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‘Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark': The Terrifying Children’s Illustrations of Stephen Gammell

If you ever read Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark as a child, then you too, may be haunted to this day by the ghastly illustrations they contained, and how much fun it was read them under the sheets. The drawing by artist Stephen Gammell brought the words by Alvin Schwartz to horrific life, and we suspect are a large part of why it was the most frequently challenged book for library banning from 1990-1999.

“Sometimes i wake up in the middle of the night slapping my face because I’m convinced a spider has injected babies into it. Thanks for nothing, Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark.” Julieanne Smolinski, LemondropOn the Children’s Literature Network, Scary Stories artist Stephen Gammell writes about his earliest experiences of drawing as a child. “I was four at the time thinking that I really didn’t want to go to school next year…I just want to do THIS,” said Gammell. “Just scare other children so bad it gives them nightmares for the rest of their lives.” Mission accomplished, sir. And we’ve got a gallery after the jump to help remind you of why you used to be afraid to close your eyes .To give you a little context, this was a book I remember reading in the 4th grade with friends in the coat closet of our classroom in the dark with a flashlight. For me it was the all the growing, there were always heads and toes growing out the ground and in one I remember a woman get devoured by vines. That really horrified me. I started asking other people if they remember Scary Stories, and here are some of the reactions I got from people when I brought it up:

“The really ghostly one, it looks like an alien floating about a dresser, that one scared me the most. Where did those holes come from? Why is it floating? Nobody knows. Is it coming out of the wall? It is the kind of amorphous shape that you can really only dream about in a nightmare and yet there it is on a page, permanently.” Ryan Simmons, Asylum

“That sh*t damaged me. Honestly, that picture of the girl with baby spiders coming out of her face haunted me for years. I’ve always feared a spider bite, until I finally got one on my face a few years ago while I was sleeping. Four days went by and the bite kept swelling and I couldn’t get over that Scary Stories image – thinking that was going to happen to me. The entire time I was thinking that I was injected with a spider egg.” Brian Miggels, IGN

“As a kid I couldn’t fathom how Stephen Gammell’s merely human hands could yank monsters and demons directly from the swirling masses of childhood nightmares. Despite all I’ve learned about graphic art and illustration from reading horror comics, his books are still fresh and inspiring. I wish he’d create 10 more.” Caleb Goellner, ComicsAlliance

We’ve selected some of our favorite illustrations from the Scary Stories books, but if you want the full effect you should really buy the complete collection for yourself. Do you have memories from reading Scary Stories as a child? Share them in the comments.

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