Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark

Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark (1981) By Alvin Schwartz and Stephen Gammell

Ah, the 1980’s! Such a great time to be a kid growing up in the world, but I never believed it when adults would tell me that. “These are the best times of your life,” they would say, but I always thought they were full of shit. It had to get better than this, I thought.

So, I spent my youthful days watching cheesy sci-fi movies, playing with action figures, and reading books that potentially damaged my developing young brain. When I was a pudgy kid growing up with no friends, books were always there for me. I read everything I could get my hands on, sometimes over and over again.

One of my absolute favorites was always Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark.

Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark is a series of three children’s books written by Alvin Schwartz and illustrated by Stephen Gammell. The scary stories of the title are pieces of folklore and urban legends collected and adapted by Schwartz. The titles of the books are Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark (1981), More Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark (1984), and Scary Stories 3 : More Tales To Chill Your Bones (1991).

The illustrations were the hook. The reader was always excited to see what deranged sketch was going to assault the senses with the turning of the next page…

This series is listed as being the most challenged series of books from 1990–1999 and seventh most challenged from 2000-2009 by the American Library Association for its violence. The problems with the censors and over-bearing mothers stems from it being classified as a children’s book. They claim that the surreal and nightmarish illustrations contained within are too intense for children. They certainly scared the under-roos off me when I was a kid, but that was the point, wasn’t it?

Stories with titles like “The Ghost with the Bloody Fingers”, “The Dead Man’s Brains”, “The Viper”, “The Hook”, and “May I Carry Your Casket?” get your attention, and keep you turning the pages to see what happens next. I read this over and over again when I was a kid, getting lost in the freakish sketches, and drifting in and out of fantastic stories. A lot of the short tales are adapted from folklore and legends, and are meant to be read around a campfire in the dark.

There were all kinds of stories in the book, full of vampires, witches, devils, and zombies. Each was told with a thoughtful and playful style that made children want to read them over and over to appreciate the words in that particular order, much like the works of Dr. Suess and Shel Silverstein. The best part of the writing, to me, was always the conspiratorial tone the author wrote with, as if he was telling you personally all of the secrets of the universe, all the stuff that nobody else knew about…

He would even introduce the chapters with small side-bars (which always seemed like he was whispering in my ear) that would say things like, “This chapter is full of stories to make your friends JUMP with fright.”

The book was recently re-issued with new illustrations that, while interesting, lack the disturbing grandeur of the originals. If you still have your old tattered copy in your collection like I do, you should treasure it. Otherwise, be patient in your search to find a copy, and be happy when you finally get your hands on this true classic.

Highly recommended.

Grade: A

Faithfully submitted by Darth Biscuits.


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