exams: the AP Spanish Language and Culture and AP Chemistry exams.

Guide to the AP Spanish Language and Culture Exam

Imagine a world where people only needed to know seven questions to get by in a Spanish-speaking country:

  • Where’s the bathroom?
  • Can I have a fork?
  • I would like two apples.
  • This is her cat.
  • Where did the spider go?
  • Turn left and walk past the post office to arrive at the library.
  • Seriously, where’s the bathroom?

If real life isn’t restricted to questions of the mundane and practical, exams shouldn’t be either, no? The College Board doesn’t think so either, which is why they’re introducing a new AP exam format for the Spanish Language and Culture exam. The updates include free response questions that focus on specific interpersonal and presentational communication skills so that students will actually be able to chat with real, native Spanish-speaking people in the not-so-distant future. The written section asks students to write an email and a persuasive essay, and the speaking section will require students to carry on a conversation and present on a cultural comparison…but don’t count on it to help you sound less awkward asking out that chica muy bonita.

The revamped AP Spanish Language and Culture exam features six course themes that range from technology to aesthetics. Students can bet that a selection about a family in a community will have something to do with the theme of la familias y las comunidades—and Shmoop is here to make sure they’re equipped with all the information they need to take that subject and run with it.

Guide to the AP Chemistry Exam

Since chemistry is really all about studying and understanding the building blocks of all materials on Earth and beyond, the AP exam is now focusing on laying down strong foundations in six guided inquiry investigations called “Big Ideas.” Gone are the days of memorizing exceptions to the Aufbau Principle and specific crystal structures. Instead, the exam is all about understanding chemistry—giving students the tools they need to solve problems and think about what is really happening in the lab.

As a perfect complement to completing hands-on chemistry labs in the classroom, Shmoop’s AP Chemistry guide, drills, and practice exams will give students the practice they need to succeed.

Ready? Let’s get started.

*AP® is a trademark registered registered and/or owned by the College Board, which was not involved in the production of, and does not endorse, this product.

Shmoop Launches Online Courses for High School Students and a ‘High-Grade Fix’ for Breaking Bad Addicts

For students, back to school might mean the smell of sharpened pencils and lined paper, but for Shmoop, back to school smells like pure joy. We’re a digital publisher of content and educational resources for over 7 million unique monthly site visitors and thousands of schools. That means we love dishing out new products and features just in time for students and teachers to feast on as the school year gets started.

Shmoop’s Mirthfully Original Online Courses Are Here

Over the summer, Shmoop’s greatest minds and Chef de cuisines gathered together to determine how to create the perfect recipe for online courses that work. Using the highly scientific diagram below, we’ve created dozens of Common Core-aligned online courses inspired by the “best cuts” of Shmoop, including:


  • Hilarious Original Content
    Humor is the academic WD-40 we squirt on the educational tracks to make learning more fun, relevant, and accessible. So rest assured, all our content—from U.S. History to Modernist Literature to How to Write a Resumé—will have the same Shmoopy aftertaste as the literature guides and test prep resources you know and love.
  • Common Core Compliant
    Want to get published in The New Yorker? Vanity Fair? Well, Shmoop’s Common Core-aligned course on the Five-Paragraph Essay can’t help you. But we can promise to teach you to write spectacularly and nab that elusive A. Hey, we all gotta start somewhere. Check out more Common Core-aligned courses here.
  • Activities, Rubrics, & Teacher Notes
    This one we cooked up just for teachers! Shmoop’s online courses have activities, grading rubrics, quizzes, and individual diagnostics so that teachers are equipped with everything necessary to make Jedi Masters out of their Padawans—er, students.
  • Adaptable, Accessible, Affordable
    For a fraction of the price (and the weight) of a textbook, teachers and students can access high-quality, engaging content from anywhere in the world.

Go on and sample an online course from our fabulous menu of courses today!

Breaking Bad: Your Fix Of High-Grade SHMOOC

Step aside, Shakespeare. Breaking Bad is in town.

This Emmy-winning show is cleaning up on all sides, winning the hearts of critics and audiences alike. Even the Guinness World Records took it on, granting it the title of highest-rated TV series in history. This might explain why people have been nailed to their Netflix accounts for months, burning through all five seasons like it was Heisenberg’s Blue Sky. Don’t worry, Shmoop’s been there—and we’ve written academic papers about it, to boot.

Just in time for the series finale, Shmoop is releasing a 15-lesson course analyzing the beans out of this show: everything from Breaking Bad as a classical tragedy; the undertones of Shakespeare, Nietzsche, and Kafka; its visual symbolism and clever filming; why people hate Skyler; and everything in-between.

So whether you’re just a casual fan or a theory-crafting addict, become the kingpin of Breaking Bad knowledge before saying goodbye to it all on AMC this Sunday.

What You Missed Over the Summer

In order to commemorate Back to School Shmoop style, we created an infographic to catch you up on on the gossip you might have missed over the summer. (Spoiler: Jung sits with Freud now. Awkward.)

Shmoop-ShMOOC-InfoGraphic (5)

Literature Guides
Game of Thrones finally overthrew The Hunger Games trilogies as the most-read literature summary. It’s not winter, but Katniss should have seen it coming.

As school ended and some students were out on their tuchus to find a job, they turned to Shmoop’s Career guide to start their journey to becoming adults. Of the top 10 states that visited our Careers page the most, we found it interesting that the Midwest and the South tended to concentrate on government and service-oriented jobs, while the coasts gravitated toward software engineer and, um, President.

College 101
In preparation for college applications, Shmoopers turned to College 101 to research scholarships that appealed to a variety of interests, including science, technology, community service, and… prom dress making. Haven’t started the college search yet? Not to worry! Check out our revamped College 101 page today and take our new quiz to point you in the right direction for everything related to financial aid, applications, and the best college mascots.

