I was 9 years old when I first came across Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark. Being a fan of horror, I was incredibly excited about this anthology as it documented various stories that derived from urban legends, folklore, or myths. I was completely hooked. I used the book as a means to inspire my own “scary stories sharing” escapades (which happened often during sleepovers or late summer nights hanging out with friends).
Apart from the stories themselves, what really set this book apart was the illustrations by Stephen Gammell. Often times, for a seasoned horror connoisseur as myself, the stories alone weren’t terrifying enough. But those illustrations! Boy were they ever the nightmare-inducing high that I was searching for.
I have yet to see the movie from Guillermo Del Toro inspired by the anthology, but being a fan of his past work, I’m certain that he remained faithful to the vision of the illustrations (at least that’s what I could tell from the trailers).
Recently, I decided to reread the stories (my original copies are stashed away in boxes somewhere in my garage in Sicily) so I had to repurchase the books. Luckily, these new editions haven’t strayed from the original, as I heard that for awhile they had done away with Gammell’s illustrations and replaced them with a more kid-friendly version. (Bah!)
Upon rereading the stories, I realized that I still enjoy them and that I have a damn good memory as decades later I’m still capable of remembering how each of the stories would end. As far as the illustrations go, they’re just as deliciously terrifying today as I thought they were when I was a mere nugget of 9.
But if you’re never read this horror classic, I highly suggest that you do. It’s equal parts campy and horrifying. I still can’t get over the story of the girl that has spiders protruding from her cheek (which I’m sure the movie The Believers capitalized on for a certain scene). Body horror has always been more frightening to me than a million clowns ever could be.