Bunnicula is a children's book series written by James Howe (and his late wife Deborah in the case of "Bunnicula") about a vampire bunny that sucks the juice out of vegetables. It is also the name of the first book in the series, published 1979 (ISBN 0-689-80659-0).
The story is centered on the Monroe family and their pets and is told from the perspective of their dog Harold. The Monroes find a bunny at the theater where they were watching a Dracula film. Because of this, they name him Bunnicula. Their cat Chester, however, is convinced Bunnicula is a vampire and attempts to get Harold (the dog) to help save the Monroes from the perceived menace.
A 1982 animated TV special (from Ruby-Spears) by the same name was created based on the first book and aired on the ABC Weekend Special. The animated special deviated heavily from the novels and actively depicted Bunnicula using vampiric powers, which did not occur in the novels.
The full name of the first book is Bunnicula: A Rabbit-Tale of Mystery. The second and third books of the series are Howliday Inn and The Celery Stalks at Midnight. Nighty-Nightmare followed in 1987, followed by Return to Howliday Inn in 1993. In 1999, Bunnicula Strikes Again! was published. Bunnicula Meets Edgar Allan Crow was published in 2006, and appears to be the final book in the Bunnicula series.
Following the end of the Bunnicula series, James Howe began a spin-off series called Tales from the House of Bunnicula, which are "written" by Howie, the dachshund puppy introduced into the series in Howliday Inn. There is also a series called Bunnicula and Friends: Ready To Read. They are a series of six picture books about adventures of the characters from the stories. They are aimed for beginning readers.
Characters throughout the series
Harold – The main character, despite Bunnicula being the title-bearing character. Harold is an old, scruffy and loving dog under the Monroes' care. He narrates the books, sometimes claiming he would not even write the books if it weren't for Bunnicula. He enjoys his life with the Monroe family, particularly with the youngest child Toby, always being a diligent and loyal pet. His longtime friend is Chester the cat, who also lives in the Monroe household. Harold has a strong affection for chocolate cupcakes, as well as other typical snacks such as cheese crackers and fudge, despite the potential risk of food poisoning due to chocolate consumption. He is a mongrel, but is part Russian wolfhound, and quietly proud of his bloodlines. He says that this is why he is able to recognize an obscure dialect of Transylvanian writing in the first book.
In the first book, Harold sees Bunnicula for the first time, as well as seeing a bunny for the first time. While Bunnicula's vampire-like activities do scare him a little, he holds no grudges against the bunny, even befriending him. Unluckily, Chester, who has an outrageously vivid imagination and a narrow mind, thinks Bunnicula is a real vampire and forces Harold to assist him to kill the rabbit. All attempts fail, and finally Harold goes against Chester's crazy attempts to do away with Bunnicula. Throughout the series, Harold is portrayed as good-hearted and sensible in his own way, though perhaps a bit slow (which subjects him to rude nicknames given to him by Chester), and remains unconvinced of Chester's belief that Bunnicula is a vampire regardless of some actual evidence that may support Chester's theories, however briefly seen or referenced. Despite everything, Harold never stops thinking of Chester as his best friend.
Chester – The highly imaginative, prideful cat who loves good literature. He was given to Mr. Monroe as a birthday present, and the name "Chester" was derived from G. K. Chesterton. Ever since Bunnicula's arrival, Chester becomes increasingly convinced that the bunny could be a threat ("Today vegetables, tomorrow the world!" he exclaims in reference to Bunnicula's "diabolical plans" when trying to convince Harold of his belief that Bunnicula is a vampire), and becomes singlemindedly obsessed with controlling him. For a long time, Chester really wanted to kill or at least disable Bunnicula, and has done the latter by drinking the bunny's vegetable juice or spreading garlic around to contain him. He once tried to kill Bunnicula by using a steak (not a stake), a mistake he prefers not to dwell on. Another time, he led Harold and Howie on a chase around Centerville, "murdering" vampire vegetables, which were in fact the leftover meals from Bunnicula. (An apparent 'survivor' of the purge Chester lead them on appears to try sneaking up on Harold at the climax of The Celery Stalks at Midnight, only to be spotted by Harold, who then asks Chester for a toothpick in order to 'kill' the offending object. It is never explicitly stated if Chester was playing a prank using one of the leftover vegetables that they hadn't "destroyed" or if this was an actual attempt at an attack by one of Bunnicula's 'minions'.)
