Wednesday, October 09, 2019

THE LEGACY OF SCARY STORIES TO TELL IN THE DARK By Punkin Nightshade

Punkin Nightshade
Well, howdy! Looks like we’s all back together again for Halloween, and welcome to The MonsterGrrls’ 2019 Thir13en For Halloween. This here is Petronella Nightshade, what am Punkin, and this year we is talkin about some horror movies and TV and such what is related to books. We’s done some posts like that before, but this year Mr. John what’s our Mad Doctor wanted to do somethin different than old Frankenstein and Dracula, so we are talkin about some other kind of books and callin it all Tales Of Unease. And this right here does look like some uneasy stuff we are talkin about today, cause this here post is about some books called Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark, what was collected by a feller named Alvin Schwartz, and had pictures drawn in them by a feller named Stephen Gammell.
The first edition covers

Folks has always told each other scary stories, ghost tales and that, round Halloween time. Somethin about the nights gettin longer and colder gets folks thinkin that way, and of course scary stories is all right for Halloween parties and such. The first Scary Stories book, what come out in 1981, was a bunch of old stories from folklore and them urban legend things that Mr. Schwartz had been huntin up. People had told each other them stories for years, but Mr. Schwartz had been a journalist at one time, and had started writin books. So like them journalists do, he did a whole bunch of researchin on the stories in the books afore he ever wrote a word, and he found that a lot of them stories was real old, had the same origins, and was told just about all over the place, in one way or another. Gorry, I can even remember hearin some of em at Coven gatherins down in Witchhazel Swamp. But Mr. Schwartz warn’t just gettin em from folklore. Some of these stories had come all the way down to us from folks like Shakespeare, Mark Twain, and Joel Chandler Harris.
From "The Haunted House"

Mr. Schwartz ended up writin  three of these books. The other two was called More Scary Stories To Tell In the Dark, and Scary Stories 3: More Tales To Chill Your Bones. The artist, what’s Mr. Gammell, did up pictures to go with the stories, and them was probly the scariest thing about the book. Like I said, just about everbody has read or heard the stories in the books, but it was Mr. Gammell’s artwork that turned them into somethin special. Mr. Gammell had won him a Caldecott Medal for doin watercolor pictures in another book called Song And Dance Man, but on these he didn’t use nothin but charcoal and ink. The way he done em made the stories downright frightenin, like you was just readin em for the first time.

From "Wonderful Sausage"
Once these books got out there, they just took off. People think that kids don’t like bein scared, but kids loved these books, and they was real popular. But there was a lot of parents out there that didn’t like em, and they thought Mr. Schwartz was a bad man for writin books that was scarin children. Probly the one they got the most upset about was Wonderful Sausage, in which a butcher gets mad at his wife one day and kills her, and then puts her down in the sausage grinder and makes some sausage out of her. And his customers end up likin that sausage, so of course he has got to find some more folks to make him some more sausage. I ain’t goin to tell you all of it, but it don’t end well nohow.

The thing was, though, the Scary Stories books was bein aimed at middle-school young’uns, and bigger kids like what I am, and they wasn’t never made for real little young’uns. Some learned folks said that there warn’t nothin wrong with em, and that they helped young’uns deal with stuff that really scared em by puttin a face on it, and that much is true. Most times a child ain’t gonna run into an old witch (well, not where y’all live, anyway), or some ghosts, or even some mad feller who’s stalkin around killin people. But children got real things they is scared of too that they can’t put a name or a face on, like growin up and not knowin what to do, or studyin real hard and not doin well on a test, or even somethin worse like their parents breakin up and the child is thinkin they done somethin to make it happen. And these stories was helpin them work that out in their heads.

But some folks is goin to meddle, just cause they can. And so it was that cause of the nature of them stories and the drawins in the books, Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark got listed by the American Library Association as bein the most challenged series of books back in the 1990s, cause parents didn’t want their young’uns readin about murderin folk and disfigured folk and cannibal folk and so forth. Course a young’un can see just about all that on the television now and again, but they acted like readin about it was worse. However much, most folk agree that there ain’t nothin wrong with them books, and most libraries still has them on the shelves. And hearin that he was on a challenged-book list might well have tickled Mr. Schwartz, who passed in March of 1992, well afore folks started fussin about his books.


The movie poster
The Scary Stories books is still real popular, and folks is still buyin them, and young’uns is still enjoyin gettin scared by them. And so it is that just a little while ago there was a horror movie come out what was based on them books, called Scary Stories To Tell In the Dark. There has been horror movies before what was anthologies, or bunches of stories all told in the same film, but this one is not no anthology film. Scary Stories The Movie tells about three young’uns named Stella (what’s Zoe Colletti), Auggie (what’s Gabriel Rush) and Chuck (what’s Austin Zajur), what go explorin an old house what’s supposed to be haunted on Halloween. In that house they find them a secret room and an old book of horror stories which has been writ down by someone named Sarah Bellows, who used to live in that old house long ago. They take that book out with them and find that new stories are bein writ in that book without no kind of explanation, and that them stories are happenin to folks they know, and so they got to warn all them folk and find out just what is goin on. All kind of hooraw happens in this movie, and it looks like it is goin to be a crackerjack just like the books has been.

So that is all about that, and I am done here with this postin. Be sure you come back and see what else we got goin for this year’s Thir13en For Halloween, cause it is goin to be one thing and then another. Blessings be on you!

Sincerely,
Petronella “Punkin” Nightshade

MAD DOCTOR'S NOTE:  The entire Scary Stories series is available on Amazon and other fine booksellers, and most likely at your local library.  Check them out! 

Special thanks to Rose Marie Machario.