Where were you when you first read Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark? I was in my elementary school library. My gateway Scary Story was “The Ribbon.” You know, the tale of a woman who always has a ribbon tied around her neck and tells her husband she can’t take it off. One day, his curiosity gets the best of him, though, and he decides to untie the ribbon. Poof, her head rolls off.
Yeah, that kind of scared the crap out of me as a kid. I was also very wary of people who wore chokers for a long time. What were they hiding!?!?
Anyway, the topic of Alvin Schwartz’s Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark (originally published in 1981) and its sequels, More Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark and Scary Stories 3: More Tales to Chill Your Bones, came up in recent staff meeting during a conversation about Halloween stuff we actually find scary, and it turns out I’m not the only one they scared the bejeezus out of once upon a time. An informal Refinery29 staff poll revealed that 93% of employees were equally terrified of these stories when they were younger. Apparently, these books really wreaked havoc on the Youth of America, given that the series is No. 1 on the American Library Association’s list of the 100 most "challenged" (i.e. banned) books in the 1990s.
Sending out the poll in an email also revealed a lot of fond — err...repressed fear — nostalgia for some of the earliest horror stories to which we were exposed. “They were so scary that my mom had to call the school and ask them not to read the book anymore,” one R29 editor Gchatted to me. “I STILL HAVE NIGHTMARES,” another wrote in an email.
We located a site called Scary for Kids that offers retellings of many of Schultz’s original tales. Ahead, we take a look at some of the spookiest stories whose titles sent tingles down our spines as soon as we laid eyes on them again. Will they still terrify you an adult, though? Click on through to find some genuine Halloween chills and nostalgic thrills.