A few days ago, I wrote some meandering thoughts on the upcoming Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark film adaptation, which I’m simultaneously uneasy and excited about, so I thought for the fun of it, I’d do a countdown of my favourites from the classic children’s trilogy. This book series, as I’ve noted, is vital in forming my love of the horror genre. It’s about as important to me as one of my own creations.
These are loosely rated from tamest to scariest. What I found unnerving could easily not be to somebody else, however. I personally find ones with human, or once-human, perpetrators to be the most memorable, rather than the more supernatural shorts. Each of the three books has its own signature “feel” as well, which affected my ratings. Whereas the second book is about human evils and the third about paranormal, cosmic horrors, the first book is more lighthearted campfire horror and hence, fewer stories from it made this list, though I would call it equally as enjoyable as its sequels.
10. Such Things Happen from Book 3
The fear of witchcraft is heavily ingrained in American folklore. In my speculation, it’s a combination of the young country’s large expanses of isolation, which can lead to seeing things that aren’t easily explained, and America’s staunch religious background. Its root is a fear of becoming cursed or damned, and that fear is portrayed with eerie accuracy in this story about a man who accidentally earns the hate of a supposed witch by running over her cat. “Such Things Happen” doesn’t get mentioned enough, as it’s more on the psychological edge and it’s possible there’s nothing paranormal in this story.
9. The Window from Book 2
A woman wakes up late in the night to find a golden-eyed corpse staring in her window. She makes the mistake of running and it attacks her. The woman and her brothers discover that it’s a vampire ravaging fresh crypts in the graveyard and bleeding the living who are unlucky enough to be in its path. What makes this story haunting is the sheer anxiety of looking out the window at night. What would you do if you saw something that wasn’t exactly human anymore?
8. One Sunday Morning from Book 2
“One Sunday Morning” is an extremely short story about a woman who arrives at her church early to find she has intruded on a sermon for the dead, but all you need to care about is this illustration, and where it will show itself in your nightmares tonight.
7. The Big Toe / What Do You Come For? from Book 1
The creepiest part of “The Big Toe”, the very first story in the entire series, is that is begins with a mother casually dropping a severed toe her son found in the yard in their soup, to flavour it. Is that… a normal occurrence in their house?? Are grungy human toes a delicacy?
“The Big Toe” and the similar “What Do You Come For?” are both examples of jump scares as used in storytelling, and involve some pretty explicit body horror of rotting corpse parts, and the implication that once the family eats the toe, its owner returns to get it back by, we assume, cutting it out of them.
6. The Dream from Book 3
A woman has a premonition where a pale woman with black hair (pictured above) warns her that her new house is an evil place, as if she couldn’t get the hint from the fact that all of the windows are boarded up and the house is in perpetual darkness. The illustration for “The Dream” I never found as creepy as its premise, because I’ve experienced similar things, and am sure a lot of people have. Schwartz’s notes for this story mentions that “some dreams come true because it only makes sense that they do so”. Damn creepy, that.
+Part Two Soon!+
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