Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark

Gunslinger and I went to the mall today, and as we passed Waldenbooks I jumped a good six inches into the air. The reason? I caught a glimpse of the cover of the SStTitD anthology - all three books in hardcover ($9.99). It had my least favorite picture from that entire trilogy EVAR on the cover - the dead ghosty chick from the story “The Haunted House” (the one where the preacher has a ghost in his house, and it turns out to be this woman, who gives him her finger to put in the offering tray so it sticks to the hand of the person who murdered her or something).

That book would have been NOTHING without the illustrations. Without the illustrations it’s just one of dozens of ghost story books full of urban legends and such in the kids’ section of the bookstore, but with the illustrations it’s something that I still don’t feel comfortable flipping through. I used to skip straight to the back of the book and read the “Notes” section, because it didn’t have pictures in it. (This had the positive effect, however, of leading to my current love of the study of folklore and urban legends; I am now a devotee of the similar work at and in the books of Jan Harald Brunvand.)

That was my least favorite picture, as I said; I don’t have a favorite picture because they all freaked me out. My favorite story in the book - and by “favorite” I mean “it scared me the most” - is the one about the scarecrow/dummy who comes to life and kills the guy and spreads his skin on the roof. A close second is the supposedly true one about the Englishwoman in France for some sort of 19th-century fair, whose mother falls ill; the girl is sent around the town on a wild goose chase and when she returns to the hotel her mother is gone and there is no sign of her ever existing. My least favorite story was probably “The White Wolf.” The librarian at my primary school read us that around Halloween time when I was in first grade, and my friend and I cowered in the back of the reading circle because we knew the evil of the book’s illustrations, but the story was disappointingly un-scary.

How about y’all?

Funny that, I was just reading from that same treasury by Schwartz and Gammell. And you’re right: the stories were largely ho-hum without Gammell’s illustrations. But they do throw me back a few years, and I enjoy reading them around Halloween time.

Ahh… to be truly scared again like I was back in elementary school. (Back then, I really did go to sleep with a rosary underneath my pillow in case vampires came a callin’. Also, I made sure that, should some ghoulish voice call my name in the middle of the night, I would not answer. I had read in some horror anthology of a spirit whose voice crying out your name would lead to instant death should you answer back. It seemed to have worked–I’m still alive. ;))

As for scary chuckles: who can forget… THE VIPER!

[sub]“I vish to vash and vipe the vindows.”[/sub]

The true story of 1129 Ridge Avenue .

Resurrection Mary:

I once bought a book that was a collection of ‘Halloween’ stories written by amature writers.

The editor of the book throws Halloween parties every year and each must write a story and read it to the group. This book was the best stories from a period of about ten years.

Some of those stories were pretty good.

I gave the book to my MIL and now I can’t even remember the name of the book.

Wow, I never knew there were three of those books! I had the one with “The Haunted House” in it. I loved that story, and read it over and over again, but the picture fraked me out way too much. I used to get a sheet of blank paper and hold it over the illustration, so I could read the opposite page without having to look at it. Don’t remember any of the other stories, though…

The most disturbing ghost story I ever read came from a different collection. Two kids find their uncle’s book of magic spells in his basement, and start messing around with it. They turn a piece of metal into gold, but accidentally drop it. When it breaks, it turns back into base metal. So the girl reads a spell that turns her into a lightning bug, and starts teasing her brother, flying at his face and giving him a good scare. Until their uncles cat jumps up on the table and squashes her. Her brother freaks out and grabs the spellbook, looking for something to save her, but then remembers what happened to the piece of gold when it got broken…

The last page was an illustration of the boy covering his face and running up the stairs. You could see one horrified eye peeking out between his fingers. The cat was in the foreground, clearly interested in… something, but you can’t see what. I wish the bastard had just drawn the pulped little girl, because there’s no way he could have drawn something more grotesque than the images I had running around in my brain.

I believe the same book also had a story about a guy trapped on a tropical island inhabited by giant carnivorous snails. I didn’t like that one. I hate snails.