Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Scary Stories 3: More Tales to Chill Your Bones

The last book in Alvin Schwartz and Stephen Gammell's  "Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark" is "Scary Stories 3:  More Tales to Chill Your Bones".

Interestingly, this book was printed much later than the previous entry.  While it was only a three year wait between the first and second book, the third installment in the series came almost a decade later.  Perhaps after scarring the kids of the 80's for life Schwartz and Gammell decided to wait for a bit before messing with the next generation.

Whatever the reason for the hiatus, Schwartz and Gammell fell right back into their ghoulish groove and delivered yet another great collection of scary stories and disturbing illustrations.  Once more, Schwartz focused on the retelling folk tales and urban legends.  I recall that the stories in this particular book weren't my favorites, but there are certainly some standouts including, "Just Delicious", "Bess", "Harold", "The Dead Hand", and "The Dream".

Of course there are a few infamous stories, such as "The Red Spot" and "Sam's New Pet" which are mostly memorable because of their gross-out factor and jarring illustrations.  (See below).

Then there are some stories that are unique to the series due to the fact that they are based on factual accounts, a first for Schwartz.  "The Trouble" is a retelling of an account of a family haunted by poltergeist activity that was actually published in The New York Times and other newspapers in the 50's.  Apparently, "Maybe You Will Remember" is based on a true story in which government officials, in order to avoid panic, covered up the death of a girl's mother when it was found out that she was a carrier of the plague.

As always, however good the stories were, Gammell stole the show his amazingly creepy artwork.  Once again, the shadowy, sinewy illustrations for each tale are visceral nightmare-scapes depicting notable moments from a story, or - much more terrifying - surreal and disorienting representations that fit a story's general nightmarish mood.  While Gammell's artwork is instantly recognizable, it is interesting to see how his style has changed through the years which each book.

"Harold" is the story of a scarecrow that comes to life.  My wife hates this one, but mainly because of one detail in the story, a part in which the scarecrow climbed on the roof and "trotted back and forth, like a horse on its hind legs." I'm not sure what kind of visual she gets from this part, but she says that it is disturbing to her for whatever reason.

Above is the illustrations for "The Red Spot" which is the particularly gross and disturbing as it tells of a girl who has the misfortune of a spider laying its eggs in an open sore on her face as she sleeps which develops into a mysterious boil, only for the eggs to hatch all at once later on and erupt from her face at the end of the story...  Yeah, terrifying stuff!

Below is the illustration for "Sam's New Pet".  This story is about a boys pet dog which his parents bring back with them from Mexico.  In a twist ending, it is discovered that the dog is not quite what it seems, but younger readers are more perplexed by the fact that the illustration depicts some kind of nightmarish creature that surely no one would confuse for a dog!

As I've said before, the Scary Stories series holds a special place in my memories as being one of my first exposures into the horror genre.  Unfortunately, there will likely be no more entries into the series as author Alvin Schwartz passed away in 1992.  Even still, the Scary Stories series remains hugely popular among those that grew up with the books and those that are just discovering them for the first time!

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