Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Scary Stories to Traumitize Your Children

I'm working on what is going to be a very length review of a series right now, so putting up a non-review article again.

Do you remember Scary Stories to Tell In The Dark? If you said no, you're either lucky or suffering from repression. They were a trilogy of short scary stories for kids, only the stories tended to be quite disturbing, and the art is some of the scariest things I've ever seen.
So... let's have the top 10 scariest images, from Stephen Gammell's illustrations of Alvin Schwartz's Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark trilogy!

Before we do that, though, I'd love to give a big shout out to MoonRaven09, who has done some pretty good animations for the stories, mostly using audio from the audiobook release which featured the Heat Miser as the narrator.

Give 'em a watch sometime, I strongly recommend it.

#10 : The Little Black Dog

What the hell is wrong with its feet? I never noticed it the first time I saw the picture, but I felt something was off.
The story itself is actually pretty lame, but god damn that picture. Basically someone shoots someone else in a gunfight... somehow from behind... the dead guy's dog goes up to his body and gets shot by the guy too, then follows the guy around until he dies in the snow. ...Alrighty then.

#9 : Sam's New Pet

This is from the old urban legend of someone that somehow mistakes a dog for a rat, somehow. That... thing up there is neither a rat nor a dog, but some horrible monstrosity.

#8 : Boo Men

Technically not from a story, but holy fuck what the hell. Scary Stories 3 starts with a random assortment of scary ink drawings, I just chose my favorite of them.

#7 : He Heard Footseps Coming Up The Cellar Stairs

Also not from a story, but from a section of stories with a similar theme.
This... "thing", man or beast, is sort of the mascot for the first book, and appears in a bunch of other drawings. He just scares the living crap out of me. He's like some ragged, decaying zombie with a big smile.

#6 : Is Something Wrong

What the fuck is that? It's like some flying fetus tentacle monster with a gigantic skull and a bleeding eye. Seriously. What the hell? Stephen Gammell, the artist behind all of these, just... god damn. He's like the illustration equivalent of H.P. Lovecraft. The man needs to do more horror work instead of children's books.

#5 : The Haunted House

This picture proves that even when drawing something more conventional, Gammell makes it more frightening than you'd expect. "Hey Gammell, draw an undead girl for me." And he gives us this. I often hear this labeled as the scariest of the drawings, but personally I believe he's done far scarier.

#4 : The Dead Hand

Like this.
The story's about to be about someone that doesn't fear some haunted woods everyone else in his town fears, goes off at night, and a haunted tree rips his hand off. The drawing... I don't even know. I see the trees to the right, and I guess... just... gah I don't want to keep staring at it. This pictures used to give me nightmares.

#3 : O Sussanah

I don't even... what?
The story's about a girl who is kept up at night by her roommate humming Oh Susannah, only it turns out that her roommate's been decapitated, and she decides to go back to sleep and hope that it's all a dream.
Please, tell me dear reader. What the hell does the art have to do with any of that?
Doesn't stop it from being a horrifying mindfuck, though. I want this as a poster.

#2 : Harold

This is one of the few times where the art directly connects to the story, and makes the story god damn frightening because of it.
In short: Two farmers are bored, so they make a scarecrow, name it Harold, and abuse it. Harold comes alive, scares them off. One of the farmers goes back because they forgot some important stool that is apparently very expensive, the other farmer comes back to look for him only to find that Harold skinned him alive. You know, in a kid's story.
And finally, the scariest image from the books...

#1 : The Dream

This is, without a doubt, the scariest image from my childhood. I sued to be afraid that she was outside the curtain when I was showering, and would peek in when I had my eyes closed, or that if I opened the curtain I'd be face to face with her. Seriously, that fucking face.
Think it couldn't get worse? Click the picture.

Sadly, for the book's upcoming anniversary, it's getting all new replacement illustrations from someone else. This honestly really pisses me off, as Gammell's art was easily the most important thing in these books. Not to say Alvin Schwartz did that bad of a job, but Gammell's art is what people remember, and it's just... amazingly horrifying.


  1. These pictures haunted me for the longest time when I was young. I had forgotten about them, but now this has brought them all back to me. Especially the "undead girl" that one killed me as a kid. I found this page looking for a different scary drawing I knew back when I was a kid. The one I'm looking for is from the book "My Mama Says There Aren't Any Zombies, Vampires, Demons, Monster or Fiends" Specifically It's the drawing of the "Fiend". I cannot find it anywhere and it's driving me nuts.

  2. Wish I could help. I've been looking for that book and a few others from my childhood as well. Used to dig through those Scoolastic Book Fair things they'd give out at school for scary stories collections.

  3. You pretty much hit the nail on the head with number one.

  4. i just went out last night and picked up the books for my sister.. she's turning 10 a week before halloween.. i'm having harold flashbacks and it doesn't help that my husband is being an evil scarecrow for halloween this year.. i still have my original copies of all 3 books tho, and harold was the worse one for me.. i was 8 and my cousin told me it was a true story and i had nightmares for weeks.. hindsight is lmao..

  5. Is it just me or is that last picture moving? O.o

  6. That last picture scared the ever-living crap out of me... I didn't realize it was animated and had just finished reading the text when I saw it move out of the corner of my eye... D: