Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark & More Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark (1981 & 1984) – Alvin Schwartz

Scary stories are always a delight to take part in, wrapped oneself in darkness and trying to laugh the chill that the scares gives us, while enjoying the fright and perceived danger of it, like whistling past a graveyard, seems to be ingrained in our DNA.

I never read these young adult collections when they first came out in the 80s, so there was no nostalgia factor for me when I dove into the first two collections, just in interest in seeing what producer/writer/director Guillermo del Toro found so captivating about them to produce a movie about them. A movie due in theaters this year.

Filled with truly delightful, occasionally humorous, often disturbing illustrations by Stephen Gammell, Schwartz retells a number of short stories, most no more than a page or two, but they are often enough to cause a shiver, and occasionally get under your skin.

Some of the stories are immediately familiar, there are some I’d heard growing up, some you hear happening to a friend of a friend of a fiend, and some that have been handed down through the decades. They aren’t all here, but a number of them are, and its stunning to see how they have endured, changing from time to time, but the essential scare, the ghost, the maniac, the monster, the witch at the center of the story remains the same.


There are tales gathered from European folklore, American myths, and more, some have morals, some are merely meant to frighten the listener.

There are a lot of stories in here that simply delighted me, some that I felt missed the mark (especially in the second volume) and a couple that made me laugh aloud (the intention of that part of the book).

The text coupled with the original illustrations, don’t be taken in by an anniversary edition that didn’t include Gammell’s work, is wonderfully dark and fun. And reminds me of my first teasing steps into the darkness and into horror. Kids and adults like that thrill of a scare, especially when there is a book involved and you can always set it aside until the fear has passed.

So if you have a young reader, or would just like to give yourself a fun chill, pick this one up, and enjoy… the stories, and the book fly by, and can easily be enjoyed in a single sitting, or you can dole out the tales one at a time.

I’ll be curious to see how the tales get adapted to the big screen… but in the interim, I was quite delighted to enjoy the source material.

Have you read them?


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