Even though the books and illustrations of Edward Gorey are wonderfully creepy, when I was kid, I’d never been exposed to his work. One of my first exposures to the wonderful genre that his folklore/urban legends/horror (besides my mother) was this series–Scary Stories to Tell in The Dark by Alvin Schwartz. The series is basically thin books each with some creepy tales based on folklore and urban legends. Anyone who knows me, knows I love love love urban legends like I love breathing, and this is the series that introduced me to them. The books are mostly black and white, the tales themselves, pretty creepy, especially when you’re a 8 year old kid reading at night by the light coming from the bathroom (it was the only way I could read at night, considering I shared a room with 2 sisters. Anyhoo, those little tales were made even creepier with Stephen Gammell’s illustrations…pure genius! I’m pretty sure I even had a few nightmares that my kid psyche forced me to repress…that’s how good they were, and still are. I highly recommend traumatizing your tykes–buy them these(who are we kidding, buy them for yourself)–they will love them! In all seriousness though, this set is one of the most challenged books according to the American Library Association because of their violence (hey I turned out alright). Keep in mind though, that The Harry Potter Series and books like A Wrinkle In Time are on that list of challenged books too.
Remember: buy your kid the books, don’t let them read till bedtime, tell them they can’t read because they have to go to sleep, but leave a flashlight conveniently on their little nightstand, then let the the fun begin. Be prepared to have an impromptu sleepover though, or, as in my particular case, be prepared to have an insomniac pre-teen (be kind, buy the kid a nightlight).
There are some great stories that I think most of us would recognize, like the oft-told around campfire tale of THE GOLDEN ARM, and the one about the girl with the beehive in which a spider laid its eggs, and the bride that was never found after a game of hide and seek….good stuff.
It’s when I recall books like this, I can’t wait to have a little girl to scare the bejeezus out of her.
Seriously, it’s Halloween time…the series is perfect. Check out some of the stories on youtube. There are quite a few posted on there.