Harold and eventually Howie disagree with Chester's methods, as Chester is often carried away with his imagination and narrow-mindedness. Harold mentions in Nighty-Nightmare that Chester's constant reading and watching horror movies have given him "a reality leak that requires constant attention". He usually calls both of his canine friends "dolts", "simpletons", or "idiots." He is known not to apologize for his errors that greatly affect Harold, instead referring them as "a slight misinterpretation in the facts." Despite having a tense relationship with Bunnicula, deep down he accepts him as one of the family, and in the final two books of the series, Bunnicula Strikes Again! and Bunnicula meets Edgar Allan Crow, becomes friends with Bunnicula, claiming that by knowing the facts about vampires best, he can protect Bunnicula from himself.
Bunnicula — The rabbit with strange eating habits and vampire-like qualities, but otherwise harmless, Bunnicula came to the Monroe household on a dark, stormy night. Toby found him in the theater, which was at the time showing Dracula, and brought him home, where Mrs. Monroe brought up the clever name Bunnicula. A note was placed with Bunnicula when he was found, written in Russian, reading "Please take care of my baby." It is unknown who left Bunnicula in the theater or wrote the note, but the letter was written in a dialect that nobody except Harold could read. He is subjected to many murder attempts by Chester, who thinks that the rabbit would eventually become carnivorous. However, his "indestructible" stature proves to Chester that he cannot be killed.
Due to his young age, Bunnicula cannot talk - or at least he simply doesn't speak at any point in the series — but shows emotions all the same, such as winking happily at Harold or crying. He does exhibit the unusual ability to get in and out of his cage without using the door, and initially opens the refrigerator by himself. Instead of a rabbit's buck teeth, Bunnicula inexplicably has fangs, which enables him to bite vegetables and suck the juice out of them, similar to the method by which Dracula dines, leaving them ghostly white. In The Celery Stalks at Midnight Bunnicula, by that point put on a vegetable diet, escapes his cage due to being put in a special cage intended for use at a pet show while being left in the Monroe's garage, and escapes into the night, leaving a trail of white vegetables in his wake which Chester is convinced must be destroyed by using a stake through their hearts. Chester had learned from his mistake in Bunnicula, and chose toothpicks as his weapon of choice in this book. (How and where he was going to locate the actual 'heart' of a vegetable was never explained.) One of Bunnicula's apparent victims tries to sneak up on Harold at the end of the book, and it is left ambiguous as to whether or not Chester was playing a prank on Harold, though Chester seemed to be oblivious to the thumping noise the vegetable was making, or if this was indeed an actual attempt at an attack by a vampire vegetable.
Bunnicula, at the end of Nighty Nightmare is revealed to have produced a litter of offspring with a rabbit owned by a friend of Pete Monroe as part of a project for the novels' equivalent of the Boy Scouts. At least one of the offspring is stated by Pete as looking identical to Bunnicula, and was briefly mentioned again in Bunnicula meets Edger Allan Crow, where he was named "Sonnicula", due to his being the son of Bunnicula and carrying an identical appearance to his father. Sonnicula never made any direct appearances in the series, being referred to only twice in passing during the events in the series. In Nighty Nightmare, Chester's story implies that Bunnicula's parents were vampire rabbits who were created by a lonely vampire, though Chester may have made the entire story up as implied by revelations at the end of the novel. However Chester seems personally convinced that the story is complete truth at the time that he tells it and tells it in such a way that it resembles a ghost story, one that entrances the other characters until the truth about the subject that brought up the story is revealed. It is the closest there has ever been to an 'origin' story for Bunnicula and his apparent powers, whether or not it was concocted entirely in Chester's imagination, and the author has never produced an actual origin for him or his abilities. Nor has he ever explicitly confirmed or denied whether or not Bunnicula is vampiric outside of occasional hints in the novels by way of Bunnicula's odd abilities and physical features.
