Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark

Tyler Parker, Opinion Writer

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   With a new movie coming out based on the stories, I thought I’d take a look at the Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark books. In this article I will be covering the books, from the art, to the writing itself, and hopefully you’ll learn something along the way.

   Alvin Schwartz was a prominent children’s writer from the 50s-90s. He was very invested in folklore, which would transfer over to the overall theme of the stories themselves. The stories are heavily based around North American folklore, some old and some new, whether it be Wendigos or a murderer with a hook for a hand, Schwartz has stories to tell. There were three books in the series and each one is packed full of creepy tales of murder, cannibalism, hauntings, and other wonderful topics (for ages 8-12 as stated on the cover of the books).

   I myself was around 8 when I first discovered Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark. And after checking it out of my elementary school library, I was thrown into a morbid world of surrealism and fear. A world in which I could not escape, even after I put the books down. A world that has stuck with me to this day.

   Stories such as “The Thing” and “Harold” left me feeling completely uneasy, and introduced me to topics I never knew existed in my young mind.

   The stories are simply written and easy to read, perfect for kids, yet despite this, they convey their messages perfectly, inflicting fear upon the reader and throwing them into the worlds they create. I think the main thing that keeps these books interesting is the dynamic between Alvin Schwartz (The Writer) and Stephen Gammell (The Illustrator). This leads into my next topic, the art.

   The art was grim and surreal, much like the writing, but unlike the writing it was adult, to put it lightly. The art was messy and went into the uncanny, sometimes not even connecting to the story. Stephen Gammell was a children’s illustrator at heart, but thrown into these stories his art went from cheerful to completely unsettling. Illustrations that affected me the most were illustrations from stories such as “The Dream” and “The Thing”. The drawings looking almost human, but not quite right. There is always something off in his illustrations, the art actually led to the books being the most challenged books of the 90s, as well as the 7th most challenged books of the 2000s.

   This actually led to the art being changed in 2012 with a fresh release of the books. The art was done by the illustrator for A Series of Unfortunate Events illustrator Brett Helquist. The problem being, the new art was tame, whimsical, and not creepy in the slightest, which is perfect for the other books he’s done, but not for the Scary Stories to Tell in The Dark books. Luckily, in 2017 they released a fresh print of the books with the original art, which is sold alongside the sets with the new art.

   These books have stayed relevant throughout several generations, and I believe they will continue to, especially since a film adaptation of the books is coming out this year. If you haven’t seen, there’s an art contest and a poll as well being released alongside this article, both having to do with the books, so go check those out if you haven’t!


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