Halloween is over but not the disturbance I feel over rereading a childhood classic.
Who remembers Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark? Who remembers pulling it out of the school library with adolescent bravado and smirking at the title? Who remembers that smirk dying when you get to the illustrations?
Yes, it’s all about the illustrations with this one. They’re wispy fragments of a nightmare, sometimes covered in sores, sometimes hidden behind a charcoal curtain of terror. Honestly I’m a bit perplexed as to how this was marketed as a children’s book. There should be an experiment to measure the emotional stability of adults who read these books as children
The stories themselves are really not that scary, but they are masterful examples in storytelling, fulfilling irony, humor and fright to my literary palate. One such story sees American tourists brining back a dog from Mexico. When the dog begins acting violently and changing physically, they bring it to a vet, who gently tells them it’s an unusually large sewer rat they’ve brought back, not a mutt.
It’s a subtle, psychological horror, filled with moral relativism and bumps in the night from unknown sources. Then there’s the realization everything is not as it seems. There’s twists and turns to navigate for each story, ultimately bringing you to a satisfying conclusion, and not all of them macabre.
But man the illustrations. Spooky stuff. Highly recommended, whether you want to wax nostalgia or scare your inner child (again).