Scary Stories: A Look Back
So much has been said about the Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark book series. That the author, Alvin Schwartz, is a genius folklorist, culling America's sordid past for the perfect collection. That Stephen Gammell's horrifying black and white ink drawings are masterful, the perfect compliment to Schwartz's tales. These are both true, but what keeps me coming back to this series is that they are just as powerful today as when they were released. I loved the books as a child and continue to enjoy them as an adult.
Schwartz blurred the line between folklore and urban mythology in a way that was novel in the 1980's and made the stories seem more real, and more terrifying. Stories like "High Beams" update ancient fears, like being followed late at night, and carry them into the modern age, bridging the gap between old and new. Schwartz included in every book a solid bibliography, giving curious children a bread crumb trail to further reading, to America's dark past. This probably has contributed to the continuing popularity of the series, as new generations can find hooks to grab onto and be terrified all over again.
Released 10 years after the original installment, Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark 3 manages to pack a surprising amount of frights into a slim volume. While few have the same nostalgic attachment to the third book as they do to the first, there is still a ton to enjoy.
The book opens with "Boo Men," which is essentially an opening to the book and a story combined, setting up everything to follow in a splendid fashion.
There are a ton of great stories, but some of the standouts for me are:
"The Bus Stop"
A creepy tale about a good samaritan who befriends a woman after helping her in a rainstorm. They begin dating, only for the young man to find out his paramour died about 20 years earlier. Nothing would be worse than finding out your boo is a ghost!
"Sam's New Pet"
If your parents ever went on vacation and brought back a trinket for you then "Sam's New Pet" likely scared the pants off of you.
This is possibly my favorite story from the entire book series. It has everything one looks for in a short horror story: tension, possible demon possession, scarecrows. Harold either came to life or got possessed by a demon regardless Harold was evil and it was fantastic. Anytime I see a scarecrow to this day I make sure I pay my respects. I certainly don't want to end up skinned on my roof.
It's easy to understand why the Scary Stories series has been on the ALA (American Library Association) most banned books list for over two decades. These twisted tales offer a taste of real horror boiled down for children, instilling a love of horror in an entire generation. And the more parents hated the books and tried to get rid of them, the more children sought them out.
It is 2018 now, over 25 years since the first book was published, and they are still relevant and beloved today. If that's not the definition of a classic, I don't know what is.