Alvin Schwartz and Stephen Gammell owe us an apology for all our pants we ruined while reading Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark and its sequels, More Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark and Scary Stories 3: More Tales To Chill Your Bones (they might as well say sorry to our parents, too). The writer and illustrator have terrified innumerous children worldwide with their book series that was originally released in 1981. I could only read them around Halloween, when I wanted to be scared — “Old Woman All Skin and Bone” is just cruel in February.
I read Scary Stories before I saw Psycho, before I listened to the Misfits, before “Home” ensured that I’d never step foot in Pennsylvania. It defined “horror” to me. Well, Scary Stories and “The Green Ribbon” from In a Dark, Dark Room (which Schwartz, who passed away in 1992, also wrote). But I preferred the former because of Gammell’s impossibly frightening illustrations. Even looking at them now, I’m reminded of elementary school book fairs and telling my friends, “Oh, that wet stain in the front of my pants? That’s not terror-pee. It’s apple juice.”
Here are eight drawings that I still see in my nightmares.
1. “Cold as Clay” (Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark)
2. “The Girl Who Stood on a Grave” (Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark)
3. “The Ghost with the Bloody Fingers” (Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark)
4. “The Haunted House” (Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark)
5. “Wonderful Sausage” (More Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark)
6. “The Bride” (More Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark)
7. “The Red Spot” (Scary Stories 3: More Tales to Chill Your Bones)
8. “Harold” (Scary Stories 3: More Tales to Chill Your Bones)
F*ck you, Harold.