In the non-canon animated special, produced by Ruby-Spears, Bunnicula's name is written in the note itself, to avoid having the Monroes name him. The note is one of the few aspects of the novel to carry over into the animated special, as Bunnicula is found near a processing plant in the special. In the televised version, when Bunnicula goes into his vampiric form, he sprouts bat wings under his arms and his eyes turn yellow. His vampire powers include flight, hypnosis, levitation, and telekinesis. Chester's murder attempts do not take place in the special and he ultimately decides that the idea that Bunnicula is a vampire is "ridiculous", something which doesn't occur in the novels, which has a touch of irony, since Bunnicula is blatantly shown using his vampiric powers (in as far as the animated special is concerned), and Chester was correct in his belief of Bunnicula's true nature.
Howie — The carefree and sometimes slightly dim Dachshund puppy who was adopted by the Monroes from Chateau Bow-Wow, making him the newest member of the family. He was the runt of the litter and his parents, Howard and Heather, were valuable long-haired Dachshunds (whom Chester secretly suspected of being werewolves). Howie's somewhat eerie howling has not changed the cat's mind on the matter. Howie usually does not understand the seriousness of matters, thinking that murdering vampire vegetables is a game and chasing Bunnicula is a race. He did not even know what a vampire was when Chester informed him, though he does not think Bunnicula is a danger. For an unknown reason, he calls Harold and Chester "Uncle Harold" and "Pop", respectively; while Harold is perfectly comfortable with his nickname, Chester is still not used to his own. Howie's hobbies include chewing things, eating and chasing cars (which he's not allowed to do). Despite his boldness, Howie was a bit unnerved by scary stories at first, then outgrew it after the pets' adventures in Bunnicula Strikes Again! Later, he decided he wanted to try writing too, and his first drafts turn out to be pretty good- for a puppy's work.
Robert Monroe — He is the husband of Ann Monroe and the father of Peter and Toby Monroe. He works as a college professor, and his knack for reading classical literature enabled Chester to read as well. In the animated special, he is described by Harold as being a scientist, rather than a college professor, and works at the plant where Bunnicula is discovered.
Ann Monroe — She is Robert's wife and the mother of Peter and Toby Monroe. She thought up of the name Bunnicula by combining "Bunny" and "Dracula". She had previously tried to name him "Bun-Bun" and "Fluffy". Names like this seem to be a habit with her, because Harold and Chester were both called "Fluffy" for a short time. Her occupation as a lawyer makes her a good and strict mother. In the animated special, Ann is not described as having any job other than being a housewife. She also does not name Bunnicula in the special, as the name is included in the note they find with him.
Peter Monroe — The oldest of two boys who slacks off often. He's often selfish, and usually bullies his younger brother Toby and the pets, except for Bunnicula. Harold and Chester avoid him, Chester being largely indifferent, but Howie finds him intriguing, mainly because of the scary books he reads. The space under his bed is very messy, and in addition to keeping a stuffed animal named Puddikins under it for emergency hugs, many other stuff has turned up such as Oreos, dirty socks and a notebook that Harold gives Howie.
Toby Monroe – The younger brother, and much more dignified and kinder than Peter. He likes to share his snacks with Harold during his late-night readings, and is adored by Chester and Howie. He cares a lot for the pets, and was known to slip pieces of food to Harold at dinner.
Sonnicula - the son of Bunnicula. He looked just like Bunnicula and was born during Nighty Nightmare. His mother was a rabbit brought by Peter's best friend Kyle. It was not said whether he inherited his father's vampiric appetite, but he sleeps during the day, just like Bunnicula. In the last book he was adopted by Miles Tanner.
Miles Tanner (M.T. Graves) is the author of the "Fleshcrawlers" series, of which Peter is a fan. He lived temporarily at the Monroe's house when Peter won a contest allowing it. He shows interest in Bunnicula and carried his pet, Edgar Allan Crow, around. He had a pale face, long curly hair, a black cape, and was very attached to a black bag. The black bag was thought to contain Bunnicula (by Chester, of course) when Bunnicula escaped. The pets opened the bag, greatly embarrassing Miles Tanner in front of company. The contents were stuffed animals. Miles admitted that they were to train him to overcome his fear of animals. He said he was scared of dogs, cats, and people. He wanted a rabbit because a rabbit never barked at him before. Therefore, he wants Bunnicula. In the end he adopts Sonnicula, saying "It won't be Bunnicula, but it will be fine." The Monroes are greatly relieved to still keep their amazing pet. In a letter, Miles says he will marry Ms. Pickles, Peter's school librarian and they shall be neighbors. The Monroe pets changed his mind towards animals.
