Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark

Alvin Schwartz and Stephen Gammell’s classic children’s book, Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, and it’s sequels were the center of everything parents hated back in the 90s. They were grotesque, terrifying, nightmare inducing, and 110% amazing. For 10 years, the series lived in the banned list of pretty much every school library…and Schwartz LOVED it. He welcomed all the hatred he received from distraught parents who were forced to coddle their children during the night because they thought about one of the numerous haunting images Gammell created.

Schwartz fed himself off the hatred, but the publishers weren’t so happy. Back in 2012, HarperCollins (the book’s publisher), replaced all the controversial Gammell artwork with family friendly drawings made by Brett Helquist in an effort to appease the parents.

Side note: When my mother heard about these books, she took them from my room and burned them as a way to save my soul from the devil. However, I managed to save the third one, Scary Stories 3: More Tales to Chill Your Bones. It may not have been the best in the series, but it’s better than nothing.

Anyways, the first book is now being developed into a film by horror movie director Guillermo del Toro, and I figure I’d throw in my top choices of stories for the film (given that he focuses on a small handful instead of doing them all).

Onto the list!

The Walk

The Walk

The tension in this very, very short story keeps building and building. Two men are walking down a creepy dirt road, and one of the two men gets increasingly scared of the narrator’ story.

The rest of the story pretty much goes along the same lines, and leaves the readers terrifyingly curious as to how it is going to end. Only…it doesn’t really have an ending.

Rather, it instructs the reader to tell yell at the audience. It makes for quite a scream from your audience, but it leaves solo readers like me wanting for more.

I really hope Del Toro chooses this story, because if anyone is going to give The Walk a satisfyingly scary ending, it’s him.

The Thing

the thing

This story shares the same name as John Carpenter’s The Thing, but they very different. In his The Thing, we were shown some of the best and disgusting practical special effects, and in this folktale we are given a very disturbing ending twist.

I’m not going to spoil it, just in case you haven’t read it, but you should. It’s only 9 paragraphs long, so it won’t take up a lot of time.

Guillermo del Toro is no stranger to the supernatural.  With films like Pan’s Labyrinth, Cronos, The Orphanage, and The Devil’s Backbone under his belt, this story will be a cake walk for the horror director.

Under his penmanship, The Thing will find its way back into the minds of people who have blocked it from their memories.

The Attic/Aaron Kelly’s Bones

Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark

Although both of these stories are in no way the scariest the book has to offer, they do offer some much needed comedic relief while still keeping readers uncomfortable.

The Attic offers some small form of emotional attachment between a man’s dog and the readers. You don’t really know the dog at all (or for that long), but when isn’t a dog’s potential death sad?

Aaron Kelly’s Bones is in no way scary; at least not in the traditional form. Rather than offer the usual atmospheric horror and suspense found in the book, this story plays out a pretty disturbing scene. Aaron Kelly comes back from the dead, and goes back home to dine with his family. After explaining to his family that doesn’t feel dead and that he’ll continue living until he feels dead, he…dances.

A lot more happens in between the explanation and the dancing, but you all should just read it. It’s very short.

Anyways, due to the creepy nature of the stories and the comedy they offer, I think they would make for a great way to test Del Toro’s ability to blend comedy and horror.

The Babysitter

The babysitter

Sorry for the lack of quality and size of the image above. This was a hard one to find.

Nonetheless, this story, if made into a film, will linger in the minds of anyone who is left home alone.

You know how we all get scared of that phone call when we’re home alone. Well what if that phone happened every 30 minutes. And they were all from the same man. And that man kept how close he was getting to you. And that the call was coming from inside of your house.

Readers of this story breathe one very big sigh of relief at the end when the cops get to the house at the very last minute. Richard, Brian, Jenny, and Doreen, the babysitter, were literally seconds away from unspeakable things being done to them when those heavenly cops arrived.

 High Beams

high beams

Dear lord. This story right here is the source of my fear of driving at night.

Schwartz has said that this story is, “told all over … It appears in a dozen different versions. … All of these stories, and there are scads of them, are really saying: ‘Watch out. The world’s a dangerous place. You are going out on your own soon. Be careful.'”

I am both happy and angry at the version Schwartz settled for his book. It gives reader some honest horror in a setting and scenario that pretty much everyone is familiar with; driving alone at night.

I would tell you what happens in the story, but I honestly think that would do it injustice. I also don’t want to just say to look it up if you haven’t read it, because chances are you won’t.

So here it is. I found a version I could copy and paste into this article:

The girl driving the old blue sedan was a senior at the high school. She lived on a farm about eight miles away and used the car to drive back and forth.
She had driven into town that night to see a basketball game. Now she was on her way home. As she pulled away from the school, she noticed a red pick-up truck follow her out of the parking lot. A few minutes later the truck was still behind her.
“I guess we’re going in the same direction,” she thought.
She began to watch the truck in her mirror. When she changed her speed, the driver of the truck changed his speed. When she passed a car, so did he.
Then he turned on his high beams, flooding her car with light. He left them on for almost a minute. “He probably wants to pass me,” she thought. But she was becoming uneasy.
Usually she drove home over the back road. Not too many people went that way. But when she turned onto that road, so did the truck.
“I’ve got to get away from him,” she thought, and began to drive faster. Then he turned his high beams on again. After a minute, he turned them off. Then he turned them on again and off again.
She drove even faster, but the truck driver stayed right behind her. Then he turned his high beams on again. Once more her car was ablaze with light. “What is he doing?” she wondered. “What does he want?” Then he turned them off again. But a minute later he had them on again, And left them on.
At last she pulled into her driveway, and the truck pulled in right behind her. She jumped from the car and to the house. “Call the police!” she screamed at her father. Out in the driveway she could see the driver of the truck. He had a gun in his hand.
When the police arrived, they started to arrest him, but he pointed to the girls’ car. “You don’t want me,” he said. “You want him.”
Crouched behind the driver’s seat, there was a man with a knife.
As the driver of the truck explained it, the man slipped into the girl’s car just before she left the school. He saw it happen, but there was no way he could stop it. He thought about getting the police, but he was afraid to leave her. So he followed her car.
Each time the man in the back seat reached up to over power her, the driver of the truck turned on his high beams, Then the man dropped down, afraid that someone might see him.


All of this news is pretty fresh, so no one really knows if Del Toro is going to focus on the stories of the first book only, or if he’s gonna pull out some of the stories from the sequels. If he does, I’d like to throw in my suggestions from those books as well. I’m not gonna make 3 separate list for each book like I did with the first one, because that would make for far too long of an article, so here’s a short compilation list of my top picks:

  • The Man in the Middle
  • Something Was Wrong
  • The Bed by the Window
  • The Wreck
  • The Appointment
  • Is Something Wrong?
  • The Hog
  • Maybe You Will Remember (really cool back story to this folktale)

Sound (or the absence of sound [like in Babadook]) is by far one of the most important parts of a horror film, and I think that this film will skyrocket in quality if the many horror nursery rhymes from the books are mixed into the soundtrack.

I still find myself humming Ba-Rooom! every now and then, so I’d love to hear it in a movie.


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