In lue of the spooky season, I had to dust off one of my childhood favorites “Scary Stories to tell in the Dark,” by Alvin Scwartz. It has been a tradition of mine for years to read at least one scary novel around Halloween to get into the spooky spirit.
I grabbed the flashlight from my nightstand drawer and read the stories with the covers over my head. As a child, Scwartz’s collection of short scary stories was in every school library to scare children across the nation. In many ways, the collection made me laugh as well as hide under my covers.
The book is split up into five different sections, some sections containing funny stories, one section containing stories that you are meant to read with your friends and other sections contain genuinely scary stories.
Some of my favorite stories from the book include: “The Girl Who Stood on a Grave,” “‘May I carry Your Basket,’” and “High Beams.” Reading these stories gave me a sense of distant nostalgia as I haven’t read anything from my childhood in a long while.
The back of the book reads, “Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark is an ageless collection of chillingly scary tales and legends, in which Alvin Scwartz offers up some of the most alarming tales of horror of all time. Read if you dare!” This lives up to the hype. Published originally in 1981, I can only imagine school aged children screaming in the dark while reading this. I envisioned myself as a child back then, picking the book off of the shelf not knowing what it is and being spooked reading it.
Not only is the prose terrifying, but the illustrations that go along with the stories are also terrifying. The illustrations were curated by illustrator Stephen Gammell. All of the drawings are in black and white, adding to the suspense of the stories. One of the illustrations that I remembered as a child was one that accompanied the story “The Dead Man’s Brains.” The photo is of a woman carrying a head, which is steaming, while sporting a terrifying smile on her face. As a child, I remember having to put the book down because I was so scared.
One story that is particularly interesting is “The Wendigo.” The story takes place in a snowy camp ground in the northern part of Canada. He constantly hears his name being called out in the wilderness, but passes it off as the wind. An indian guide that went with him ends up running out into the night, following the sound of the “winds” voice. The hunter returns the following year and when he goes to the trading post, he explains what happened to the indian. A few days later after his hunting trip, an indian came to sit by the fire. He asks if he is the one that went missing a year ago, no answer. When he walks over and removes his hat, he is nothing but a pile of ashes!
As a kid, these stories no doubt scared me. I have to say as an adult I am no longer as scared as I was as a child, but I still thoroughly enjoyed reading these stories, especially around Halloween. I recommend anyone who likes short stories and horror to grab a copy of this book.
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