Shmoop on All Screens
The results are in: iPhones win the popularity contest over Android devices as the device of choice for Shmoopers. We saw a near 200% increase in visits to our site via a mobile phone, and nearly 3 out of 4 of those visits were from an Apple-produced phone.

Not to brag, but..
Huge shout out to Indio High School, who added a dose of Shmoop into their AP classrooms in 2011 and saw 5x more AP scholars in 2013 vs. the year they started with us. Their teachers deserve most of the credit, as they also took the school from the chronically underperforming list to a Top High School Silver Award Winner from US News & Reports! Hip hip hooray!

For more trends and insights, click here

Best Summer Movie Adaptations

Shmoop may be a literature lover, but we’re not literary snobs. We love to see our favorite books brought to life on the big screen.

Whether it’s adventures with Percy Jackson, demigod, fighting zombies with Brad Pitt, or tracking down demons with Clary Fray and Shadowhunters, this summer had a host of big-screen books. But which one was YOUR favorite?

Top Ten: Heroes

Heroes go through a specific, instantly recognizable journey. From answering the call to adventure, to chilling with Ganda—Dumble—Obi-Wa—their mentor, to beating the big bad, you pretty much know what you’re going to get with these larger-than-life do-gooders. But even though heroes typically follow the same structure, they all have their own unique talents and challenges.

Here are Shmoop’s Top Ten Studliest Heroes.

10. Heracles (Hercules)

Ah, Heracles: the quintessential mythological hero. The demi-god (his parents are the divine Zeus and the mortal Alcmene) killed many beasts and monsters and became a god after his death. Not all was cool for Herc, though. Herc had to fight not only literal demons but his personal ones as well. After killing his family, he had to perform the twelve labors in order to redeem himself. Of course, no sooner did he complete those than his wife accidentally poisoned him and killed him. Awks. Oh well. At least the Disney movie featured one of our fav songs of all time.

9. Aeneas from Virgil’s Aeneid

This epic poem, is, well, epic. Aeneas feels like he is doing the will of the gods by going into battle (though maybe he could have upped his mercy levels). In the end, Aeneas’ good characteristics arguably outweigh the bad: he displays incredible loyalty to people he cares about like his father, Anchises, and son, Ascanius… unfortunately, his call to action was more important than the feelings of his wife Dido. Insert sad face here.

8. Randle McMurphy from Ken Kesey’s One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest

Randle’s character proves that you don’t have to win wars or fight beasts to be a hero. His antagonist is Nurse Ratched, who treats patients totally cruelly. He spends some time conforming to her rules, but he eventually has the bravery to stand up to her on behalf of his fellow patients, even in the face of electroshock therapy. After the death of his friend, he attempts to strangle the nurse and comes back from the hospital a different person, without his spark and vitality. Yup. Sometimes the hero’s tale doesn’t end in a fairytale happy ending, but that doesn’t eliminate his or her accomplishments.

7. Guy Montag from Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451

Guy struggles a lot of guilt; he was a fireman who burned books and now he saves books? Throughout the novel, he tries to sort out his thoughts in a heroic mental battle while he tries to navigate a chilling dystopia. Guy shows that an epiphany does not come easily or can be prescribed in a book—experience plays a large role. So, in order to be a hero, you’ve got to take chances, make mistakes, and get messy.

 6. Charlie Bucket from Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

Charlie’s one of our favs because he’s super caring: he asks if his fellow golden ticket winners (who are total meanies) are okay after they get hurt. He also doesn’t talk a lot, so when he does, it means a lot. These qualities set him apart from the other spoiled children on the tour and ultimately show Mr. Wonka that Charlie would be the perfect person to inherit the eponymous factory. Brava, Charlie! You deserve it.

5. Arnold Spirit (a.k.a Junior) from Sherman Alexie’s The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian

Junior makes the transition from a reservation to an affluent white high school and proves to be one of the most compelling characters we’ve ever read about. He struggles with his identity—who is he? White? Indian?—and figuring out his place in the world. Junior finally realizes that he, like all of us, belongs to many tribes and he doesn’t have to pick just one. He’s able to combine all the parts of himself into one person, and that gives him the determination and perseverance to keep it together and succeed.

4. Mark Mathabane from Mark Mathabane’s Kaffir Boy

Mark is dealt a tough lot in life: he grew up in Apartheid South Africa and lived in fear of the police. Despite his hardships, he succeeds academically and discovers a passion for tennis. Mark doesn’t let setbacks stop him, and eventually lands a tennis scholarship in the U.S. Talk about overcoming obstacles and showing the world how awesome you are.

3. Frodo Baggins from J.R.R. Tolkien’s Fellowship of the Ring

Frodo starts out as an average, homely hobbit who is thought of as a bit odd, along with his adoptive dad, Bilbo (notice a trend in which the odd underdogs do great things?). He sets out on a quest to destroy the One Ring to Rule Them All in Mordor and, along with his fellowship of friends, he battles the evil outside and within and succeeds in his quest.

2. Frederick Douglass from Frederick Douglass’ The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass

Brush up for your AP US History exam, Shmoopers. In Douglass’ autobiography, he talks about what it was like to grow up in slavery and tells us his remarkable journey to freedom in the north. His tenacity and dedication to his belief that slaves should live regular lives led to some amazing accomplishments. This guy is a real, live hero.

1. Dr. Bernard Rieux from Albert Camus’ The Plague

The doctor steps up and insists action should be taken against the plague. But he doesn’t think that he’s a hero (nor does he want other people to think that). Rather, he’s just doing what has to be done. Can someone be a hero if they don’t think they are? We say yes!

Did we miss your favorite hero? Tell us in the comments!