Edgar Allan Crow is a crow Miles adopted, found on his doorstep when he was a wounded baby. Edgar gives Miles company and Miles has said he can't do anything without him. Edgar, however, wants to go back to his own kind. He was seen courting another crow in the Monroe's place. Edgar learns to write and sends an e-mail to the Monroes.
Mrs. Marjorie Tanner (née Pickles): Peter's English teacher, who is also a fan of M.T. Graves and in fact his wife (assumedly). She first met Tanner when she brought over a cake as an excuse to meet him before he came to visit Peter's school. Soon after the Monroes received a letter from Tanner announcing his engagement to Ms. Pickles, she is assumedly now Marjorie Tanner.
Ms.(Mz.) Kipper: The principal of Peter's school
When the Monroe family decides to leave for a vacation, they send Harold and Chester off to a kennel called Chateau Bow-Wow (A special boarding house for special cats and dogs). There, they meet the other inhabitants of the kennel: A frustrated poodle named Louise, an athletic bulldog, a mutt named Taxi, a crazy cat named Lyle, a flirtatious poodle named Georgette, and two dachshunds named Heather and Howard, who Chester is certain are werewolves. The owner of the kennel, Dr. Greenbriar, is taking the week off and the other staff, an aspiring vet named Jill and a comic-book reader named Harrison who hopes to make a million bucks before he is twenty-one, are overworked. Because they are overworked, they make a lot of mistakes, especially Jill. These mistakes include feeding the animals late and temporarily misplacing Chester's file. Harrison will later use this tendency to forget things to his advantage. Tensions are high between the two as a result of stress. In the midst of adapting to their temporary new lives, a mystery soon unfolds when Louise goes missing. Although the kennel workers decide she ran away, Chester becomes certain that foul play was involved. Just when he seems to have solved the mystery, Chester too vanishes. When investigating, Harold overhears Harrison, one of the kennel workers, reporting that he tested Chester's cat food and that it was laced with poison. Horrified, Harold attempts to continue Chester's work and solve the mystery. One evening, Harold finds the message "Help Howls out now!" scratched into his dog dish. Chester mysteriously returns later, then rounds up Harold, Taxi, and Lyle. He leads them to find Harrison attempting to capture Heather and Howard. The animals raise the alarm and Harrison is caught by the other kennel workers. Chester tells Harold later that Harrison caught wind that one of the animals in the shelter was very valuable. He first kidnapped Louise and then Chester thinking that it could have been them, but found out that it was the dachshunds, who were actually rare wire-haired dachshunds. He also learned that Heather was going to have puppies, making him even more determined to capture them all to get rich. When Dr. Greenbriar and Jill hear the dogs barking and find, first Lousie at Harrison's house with Max and Georgette, who sneaked out to find her, barking outside and then Harrison trying to capture the dachshunds with the other animals attacking him, he is tried and sentenced. The sentence is to go to university and pay for it by working at the zoo. When the Monroe family arrives after their vacation, they reveal that they're also adopting the runt of the dachshund litter, which they name Howie—Pete named him this because the puppy's father's name was Howard.
The Celery Stalks at Midnight
A.K.A. The Devil Rabbit vs. The Hero Cat. Bunnicula has gone missing and Chester begins to fear for the town again. This time, he believes that the vegetables that Bunnicula sucks dry could return as the rabbit's vampire slaves, which he will then use as an army to take over the town. Armed with a box of toothpicks to stab through the "hearts" of vegetables, he, Harold, and Howie set off to search the neighborhood for white vegetables. After some success, they witness Toby and Pete wearing dark robes and holding a group of frightened children prisoner. The pets fear that Bunnicula has begun to take over people as well and run to the nearby school, which is full of what they suspect are the rabbit's servants.
