Part the First: Why The Hell Am I Doing This?
I would’ve been beaten for admitting this in elementary school, or at least shamed. I can hear the theoretical sounds of scorn and mocking laughter echoing throughout the crowded cafeteria in my head as I even consider typing this confession. Still, we can’t go forward without it, and I better get used to working through fear anyway.
I have never read any volume of Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark.
Blasphemy, right? Me, the guy who posts monster pictures, never read the defining horror books of a generation? How could I, of all people, miss out on one of the most defining fright books of my childhood?
As a kid, two things warred within my mind. Firstly, I loved monsters. Secondly, I was terrified of gore. Well, mostly the concept of gore. I didn’t accidentally change the channel to a Herschel Gordon Lewis marathon, or get traumatized by Jason or Freddy. The most terrifying thing I’d glimpsed was Large Marge from Pee Wee’s Big Adventure.
I was just an imaginative kid with ADHD; the gore in my head that I imagined inside those films kept me well away. Just the concept keep me awake at night. Like any good horror, it was the implications that terrified me.
How did that conflict work out? Well, mostly I found my refuge in Godzilla movies, 50’s sci-fi, and mythology. I checked out so many cryptozoology books and Crestwood Monster Series volumes at a time that the local library eased their maximum borrowing restriction for me. All those things were refreshingly safe.
Somehow, this porch was terrifying.
I thus avoided the three Scary Stories books like the plague. I had no idea about the words inside, but I had seen some of those legendary pictures. Alvin Schwartz’s Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark is a series in three parts of freaky folklore from a wide variety of sources. Most people didn’t pick them up for the stories, though. SSTTITD hit the big time because of the detailed, expressive, nauseating artwork of Stephen Gammell, and I had caught a glimpse of those terrifying pictures.
No way, I vowed back then. I’m never cracking open those things; I’d probably vomit within seconds.
I got better, though.
During my freshman year in high school, my friend decided to try shock therapy. “Sit down,” he said, cackling like an old man in a slasher flick. “I have something that will change your life.” Then we watched the first two Hellraiser films back to back.
And I saw, well, this. Click if you're prepared.
Okay, I naively thought, that’s as bad as it could possibly get. If that’s gore, I can handle it. Things like Cannibal Holocaust were not on my radar yet, you see.
But I never went back and read those books. A little Goosebumps, a lot of Lovecraft and King, but not SSTTITD.
It’s time to change that.
Part the Second: How the Hell Are you Going to Do This?
My stated goal with this blog is to read the stories in the way they were meant to be read. I, a grown-ass man, will walk into my darkened bedroom, sneak under my covers, and sit in a crouch while wielding a flashlight. I will probably annoy the hell out of my wife, who is completely ignorant of this part of my plan. I’ll let you all know what her reaction is.
Part the Third: Why the Hell Are Doing This?
Because people have been trying to ban these books for years. Decades after its publication, the American Library Association still had it on the most challenged list as of 2012. They may just be a documentary about them. If it’s bothered that many parents, terrified so children, and caused more arguments about different editions than fourth edition Dungeons & Dragons, I want to be in on the conversation and I have to go find a flashlight …
Next Time: A Big Toe. And an arm. Possibly a liver. Maybe a tail, too.