FearTASTIC Vault O’FUN #68
Scary Stories 3: More Tales to Chill your Bones
Author(s): Alvin Schwartz
Illustrator(s): Stephen Gammell
As my elementary school days were coming to an end, I remember making a point to rent out the Scary Stories to Tell in the Darkseries of books as much as possible. Like all things coming to an end, humans tend to cling on to anything that will remind of times of old. Perhaps it’s the fear of moving on or the security of holding on but there’s this sense of simultaneous dread and excitement that comes with the next step of life. To me, these series of books were a significant part of my childhood and as Jr. High (and oh yes, the perils of puberty) was looming around the corner, clinging onto these stories of entertaining horror became a shield of some sorts before I knew I had to move on. I knew that although I’ll always be reading these stories here and there throughout the years, I had a feeling that I would no longer be seeking these books out in the library on a weekly basis. The hunt was over, the competition was no longer going to exist and these books in a sense, were not going to be left behind. It was comforting to know that that the series of books that I held so dear also came to an end as it also evolved to a point where it was ready to come to an end.
Scary Stories 3: More Tales to Chill your Boneswas the last of the three horror anthology series of books which featured macabre stories, folklore, humor and even some songs! The feature that set these books apart from any other was the horrifically beautiful illustrations by Stephen Gammell. Although there was a clear tone to his art, there was also a clear evolution to his style as well as the books progressed. The illustrations for the first book, Scary Stories to Tell in the Darkhad a creepy yet child-like tone. The characters were definitely disturbing but at the same time there was an element of fun to the illustrations that accentuated the story telling. The second book, More Scary Stories to Tell in the Darktook a darker tone, where the shadowing was more prominent and the use of shadows as blood was used a lot more to give the stories a more serious tone. In this final installment, it seems Stephen Gammell found his stride where he married the elements of the first two books and finally formed a style that was detailed yet fun and always kept to the dark/creepy elements of the stories.
The characters from the the third book were the most iconic out of all the series. Let’s put it this way, if you do an internet search for these books, there’s a good chance that more than half the images that pop up would be from the third book of the series. Mr. Gammell did a find job of cultivating characters from a short story so that the illustration is what purely drove the narrative of the tale. You felt as if these characters themselves were telling you the story and by the time the short tale was over, you find yourself still looking at the illustration as if it were to come to life and grab you by the shoulders! Check out a few the tales that have burned their iconic images into my head:
When the subject comes up of my favorite story in the entirety of the series, Harold seems to make the cut about 90% of the time. It’s the go – to answer because it encapsulates the whole tone of the books. There is an iconic illustration of a bloody scarecrow rotting away in a field and as you read the story, the description of the scarecrow begins to make the illustration even that much creepier. By the time the story ends, you look back at that illustration and you shiver for second because you picture that thing crawling into your room at night…wait, just me then?
The Wolf Girl
This story was creep-tastic because it read like a news report. There was no actual story in the traditional sense but it seemed like this entry was made from sources of urban legend. The illustration itself is iconic with the Wolf girl looking back at you like a feral monster and you read the stories, most folks only get a glimpse of her which makes you wonder if you might run into her the next time you go for that casual stroll in the woods.
Sam’s New Pet
This story is more of an Urban Legend that to me, read more like a cautionary tale. Yeah folks, let’s not pick up random animals from foreign countries. What made me love this entry however is the fact that the illustration makes the story sort of humorous because I couldn’t imagine any human ever wanting to take something that looked like this home with them. A laboratory? Perhaps. To think a human would want this thing in their personal home is humorous to me.
The Red Spot
Any folks afraid of spiders out there? Yeah, not me in particular but I can appreciate any one that fears insects and arachnids died just a bit when they saw this illustration. I always found the screaming woman’s expression as baby spiders crawled out of her bloody cheek to be disturbing in the best kinds of ways.
Although Harold would be my favorite story because it reflects the series as a whole, this damn story has THE MOST CREEPY ILLUSTRATION of all the books. I can’t even talk about the story because it doesn’t matter, this thing that appears in a dream (not called a nightmare? Really?) is what haunted the dreams of a whole generation of children. Gammell is a genius for thinking up this thing in his head and putting it down on paper, I salute you Sir *SLOW clap *
I was delighted to read that my favorite series of horror books were FINALLY getting the big screen treatment from one of horror’s heroes, Guillermo Del Toro. My fingers are crossed that he shall give these stories the respect they deserve but one thing that thrilled me was that it seemed we were aligned on which characters were the best to be used in the flick. When the movie poster was finally revealed, Mr. Del Toro chose Harold, yes MY Harold to be front and center. As the months went on, a full trailer was finally revealed and to my childhood glee, it seemed to feature Harold, the Red Spot and yes, the creepy abomination that is The Dream. I have nothing but the best wishes for this flick to do well and I have nothing but admiration for Schwartz and Gammell for giving me one of the best pieces of my childhood.
Life is FAR more interesting when we take interest in things that scare us.