After causing much mayhem (including Chester destroying a large white carrot, which he believes is the head of the undead vegetables), they are caught by the Monroes. It is revealed that there was a carnival at the school that day, and Toby and Pete and the other children were rehearsing for a play they were going to put on. The "carrot" that Chester destroyed was actually a carrot cake, shaped like a carrot and covered in cream cheese. Finally, Bunnicula was found at the school, entered in the pet show. The pets find out that Bunnicula spent the previous night in the garage, which was accidentally left open, which meant he did indeed leave the house to feed on vegetables.
At the end, Edgar Allan Poe's "The Tell-Tale Heart" is parodied when Chester finds an artichoke heart under his favorite chair. After telling Chester there's nothing to worry about and trying to fall asleep, Harold hears a faint thumping.... he opens his eyes to find the vegetable in question right in front of his nose, which leads him to ask if Chester has a toothpick handy. It is left ambiguous as to whether or not this is a prank by Chester, or an actual attempt at a vampiric attack on Harold by the artichoke.
A.K.A. The Return Of Bunnicula. While at their lakeside retreat of Boggy Lake and fishing with Harold, Mr. Monroe apparently begins to have a mid-life crisis, and wants to do something exciting while they are there. They decide to go camping out in the woods; Harold only likes the idea because of s'mores, and Chester is skeptical about going out due to it being the eve of Saint George's Day, the one night of the year where evil monsters and spirits come out to prey. Upon going out into the woods, they meet two men; Bud (who constantly holds a knife out in plain sight for some reason) and Spud (described by Harold as having a potato-shaped head), along with their dog Teufel (German for "Devil"), nicknamed "Dawg", a bulldog with a scar on his face and a long ribbon of drool constantly hanging from his lower lip. That night, they go out for a walk, and Dawg leads Harold, Chester, and Howie away from his masters and the Monroes in order to show them something "neat", getting them lost in the woods in the process.
Chester begins to suspect that Bud and Spud may plan to murder the Monroes and that Dawg is luring them away in order to keep them from interfering, and Harold slowly begins to believe him. Once they reach a house right in the middle of the woods, Chester tells a story about Bunnicula's origin in an attempt to lull Dawg to sleep and allow himself, Harold, and Howie to escape; he claims that Bunnicula is the child of two rabbits who were artificially transformed into vampires by a lonely vampiric scientist named Diabolicus, and that three humans that he turned into vampires live in the house right before them right now, continuing his work. While the plan is successful, Harold, Howie, and even Chester fall asleep along with Dawg, and awaken shortly before dawn due to the rain and constant nightmares, presumably brought on by Chester's story, which is left open to interpretation by the end of the book as to whether or not Chester made the whole thing up or if it was based on actual 'fact' within the canon of the series, though Chester's belief that the house is an 'American house of Dr. E.A.D' which lead to the story, is proven to be mistaken by story's end.
After they return to the Monroes' camp, only to find it trashed and deserted, Dawg reveals that the house they visited is his own, and that Bud and Spud (real names Buford and Spalding) live there with their mother. The Monroes also stayed the night with them in order to get out of the rain, and are relieved that Harold, Howie, and Chester are unharmed. Bud and Spud give their mother a baby skunk they caught last night as an early birthday present, and everyone sings campfire songs while eating s'mores; all except for Chester, who sulks in a corner. It is also revealed that Pete had been using Bunnicula in a rabbit breeding project he had been working on and one of the baby rabbits looked like Bunnicula (indicating that it too might be a vampire rabbit).
