Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark
Reviewed by Oct 14th, 2009

When I think back to all the time I spent as a child reading books like this, it warms my blackened heart. For in these very pages lies the weirdness that may have turned your humble webmistress into a gorehound. The first Harper Trophy edition of Scary Stories came out in 1986, and I first encountered it around that time. My then-best friend’s brother had a copy, and it was like the Holy Grail to us. We’d sneak into his brother’s room, look at the pictures in this book, and have wonderful nightmares for weeks. A few years later I bought my own copy at the bookstore, and nearly dropped the book every time I accidentally opened the book to “The Haunted House.” Scary Stories was followed by two sequels, More Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, and Scary Stories 3: More Tales to Chill Your Bones. I’ve heard they’ve banned these from school libraries in recent years, which is just terrible. An entire generation might grow up thinking those Goosebumps series are all there is to horror. But I’m rambling….

As it says on the cover, these stories were collected from folklore and retold by Alvin Swartz. And you’ll find all types of timeless, classic tales in here. Ghost stories, graverobber stories, tales of people raised by wild animals, zombie stories, humorous stories, even modern tales based on urban legends. Each book is prefaced with some history, and their are annotated sources and extensive bibliographies.

Half the book is the illustrations. I don’t just mean nearly half the pages, I mean at least half the book’s impact relies on Stephen Gammell’s illustrations. I’m not sure what Gammell has done besides a few (non-scary) children’s books, but he’s a great and original artist. These pictures seem tame nowadays, but when I was younger they scared the pants off me.

I can’t really say which book is best, but the stories got goofier as the series went on, and the illustrations got more surreal. All three are worth owning.

I recommend these books highly. This is what it’s all about. A perfect gift for kids too young to read Lovecraft or King, and a great nostalgia trip for the horror veteran.

2 Responses to “Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark”

  1. I love these, we just recently turned Troy on to them. I have found Lily staring at the pictures wide-eyed, it makes me smile.

    --Bela Karloff
    October 30th, 2009

  2. Haha, that’s great. My books are all falling apart, I had to tape the spines back together. Good stuff.

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