Anyone else remember “Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark”? (Freakiest illustrations ever!)

25 March, L A.S.

Anyone else remember Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark?

They were those great scary story anthologies you maybe used to find in the library or at book fairs. The books with the illustrations like these?

Scary stories to tell in the dark

Yep. I know that nightmare fuel sure brings me back! Stephen Gammel did those illustrations, and Alvin Schwartz told the stories. I think the pictures are what most of us remember best, with that disturbingly detailed yet sort of crude black and white style! But the stories themselves were good too! The one Harold, about a killer scarecrow, was the inspiration for my story about Patchy Jack, in Paranoia. A few others that stand out to me as particularly frightening (I don’t have the book in front of me so pardon me not recalling the titles) were:

  • That one, maybe called The Window, where a girl is sleeping on the first floor of her house which looks out from a big window onto a graveyard, and this humanoid thing comes out of the graveyard towards her window and it’s super creepy…
  • The one where the thief steals the silver dollars off that dead old lady’s eyes and then her ghost comes back for them. (Similar format as The Golden Arm.)
  • The one where the guy is in the cabin in the woods with his dog, and this weird chanting comes from off in the woods (weird nonsense words, don’t recall the exact words) and then the dog chants back, and the voice does it, and the guy freaks out and tells his dog to knock it off but the dog keeps going and the voice gets louder and a head drops down the chimney. Sounds dumb but you’d be scared if it happened to you!

There are actually three Scary Stories books. They have new editions with good but less good illustrations, but the originals are still for sale on Amazon! The first book came out in the ’80s, and still seems to have many fans! I hope it keeps on scaring kids for years to come! And I’m grateful to Stephen Gammel and Alvin Schwartz for inspiring me in my own writing.

As Jack Larsen said, I have a bit of a similar style to these books in my own anthologies. That’s partially intentional, partially subconscious. If you liked Scary Stories, check out my books, and if you liked my books, check out Scary Stories! I’ve commissioned a few illustrations of my own for my monsters, by the way. (Look around some of my other pages on this website for more!)


-G.R. Wilson

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