Return to Howliday Inn
The Monroe family again leaves Harold, Chester, and Howie at Chateau Bow-Wow. The pets quickly notice differences, including a new group of animals staying there (a weasel, two cats named Felony and Miss Demeanor, a sad Great Dane named Hamlet, a pair of homesick dogs, and a parrot named Ditto). Howie is thrilled to be at his birthplace; Chester is none too pleased. Soon however, all of the animals are in for a shock—They hear a female dog named Rosebud calling from the other side of the fence. When they dig at the dirt around the fence, they find a few bones and a dog collar. Rosebud tells them that she discovered a horrid secret about Chataeu Bow-Wow which sealed her fate and warns the animals to escape. Undaunted, Chester begins to investigate. After listening in on Ditto, he hears her repeated "6, 1, 1, 1, 5". Later, she repeats what appears to be the entire sequence of numbers: "6, 1, 1, 1, 5, 2". Upon hearing this, Felony and Miss Demeanor are thrilled. When asked, they reluctantly reveal that they wanted to sneak into the kennel worker's building to steal better food and believed that the code would get them in. Shortly after, a tearful kennel worker takes Hamlet into the building. Georgette is brought to Chataeu Bow-Wow and tells the animals the true story of Rosebud: She was alive and well and back with her owners. The bones were chicken bones and her collar had been lost prior. The animals enter the building and find Hamlet, who tells them that his old owner left him there a long time ago. He was now set to be put to sleep. Chester finds his owner's new address and they set off to bring Hamlet there. The new address turns out to be a nursing home, one which does not allow animals. The pets break in and in the chaos, it becomes clear that the patients love the arrival of the animals, who remind them of their old pets. Hamlet finds his old owner, and it is revealed that the owner was a ventriloquist, explaining how Hamlet caused "Rosebud" to speak. Using ventriloquism of their own, the pets and patients convince the staff of the nursing home to allow Hamlet to stay. When Harold, Chester, and Howie are picked up at the end, they fool the Monroes with the ventriloquism tricks they picked up.
Bunnicula Strikes Again!
Chester has once again come to the crazy conclusion that Bunnicula is a threatening vampire. The cat starts drinking the rabbit's juice at daytime so Bunnicula will die of starvation. Harold and Howie are upset, but once again Chester insists this is all for the best. One night, Harold notices Bunnicula crying while singing him a lullaby. Chester thinks he misses his mother, and the next few days he leads the two dogs to search for her. This is unsuccessful, as she very likely is not around town. When Bunnicula becomes increasingly ill, either due to lack of food or to his lack of parental love, he is taken to the veterinarian, Chester, however, escapes and gets to the theater first. Before he can actually kill Bunnicula, the demolition starts, crushing both the cat and the rabbit under rubble. Harold and Howie manage to alert the Monroes and the other witnesses, and together they dig through the piles of fragments. They find Chester in a weakened state, but Bunnicula miraculously is completely unharmed. Chester comforts the rabbit, finally claiming that his attempts to murder Bunnicula were futile and that because he survived the demolition without a scratch, he is 'indestructible.' At the end, the Monroes return to their normal lives, and Bunnicula is at last happy because Chester has accepted him as one of the family.
Bunnicula Meets Edgar Allan Crow
A.K.A. Bunnicula vs The Monster Raven. Pete writes to the author of his (and Howie's) favorite series, FleshCrawlers. He visits the Monroe household and stays in the guestroom, bringing with him his favorite pet crow, Edgar Allan Crow. Everyone is thrilled, except for Chester, who insists that the author, M.T. Graves, is suspicious. He notes that something bad always happens to the pets in Graves's books, and when he wrote back to Pete, he seemed especially interested in spending some "quality time with the pets," particularly Bunnicula, whom Chester has now befriended. Harold and Howie aren't convinced, but Chester feels certain that there is a secret society amongst the crows, and Edgar is a messenger sent to help Graves transform Bunnicula into a bat. When Bunnicula escapes, the entire party follows him to catch him, and Harold and Howie begin to think that Chester may have been right. M.T. Graves is very careful about a black bag, and when Bunnicula is not found, Chester believes he is trapped in the bag. He dumps the bag, only to embarrass Graves in front of everyone because it was filled with stuffed animals. In the end, M.T. Graves tells them that he was a nervous boy when he was younger and was afraid of dogs and cats, so he figured he would stay at the Monroe's so that he could conquer his phobia. Graves falls in love with Pete's school librarian, and marries her, and she convinces him to release Edgar. He also adopts Sonnicula, Bunnicula's son. Much later, Pete gets a letter that says he was inspired to write two books from visiting the Monroes: one called Quoth the Raven about his relationship with Edgar, and another called The Excellently Weird Adventures of Charlie the Cat from Galaxy Nine, inspired by Chester, who is less than thrilled to discover he is one of the, as he puts it, "psycho creatures from M.T. Graves' demented novels."
James Howe is mentioned when Pete says that all of the other kids wanted to choose authors like J.K. Rowling or James Howe.
A stage adaptation based on the books was written by Jon Klein in 1996 and premiered at the B Street Theatre in Sacramento, California.